Well, that was a year. It’s not what 2016 will be remembered for, but this was the year that streaming broke the charts – or fundamentally changed what they reflect. The structural impact is obvious – TEN records got to number one, meaning we’re back to the 50s as far as turnover goes. The aesthetic impact is more obscure – is the torpor I sense a function of a moody wave in current pop, or the sluggishness of the countdown, or my own elderly disengagement, or all of the above?
Best to worst, as usual. I liked very few of these very much, and even the higher placings don’t reflect much enthusiasm.
LITTLE MIX – “Shout Out To My Ex”: Still don’t quite rate Little Mix as much as many, but the pass-the-mic feel on the verses here is great. And that pretty much wraps it up for upbeat Number 1s in 2016. Into the murk we go.
DRAKE ft KYLA – “One Dance”: One of the words of 2016 was ‘hollowed-out’, used to describe the vengeful remnants of industrial communities after thirty years of neoliberalism. The production on “One Dance” – which is astonishing, definitely the best *music* on this list – is likewise an exhausted shell, just waiting for a narcissist to take advantage of it.
ZAYN – “Pillowtalk”: Overdone and sprawling, but its tangled-sheets shapelessness makes its casserole of rock-meets-trap production ideas seem more interesting than they probably are. Clutched straws or what?
MIKE POSNER – “I Took A Pill In Ibiza”: Might have more impact in a year where every other song wasn’t what-is-a-party-REALLY melancholia, but I like the way this wrong-foots you into thinking it’s going to be a shit parody track before just slithering into glumness.
MAJOR LAZER ft JUSTIN BIEBER – “Cold Water”: A central riff so inert it makes Calvin Harris sound like Scooter, with Bieber doing more of the wheedled concern that made him 2015’s darling. Enough craft to put this in the top half.
CLEAN BANDIT ft ANNE-MARIE – “Rockabye”: Uneasy mix of mawkishness and jauntiness made stranger (and better) by Sean Paul charging in like a particularly empathic bulldog. “DAILY STRUGGLE!”
THE CHAINSMOKERS – “Closer”: Lyrics that evoke the physical, delivery that seems to recoil from it. Like a thinkpiece smugly explaining that while millennials are having more sex than you, it’s inescapably grim and joyless sex.
SHAWN MENDES – “Stitches”: Post-Bieber neg-wave with none of his gross charisma. In the language of our new cultural masters, this guy is a beta
JAMES ARTHUR – “Say You Won’t Let Go”: Messy and tedious, and doubly bad because you get the impression he thinks both those things are wins for realness.
LUKAS GRAHAM – “7 Years”: Almost impossibly annoying. That must have been one bastard of a mirror we broke.