The Best of 2016

Lemonade Beyonce

Beyonce Lemonade was an amazing audiovisual work of art, in which the theme of one’s infidelity has knocked boots with a real host of vivid tropes: of the same resilience as well as resourcefulness of generations of black women, of the sins of the fathers who are being visited upon the daughters. With this sumptuously produced visual album, Beyonce once again has really pulled the slippery rug out from under the actual idea of what a real pop R&B record might be it is tough to think of a pop megastar who has traveled further from bumping and grinding out Top 40 fodder, to this politicized goddess.

Even if it is all a stupid hoax, dreamed up by a pair of cackling Illuminati, Lemonade is certainly still magnificent. If listeners can’t simply cope with a little light fictionalization in this real channeling of the song, in some degree of altitude in their cultural products, then they are going to have trouble consuming art of any kind. 

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Blonde Frank Ocean

4 long years in the making, and 17 tracks later, Blonde was engaging in some high-stakes stuff. You needed to invest energy in it. For some fans, who found they’re the hard body so beautifully articulated by Ocean’s prior album of Channel Orange, it may have been a step too far. But to regard a more accurate record as a less successful version of one could be a shame; as brilliant as this Channel Orange was, Blonde is more adventurous, more vividly authored. 

Blackstar David Bowie

Blackstar is really and truly an inky labyrinth of human cruelty as well as frailty demonstrated through with moments of grace as well as transcendence and obsessed with different types of transformation. And yet it’s just another record on which each song carves out its various space, with no room for repetitions or even redundancies. Bowie’s incredible voice never does the same thing twice. It’s haunted, wired, seductive, menacing, mischievous, kind: a final, multi-faceted performance from pops great actor.

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Kanye West The Life of Pablo

Kanye has now finally delivered a piece of work that was as faithful to him as it was to what appeared to be in the rigid spirit of 2016: volatile, unexpected and era-defining. The Life of Pablo certainly will not be West’s most influential work (808s & Heartbreak), nor is it going to really be his best.

Solange A Seat at the Table

Solange’s most political release has now earned her first #1 slot on the US Billboard 200 albums chart as well as put to bed the idea that pop-R&B cannot have a message as well as sell. Self-assured as well as raw, A Seat at the Table really felt more like meditation or a healing balm that was undeniably her voice and her story. Read more. Save more.