I’m a bit late this year.

Good pop music in 2016 was few and far between, with slow and dull songs dominating the music landscape. Despite this, I’ve still managed to somehow conjure up a list of the songs on the charts that I found tolerable, and maybe a couple that I actually liked.

For the record, ‘Too Good’ by Drake and Rihanna is my favourite hit of the year, however as I placed it on my favourite songs list, it is ineligible to also be included here.

15. ‘Real Friends’ by Kanye West & ‘Kids’ by OneRepublic

Number 15 is a tie because both of these songs are brilliant, yet they only spent a week each (in the 90s) on Billboard. It’s a tight tussle between Real Friends and No More Parties in LA for the best track on The Life Of Pablo, however I loved the honesty of Ye here, plus it was the first one released as an album-preceding single. OneRepublic are a pop music machine yet as they get better, it feels like the public are turning off. Love the 80s feel on Kids.

14. ‘Light It Up’ by Major Lazer

Listenable EDM. Loved the horns and the West Indian influence but it loses marks for its short duration and somewhat abrupt ending; Diplo probably could’ve done a little more with the tune.

13. ‘Closer’ by The Chainsmokers

Putting aside the insane overplay, the fact The Chainsmokers are terrible humans, and just generally Halsey’s place in this song, it was decent. Like the fact that it told a story, something rarely seen in the 2010s. The climax of the song was also enjoyable and it forced radio to play it out which again, doesn’t happen often.

12. ‘One Dance’ by Drake

The “song of the summer” sounds scratchy and incomplete, however there’s something admirable about that. Yes, it is a reflection of the poor state pop music is in, but at least this song had a beat that you could tap your toes to, or your fingers on the steering wheel while driving. Too often did pop songs lack that in 2016.

11. ‘Perfect Strangers’ by Jonas Blue 

Not sure about the rest of the world but this tropical pop tune was big on radio in Melbourne. I found it on Spotify before it got ‘big’ and instantly took a liking. In a winter filled with downbeat, depressing songs, this was a breath of fresh air. I didn’t like their remix of Fast Car, but Jonas Blue did well here.

10. ‘Wherever I Go’ by OneRepublic 

OneRepublic’s 2013 album ‘Native’ was my favourite of this year, and while ‘Oh My My’ failed to live up to my expectations, it certainly had its moments. ‘Wherever I Go’ almost hit the mark; I thought it was too short and the lack of build up to start the track was disappointing (usually something OneRepublic do really well). Still, a good tune and it should’ve been played a lot more on radio.

9. ‘Famous’ by Kanye West

Kanye’s designated ‘pop cut’ from TLOP. The most radio friendly track from Ye’s seventh album unfortunately was overshadowed by the content in the lyrics, which damaged its chances of mainstream success at a time when music really needed, in the words of the woman he defamed, its sick beat. ‘Famous’ wouldn’t even be in Kanye’s top 30 all time songs but in this current landscape, it was a solid tune.

8. ‘Can’t Stop the Feeling’ by Justin Timberlake 

You can tell JT has put zero effort into this song and yet it still works, which is a testament to the talent this guy has. Honestly thought it was written for a Coke commercial when I first heard it. As I said earlier, it was a brief bit of sunlight in what was a disappointing year for music (and I guess you could say the world in general, depending on your political allegiances).

7. ‘My House’ by Flo Rida

I was all over this song in 2015 so I was pleasantly surprised when it became a hit. Flo Rida evokes this weird sense of nostalgia in me for my early years of high school; stuff like Right Round, Good Feeling, Low, and Whistle takes me to back to easier times. Flo has always been a positive rapper and I really appreciate that. Yes, his songs can be perceived as lame and/or lazy, but they work.

6. ‘Treat You Better’ by Shawn Mendes

I’m sorry but albeit formulaic, I’m a sucker for these types of songs. Boy (not sure you can call Shawn a man yet) versus the world trying to win a girl over. I like the energetic and tight production, and anytime someone can sneak a guitar on a pop song my respect for it increases. There are issues with this song, namely Mendes’ projection at times and the fact it’s Stitches Pt. II, but anytime it came on the radio I had no hesitation in keeping it on.

5. ‘Middle’ by DJ Snake

One of the songs of summer (which in Australia is Jan/Feb). There’s really not much too it and the lyrics barely make sense, but the beat overall is enjoyable enough and the drop is pretty neat.

4. ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ by Coldplay

A lot can be said about the two distinct sounds of Coldplay but the consensus is that Mylo Xyloto is when they sold out. I actually liked that album and felt they did as well as they could do transitioning from light rock to pop. Everything since then I’ve been ambivalent towards; I liked Sky Full of Stars but really it should’ve been credited as Avicii featuring Chris Martin. ‘Hymn for the Weekend’ bucked the trend as Coldplay reinstated the piano that made them so famous yet also continued down the pop route. It worked wonders as this album’s version of ‘Princess of China’, which also featured a diva.

3. ‘Never Forget You’ by Zara Larsson and MNEK  

Two relatively unknowns from Europe teaming up to make it big. I’ve known of MNEK since 2014 and he’s a very capable producer and line dropper but I never thought he’d breakthrough to the mainstream. This team up with Zara Larsson, who won Swedish Idol in 2008 and is my new celebrity crush, was a match made in heaven. Zara’s voice is just so distinctive that it’s addictive; it offers so much more than anything else on radio these days. Likewise, MNEK’s beat is not stock standard EDM or trap that we’re so used to, given his close links to UK garage bands like Gorgon City. Hope to hear more from both of these artists in the future.

2. ‘Into You’ by Ariana Grande

I mentioned this song in my worst songs video, although it certainly wasn’t featured on that list. This is quite possibly production extraordinaire Max Martin’s best ever beat. Yes, he did produce number one on last year’s list ‘Style’, but this is so much more dynamic and energetic and helps carry Ariana, whereas the beat on Style was slightly overshadowed by a perfect Taylor Swift performance. That’s not to say that Ariana is lacking on this track as her voice is tight (it’s probably the best effort from her album), however the beat is so good it takes her effort to another level. As the public was for some reason allergic to good music in 2016, this tune didn’t go as high as it should’ve and that’s really disappointing; I doubt we’ll ever see a better Ariana song.

  1. ‘Sorry’ by Beyonce

Without a doubt the best pop song of the year. Me complimenting Beyonce is simply something that has never happened before, but with Sorry I’m ready to lose my Queen Bey virginity. The production on this track is superb and Beyonce doesn’t miss a note. There’s so much energy and passion here, and even though all of it is man hating (which Beyonce majored in at the Ghetto University) I still love it. Serena Williams’ cameo in the music video tops it all off. Before Lemonade I’d never bought into the Beyonce hype, but ‘Sorry’ has certainly opened my mind. Looking forward to seeing if she can top this. I’m not holding my breath but this woman is capable of anything. One day it’s the mind-numbing ‘Single Ladies’, the next it’s ‘Sorry’.

Written by Sam Mills

19. General sports lover and aspiring journalist. Proud Melburnian.

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