Tuesday, December 13, 2016

50 Favorite Songs of 2016 (Part Two)

40. "Alarm" by Anne-Marie

Tinge trip-hop with tropical house and sprinkle in some strikingly emotive vocals, and you've got yourself Anne-Marie's "Alarm." Anne-Marie plays super-sleuth girlfriend of the year and uncovers her boyfriend's dastardly ways, making this track the perfect anthem during the anticipation of a break-up with a no-good boy (or girl).

39. "I Love You Always Forever" by Betty Who

Leave it to Betty Who, underrated dancepop sorcerer, to kick new life into a 20-year-old one-hit wonder of a song. Her take on Donna Lewis' 1996 hit borrows from the same mood board as the original but swells with more production than its predecessor. And let's be real: Who's delicate voice was made for the song.

38. "On Hold" by The xx

Glued together by a pitch-shifted sample of Daryl Hall & John Oates' "I Can't Go For That (No Can Do)," The xx's "On Hold" kicks a bit of new life into the trio, famous for their fuzzy indie drawl. While they're still as indifferent as ever vocally, the dance-mimicking production tactics add some grit to their demeanor.

37. "Warrior" by Aurora

In many instances on her debut album, Aurora keeps her listeners in suspense for the majority of each song before blowing them away with a whirlwind of a finale, but "Warrior" is not one of those songs. By the first chorus of the song, it takes a sudden but graceful liftoff, sweeping away the clumsy tinkling of a beat throughout the first verse. Her extended chants of "I'm a warrior, warrior, warrior" sit atop mountains, while thunderous drumbeats fill the canyons below.

36. "Muddy Waters" by LP

Let's get the obvious, expected statement out of the way here: This song sent chills down my spine when it accompanied the season finale of Orange is the New Black this summer. When Poussey smiles into the camera and the low hums of the track kick into place as the screen cuts to black... ugh, the feels. LP's shrill voice howls over the bellowing chorus behind her, making for paramount blasts of emotion when each hook hits.

35. "That's So Us" by Allie X

Allie X's stab at going full-on mainstream pop, "That's So Us," is easily her happiest outing to date. (Not that she wasn't mainstream pop dressed in pretentious imagery to begin with anyway, but I digress.) Rather than crawling back to a toxic ex or planning her vengeance, she revels in a relationship that clicks. It's the exact level of genuine exuberance we needed to hear from that squeaky little voice of hers for quite some time now.

34. "Body Say" by Demi Lovato

Okay, so wow. Just days after I proclaimed her to be the Queen of Making Better Memes than Music back in June, Demi Lovato clocked me. To coincide with her joint headlining tour with Nick Jonas, she dropped "Body Say," a surprisingly impressive track that oozes sex appeal. God bless. And let's be even more thankful that she's given up that god-awful scream-singing racket (whoever told her she sounds impressive on "Stone Cold" needs to be fired) for a smoother pout, even if that approach was ripped from Selena Gomez's most recent work. This song does not need to be deleted, fat.

33. "Closer" by The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey

While I'm not immune to the ideology that The Chainsmokers are unbearable frat boy types who need a lesson in humility, I was an early adopter (and fan) of this track and had to separate the creation from its creators and limit my radio exposure so I could continue to enjoy it. It's nothing special, but it's catchy, damn it. I suppose I'm a sucker for the occasional Johnny one-note electronic breakdown; what else can I say?

32. "You Don't Get Me High Anymore" by Phantogram

Man, what an aggressive tune. Historically an unorthodox pop duo, Phantogram and producer Ricky Reed found the harshest sample they could and built a song upon it that will knock listeners off their feet. It's a demanding soundscape that lead vocalist Sarah Barthel manages to compete with as she rips through the verses, floats through the pre-choruses, and squeals into her upper register on an added descant at the track's close.

31. "Meteorites" by Lights

I would be a liar if I said I didn't initially sigh when I saw that "Meteorites" was being pushed as the first taste of Lights' Midnight Machines, the acoustic companion to her third studio album; after all, the song was arguably the most forgettable of the Little Machines tracks. That attitude changed within the first 90 seconds of the acoustic track's run time, though, and for obvious reasons. Dare I say it is her most striking translation of a song into an acoustic format since "Suspension" from her last stripped set?

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