Year-End List: 40 Best Albums of 2016
Beyoncé (Lemonade), Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds (Skelton Tree), and Solange (A Seat at the Table) lead the charge of the 40 bests albums of 2016.
2016 was a year that was dominated by great records and songs as opposed to albums. This has become the trend as of late – it’s the new normal. Nonetheless, 2016 yielded a number of fantastic albums that can’t be denied whether the single is king or not. Surprisingly, even though 40 albums are highlighted here, even more could’ve been included. Here are the 40 best albums of 2016.
1. Beyoncé, Lemonade
Lemonade is a bold album that finds Beyoncé at her rawest. While she incorporates expected styles – pop, R&B, and hip-hop – she also adds elements of rock (“Don’t Hurt Yourself”) and country (“Daddy”). That doesn’t even account for socially conscious and politically-charged moments such as “6 Inch Heels,” “Freedom,” and “Formation.”
Gems: “Hold Up,” “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” “Sorry,” “Sandcastles,” “Freedom” & “Formation”
2. Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Skeleton Tree
[Bad Seeds Ltd]
In 2016, few albums shined as bright as Skeleton Tree. The latest Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds LP is epic. It marks the first album released by the collective following the death of Cave’s son, Arthur. Clearly, Cave put every ounce of himself into this album. The listener can perceive the depth of emotion. Cave’s loss can never be understood by those who haven’t experienced such, but he conveys it as accurately, authentically, and humanly as possible through the music.
Gems: “Jesus Alone,” “Girl in Amber,” “Magneto,” “Anthrocene” & “I Need You”
3. Solange, A Seat at the Table
Solange returns with a masterful third LP, A Seat at the Table. With A Seat at the Table, she didn’t just make any album, but rather, a meaningful, socially-conscious gem. Throughout the course of A Seat at the Table, Solange embraces her blackness and couldn’t care less what the haters have to say. Among the crème de la crème of the gems is “Cranes in the Sky,” an attempt to eliminate the hurtful, and “Don’t Touch My Hair,” a jazzy neo-soul record tackling invasiveness, racial profiling, and pride.
Gems: “Weary,” “Cranes in the Sky,” “Mad,” “Don’t Touch My Hair,” “F.U.B.U.” & “Borderline (An Ode to Self Care)”
4. A Tribe Called Quest, We Got This…Thank You 4 Your Service
Following an 18-year hiatus, A Tribe Called Quest returned to release their final studio album. We Got It from Here…Thank You 4 Your Service is magnificent sixth album by the legendary hip-hop group. Amazingly, they don’t compromise their style, delivering a classic, yet fresh album. Jam-packed with gems, among the elite are opener “The Space Program” (tackles black inequality), “We the People…” (tackles the unrepresented in America), and “Lost Somebody” and “The Donald” (tributes to the late, great Phife Dawg).
Gems: “The Space Program,” “We the People…,” “Kids,” “Melatonin,” “Lost Somebody,” “Ego” & “The Donald”
5. Frank Ocean, Blonde
After a four-year hiatus, Frank Ocean returned with his sophomore album, Blonde. Following up masterpiece Channel Orange is no easy task, but Ocean does so successfully, distinguishing his debut and sophomore efforts. Blonde is a complete album that masterfully encompasses introspection, life, and love & sex. Highlights include “Nikes” (dabbles in materialism, memorials, and sex), “Ivy” (like, love and breaking up), and “Pink + White” featuring Beyoncé (past life, love, Hurricane Katrina, and a temporary “high”). Blonde is brilliant, period.
Gems: “Nikes,” “Ivy,” “Pink + White,” “Solo,” “Nights” & “Seigfried”
6. David Bowie, Blackstar
David Bowie passed away just two days after releasing Blackstar on his 69th birthday. As sad as it was to see the iconic artist die, Blackstar showcased the ever restless, evolving Bowie in top-notch form. “Blackstar” is among the year’s most enigmatic songs clocking in at just under 10 minutes. “Lazarus” eerily foreshadows Bowie’s death (“Look up here, I’m in heaven / I’ve got scars that can’t be seen”). On “Girl Loves Me,” Bowie incorporates a made-up language coupled with gay slang (Nadsat and Polari). Bowie definitely went out on top.
Gems: “Blackstar,” “‘Tis a Pity She Was a Whore,” “Lazarus” & “Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)”
7. Rihanna, Anti
With Anti, Rihanna gave the world one of the best albums of her career if not the best. While initially Anti had an ‘adjustment’ period, it is undoubtedly among the crème de la crème of 2016. It should’ve been nominated for the Grammy for Album of the Year. Chocked full of hits, “Kiss It Better” is among the year’s sexiest slow jams, “Work” is annoyingly infectious, while “Higher” is an interlude that definitely should’ve been a full-length song. Anti is stacked!
Gems: “Kiss It Better,” “Work,” “Desperado,” “Same Ol’ Mistakes,” “Love on the Brain” & “Higher”
8. Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool
A Moon Shaped Pool is a captivating album throughout its course, with no missteps. Some of Thom Yorke and company’s best moments come on “The Numbers” and the cleverly titled “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief.” Both songs dabble in environmental issues. “Burn the Witch” isn’t to be omitted, kicking off the album ferociously.
Gems: “Burn the Witch,” “Daydreaming,” “Ful Stop,” “The Numbers” & “Tinker Tailor Soldier Sailor Rich Man Poor Man Beggar Man Thief”
9. Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book
[Chance the Rapper]
“Am I the only n*gga still care about mixtapes?” That’s a debatable question from Chance the Rapper. Regardless of the fact that Coloring Book is a mixtape, it’s an exceptional one! Undoubtedly, he is among the rising rappers of 2016. He’s at his best when he’s on a spiritual high, such as “Blessings” and “Finish Line/Drown.” Still, “No Problem” is an undeniable banger, where he is assisted by Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz.
Gems: “All We Got,” “No Problem,” “Blessings,” “Same Drugs,” “Angels” & “Finish Line / Drown”
10. Bon Iver, 22, A Million
Justin Vernon (aka Bon Iver) returns triumphantly in 2016 with 22, A Million, an eclectic album that sounds like nothing else released in 2016. Incorporating electronic cues and acoustic cues alike, 22, A Million is an intriguing listen – an electro-acoustic-alternative amalgam. Featuring challenging lyrics drenched in spirituality, numerology, and most accessibly, romance, 22, A Million forces its listeners think. Gems include promo single “33 “GOD”,” which finds Vernon pursuing a hook-up…possibly a relationship…
Gems: “22 (OVER S∞∞N),” “10 dEAThbREasT⚄⚄,” “33 “GOD”” & “8 (circle)