The Best Songs of 2016
19. Kanye West - 'Waves (Feat. Chris Brown & Kid Cudi)'
"Waves" is a beautiful track. The Chris Brown hook is inspiring and infectious. Cudi's hums in the background get us going every time. Shouts to Chance for making sure this made the cut. - Sey
18. ZAYN - Pillowtalk
"Pillowtalk" does many things through it's 3 minute length, shifting in tone and rhythm effortlessly while still maintaining a singular identity and feeling deeply personal. The rolling snare motif couple with a dreamy vocal intro that gives way the stripped down verse, with the instrumental quarantined to lower frequencies as Zayn's vocals stand above running from a belted introduction to catchy mumbling, before transitioning to a powerful chorus with beautiful refrain. The real selling point of the tune is just how wildly dynamic it is, throwing everything against the canvas presumably in effort to establish a former boy band member as a 'grown-up' solo artist. It isn't an instant classic like Cry Me A River, a song forged in similar circumstances, but it's extravagance make it huge sonically and in appeal. A look back to 2016 wouldn't be whole without it. - newdarkage
17. Grouper - 'Headache'
Released on the winter solstice, the Paradise Valley 7" is a less a return to Grouper's sound than a muted meditation. You can hear the reverb hum at the beginning of "Headache" as Harris' fingers hesitate on guitar strings, almost uncertain of the outcome. In its simplicity — just a moody chord progression strummed languidly — there's a nod to early Low, but the stark melancholy as Harris sighs, "My head hurts," is unmistakably Grouper. - Lars Gotrich, NPR
16. Julianna Barwick - 'Someway'
"Someway" showcases vocal harmonies from Mas Ysa's Thomas Arsenault, whose presence brings a new point of view, suggesting romantic bliss when his voice intertwines with hers. When they pine, "Don't believe, just make excuses..." there's rare clarity in their words. - Mike Katzif, NPR
15. Cold Cave - 'Rue The Day'
The band said it best themselves, “it should be clear by now that Cold Cave is existing in their own world, releasing music in any format and at any time they choose. An evolution by it’s own rules, laughing happily outside of the tired norm that is music industry convention." - Sey
14. Frank Ocean - 'Futura Free'
The sprawling, nine-minute long ‘Futura Free’ brings the record to an end and does so with Ocean looking firmly back to the past, reflecting upon life before fame, before the time when emails from Jay Z would drop in his inbox. Back when he had a day job and Tyler, The Creator would sleep on his sofa. This is Frank staying true to himself and his belief in his art. - Luke Morgan Britton, NME
13. MIA - 'Finally'
“Finally” is the seventh track of “AIM” and it was produced by João Barbosa (Branko) from the group Buraka Som Sistema.
M.I.A. revealed the name of this track on a Periscope saying:
This song is called Finally ‘cause I finally finish the record, I think. But you never know… Until somebody takes it out of your hands.
12. Shy Glizzy - 'You Know What'
Glizzy slows thing down on the track, but it is by no means a slow jam. Spaced out synths echo behind disjointed, snapping snares and sparse, booming bass. The DMV rapper’s rhymes don’t soften for the relaxed beat, as he raps about what he thinks of people trying to creep up on him or don’t respect his dominance. Definitely enjoying how this sound works with Glizzy’s vocals. - Carver Low, HNHH
11. WIFE - 'Native Trade'
On “Native Trade,” WIFE takes soft keyboard swells—the kind we often hear in heartstring-tugging film scores—and scoops them out with intervals of silence, so that the tune stutters while evoking puffy clouds of drama. As always, WIFE weaves different shades of solemnity into a rich meshwork. And as time goes on, Kelly’s music gets more and more refined, so that it evades simple descriptors like “somber” and “dark.” - Saby Reyes-Kulkarni, Pitchfork
10. Meek Mill - 'Litty (Feat. Tory Lanez)'
LITTY AGAIN, LITTY AGAIN, I GOT IT, WE LITTY AGAIN! This was a fitting track for Mill. After sustaining a barrage of attacks from OVO, The Game, the internet, and any brand with a Twitter account, Meek was back with a vengeance. He had a lot to prove and he showed us why he was a force to be reckoned with. This was a resurrection. This was slaughter. This was a warning shot. This was exactly what he needed to make us forget all the clowning and his missteps during his numerous beefs. Meek Mill is back and we're waiting for what he'll do next. - Sey
9. Travis $cott & Young Thug - 'Pick Up The Phone (Feat. Quavo)'
This song is amazing. Shouts to Starrah for the songwriting. Travis knew what was up when he heard this in the studio. Thug knew too and that's why they're sharing the top spot on the track. Quavo comes through with a killer verse as always and unknowingly names Travis' Birds album in the process. One more point for the tropical vibes and its evident why this song had to make the list. - Sey
8. ScHoolboy Q - 'THat Part (Feat. Kanye West)'
"Beggars can't be choosers, bitch, this ain't Chipotle!" Yeezy was spitting in the face of every "I want the old Kanye" head out there. It's not what you want; It's what you needed. He could've gone up there and tried to lyrically go toe to toe with Q, but he went a step further and (GASP!) had fun. He turned this trippy track into a party anthem. Everywhere you go, people were heard rapping his verse bar for bar because it's high energy and came outta nowhere. Q did his thing as well. The beat is amazing. Q's bars are on point and the hook is hypnotizing. Who knew Q and Ye could give Q and Rocky a run for their money? Who wants the old Kanye, again? That's what I thought. - Sey
7. Rihanna - 'Needed Me'
Savage. Whoever she was talking about (Travis?) got straight ethered. The hit list had us shook. the video was insane! That beat was wild and the songwriting was intense. Bibi Bourelly snapped on this as well as Rihanna. Good girl gone bad for sure. - Sey
6. Kid Cudi - 'Rose Golden'
The features from Andre 3000, Pharrell, and Travis Scott were the first to jump out to most fans on Kid Cudi's new album Passion, Pain and Demon Slayin', but the Willow Smith collaboration proved to be one of the project's finest moments. Both Cudi and Willow have been known to get pretty out-there with their production, concepts, and melodic ideas, and "Rose Golden" does all of that without sacrificing hooks in the process. Singing in unison, the two vocalists stack their harmonies on the powerful chorus, with Willow returning for punctuations throughout the record. For anyone looking for the ambitious, hooky emo-rap from Man On The Moon won't be disappointed with this one. - Trevor Smith, HNHH
5. Migos - 'Bad & Boujee (Feat. Lil Uzi Vert)'
Some say this should be number 1. I say it would have if it dropped sooner, but that doesn't discredit a thing. The Migos proved they're more than Quavo by returning in a big way. The hook was gold as were the verses (the jury is still out on Uzi tho, lmao). Metro did it again and continues his rise to the top. This was what the Migos needed to regain momentum and take back their spot. So lowkey, but in your face at the same time. Amazing. Peep what they did in Nigeria and tell me this ain't a banger. - Sey
4. Childish Gambino - 'Redbone'
This came all the way out of left field. We knew he could sing, but not like this. This was perfect. This was Bootsy Collins in 2016. Funk was back and we were here for it. Let's see where he goes next. STAY WOKE! - Sey
3. Beyonce - 'Formation'
The most important song of 2016. Bey had the alt-right shook! This was unapologetically black and America needed to hear it. The video was powerful. The Super Bowl performance was powerful and the lyrics were powerful in a year marred by police brutality. This was Bey's "Alright" and we were all waiting for where she'd take us next. - Sey
2. Kanye West - 'Ultralight Beam'
The GOSPEL! 2016 needed these vibes. We needed hope and Chance and Ye delivered. He might be on an MK Ultra Lightbeam now, but this was a God dream. This IS a God dream. - Sey
1. Rae Sremmurd - 'Black Beatles (Feat. Gucci Mane)'
BROOOOOOOOOO, I knew this was a hit before the world did. SremmLife one was surprisingly cohesive and deserved that spot on the Complex list (word to Ebro!). When I listened to SremmLife 2, I didn't get that vibe. It was tight, but there were less hits. They had a few misses and a more understated/lowkey sound. "Black Beatles" was the outlier. This was insane. Mike Will Made a beat that could've been on a Blink-182 CD. The hook was something rappers wish they could do when they attempt to crossover. Swae Lee knocked it out of the park. Gucci Mane came through as the overseeing OG and he killed his verse too! Usually, Slim Jxmmy is the weaker link, but you couldn't tell here. His verse brought a much needed energy to the tail end of the track and was able to make us overlook rhyming haters with haters multiple times, lol. "Black Beatle, bitch! Me and Paul McCartney related!" was an instant classic line and when McCartney did the Mannequin Challenge (!!!), it only solidified it's spot at the top. This was poppin BEFORE the challenge and only got better after. It lost a little bit of steam to "Bad and Boujee" towards the end, but it's start can't be denied. Rae Sremmurd didn't give up and proved they're here to stay. - Sey