I took valuable time out of my life to rank every song on the 2016 year-end Billboard Hot 100 in order of my preference. There is nothing definitive or objective on this list, and I often felt no need to explain my choices. Some things speak for themselves.
I hadn’t heard “Never Be Like You” by Flume feat. Kai, “Antidote” by Travis Scott, “Wicked” by Future and “Middle” by DJ Snake feat. Bipolar Sunshine enough to consider them for this list. I don’t feel too bad about it.
I disqualified the following songs because I associated them more with 2015: “Sorry” by Justin Bieber; “Hotline Bling” by Drake; “The Hills” by The Weeknd; “Jumpman” by Drake & Future; “679” by Fetty Wap feat. Remy Boyz; “Here” by Alessia Cara; “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber; “Same Old Love” by Selena Gomez; “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd; “Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift; “Lean On” by Major Lazer & DJ Snake feat. MO; “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silento; “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and “Perfect” by One Direction.
Each day this month (assuming I don’t get busy or bored!), I’ll reflect on a tiny sliver of pop culture that I enjoyed or appreciated this year — scenes, shots, gestures, verses, sights, sounds, moments. Today: three of the year’s most influential artists who stayed silent at just the right moments.
Three of the biggest stars on the planet — Rihanna, Kanye West and Beyonce — released three of the most popular and acclaimed albums of 2016 in the first few months of the year. At least one of them is virtually certain to earn a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year tomorrow. In all three cases, only a few weeks’ notice and a few confusing bits of teaser information preceded the unveiling of these sprawling works of art, which spanned musicals genres and technological platforms.
The surprise nature of pop stars’ latest artistic statements no longer carries the electric charge of spontaneity that accompanied the release of 2013’s Beyonce. We’ve come to expect the unexpected. What’s more notable, to me, is how little we’ve heard from the artists behind these works about their approach to creating them. Beyonce has granted a grand total of zero interviews about their creative processes this year — no magazine spreads, no newspaper features, no television spotlights. Silence. West, meanwhile, afforded a few minutes of his time to a phone call with Vanity Fair’s Dirk Standen, during which he exclusively discussed the intent behind his lightning-rod music video for “Famous.” And Rihanna talked to Vogue for its April cover, saying a fair amount while revealing almost nothing of substance.