2016 Recap: My Top Ten Songs of the Year + Explanation

Martin_Canine So, after more than one year of considering, these are my Top 10 song picks from 2016. Even though the list would have looked largely the same even if I crafted it one year ago, I still want to note that nothing is set in stone. Maybe I’ll hear another great song of 2016 tomorrow that I feel would have needed to be on the list. Nevertheless, even in 2018, these songs haven’t lost any of their initial impact and power. With songs like these, how can people still say that the 2010s have little to offer?


10. Kay One feat. Michelle Mendes - Das Öl wurde zu Blut
Length: 3:53
Album: Der Junge von damals
Genre: German hip hop, conscious hip hop

Kay One, a German rapper initially known for his skilled battlerap freestyle abilities, who later “evolved” into a Pitbull-like house popstar crafting party songs, surprised everyone in 2016 with this insightful, earth shattering political song that traces much of the world’s wars and propaganda back to a craze for oil. Also note the haunting chorus, sung by the unfortunately obscure Michelle Mendes in a pure, melancholic tone.

9. Beyond the Black - Written in Blood
Length: 4:21
Album: Lost in Forever
Genre: rock

Using distorted guitar riffs and thundering percussion, a relatively young symphonic metal band crafts one of the best pop songs of the year. “Written in Blood” has more in common with the angsty pop rock of Evanescence than with the epic, orchestral symphonies of Nightwish, and with such an irresistible earworm chorus, it’s actually surprising they chose the title track as the album’s single and video (at least in Germany) in favor of this jam.

8. Fler - Junge aus der City
Length: 3:36
Album: Vibe
Genre: German hip hop, trap

Fler has been around since the early 2000s when German hip hop first caught mainstream attention, but somehow he never got the credit of being a pioneer of the genre. In the 2010s, he came back and adapted the American trap style, enriched it with authentic stories from the lower class lifestyle, and when “Vibe” hit number one, introduced a new subgenre to Germany other rappers only hinted at. “Junge aus der City”, with its eye wetting Billy Joel piano sample, may be one of the few truly honest “started from the bottom” stories of the decade.

7. La La Land Cast - Another Day of Sun
Length: 3:48
Album: La La Land - Original Motion Picture Soundtrack
Genre: broadway style pop

“La La Land” was one of the, if not the most acclaimed movie of 2016, and every lover of classic Hollywood will feel all warm inside with this homage, which itself is a really sweet story sympathetic to its characters and their dreams, although being an often bittersweet experience. “Another Day in Sun” is the first thing you see and hear in the movie. In a traffic jam, everyone suddenly leaves the car and bursts out in song, relieving the frustration of the situation with such a vigorously positive musical number. Like all of the movie, its strength lies in acknowledging truth, while still allowing itself to dream in a big way - that is probably the best thing one can do - which is also interpolated in the musical composition.

6. Casper feat. Blixa Bargeld, Dagobert & Sizarr - Lang lebe der Tod
Length: 4:03
Album: Lang lebe der Tod (2017)
Genre: art pop, avantgarde, industrial, indie rock

Casper, the genre-bending raspy voice of a generation, teams up with legendary avantgarde musician and Einstürzende Neubauten singer Blixa Bargeld, retro pop newcomer Dagobert and indie rock band Sizarr to fuse their biggest strengths in a frightening, dark piece of artful music that characterizes our perverted, voyeuristic view on death and destruction. When the world is crumbling, people gather around the scenery, eating popcorn and getting impatient when the first time is dying already. This extremely gruesome, twisted play on society is ironically contrasted by the overly happy and romantic chorus.

5. Rihanna - Love on the Brain
Length: 3:44
Album: Anti
Genre: soul, art pop

When there is one artist who can use lines like “he beats me black and blue, but he f’s me so good that I can’t get enough”, it is Rihanna, who is one of the most famous victims of domestic violence. For outsiders, it is easy to say just to quit an abusive relationship, but what Rihanna captures here is the paradox feeling that even though the violence destroys your lives, there are also moments of such joy and love that make it hard to end it, even if others don’t understand. What we hear here is an authentic inner conflict of logic and feelings. This is done over a wonderfully composed, nostalgic 60s style soul beat, and it shows Rihanna has a much better singing voice than she usually shows.

4. Beyoncé feat. Kendrick Lamar - Freedom
Length: 4:50
Album: Lemonade
Genre: art pop, gospel, psychedelic pop

By now, it should be common knowledge that Beyoncé has the sole greatest soul singing voice of any recent pop star (that is, until Christina Aguilera decides to give us new musical output, then they had to share that throne), and while “Formation” was the big hit off her great “Lemonade” album, it is this exciting and melodious mix of gospel, nostalgic 60s psychedelic pop and due to a guest verse by the talented Kendrick Lamar also hip hop, that truly has the diva live up to her full potential. Not to mention that it is a new artistic peak for Mrs. Knowles-Carter in terms of her writing.

3. darkviktory feat. Paperblossom - Monster
Length: 3:14
Album: -
Genre: alternative rock

In 2014, “#TubeClash” started off as a light hearted animated parody of German YouTubers done by young but very intelligent animator and blogger darkviktory, with a similar premise as “The Hunger Games”, and filled with tons of jokes. By 2016, it had a full blown war going on, different timelines, tragic backstories to its ever developing characters, betrayal and unlikely friendship, a complex futuristic universe and some heavily intense moments. Now, “Monster” is the title song of the series’ third and final installment “#FinalClash”, and it captures the respectful yet emotionally raging nature of a friendship that turned to enmity, as felt by the character Manu. To write the lyrics, darkviktory carefully studied Japanese rock lyrics to create an authentic anime opening in the German language, and crafted a song full of bittersweet metaphors and inventively interpolated English terms.

2. Jamala - 1944
Length: 3:00
Album: 1944
Genre: art pop

Perfectly blending Western and Eastern music elements, the bilingual Eurovision winning song is a plea to never forget the deportation of the Crimean Tatars by the Soviet Union in 1944. It is not only a powerful statement to remind the world of the big ethnic crimes of history in times when a lot of people seem to fall back into racial hate, it is also wonderfully executed in its music. The use of the oriental instrument duduk in combination with modern art pop drum kits, distant synth bass, as well as a constant shift between pop singing in the English language verses and traditional singing in the Crimean Tatar chorus, make it one of the decade’s most outstanding and unique songs.

1. Dat Adam - Sanageyama
Length: 3:09
Album: HYDRA 3D
Genre: German hip hop, conscious hip hop, art pop, cyber hip hop, experimental hip hop

Sanageyama is a character from the anime series “Kill La Kill” who willingly blindfolded himself so he can not see. Knowing this, the title of the song is as simple as it is brilliant to sum up the song’s intention. “They all prefer to live blind… Sanageyama”, Ardy melancholically croons in the song’s intro, seemingly disappointed in modern society’s condition, who he calls “Mekka of ignorance and focus point of hate”. The beat consists bleeping synths and deep bass. No drums, nothing distracting us from the words that express deep frustration. Then, Taddl takes over the mic. And wow, never have I heard so much anger is a rapper’s voice. He’s not spitting, he’s yelling. “It pisses me off / when I see that cash rules how all beings live / and we take and take and take and take / and no one even comes up with the idea of giving” and “It’s damn frustrating, this greed, this hate / this damn longing for power / why do they all give in to the guap? / Why are so many in love their ego? / Why is democracy no democracy? / And why don’t all beings deserve a life?” he spits, before criticizing his own excessive consumption of marijuana just to be able to handle the chaos around him. In the end, Marley, the producer and third member of the group takes over, dropping hard drum kits and playing a melodious guitar solo which starts “pixelating” into unrecognizable beeps and sound effects until it suddenly stops. This is how protest songs sound in the 2010s: very visceral, and very angry.

So, what do you think? What are your favorite songs of 2016 and how do you like these? Tell me.