Best Music of 2016... So Far...

Drake, photo by Caitlin Cronenberg
When trying to decide what the best in music is, a good place to start is the top of the Billboard charts or in today's terms, at the top of iTunes or Tidal. A check of the headlines for the past couple months and one will see Canadian rapper Drake and his new album Views.

As of the first week of July, Drake's album has been #1 on the Billboard 200 for nine weeks in a row. According to Billboard, this is something a male artist has not done since Usher's Confessions back in 2004. If his album remains on top for 10 weeks in a row, he would have tied with the current record-holder of Adele's 21 album.

At the same time, Drake's single "One Dance" from that album has been #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks in a row. The music magazine notes that this makes seven weeks in a row that Drake has held both the Hot 100 and the Billboard 200, something a solo male artist has not done since Michael Jackson back in 1983.

However, Drake is not tops with all the critics. The best-reviewed album, according to Metacritic, is Lemonade by Beyoncé. Out of 33 reviews, she received nine 100's. Critic Peter Tabakis wrote, "It's a rare album that sounds this warm, this easy, this melodic, this fierce, this startling, this unforgettable." He concludes with "Lemonade is a career-defining record, like Thriller, Purple Rain, and Like a Prayer were for the pop giants of the 1980's."

Also, a clear favorite of music critics is A Moon Shaped Pool by the British, alternative band, Radiohead. Out of 41 reviews, six were perfect 100's for the group. Again, Tabakis calls the group, "the last important band left in the universe." On May 6, Radiohead released its first music video for the album. Filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson directed and then gave a free, 35 mm print to select movie theaters for them to screen.

Despite previously spitting on it, Radiohead's latest album will stream on Spotify. One artist who was also staunchly against sites like Spotify or the idea of free, file-sharing was the late Prince. The rocker who passed away on April 21 from a drug overdose never allowed his music to stream online in a lot of places.

Following his death, movie theaters across the country screened Prince's signature film Purple Rain (1984). Not every musician has a high-profile movie that can do that. Therefore, musicians like Maurice White, Guy Clark, Merle Haggard and Nick Menza died this year and did so without the same fanfare.

David Bowie in video for 'Blackstar'
The same couldn't be said about the loss of David Bowie. Unlike a lot of musicians who are relatively young, Bowie didn't die of a drug overdose, and certainly unlike Prince, Bowie had a plan for what would happen after he passed. Prince reportedly didn't have a last Will. Bowie, however, planned for his passing, which included the release of his final album, Blackstar.

Who knows what material might be released posthumously from Bowie. This year, the late J Dilla released another album, The Diary. It's the sixth, full-length album from the Detroit rapper since his death in 2006. The Diary might be J Dilla's final record, but ironically it was intended to be his debut.

In a nod to NWA and Straight Outta Compton, J Dilla has a song on that album called "F--- the Police." Another west coast rapper who's still alive named YG made a more brazen song called "Police Get Away Wit Murder" on his album Still Brazy. He also has the song titled "FDT" and it's the F-bomb hurled at Donald Trump. In perhaps solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, Sonny Smith, a very white music artist, created the song "White Cops on Trial" off his latest album Moods Baby Moods.

Other artists choose to call out real people or even fictional ones more affectionately. A band called Prettiots did two songs. One is called "Kiss Me Kinski" about the relationship between filmmaker Werner Herzog and actor Klaus Kinski. On that same album Funs Cool, Prettiots also have "Stabler" about the character made famous by actor Christopher Meloni on the TV series Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.

In terms of music from TV shows or movies, the best in that regard has to be the soundtrack for Sing Street, which is a small, Irish film by John Carney. Carney mainly does musicals and always crafts really good songs. For his latest film, he has three standouts, including "Up" and "Drive It Like You Stole It" and "To Find You."


Best Folk / Country

A SAILOR'S GUIDE TO EARTH by Sturgill Simpson
BIG DAY IN A SMALL TOWN by Brandy Clark 
OUROBOROS by Ray LaMontagne
LET ME GET BY by Tedeschi Trucks Band
LITTLE WINDOWS by Teddy Thompson & Kelly Jones
MY WILD WEST by Lissie
THE WILD SWAN by Foy Vance
CLEOPATRA by The Lumineers 


Best Rock / Alternative

NONAGON INFINITY by King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard
LIGHT UPON THE LAKE by Whitney
GOOD TIMES! by The Monkees
SYNESTHETICA by Radiation City
COMMONTIME by Field Music
HURT & THE MERCILESS by The Heavy


Best Pop / Electronic

HOPELESSNESS by Anohni
POTENTIAL by The Range
EVERYBODY'S HEART IS BROKEN NOW by Niki and the Dove
THE BRIDE by Bat for Lashes
LUKAS GRAHAM by Lukas Graham
PHASE by Jack Garratt
THANK YOU by Meghan Trainor
ALL I NEED by Foxes
TRAGAME TIERRA by Big Black Delta


Best R&B / Soul

LEMONADE by Beyoncé
BLACKSUMMERS'NIGHT (2016) by Maxwell
LOVE & HATE by Michael Kiwanuka
CHARLENE by Tweet


Best Rap / Hip Hop

COLORING BOOK by Chance the Rapper
UNTITLED UNMASTERED by Kendrick Lamar
MALIBU by Anderson Paak
HELLA PERSONAL FILM FESTIVAL by Open Mike Eagle
SLAY-Z by Azealia Banks


Best Singles from Non-Listed Albums

"Every Night You've Got to Save Me" by Mass Gothic
"Beggin & Pleadin" by Brandy
"Help Me Run Away" by St. Lucia
"Better Look Back" by Lucius
"(I'm the One) Big Big Fun" by White Denim
"All Night" by Trashcan Sinatras
"I'm Leaving You" by Miles Davis & Robert Glasper f/ Ledisi & John Scofield
"Moonlight" by Ariana Grande
"Dawnstar" by Beth Orton
"Angel" by Laura Mvula
"Vivica" by Jessy Lanza
"Try Everything" by Shakira from Zootopia
"Drive It Like You Stole It" from Sing Street
"Nothing Left" by Kygo f/ Will Heard
"She Don't Belong to Me" by Tom Odell
"You Gotta Move" by Parker Millsap (cover song)
"Evan" by Little Scream
"To Love Somebody" by Karl Blau (cover of Bee Gees)
"Candyman" by Zedd & Aloe Blacc (anthem for M&M's)

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