Well, I’m definitely gonna be looking back at this list in a few years and laughing at myself for including a twenty one pilots song in a best list. They seem to be one of the most divisive bands around today, and you only have to spend 10 minutes online and you’ll find some memes about how they’re the worst band ever. I have no reason to defend twenty one pilots, but I like Stressed Out.
The beat to this song isn’t the most exciting, but it fits the tone of the lyrics pretty well. Then there’s the chorus which is somehow a serious earworm. I like the themes, about how the singer wants to go back to his childhood, the innocent days of his life where things were far easier. I feel like everyone in their life has had that nostalgia for their childhood and as you grow older you realise things are so much harder and pressures of life take a huge toll on you.
“I was told when I get all my fears would shrink, but now I’m insecure and care what people think”
This line is interesting because as you get older those fears of ghosts, monsters under the bed etc. go away, but the fear of how other people perceive you only grows.
The part that really gets me though is in the bridge:
Used to dream of outer space, but now they’re laughing at your face saying “wake up you need to make money””
The brutal honesty here is earth shattering: the imagination children have slowly gets stripped away from them as it ultimately isn’t necessary to survive, but it’s the money you need, it suddenly becomes the most important thing to you as you need to find a job and live in the real world. No imagination here for you, son.
A part of me thinks, “ah well suck it up kid, we’ve all got to do it, this the real world”. Then there’s the other part, which makes me think going back to being a kid and dropping all your major responsibilities would be glorious, and I think twenty one pilots describe this well in Stressed Out.
4. Starboy – The Weeknd (Feat. Daft Punk)
To me, ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ was 2015’s best pop song. It was The Weeknd’s evolution into becoming a full blown popstar; the song had a dark, booming 80’s bassline and the vocals called back to Michael Jackson’s best work. It’s a song you just have to dance to, and it was a fantastic summer jam.
Less than a year later, The Weeknd came back with 2016’s autumn jam, featuring Daft Punk, surprisingly. At first I didn’t really care for the production on this, but as I listened more I really appreciated what Daft Punk did. The vocal snippets during the chorus are incredibly catchy, and the Abel’s vocals fit extremely well on this beat.
The Weeknd isn’t doing his usual ‘bitches, drugs’ hedonistic shtick on Starboy, but instead he’s giving his perspective on fame. How he’s transformed from those mixtape days to now being a ‘starboy’. It’s like he’s giving us a rundown of what he’s been doing since he became this mega rich superstar. He’s bragging, but it could come across another way.
I like the line, “look what you done, I’m a motherfucking Starboy” as it is him saying to his fans that they are the reason he has become so big, but it’s also like he’s putting the blame on them as this is never really what he wanted. A man who sings about this kind of lifestyle was never really meant to be a popstar that gets Teen Choice Awards, but he has, and I think we can see that The Weeknd doesn’t want that persona.
3. Lush Life – Zara Larsson
If only there were more songs that sound like this. In many ways, this is the perfect pop song; it’s the right length, it’s light and summery, the chorus is catchy as hell. It is just everything that 2016 should’ve been but it sadly wasn’t. We got this from it though so it’s not all bad.
I like the casualness of Lush Life, there’s nothing serious about the lyrics, and they’re pretty simple when you read into them. It’s seemingly and about a crush on someone, but nothing more than that. Living each day as if it was the last as she says, it’s the breeziest song you’ll hear and I’m surprised there aren’t more songs like it.
2. This Girl – Kungs vs Cookin’ On 3 Burners
There are a couple of tracks on this list that are EDM and remixes, which could mean I’m finally starting to like EDM or these are just one offs. This Girl remixes a soul song from 2009, and the idea of an soul song turning into an electronic dance track sounds like it wouldn’t work.
On this song, though, it works so God damn well. It’s slightly off kilter in comparison to most dance songs as the vocals aren’t completely upfront in the mix. They’re a little echoed, you can’t quite understand what’s being said and I think that’s what makes it better.
Then there’s the horns that crop up in the verses, and I am a sucker for some horns featuring in a pop song. When done well anyway, it could potentially be cheesy. Not on ‘This Girl’ though, easily the best EDM song of the year.
1. All My Friends – Snakehips (Feat. Tinashe & Chance The Rapper)
This to me is the best pop song of the year. Tinashe’s vocals on this are gorgeous, and the beat by Snakehips is near flawless. It’s not the most original song, as the trendy smooth R&B style can be found anywhere on the internet in the 2010’s, but I find this song captivating.
The lyrics are fairly general, most people can relate to this kind of night out where everyone is drunk out of their minds, but you’re really not wanting to be there. It’s a similar perspective of a party song to ‘Here’ by Alessia Cara, but I think it’s done better on ‘All My Friends’. It describes the feeling of loneliness in an interesting way as despite the fact she’s with other people, she still doesn’t feel like she’s with anyone.
You could say it’s a depressing outlook on the party lifestyle as it all isn’t really that bad, but then there’s the chorus that comes booming in where everyone is singing and it takes away from that slow, dreary tone of the verses.
Then there’s Chance The Rapper’s verse (who always kills it with his guest features), where he slams down on the drug taking culture and how people die from the effects of drugs. It’s pretty obvious stuff and maybe a little preachy, but Chance is speaking to hip hop culture in general as it tends to glorify taking drugs, but there’s a dark side that rarely gets mentioned in mainstream music.
It’s an excellent track, everything about it works so well, and that’s why it’s the best pop song of 2016.
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