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16 Best Songs Of 2016: Music Was The Year's Only Saving Grace

12/29/2016 04:36 EST | Updated 12/31/2016 10:06 EST

It's been an awful year in the music world just everywhere else. Bookended by the deaths of legends like David Bowie and George Michael, we also lost artists across the musical spectrum including Leonard Cohen, Phife Dawg, Glenn Frey, Merle Haggard, Maurice White, Sharon Jones and Prince.

But as painful as it was to be a music fan in 2016, it's also been rewarding thanks to the great songs that came out this year —from Bowie's farewell address "Lazarus" which arrived three days before his death to Cohen's "You Want It Darker" just 11 months later.

rihanna drake

In a year marked by a Trumpian "whitelash," black artists took over popular music from the apolitical pop of Drake and the Weeknd to agit-pop by Beyonce and her sister Solange. The year also welcomed a Polaris Prize-winning multi-genre of music from Montrealer Kaytranada, the "Ultralight"-fuelled star turn by Chance the Rapper and even a Tribe Called Quest comeback.

Electronic music kept going strong with great tracks from Canadians like Keys N Krates and indigenous DJ crew A Tribe Called Red, whose "We Are The Halluci Nation" album is sure to rack up well-deserved awards in 2017.

Then there was 2016's best (and least appreciated) album: Rihanna's "Anti," where the superstar turned into a legacy act by blowing off the pop game for good.

Music was maybe the year's only saving grace, and here are the best songs of 2016 (and also a longer Spotify playlist):

  • 16. Leonard Cohen - "You Want It Darker"
  • 15. A Tribe Called Quest
  • 14. Kaytranada - "Glowed Up" ft. Anderson .Paak
  • 13. Keys N Krates - "Nothing But Space" ft. Aqui
  • 12. ANOHNI - "Drone Bomb Me"
  • 11. Savages - "Adore"
  • 10. Rihanna - "Higher"
  • 9. Operators - "Control"
  • 8. A Tribe Called Red - "R.E.D." Ft. Yasiin Bey, Narcy & Black Bear
  • 7. Beyoncé - "Formation"
  • 6. Miike Snow - "Genghis Khan"
  • 4. David Bowie - "Lazarus"
  • 3. Drake - "One Dance" ft. Kyla & Wizkid
  • 2. The Weeknd - "False Alarm"
  • 1. Rihanna - "Needed Me"
  • More Best Songs of 2016
  • Rae Sremmurd - Black Beatles ft. Gucci Mane
  • SOLANGE - Cranes in the Sky
  • Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam - "A 1000 Times"
  • Harrison - "Checkpoint Titanium"
  • Angel Olsen - Shut Up Kiss Me
  • Brasstronaut - Raveshadow
  • Chance the Rapper ft. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne - No Problem
  • Bruno Mars - 24K Magic
  • DJ Snake - Let Me Love You ft. Justin Bieber
  • The xx - On Hold
  • 3:15 A Tribe Called Quest - We The People....
  • Pillowtalk - Zayn
  • Shawn Mendes - Treat You Better