In what might be a major sigh of relief around the world, 2016 is finally wrapping up. But one of the better things to come out of this past year was its amazing release of albums every single week. With a year of surprising headlines and shock came along with it a trend of musical releases from the world of indie to pop, to rock and country, that charmed fans with new favorites week-after-week. From Beyoncé and Bon Iver, to John Legend and Neil Diamond, 2016 saw something for everyone of all music genres. And to be honest, we are super excited for the new year and what 2017 will bring to our playlists!
But before we bid farewell to the year, our staff shares an eclectic mix of their favorite albums from 2016 that are bound to become classics in the years ahead. Did your favorites make the cut?
John Legend, “Darkness to Light”
Andrew Rogers: Making an eleventh hour play for my favorite album is the latest release from Grammy winner and Chrissy Teigen’s husband, John Legend. I’ve always been a fan of Legend’s silky smooth tone, but I feel like this album is the first time where his huge talent finally finds a box big enough for it. From start to finish, the album is a roller coaster of emotions from angst to passionate love and all set to a catchy urban beat.
Elizabeth The: I had just successfully boarded my flight in Vancouver and I was buzzing all over with excitement. I was about to travel to Paris for the first time, but more importantly, I was about to listen to Beyoncé’s second visual album, Lemonade for the first time. This record became the soundtrack to my Parisian adventures as well as my most-played album of the year. I’ve always admired the R&B superstar’s talents, and it was Lemonade that made me truly appreciate the genius of her artistry. With this eclectic and electrifying collection, she transcends genres (venturing into rock with Jack White on “Don’t Hurt Yourself” and country with “Daddy Lessons”) and boldly raises her voice on issues of race and gender (“Freedom” with Kendrick Lamar and “Formation”). Ever the pop culture icon, Beyoncé has coined so many popular 2016 catchphrases through her lyrics, from “Becky with the good hair” to “hot sauce in my bag, swag.” All hail the Queen Bey.
Miranda Lambert, “The Weight of These Wings”
Tania Hussain: As much as I loved Lemonade and found it on high rotation all-year round since its release, an album that definitely delivered this year for me on every emotional level was Miranda Lambert’s The Weight of These Wings. Predominantly seen as a breakup record stemming from a very public divorce from country singer, Blake Shelton, I actually found it more to be a very cathartic and introspective portrait of a woman just trying to find herself after an immense loss. She is not dwelling in her pain. Instead, she’s moving on, making plans and going above and beyond any way she can. In past records, Lambert has portrayed the raging, angry girlfriend who doesn’t take crap from anyone. However, in this record, she’s an active protagonist, taking action for every choice and trying her hardest to find meaning. Broken up into two parts, “The Nerve” and “The Heart,” each sort of pivots around romantic rebound and the repercussions. There are so many great tracks on this record, but I am always leaning toward “Tin Man,” which plays on The Wizard of Oz kind of story, full of wonderment; and then there’s “Pushin’ Time” about late-game relationships that just don’t happen. For a fun track, “Pink Sunglasses” definitely hits the spot.
Meg Quinn: This is honestly, truly such a tough question. 2016 was an incredible year for music, it was probably the best overall year in music that I can remember in my life, and to try to even narrow it down to five best albums would be difficult for me. With that being said, Rihanna’s ANTI was released back in January and I have yet to tire of any of it. I was truly blown away by how incredible this album is — not a skippable song (in fact, “Love On The Brain” is one of my favorite songs EVER), her voice sounds incredible and even different song-to-song, really showing how versatile of an artist she is. After a lengthy hiatus — her last album was in 2013! — I know that I was worried about what this album would be but man, did she prove me wrong. What an incredible piece of art.
Ariana Grande, “Dangerous Woman”
Jessica Fritz: While Lemonade and 25 are easily two of the best albums in 2016, my choice goes to an album I found myself turning back to more often than not. This year, Ariana Grande released her sophomore album, Dangerous Woman, and showed herself as a real force in the music industry. The album is fun, vocally beautiful, and shows Ariana’s range of musical styles. It features amazing duets with Lil’ Wayne, Macy Gray, Future, and Nicki Minaj. Dangerous Woman is without a doubt an album that will help define Ariana’s mark in music.
Bon Iver, “22, A Million”
Nicole Drum: I’ve heard it said before the electronic music is our time’s folk rock and after listening to 22, A Million on repeat for weeks on end I can say that that is absolutely true. This is not For Emma, Forever Ago. There is no “Skinny Love” here but the record is every bit as haunting. The mechanical, sometimes almost disembodied sounds that saturate the album have an otherworldly quality that, when paired with lyrics such as “if it’s harmed, it harmed me, it’ll harm me, I let it in” from “00000 Million” send the listener into an exquisite sonic and emotional free fall. I just can’t get enough.
Charlie Puth, “Nine Track Mind”
Alex Keobke: I’ll be honest, I’m probably not going to gain too many cool guy points but if I had to point to an album that I listened to the most in 2016, it’d have to go to Charlie Puth’s debut album Nine Track Mind. I’ve jammed out in the shower to “Dangerously” or “Left Right Left” more times than I’d care to admit, not to mention the fact that it was his debut album should only leave fans excited for what the future will hold. While critics failed to appreciate his efforts, you should hardly let that deter your own level of enjoyment of his music.
Neil Diamond, “Acoustic Christmas”
Katherine Hernandez: At the risk of being one of “those people,” I don’t listen to very much current music. In fact, one of my favorite artists put out an album in 2016, and I still haven’t listened to it. Shame on me, I know. However, Neil Diamond’s Acoustic Christmas snuck up on me this year. I’m a sucker for any holiday music from him, and this album is just as enjoyable as his previous Christmas albums, which are some of my favorites. His version of “Christmas in Killarney” is probably my favorite track because it’s so fun, but the entire album is full of good holiday music.