If 2016 were a movie, it would be a blockbuster disaster movie with a perfectly peculiar soundtrack. Artists ignored the boundaries of genre, creating pieces that showcased their progression and vulnerabilities as artists and people. So I tried to put myself in the shoes of a music director and tried to curate a soundtrack for the year. This is what I came up with:
Best Album Named After a Beverage: Lemonade by Beyoncé
I might be biased because I’m a Beyoncé fan, but I still think it is fair to say Lemonade is one of the best albums of 2016. The music is wildly diverse, while the lyrics are gonna have you ready to break up with somebody even if you’re incredibly single. Combined with the incredible visual component, it’s a stunning portrayal and tribute to black femininity as explored through Beyoncé’s personal perspective and vulnerability. It is an experience from beginning to end.
Best Album Featuring Gospel Choirs and 2 Chainz: Colouring Book by Chance the Rapper
This album is so fun. Chance embraces his church roots in a way that is edgy for hip-hop, but approachable and infectious. He doesn’t shy away from engaging in themes that explore blackness in 2016, yet he does so with optimism and joy at what’s to come. He’s got me ready for my blessings in 2017!
Best Subtle, but Woke Album: A Seat At The Table by Solange
Solange’s first album in four years provides a different look into black femininity and the complexities of the African-American experience. Lyrics that explore the challenges and joys of being a black woman are laid against lush string arrangements to create a piece that is both confident and comforting. Plus I’m pretty sure “Don’t Touch My Hair” is the anthem of many black girls with natural hair (myself included).
Best Album from a Problematic Fave: The Life Of Pablo by Kanye West
Okay, 2016 Kanye has been a mess. However, The Life of Pablo is without a doubt one of the best rap albums of the year. The lyrics reveal an emotionally conflicted Kanye who still maintains his ear for musical excellence, as revealed in his orchestrations and samples. It’s messy and chaotic, yet quintessentially Kanye.
Best It’s About Bloody Time Album: Blonde by Frank Ocean
Since this has been a year where anything could happen: Leo won an Oscar, Drake & JLo started dating — it only made sense for Frank Ocean to drop an album. A nice progression from Channel Orange, Blonde plays like one long piece from beginning to end, staying true to Frank’s chill-vibes production style.
Best Underrated Pop Album: Emotion Side B by Carly Rae Jepsen
Known amongst my circle of friends as Carly ‘Slay’ Jepsen, this Mission-born gal quietly put out a part two to one of the most underrated pop albums of 2015 — Emotion. Each song has its own take on the ’80s vibe yet remains current and fun. Plus it makes mundane things like going to the store seem like a fun time.
Best Album to Inspire the Purchase of a Pink Cowboy Hat: Joanne by Lady Gaga
Mother Monster’s first solo album in three years cements her as a musical chameleon. Blending elements of rock and country with a pop sensibility, Gaga reminds us of her songwriting prowess and powerful vocal capability. Plus that key change in “Perfect Illusion” is singing goals.
Clearly, there are many more incredible albums that were released in 2016. Yet, these few illustrate the uniqueness and breadth of creativity released into the world. Hopefully, 2017 will continue the trend of great music — but with a lot less drama.