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The Optimist

The student news site of Bloomington High School South

The Optimist

The student news site of Bloomington High School South

The Optimist

The best songs of 2016

This year may have been a bad one to be a human being, but all things considered it was a pretty strong year for music. Here are my picks for the fifteen best songs of the year:

  1.   The Greatest- Sia ft. Kendrick Lamar

Sia warmed our cold, sad hearts when she brought shelter dogs to her tour shows for adoption, and as if that wasn’t enough to earn her a spot on this list, she also released an incredibly catchy new song featuring acclaimed rapper Kendrick Lamar. The two don’t necessarily seem like the most obvious fit for one another’s styles, but together they make magic with Sia’s track “The Greatest.”

  1.   Pillowtalk- Zayn

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Former One Direction singer Zayn Malik broke fans’ hearts when he departed the band several years ago to pursue a solo career, but with his new album “Mind of Mine” he proved that maybe it was for the best. “Pillowtalk” is really the only song from the album that totally exploded in terms of popularity, but it did so for good reason; it’s devilishly simple, and it gives Zayn an outlet to show off some superb vocal talent.

  1.   Untitled 7- Kendrick Lamar

Though he might not top any “Best album of the year” lists, rapper Kendrick Lamar’s new album “Untitled Unmastered” certainly steals the prize for most unique. It’s an odd, experimental album that showcases some really unique work. Perhaps the most oddly captivating of the bunch is “Untitled 7” which begins with the upbeat “Levitate” and also features some weirdly haunting melodies. It’s great stuff; perhaps a bit uncharacteristic for Kendrick, but it’s all the better for it.

  1.   Don’t Hurt Yourself- Beyoncé ft. Jack White

Okay, perhaps I’m terribly biased in favor of Beyoncé. Equally likely is that her new album “Lemonade” is simply a stunning, groundbreaking work featuring a plethora of stylistically diverse tracks. Bey’s collaboration with rock singer Jack White is certainly out of her wheelhouse, but it’s phenomenal nonetheless. This is Bey at her angriest and most unhinged; it’s an integral part of “Lemonade’s” arc, but more importantly, it’s just an amazing song.

  1.   Side to Side- Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj

It took the internet about twenty four hours to figure out exactly why Ariana and co. are riding bicycles in the music video for “Side to Side,” but once the song’s meaning was deciphered it sent the internet reeling in shock. Despite a rather unsavory hidden meaning, “Side to Side” is undeniably catchy, powered by an infectious beat and Ariana Grande’s always impressive vocals. Throw in a catchy verse by rapper/pop star Nicki Minaj and you’ve got the makings of one of the year’s best — and catchiest — songs.

  1.   No Problem- Chance the Rapper ft. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne

This year was a breakout year for Chicago-born rapper Chance the Rapper. His latest mixtape, “Coloring Book,” spread in popularity like wildfire, and arguably the best song on the entire record is the 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne collab “No Problem.” It features some great verses by all three artists, and the chorus itself is instantly likeable. For a song entitled “No Problem,” it’s pretty faultless.

  1.     Party Monster- The Weeknd ft. Lana del Rey

The Weeknd’s latest album “Starboy” plagued radio stations with the catchy but overplayed Daft Punk collab “Starboy.” Thankfully, radio stations have yet to ruin the arguably even better “Party Monster,” a less catchy but ultimately superior piece of music. It’s appeal basically begins and ends with the bass line, but that doesn’t stop it from being an extraordinarily catchy song.

  1.     Black Barbies- Nicki Minaj ft. Mike WIll Made-It

Despite the popularity of Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beetles,” the only successful track from their otherwise underwhelming album “”Sremmlife 2,” Trinidadian rapper Nicki Minaj’s remix, entitled “Black Barbies” (a possible allusion to Bey and Jay-Z’s iconic halloween costumes) is arguably quite a bit better. There are some truly great lines, including a legendary dig at deplorable President-Elect Donald Trump (“Island girl, Donald Trump want me go home”). Credit for the catchy beat that made it possible must go to Rae Sremmurd, but ultimately Minaj’s talent as a lyricist makes hers the better version of the song.

  1.     Lazarus- David Bowie

Shortly before his tragic passing, David Bowie released his final album, “Blackstar.” It’s an excellent addition to the artist’s extensive library, and perhaps the best track from the new album is the haunting song “Lazarus.” Looking back on the album, it’s clear that “Lazarus” is Bowie acknowledging that he is nearing the end of his life, and ultimately accepting that. Its soft and borderline eerie melodies showcase the best of Bowie’s talents, and the accompanying music video, in which Bowie lies ill on his deathbed, only further elevates the song’s meaning. It’s a hard one to listen to after Bowie’s passing, but “Lazarus” is an excellent song.

  1.     Sorry- Beyonce

“FORMATION” might have made the biggest impact of any song from “Lemonade,” but the breakup anthem “Sorry” is an instant classic, comparable to even the most iconic of Bey’s songs (Halo, Single Ladies, Run the World). It captures the same ferocious sense of self-pride as “***Flawless,” but with twice as much anger. It’s Bey channeling her life struggles into one incredibly powerful, instantly catchy jam. If you’re ever in need of a post breakup pick-me-up, “Sorry” is the song to turn to.

  1.     Don’t Touch my Hair- Solange

This year may have been an all-around downer, but it was probably the best and most triumphant year in a long while for the Knowles sisters. While Beyoncé debuted her acclaimed album “Lemonade,” her lesser-known (though equally talented) younger sister Solange released her latest album, “A Seat at the Table.” The album as a whole is an excellent look at black life in modern America, and the song “Don’t Touch my Hair” is both a meaningful anthem for women of color and an embodiment of everything there is to love about Solange, her music, and her singular sound and style.

  1.     Million Reasons- Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga’s “Joanne” is stylistically a bit outside of her typical wheelhouse, but it boasts some excellent new songs, one of which is the soft and beautiful “Million Reasons.” It’s a song that’s very emotional and powerful, and Gaga’s gorgeous voice really shines here, lending the song a sense of intimacy and immediacy.

  1.     Love on the Brain- Rihanna

Rihanna’s latest album “Anti,” though met with initially lukewarm fan response, is a beautiful and elegant self-reinvention by the iconic pop/R&B artist. While “Work” may have been the most explosively popular (and the most overplayed) song from the album, the soulful and emotionally raw “Love on the Brain” is easily the best. It’s a lyrical and catchy tune, and an incredible opportunity for the singer to let her vocals shine.

  1.      White Ferrari- Frank Ocean

It’s hard to pick just one song from an album as poetic, soulful, and emotionally powerful as Frank Ocean’s sophomore album “Blonde.” “White Ferrari” is the emotional crux of the album; an impressionistic work of music painted in moody, lyrical strokes. Here Frank sings of heartbreak and lost love, of memories made on soothing night drives, of being close to someone and losing them. It’s a quiet, subdued song; the type of music to make your heart ache. “White Ferrari” might just be Frank’s best song yet.

  1. FORMATION- Beyoncé

A day before Superbowl XL, legendary pop diva Beyoncé Knowles dropped a surprise music video for her new single “FORMATION,” which she performed in an earth-shattering, reality-slaying dance number at what was supposed to be Coldplay’s halftime show. The video, a deeply political call-to-arms for black women and a celebration of black culture, received tremendous accolades, even going on to win the coveted “Video of the Year” award at MTV’s VMAs. The song itself is instantly catchy in all the best ways; its infectiously energizing beat, powerful vocals, and immediately iconic lyrics (Red Lobster owes Bey a huge “thank you”) make it not only the year’s best song, but arguably earn it a spot in the upper echelon of the Queen’s entire library of music. “FORMATION” is an absolute bop.

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About the Contributor
Chris Forrester, Staff Writer
Chris is a new member of the Optimist staff for the 2016-17 school year and is excited to be a part of the team. He is a figure skater, senior leader of PROUD, social justice advocate, part-time artist, full-time social media mogul, and Beyonce lover. When he's not in school he enjoys sleeping, napping, dozing, and snoozing, as well as continuing his ongoing quest to hug as many dogs as he possibly can.
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