Every year I ask my friends and family to tell me about their favorite music from the last 12-18 months (see results from 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, and 2009. I had a friend tell me: “I want to take the survey but I don’t know any new songs!” No, friend! The point of this survey is not to find new songs to impress all 8 people who will read this article. We want to hear what you liked this year. If it’s music we haven’t heard yet, that’s great; many people including myself love getting new recommendations.
But if it’s music I’ve personally heard already, I love hearing WHY you liked it. And if I didn’t like it the first time I heard it, maybe I’ll give it a second listen with fresh ears. It’s all good. Just want to know what you enjoyed.
Check out this Spotify playlist that combines songs from friends and family, as well as some of my favorites (warning: some potty words in there). I didn’t give any thought to the order, so shuffle it. Thoughts on the year in music below:
Dance Party. This was a very dancy year for the survey in terms of which pop songs were chosen. The most popular choice was Justin Timberlake‘s “Can’t Stop the Feeling.” Some Justin Bieber in there as well, with “Company,” “Sorry,” and some of his features on other songs. I really liked some of these. Go Canada. I have some friends who got into The Chainsmokers (“Closer” and “Don’t Let Me Down”) through their Zumba classes. They dance a lot in Zumba, I hear. It’s one of the main things.
Sia made the list with “Cheap Thrills” and “The Greatest,” which is a fantastic running song (I imagine). Victoria in Austin, TX said that every song by The Weeknd ends up on her workout playlist, include “Starboy,”which was a big favorite this year. Andrew in Sacramento describes another song “Party Monster,” as “very vibey.”
All these songs make me want to get up and dance. I don’t actually do it, but I’m thinking about it. Thinking real hard. Still seated.
Best Album. Lesley in Tacoma, WA says that Lemonade by Beyoncé is “inarguably the best album of 2016.” I agree. It’s amazing, and this is coming from someone who is lukewarm about Beyoncé overall.
Lemonade is something else, though. It should be listened to as an album, yet still has many tracks that are, as the kids say, bangers.* The lyrical threads running through the album, the musical nods to Louisiana…I actually made Cajun/creole food a few times because I was thinking about the album so much. So it’s changing my life for the better! Visual album was cool, too, if only because most artists don’t invest the time and money to make them. The most popular song seems to be “Sorry”–in fact, Nancy in San Jose listed it twice, she loved it so much. “Formation” was my favorite song of the year and Sarah in Boston loved “Daddy Lessons,” which is a nice country turn from Beyoncé the Houstonite. So, Lemonade was loved.
But for the sake of argument, let’s consider some other best albums of the year. Josh in San Jose, CA says of Sturgill Simspon‘s A Sailors Guide to Earth: “Not only was it a touching tribute to his son, but he had the freaking Dap Kings playing behind some great outlaw country lyrics and music.” I agree, it’s a very good album. Mark in Colorado says it’s We Got it From Here… by A Tribe Called Quest. “We the People” was his favorite from the album. Mo from Capitola, CA argued for A Moon Shaped Pool by Radiohead. And Criss from New Jersey feels good about Bon Iver‘s 22, A Million. I love Bon Iver but still need 10 listens to get into this one.
*I like to play music before class, so I have each section choose musical themes. “Summer Vacation,” 90s pop, etc. One class chose “bangers.” I said, what’s a banger? “Just like, when you hear it, you know it’s a banger!” they responded. So that’s what a banger is.
Hamilton. It’s rare to have a musical on the music survey, but hey, it works! Because there is music in a musical, see. Heidi in Charlottesville, VA says the entire album AND the mixtape are absolutely flawless. I hear Mike Pence loved the show, too!
Is this a bad time to say that I have actually never listened to a song from Hamilton? Well, I will change that. It will be my first listen from the survey.
Alternatives to alternative. I don’t really know what alternative means anymore, but there wasn’t much of it on the survey, besides the albums listed above. Criss in NJ picked “Your Best American Girl” by Mitski and Josh in San Jose loves the opening riff in “Off the Ground” by The Record Company.
A few hits for Ophelia by The Lumineers, which maybe I would call “post-alternative.” Dan in Denver says “It’s interesting how haunting and upbeat the song is at the same time, wishing someone good luck in finding love.”Another friend in Northern CA said she liked the interpretation of the song being about chasing fame.
Same for country and folk, besides Simpson. Andy in Boston liked Maren Morris‘s “My Church,” and there were maybe a few other country songs. But that’s a big change from a few years back when maybe 30 percent of the respondents chose country or folk, including myself.
Thanks Honda! Lastly, I want mention “Walking on a Dream” by Empire of the Sun. This song was released in 2009 without much play, and shot up the charts this year because of this Honda commercial:
Whenever this ad came on, my kids would stop whatever they were doing and watch. I don’t want to shill for Honda but this commercial was really effective, and the song is super catchy. It probably reminds me of 2016 more than any other song.
Personally, I listened to a lot less music in 2016. From August to November, I listened to politics podcasts every single time I was in the car. And I’m kind of wishing I didn’t do that. so here’s to listening to a lot more music in 2017.