Oh 2016, what a year you’ve been. We’ve had our ups, and we’ve had our…incomprehensible. But! If there’s one single thing we’ve loved about our ups, it’s been the music. Yep, those key tracks that kept us biting our nails in anticipation for the new album from The Lumineers, that hit that was one of our first tastes of The Chainsmokers, and the songs that reminded us that Rihanna is purely magnificent.
These are our top singles of the year.
#10: The Lumineers – “Ophelia”
No matter how many times I hear this song on the radio, I never get tired of it. I really don’t! Off of The Lumineers’ newest album, Cleopatra, “Ophelia” is simple, edgy, and catchy. It’s impossible to listen to the chorus without singing along. The contrasting sounds of the fluttery piano with Shultz’s vocals and the band’s signature stomp beat creates a sonic depth that makes for a simultaneously intricate yet easy listening experience in the track’s short 2 minutes and 42 seconds duration. It’s an uplifting and well-crafted single — a great release all around! – Zein Khleif
#9: The Chainsmokers ft. Daya – “Don’t Let Me Down”
2016 was the year of The Chainsmokers as the New York DJ duo reached international fame with a string of infectious EDM hits. After their single “Roses” became their first single to crack the top ten, The Chainsmokers followed up with a song that climbed into the top five, “Don’t Let Me Down.” It was remixed by dozens of DJs at this year’s Electronic Daisy Carnival, the biggest electronic music festival in the country, solidifying that this single exemplified the catchy melodies, emotional lyrics, and ground-shaking drops that EDM fans have come to know and love. – Mary Bonney
#8: serpentwithfeet – “Blisters”
Even amongst the superb and consistent roster of Tri-Angle Records (home to The Haxan Cloak and Clams Casino, among others), the debut EP from serpentwithfeet was truly eye-catching. “Blisters” was its title track, a seven-minute opus with swelling strings, gospel handclaps, and the show-stopping voice of Josiah Wise at its center. It managed to be both sparse and grandiose, and it introduced the world to a young gay artist with a distinctive look and a far-reaching vision. The sensuality and emotion on display had the effect of making you stop everything you were doing to listen intently. For those who did, the song provided that tingle of discovery, the sound of a fully formed voice at the first attempt. – Jay Chirinos
#7: Rihanna – “Needed Me”
Rihanna is in a unique position of power. She has become one of the most iconic pop artists of this generation, but not without struggle and criticism. She has been forged in fire, and now, she can sit back to reap the rewards. “Needed Me,” off of her newest album, ANTI, perfectly embodies her current situation. She flips the script in a definitive way, exploring the way we, as women or as humans in general, don’t always want to be saved. Rihanna nonchalantly declares that we can be perfectly content in our own skin, in our own lives, without the “white horse and carriage.” – Christine Perez
#6: Glass Animals – “Life Itself”
As far as this year’s singles go, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything as instrumentally packed as “Life Itself.” Jungle-tinged percussion? Swooping synths? Oddly well-timed bubbling sound effects? Check, check, and check. The fact that it even sounds cohesive is impressive in and of itself. But perhaps the most remarkable aspect of “Life Itself” lies in the very human story that’s told in the lyrics: the musings of a geeky basement dweller who ponders how his life has turned out in comparison to how he thought it would be.
#5: Sia – “Cheap Thrills”
With her powerful vocals, emotional lyrics, and mysterious public identity, Sia has sat high atop her throne as queen of the pop genre for years, and she further solidified her place with this year’s This Is Acting. The record generated the single “Cheap Thrills,” a party anthem to the weekend featuring a tropical beat. Its remix featuring Sean Paul further honored its reggae roots and landed the song on everyone’s “Party Pregame” playlist. “Cheap Thrills” carries a carefree and simple message: “I don’t need dollar bills to have fun tonight.” With the world currently in such an antagonistic state, this song is the break we all need. – Mary Bonney
#4: Beck – “Wow”
The beginning of “Wow” feels tribal. It could’ve been recorded at The Venice Pier. Then it gets funky, then there’s some rap, then there’s just a sheer fusion of almost too many sounds. I’ve always been a fan of Beck’s writing, but this song really is a WOW. It’s not what I would play for my family at Thanksgiving, but definitely for my bandmates to show them what the new-school artists are up to. Beck produced this, and it sounds like it could be a fusion of Gorillaz and Foster The People. Not bad, Beck of 2016! I like that you’re growing, too. – Anthony Marks
#3: Anderson .Paak – “Come Down”
If you can sit still when Anderson .Paak’s “Come Down” is on, you might actually be dead. Boasting one of the funkiest basslines of the year, snappy drums, and, well, T.I., this song was a no brainer to be nominated as one of the year’s best singles. It’s one of those songs that keeps you moving in your car, with your headphones on, or on a dance floor. And with the recent passing of Prop 64, as the song says, we might all get so high we “might not ever come down.” Anderson .Paak is one of the best artists in modern hip hop, and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change any time soon. – Gerry Doot
#2: Angel Olsen – “Shut Up Kiss Me”
Earlier this year, when Angel Olsen released the first single, “Intern,” off of her new album, My Woman, I knew we were in store for a brazen, dynamic album, with a more fearless songstress behind the silvery, shimmering bob. And with “Shut Up Kiss Me,” the transformation was entirely evident — Olsen has become a full-on indie-rock goddess.
Throughout the track, she demands that a reluctant lover, “Shut up kiss me, hold me tight,” over and over again, but the command never gets redundant — it just gets more electrifying and emphatic each time. It’s exciting to see the usually soft-spoken and wispy songstress shed any semblance of reticence. Only Olsen could make the repeated crooning of “aaah ah aaah” sound so cathartic. – Jillian Goldfluss
#1: Mitski – “Your Best American Girl”
Three writers at LA Music Blog deemed Mitski‘s “Your Best American Girl” as the #1 single of 2016. Four other writers included it in their top 5. In consideration of the staggering onslaught of new music these days, that’s what you call a quorum.
Buried away as Track 5 on Mitski Miyawaki’s stunning album Puberty 2, the unusual design of the song is its silver bullet. What I wrote about this song back in July hasn’t changed for me:
The tune starts at what sounds like a sort of pathetic lurch; this isn’t going anywhere. But then, Mitski hits the launch button a verse and a chorus before one might expect. It truly pops and rides the newfound edge out for the rest of the song.
Half a year on, the song remains uniquely empowering, both in its sound and in its fury. At a moment in time when archaic cultural norms have been rejected by a mathematical majority of the country, yet stubbornly pursued by others, a song like “Your Best American Girl” is here for us. The lovers, the outcasts, and the losers. – Kyle B. Smith