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We Pick the Best Songs of 2016

best of 2016

Let’s be honest, 2016 won’t be missed by many…other than the Chicago Cubs and all their fans. For the rest of us, a hearty “F**k Off” to this year may be in order. As much as we had to hate about 2016, we here at HWID had plenty to love about this year musically. SO many great songs came out in 2016. Here are some of our favorites, as chosen by our writers.

“White Ferrari” by Frank Ocean


“White Ferrari” was released at a beautiful time in my summer: late August. Two days before my birthday – a really sacred gift I didn’t see coming.
Frank Ocean’s album, Blonde, was played so much while I cooked, napped (napping soundtracks are underrated, by the way), drove, and worked, that it may have lost its luster to some – but not me. I cried through the ebbs and flows of heartbreak in “White Ferrari”. I drove around Belle Isle feeling like a character in an indie movie driving sequence to the song. It was on repeat at parties, and before I went to bed at night. Frank has a knack for creating songs that evolve to fit every scenario of your life. I thank him once again for giving us a rare, beautiful and much-needed soundtrack that fits late August nights and every day in-between. – Chloe Seymour

“It’s Different For Girls” by of Montreal

A decidedly new wave and inherently progressive take on the condition of being a woman, of Montreal’s“It’s Different For Girls” seems to be merely pop glitz, but the lyrics take it far deeper.“It’s different for girls, they’re not expected to fight. They’re expected to sit and take some lesser man’s shit…though it don’t feel right” is a line from this song that has come to exemplify 2016 in the worst way.

From the Pulse Nightclub shooting in June to the demeaning of women throughout the Trump campaign for president, women and LGBTQ folks of all colors have needed a chance to breathe and dance ourselves clean. Celebrating non-binary sexual identity and expression is the highlight of this track, coming through in plucky guitar, bouncy bass, sweeping synth and backing vocals. The video shows us how it is done, a vibrant dance party affirming a cast of fabulous characters, each taking center stage. – Lisa Joan Barrett

“Somebody Else” by The 1975

This song just resonates with me. The 1975 are my favorite band, yes, but “Somebody Else” is a bop everybody can appreciate, not just their fans. My favorite lyrics to scream along with at a show are, “Get someone you love? Get someone you need? FUCK that, GET MONEY”! This line honestly (as cheesy as this is) got me through some shit in 2016, and reminded me that you need to put your best interest before anybody else’s. Anytime I had a rough patch this year I would put this song on in the car, scream every single word, and dance like nobody in passing cars could see me. It’s an instant mood lifter, you just can’t help but groove. It doesn’t matter what your age, race, gender, or religion, The 1975 are constantly preaching about what’s important: how music makes you feel. – Angela Brooks

“Fade” by Kanye West

As the year comes to an end I often reflect on my own life. My thirtieth year on this rock is almost complete and I like to believe I’ve learned some things along the way. I’ve read countless relationship articles and most tell us the same thing: we must first love ourselves in order to properly love one another. So, let’s all model ourselves after my favorite megalomaniac of all time: sir Kanye West. His song “Fade” ranks as my number one song of 2016. He doesn’t disappoint with the love for himself spilling into many tracks he puts out. Including this song, which screams “I’m a bad ass mother fucker with a big beautiful brain and you’re nuts if you think otherwise!” Not to mention the video itself. Get. It. Girl. I’m saying it : Kanye West 2020. – Jena Fay

“24K Magic” by Bruno Mars

I didn’t love “24K Magic” when I first heard it on SNL. I didn’t even love it the first few times I heard it on the radio. But, by the sixth or seventh time, I quickly adopted it as the shit. Frankly, if you’re not dancing in the car with absolutely no shame and bringing your hands together in prayer for the lyrics “[hashtag] #blessed”, you’re missing out. This song, and the album of the same name, has some serious award potential in the coming year. The on-trend music embracer in me vomited a little when I made my selection for song of the year, but the diva in me who likes good music no matter what stigma it comes with (and doesn’t care what anybody thinks), is totally ok with it. – Taylar Kobylas 
(Editor’s Note: Taylar had trouble picking just one, so we let her pick two more)

Honorable mention: “Ugh!” by The 1975
Anything off of The 1975’s 2016 album could be noted as honorable, but my personal favorite is “Ugh!“. It’s so dang catchy, and maybe one of the more positively negative tracks. Everybody’s gone through that. Plus, honestly, who has the gall anymore to title a song “Ugh!”? Only The 1975.

Honorable Honorable mention: The Hamilton Mixtape…all of it
If you haven’t heard this yet, you’re behind the times. Enjoy The Roots in their element; Usher putting the most fantastic R&B spin on a show tune; Sia, Miguel and Queen Latifah emulating the relationship between Hamilton and his soon-to-b-be-bride; feminist soul interpretations by Jill Scott and Dessa; humorous, charming and upbeat sing-along-worthy tunes by Jimmy Fallon. I could go on.

 “Hey Sweet” by Skating Polly

My favorite track of 2016 comes from the superb album Big Fit from Skating Polly. The band self describes their music as “ugly pop,” and the track “Hey Sweet” surely sways towards the ugly with the song being full of fuzzy guitars and menacing lyrics. The band comprised of teenaged step-sisters Kelli and Peyton are bringing back the feel of 90’s grunge with this track and I couldn’t be more happy with the effort. – Casey Schwochow

“Love & Hate” by Michael Kiwanuka

After listening to this pretty much non-stop since it dropped in the spring of 2016, I can confidently say: this is a PERFECT song. Not to say it’s THE perfect song, but nothing about it is wasted or feels unnecessary.  The opening is a simple acoustic guitar riff, then a soulful, almost hypnotic chant builds. Each spine-tingling layer joins in after that, until Michael Kiwanuka’s deep, raspy vocals take over. The rising strings during the bridge, then a breakdown to just the hypnotic chant, and finally a stinging guitar solo to bring it all around – all just perfect.

“Love & Hate” is a 7-minute ballad of the human condition, the turmoil from our personal lives that continues in perpetuity amongst us all. The lyrics throughout the song are meaningful, without feeling too grandiose. Touching on the vulnerability we all feel when we give our heart to someone else, the hate only they can make us feel when they break it, and then the reassurance we have to convince ourselves of to keep us strong and moving forward. (“You can’t take me down/ You can’t break me down/ You can’t take me down”). Nothing about this song can be changed to improve it. “Love & Hate” is perfect. – Justin Trudell

Check out our playlist with all the best from 2016!

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