The year is coming to a close and publications around the globe are dropping their annual best of lists of anything and everything. Whether it's movies, moments, music, TV, or anything else one could think of, there's a list. In an effort to follow the trend, but also provide a fresh take, we decided to not only shorten our lists from the more conventional ten to five (peak innovation) but also provide five categories within the categories.
The categories are as follows: music, movies, TV, podcasts, and sports moments. Within those five broad categories, our staff has come up with five divisions within the groupings. Here are the five, with a breakdown of the criteria for choosing the winner of each group.
This section is reserved for the things that made us feel in 2016 (hence the name). More than just the warm fuzzy's we were looking for things that captured our attention and reeled in our emotional investment. Nostalgic value, excitement, and a diverse range of feelings were all factors as well.
Every year there are things that slip through the cracks and don't spread to the masses. Our hope here is to compile some of less talked/written about things of 2016.
What are the things you watched/listened to this year that you aren't rushing to bring up at a dinner party? We all have them; it's time to come clean and experience the refreshment of confession. This category is all about mindless, light-hearted, good old fashioned entertainment.
What is art?
If there were a polar opposite of the guilty pleasure, this would be it. This category is reserved for the most challenging, thought-provoking, and abstract pieces of pop culture from this year.
This category is not for the faint of heart. The winners in this category usually, like the what is art group, inspire thought, but they also depict a truth that is particularly difficult to swallow.
Top five, top five, top five...
Album: A Seat at the Table, Solange Knowles
Engaging from the opening key, Solange's masterful work is deeply intimate and precise in its judiciousness. This saga is telling the story of a woman who has carefully noted her feelings and observations of what it's like to be black in America. Filled with shrewd interlude's ranging from Master P to her parents, this work is educational and pertinent to the time. Solange coaxes feelings all over the spectrum. Whether it's pain, confusion, triumph, joy, or raw anger, it's damn near impossible to not get drawn into the tide of Solange's intricate emotions. For our money, this is pound for pound the best album of the year and truly captures all the feels.
Honorable Mention: Picture of a Man, Dawes
Song: Kanye West, "Ultralight Beam"
Positive vibes emanate right out of the gate from the deft opening track of Kanye's, The Life of Pablo. Beginning with a sample from the viral video of the truly adorable 4-year-old, Samoria Green, delivering a vicious rebuke of the devil and bookended with a prayer from the Reverend Kirk Franklin, this song is a religious experience. While the track is remarkable as a whole, the verse in the middle from the breakout star of 2016, Chance the Rapper, is the lifeblood that carries this tune home. Arguably the best verse on any track this year, Chance brings the rain with clever unction and youthful eagerness in this transcendent verse. All of these ingredients combine to make the ultimate good vibe track for 2016.
Honorable Mention: James Vincent, "Rising Water"
Album: Disappear Here, Bad Suns
As far as indie music is concerned it's hard to find a band that had better success out-the-gate than Bad Suns. Their debut album Language & Perspective bought them main support spots on tours with The 1975 and headlining gigs with the likes of Colony House. Their blend of SoCo sounds and quality songwriting blend perfectly with their elaborate melodies and intricate yet tasteful percussion. A sophomore slump was not in the cards for Bad Suns, as they follow up their debut album with an even more complete effort. From top to bottom Disappear Here is intentional and well-curated. With hits at the beginning of the album ranging from the title track Disappear Here and followed up by the album's best song Heartbreaker, you stay in the groove all the way to the end with Daft Pretty Boys and the albums closing track Outskirts of Paradise. It's hard to create a complete album, but Bad Suns might have just done that.
Honorable Mention: Absolute Loser, Fruit Bats
Song: "It's Strange" Louis The Child ft. K.Flay
Production duo Louis The Child have teamed up with San Francisco artist K.Flay for a fresh new track called 'It's Strange'. K.Flay's vocals wind with her characteristic inflection above playful toylike melodies, a slow-down four-on-the-floor beat propelling it with a comfy feeling into parts where flute-flavored synth chords boil and simmer over a fire of beautifully produced beats, nuanced textures effusing from it like the undeniably appealing aroma of home cooking.
Honorable Mention: James Vincent, "Rising Water"
Album: Dangerous Woman, Ariana Grande
Produced by the pop architect god himself, Max Martin, whose worked with everyone from the Backstreet Boys to Taylor, this album is yet another hit machine birthed from his production. The sound and hooks are generic but typically catchy and carry broad appeal. Ariana's sultry and dynamic voice is pushed to its fullest potential and takes the Disney pop princess from run of the mill to running the show.
Honorable Mention: Mind of Mine, Zayn
Song: Daya, "Hide Away"
This high school girl ballad is as catchy as it is corny. Delivering lines like, "Girls seem to like the boys who don't appreciate all the money and the time that it takes to be fly as a mother (this phrase is not edited, the song really uses this phrase, twice)", and the uber introspective, "He's gonna save my life like superman." This track teeters on the border of unlistenable but somehow manages to perfectly perch itself right into the middle of a daytime drive playlist. Picture a grown man belting this number out at a stop light and you've got yourself the ultimate guilty pleasure.
Honorable Mention: DNCE, "Cake by the Ocean"
Uh, what is art????
Album: Endless, Frank Ocean
In a day ruled by the surprise release (not entirely e.g. Starboy, The Weeknd), the electric jolt of waking up to some new shit by your favorite artist has mitigated the revelatory joy of anticipation. With announced released dates for fresh music, consumers would wait in eager anticipation, much like a child who'd pepper mom and dad with repeated inquiries about their upcoming birthday party, "Is it time for my party yet!?" There is satisfaction in having something you're looking forward to finally brought to its rightful consummation.
In Frank's release of Endless (visual album), Blond, and Boys Don't Cry (magazine) he somehow delivered both surprise and anticipation to fans. The epic rumor chronicle that began as far back as 2012 (which is succinctly documented by Pitchfork) was finally broken when Frank released Endless, the first of the aforementioned three. The stunning visual piece, done in black and white shows Frank building a staircase to the tune of his ethereal and sublime music. The album is abstract in concept and sound but if you take the time watch/listen to the 45:52 runtime, you will be fully enraptured in a Frank Ocean induced trance. If this isn't art, then I'm not sure what is.
Honorable Mention: IV, BADBADNOTGOOD
Song: Childish Gambino, "Zombies"
From the revelation, that was his hit series, Atlanta, to the release of the critically lauded album, "Awaken, My Love" it has been nothing short of a triumphant year for Donald Glover. The album was one the best of the year, but the fourth track, "Zombies" takes the cake for artistic achievement. This eery lament combines a slow and haunting sound with horror film-esque background vocals that repeatedly release the lines "We're coming out to get you", "We're oh so glad we met you", "We're eating you for profit", and "There's no way to stop it." Its artistic prowess is largely driven by its content but it's true aesthetic value lies in its near extraterrestrial delivery.
Honorable Mention: Kendrick Lamar, "untitled 07 | levitate"
Album: Blank Face LP, Schoolboy Q
Groovy Q has never shied away from embracing the darkness and he certainly maintained it throughout his second full-length album, Blank Face LP. This album is for lovers of hip-hop who aren't afraid to listen to the bleak reality of Schoolboy's Nietchzian worldview. It isn't simply the words Q shares that carry a sordid punch but the way in which he belligerently asserts his dominance with aggressive vocals. On the surface, one could surmise that Q has nothing of meaning to say, but this is not the case. If you listen close you hear the agony of a man raised by the streets, in a context where showing any sign of weakness can mean the end of your very life. Schoolboy's sophomore work is dark but far from dark for dark's sake. If you want to understood what life was like for Schoolboy and many others who grew up in South Central, LA, Blank Face is a great place to start.
Honorable Mention: Prima Donna, Vince Staples
Song: Kid Cudi, "Swim in the Light"
The highly anticipated new album from Cudi, Passion, Pain, & Demon Slayin', was finally released a few weeks ago. The album is packed full of arcane introspection which Cudder draws from an authentic and highly documented (check the Facebook post Cudi shared a few months ago before entering rehab) well of personal anguish. The second track, "Swim in the Light", is the peak cry of pain. Sang over haunting synth and percussion he repeatedly releases the fatalistic cry, "You could try and the numb the pain, but it'll never go away." In its desperation, the song still retains beauty both in sound and in Cudi's vulnerability.
Honorable Mention: YG, "Who Shot Me?"
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