Top 10 songs of the year
The year’s not over yet, but I really don’t think I’ll hear anything new that would make it onto this list. Plus, more established sources have already put out their lists, so I figure why not? If you like what you hear, I encourage you to go beyond this list and listen to more of these artists’ music. Finding the right song is like finding a mate- it takes a lot of time, and a lot of trial and error before you find one that suits you best.
- Cranes In The Sky by Solange
My song of the year. It’s soft, it’s sentimental, it feels like the day after a break up. It feels like a day and a year after that breakup and you still find yourself unable to move on. You try to run away, you try changing your hair, you take up a new lover and then let them go… But nothing works. The feeling is not a panic. The feeling is not a sadness. It’s this listless somberness that floats through you everyday. That feeling becomes your life. There’s nothing you can do to get rid of it; you have to learn to live with it.
This song is what music is. It’s more than good lyrics and good instrumentation- it’s a reflection of our lives. Every part of this song is alive- the strings, the drums, the keyboards- you can feel them breathe and their breath is ethereal. This is one of the best performances I’ve heard from Solange, and it’s a great testament to her amazing vocal range.
2. No Problem By Chance The Rapper
When someone asks me what I think good music is, I sputter out a bunch of artists, genres, and songs and put together some obtuse patchwork of Explaining what good music is is a lot like the Nina Simone interview portion of Noname’s Freedom Interlude- it’s like trying to explain what being in love is like to someone who’s never been in love before. It’s impossible. Since May, whenever someone asks me what I think good music is, I point them in the direction of this song. Maybe it’s the rapturous choir. Maybe it’s because the song makes me feel really happy to be alive. Or, maybe, I shut shut up and just let you listen to it and figure it out for yourself.
3. Ivy by Frank Ocean
There is so much tenderness and vulnerability in this song. I love the way Ocean’s voice rises and falls with the chord changes in this song. And how he starts off very calm but noticeably upset with the situation he’s in, but by the very end he’s practically screaming and crying like this reminiscing is tearing his soul apart. Each time he sings a verse he breaks a little more from his monotonous, almost emotionless recitation of the song’s chorus, which feels like more of a mantra he uses to persuade himself that he isn’t falling apart when he actually is. Blonde was a surprise to people because of it’s lack of production. Ivy is a testament to that creative decision and why it was an effective choice for this album. It allowed that tenderness, the vulnerability and emotion he was hoping to express, to be the focus of the song.
4. THat Part (Black Hippy Remix) by ScHoolboy Q
Everybody brought their A-game for this one. Jay Rock was at his best- to quote one of my friends, “He ate this remix like a python…Dude unhinged his jaw and everything.” Kendrick brought arguably his best verse this year to this track. Even Ab-Soul, who I’m usually not a fan of, had a great verse .The Black Hippy Remix of THat Part came out the night after Alton Sterling was shot (I think). And to hear Q talk about the shooting right after it happened was huge. And to hear him put blame on the people filming him was even more gut-punching. You have to wonder: is he wrong? At the very least the line points out the potential helplessness we experience in these situations as people of color in this country, a helplessness that he refers to in regards to his daughter a couple of lines later. Hearing someone else feel this way- angry, afraid, but unable to do anything- was definitely something I needed to hear at that time. I was confused and hurting, and a lot of people were telling me that the way I felt was wrong. His anger validated my anger. And he made me question the motivations of the people filming the incident. Why didn’t they help Sterling? The only answer I could come up with that made sense was, “What could they really do?” We’re all kind of helpless, or at least we feel we are, in one way or another.
5. Shadow Man by Noname
This track is from one of the three most underrated musical projects this year. Everything from Noname’s Telefone, even and especially Freedom Interlude, despite being labelled an interlude, is absolutely stellar. I sincerely hope she wasn’t serious when she said she wasn’t putting out anything else after Telefone, because she can do a lot of good. She is one of the best poets that we have, and an incredible musician.
6. Night On Earth by Jerkcurb
I’ve been waiting since 2012 for Jacob Reed, a.k.a Jerkcurb, to put out something new, and it did not disappoint. He’s got a penchant for making very hazy, dreamy, borderline- grim, guitar-driven songs, and this song is no exception. Night On Earth is a haunting tale of a man’s attempt to convince this girl he’s into to spend their “last night on earth” together. Whether the world is actually ending, or just his, depending on her response, is up for debate, but in any case Mr. Reed does a great job of capturing just how dire the situation seems to the song’s protagonist. Also, if you didn’t know, in addition to being a really good musician, Reed is a really good artist too.
7. Emotional Rescue by St. Vincent
You could be mine, mine, mine- mine, oh mine, baby
Also, shoutout to Terrace Martin and his sax.
8. Blessings (Reprise) by Chance The Rapper
My grandma spent a decent amount of time in the hospital this June. I took my time with this album. Acid Rap was HUGE for me, and I’d been anxiously awaiting Chance’s 3rd project. I wasn’t sure when we’d get to hear Chance 4, so I listened to 2 or 3 songs from Coloring Book every 1 to 2 weeks. So by the end of June I ended up still needing to listen to the last song off Coloring Book. My grandma came down with a real bad case of pneumonia, and she still hasn’t fully recovered, and she never will, but the doctor said that if she hadn’t come to the hospital for that, she would have suffered a major stroke. I stayed with her during the nights and boy, was she restless. She was breathless too. My god those machines beeped and alarmed all through those nights. Me and the nurses were convinced she was going to die. They told me she was going to die. And then she didn’t. It wasn’t until the second night that they told us about the stroke she could’ve had. And as I was coming off that particular night shift, while I was walking back to my car along this side of the hill the hospital was built on, I heard, “Are you ready?” And then, “Are you ready for your blessing? Are you ready for your miracle?” And I said to, I don’t even know, God? Chance? I said, “Thank you. She didn’t have that stroke. That’s my blessing. She didn’t stop breathing completely last night. That’s my miracle. Thank you. I am ready. Thank you.”
9. The Noisy Eater by The Avalanches
The Noisy Eater is on the second most underrated project of the year, The Avalanches’s Wildflower. Although on any given day this is not necessarily my favorite song on the album, because everything on there is just so darn good and there’s an eclectic mix of music on there (I imagine it’s difficult for anyone to piece together that this song and Stepkids are by the same artist, let alone on the same album), The Noisy Eater is the song from the album that I would share with people who’ve never heard of the Avalanches before. This song best exemplifies their uncanny and unparalleled ability to bring together bits and pieces of… Whatever sounds good to their ears, really, put them all into something that sounds magical, and manage to have fun with it too. It has been a real shame to see this album get snubbed by so many lists this year, although I don’t think these guys mind much. They set out to make something people would enjoy, and let me tell you, everyone I’ve shared The Noisy Eater with has fallen in love with it.
10. Hold Up by Beyonce
My first favorite from Lemonade, Hold Up is a song that I instantly connected with. There are many women in family who, at certain times in their lives, would have made this song their anthem. I come from a place where any/most disagreeable behavior from a woman is met with “Oh she’s just crazy,” especially when fidelity is being questioned. So when I heard Beyonce ask, “What’s worse, looking jealous, or crazy? Or like being walked all over lately… I’d rather be crazy,” I knew exactly what she was talking about. I’d rather be “crazy” too. Even still, calling someone you supposedly care about “crazy” is in itself a wicked way to treat whoever it is that’s loving you, but I digress. Hold Up is scary, sad, bold, empowering- and the image of Beyonce going around happily smashing passenger side windows is one of the first things I see when I think of 2016.