For the next few weeks, Amherst Wire entertainment is bringing the best of the decade right to you. We’ve taken the best and most memorable songs of the decade to give you the ultimate nostalgia trip. Check out this installment of our decades playlist below to take a trip back to the middle of the decade.
“Sandcastles” – Beyonce
Julia Donohue, editor
2016 was a year. Between Chance, Solange and Beyonce, finding the best of the year is absolutely impossible. Chance’s “Coloring Book” changed his entire image and allowed him to channel a different sense of self. Solange was and is consistently slept on. “Cranes in the Sky” confronts attempting to distract from pain but how we must look in the mirror. Yet it was Solange’s sister that revolutionized the year. Before “Lemonade,” Beyonce was inarguably a talented performer but her humanity disappeared. With spoken word and intimate discovery, “Sandcastles” and the rest of the album transformed Beyonce into someone real, someone we could touch and relate to despite her enormous wealth. Beyonce acknowledges the women who have worked to build her life and suffers for the art of music. She is a woman pained by experience and grown from the hard work of those who came before her. “And my torturer became my remedy,” in this simple lyric Beyonce becomes an artist.
Other picks: “Blessings” – Chance The Rapper ft. Jamila Woods), “Cranes in the Sky” – Solange
“Ultralight Beam” – Kanye West ft. The-Dream, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin and Chance the Rapper
Jonathan Kermah, editor in chief
Kanye West’s rollout for “The Life of Pablo” was a beautiful disaster. First of all, it was released on solely Tidal, which was a huge inconvenience for any Kanye fan using a different streaming service (but hats off to Jay-Z for the business savvy here). Second, never before had I seen someone release and album and fix it on the fly with updates.
But, even in all the madness, there were a few gems from West on this album. The “Ultralight Beam” live performance on “Saturday Night Live” is what convinced me to bite the bullet and hand over my $9.99 even after the delayed release. I would have never expected to hear The-Dream, Kirk Franklin, Kelly Price and Chance the Rapper on a Kanye song together. Kanye takes the ultimate backseat in this track and let’s a gospel-rap infused masterpiece ensue.
While The-Dream’s vocals are as angelic as ever, and Kelly Price sounds phenomenal backed by a choir, Chance’s verse on here is the show stealer. On an album of this magnitude, Chance takes the time to call his shot before the free, Grammy winning mixtape “Coloring Book” received loads of critical acclaim, and sprinkle in a little bit of alliteration and fun word play with lines like “My daughter look just like Sia, you can’t see her.”
Other picks: “Solo (Reprise)” – André 3000, “Broccoli” – Dram ft. Lil Yachty
“XO Tour Llif3” – Lil Uzi Vert
Trevor Wilson, editor
2016 was loaded with hits. From front to back, from genre to genre. Budding stars flourished and superstars remained at the top of their game. With his infectious, hyper-catchy “XO Tour Llif3,” Lil Uzi Vert crafts one of the anthems of the decade. He’s had his fair share of hits like “Money Longer,” but “XO Tour Llif3” launched Uzi into superstar status, and he has the numbers to back it up. The track is now 7x platinum in the United States and peaked at seven on the Billboard’s Hot 100. There’s no doubt this hit impacted Uzi’s stardom in the best way, and it will remain a timeless bop for decades to come.
Other picks: “Good Drank” – 2 Chainz ft. Gucci Mane and Quavo, “Panda” – Desiigner
“Black Beatles” – Rae Sremmurd ft. Gucci Mane
Brianna Silva, writer
Nobody could have predicted that Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane’s collaboration on “Black Beatles” would become the nation’s next big viral trend. In what was eventually deemed “The Mannequin Challenge,” millions of people — everywhere from regular citizens to celebrities — began to add their own unique take on the challenge of the year. While “Black Beatles” is mostly remembered alongside the trend, the song itself is incredibly catchy with lyrics like, “That girl is a real crowd pleaser / Small world, all of her friends know me / Young bull livin’ like an old geezer / Release the cash, watch it fall slowly.” Reflecting from almost the end of a decade, it’s clear that “Black Beatles” has become immortalized in music history.
Other picks: “Hotline Bling” – Drake, “Side to Side” – Ariana Grande ft. Nicki Minaj
“Stressed Out” – Twenty One Pilots
Nasya Blackshear, writer
After a two-year hiatus, Twenty One Pilots came back swinging with “Stressed Out.” Off their album “Blurryface,” the song “Stressed Out” became a summer hit and a leading single. “Wish we could turn back time / To the good ole days,” is something I think anyone can relate to, speaking to the struggles of getting older and figuring out adulthood. Tyler Joseph uses his quick tongue to rap fast and give an authentic performance, while Joshua Dunn gives a catchy beat that you can move to.
Other picks: “Work” – Rihanna ft. Drake, “Somebody Else” – The 1975
“Closer” – The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey
Kacey Connolly, editor
Halfway through the decade, electronic music began making a comeback. With this, came The Chainsmokers, who broke down the door to fame with their 2016 hit single “Closer” that not only kickstarted their success but Halsey’s as well. I remember the first time I heard this song on the radio and the one million times I would hear it again all throughout the summer. With verses like, “tell your friends it was nice to meet them / but I hope I never see them again” and the iconic chorus, “So baby pull me closer / In the back seat of your Rover / That I know you can’t afford,” The Chainsmokers created a half-grunge, half-EDM track that shed light on the more electronic-like music styles, changing the pop music scene for years to come.
Other picks: “Cheap Thrills” – Sia, “Never Be Like You” – Flume ft. Kai
“Weekend” – Mac Miller ft. Miguel
Chloe Lindahl, writer
“Weekend” is one of Mac Miller’s more haunting songs with a slow, steady beat and his signature sleepy tone. In it he addresses the demons he faced on a daily basis between the pills, alcohol and the pitfalls of fame. It’s message now is more haunting then when it first came out as he sings, “I’ve been having trouble sleeping/Battling these demons/Wondering what’s the thing that keeps me breathing/Is it money, fame or neither” he lets us into the dark side of his world and the dangers of coupling money with addiction. As always his honest account of his substance abuse issues made others feel less alone and his musical talent is highlighted through this entire album. “The Divine Feminine” went on to receive notable appraise from critics who hailed it as some of Miller’s best work yet.
Other picks: “No Problem” – Chance The Rapper ft. 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne, “I Took A Pill In Ibiza” – Mike Posner
“With Them” – Young Thug
Shane Guilfoyle, writer
Young Thug was busy at work in 2016. In March, at SXSW in Austin, a funeral procession appeared on 6th Street. Festival goers stood confused as pallbearers dressed in red and black carried a coffin spray-painted with the phrases “Young Thug” Slime S3ason” and “3.25.16.” This demonstration gave fans an official release date for “Slime Season 3,” and served to ignite hype, which predated to the month prior when Thug played “With Them” during the Yeezy Season 3 show.
The intro chords on “With Them” seizes the ear while Thug promptly jumps into his lyrics, “Thugger Thugger baby / F*** all that let’s get to it, What lil’ shawty say?”
As the track continues, piano keys are overlaid, culminating in a melody that feels equal parts Atlanta and Julliard. Thug remains proficient on this track – presenting an energetic cadence and flow that mirrors the artist’s unique approach to linguistics. It’s lines like “I wanna F*** her but she play more games than the NBA / Monday morning, got a dentist appointment, lil’ b**** you can check out the dentures plate (Check it out) / I got so much jewelry, baby I got so much water this shit like a mini-lake” that helps to remind me that Young Thug is among the greatest of our generation.
Other picks: “The Lost Files” – Lil Yacthy & Digital Nas ft. K$upreme, “Shoot The 3” – Yung Simmie ft. Denzel Curry
“Sleeping Dogs” – Zakk Wylde, Corey Taylor
Adam Buckley, writer
Equal parts forelorn southern rock and Black Label Society , Zakk Wylde builds on his six string skills as a guitarist and to take the vocal spotlight alongside Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman Corey Taylor on “Sleeping Dogs.” Trading verses over melancholic acoustic guitars and organ, Wylde mourns the loss of a relationship with one who’s “Gone, but not forgotten/you cut me down just to watch me bleed.” Taylor works well alongside Wylde, adding power and backup vocals to the soft spoken delivery. Adding to the dual vocal strength, Wylde is in familiar territory with his guitar work, ripping into a familiar trademark shredding climax.
Other picks: “Love Train” – Wolfmother, “Dystopia” – Megadeath
“Self Control” – Frank Ocean
Astghik Dion, editor
Perhaps one of the most unifying moments of this decade was the unwavering joy and excitement felt across the globe when hip-hop/ R&B’s most loved enigma stepped out from the shadows for the first time in four years. When “Channel Orange” was released in 2012, Frank Ocean amassed an incredibly loyal and loving fanbase, making his name after only one studio album as one of the most influential voices of this generation – only to disappear until 2016. The summer of 2016 was nothing short of Christmas for Ocean fans and music lovers alike as he returned with not one, but two projects. The visual album, “Endless” and the studio album “Blonde.”
Although very different in sound from “Channel Orange,” “Blonde” kept all the unsaid promises he had left in 2012 with his lyrics that are nothing short of poetry in disguise, his love for a dreamy and hazy atmosphere and short pauses in the album for conversation. The album incorporates rock elements, a good amount of vocal manipulation for Ocean’s famous two-voice effect and lacking largely in any sort of percussion.
The album is nostalgia. It is growth, youth, fame, love and heartbreak. It is all Ocean learned while he was away, and one of the songs that stuck with his audience the most explores what he learned about infatuation. “Self Control” tells the story of a love affair slowly breaking apart, Ocean going from blaming his partner to blaming himself. The track features Yung Lean and Austin Feinstein of Slow Hollows. It’s a love ballad after the love has left.
Other picks: “High Hopes” – PARTYNEXTDOOR, “Floyd Mayweather”-Young Thug ft. Travis Scott, Gucci Mane, Gunna