Surprise: I didn’t feel like dealing with the stress of putting my favorite 50 songs of the year in some arbitrary order as I’ve done for the past several years — so I put 100 songs in some arbitrary order instead.
The ranking is whatever, because I think all these songs equally deserve lots of praise. (Please do not report me as a communist in Trump’s America.)
A reminder: these are all official singles released this year, not songs in general, which is why you don’t see Britney’s “If I’m Dancing” and “Mood Ring” at the top, or every song off of E•MO•TION SIDE B. Next year, hopefully?
And since Beyoncé and Utada Hikaru cannot be added to the playlists due to territory restrictions and/or annoying TIDAL exclusives, I’ve added two songs from Glory at the end instead. You’re welcome.
100. Erika Jayne, “How Many Fucks?”
A crucial addition to the Housewives franchise, the Pretty Mess herself gives us (and Legendtina) the fuck-off anthem we never knew we needed.
99. Ariana Grande, “Side To Side”
98. AlunaGeorge, “Mean What I Mean”
97. Jane Zhang, “Dust My Shoulders Off”
96. G-Girls, “Call The Police”
95. LUNA, “Free Somebody”
94. Garbage, “Empty”
93. Sofi de la Torre, “Sit Down”
92. Fifth Harmony, “That’s My Girl”
91. Pet Shop Boys, “The Pop Kids”
90. Primal Scream, “Where The Light Gets In (feat. Sky Ferreira)”
Hey, anything from Sky will do until we get Masochism.
89. The Chainsmokers, “Don’t Let Me Down (feat. Daya)
88. Snakehips, “Cruel (feat. Zayn)”
87. Broods, “Free”
86. AlunaGeorge, “I’m In Control”
85. Tove Lo, “True Disaster”
84. Zara Larsson, “Ain’t My Fault”
83. Rihanna “Work”
82. Dua Lipa, “Last Dance”
81. Bebe Rexha, “I Got You”
80. Ariana Grande, “Dangerous Woman”
Ari does her best James Bond theme impression. Latex bunny ears not included.
79. Niki & The Dove, “So Much It Hurts”
78. Fergie, “M.I.L.F. $”
77. Martin Garrix, “In The Name Of Love (feat. Bebe Rexha)”
76. Tiffany, “Heartbreak Hotel (feat. Simon Dominic)”
75. Sophie Ellis-Bextor, “Come With Us”
74. Hayley Kiyoko, “Gravel to Tempo”
73. Sabrina Carpenter, “On Purpose”
72. J Balvin, “Bobo”
71. Shawn Mendes, “Treat You Better”
70. Zayn, “Pillowtalk”
In his formal departure from One Direction, Zayn sings the word “fuckin'” and makes it clear that he has sex with his girlfriend, Gigi Hadid. It’s a paradise and it’s a war zone.
69. Broiler, “Lay It On Me (feat. Ina Wroldsen)”
68. Taeyeon, “Why”
67. Kiiara, “Feels”
66. Dawn Richard, “Not Above That”
65. morgxn, “Love You With The Lights On”
64. Kerli, “Feral Hearts”
63. Wet, “All The Ways”
62. FLETCHER, “Wasted Youth”
61. CL, “Lifted”
60. Mollie King, “Back To You”
If a member of The Saturdays goes solo and no one’s around to hear it, does she still get a chance to release a follow-up? Hope so.
59. The xx, “On Hold”
58. Martin Solveig, “Places (feat. Ina Wroldsen)”
57. Zayn, “LIKE I WOULD”
56. Maggie Rogers, “Alaska”
55. Solange, “Cranes In The Sky”
54. Rina Sawayama, “Where U Are”
53. Utada Hikaru, “Nijikan dake no Vacance”
52. M.I.A., “Freedun (feat. Zayn)”
51. Allie X, “That’s So Us”
50. MNEK, “At Night (I Think About You)”
Ridiculously talented UK bop prince stays serving up supremely danceable, deeply soulful tunes on the side when he’s not too busy crafting smashes for up-and-coming pop stars…like Madonna.
49. Icona Pop, “Someone Who Can Dance”
48. Dua Lipa, “Hotter Than Hell”
47. Keke Palmer, “Enemiez (feat. Jeremih)”
46. Clean Bandit, “Tears (feat. Louisa Johnson)”
45. Enrique Iglesias, “Duele El Corazon”
44. Danny L Harle, “Super Natural (feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)”
43. JoJo, “Fuck Apologies (feat. Wiz Khalifa)”
42. 4Minute, “Hate”
41. KLOE, “UDSM”
40. Shakira, “Chantaje (feat. Maluma)”
The Queen of Truthful Hips and the Prince of Reggaeton create Colombian fuego. (Bonus points for Shakira’s urinal-side gyrations.)
39. Rihanna, “Love On The Brain”
38. Florrie, “Real Love”
37. Tom Aspaul, “Burnt Out”
36. Hannah Diamond, “Fade Away”
35. All Saints, “One Strike”
34. Charlie Puth, “We Don’t Talk Anymore (feat. Selena Gomez)”
33. The 1975, “Somebody Else”
32. Calvin Harris, “This Is What You Came For (feat. Rihanna)”
31. Dua Lipa, “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)”
30. Christina Aguilera, “Telepathy”
The always ahead-of-her-time Legend X reinvigorates the genre of disco, launches the careers of newcomers Sia and Nile Rodgers and graciously blesses us lessers with a “fan video.” Bring on the comeback in 2017.
29. The Weeknd, “Starboy (feat. Daft Punk)”
28. Birdy, “Keeping Your Head Up”
27. Phoebe Ryan, “Boyz n Poizn”
26. liv, “Dream Awake”
25. BLACKPINK, “Boombayah”
24. Maluma, “El Perdedor”
23. Becky G, “Mangu”
22. Tinashe, “Company”
21. Foxes, “Cruel”
20. Tove Lo, “Cool Girl”
Tove goes Gone Girl on a dark, throbbing homage to the confusing, aggravating and thrilling feelings just before possibly-maybe putting a label on a relationship. (She really is a cool girl.)
19. Tiffany, “I Just Wanna Dance”
18. Allie X, “All The Rage”
17. Beyoncé, “Formation”
16. Sia, “Cheap Thrills”
15. DJ Snake, “Let Me Love You (feat. Justin Bieber)”
14. Rihanna, “Needed Me”
13. Alicia Keys, “In Common”
12. Becky G, “Sola”
11. Banks, “Gemini Feed”
10. KDA, “Just Say (feat. Tinashe)”
Tinashe went swerving into just about every lane while on the way to Joyride this year, from the super-pop “SuperLove” to a Spanish language moment with Enrique Iglesias to her moody late-night R&B Nightride mixtape to, of course, a very VIP “Slumber Party” with a certain Living Legend. Her fiercest and most underrated moment however came in the form of her vogue-ready feature on KDA’s shuffling “Just Say,” a UK club throbber with an endless amount of attitude. She served vocally, then came even harder in the accompanying visual, supplying all the contortions and hair flips necessary to serve this kind of fire ferocity.
9. Madeline Juno, “You Know What?”
Inspired by the film Restless, German singer-songwriter Madeline Juno’s bittersweet guitar-led love letter to long distance love is one of the year’s few genuinely charming musical moments. It’s wispy and wistful, with just the right kind of lovey-dovey sentiment and subtle heartache to make a lasting impression long after parting ways…even eternally. “We got caught in a dream, but it’s not what it seems…”
8. Fifth Harmony, “Work From Home”
Fifth Harmony is nothing if not persistent — and the only hope we have for girl groups at the moment…unless the Sugababes decide to get their shit together in 2017. (Sorry, Little Mix. I just can’t get into the music.) “Work From Home,” with its Rugrats-like beat and monotone “work, work, work…” drone of a chorus (as perfected many times before by everyone from Rihanna to Ciara to Kelly Rowlegend), plus that construction-themed music video (one of the few mor ememorable visuals of the year), effectively saved the group from their squeaky-clean teen trappings. It’s not a risque offering by any means, but it got the group confidently grinding in their tool belts onstage. That one-fifth of it is performed by Bisexual Cuban-American Weed Princess Lauren Jauregui, the best member, also helps.
7. Sia, “The Greatest”
Sia, a singer-songwriter who coughs chart-topping hits out from under her wig every three minutes, is very good at penning self-empowerment anthems that don’t feel like pure cheese. “The Greatest” — with its on-trend tropical flair consistent with mega-hit “Cheap Thrills” and the sound of radio in 2016, those trademark powerhouse vocals and a music video that doubles as an incredibly touching tribute to the Pulse shooting victims — was essential for pushing forward in this difficult year.
6. Rihanna, “Kiss It Better”
“Needed Me” is officially Rihanna’s longest-running chart hit ever, and the hip-twerking “Work” dominated the ANTI era (and the clubs), but “Kiss It Better” is the album’s most underappreciated moment. The sizzling, sweat-drenched slow-burner, with those body roll-ready electric guitar riffs and atmospheric ’80s ballad vibes, is the stuff of strip club dreams. It’s an ANTI essential, and one of Rih’s personal best. Is there anything more Robyn Fenty than her yelling “Man, phuck yo pride!” while demanding to get dicked down one more time? Not all heroes wear capes.
5. Röyksopp, “Never Ever (feat. Susanne Sundfor)”
“Never Ever” is essentially the best song Robyn never released this year, with all the earnest delivery of Carly Rae Jepsen glittery-pop smash mixed with Scandi-pop electro-pop perfection. Having called it quits on releasing albums in traditional form, my favorite Norwegian duo Royksopp mercifully returned this year to serve up a (surprisingly!) upbeat club anthem with Susanne Sundfor. The song is instantly infectious on first play — and if that stuttering breakdown of a bridge doesn’t inspire a “Call Your Girlfriend”-esque moment of air-punching, hair-flipping bliss alone in your room, we’re just operating on different wavelengths.
4. Britney Spears, “Slumber Party (feat. Tinashe)”
When Britney hits you with that “U up? Do you wanna come over?” text late night, you go. “Slumber Party,” B-Girl’s formal “Invitation” into her boudoir, gave us an endlessly replayable Glory romp worthy of a RSVP time and time again. From those Janet Jackson-esque melodic trills (“We ain’t gonna sleep toni-i-ight“) to exploring those reggae vibes for the first time since In The Zone‘s “The Hook Up,” the midtempo moment — coupled with one hell of a table lickin’ good music video — had us all seeing confetti from her potion. Superfan-turned-BFF Tinashe’s addition to the track supplied us with even more Adlibney moments at the tail-end of the track. Who doesn’t like a little more company at a sleepover? Make it double, triple…oh.
3. Britney Spears, “Make Me…”
Thanks to one of the sloppiest music video rollouts in history and a just so-so live routine, “Make Me…” might not have the best memories associated with it by some fans. But putting the #MakeMeOriginalVideo drama aside, the song itself is still just as gorgeous as the day it premiered — and it truly did mark the rebirth of Britney Spears with her “not-so-poppy” Glory era. As opposed to kicking off an era with yet another pounding club hit as she’s done for every album until this year, our Lady of Las Vegas took a major gamble in 2016 with a midtempo, coo(ooo-ooo-ooh) filled melodic moment, reminiscent of the more vibe-y and left-lane In The Zone days of “Breathe On Me” and “Touch Of My Hand.” That opening “Fri…day…” still provides chills, and those Vocalney runs at the end, especially, are something sensational.
2. Ariana Grande, “Into You”
It isn’t a question: “Into You” is the best pop song of 2016. Perhaps had the Max Martin and Ilya-produced shadowy banger touched down in any year other than this one, the very worst of years, it would have been a smash hit on the radio. (Instead, The People chose to exorcise their election demons through The Chainsmokers and Mike Posner.) “Into You” is effectively the “Gimme More” of 2016: the grimy, hip-grinding, make-out against the speakers dark gay club anthem of anthems. Everything is electric upon each listen, from the not-so-coy lyrics (“A little less conversation and a little more touch my body…“) to that propulsive pulse: Ari got plenty of action with her dick bicycle-riding “Side To Side,” but “Into You” should have ultimately reigned supreme.
1. Terror Jr, “3 Strikes”
Kylie Jenner sagely proclaimed that 2016 would be the year of, “like, realizing things.” Had you told me that the soundtrack to her Glosses advertisement would ultimately be my favorite song of the year, I’d eye-roll harder than this Kylie Jenner tattoo. And yet, here we are with “3 Strikes,” Terror Jr’s debut entry into the music scene.
Originally believed to be sung by Miss Jenner herself (a rumor she later shut down via Snapchat, sadly), “3 Strikes” is the very essence of my moody, Return of Saturn-experiencing ass in sonic form: depressed, hungry, horny, slightly faded and in constant pursuit of something else. (“Looking for a dinner plate / I’m hungry, you called me / To say you got something, and it’s all me…“)
The Felix Snow and David “Campa” Benjamin Singer-Vine mystery project has since gone on to put out their fantastic Bop City this year, but nothing will top the magic of their very first track: it’s my most played of the year, easily. This song soundtracked every late night stroll through the city, every existential crisis, and more than a few sad boy sob sessions — just put it on repeat and get lost in the chopped vocals and echoes in the distance.
“It’s a prison inside my mind.”
A song like “3 Strikes” probably isn’t the most uplifting way to end the year, but then, this wasn’t a very uplifting year. (For that, there’s Glory.) Instead, it epitomizes the wave of 2K16 serious-faced downtempo drowsy Xanax-pop — and it sure did help hold me down for more than one night.
Subscribe to the playlist on Spotify and Apple Music and check out the Top 20 Albums of 2016.