The mere uttering of it evokes terror and fear, sending shivers down even the most hardened criminal’s spine.
Icons dropped like flies. Brexit happened. Trump happened. The fuckboy plague increased tenfold.
But when it came to good musical releases 2016 let up a bit, proving it was not entirely relentless.
Behold – twenty five of the year’s strongest albums.
25: Smoove Jones by Mýa
- Genre: R&B.
- Best Bops: “Elevator”, “Phya”, “Circle of Life (Ol’ Skoo’ Joint)”.
- Why It Slays: Eighteen years in the industry and Mýa can still put out sensual and seductive R&B jams like no other. The sultry voiced diva’s seventh album, and seventh independent release, earned her a long overdue but much deserved Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album. Smoove Jones‘s acclaim is a proud and significantly impressive accomplishment for the indie queen, showing that anything is possible and talent always wins.
24: MYSTƐRY EP by LADIES’ CODE
- Genre: K-pop.
- Best Bops: “Galaxy”.
- Why It Slays: MYSTƐRY is unquestionably the most emotional K-pop release of the year. Not so much due to the music, but because it is the group’s first effort since the untimely deaths of members EunB and RiSe. Both girls died after a car accident in 2014, prompting the group’s indefinite hiatus. However, the three survivors were brave enough to return to the K-pop scene with this outstanding release, full of sombre ballads and mature synthpop brilliance.
23: Audacious by CupcakKe
- Genre: Rap.
- Best Bops: “Mistress”, “Spider-Man Dick”, “Birth Mark”.
- Why It Slays: Although many doubters brushed CupcakKe off as a meme rapper, this feisty Chicago chick made it known on her third mixtape in the same year (!!) that she did not come to play. CupcakKe impressively spits her risque, brutally honest bars over tightly produced rap and pop beats, solidifying her status as an MC who could definitely be running with the big dogs if she continues to put out quality releases like this.
22: Alesta by Alexandra Stan
- Genre: Pop, dance.
- Best Bops: “Alone”, “Ecoute”, “Boom Pow”.
- Why It Slays: This criminally underrated European dancefloor icon served nothing but bops on her third album, which saw success almost exclusively in Japan. While Stan has not yet entranced the whole world with her super sweet vocals, queen stays collecting that yen!
21: Mad Love. by JoJo
- Genre: R&B.
- Best Bops: “I Can Only.” (feat. Alessia Cara), “Honest.”, “Reckless.”, “Rise Up.”
- Why It Slays: Mad Love. is JoJo’s insanely anticipated third album, her first in ten years. The triumphant comeback follows a lengthy yet successful court battle with her shady record label, freeing the former child star from musical limbo. Outstanding vocals and stellar production throughout.
20: HIGH HEELS EP by Brave Girls
- Genre: K-pop.
- Best Bops: “Whatever”, “변했어 (Deepened)”.
- Why It Slays: I have been a Brave Girls stan ever since their violent “break ya ankle” command from their 2011 debut “So Sexy”. Unfortunately, they haven’t come up à la EXID or GFriend – yet. But that doesn’t stop the girls from consistently putting out high quality ear worms like the five making up this release, their first mini album in four years. Also, “변했어 (Deepened)” is home to the best K-rap section since Miryo ended careers globally with “Abracadabra” and “Sixth Sense”. Legends only!
19: Fantôme by Utada Hikaru
- Genre: J-pop.
- Best Bops: “道 (Michi)”, “人魚 (Ningyo)”, “ともだち (Tomodachi)”, “荒野の狼 (Kouya no Ookami)”.
- Why It Slays: It still hasn’t sunk in yet that Utada Hikaru finally, finally released a new album. So much has happened since her last Japanese album, the synthpop opus HEART STATION, in 2008. She controversially married an Italian bartender and gave birth to their baby boy, but also suffered the devastating suicide of her mother. The theme of life and death haunts the record, which Hikaru explores with her trademark weird yet wonderful musical mannerisms.
18: Glory by Britney Spears
- Genre: Pop.
- Best Bops: “Man on the Moon”, “Clumsy”, “Love Me Down”, “If I’m Dancing”.
- Why It Slays: After the traumatic experience of 2013’s Britney Jean, it felt like Godney was lost for good. After a successful re calibration, Glory is top tier material and an exquisite encapsulation of everything we love about Knee; infectious hooks mixed with playful lyrics and quirky vocals, blanketed immaculately across luxurious pop production. It’s Britney at her best since Blackout, bitch!
17: Gravity EP by Simonne Jones
- Genre: Scipop.
- Best Bops: “Gravity”, “Spooky Action”.
- Why It Slays: Scientist-turned-pop star Simonne Jones whipped up a storm earlier this year with her quantum physics-laced electropop. Her music and talent is literally out of this world – “Spooky Action” features a self-created sound library made from star pulses. Simonne possesses an incredibly emotive voice which she puts to great use during the title track’s chorus, full of witty scientific metaphors. An album is supposedly coming in 2017, so stay tuned for more flawless intergalactic pop.
16: COSMIC EXPLORER by Perfume
- Genre: Japanese electro.
- Best Bops: “Miracle Worker”, “STORY”, “Baby Face”.
- Why It Slays: Despite containing only seven new tracks, Perfume‘s fifth collection is a phenomenal and worthy addition to the internationally known group’s near-pristine discography. The idea of the girls incorporating a more Western EDM sound doesn’t seem that exciting or groundbreaking, but it was masterfully executed by their producer Nakata Yasutaka aka the Stephen Hawking of pop. “STORY” will leave you eternally wigless, no matter how much glue you affix to it before pressing play.
15: Hepsi Hit, Vol. 1 by Hande Yener
- Genre: Turkish pop/dance.
- Best Bops: “Emrine Amade”, “Deli Bile”, “Vah Vah”, “Bu Kafalya”.
- Why It Slays: Hande Yener is one of Turkey’s biggest singers, and she shows exactly why with her irresistible dance bops and sorrowful love ballads. Every bop on here has the potential to smash, which is appropriate for a studio album cockily titled All Hits.
14: Life In Colour EP by Nina Nesbitt
- Genre: Synth/acoustic pop.
- Best Bops: “Brisbane”, “Los Angeles”.
- Why It Slays: Life In Colour is an extra special body of bops which Nesbitt crafted from tales told to her by fans. The emotion and passion in Nina’s vocal delivery would have you thinking otherwise though. It’s an unusual yet highly intimate method to music making, and one which undoubtedly paid off.
13: After Party by Adore Delano
- Genre: Pop, EDM.
- Best Bops: “I.C.U.”, “Foreign Lover”, “After Party”, “Constellations”.
- Why It Slays: Drag Race contestant Adore Delano proved with her exceptional sophomore album that she is a credible and ferociously talented musician, in possession of a uniquely beautiful singing voice and stellar songwriting skills.
12: Rakipsiz by Demet Akalın
- Genre: Turkish pop/dance.
- Best Bops: “Damga Damga”, “Vereceksen Ver”, “Rakipsiz”, “Kaybedenler Kulübü”.
- Why It Slays: While not as impeccable as 2015’s opus Pirlanta, Akalın distinguished herself as Turkey’s pop queen with Rakipsiz. The hitmaker delivered yet another hugely successful album, overflowing with inevitable monster hit singles and exceptional album cuts your fave would feel blessed to have as their lead single.
11: Nightride by Tinashe
- Genre: R&B.
- Best Bops: “Lucid Dreaming”, “Sacrifices”, “You Don’t Know Me”, “Spacetime”.
- Why It Slays: Nightride is classic Tinasha material – intricate melodies intertwined with unusual synths, tight beats and introspective lyrics dealing with life and the world around us. The singer iconically dropped Nightride with no warning, rumored to be in retaliation to her label’s continuous delays of her enigmatic sophomore album, Joyride. “I will not be ignored“, she warns at the end of “Sacrifices”. The biggest kii? Almost all of the singles Tinasha dropped this year appeared on Nightride, suggesting that throughout the year she had been secretly promoting Nightride instead of Joyride. Tinasha the Scammer indeed!
10: E-MO-TION Side B by Carly Rae Jepsen
- Genre: Gospel
- Best Bops: “First Time”, “Cry”, “Roses”.
- Why It Slays: This is the counterpart to the Bible of modern pop, known colloquially as E-MO-TION. Every one of these leftover tracks is incredible pop perfection, and re asks the question – how is Carly Rae Jepsen not absolutely slaying the charts?! It’s utterly disheartening to witness a true musical injustice like this being committed. Also, Carly did 1989 better than Taylor, and that’s the tea. Stop letting excellent music flop!
9: +30mg EP by Cruel Youth
- Genre: Alt-pop.
- Best Bops: “Mr. Watson”, “Hatefuck”, “Diamond Days”.
- Why It Slays: Bleak bops of despair, angst and hopelessness? Yep, this is definitely 2016 crushed and compounded into an audible format. Depression never sounded so enjoyable.
8: I Remember by AlunaGeorge
- Genre: Electronic.
- Best Bops: “Hold Your Head High”, “I Remember”, “Heartbreak Horizon”, “Wanderlust”.
- Why It Slays: Tragic sales don’t stop this British duo’s sophomore album from being a shining musical moment of the year. Collaborating with renowned bop makers like ZHU and Flume, they took mainstream electro/dance sounds and re imagined them in their signature unconventional style.
7: Act 7 EP by 4minute
- Genre: K-pop.
- Best Bops: “Hate”, “Canvas”.
- Why It Slays: Unbeknownst at the time, Act 7 was devastatingly the group’s farewell release. The Flawless Five obviously wanted to go out with a bang with the adventurous, angry melodies of the Skrillex-produced title track, showcasing exactly what made them one of K-pop’s finest girl groups of their time. 4minute will always be a Hot Issue in my heart!
6: ANTi by Rihanna
- Genre: R&B, pop.
- Best Bops: “Consideration” (feat. SZA), “Desperado”, “Needed Me”.
- Why It Slays: ANTi is Rihanna’s eighth album as a singer but her first album as an artist. Dropping the dancehall-soaked “Work” as the lead single for Riri‘s highly anticipated/delayed #R8 was initially polarizing but ultimately a move of genius; “Work” has become a signature Rihanna hit. ANTi reintroduced Rihanna as an artistic and musical risk taker, who can cover shit in glitter and make it gold regardless of whether Sia wrote it or not.
5: Begin by Lion Babe
- Genre: Neo-soul.
- Best Bops:“Satisfy My Love”, “Hold On”, “Treat Me Like Fire”, “Little Dreamer”.
- Why It Slays: It was December 2012. While researching Vanessa Williams, I read that her daughter, Jillian Hervey, had just dropped a music video for her first single as Lion Babe, “Treat Me Like Fire”. Flash forward to 2016, and at long last I’m holding a physical debut album. Hervey‘s vocals and vibrato are just as distinctive as they were when they first melted through my ears four years ago. But their production has transcended genres, leading to the carving out and evolution of their own one of a kind style. There’s also something extremely poetic about Lion Babe closing their debut album titled Begin with the song that began their journey, and then following it with the haunting lullaby “Little Dreamer”. Four years in the making, this record is the product of unbreakable resilience. Was Begin worth the wait? Did Begin satisfy me and surprise me?
4: Moth by Chairlift
- Genre: Synthpop.
- Best Bops:“Romeo”, “Crying In Public”, “Moth to the Flame”, “Show U Off”.
- Why It Slays: What is it with bands breaking up in 2016 and dropping amazing farewell records? Moth is the third and final album from synthpop wizards Chairlift. The twosome exuded artistic growth and Caroline’s most stunning vocal performances ever. Perhaps it’s a good thing they decided to split after this record, because it is unlikely they would ever top the perfection of Moth.
3: Lemonade by Beyoncé
- Genre: Rock, R&B.
- Best Bops: “Don’t Hurt Yourself” (feat. Jack White), “Sorry”, “6 Inch” (feat. The Weeknd), “Formation”.
- Why It Slays: What can I say? From stealing the Superbowl from Bruno Mars, to career-defining award show performances and Boycott Beyoncé merchandise, King Bey really DID THAT this era with an amped-up version of her iconic 2013 visual album. Life gave Bey lemons, and she turned them into a flawless pitcher of Lemonade. Drink up haters, it sure is tasty!
2: Dangerous Woman by Ariana Grande
- Genre: Pop, dance, acoustic, R&B, reggae, trap, jazz, tropical, 90s house, etc.
- Best Bops: “Moonlight”, “Dangerous Woman”, “Be Alright”, “Into You”, “Side to Side ” (feat. Miki Minach), “Let Me Love You” (No Rap Mix), “Greedy”, “Leave Me Lonely” (feat. Macy Gray), “Everyday” (No Rap Mix), “Sometimes”, “Bad Decisions”, “Touch It”, “Knew Better / Forever Boy”, “Thinking Bout You”, “Step On Up”, “Jason’s Song (Gave It Away)”, “Focus”.
- Why It Slays: Okay so Dangerous Woman is not as adventurous as ANTi or as artistic as Lemonade. But Ari served a delectable array of absolute bops and legitimate hits, successfully challenged her signature “cute” brand and cemented herself as the small pop girl with a huge voice. Plus “Into You” is one of the greatest pop songs ever created, don’t @ me. As if that wasn’t enough, the album has given birth to a fun drinking game – down a Grande-sized espresso martini every time you hear the word ‘dangerous’. You’ll be drunk texting lyrics from “Thinking Bout You” to your ex in no time. Who else but Legendari Grande?
1: Redemption by Dawn Richard
- Genre: D∆WN.
- Best Bops: Everything, but especially “Lilies (Interlude)”.
- Why It Slays: I mean, this is basically a Dawn Richard fan site so this choice was probably quite predictable. But even still, Redemption is genuinely the worthiest contender for this position. From electro-infused bangers like “Black Crimes”, to the gritty rock number “LA” and hard-hitting R&B, Dawn’s music and renowned visuals transcend boundaries. She puts in more effort with her releases and the quest to discover her own sound than the majority of the acts in the Hot 100 combined. Her creativity, talent and ambition is limitless and this record is the remarkable result of that. Redemption is a record for all the dreamers with undying and unbreakable spirits, and a musical middle finger to anybody who doesn’t believe in you. Wig permanently OFF!
And there you have it. Nice work ladies!
But it doesn’t end there though!
Here’s a bunch of other albums from this year which are all very good. They are all notable in their own special, unique way and of course extremely bop heavy! All of these releases deserve a Spotify stream at the very least.
- Ailee – A New Empire
- Ameriie – Drive EP
- Ana Diaz – Lyssna del 1 EP
- Coco Morier – Dreamer
- Fantasia – The Definition Of…
- Femme – Debutante
- Fiestar – A Delicate Sense EP
- Hwayobi – 8
- Hyolyn – It’s Me EP
- Hyomin – Sketch EP
- HyunA – A’wesome EP
- The Jezabels –Synthia
- K. Michelle – More Issues Than Vogue
- Katy Steele – Human
- Keke Palmer – Lauren EP
- King – We Are King
- Kristin Kontrol – X-Communicate
- Lauren Aquilina – Isn’t It Strange?
- Lee Bada – HYPE EP
- Lee Hi – Seoulite EP
- Lizzo – Coconut Oil EP
- LOLO – In Loving Memory of When I Gave a Shit
- Madeline Juno – Salvation
- NAO – For All We Know
- Ngaiire – Blastoma
- Oh Hee Jung – Freckles
- RIRI – I love to sing EP
- Santigold – 99 Cents
- Shura – Nothing’s Real
- Sia – This Is Acting
- Tanika – Out Here
- Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death
- Tweet – Charlene
- TWENTY88 – TWENTY88
- Wild Belle – Dreamland
- Willa – Criminals + Dreamers
- Yuna – Chapters