The 20 Best Songs Of 2016

Idolator Staff | December 13, 2016 10:22 am

Even in 2016, there was music that grounded us and actually made us smile. By default, going forward those same songs might just elicit flashbacks to a year filled with too many musicians moving on to the afterlife, a torturous election cycle and even more mind-boggling election results, but let’s just deal with the present for now and put a nice bow on these otherwise perplexing past 12 months.

Just as we did last week with the year’s best albums, the Idolator editors have sorted though the vast array of singles released in 2016 — some well-known, some a bit left-of-center — and pared them down to a nice little roundup of the crème de la crème.

Have at all 20 of our selections below, then feel free to let us know if your own favorites aligned with ours.

20. Justin Timberlake, “Can’t Stop The Feeling!”

JT wasn’t setting the pop dial ahead by any means with this Golden Globe-nominated Trolls soundtrack hit, but it marked his first collaboration with Max Martin in 16 years — since the *NSYNC days — and made for one hell of a feelgood smash in a feelbad year. — ROBBIE DAW

19. Ariana Grande feat. Nicki Minaj, “Side To Side”

Not only did Ariana Grande make an infectious reggae-leaning number about having so much sex that you can’t walk, she also got Nicki Minaj to say “wrist icicle/ride dick bicycle” on that very same song. (That’s a gift in and of itself, really.) — RACHEL SONIS

18. Honne feat. Izzy Bizu, “Someone That Loves You”

A loving embrace of a song that wraps Honne and BBC Music Awards winner Izzy Bizu’s soulful vocals in a warm blanket of synths. In a perfect world, this would have been the hit that broke two of the year’s most promising newcomers. As it stands, it’s an exciting glimpse of what’s to come. — MIKE WASS

17. Avante Black, “Drug Money”

Swedes like Tove Lo and Zara Larsson dominated the pop scene in 2016, but it was the completely unheralded Avante Black that delivered the year’s best Scandi-pop anthem. She came out of nowhere with “Drug Money,” a multi-layered, melancholy hymn to malaise and general complacency. — MIKE WASS

16. Tinashe, “Company”

I originally described this as “2016’s ‘Pony'”, and that still stands. And it’s also a bittersweet reminder of what could have been, had Tinashe’s Joyride rollout not been so gigantically botched. — CARL WILLIOTT

15. Montaigne, “Because I Love You”

It was an unusually good year for Australian artists, with Vera Blue, Jess Kent and Nicole Millar making waves internationally. However, no one delivered a more instant burst of art-pop (think Kate Bush rather than Lady Gaga) than Sydney’s Montaigne did with breakthrough hit “Because I Love You.” Quirky, demented and all-around adorable. — MIKE WASS

14. Rae Sremmurd, “Black Beatles”

With “Black Beatles,” Rae Sremmurd made a fan out of real-life Beatle Paul McCartney, were catalysts for the viral Mannequin Challenge and are now sitting high and mighty with their first-ever #1 hit for a fifth week. In the words of Kanye West, these dudes truly popped “a wheelie on the Zeitgeist.” — RACHEL SONIS

13. D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty, “Broccoli”

In some alternate 2016 timeline, “Broccoli” was the runaway song of the summer and Hillary won the election. — CARL WILLIOTT

12. Beyonce, “All Night”

This is the lynchpin that holds Lemonade together. An unusually adult exploration of infidelity and forgiveness, Beyonce’s gorgeous reggae ballad transforms the album from a Dear John letter to a story of redemption. — MIKE WASS

11. Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna, “This Is What You Came For”

The pieces of house music from the genre’s original inception and its recent comeback have managed to transcend the confines of club walls and provide simple euphoria to the masses. “This Is What You Came For” was this year’s torch carrier in that arena. — ROBBIE DAW

10. Bibi Bourelly, “Sally”

After penning hits for Rihanna and Selena Gomez, Bibi arrived on a tidal wave of hype and proceeded to back it up with angry, autobiographical pop like “Riot” and “Ego.” She really came into her own, however, with “Sally” — a rowdy soul-rock anthem that wouldn’t sound out of place on the Commitments soundtrack. — MIKE WASS

9. Drake feat. Wizkid and Kyla, “One Dance”

It’s funny how a cheery, dancehall-light jingle solidified Drake’s place in music’s highest echelon, despite the many “rap opuses” and meme-ready videos this guy has put out. Say what you will about “One Dance,” but this has become the most inescapable song of 2016. Whether it’s Top 40 radio, streaming services, the club or your cousin’s wedding, when that Kyla sample hits, you know there’s no going back. —RACHEL SONIS

8. Zara Larsson, “Lush Life”

We did not get that Zara Larsson album this year, when all was said and done. But we did watch her break through on the American charts with “Never Forget You.” Her real shining gem, though, was “Lush Life,” a perky trop pop number that sounds just as good on any shore in the globe. — ROBBIE DAW

7. Zayn, “Pillowtalk”

“Fucking in and fighting on.” Turns out the bedroom anthem of the year came from the hottest former member of a squeaky clean boy band. Go figure, pop pickers! —ROBBIE DAW

6. Bruno Mars, “24K Magic”

Quite possibly the only other source of lighthearted fun in 2016, outside of “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” — CARL WILLIOTT

5. Kanye West, “Fade”

Definitely the strangest entry on this list. It’s a half-formed sketch of a dance track, with no chorus and the main artist on the sidelines in favor of a prominent Post Malone role. Despite all this, it hits. — CARL WILLIOTT

4. Rihanna, “Needed Me”

Fact: Savage Rihanna is the best Rihanna. And Anti standout “Needed Me” proves it. With its thundering bass and spiraling synths, this song goes straight for the jugular. Rih never loosens her grasp as she coolly tells a dude that he’s just another name on her roster. — RACHEL SONIS

3. The 1975, “Somebody Else”

“Get someone you love? Get someone you need? Fuck that, get money.” On “Somebody Else,” Matty Healy trolls all of us hopeless romantics by making a song about post-breakup cynicism under the pastel glow of new wave synths. And yet, it still hurts so good. — RACHEL SONIS

2. The Weekend feat. Daft Punk, “Starboy”

We lost David Bowie at the top of 2016, and the fabric of the universe seems to have become irreparable ever since. However, this spacy tribute to music’s favorite alien is a nice, if small, consolation…cocaine references and all. — ROBBIE DAW

1. Beyonce, “Formation”

“Formation” exists at the nexus of race and gender, of love and hate, of violence and protest, of rap and R&B, and so it’s everything to everybody: a club banger, a feminist anthem, a workout jam, a threat to the ruling class. That’s why it set the tone for the entire year. — CARL WILLIOTT

Have something to say about our picks for the best songs of 2016? Agree? Think we’re out of our minds? Let us know your thoughts below.