So we’ve finally crept into 2017 and actually now have a few minutes to look back on what was a crazy 2016. But whilst it might not have been a good year for news headlines or celebrities remaining alive, it was a pretty good year for music.
2016 gave us some true audible delights and every year I like to review my favourite albums, singles and fantastic live music moments before delving into this years new offerings. So let’s go in that order and start with Albums:
Izzy Bizu – A moment of Madness
Hands down one of my favourite albums of the year. I personally discovered Izzy as she supported Foxes earlier in the year and fell in love straight away, then later in the year she popped up again supporting Jess Glynne in Gloucester. Inbetween that she was on the BBC Music sound of 2016 long list, was picked up by BBC Radio 1 and also recorded the Football world cup soundtrack for BBC coverage. Throughout the year earworm “White Tiger” will most definitely have caught the attention of your ears, but the rest of the album is just as mesmerising. With classic Jazz and soul vibes, her sunny tunes always make for easy listening. The stripped back, raw vocals and instrumentation is a real distraction from the rest of your music collection and is like a paradise escape from the busy world outside your earphones. Listen to Izzy on Soundcloud here.
Needless to say, I’ve already booked tickets for Izzy’s first headline tour next year. Favourite track? Skinny – Soulful, sexy and good for a dance when no-ones looking.
Christine and the Queens – Chaleur Humaine
A some what later entry into 2016, Héloïse Letissier, who records under the name Christine and the Queens grabbed our attention this year after she took France by storm. Her debut album Chaleur Humaine spent the majority of the past two years in the french top 40 with a string of hit singles to boot. Letissier really caught our eye in the UK after her arrival at Glastonbury, producing a show stopping set of performances. From there, she was picked up and championed by BBC Music and Apple to name a few and the UK release of her album (with some of it’s lyrics translated to English, plus some new English-language tracks) went down a treat. Whether it’s the toe tapping electronic beats or those perfect vocals that give her a top spot on your iPod, it’s her charming character that really stands out and makes her endlessly fascinating. A pansexual, provocative artist “obsessed with the idea of having a dick and being a man” who isn’t afraid to say what she thinks; plus with those moves on stage she certainly knows how to captivate an audience. Listen to Christine and the Queens on Soundcloud here.
Favourite track? Paradis Perdus easily – it takes a track from 1973 by French singer Christophe and a track we all recognise, Heartless from Kanye West’s 808s and Heartbreak, and melts them together into a perfect mix.
Rihanna – ANTI
With a somewhat turbulent entry into the UK charts, Rihanna’s latest album ANTI certainly made a statement. After teasing fans with many chart topping singles (most of which didn’t even feature on the album), people were certainly excited. The PR for the launch was fantastic, with exclusive teaser videos and even a mobile only website which released special teasers via code, but when it came to the actual release things got a bit botched. When released in late Jan 2016 it was exclusively available on TIDAL, a move which I’m not sure has really worked for anyone… not even Beyoncé. It was also given as a free download to millions of O2 customers for a limited time, so by the time it was actually available on other streaming services and download sites (that people actually use) it was already out there and had less of a sudden impact on the charts than you would expect. That said, it was a digital download number one album here in the UK (Number 5 in the album charts overall) and Billboard number one in the US. But once we’d all got over that melodrama and actually listened to the album we were a bit shocked (in a good way). This wasn’t quite the usual Rhi Rhi album, mixed with some badass numbers and a few smash hits; this was a more spiritual, personal LP with a more experimental R&B sound, far from the usual manufactured pop. But I’m not sure whether it’s the fact it’s always playing in my hairdressers on a loop, but I love it. It’s empowering, and stand out, whilst also brazenly talking about some of our deepest taboos and feelings. I think this quote from The Guardian sums up the album well saying “it was an album that flashed Rihanna’s artistic credentials in big neon letters.” and it certainly does. Listen here on Soundcloud.
Favourite track? – no not work. Goodnight Gotham, which actually features no vocals from Rihanna, but those of Florence Welch. That’s because this song samples Florence & The Machine track “Only if for a night”, but turns it into an edgy, dramatic delight. It’s so good I chose this track to use when opening an awards ceremony earlier this year, filling the stage with smoke and strobe lighting, revealing the event title which was projected in bold font flickering across the stage like a broken film. You could have heard a pin drop at the end. perfect. (If you want a single that actually features Rihanna then Desperado is second).
Beyoncé – Lemonade (I got hot sauce in my bag. swag.)
There’s no denying that this album certainly made a huge impact when it was released in 2016, reminding us almost constantly that she slays (her words not mine). Yelling “Who the fuck do you think I am?” a few songs into the album Beyoncé shows her fury at her adulterous hubby. This album is real, honest, down and dirty. It’s also full of exciting collaborations from The Weeknd, Jack White and Kendrick Lamar, making it just as varied as Rihanna’s Anti if not even better. As well as tackling her own personal issues, Bey takes on the world making strong political statements addressing the black lives matter movement in ‘Formation’ and ‘Freedom’. If it wasn’t clear from the sentiment of the songs, the significance of the album title is made clear to listeners at the end of ‘Freedom’, with Jay Z’s mum, Hattie White rephrasing the proverb “when life gives you lemons…”. Add in the fact that once again this album was released out of nowhere, with no teasers or even a whiff of a release, it shot to success, with another visual album too (a masterclass in music videos, with one for every track). And not shy of a bold performance or two, Bey ripped up the stage at the superbowl performing Formation and this rendition of ‘Freedom’ is something else. Okay Okay, we get it B you slay. The album was made buy only and only singles released on streaming services (a tactic chosen by Adele in late 2015 too) so you’ll have to make your own way to this album via whatever service you choose.
Favourite track? – Freedom. The power (And the chance to yell FREEDOM as you’re driving down the motorway) is just what you need for that Monday morning pick me up. Or if you’re not really digging that, then you can just think about the meaning and have a moment of realisation.
Bastille – Wild World
Delve into a wild world with the latest album from Bastille, only to realise that this is the world, our world, your world. It’s hard not to get a bit emotional as Bastille sing about the melancholy issues that we face every day as humans on earth, from the death of loved ones to changing faces, power mad maniacs to blame. Side effects of listening may include confusion, moments of realisation, feeling trapped inside your own brain and and overwhelming urge to change the way you view the world. Branding themselves as Wild World Comms (WWComms) Bastille are sending a message, on behalf of everyone to stop being so bloomin daft (basically… it would type ages to write something really powerful and meaningful, which is what they’re actually telling you.) As they say in ‘Warmth’ there’s “Nothing quite like seeing the world through our TV window”. Listen to Wild World on Soundcloud here.
The whole package of the album was wrapped up brilliantly, from it’s initial singles, the development of WWComms to their live performances. The album speaks volumes, without making the kind of statements that we’ve seen in Beyoncé’s Lemonade or similar. It’s a moment to close your eyes, sink into the back of your brain and listen. Listen to what’s really going on all around you.
Favourite track? Power – Maybe it’s again because I love singing this song, as it quite fits my vocal ability. But it also gives a brave statement about those who hold power over us and how long we take it for until we bite back. “Pain, just synapses firing in our brain, when you cut me, cut me deep”.
SIA – This is acting
Literally. These songs were all penned by Sia for other famous singers but were rejected. So Sia sung them herself and compiled an album of rejects, if anything proving that one mans junk is anothers treasure. Really, we should just take a moment to say that if Sia ever writes you anything you should most definitely take it, she has a way with words that never fail to provoke thoughts but also top charts. Then if she sings them herself, with those real, emotional vocals, well it’s an instant winner for me. Every song on the album is pure perfection and even though the songs in the case of this album were written for others, we believe every word as if it were her own. In track ‘Alive’, originally written for Adele, there’s a moment right in the middle where you could hear a pin drop as Sia exclaims that she’s still breathing (another perfect one for screeching out in the car). So essentially this album from early 2016 is a masterclass in how to make songs, an album and a mockery out of everyone else in the business. That gets my vote. Listen here on Soundcloud.
Favourite Single? Bird set free – We’ve all been there, feeling lower than low, worn down and struggling for breath. But hold that breath as this single brings a pick me up and makes us feel great about whatever situation we’re in. “I don’t care if I sing off key, I find myself in my melodies. I sing for love, I sing for me, I shout it out like a bird set free.”
Okay, so enough of albums, I’ve given my top 6 there let’s move onto Singles, one hit wonders and moments of madness. I’m not going to carry on writing forever so let’s just run off a quick list:
- Drake – One Dance: I mean this single just seemed to come out of nowhere and then stayed in the charts for ever. Maybe too long. It’s catchy but… That said, Drake pulled out a quite spectacular album (though I’m not a big enough fan to give him a best album accolade). Listen.
- Lukas Graham – 7 years: listen to the lyrics properly and try not to shed a tear as this mans life whizzes past in 3 minutes. A few other singles were great too, but sadly didn’t seem to catch on much. Listen
- Justin Bieber – What do you mean: And all of the other singles too… Justin took over the charts this year and really if I’m honest, his album should be up there too. But there’s still a part of me that says that shouldn’t be acceptable. His 2016 album purpose though moved away from cutey Bieber and onto sexy Justin. Listen.
- Coldplay – Hymn for the weekend: Their track with Beyoncé was the soundtrack of my summer, perfect to relax with a glass of gin. In general since their album release in late 2015 this has been a winner which only continued to grow into 2016. Listen.
- Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman: Ariana really did turn into a dangerous woman with this new album and single, gone is cutey grande and in is smouldering Ariana with some badass, sexy tunes. Listen.
- The Weeknd – Starboy: Jumping back onto our Ipods just in time before the end of the year, The Weeknd brings back his classic style and R&B beats that you just can’t help but get up and dance to. Listen.
- DNCE – Cake by the ocean: This single did wonders for the Jonas brother and his band, originally released in 2015 this was re-released in summer with much improved publicity and became the song on the airwaves this summer. Followed up by a few more smash singles and an album in the same vain, these cheeky guys know how to give us a good time. Listen.
- Kungs -This girl: Another tune of the summer, I won’t say much about it, because hopefully you’ve already read all about this single and it’s album on my post earlier last year.
- Zayn – Pillowtalk: Making his comeback as a sola artist since ditching One Direction Zayn leaves the boyband image behind and brings a sexy, hot, smouldering album with him. Really this should be up in my top albums list, I love it, but you didn’t want to read another paragraph did you? The album delves into all kinds of sexual taboo and dilemmas that we all encounter whilst we hear Zayn really finding himself and establishing who he wants to be. Listen.
- Clean Bandit Ft. Louisa Johnson – Tears: Whilst we all love clean bandit and their ability to bring up some fantastic emerging talent, Louisa has had a more bumpy ride into stardom after winning the XFactor 2015 and flopping her debut single. She had a real winner here though with this summer smash, proving that really it was all Simon Cowells appalling song choice, rather than her ability to be a fantastic recording artist. She’s proved that again with her newest single “So Good” too, if you needed any more convincing. Listen.
- Justin Timberlake – Can’t stop the feeling: Really this single just proved that we always need more JT in our lives. Written for the soundtrack to animated film ‘Trolls’ this song really does feel good and hasn’t aged a second since it’s release. TURN IT UP. Listen.
- Adele – When we were young: I won’t deny for one second that this song makes me cry almost every time it comes on. It’s emotional from start to end, but so captivating and relatable. With those pure class vocals Adele never produces a bum track, but this is hands down one of her best. The album ’25’ carries on from release in late 2015, after her surprise teaser trailer on ITV announced her return and since then it’s gone from strength to strength, still outselling other albums throughout 2016. I was lucky enough to go to one of her shows this year and this lady is absolutely incredible live. Never have I sung, laughed and cried all in one go, but she puts on a real show, looks after her audience and let’s you into a little piece of Adele. Seeing Adele live is not just another gig, it’s a moment, with Adele that you’ll never have again. The feature image at the top of this page is just one snapshot of that occasion and still mesmorises. Hands down my musical moment of 2016. Listen.
So there you have it, my ramblings on 2016’s best music releases. It’s just my opinion, but if you haven’t listened to any of these, get on your preferred streaming site and have a listen. If you have and you’re eager for some new talent from 2017, then fear not as my next update will be the hottest new emerging artists to watch out for in 2017 and who I think will make it big.