Any single year that can claim Lemonade, The Life of Pablo, Anti, and Views within its first six months is already headed for the history books in terms of instant classic albums. Done deal. So what, then, about the individual songs that 2016 has given us thus far?
As the following roundup of killer tracks proves, 2016 has also proven to be an onslaught of riches when it comes to singles, too. The world may seem to have gone mad of late, but with compositions this rich, collaborations this exciting, and sonic innovations this endlessly surprising, music is out in front perhaps as never before, keeping us together, rocking our bodies, and that these are indeed extraordinary times in which we live—and listen.
“Into You” by Ariana Grande
The irresistible “Into You” has disco in its genes, a monstrous EDM heartbeat, and Ariana’s simultaneously cool-and-hot calls to action on vocals. It has rapidly conquered radio, dance floors, and, really, planet Earth in just the first month of its official release. Prepare to hear it—and love it—forever.
“Sorry” by Beyoncé
The heart breaks as the mind reels over the power Beyonce packs into what may be her most attitude-filled track to date. It’s the song that will inspire pretty much every breakup in 2016 so you can understand why it rages pure empowerment and musical triumph.
“Panda” by Desiigner
Like the glorious creature that inspired it, “Panda” is unique, mesmerizing, and impossible not to love. As a trap song on its own terms, it burns; as a key component of “Pt. 2” by Kanye, it’s now part of our consciousness from here on.
“One Dance” by Drake feat. Wizkid and Kyla
Drake sings unity that can only be found on the floor of a club and with “One Dance” he brings us there every time. To hear this polyrhythmic song is to feel like it really is Drake’s world and we’re just dancing in it.
“Work From Home” by Fifth Harmony feat. Ty Dolla Sign
Humanity didn’t no how badly we all needed a dynamic new girl group until Fifth Harmony showed up and, in turn, showed everyone how it’s done like nobody else has in years. It would have been easy for FH to overwhelm with a big, booming loud anthem; with “Work From Home” they take over everything by way of a chilled-out vibe that packs even more of a sweet punch.
“Pillowtalk” by Zayn
From One Direction to his own direction, Zayn debuted as a solo artist with a devastating R&B slow jam bolstered by big beats and words that match the heated madness of the sounds. What a trip.
“Work” by Rihanna feat. Drake
Rihanna chants the title over a methodical, bubbly track that can only be described, appropriately, as enchanting. Drake slings a cool come-on and the song ends up a glorious haze of intertwined sensuality.
“Hands to Myself” by Selena Gomez
If you’re feeling flirtatious and frisky then this is your jam.
“For Free” by DJ Khaled feat. DrakeEmbedded from tools.applemusic.com.
Here’s what we know, DJ Khaled and Drake make magic every time they hit the studio together. After giving us singles that influenced the pop culture lexicon (“On One,” “No New Friends”) their back with a quintessential summer anthem. It literally feels like a California summer. There’s a coolness and bounce to it that breeds the ultra confidence Drizzy raps with.
“Ultralight Beam” by Kanye West feat. Chance the Rapper, The-Dream, Kelly Price, and Kirk Franklin
Kanye west traverses the cosmos with “Ultralight Beam,” an unimaginably gorgeous hymn of inner reflection and outward reaching grace. Joining his pilgrimage are superstars topped by Chance the Rapper and a glorious gospel choir, bringing new depth and heft to West’s already astonishing canon of brilliance.
“On the Way” by Jhene Aiko and Big Sean
So silky it almost tickles, so sexy it almost hurts. The seductive banter between Jhene Aiko and Big Sean on this catchy duet from their album, TWENTY88, is summer fling goal AF. You and whoever else is getting off on the groove just might be playing this a lot in 2016.
“All We Got” by Chance the Rapper feat. Kanye West and The Chicago Children’s Choir
Inspired by a lyric from the song’s guest artist—“Music is all we got”—Chance the Rapper proves how lucky that makes us. With crazy beats, horns, a children’s choir, and the man in the middle boosted up by his pal, who could ask for anything more?
“All the Way Up” by Fat Joe and Remy Ma feat. French Montana and Infrared
It’s urgent, it smokes, it’s got a deep bass that pulls you all the way down and then a driving synth line that launches you all the way up. You’ll happily flail in the direction of the title. Boom!
“Formation” by Beyoncé
The lead single from Lemonade is a mini-masterpiece within the larger masterpiece. Would anyone expect anything less? Bey’s racial pride shines bright on this daring, righteous political stand that calls black women to rise as one, “in formation” by way of a flawlessly executed anthem.
“Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake
JT’s return to #1 just may be the song of the summer. No matter what, hot fun and sunny good times is what the track instantly conjures. When he sings, “Just dance, dance, dance,” just try not to.
“Uber Everywhere” by Madeintyo
Atlanta hip-hop phenom Madeintyo weaves a heady spell with “Uber Everywhere.” The song is at once minimalist and all-encompassing—which may be the very definition of “everywhere” itself.