Let’s admit that 2016 was a rough year. But one of the bright spots was great music. Here’s our top 5 music moments of 2016.
1. Hip-hop artists dropped surprise albums
The year was full of surprise, especially politically, socially and globally. Music, on the other hand, had some of the best surprises, particularly in hip-hop. In April Beyoncé dropped Lemonade, her second surprise album, and it continues to impress us. In her footsteps came Kendrick Lamar’s Untitled Unmastered, Frank Ocean’s Blonde and Endless, and J. Cole’s For Your Eyes Only. No one saw these coming, which helped them become some of the best of the year.
2. The loss of so many greats
Death is inevitable, and in recent years the rule of threes have been normalized. But so many? In so little time? David Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Prince, Phife Dawg and Maurice White were just the tip of the iceberg. Bowie, Cohen and Prince were all Rock and Roll Hall of Fame members. Phife was a founding member of A Tribe Called Quest and White a founding member of Earth, Wind & Fire. These artists were influential inside and out of their genres, and shaped the music we have today. We’ll have more about them tomorrow.
3. Kanye West spiraled out of control
Many won’t consider this a surprise. Kanye West had one of the biggest meltdowns of 2016. Some could argue this downward spiral began with the release of his seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo, with which he lost a large portion of his fan base. Then Kim Kardashian was robbed in Paris and that’s when things really took a turn for the worse. Kanye started going on impromptu rants about Jay-Z, the election and the media. In San Jose in November, Kanye told a shocked, booing crowd that he didn’t vote, but if he would have, it would have been for Donald Trump. A few days later in Sacramento, he cut a show short after just three songs. He check into a hospital and was placed on psychiatric hold for exhaustion and paranoia. He concluded the year by dyeing his hair blonde and hanging out with Trump.
4. Music became political again
The election polarized the nation to an extreme not seen in recent memory. Most musicians quickly chose their side—against Trump. The movement began Bernie Sanders gaining support from younger voters with the help of Run the Jewels and Vampire Weekend. Trump received much negative backlash from pretty much everyone, starting with YG and Nipsey Hussle’s “FDT (Fuck Donald Trump).” Award-winning author Dave Eggers started the “30 Days, 30 Songs” project; 50 songs dedicated foiling Trump. Artists included Death Cab for Cutie, Franz Ferdinand, Cold War Kids, Local Natives and Modern Baseball.
5. Alternative artists triumphed
Whether you call them indie, or alternative or something else, some big names from out of the mainstream returned in full force this year. Who remembers when Sia performed at small clubs and didn’t mind showing her face? No one? The Sia of today is not that same artist, but now she’s on top of the world. This is Acting was one of several albums to rule radio playlists and album sales charts. Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool and James Blake’s The Color in Anything also made serious waves.
Follow writer Joey Reams at Twitter.com/Joeyreams94.