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the interns’ 30 Best Songs Of 2016 (So Far)

Written By the interns on 07/06/2016

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A premature look at what’s winning for us in 2016…

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Vera Blue – Settle

Releasing the shackles of previous performances, Vera Blue‘s star has shot well and truly above all expectations. That’s no shade on her talent, because wow does she has it. After sneaking into the 101-200 selections of triple j’s Hottest 100 with Hold, I don’t think I have seen or heard a debut quite like this from an Australian artist. Blending the fragile smooth sounds of folk, with hints of electronica, Vera Blue is the project of young singer/songwriter Celia Pavey. Just like HoldSettle vocally grabbed you. It is dark, yet deeply fragile. Through its brooding and beautiful blend of folk and electronic sounds, Settle resonates as a story. But it’s Vera Blue’s captivating vocal ability that really shines throughout Settle. The control, the high’s and tone of her voice are things vocally someone of her age just isn’t expected to have. It’s truly incredible and can only be pinpointed as a gift. Oh yeah, and if you thought all those highs and “da da da do do do” parts were a gimmick of fine studio/editing work you best prepare yourself a seat. Look, she nails it on the record, but as an artist she truly shines live. More often than not, an artist never sounds like they do on a record or in the studio, but truthfully Vera Blue perfects her repertoire in the flesh. – Harrison Kefford

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Yeasayer – I Am Chemistry

Amen And Goodbye; the fourth album from American experimental gods Yeasayer – had such an incredibly diverse tracklist. Yet I Am Chemistry stands out from the pack for so many reasons; but surely most notable it’s structure is what sets it apart. In a time when verse/chorus (and sometimes bridge) are so important for bands desiring radio play and general popularity – Yeasayer have thrown pretty much any idea of conventional structure out the proverbial window Think something along the lines of Verse, chorus, verse, bridge, something else, something else again, gloriously emotive choral harmony, chorus. Other than that; it’s a brooding piece, captivating in it’s exploration of melody and harmony – building to this immense climax where the band enlisted a children’s choir to sing the most majestic and starkly contrasting section towards the end of the track. Once you’ve heard it once you can’t help but go back, it’s just that good. It’s complexity is far from a curse, it makes I Am Chemistry one of the most special songs of the year. – Zanda Wilson

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dvsn – Angela

The dvsn album Sept 5th may well be not only the best R&B debut album to see release in 2016, thus far, but indeed the single best R&B album of the year, period. This track, in particular, stands itself apart as likely the single best indicator of exactly why dvsn, and Sept. 5th, deserve such an accolade. It showcases all of the attitude and polish befitting an artist signed to OVO, while flexing a maturity consistent throughout the album, as well as an alluring edge and willingness to experiment – evidenced particularly by the sublime rework/sample of the chorus to Elliot Smith’s classic Angeles (taken from his 1997 album Either/Or). Ultimately what results is an album track that is truly bewitching, and allows all of the best elements of dvsn’s sound to exist at the forefront of the listening experience. Simply put, this might be the best R&B song of 2016, so far, and is the greatest showing from an equally extraordinary debut album. OVO stays winning. – James Schofield

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Kamaiyah – How Does It Feel

20 year-old Oakland rapper Kamaiyah is without a doubt 2016’s best new rapper and it all started with this cut How Does It Feel. A rags to riches anthem, How Does It Feel couples autobiographical lyrics with a hook positioned for the clubs and the streets. “I been broke all my life,” she raps in the chorus over a perky, ‘90s-leaning synths giving an effortless, infectious hook that instantaneously throws up hands. While few may have lived Kamaiyah’s story, the best rappers tell stories so vivid that anyone can step into their shoes for a couple of minutes. She does it with such personality and charisma that it’s hard not to feel you’ve been following her since she was broke. – Sam Murphy

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Ariana Grande – Into You

“I’m so into you I can barely breathe,” Ariana Grande sings as the opening line to Into You. It’s the hyperbole to end all hyperboles but pop music was built on great over-exaggerations and Grande uses them to the highest effect on Dangerous Woman‘s highlight. Driven by a pulsating beat, it’s a shimmering piece of pop that showcases Grande’s breathy, seductive vocals in perhaps their best environment yet. The entire album introduces us to Grande as a matured woman but this more than anything spells it out. She’s lustful and sexy but she comes at it with an unwavering confidence that knocks the chorus into the stratosphere. – Sam Murphy

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The Range – Copper Wire

From the moment the pitched-down voice saying “without you” rolls into The Range’s Copper Wire your heartstrings are tugged. Without even reading the backstory of this song it feels like a swelling heart made up of circling synths and sparse but honest lyrics. The producer has extraordinarily found a voice that mimics his exact feelings, managing to pull it into his own world of emotional electronica. It shows that while people’s stories change from case to case the fundamental feelings of loss resonate with anyone who has felt it. In The Range’s case, he lost his Mum but that voice singing “without you” will tug at you no matter who you’re longing for. – Sam Murphy

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Baauer – Kung Fu (Feat. Pusha T and Future)

Baauer has collaborated with a heap of artists over the years – but who would’ve predicted that enlisting Pusha T and Future would culminate in one of his best ever songs. Known for his heavy trap drops, Baauer’s production on Kung Fu intentionally serves as accompaniment for his two feature artists, and Future’s autotuned lines in particular just sound like they were made for Baauer’s style, especially through the bridge of the track. Kung Fu was one one track that could’ve made this list out a whole heap from his 2016 album Aa; a creative effort that’s finally seen the producer shake the hype of Harlem Shake. – Zanda Wilson

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ZAYN – Pillowtalk

Four years ago, when he was still the quiet background member of you-know-who, I made a joke that Zayn should Justin Timberlake the group. At the time it was a pipe dream– it wasn’t happening with this shy kid from Bradford. But then he did it. He really did it. And he didn’t just do it, he did it well. Zayn switched from being a pre-teen darling to a mature sex symbol with an ease that’d make Miley Cyrus choke on her bong. Forget the inexplicable capitalisation, PILLOWTALK is buttery R&B that’s engineered to show off both his tenor and his abs. It’s about sex, but not in the terrifying way that Justin Bieber songs are about sex. It’s mysterious, raw and intimate, and it’s not afraid to bear a mature rating. Ultimately, it walks the path carved by The Weeknd’s The Hills, just less dangerous. With this debut, Zayn, didn’t even try to keep his boy band fans, he took a waist-deep plunge into Gigi Hadid’s neckline and went straight for the adult market. And I’ll be damned if he didn’t totally pull it off. – Sean Singh

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Ngaiire – House On A Rock

Soulful Sydney powerhouse Ngaiire gave us her third single off the album Blastoma and it was her biggest electronic effort thus far. House On A Rock starts off with an all too familiar sound that comes off a lot like the main electronic synth beat that Calvin Harris used on Summer but Ngaiire’s version is a lot more distorted and gives a raw feel. After all, it is a raw song based around love, loss and the struggles she faced as a child who overcame cancer. Strong family ties are felt within her pungent lyrics when she uses the metaphor “we built our house on a rock” throughout the chorus. This is one of Ngaiire’s best songs to date and we’ve got company in that opinion too. John Butler was quoted saying, “that (song) has all the right bits in all the right places. It was a soulful massage to my eardrums”. – Alistair Rhodes

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Tegan & Sara – Boyfriend

Boyfriend is just one of a heap of incredible tracks on Tegan & Sara’s 2016 album Love You To Death. The Canadian sister-duo have a long-standing reputation for writing lyrics that address LGTB issues and although this track has slightly less serious lyrical content – Boyfriend does address the issues surrounding being treated poorly in a relationship in a gay context. Much like a lot of their recent stuff, this song can be put into the genre of pop on a base level; but it’s definitely more complex when it comes to the production that it contains. Complexity hiding within outward simplicity would probably be the best way to explain how this song functions – and this is something that Tegan & Sara have gotten down to a fine art. – Zanda Wilson

See numbers 20 to 11.

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A premature look at what’s winning for us in 2016…

VeraBlue_30

Vera Blue – Settle

Releasing the shackles of previous performances, Vera Blue‘s star has shot well and truly above all expectations. That’s no shade on her talent, because wow does she has it. After sneaking into the 101-200 selections of triple j’s Hottest 100 with Hold, I don’t think I have seen or heard a debut quite like this from an Australian artist. Blending the fragile smooth sounds of folk, with hints of electronica, Vera Blue is the project of young singer/songwriter Celia Pavey. Just like HoldSettle vocally grabbed you. It is dark, yet deeply fragile. Through its brooding and beautiful blend of folk and electronic sounds, Settle resonates as a story. But it’s Vera Blue’s captivating vocal ability that really shines throughout Settle. The control, the high’s and tone of her voice are things vocally someone of her age just isn’t expected to have. It’s truly incredible and can only be pinpointed as a gift. Oh yeah, and if you thought all those highs and “da da da do do do” parts were a gimmick of fine studio/editing work you best prepare yourself a seat. Look, she nails it on the record, but as an artist she truly shines live. More often than not, an artist never sounds like they do on a record or in the studio, but truthfully Vera Blue perfects her repertoire in the flesh. – Harrison Kefford

Yeasayer_29

Yeasayer – I Am Chemistry

Amen And Goodbye; the fourth album from American experimental gods Yeasayer – had such an incredibly diverse tracklist. Yet I Am Chemistry stands out from the pack for so many reasons; but surely most notable it’s structure is what sets it apart. In a time when verse/chorus (and sometimes bridge) are so important for bands desiring radio play and general popularity – Yeasayer have thrown pretty much any idea of conventional structure out the proverbial window Think something along the lines of Verse, chorus, verse, bridge, something else, something else again, gloriously emotive choral harmony, chorus. Other than that; it’s a brooding piece, captivating in it’s exploration of melody and harmony – building to this immense climax where the band enlisted a children’s choir to sing the most majestic and starkly contrasting section towards the end of the track. Once you’ve heard it once you can’t help but go back, it’s just that good. It’s complexity is far from a curse, it makes I Am Chemistry one of the most special songs of the year. – Zanda Wilson

DVSN_28

dvsn – Angela

The dvsn album Sept 5th may well be not only the best R&B debut album to see release in 2016, thus far, but indeed the single best R&B album of the year, period. This track, in particular, stands itself apart as likely the single best indicator of exactly why dvsn, and Sept. 5th, deserve such an accolade. It showcases all of the attitude and polish befitting an artist signed to OVO, while flexing a maturity consistent throughout the album, as well as an alluring edge and willingness to experiment – evidenced particularly by the sublime rework/sample of the chorus to Elliot Smith’s classic Angeles (taken from his 1997 album Either/Or). Ultimately what results is an album track that is truly bewitching, and allows all of the best elements of dvsn’s sound to exist at the forefront of the listening experience. Simply put, this might be the best R&B song of 2016, so far, and is the greatest showing from an equally extraordinary debut album. OVO stays winning. – James Schofield

Kamaiyah_27

Kamaiyah – How Does It Feel

20 year-old Oakland rapper Kamaiyah is without a doubt 2016’s best new rapper and it all started with this cut How Does It Feel. A rags to riches anthem, How Does It Feel couples autobiographical lyrics with a hook positioned for the clubs and the streets. “I been broke all my life,” she raps in the chorus over a perky, ‘90s-leaning synths giving an effortless, infectious hook that instantaneously throws up hands. While few may have lived Kamaiyah’s story, the best rappers tell stories so vivid that anyone can step into their shoes for a couple of minutes. She does it with such personality and charisma that it’s hard not to feel you’ve been following her since she was broke. – Sam Murphy

ArianaGrande_26

Ariana Grande – Into You

“I’m so into you I can barely breathe,” Ariana Grande sings as the opening line to Into You. It’s the hyperbole to end all hyperboles but pop music was built on great over-exaggerations and Grande uses them to the highest effect on Dangerous Woman‘s highlight. Driven by a pulsating beat, it’s a shimmering piece of pop that showcases Grande’s breathy, seductive vocals in perhaps their best environment yet. The entire album introduces us to Grande as a matured woman but this more than anything spells it out. She’s lustful and sexy but she comes at it with an unwavering confidence that knocks the chorus into the stratosphere. – Sam Murphy

TheRange_25

The Range – Copper Wire

From the moment the pitched-down voice saying “without you” rolls into The Range’s Copper Wire your heartstrings are tugged. Without even reading the backstory of this song it feels like a swelling heart made up of circling synths and sparse but honest lyrics. The producer has extraordinarily found a voice that mimics his exact feelings, managing to pull it into his own world of emotional electronica. It shows that while people’s stories change from case to case the fundamental feelings of loss resonate with anyone who has felt it. In The Range’s case, he lost his Mum but that voice singing “without you” will tug at you no matter who you’re longing for. – Sam Murphy

Bauuer_24

Baauer – Kung Fu (Feat. Pusha T and Future)

Baauer has collaborated with a heap of artists over the years – but who would’ve predicted that enlisting Pusha T and Future would culminate in one of his best ever songs. Known for his heavy trap drops, Baauer’s production on Kung Fu intentionally serves as accompaniment for his two feature artists, and Future’s autotuned lines in particular just sound like they were made for Baauer’s style, especially through the bridge of the track. Kung Fu was one one track that could’ve made this list out a whole heap from his 2016 album Aa; a creative effort that’s finally seen the producer shake the hype of Harlem Shake. – Zanda Wilson

ZAYN_23

ZAYN – Pillowtalk

Four years ago, when he was still the quiet background member of you-know-who, I made a joke that Zayn should Justin Timberlake the group. At the time it was a pipe dream– it wasn’t happening with this shy kid from Bradford. But then he did it. He really did it. And he didn’t just do it, he did it well. Zayn switched from being a pre-teen darling to a mature sex symbol with an ease that’d make Miley Cyrus choke on her bong. Forget the inexplicable capitalisation, PILLOWTALK is buttery R&B that’s engineered to show off both his tenor and his abs. It’s about sex, but not in the terrifying way that Justin Bieber songs are about sex. It’s mysterious, raw and intimate, and it’s not afraid to bear a mature rating. Ultimately, it walks the path carved by The Weeknd’s The Hills, just less dangerous. With this debut, Zayn, didn’t even try to keep his boy band fans, he took a waist-deep plunge into Gigi Hadid’s neckline and went straight for the adult market. And I’ll be damned if he didn’t totally pull it off. – Sean Singh

Ngaiire22

Ngaiire – House On A Rock

Soulful Sydney powerhouse Ngaiire gave us her third single off the album Blastoma and it was her biggest electronic effort thus far. House On A Rock starts off with an all too familiar sound that comes off a lot like the main electronic synth beat that Calvin Harris used on Summer but Ngaiire’s version is a lot more distorted and gives a raw feel. After all, it is a raw song based around love, loss and the struggles she faced as a child who overcame cancer. Strong family ties are felt within her pungent lyrics when she uses the metaphor “we built our house on a rock” throughout the chorus. This is one of Ngaiire’s best songs to date and we’ve got company in that opinion too. John Butler was quoted saying, “that (song) has all the right bits in all the right places. It was a soulful massage to my eardrums”. – Alistair Rhodes

TeganAndSara2

Tegan & Sara – Boyfriend

Boyfriend is just one of a heap of incredible tracks on Tegan & Sara’s 2016 album Love You To Death. The Canadian sister-duo have a long-standing reputation for writing lyrics that address LGTB issues and although this track has slightly less serious lyrical content – Boyfriend does address the issues surrounding being treated poorly in a relationship in a gay context. Much like a lot of their recent stuff, this song can be put into the genre of pop on a base level; but it’s definitely more complex when it comes to the production that it contains. Complexity hiding within outward simplicity would probably be the best way to explain how this song functions – and this is something that Tegan & Sara have gotten down to a fine art. – Zanda Wilson

See numbers 20 to 11.

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Broods – Free

The first time I heard Georgia Nott’s voice, it took me somewhere else. It’s elemental, and somewhat unreal. Bless the genetics that created her. I was somewhat disappointed to hear that Broods had shed the indie skin and slithered down the commercial pop route, but that disappointment was unfounded. Free is the kind of Shazam-able track that will crawl into your mind for hours, until it finally leaves in time for you to hear it on the radio again and repeat the process. As an act, they’re more exciting than their NZ predecessor Kimbra, and just different enough to cast a separate shadow to eastern queen Lorde. Free is definitely the standout on their album, and I’d almost put up with hearing Kyle and Jackie O’s brainless banter just to catch this one on the radio (but I don’t have to, TYVM Spotify). – Sean Singh

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Kendrick Lamar – Untitled 07

Untitled 07 comes from a B-sides, well hardly a B-sides- but a follow-up to Kendrick Lamar‘s world-beating To Pimp A Butterfly. He is reaching new heights and poise, unrelenting aggression in his rapping and a restful outlook, in what Drake would call knowing yourself. It’s a short yet memorable track, simple in structure and able to host these two conflicting sides in full flight on a swollen G-funk beat. He kicks it off by listing material things that won’t get you high and lulling you with his meditative whispering “levitate, levitate levitate”, before flipping the track to let his brag prowess take over. “Shut your fucking mouth and get some cash you biiiiich”. You’d think that crown will be out of anyone’s reach for some time to come. – Ben Manassah

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Beyoncé – All Night

“Saw the truth beneath your lies,” Beyoncé opens All Night with, the only song off Lemonade that truly offer forgiveness to Jay Z. The whole of Lemonade runs through the motions on anger, sadness and freedom, but All Night is the heartwarming resolution sitting at the end of the storm. She doesn’t excuse Jay’s behaviour nor does she completely offer her trust. Instead, she gives a commitment to try and to work hard. All this unfolds over organic, soulful production with Diplo exploring sonic pockets that he never has before. Peppered with horns, All Night brings the record to a triumphant close. Bey once again sounds sexy and sensual after the heart-shattering lows of Sandcastles and there’s never anything more goosebump-inducing than a big finale. – Sam Murphy

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Jorja Smith – Blue Lights

It’s rare but every so often a new artist pops out a debut that instantly establishes them as an artist and puts a stamp on the industry. Jorja Smith’s debut Blue Lights does exactly that showcasing all her strengths in an instant. The track harnesses the same sort of vibes that were perfected on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, with her ability to flick between her raspy singing tone and her British rap tone extraordinary. From its nods to Dizzee Rascal and Mobb Deep to its mention of Apple’s “default white headphone”, Blue Lights is a strikingly vivid piece of imagery by an exciting, astute songwriter. – Sam Murphy

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Mura Masa – What If I Go (Feat. Bonzai)

Mura Masa is undoubtedly having a breakout year, and What If I Go encapsulates his fun, boppy, electro style perfectly. The Guernsey-hailing producer and multi-instrumentalist is only 20; but the tunes he’s churned out so far have the polish of a much older musician. Like his other singles, Mura Masa is able to seamlessly and perfectly splice a beautiful set of vocals (this time by Bonzai) into his fairly minimalist mix. The result is a light, bright track that feels airy in some places but when he brings in more of a heavy synth line there’s some real bite to it. Contrasting these two textures is absolute genius, and What If I Go with it’s tropical vibes is a summer tune if ever there was one. – Zanda Wilson

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Mitski – Your Best American Girl

This is the best release of the year, in my opinion. The whole of Mitski‘s Puberty 2 is also excellent but this song in particular is just everything good song writing is. It’s telling a narrative of cultural difference and acceptance, and its telling it calmly over angry guitars and an angst filled vocal. It’s also provided me with my favourite lyric in a long time: “You’re the one, you’re all I ever wanted, I think I’ll regret this.” The song musically almost reflects the story. The feedback on the guitar in the chorus screams the realisations that she is good enough, despite her lovers thinking otherwise which is only due to a cultural difference. Music as real and raw as this deserves attention. – Jack Cain

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Tourist – Run

In a time where dance music is littered with the same old generic junk, what Tourist has done so far in such a short time is rather remarkable. I say so far, because his star is still very much on the rise. I think it’s safe to assume that Tourist is one of the very few newbies to the world of dance and electronic music that you can have full faith in having a lasting presence. His debut album U is easily one of the year’s best, and quite possibly one of the most solid debut’s we have both seen and heard in a long time. Tourist sets himself a part from the pack with his ability to etch emotion into a genre that for some, will be blatantly written off. Listening to Run, it’s hard to ignore that even though it’s a dance beat, there is this real personal element behind it. Run is rather unique in a sense that it has the ability to talk to the listener while using few very words. It’s an excellent listen and a perfect dance tune but it’s story speaks the loudest. – Harrison Kefford

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Drake – One Dance

Flashback to a year ago and I never thought I’d be writing about a Drake song I thoroughly enjoyed. Drake was always one of those artists that the R&B/Hip-Hop cool kids were fans of, so I balked at the popularity of Hotline Bling… initially. Flash forward and I’m on a bus listening to Views from start to finish for the umpteenth time and I’m wondering who the fuck I am. There’s not a lot that can be expressed in words about One Dance that can’t be surmised in the fact that it’s one of those songs that gets interminable stuck in your head but you don’t hate it for doing so. A good mate of mine has a tendency to hum a song for weeks on end – and normally it shits me; but every time he hums One Dance I don’t even care. Surely this is just about the most catchy song, and one of the biggest anthems of 2016 – and I won’t even hesitate to guarantee you that this will be in our top songs once again come the end of the year. It’s so smooth, there’s a lot much to love in that syncopated piano and tinged tropical beat-vibe – and if anyone hadn’t heard of Kyla then they do now. – Zanda Wilson

Listen here.

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Skepta – Man (Gang)

Grime is an insanely divisive genre. Its fans are often introspective, so it was treated as a massive blow to the proudly underground scene when Skepta started fucking with the likes of Kanye and Drake. But Man is a track that shouldn’t be owned by any one community, it’s just too good. Oddly enough, it began on triple j, when Skep laid down a freestyle on his Australian tour earlier this year. Some months later, we got the clean cut. It’s ruthlessly independent. He spits on his life as it is– none of the cash money bullshit that inescapably permeates mainstream rappers, it’s true grime to the core. It’s a track that made a generation of 18 year old white kids from Australia speak (with total lack of self-awareness) as though they were Tottenham originals. And not only is it written and entirely produced by Skepta, it samples Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a kind of physicality to Skepta’s narrative that keeps you hooked, and you can be sure that Man will make not just the halfway hitlist, but also the 2016 year-end roundup. – Sean Singh

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Lido – Crazy

So far Lido is yet to take a wrong step in his career, producing and remixing some of the biggest names this past year whilst still churning out his own musical gold. Crazy was the perfect single to lead with ahead of his highly anticipated debut album (WHICH IS DROPPING WHEN PEDER?) Crazy features about two sentences worth of lyrical content that are repeated often which should make the song repetitive and annoying but instead Lido manages to create 3:52 of pure fire. From the expertly produced beats to the punchy synths and the catchy as all hell horns…it seems that Lido has all bases covered. His musicality does not go unnoticed throughout and if this is what we can expect in the future, then surely 2016 will be the year that he breaks out of the shadows and into the stratosphere of Beiber-like stardom. – Meshell Webb

See numbers 10 to 1.

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Broods_20

Broods – Free

The first time I heard Georgia Nott’s voice, it took me somewhere else. It’s elemental, and somewhat unreal. Bless the genetics that created her. I was somewhat disappointed to hear that Broods had shed the indie skin and slithered down the commercial pop route, but that disappointment was unfounded. Free is the kind of Shazam-able track that will crawl into your mind for hours, until it finally leaves in time for you to hear it on the radio again and repeat the process. As an act, they’re more exciting than their NZ predecessor Kimbra, and just different enough to cast a separate shadow to eastern queen Lorde. Free is definitely the standout on their album, and I’d almost put up with hearing Kyle and Jackie O’s brainless banter just to catch this one on the radio (but I don’t have to, TYVM Spotify). – Sean Singh

Kendrick_19

Kendrick Lamar – Untitled 07

Untitled 07 comes from a B-sides, well hardly a B-sides- but a follow-up to Kendrick Lamar‘s world-beating To Pimp A Butterfly. He is reaching new heights and poise, unrelenting aggression in his rapping and a restful outlook, in what Drake would call knowing yourself. It’s a short yet memorable track, simple in structure and able to host these two conflicting sides in full flight on a swollen G-funk beat. He kicks it off by listing material things that won’t get you high and lulling you with his meditative whispering “levitate, levitate levitate”, before flipping the track to let his brag prowess take over. “Shut your fucking mouth and get some cash you biiiiich”. You’d think that crown will be out of anyone’s reach for some time to come. – Ben Manassah

Beyonce_18

Beyoncé – All Night

“Saw the truth beneath your lies,” Beyoncé opens All Night with, the only song off Lemonade that truly offer forgiveness to Jay Z. The whole of Lemonade runs through the motions on anger, sadness and freedom, but All Night is the heartwarming resolution sitting at the end of the storm. She doesn’t excuse Jay’s behaviour nor does she completely offer her trust. Instead, she gives a commitment to try and to work hard. All this unfolds over organic, soulful production with Diplo exploring sonic pockets that he never has before. Peppered with horns, All Night brings the record to a triumphant close. Bey once again sounds sexy and sensual after the heart-shattering lows of Sandcastles and there’s never anything more goosebump-inducing than a big finale. – Sam Murphy

JorjaSmith

Jorja Smith – Blue Lights

It’s rare but every so often a new artist pops out a debut that instantly establishes them as an artist and puts a stamp on the industry. Jorja Smith’s debut Blue Lights does exactly that showcasing all her strengths in an instant. The track harnesses the same sort of vibes that were perfected on The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, with her ability to flick between her raspy singing tone and her British rap tone extraordinary. From its nods to Dizzee Rascal and Mobb Deep to its mention of Apple’s “default white headphone”, Blue Lights is a strikingly vivid piece of imagery by an exciting, astute songwriter. – Sam Murphy

MuraMasa

Mura Masa – What If I Go (Feat. Bonzai)

Mura Masa is undoubtedly having a breakout year, and What If I Go encapsulates his fun, boppy, electro style perfectly. The Guernsey-hailing producer and multi-instrumentalist is only 20; but the tunes he’s churned out so far have the polish of a much older musician. Like his other singles, Mura Masa is able to seamlessly and perfectly splice a beautiful set of vocals (this time by Bonzai) into his fairly minimalist mix. The result is a light, bright track that feels airy in some places but when he brings in more of a heavy synth line there’s some real bite to it. Contrasting these two textures is absolute genius, and What If I Go with it’s tropical vibes is a summer tune if ever there was one. – Zanda Wilson

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Mitski – Your Best American Girl

This is the best release of the year, in my opinion. The whole of Mitski‘s Puberty 2 is also excellent but this song in particular is just everything good song writing is. It’s telling a narrative of cultural difference and acceptance, and its telling it calmly over angry guitars and an angst filled vocal. It’s also provided me with my favourite lyric in a long time: “You’re the one, you’re all I ever wanted, I think I’ll regret this.” The song musically almost reflects the story. The feedback on the guitar in the chorus screams the realisations that she is good enough, despite her lovers thinking otherwise which is only due to a cultural difference. Music as real and raw as this deserves attention. – Jack Cain

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Tourist – Run

In a time where dance music is littered with the same old generic junk, what Tourist has done so far in such a short time is rather remarkable. I say so far, because his star is still very much on the rise. I think it’s safe to assume that Tourist is one of the very few newbies to the world of dance and electronic music that you can have full faith in having a lasting presence. His debut album U is easily one of the year’s best, and quite possibly one of the most solid debut’s we have both seen and heard in a long time. Tourist sets himself a part from the pack with his ability to etch emotion into a genre that for some, will be blatantly written off. Listening to Run, it’s hard to ignore that even though it’s a dance beat, there is this real personal element behind it. Run is rather unique in a sense that it has the ability to talk to the listener while using few very words. It’s an excellent listen and a perfect dance tune but it’s story speaks the loudest. – Harrison Kefford

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Drake – One Dance

Flashback to a year ago and I never thought I’d be writing about a Drake song I thoroughly enjoyed. Drake was always one of those artists that the R&B/Hip-Hop cool kids were fans of, so I balked at the popularity of Hotline Bling… initially. Flash forward and I’m on a bus listening to Views from start to finish for the umpteenth time and I’m wondering who the fuck I am. There’s not a lot that can be expressed in words about One Dance that can’t be surmised in the fact that it’s one of those songs that gets interminable stuck in your head but you don’t hate it for doing so. A good mate of mine has a tendency to hum a song for weeks on end – and normally it shits me; but every time he hums One Dance I don’t even care. Surely this is just about the most catchy song, and one of the biggest anthems of 2016 – and I won’t even hesitate to guarantee you that this will be in our top songs once again come the end of the year. It’s so smooth, there’s a lot much to love in that syncopated piano and tinged tropical beat-vibe – and if anyone hadn’t heard of Kyla then they do now. – Zanda Wilson

Listen here.

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Skepta – Man (Gang)

Grime is an insanely divisive genre. Its fans are often introspective, so it was treated as a massive blow to the proudly underground scene when Skepta started fucking with the likes of Kanye and Drake. But Man is a track that shouldn’t be owned by any one community, it’s just too good. Oddly enough, it began on triple j, when Skep laid down a freestyle on his Australian tour earlier this year. Some months later, we got the clean cut. It’s ruthlessly independent. He spits on his life as it is– none of the cash money bullshit that inescapably permeates mainstream rappers, it’s true grime to the core. It’s a track that made a generation of 18 year old white kids from Australia speak (with total lack of self-awareness) as though they were Tottenham originals. And not only is it written and entirely produced by Skepta, it samples Queens of the Stone Age. There’s a kind of physicality to Skepta’s narrative that keeps you hooked, and you can be sure that Man will make not just the halfway hitlist, but also the 2016 year-end roundup. – Sean Singh

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Lido – Crazy

So far Lido is yet to take a wrong step in his career, producing and remixing some of the biggest names this past year whilst still churning out his own musical gold. Crazy was the perfect single to lead with ahead of his highly anticipated debut album (WHICH IS DROPPING WHEN PEDER?) Crazy features about two sentences worth of lyrical content that are repeated often which should make the song repetitive and annoying but instead Lido manages to create 3:52 of pure fire. From the expertly produced beats to the punchy synths and the catchy as all hell horns…it seems that Lido has all bases covered. His musicality does not go unnoticed throughout and if this is what we can expect in the future, then surely 2016 will be the year that he breaks out of the shadows and into the stratosphere of Beiber-like stardom. – Meshell Webb

See numbers 10 to 1.

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Kaytranada – Lite Spots

Kaytranada surprised no one when 99.9% earned critical ratings–  but what caught us off guard was just how good it was. His previous releases have been nothing to scoff at, but he was ultimately still sitting on Soundcloud-based success. 99.9% did away with any lingering doubts that he has what it takes to become a global sensation in the physical market. He’s doing what no one else is, and Lite Spots is a perfect example. Kay unlocked an insatiable groove from Pontos De Luz, and turned it into the kind of beat that many try but few can replicate. It’s groovy, it’s dancey, it’s catchy, it’s mature– and it’s unpredictable. Also, the video clip. That dancing robot is enough to earn him a spot on this list. – Sean Singh

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Kanye West – Father Stretch My Hands Pt.2

Desiigner’s Panda is the unexpected, runaway hit of the year but it would’ve been nowhere without Kanye‘s Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2The Life Of Pablo, is a busy, jam-packed masterpiece as a whole but what Pt.2 manages to fit in just over two minutes is nothing short of extraordinary. He takes Panda from a viral hit and transforms it into a grandiose piece of art, prefacing it with anxious, racing bars. Just when it reaches its chest-beating, egotistical height, Yeezy breaks it all down with a heartbreaking desolate finale straight out of Imogen Heap’s toolkit. It’s busy, sure, but Kanye’s mind races faster than anybody’s and Pt.2 captures that beautifully. – Sam Murphy

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ANOHNI – Drone Bomb Me

Political activistism is an intense focal point for ANOHNI (formerly Antony Hegarty) on her new album HOPELESSNESS. She takes measured swipes at the patriarchy and our disregard to climate change- but her account of a seven-year old girl describing the horror of a drone bomb attack on Drone Bomb Me is the album’s’ headline. This song brought my attention to the universal increase in drone bomb warfare which is objectively terrifying and makes me feel vulnerable, which are emotions that ANOHNI masters on this track. Despite its darkness, it is catchy as all hell with production credits laying with Hudson Mohawke (yep, he brings his iconic horns) and Oneohtrix Point Never. Their glitchy synths and twisted percussion are the perfect accompaniment to the troubled tone of the song, one of the grittiest and bloodiest best 2016 has served up so far. – Ben Manassah

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Anderson .Paak – Am I Wrong (Feat. Schoolboy Q)

If his prominent role on Dr. Dre’s Compton was Anderson .Paak‘s coming out party, Malibu is the glittery celebratory dinner. Am I Wrong establishes .Paak as a legitimate double threat: a rapper with slippery flow and an R&B singer with a voice. Gliding over the luscious production, Anderson .Paak comes across as smooth as he is talented. He’s a welcome pivot from the intensely masculine rappers-that-sing, instead opting to bounce his way into our hearts with his melodic rasp. Flanked perfectly Top Dawg’s ScHoolboy. Frankly, it was nice of Anderson to ask but really, that man is never wrong. – Reece Hooker

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Chance The Rapper – All Night

Chance The Rapper‘s Coloring Book may be one of the most joyous releases of the year but nothing on it translates that to the dancefloor quite as successfully as All Night. With production by Kaytranada, the pair have crafted the drink-swilling, no-fucks-given anthem of the year. In the same vein as Vic Mensa’s Down On My Luck or Theophilus London’s Tribe, All Night positions itself within the club, expertly capturing those swelling emotions of euphoria and infinity. Chance raps about “farts” and it’s silly as anything but nothing will plant a smile on your face quite as large as this will. – Sam Murphy

Bonus: Check out our Chance The Rapper colouring book based on the mixtape Coloring Book.

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Dawn – Not Above That

Dawn is the biggest workhorse of 2016. She’s consistently dropped great tracks and even managed to sneak in an EP in the form of Honest. Each time she releases something she explores a different pocket of electronica, discovering sweet spots left untouched by other artists. Not Above That is her finest work this year but also the finest slice of electronica this year. Together with Machinedrum she’s crafted a slinky, honey-soaked tune that rushes with adrenalin towards the exploding instrumental break. Songs like this too often centre around the drop and while this one of hell of a drop, the focus is placed on Dawn’s vulnerable verses. “I’m counting on this fuck, to keep me up,” she sings in the opening line creating an environment of fragility and desperation. It’s all about codependent love and coincidentally, it’s Dawn and Machinedrums dependency on each other’s elements that makes it such a seamless collaboration. – Sam Murphy

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James Blake – Radio Silence

Revelling in the ethereal and otherworldly, Radio Silence, the opening track from James Blake’s latest effort The Colour in Anything, is a strong statement of why Blake is one of the most impressive and genre defying artists doing the rounds these days. Detailing a relationship unexpectedly turning sour, Radio Silence is heavy on emotion and atmosphere while slowly building in intensity over its four minute length. Blake is masterful in the creation of engaging and soulful electronica, and this cut is no different. Rounded out with his trademark croon and eerie looped backing vocals sure to maintain a constant state of edge with the listener, Radio Silence is a worthy addition to the stellar James Blake back catalogue, and easily one of the best tracks of the year. – Ben Kyi

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Beyoncé – Sorry

Beyoncé’s album Lemonade was quite possibly her most wide-reaching album in recent years, even gaining continued airplay on triple j. There’s no disputing how powerful and influential Bey is as an artist. She’s a seasoned pro at producing huge tracks and Sorry definitely doesn’t disappoint. The song throws up a big middle finger ‘fuck you’ to being sorry whilst having strength and confidence throughout an emotional breakup. The only way one would imagine Bey to be during a break up. This is Beyoncé taking her confidence and inserting it in the middle of a broken relationship. It’s here a declaration of independence as much as a statement of anger. Perhaps, her most lyrically bold offering ever. – Alistair Rhodes    

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Kanye West – Ultralight Beam

As Kanye West chose to premiere his album to a packed Madison Square Garden, people around the globe packed cinemas and live streams to capture this moment. It was a surreal moment, finally witnessing a long-awaited project come to fruition, and doing it in the vein of Kanye’s megalomaniacy. After three name changes, some truly iconic tweets and a lot of sneakers sold, Ultralight Beam introduced the world to The Life of Pablo. Opening with a prayer ripped from Vine and The-Dream, the track feels like a culmination of all the sounds Kanye helped popularise in contemporary hip-hop: the gospel-heavy influence, the slather of autotune and then, of course, something entirely new. It all leads to perhaps the best moment of the entire album where Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper steps up to the mic and the rest is history. Jumping on a track with his idol is one thing, but stealing the show interpolating Kanye makes his feature all the more special. Amongst the many brilliant elements of Ultralight Beam, perhaps the best is the team of Kanye and Chance, Chicago’s old and new generation, coming together at the peak of their powers and making damn sure they don’t disappoint. – Reece Hooker

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Rihanna – Work (Feat. Drake)

Nobody had experienced living in a post-Pon De Replay world where Rihanna’s first single isn’t a monumental banger until this year. She’d given us S.O.S, Umbrella, Diamonds and We Found Love and yet in 2016 she nabbed arguably one of her biggest hits to date with a song that didn’t aim to match those giddy, commercial heights. Work came a day before the botched release of ANTI and for the first time, she sonically matched her laid-back, no-fucks-given attitude. The lyrics were somewhat hard to understand and the bare-boned, dancehall riddim was something that radio was yet to fully embrace.

It got off to a slow start but Work eventually eased its way under the skin of the masses. Rihanna’s genre-hopped her whole career but repeat listens of this felt like we’d finally met the real one. One that musically matched the girl who had become a refreshing alternative to the glossy magazine celebrity. Her voice glides over the verses with unrestrained ease and her words jump from one to the other sometimes without break. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a club jam but for each line you’re able to make out, you’re introduced to another element. “Nobody text me in a crisis,” she sings in loneliness before she sings, “I will never no never neglect you.”

Then, Drake walks on through and the chemistry of 2016’s most hoped-for couple fires. Both of them lay out their imperfections and yet the bottom line is, as Drake tell her, “If you had a twin I would still choose you.” For a song that everyone claims to not understand, it brims with organic emotion, pulsing with chemistry, aching with loneliness and dripping with infatuation. That’s more than any pop song achieved this year in three minutes, let alone the lead-single from a top-tiered pop artists’ eighth album. – Sam Murphy

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Kaytranada_10

Kaytranada – Lite Spots

Kaytranada surprised no one when 99.9% earned critical ratings–  but what caught us off guard was just how good it was. His previous releases have been nothing to scoff at, but he was ultimately still sitting on Soundcloud-based success. 99.9% did away with any lingering doubts that he has what it takes to become a global sensation in the physical market. He’s doing what no one else is, and Lite Spots is a perfect example. Kay unlocked an insatiable groove from Pontos De Luz, and turned it into the kind of beat that many try but few can replicate. It’s groovy, it’s dancey, it’s catchy, it’s mature– and it’s unpredictable. Also, the video clip. That dancing robot is enough to earn him a spot on this list. – Sean Singh

Kanye_9

Kanye West – Father Stretch My Hands Pt.2

Desiigner’s Panda is the unexpected, runaway hit of the year but it would’ve been nowhere without Kanye‘s Father Stretch My Hands Pt. 2The Life Of Pablo, is a busy, jam-packed masterpiece as a whole but what Pt.2 manages to fit in just over two minutes is nothing short of extraordinary. He takes Panda from a viral hit and transforms it into a grandiose piece of art, prefacing it with anxious, racing bars. Just when it reaches its chest-beating, egotistical height, Yeezy breaks it all down with a heartbreaking desolate finale straight out of Imogen Heap’s toolkit. It’s busy, sure, but Kanye’s mind races faster than anybody’s and Pt.2 captures that beautifully. – Sam Murphy

ANOHNI_8

ANOHNI – Drone Bomb Me

Political activistism is an intense focal point for ANOHNI (formerly Antony Hegarty) on her new album HOPELESSNESS. She takes measured swipes at the patriarchy and our disregard to climate change- but her account of a seven-year old girl describing the horror of a drone bomb attack on Drone Bomb Me is the album’s’ headline. This song brought my attention to the universal increase in drone bomb warfare which is objectively terrifying and makes me feel vulnerable, which are emotions that ANOHNI masters on this track. Despite its darkness, it is catchy as all hell with production credits laying with Hudson Mohawke (yep, he brings his iconic horns) and Oneohtrix Point Never. Their glitchy synths and twisted percussion are the perfect accompaniment to the troubled tone of the song, one of the grittiest and bloodiest best 2016 has served up so far. – Ben Manassah

Anderson_7

Anderson .Paak – Am I Wrong (Feat. Schoolboy Q)

If his prominent role on Dr. Dre’s Compton was Anderson .Paak‘s coming out party, Malibu is the glittery celebratory dinner. Am I Wrong establishes .Paak as a legitimate double threat: a rapper with slippery flow and an R&B singer with a voice. Gliding over the luscious production, Anderson .Paak comes across as smooth as he is talented. He’s a welcome pivot from the intensely masculine rappers-that-sing, instead opting to bounce his way into our hearts with his melodic rasp. Flanked perfectly Top Dawg’s ScHoolboy. Frankly, it was nice of Anderson to ask but really, that man is never wrong. – Reece Hooker

Chance_6

Chance The Rapper – All Night

Chance The Rapper‘s Coloring Book may be one of the most joyous releases of the year but nothing on it translates that to the dancefloor quite as successfully as All Night. With production by Kaytranada, the pair have crafted the drink-swilling, no-fucks-given anthem of the year. In the same vein as Vic Mensa’s Down On My Luck or Theophilus London’s Tribe, All Night positions itself within the club, expertly capturing those swelling emotions of euphoria and infinity. Chance raps about “farts” and it’s silly as anything but nothing will plant a smile on your face quite as large as this will. – Sam Murphy

Bonus: Check out our Chance The Rapper colouring book based on the mixtape Coloring Book.

DAWN_5

Dawn – Not Above That

Dawn is the biggest workhorse of 2016. She’s consistently dropped great tracks and even managed to sneak in an EP in the form of Honest. Each time she releases something she explores a different pocket of electronica, discovering sweet spots left untouched by other artists. Not Above That is her finest work this year but also the finest slice of electronica this year. Together with Machinedrum she’s crafted a slinky, honey-soaked tune that rushes with adrenalin towards the exploding instrumental break. Songs like this too often centre around the drop and while this one of hell of a drop, the focus is placed on Dawn’s vulnerable verses. “I’m counting on this fuck, to keep me up,” she sings in the opening line creating an environment of fragility and desperation. It’s all about codependent love and coincidentally, it’s Dawn and Machinedrums dependency on each other’s elements that makes it such a seamless collaboration. – Sam Murphy

JamesBlake_4

James Blake – Radio Silence

Revelling in the ethereal and otherworldly, Radio Silence, the opening track from James Blake’s latest effort The Colour in Anything, is a strong statement of why Blake is one of the most impressive and genre defying artists doing the rounds these days. Detailing a relationship unexpectedly turning sour, Radio Silence is heavy on emotion and atmosphere while slowly building in intensity over its four minute length. Blake is masterful in the creation of engaging and soulful electronica, and this cut is no different. Rounded out with his trademark croon and eerie looped backing vocals sure to maintain a constant state of edge with the listener, Radio Silence is a worthy addition to the stellar James Blake back catalogue, and easily one of the best tracks of the year. – Ben Kyi

Beyonce_3

Beyoncé – Sorry

Beyoncé’s album Lemonade was quite possibly her most wide-reaching album in recent years, even gaining continued airplay on triple j. There’s no disputing how powerful and influential Bey is as an artist. She’s a seasoned pro at producing huge tracks and Sorry definitely doesn’t disappoint. The song throws up a big middle finger ‘fuck you’ to being sorry whilst having strength and confidence throughout an emotional breakup. The only way one would imagine Bey to be during a break up. This is Beyoncé taking her confidence and inserting it in the middle of a broken relationship. It’s here a declaration of independence as much as a statement of anger. Perhaps, her most lyrically bold offering ever. – Alistair Rhodes    

Kanye_2

Kanye West – Ultralight Beam

As Kanye West chose to premiere his album to a packed Madison Square Garden, people around the globe packed cinemas and live streams to capture this moment. It was a surreal moment, finally witnessing a long-awaited project come to fruition, and doing it in the vein of Kanye’s megalomaniacy. After three name changes, some truly iconic tweets and a lot of sneakers sold, Ultralight Beam introduced the world to The Life of Pablo. Opening with a prayer ripped from Vine and The-Dream, the track feels like a culmination of all the sounds Kanye helped popularise in contemporary hip-hop: the gospel-heavy influence, the slather of autotune and then, of course, something entirely new. It all leads to perhaps the best moment of the entire album where Chicago’s own Chance the Rapper steps up to the mic and the rest is history. Jumping on a track with his idol is one thing, but stealing the show interpolating Kanye makes his feature all the more special. Amongst the many brilliant elements of Ultralight Beam, perhaps the best is the team of Kanye and Chance, Chicago’s old and new generation, coming together at the peak of their powers and making damn sure they don’t disappoint. – Reece Hooker

RiRi_1

Rihanna – Work (Feat. Drake)

Nobody had experienced living in a post-Pon De Replay world where Rihanna’s first single isn’t a monumental banger until this year. She’d given us S.O.S, Umbrella, Diamonds and We Found Love and yet in 2016 she nabbed arguably one of her biggest hits to date with a song that didn’t aim to match those giddy, commercial heights. Work came a day before the botched release of ANTI and for the first time, she sonically matched her laid-back, no-fucks-given attitude. The lyrics were somewhat hard to understand and the bare-boned, dancehall riddim was something that radio was yet to fully embrace.

It got off to a slow start but Work eventually eased its way under the skin of the masses. Rihanna’s genre-hopped her whole career but repeat listens of this felt like we’d finally met the real one. One that musically matched the girl who had become a refreshing alternative to the glossy magazine celebrity. Her voice glides over the verses with unrestrained ease and her words jump from one to the other sometimes without break. You’d be forgiven for thinking this was a club jam but for each line you’re able to make out, you’re introduced to another element. “Nobody text me in a crisis,” she sings in loneliness before she sings, “I will never no never neglect you.”

Then, Drake walks on through and the chemistry of 2016’s most hoped-for couple fires. Both of them lay out their imperfections and yet the bottom line is, as Drake tell her, “If you had a twin I would still choose you.” For a song that everyone claims to not understand, it brims with organic emotion, pulsing with chemistry, aching with loneliness and dripping with infatuation. That’s more than any pop song achieved this year in three minutes, let alone the lead-single from a top-tiered pop artists’ eighth album. – Sam Murphy

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