(Okay, so it was mostly doom and gloom.)
The year of our lord 2016 was a quagmire of despair. We lost Bowie. We lost Prince. We lost all faith in mankind and elected an unhinged orangutan whose only policy seems to be scorching all life from planet Earth.
But there are still reasons to get up every day. In desperate times, when our search for reason seems most futile, we would do well to stop our thrashing and find solace in art, in books and films and, of course, in music. Things are dire, yes. There is no denying that. But even in the deepest, darkest caves there is a light shining somewhere. If you find it it will lead to one absolute truth—Beyoncé exists. All is not lost.
Here are my 10 brightest spots in 2016, music-wise. They are not in order, although some meant more to me than others.
Everybody Looking by Gucci Mane
The Gucci Man had a fantastic 2016. Freed from the confines of prison walls and drug abuse, his ninth studio album felt like a fresh start. The production was excellent, with nods going to Mike Will and Zaytoven, and the rhymes were well-crafted, acrobatic, and hopeful, proof that Gucci belongs at the top of the game, and that he doesn’t need to guzzle gallon after gallon of cough syrup to get there.
A Seat at the Table by Solange
Because you don’t always have to be invited to the party in order to appreciate the celebration.
Real by Lydia Loveless
The question of my hometown would come up a lot when I lived on the West Coast. “Where are you from?” is a perfectly reasonable question to ask someone, but my answer was often met with a snort or an “Oh, I’m sorry.” Usually I’d find that the person so disgusted by Columbus, Ohio, had never been there, that it was just one more case of someone thinking they knew what they were talking about.
The Alter by Banks
If there’s anything I like more than a hot chick alone in her room with a mic, it’s a hot chick alone in her room singing into that mic about how marriage is a prison and nobody will ever love her as much as she loves herself.
I’m Up and Slime Season 3 by Young Thug
If 2016 proved anything, it’s that facts no longer matter. Are these albums or mixtapes? Is it acceptable to let two separate releases share one spot on your year-end best-of list? Who cares?! It’s how I feel that matters, and I feel that Young Thug belongs on this list.
Anti by Rihanna
Why is it that Kanye and Jay-Z are allowed to exist in separate spheres, but no one can mention Rihanna without also mentioning Beyoncé? Because this bullshit ass patriarchy grinds women down into nubs, whittles them down until they fit into tidy little compartments they can categorize easily. But be warned, boys: we’re coming for you in 2017. We will grab you by your dicks until each and every one of you have blood coming out of your wherevers.
Tight New Dimension by Mean Jeans
Sometimes it helps to just go out and get fucked up.
Views by Drake
Lots of you wrote this one off as a collection of lullabies, but I’d encourage you to revisit. Someday soon it will be a classic. Also, I know that new swoll physique doesn’t really have anything to do with the music, but I mean goddamn.
Late Nights: Europe by Jeremih
Jeremih was the Calgon bath we so desperately needed this year. When I was my lowest mental and emotional points, Late Nights: Europe was there, waiting to whisk me away into a blunt-smoke paradise full of fat asses and smooth crooning. Thank you, Jeremih.
Lemonade by Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter
What can be said of this woman, our greatest artist, our guiding light? Proudly and unapologetically black. Subversive and sly. Ridiculously good at what she does. A positive role model at the top of her game. Personal and political. All truths, but none of them will be enough for all the straight white men who don’t listen to her music. Look now! There they are, crouched there in the wings, waiting to throw their two rusty cents into her crystalline pool of all that is righteous and good.
Fuck ’em. Beyoncé released one of the best albums OF ALL TIME this year, and she did it all while draped in an invisibility cloak.
I watched Lemonade at 9:00 on a Saturday night, not one minute after it became available on HBO, the holiest of all networks. (Had I not already had access, I would have signed a lifelong contract just to be able to watch for that one hour.) I was in my apartment alone. Prince had died the week before, and I was still nursing the wound of losing him. But then Beyoncé stepped into the street swinging a baseball bat.
It didn’t take away my pain—far from it. But the highest of highs tend to shine light on the lowest of lows. The good lord taketh away, yes, but she* also giveth, and if I’m looking for a reason to stay hopeful through all this bullshit, Beyoncé is enough.
*God is God, Beyoncé is not.