2016 is nearly over. I can taste the New Year it is so close! But before we toast to moving forward and into 2017, we must have one more list to cap off another year of sensational music. This list will focus on songs, but I’m going to switch it up a little.
There will be 15 songs but 10 of them are from albums that were showcased in my top 10 Albums of 2016 list. Peep the list here if you want to see what albums I picked. But what about the other five? Well those are what I call “Wildcard picks”. Great songs that made an impression on me but weren’t on albums I considered Top 10.
Everything clear? Great! So without further ado. My Top 15 Songs of 2016! (Side Note, this was quite hard to decide, albums were a breeze compared to this!)
15 – Patiently Waiting – Terrace Martin (Feat. Uncle Chucc & The Emotions) – Off the multi-instrumentalist’s amazing album “Velvet Portraits”, Terrace Martin lends the song to Uncle Chucc & The Emotions and rightly so because they make this song released in 2016 sound like it was made in 1968. The slow pace, the organ and Uncle Chucc’s wanting his girl back makes this no.15 on my list.
14 – New Banger – Kano – By the name of the song you could guess that this is one of the more “hype” tunes of “Made in the Manor”. Fat beat that gets you raving, Kano getting hype from start to finish, what more do you want?! This song created several mosh pits when I saw him live.
13 – More Than We Know – Alicia Keys – The great thing about this song is the simplicity it provides. The song sounds like Alicia Keys just whipped it up by gathering loads of people, get them to clap on beat and then she does the rest on keys (no pun intended) and vocals. The message is great as well. Telling you that if you don’t jump, you will never know whether you’ll succeed. You’re better than you think.
12 – Me And Your Mama – Childish Gambino – I believe that anybody can have a particular interpretation of a song. For the 1st track in Childish Gambino’s “Awaken, My Love!”, it’s about somebody that’s slowly drifting off after smoking some good weed. It’s all going well, the drum machine adds a layer to the already nice beat and then the strings takes the person down into a dark hole. As this person is plummeting further and further, Gambino’s mad vocals comes in narrating the person’s hallucinogenic episode. I’m basically saying I love this song, how it just escalates out of nowhere just makes my head tilt back in satisfaction.
11 - Cold Little Heart – Michael Kiwanuka – This song is beautiful on multiple levels. The background vocals give me chills and then comes Kiwanuka’s string work. It’s a soft and deep song with multiple changes in composition. Whenever I listen to this song it reminds me of a Quentin Tarantino film. Imagine playing this song at the end of Kill Bill Vol.2, how great would they go together!?
10 – Am I Wrong – Anderson .Paak (Feat. ScHoolboy Q) – This song is a great example of how great Anderson .Paak is. He can go slow, fast, fun or sombre. He’s a musical chameleon and in this case she gets me saying “Yes Lawd!”. ScHoolboy Q provides a nice feature that blends perfectly with this absolute tune.
9 – Unfamiliar – Common (Feat. PJ) – Alright I know that this isn’t the consensus in best song on Common’s “Black America Again” but this song just vibes with me a lot. We forget how great Common is at providing a rap love letter, this one is no different and with PJ’s soulful hook its just classic Common.
8 – Church – BJ The Chicago Kid (Feat. Chance The Rapper & Buddy) – Yes this song was released in 2015 but the album “In My Mind” came in February 2016 so I’m counting it. The beat to this is sharp with the bass line but smooth everywhere else. And BJ’s lyrics are very clear in its narrative. It’s looking so good in his face but he needs to go to church tomorrow. We’ve all been there.
7 – Shotgun – Little Simz (Feat. Syd Tha Kid) – These two need to have each other on speed dial because the chemistry on this track is too nice. I know I’m speaking in sports terminology but I think it applies. Simz & Syd are two different talents with a different expertise in terms of what they do with their voices but when they both talk about the same subject which is case is “You better hop on this bandwagon we’re about to pull out”, it’s a great tag team.
6 – The Heroine – Jovel – This is a real fascinating track. It’s all about one girl named Katie (or Katey) and she’s a heroin addict. Now Jovel could’ve been real slick about telling this story but instead he goes the other way. You think it wouldn’t work but it fits the subject matter perfectly. The reason why we like documentaries is because they’re realistic and it’s the same with this song. He delivers a sort of word-for-word account of his conversation with this girl he knows. It’s even more fascinating when you think about Katie’s (Katey) philosophy. Is she more free than us?
5 – Girlfriend – NAO – Into the top 5 and we start with my favourite new artist at the moment NAO and her song ‘Girlfriend’. In my opinion this song is NAO in a nutshell. The beat is slow and hard like a heartbeat. The synth travels from your left ear to your right. The hook is a crescendo of passion and her voice glides in the verses. And oh my days, the bridge sucks the breath out of my lungs and then hits me with a snap return of the bass. This song is unstoppable.
4 – Nas Album Done – DJ Khaled (Feat. Nas) – Even though “Major Key” was basically just a various artists album with Khaled’s name on the cover, with pointless & occasional one wonders on every track, I can’t knock his producer-ship. He got Nas to basically come out (apparently in album mode) and beast out the best rap feature of the year. Nas kills on this track and he might not even be the highlight of this track. The sample. The Lauryn Hill “Ooooo La La La” is UNSTOPPABLE! I can’t get enough of that sample.
3 – Breathing Underwater – Emeli Sande – All make way for the Queen! Coming to bless us with another brilliant track on another brilliant album. This song in particular is seemingly timeless. Now I know that’s a bit of a sketchy word as to its definition and validity but I think it is. This song doesn’t represent an “era”. Hip-Hop has had many era’s, pop music has many era’s. Emeli doesn’t seem to represent one. This song is pure in voice, the background vocals are next level and the music itself gives me the mental picture of a river flowing and spring has just sprung. It’s such a refreshing song.
2 – I.O.U – Wretch 32 (Feat. Emeli Sande) – The Queen is back already! This time backing up my man Wretch 32 on “I.O.U”. Which is all about his sister and mother. The reason this is so high on my list is because it relates to me on a nearly perfect level. “Big sis, more like second mum”. “I didn’t know a Queen had to be a King too.” The lyrics on this track are so important to me. I owe a lot to my mother and sister and this song explains it all for me. It’s a thank you note. It also makes me remember why I love music, in particular Hip-Hop so much. Because sometimes there’s that one song that perfectly describes you or a situation. Using words that you have in your arsenal but could never put them together. Wretch did that for me on this track.
1 – This Bitter Land – Nas & Erykah Badu – My no.1 song of 2016 goes to two of the greatest artists in their respective fields teaming up to create literally a musical baby between them. Let me get something straight. There are songs on this list I have listened to more often than this one. There’s probably tracks not even on this list that has more listens than this track. But that doesn’t take away from this outstanding display of what Nas and Erykah Badu are all about. Nas paints a picture that should be immortalised in watercolour and Badu just seals this song up with her unmistakable vocals giving such passion it sounds like she’s singing with a dead child dying in her arms.
I’m sounding bleak I know but this track hits hard. It’s probably why I can’t listen to it every time it comes on because I’m usually in too good a mood. But when you’re in the right mind-set for this song and Erykah comes in with “Mmm This Bitter Land”, you’ll be in paralysis.
If you want to listen to all 15 songs, peep the Spotify Playlist with all 15 songs in one place. Enjoy and have a great 2017. See you on the other side.