year in culture 2016

The 10 Best Songs of 2016

Photo-Illustration: Vulture

1. “Nights,” Frank Ocean
“Nights” is Blond(e)’s centerpiece just as “Pyramids” held Channel Orange together with a disco-funk jam that took off for ancient Egypt halfway through. Frank’s toying with much less here — just a couple snapshots of lives he’s lived — but it’s one of few moments where an album that refuses to behave like modern hip-hop throws us a bone and damn near out-Drakes Drake.

2. “How Great,” Chance the Rapper & Jay Electronica
It’s a testament to Chance the Rapper’s singular church-kid/theater-geek/mainstream-rapper axis that something like this could exist at all.

3. “Miracle,” Little Big Town
Little Big Town are convinced they’re country music’s Mamas and the Papas, but they’re really its Fleetwood Mac.

4. “Mad,” Solange & Lil Wayne
“Mad” is one-half a Solange self-care session and half an exercise in Lil Wayne pausing to enjoy his rich-guy/street-rapper contradictions for once, but it’s 100 percent a pleasure.

5. “Terrapin Station (Suite),” Grizzly Bear, the National, So Percussion & the Brooklyn Youth Chorus
All five hours of the National and friends’ Grateful Dead covers compilation Day of the Dead are this good. All five.

6. “Congratulations,” Mac Miller & Bilal
The lush strings and vocals gracing the opening cut of Mac Miller’s The Divine Feminine are a portal to another dimension I might try to spend 2017 in.

7. “Me and Your Mama,” Childish Gambino
Donald Glover is a nut for going full-Funkadelic on this Awaken, My Love! lead single but also daring enough of a performer to disappear into these wigged-out shrieks and moans like a man slowly turning into a ghoul.

8. “Apocalypse Fetish,” Lou Barlow
Join me in retreating into the title track of the lo-fi legend’s latest EP at 3 a.m. every night to calm my fears about the world ending.

9. “Darkness and Light,” John Legend & Brittany Howard
At first pass, the pairing of John Legend and Alabama Shakes singer Brittany Howard shocks — hers is a province of bubbling, unbridled emotion, and his, of stately control — but they meet each other at the crossroads on the title track of his latest studio album for a stunning tug-of-war.

10. “Black Beatles,” Rae Sremmurd & Gucci Mane
The irony of Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane’s first No. 1 Billboard hit being called “Black Beatles” is that this self-aware, post-teenage relationship drama is exactly the kind of writing we’d get from whatever a 2016 equivalent of the Beatles would look like.

The 10 Best Songs of 2016