The Top 20 Songs of 2016

Barry Quinn
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Here at Vada we love a tune, and it just so happens that we’ve collated a playlist of epic proportions that highlights the best 20 songs of 2016. Do you agree with us?

20. AlunaGeorge – I Remember (Featuring Flume)

Coming midway through a difficult album, the title track from AlunaGeorge’s sophomore album is a true moment of greatness. The moody production courtesy of Flume, coupled by Aluna’s distinctive breathy vocal, produces an emotive song about remembering a lost love. This duo is still striving to find their sound – when they hit the highs of ‘I Remember’ and ‘Mean What I Mean’ they are exceptional. Hopefully album number three will be better.

19. Gorgon City – Smile (Featuring Elderbrook)

Sometimes simple is best. Gorgon City usually incorporate deep house beats in their tracks, but their latest offering is a laid-back affair, featuring vocals by Elderbrook. Everything comes together impeccably to produce an uplifting song that is as infectious as their breakout hit with MNEK. Their two-part sophomore album Kingdom has been teased for a while now – hopefully it’ll drop next year!

18. Zak Abel – Unstable

Zak Abel featured on one of Gorgon City’s best singles from Sirens: ‘Unmissable’. He’s followed it up with a house song of his own. ‘Unstable’ is a tropical affair that compliments the raw, and somewhat vulnerable, vocal from Abel. Hopefully the rest of his debut album (Only When We’re Naked) will follow suit in 2017. He’s definitely one to watch next year.

17. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

Smooth is THE word to describe ’24K Magic’, the latest single and album from Bruno Mars. He may have an ego bigger than the sun, but there’s no denying that Mars can craft pop perfection. ’24K Magic’ is impeccable. It manages to burrow its way into your skull so far that you’ll be singing it until the end of time. Though some of the lyrics are questionable (then again, this is Bruno Mars), ’24K Magic’ is the very definition of T U N E.

16. Azealia Banks – Along the Coast

Perhaps the most subdued track off Azealia Banks’ latest EP Slay-Z, ‘Along the Coast’ showcases the rappers impeccable singing voice. Say what you want about Banks herself, but it’s undeniable that she is a force to be reckoned with when it comes to making music. Here Banks blends tropical house with hiphop to produce a song that is remarkable; a shining example of less is more. I sincerely hope that she’ll manage to forget her many squabbles in 2017 and release new music. When she’s good, Banks is exceptional.

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15. Sean Paul – No Lie (Featuring Dua Lipa)

Everything Sean Paul has touched in 2016 has turned to gold. For his latest offering he’s enlisted the help of Dua Lipa to produce a fusion of dance and reggae that works exceptionally well. The fast-paced nature of the chorus knocks you off your feet, and the distinguished voice of Paul compliments Lipa well. This song should have done so much better than it did.

14. Jonas Blue – Perfect Strangers (Featuring JP Cooper)

After the success of his take on Tracy Chapman’s ‘Fast Car’, many though Jonas Blue would try to emulate this by covering another classic, but ‘Perfect Strangers’ is a quite different affair. It’s one of the best dance songs of the year; in particular the tribal house effects of the soaring chorus, and the rasping vocal provided by JP Cooper. This song has to be a staple on your house party playlist.

13. Britney Spears – Just Like Me

Glory is easily Britney Spears’ greatest album to date – and ‘Just Like Me’ may just be one of her best songs, too. Without the often chaotic dance beats that often frequent her tracks, ‘Just Like Me’ allows Britney to be truly honest. This is a beautifully heartfelt song about being cheated on, heightened by the breathy vocal that is reminiscent of Britney’s standout ‘Everytime’.

12. Adele – When We Were Young

An emotional Adele song that ISN’T about a lost love (okay, so it is, but not in the way that ‘Hello’ was), ‘When We Were Young’ is the ‘Someone Like You’ off of 25. There’s only a simple piano backing track to compliment Adele’s haunting vocal; the chorus is truly stunning.

11. Kygo – For What It’s Worth (Featuring Angus and Julia Stone)

Sometimes dance producers are at their best when they go against the grain, which is exactly what Kygo does on the standout from his debut Cloud Nine. ‘For What It’s Worth’ sees the producer use a piano amid the complimentary voices of Angus and Julia Stone. That’s not to say the house vibes aren’t there, because there’s most definitely a dance track ebbing away underneath threatening to break free, but thankfully Kygo manages to refrain himself. A glorious end to a glorious debut.

10. Gnash – i hate u, i love u (Featuring Olivia O’Brien)

Perhaps one of the most apt and emotional songs of the year, ‘I Hate U, I Love U’ perfectly sums up the feelings of probably every single listener. The juxtaposition of Gnash’s rushed and harsh vocal, and Olivia O’Brien’s softer and vulnerable voice compliment, rather than detract, one another, producing a truly spine-tingling song. The lyrics are on point; listen to them, and appreciate this song for what it is – truly exceptional.

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9. MNEK – At Night (I Think About You)

Sometimes emotional lyrics don’t require a downbeat piano track. ‘At Night (I Think About You)’ certainly doesn’t; in fact, the haphazard EDM beats help to highlight the emotional undercurrent of unreciprocated love by reflecting the messy and incoherent thoughts of the person in love. MNEK is criminally underrated. He is one of the best producers going right now, and I bet that most people only know of him from his smash with Zara Larrson. #SHAMEONYOU

8. Lady Gaga – Angel Down

‘Angel Down’ may just be Lady Gaga at her most simplistic. A twinkling backing track provided by Mark Ronson, BloodPop and Gaga herself helps to highlight the raw vocal. This, and Joanne as a whole, is Gaga at her best. Gone is the autotune of her earlier years; in its place is a completely untouched voice that cements her as one of the best vocalists of our time. It’s lyrical content, which addresses the recent spate of shootings in the US, is as haunting as the ghostly warbling midway through.

7. Rihanna – Work (Featuring Drake)

No other song from 2016 has been quite as divisive as ‘Work’, right? On first listen it’s utter trash, but once the song sinks its claws in there is no denying how truly brilliant it is. Rihanna is at her best when she’s delving into hiphop, and the trap trappings of ‘Work’ works well. This is an addictive song, if only for the repetitive refrain over the chorus. Rihanna and Drake together equals gold. It’s a shame that the rest of Anti is pretty shite.

6. Sia – Move Your Body

Sia has had quite the year. With stellar singles in the form of ‘Cheap Thrills’ and ‘The Greatest’, Sia has had possibly her best recognition to date. Unfortunately I don’t think that the addition of Sean Paul and Kendrick Lamar add anything to these otherwise great songs; if anything, they take away from Sia’s impeccable voice. That’s why ‘Move Your Body’ shines higher. Sia is an artist who doesn’t ever need distractions – she has the voice to carry an entire album by herself. ‘Move Your Body’ is an upbeat affair with infectious lyrics that require you to truly listen to them. ‘Your body’s poetry,’ Sia sings midway through, but she’s wrong. It’s the lyrics of ‘Move Your Body’ that is poetry – THIS is how to write a song.

5. The Weeknd – Starboy (Featuring Daft Punk)

2013 was most definitely the year of Daft Punk – you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing ‘Get Lucky’. Flashforward three years, and 2016 is definitely the year of The Weeknd. Every single song from his latest album Starboy charted on the Billboard Top 100! But it’s the title track that is the standout from his best album to date. A subdued backing track produced by the pioneers of electronic music helps bring The Weeknd’s voice to new levels. In a word, this song is sublime.

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4. Fergie – M.I.L.F. $

Now this is quite a change in direction for Fergie, but ‘M.I.L.F. $’ may just be the most underrated song of 2016. It’s insanely catchy. Here Fergie delves into her hiphop roots delivering a worthy successor to ‘London Bridge’. Lyrically ‘M.I.L.F. $’ leaves little to be desired, but if its a song to get down and dirty to that you want, look no further. If you want a more personal affair, look to her other release of 2016, ‘Life Goes On’, which is equally as brilliant.

3. Clean Bandit – Rockabye (Featuring Sean Paul and Anne-Marie)

Throwing Sean Paul onto a track seems to be the surefire way to ascend to number one, but ‘Rockabye’ is brilliant not just because of Paul, but because of all three collaborators. Anne-Marie is surely another one of Clean Bandit’s collaborators who is destined for big things, right? Given the lyrical nature (the hardships of being a single mother), ‘Rockabye’ should be a ballad, and yet the dancehall vibes works exceptionally well. This is the ‘Come Over’ off of Clean Bandit’s forthcoming sophomore album, except that this one is brilliant!

2. Jax Jones – You Don’t Know Me (Featuring RAYE)

Jax Jones is on the cusp of greatness. Following the impeccable ‘Luv Like This’, ‘Yeah Yeah Yeah’ and ‘House Work’, his latest offering is easily his greatest. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that ‘You Don’t Know Me’ is perhaps the best house song of 2016. It incorporates all of the right elements – a deep hook, repetitive lyrics, and a featured vocalist that compliments the beats. This is definitely a prime example of less is more. Had this song been released at the start of summer, it probably would have dominated 2016. As such, it’ll likely go under the radar, which is a criminal shame.

1. David Bowie – I Can’t Give Everything Away

The final song on David Bowie’s final album, ‘I Can’t Give Everything Away’ is a poignant and fitting end to a LEGEND. It’s a broad song, encompassing charged guitar riffs and the smoothest of jazz, all layered over Bowie’s distinguished vocal. This is one of Bowie’s best ever songs. It’s simple. That’s what makes it brilliant. That, and the carefully orchestrated release of the album to coincide (intentionally? or just a sad stroke of serendipity?) with Bowie’s demise. As a parting note, it’s special. No other song by Bowie is as emotive, simply due to the real-life events of its release. The entire Blackstar album is stunning.

About Barry Quinn

Barry Quinn is an English Language and Literature graduate and a Creative Writer MA studier. He is an aspiring creative and professional writer and is currently in the process of writing his first novel. His writing blog can be viewed here: You can follow him on Twitter at: @mrbarryquinn