Pop music's best wasted no time getting into formation this year, with major releases from a galaxy of our brightest stars cluttering the calendar's opening months. But even with so many established huge names taking up space on the marquee, what really made the last twelve months in pop special was how they also found room for the lesser-known little guys; a Desiigner for every Drake, a Kiiara for every Kanye. Soundtracking a period of seemingly limitless real-world disagreement and strife, these artists big and small provided us with rare moments of much-needed unity, ones we all would've actually wanted to freeze time on. Here are the 100 pop songs that pulled us closer in 2016.
(Note: Songs were considered eligible for this list if they were either released in 2016 or peaked on the Hot 100 during that time — unless they already appeared on our 2015 list.)
100. Meghan Trainor, "No"
After decades of men singing to women they know "want it" on the dance floor, Meghan Trainor hits the club and K.O.'s the entitled male ego with one simple word: "No." This song is what happens between "Dear Future Husband" and actually finding that husband – you shut down a lot of bull. — JOE LYNCH
99. Flume feat. Kai, "Never Be Like You"
An EDM apology of such staggering contrition that you almost feel guilty for listening in on it, as guest chanteuse Kai offers to "give anything to change / This fickle minded heart that loves fake shiny things." It sounds more like your own warped perspective on what the other person in a breakup must be thinking rather than the actual other side of the story, but maybe that's why so many people liked it, as it became Aussie producer Flume's first U.S. crossover hit this summer. —ANDREW UNTERBERGER
98. Amber Coffman, "All to Myself"
Becoming one of the underground's most familiar and comforting voices thanks to her work in art-pop collective Dirty Projectors and guest turns on singles by EDM maestros Rusko and Diplo, Amber Coffman finally achieved the titular independence with the gorgeous nu-wop of her solo debut "All to Myself." "Maybe if I step out, go get some sun / Maybe today I'll get something done" she croons tentatively ever a splendidly syrupy electro-waltz, and it's clear that the world is ready when she is. — A.U.
97. Shura, "What's It Gonna Be?"
If Carly Rae Jepsen hadn't taken EMOTION SIDE B for her own 2016 release, Shura could have earned the title with her supercharged set of synth-pop fireworks, Nothing's Real. "What's It Gonna Be?" was the single and likely high point, a dizzying new-wave Tilt-a-Whirl, so exhilarating in its breathless questioning of whether or not the singer's relationship is only going on in her head that it almost doesn't matter whether or not it actually is. — A.U.
96. Gucci Mane, "Waybach"
Legend has it that when Gucci Mane was released from federal prison this May after nearly three years behind bars, it took him just six days to record his comeback album, Everybody Looking, with his two closest producers, Zaytoven and Mike WiLL Made-It. So it makes sense that one of the album's standout tracks is a co-credit between the two beatmakers, with the rapper dedicating the hook to his friendship with each. "Waybach" pulses with swagger as Gucci matter-of-factly reclaims his crown while bestowing Zaytoven with the highest honor in hip-hop: "I'd rather rap a Zay track than a Dre track." Ride it out. — DAN RYS
95. Britney Spears, "Do You Wanna Come Over?"
A throbbing, soda-popping and unmistakably menacing Pharrell beat puts Britney Spears in Predator Mode on this Glory should-be-single, simultaneously seductive and terrifying as Brit declares "Nobody should be alone if they don't have to be," not allowing for a ton of choice in the matter. Lord help us all if your answer's no. — A.U.
94. Kings of Leon, "Waste a Moment"
The first single from Kings of Leon's WALLS served as the rock stars' comeback declaration, and while its breeziness offers subtler thrills than the stadium bravado of “Use Somebody” or “Sex On Fire,” the loping bass, pounding drums and shout-along chorus prove it a moment worth reveling in just the same. — TAYLOR WEATHERBY
93. Kelsea Ballerini, "Peter Pan"
After Kelsea Ballerini’s cutesy-by-comparison breakout single, the country princess showed her more vulnerable side with a ballad telling of her problems with boyfriend immaturity. Her vocals are undeniably pretty, but it's Ballerini’s songwriting that really pierces through, with her masterful use of the titular metaphor: "You're always gonna fly away, just because you know you can/ You're never gonna learn there's no such place as Neverland." — T.W.
92. Lil Yachty feat. Quavo, Skippa da Flippa & Young Thug, "Minnesota" (Remix)
Undoubtedly the weirdest song to ever anchor a Sprite commercial, Lil Yachty's original falsetto-laden "Minnesota" was plenty inviting on its own. But the song's remix, featuring a star trio of Yachty's ATLien brethren, elevates the song to a new stratosphere of virality, Quavo in particular so overcome with the song's oddball spirit that he can't stop chirping: "I LOVE MY MOTOROLA!" — A.U.
91. Selena Gomez, "Hands to Myself"
Breathy, sexy fun, and Selena Gomez's quivering delivery of the coy lyrics makes you really believe she literally cannot let her hands stay idle. It also contains quite possibly the best throwaway line of the year, where she cleverly undercuts her own oft-repeated chorus insistence: "I mean, I could, but why would I want to?" — KATIE ATKINSON
90. Colleen Green, "U Coulda Been an A"
Ramones-esque sun-punk mixes with Cars-like new-wave sheen and Sesame Street-style alphabetics, and the blend is just as elementally irresistible as any of its components. There's a reason why not a lot of people get away with wearing shades all the time, and another reason why Colleen Green — like her sunglasses-at-night predecessors Joey and Ric — can get away with whatever she damn well pleases. — A.U.
89. Against the Current, "Running With the Wild Things"
Punk band with an ear for pop… or pop band with punk instincts? It’s tough to peg these YouTube stars-turned-world-touring dynamos across their Fueled By Ramen debut, but while Against the Current's barnstorming opener to debut album In Our Bones has hooks to spare, it’s their rock side that leaves the chest-pummeling impact. — CHRIS PAYNE
Just when you think nothing could match Enrique Iglesias' 2014 smash hit "Bailando," he and Wisin drop the sultry pop-reggaetón track "Duele el corazón," which had us hooked from the first listen with its hummable riff and catchy, playful lyrics. Whether on the radio, on television, or on YouTube, the Latin Grammy-nominated and chart-topping song was blasting all summer long. — GRISELDA FLORES
87. Tegan and Sara, "Boyfriend"
Today in pop singles that should have been massive hits: After working with Greg Kurstin for portions of 2013’s Heartthrob, Tegan and Sara Quin team with the producer for 10 shimmering synth-pop gems, including this infectious tale of being in a relationship that’s everything but public, topped off by a towering chorus. — KEVIN RUTHERFORD
86. Panic! At the Disco, "Victorious"
Chart-topping fifth album Death of a Bachelor validated Panic! At the Disco's decision to shed whatever remained of their pop-punk preciousness for the brand of cacophonous turbo-rock they currently sport, and lead single "Victorious" is the LP's finest showcase of the kind of arena-ready hooks and casually operatic vocals that would make frontman Brendon Urie's idol Freddie Mercury proud. They are the champions, my friend. — A.U.
85. Unders, "Syria"
Coming courtesy of Dutch DJ Unders (real name: Duncan Meulema), this Eastern-influenced deep house gem commences with a lurking guitar line and woodwind drones, before sidewinding into an infectious melodic groove midway through. With Unders emerging as a staple of freeform festivals like Burning Man (where he made a rite of passage debut aboard the Robot Heart bus last year) and Afrika Burn, it’s little wonder the eight-minute odyssey arrives playa-ready. — MATT MEDVED
84. Travis Scott & Young Thug feat. Quavo, "Pick Up the Phone"
“Hotline Bling” without cynicism. About two people removed from a peak sing-rap posse cut, Travis, Thugger, and Quavo share surprisingly romantic bars (“Never will I cheat on you, never will I commit treason,” croons Jeffrey — a maxim Donald Trump might be able to learn from) over a beat that’s both charmingly chaotic and snappy enough for radio. In the age of “Black Beatles,” a messy rollout might have been the only thing that kept its Hot 100 peak at a relatively modest no. 43. — NATALIE WEINER
83. Børns, "American Money"
"There's no time to sleep, living in a dream." The sinewy Michigan rocker Børns, who broke out in 2015 with his re-released glam anthem "Electric Love," followed that up this year with the seductive "American Money," a "wonderful pleasure" of a ballad that was remixed, by AWAY, for an even richer experience. — LESLIE RICHIN
82. YG feat. Nipsey Hussle, "FDT"
The year's most direct protest song would've risked over-simplification if not for the fundamental cartoonishness of its subject matter -- who can even be heard in the song's early SoundCloud incarnation, via sample, hoisting his own petard. Released before most musicians seemed to even put together that this was a real thing that was happening, YG and Nipsey Hussle opened the floodgates for a torrent of anti-Trump agit-pop, but nobody else could've said it as well as they did the first time. — A.U.
81. Warpaint, "New Song"
Over their three-album history, this Los Angeles quartet built a reputation for heady, hypnotic guitar music. But on this startling single — the lead cut from their 2016 self-tiled album — the women of Warpaint also proved they could be hypnotically catchy, moreso than most of their indie-rock competitors managed to be in 2016. — C.P.
80. Låpsley, "Operator (He Doesn't Call Me)"
Hard to decide what's more out of step with 2016: A dance song that eschews drops and trops for analog instrumentation and disco glitz, or one that pretends that dialing operators is still even a thing. Nonetheless, the throwback heartache of British diva Låpsley is so expertly charming -- from a singer-songwriter who was barely alive for the movie 54, let alone the actual Studio -- that it'll actually make you nostalgic for the sound of a busy signal. — A.U.
79. Anohni, "Drone Bomb Me"
You know that thing where you're so guilty about your implicit culpability in a military-industrial complex that indiscriminately kills innocent people by remote that you almost wish you yourself were dead? No? Well, you will after listening to Anohni's shimmering, gorgeous electro-pop masterpiece, which finds brand-new levels of beauty in socio-political awareness. — J. Lynch
78. Domo Genesis feat. Anderson .Paak, "Dapper"
It was a big year for disco-adjacent rap (see: Mac Miller’s “Dang!” and Goldlink’s “Unique,” both also featuring — surprise! — Anderson .Paak), but there was no more jubilant 2016 exercise in the genre than Domo Genesis’ breezy “Dapper.” Built on a sample from Philly soul pillar Dexter Wansel, the song is nevertheless as bright as the Odd Future member’s native L.A. — if you’re not both smiling and dancing when you hear it, your speakers probably just don’t have enough bass. — N.W.
77. Alessia Cara, "Scars to Your Beautiful"
Body-positivity anthems typically don't get this dark, but on "Scars To Your Beautiful," Alessia Cara isn't afraid to talk cutting, tears and eating disorders, before getting to the uplifting chorus, where she delivers some of the most empowering, horizon-expanding lyrics of this year: "You don't have to change a thing / The world could change its heart." — J. Lynch
76. Mitski, "Your Best American Girl"
If there’s an album that’s going to revive your interest in indie rock this year, it’s Mitski’s Puberty 2 — largely due to its willingness to smash the tropes that’ve stagnated the genre. On album centerpiece “Your Best American Girl,” the half-American, half-Japanese songwriter ingeniously hijacks token fuzzy '90s-alt guitars for her paean to coming to peace with never being someone’s idealized sweetheart, and maybe not even really wanting to. — C.P.
75. Bon Iver, "33 'GOD'"
This is what hanging out with Kanye West gets you: A fractured piano ballad that sets up a call-and-response between Justin Vernon's signature ghostly vocals and a malfunctioning robot over blown-speaker beats, in a song whose title may or may not be a reference to Jesus' age at his death, with lyrics that are inscrutable at best. We'll be unpacking this one for years; check and mate, Justin. — GIL KAUFMAN
74. Kevin Gates, "2 Phones"
Why does Kevin Gates have two phones, you may wonder? And does he need two phones, or, in fact, might he need an even greater number? These long-burning questions are among those addressed on the rapper’s biggest hit to date, which stacks three quick-witted Gates verses in between a sing-song chorus that’s both enormous and undeniably informative. — JASON LIPSHUTZ
73. Jimmy Eat World, "Get Right"
Sure, like some pop megastars, you loved “The Middle” when you were younger, but Jimmy Eat World’s strong showing on this year’s Integrity Blues does everything in its power to dissociate the band from the word “nostalgia." “Get Right” barrels along with chugging guitars and a howling Jim Adkins; it’s the sound of the Arizona band more in touch with its early days than it’s been in ages. The big difference — their frontman sure wasn’t hitting these notes back in ’96. — C.P.
72. Tinashe, "Superlove"
Flashing back to the mid-'90s days when Miami bass funk mixed with freestyle ingenuousness for impossibly sweet dance-pop hits from the likes of Ghost Down DJ's and INOJ, Tinashe hit the beach for her sunniest single yet, the kind of irresistibly heartbreaking summer-love song that pretends it can't see fall coming around the corner. The fact that "My Boo" still managed to be a bigger 2016 hit than this must've been pretty sobering for pop's most undervalued star. — A.U.
71. JoJo feat. Wiz Khalifa, "Fuck Apologies"
JoJo's big comeback this year was greeted with "queen"-level adoration for good reason: Her new album Mad Love was filled with the kind of diva-level vocals her fans remembered, both on epic ballads and flat-out badass grooves like this one. With its staccato guitar strut and JoJo's enjoyably dry wit ("I would say sorry if I really meant it"), "Fuck Apologies" could be a retort to a cheating boyfriend, or a strike back at her former label overlords, but it doesn't really matter -- it's the, well, unapologetic tell-off we all wish we had to throw in the faces of haters. — REBECCA MILZOFF
70. M83 feat. Mai Lan, "Go!"
Instead of trying to top the arena-igniting 2011 single “Midnight City,” M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez turned away from mountainous ‘80s synths on this year’s Junk and toward the cheesy appeal of retro FM radio. On “Go!,” Mai Lan offers a stuttering vocal performance that blooms on the disco-funked chorus, but it’s a Steve Vai guitar solo in the back half that makes this a career highlight. — J. Lipshutz
69. Kiiara, "Gold"
With Lorde (hopefully) still working on her much-anticipated second LP, Kiiara stepped in with the minimalist snap-pop jam of the year -- giving everyone "Royals" flashbacks, right down to the gold teeth. Still, not even Ella Yelich-O'Connor ever boasted a groove or chorus this cold, with the booming simplicity of early Run-DMC and the tech-garbled vocals of prime Art of Noise. — A.U.
68. Flo Rida, "My House"
While there’s not really a Flo Rida song in existence that doesn’t make you want to throw a house party, he finally literally made a song about one in 2016 – and thanks to the bumping piano-based hooks and unsurprisingly catchy chorus, now the urge is more real than ever. Sometimes you gotta stay in, especially when Flo’s on. — T.W.
67. Anderson .Paak feat. ScHoolboy Q, "Am I Wrong?"
West Coast singer/rapper/musician Anderson .Paak not only scored features on six tracks from Dr. Dre's 2015 Compton project, but made joyful noise in 2016 with his groovy sophomore effort Malibu. A highlight from his latest LP was the ScHoolboy Q-assisted single "Am I Wrong," a feel-good jam that finds the smooth headliner asking, "Am I wrong to assume that if she can't dance then she can't ooh?" The soundtrack to Google's Pixel phone ad, the body-moving number also peaked at No. 5 on Billboard’s Twitter Emerging Artists chart in April. — ADELLE PLATON
66. Leonard Cohen, "You Want It Darker" (Paul Kalkbrenner Remix)
Leonard Cohen might've been able to take Berlin a lot earlier if he'd previously enlisted German techno producer Paul Kalkbrenner as his lieutenant, who throws black-light paint all over the funereal title track to the legendary singer-songwriter's 2016 album here, and takes him out for one final spin on the dance floor. For an artist whose final statement could be downright overwhelming in its sense of mortality, it's pretty gratifying to hear that voice equally at home on top of a beat that crackles with life. — A.U.
65. Deorro feat. Elvis Crespo, "Bailar"
DJ Deorro grew up listening to, of all things, Elvis Crespo, courtesy of his DJ dad who’d play the Dominican star’s high-voltage merengue at quinceañeras and weddings in Southern California. Fast forward nearly 20 years and you can hear again why Crespo’s “Suavemente” was a huge global hit that back in the day -- even making it onto the Hot 100. “Bailar” is a love letter to its source of inspiration, beginning with Crespo’s trademark, nasal call, then devolving into an irresistible dance beat that marries merengue to EDM. Over 4 million Shazams can’t be wrong. — LEILA COBO
64. Bruno Mars, "24K Magic"
Working with funk vibes reminiscent of his recent trip Uptown, Bruno Mars managed to create another bonafide hip-shaker with his first solo single since 2012. While it hasn't quite yet matched the “magic” that his Mark Ronson guest turn had commercially, the similarly infectious beat and James Brown-worthy vocal exhortations make this a great party-starting backup. — T.W.
63. Gallant, "Talking to Myself"
Gallant produced one of the best dbeuts of 2016, and a large part of that has to do with opener "Talking to Myself." If its initial stilted piano line is what first grabs listener attention, it's the soaring hook that really sticks in the brain and refuses to let go; it's not until a few listens later that the desperation and heaviness of the lyrics begin to sink in. On such a lushly produced album, the use of space and dynamics makes "Talking to Myself" an outlier, and one of the easy highlights. — D.R.
62. Twenty One Pilots, "Stressed Out"
For a definitively Millennial duo, it's still crazy how much Twenty One Pilots' first true crossover smash mostly reminds of enjoyably junky late-'90s bands like Citizen King and Bran Van 3000; alt-based acts who sprinkled in hip-hop influences and electronic sensibilities to better complain about how dull their lives were. Of course most of those bands only had one hit, the fact that "Stressed Out" wasn't even 21P's only No. 2 hit on the Hot 100 this year shows how much more proficient Tyler and Josh are at tapping into adolescent insecurity with blockbuster bombast. — A.U.
61. Beyonce feat. Jack White, "Don't Hurt Yourself"
One of the best of the less-famous cuts from Lemonade, the Jack White-featuring “Don’t Hurt Yourself" is a sexy, primitive howl of Nashville grit. White’s signature sonic tremors and hisses -- accents that, as he'll undoubtedly tell you, only come from recording on genuine analog equipment -- make it easy to forget this Best Rock Performance Grammy nominee is technically on a Beyonce pop album. — SHIRA KARSEN
60. Beck, "Wow"
Serving as the follow-up to Beck’s brightly colored rocker “Dreams,” the appropriately titled “Wow” is a sonic journey whose booming beat and half-rapped vocals take listeners back to the artist’s hip-hop roots. Bursting with warped hooks, the single is surprising and enticing enough to keep fans entertained, as Beck’s upcoming album release date continues to inch farther away. — LYNDSEY HAVENS
59. ScHoolboy Q feat. Kanye West, "THat Part"
The narcotically slurred and stuttered single from his Blank Face LP, "THat Part" is quintessential ScHoolboy Q, down to the AutoCorrect-baiting capitalization of the title. But the TDE rapper wisely cedes the latter portion of the song to a peerlessly red-eyed turn from his star guest, in full hanh mode as he compares himself to Kobe and Ice Cube and uses the biggest '90s scandal of 2016 to troll his own spouse: "Wifey gonna kill me / She the female O.J.!" — A.U.
58. Little Mix, "Shout Out to My Ex"
The ladies of Little Mix were mere children when the Spice Girls' "Wannabe" came out, but the original purveyors of girl power would likely approve of this snappy pop kiss-off. It's a smart showcase for the foursome's talents, with a bright, rhythmic intro recalling Little Mix's a capella performances, before building to a power-chord-pumped unison chorus that demands to be sung at the top of one's lungs --- preferably as a kick-off to an epic night out. — R.M.
57. Sia feat. Miguel & Queen Latifah, "Satisfied"
Sia, Miguel and Queen Latifah may never be “Satisfied” on the Hamilton Mixtape version of this track, but we most certainly are with the results. The dynamic production mixed with the trio's powerhouse vocals put a super-cool twist on the already phenomenal original. — ALEXA SHOUNEYIA
56. Major Lazer feat. Justin Bieber and Mø, "Cold Water"
Capitalizing on their Grammy success with “Where Are U Now,” the dream team of Justin Bieber and Diplo reunited to crash the top 10 again with this much-gentler EDM hit. It doesn't pack the wallop of their Jack U drop, but between Bieber and Mø's smooth vocals and Diplo's synth-horn breakdowns, there's no denying this is still a total banger. — T.W.
Intertwined with Desiigner's breakout smash "Panda," Kanye West's bouncy gem "Father, Stretch My Hands" was an arena staple, and cemented Metro Boomin as the most trustworthy producer in the game. From Desiigner's ad-libs to the soulful gospel choir and Kanye's AutoTuned plea to "just feel liberated," the Life of Pablo standout was a spiritual sound trip. — A.P.
54. Margaret Glaspy, "Emotions and Math"
Stripped-down and a little grungy, this song’s lo-fi aesthetic belies just how catchy it is. It’s the title track off Glaspy’s 2016 debut album, and packed with hooks and all-too-relatable lyrics ("I’m a woman acting like a kid”) that serve as the perfect template for their creator’s unexpected and evocative voice. — N.W.
53. Chris Stapleton, "Nobody to Blame"
The musical equivalent of a victory lap, after Chris Stapleton's epic breakthrough at the end of 2015 came with a surprise No. 1 album (Traveller) and total CMA Awards domination. This year, he cemented his place with two Grammy wins and this perfect blues-rock single -- so you have nobody to blame but yourself if you're still sleeping on this country troubadour. – K.A.
52. John Legend feat. Chance the Rapper, "Penthouse Floor"
John Legend is a lot of things, but fans and skeptics alike can agree on one thing he is not: funky. Well, at least he wasn't — then he released this ode to the high-life, driven by Pino Palladino (bass) and Chris Dave (drums), the same pair behind the grooves on Adele’s 21 and D’Angelo’s Black Messiah). The unshakable beat smartly gives Legend a little room to stretch out, and not even a typically witty Chance verse can steal the show. — N.W.
51. Rihanna, "Kiss It Better"
Been waitin’ on that sunshine, and RiRi definitely brings it back with this electrifying ballad and early ANTI climax. Whether you’re getting ready for a night out or just Netflix and chillin’, this mid-tempo, bad gal gem was definitely a go-to track for 2016. — A.S.
50. Phantogram, "You Don't Get Me High Anymore"
Love as the drug was already an overused metaphor back in the days of Roxy Music, but New York duo Phantogram pulled a narco bait-and-switch with this sample-heavy goth-pop single's heavy-lidded chorus: "Used to take one/ Now it takes four/ You don't get me high anymore." What sounds (and feels) like a song about the initial rush of passion fading into dead-eyed boredom is, according to them, about the numbing effects of predictable pop culture and their search for a new kind of drug -- in which case, four certainly seems like a lot. — G.K.
49. James Blake feat. Bon Iver, "I Need a Forest Fire"
The fusion of James Blake’s dreamlike production and Bon Iver’s chilling vocals result in this haunting track, off Blake’s surprise 2016 album The Colour In Anything, which reached No. 36 on the Billboard 200. The already emotive song grows even more dense towards its end as both instrumental and vocal vigor increase, ultimately engulfing the whole production. — L.H.
48. Kungs vs. Cookin' on 3 Burners, "This Girl"
The horn blasts that serve as the de facto chorus to this blazing, U.K. smash remix of a forgotten 2009 soul-pop gem sound like an invading armada, trumpeting its own arrival to crash U.S. pop's top 10 — though somehow, "This Girl" was ultimately held at No. 26 on the Hot 100. No matter: Kungs and Cookin' on 3 Burners will just have to soundtrack a kickass boat party in pop's international waters instead. — A.U.
47. Daya, "Sit Still, Look Pretty"
Given the reactionary political climate, we can at least find solace in a teenage girl unabashedly blasting anyone "dreaming of picket fences and trophy wives" on her second solo single and scoring a top 40 hit in the process. The catchy whistling and handclaps don't hurt, either. — J. Lynch
46. J Balvin feat. BIA and Pharrell, "Safari"
J Balvin's "Safari" is the kind of song that you never tire of hearing. While the Colombian singer is known for his reggaetón tracks, the infectious beat of this reggae-infused tune obviously stands out from the rest of Balvin's album, Energía. And gotta admit, listening to Pharrell sing in español is a real treat. — G.F.
45. Chance the Rapper feat. Kanye West & Chicago Children's Choir, "All We Got"
The leadoff batter in Chance the Rapper's Cubs-like Coloring Book lineup, Chancellor quickly ensures you don't confuse "All We Got" with some lightweight singles hitter: "This ain't no intro, this the entrée." Quickly swelling to include an earthquake of synth-bass blasts and a swarm of flitting trumpets, an Auto-Tuned Kanye shows up in the midst of the largesse to sum up the reason for the season: "Music is all we got / So we might as well give it all we got." Championship or bust in 2016. — A.U.
44. DNCE, "Cake By the Ocean"
Joe Jonas' group took a song about basically nothing, put a blistering pop-funk beat behind it, added some major scream-along hooks, and emerged with a top 10 smash to rival anything little bro has produced on his own. Even if you still can't get past DNCE's seaside-dessert logistics, you know this song has made you want to throw a beach party at least once. — T.W.
43. Angel Olsen, "Shut Up Kiss Me"
Indie-rock auteur Angel Olsen won’t take no for an answer on her most single-ready release yet, and although she may not get what she wants romantically, the clingy urgency of the chorus -- as well as its relentlessly driving guitar strums -- cannot be ignored. — K.R.
42. Shawn Mendes, "Treat You Better"
Former Vine star Shawn Mendes was determined to make an early jump into singer-songwriter maturity with second album Illuminate -- and its chart-busting lead single, the tightly coiled ode to romantic frustration "Treat You Better," certainly did the trick. Still, despite all Mendes' claims to being the "gentleman" his intended deserves, he doesn't try to hide the adolescent petulance the situation has him reduced to, sounding like a 12-year-old fighting with his brother as he shouts: "I know I can treat you better / Better than he can!" — A.U.
41. DJ Snake feat. Justin Bieber, "Let Me Love You"
Quite possibly the sweetest, most romantic EDM hit of the decade, with DJ Snake's lush production providing the perfect foundation for Justin Bieber's pleading lyrics. We got a taste of what Bieber could do over a dance beat last year, and his work with Snake and Major Lazer in 2016 made his status as a fixture in the electronic world official. – K.A.
40. David Bowie, "Lazarus"
"Look up here, I'm in heaven." David Bowie's likely final gift to the Hot 100's top 40 -- never say never with the Thin White Duke -- is as otherworldly as you'd hope, a dubby, sax-soaked, between-mortal-coils transmission that sounds like its artist coming to peace with something, if only just his clumsiness with his cell phone. "Ain't that just like me?" he asks rhetorically, as if the rest of us stuck on this side of the cosmos could ever hope to totally understand. — A.U.
39. The 1975, "A Change of Heart"
Synth-pop sophistication worthy of OMD or Prefab Sprout, down to the quietly devastating lyrics about what happens when hungry eyes get overfed: "You used to have a face straight out of a magazine / Now you just look like anyone / I just had a change of heart." As narcissistic and thoughtless as any young person in a relationship, 1975 frontman Matt Healy is ultimately absolved by the group's pulsing, breathing backing track, assuring him he'll live to dance another day. — A.U.
38. Miranda Lambert, "Vice"
Whether you choose to believe Miranda Lambert's double-disc The Weight of These Wings is her breakup album or not, the album's first single oozes more alcohol-fueled dark thoughts and bad choices than entire LPs from some of her contemporaries. "It's gone before it ever melts the ice/ Another vice," she sings in her bass-heavy lament about "where the numb meets the lonely." Nashville wasn't sure how it felt about the polarizingly blunt song chronicling the sometimes-messy way this woman deals with heartache, which likely suited Lambert just fine. — G.K.
37. Zayn, "Pillowtalk"
Expectations were sky-high for the first single from One Direction’s first member to go solo, and by breaking away from shiny pop-rock, new R&B disciple Zayn Malik delivered. “Pillowtalk” is a classic example of grown-up child star screaming “I’m having sex now!” into a microphone, but the single convincingly smolders during its drum-heavy hook, and Zayn’s quivering proclamations of “seeing the pain, seeing the pleasure” successfully break him free of his boy-band roots – and introduced him to the top of the Hot 100 before any of his former bandmates. — J. Lipshutz
36. Fat Joe & Remy Ma feat. French Montana & Infared, "All the Way Up"
Fat Joe and Remy Ma brought back the Terror Squad glory days of 2000s New York hip-hop with their anthemic hit "All The Way Up," co-starring Infared and French Montana. The infectious hit not only soundtracked graduations and had acting legend Samuel L. Jackson singing along at the 2016 BET Awards, it also soared to No. 9 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Songs chart, thanks to a remix from a usually low-key Jay Z. — A.P.
35. Lady Gaga, "Million Reasons"
Lady Gaga’s power ballad “Million Reasons” speaks to a universal human ache, to make the same mistakes yet again in the fairy-tale hope that the result will finally go our way this time, since it would be so sweet if they did. They won’t, of course, and her traffic-stopping vocal delivery perfectly encapsulates our longing for the impossible. — RENA GROSS
34. Justin Bieber, "Love Yourself"
A muted, beatless breakup ballad whose general saltiness guarantees it's now definitely too late for Justin Bieber to say sorry, "Love Yourself" became the year's biggest Hot 100 hit on the strength of classic I'm-not-obsessing-you're-obsessing lyrics like "I didn't wanna write a song/ 'Coz I didn't want anyone thinking I still care/ I don't." But rather than come off as the gentleman protesting too much, the song's impressively relaxed vibe ensures that it's just enough — Bieb and buddy Ed Sheeran simply stating the facts, while the trumpet solo takes care of the rest. — A.U.
33. Justin Timberlake, "Can't Stop the Feeling!"
Unlike the suave R&B Justin Timberlake channeled with The 20/20 Experience, he went straight for the disco end of the dance floor on his chart-conquering Trolls soundtrack contribution. Even if you can somehow manage to stop the feeling, the rhythm is eventually gonna get you to dance, dance, dance to this one. — T.W.
32. Drake feat. Rihanna, "Too Good"
Drake hit the jackpot with the dancehall sound of "One Dance," but the addition of Caribbean queen Rihanna on this dueling duet takes his island vibe to the next level. Don't be fooled by the Views track's sunny beat, though: These two should really break up, if they know what's good for them. – K.A.
31. Twenty One Pilots, "Heathens"
"Heathens" might come from the soundtrack to a DC film, but it's truly a marvel on several counts: It's a radio hit with lyrics sharp enough to nearly qualify as poetry, and a rap-rock mélange that's effortlessly melodic and endlessly listenable. — J. Lynch
30. Mike Posner, "I Took a Pill in Ibiza" (SeeB Remix)
The weirdness of 2016 might be best encapsulated by Mike Posner earning his first Hot 100 top 10 in nearly six years -- and ending the year with a Grammy nomination for Song of the Year -- for a song lamenting his status as "a singer who already blew his shot." That’s due in part to the power of SeeB’s buoyant, tropical house-flavored remix, but the cautionary tale of post-fame and excess drives it home, even as it ironically became Posner’s biggest hit yet. — K.R.
29. The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey, "Closer"
The year's longest-running No. 1 on the Hot 100 was as predictable a smash as they come: Perfectly played duet drama, an immediately recognizable hook — maybe a little too instantly recognizable — and a Blink-182 reference that made every Millennial listening nod with begrudging respect. Overplay might've done The Chainsmokers and Halsey a temporary disservice, but just wait for the emotional rush that hits in 2025 when you're hanging in a hotel bar and hear this for the first time in years. — A.U.
28. Frank Ocean, "Nikes"
As the first song on the most highly-anticipated album since D'Angelo re-emerged with Black Messiah, "Nikes" was always going to be heavily scrutinized -- but as a re-introduction, it worked brilliantly. Its first three minutes are delivered in a pitched-up approximation of a child's voice, picking apart the hidden motives behind the wants and desires of his subject with a sweetly-concealed irony, as a musical dreamscape gently glides underneath. It serves almost as a lullaby of sorts -- which makes the transition to his "real" voice, arriving suddenly for the second verse, that much more effective. "Nikes" proved that Frank Ocean was back, and with a whole new set of emotions to get off his chest. — D.R.
27. The xx, "On Hold"
The xx's first single in three years showed their once-trandemark minimalism now extending to drum-machine shimmies, New Order guitar twinkles and Hall & Oates-sampling drops. Jarring for fans still hoping for a seven-minute version of "Intro," perhaps, but the rest of us are wondering what took the trio so long to realize how well their sweetly dueling vocals, fireplace-in-winter sonic warmth and impossibly easy intimacy translate to AM gold retro-pop. — A.U.
26. Adele, "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)"
There are very few people who can record a pregame sing-a-long about bittersweet forgiveness, but “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)” is just one of many such conflicted turn-ups for the 28-year-old, 10-time Grammy winner. With a jauntiness that feels all too raw, Adele nails the balance between passive aggression towards an undeserving ex (“Send my love to your new lover/ Treat her better”) and unapologetic truth-telling (“I’m giving you up/ I’m forgiving it all/ You set me free”) yet again. — S.K.
25. Rihanna feat. Drake, "Work"
The combination of this power couple not only delivered a sultry island-influenced track, reflective of Rihanna’s Caribbean roots, but an enticing double-video to boot, which has garnered nearly 800 million views. The song itself reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, and remained on the chart for nearly 40 weeks, its hypnotic chorus burrowing its way into the year's subconscious. — L.H.
24. Desiigner, "Panda"
Visions of a black-and-white BMW X6 sparked Desiigner's breakout joyride anthem "Panda." The Brooklyn upstart's spazzy, high-octane bars may have required a Genius.com lyric video to decipher, but the energy was so contagious that Kanye West had to tap the melodic G.O.O.D. Music MC's smash for his own zeitgeist-capturing album. Beyond causing widespread use of a wild Snapchat filter and the panda emoji, the rapper born Sidney Royel Selby III scored his first Hot 100 No. 1 with "Panda," sitting atop the chart for two weeks. — A.P.
23. Beyonce, "Hold Up"
Beyonce’s Lemonade was designed for memes… and tweets… and gifs. But ask anyone the image that defines the album, and you’re likely to see a shot from “Hold Up”: a serene Queen Bey, clad in couture, smashing up a city street. The song itself is similarly straightforward and stunning: Succinctly, it’s chamber dancehall (Diplo produced); less succinctly, it collects all the feelings of being wronged by someone you love — which are wide-ranging enough you need Soulja Boy and The Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Father John Misty and everything in between to express them. It’s the sound of a 95 degree day where you’re standing next to a fire hydrant that Beyonce just busted open with a baseball bat. — N.W.
22. Shakira feat. Maluma, "Chantaje"
Shakira has, of course, moved her hips to great effect in the past. But swaying them alongside hottie newcomer Maluma has proven absolutely combustible: “Chantaje” not only entered the Hot 100, an anomaly for a Spanish-only track, but it’s also become the Spanish language video to most quickly reach over 100 million views on YouTube. Sultry reggaetón with electronic touches, “Chantaje” is the kind of track that sticks after one listen and makes us work up a sweat in the gym. But let’s be honest; that video bathroom scene doesn’t hurt either — who knew urinals could be so sexy? — L.C.
21. Mac Miller feat. Anderson .Paak, "Dang!"
This was the year that Mac Miller grew up, shedding his former frat-rap persona for that of a sensitive young man in search of The Divine Feminine, after years of chasing something much less righteous. The album's first single floats on a jazzy, joyous groove full of handclaps, bubbling bass and Stevie Wonder-esque keyboard squiggles, with an expert assist on the '70s AM radio hook from .Paak. Who knew Mac's maturity could feel this good and sound this great? — G.K.
20. Sia feat. Sean Paul, "Cheap Thrills"
Sia’s bouncy This Is Acting cut was a standout on the album prior to its remix, but after Sean Paul put his Midas touch on “Cheap Thrills,” it became good as gold — and was eventually certified double-Platinum. Sean’s addition provided the song with the slight tune-up it needed, offering a playful twist on the original track’s already dancehall-friendly beat while still honoring the catchy night-out jam Sia whipped up on her own. — T.K.
19. Radiohead, "Burn the Witch"
Radiohead's long-awaited return in 2016 came first via the fraught orchestral tension of "Burn the Witch," whose staccato strings and seething drums provided as much stop-motion drama as the song's claymation video. "This is a low-flying panic attack," frontman Thom Yorke croons at medium apprehension, and after two decades of his band being the standard-bearers for political and social anxiety in rock, he should know better than anyone. — A.U.
18. Kanye West, "Fade"
Even before Teyana Taylor and Iman Shumpert showed up to turn it into an all-time gym classic, "Fade" was one hell of a workout, stitching together samples from Mr. Fingers and The Undisputed Truth into a runway and dance-floor killer that located the religious lift in romantic paranoia. Supposedly it only took Kanye and exercise spotter Ty Dolla $ign five minutes to whip up the track; they could probably make a killing in instructional videos. — A.U.
17. Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna, "This Is What You Came For"
The combination of Calvin Harris and Rihanna is about as surefire as it gets in pop music, starting with the Hot 100-besting "We Found Love" in 2011, followed to the top 10 a year later with "Where Have You Been," and driven home with this latest beguiling mega-collab, which peaked at No. 3 in August. The concept of being desired by the most desirable woman in the room ("Everybody's watching her, but she's looking at you") is one we're guessing Harris can relate to, given his history with pop superstar Taylor Swift — who happens to be a, uh, good friend of co-writer Nils Sjoberg. — K.A.
16. Young M.A, "OOOUUU"
New York City's most infectiously viral hip-hop track since Bobby Shmurda exploded out of Flatbush came from an unknown commodity from Brooklyn named Young M.A, whose sneering rhymes and easy-to-follow flow had "OOOUUU" blasting from car speakers and filling club dance floors all summer long. With endlessly quotable bars laid over a deceptively simple beat, the support of the City's local radio stations and the type of singular personality towards which fans have flocked, Young M.A. and "OOOUUU" brought the phrase "headphanie" to ubiquity -- and to the top 20 of the Hot 100. — D.R.
15. Maren Morris, "My Church"
Talk about finding your religion: On this undeniable singalong, country’s hottest newcome of 2016 takes us to church via this love letter to driving with the windows down, while country radio preaches to your solo choir. Fittingly, it navigated Billboard’s Country Airplay chart for 22 weeks, even earning Maren Morris a trip to the top 10. Not a bad blessing for your first major-label single. — C.P.
14. Beyonce, "Formation"
"You know you that bitch when you start all this conversation." Um, yeah -- not that we ever had cause to question The Queen's ability to keep the dialog moving, but "Formation" did it with samples from Messy Mia and Big Freedia, a music video with Hurricane Katrina footage and Black Lives Matter graffiti, a Black Panther-tributing Super Bowl performance, and a Red Lobster shoutout the entire chain is probably still drunkenly celebrating. Simply put, Beyonce slayed -- with a virtually free-form single whose boingy synths and call-to-arms catchphrasing still rendering it catchier than most radio hits -- and the rest of us spent 2016 reading, writing and raving about it. — A.U.
13. Chance the Rapper feat. 2 Chainz & Lil Wayne, "No Problem"
Chance The Rapper made his resistance to label deals crystal clear with the spunky jam "No Problem," with the help of 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne -- the latter a particularly appropriate guest given his woes with Birdman's Cash Money Records. The jubilant track -- which secured the No. 1 spot on both the R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop charts -- also featured Internet star HaHa Davis, who sets the tone early with the opening line "You don't want zero problems, big fella." The single also appeared on Chance's streaming-exclusive set Coloring Book, the first project to be eligible and consequently nominated for Grammy Awards, proving to the majors just how unstoppable Chance really is. — A.P.
12. Solange, "Cranes in the Sky"
Post-adolescent angst has rarely been as pretty as Solange makes it sound in this delicate, lilting single — which you’re as likely to hear on Hot 97 as at your local coffee shop. An orchestral beat from Raphael Saadiq supports the song’s lyrical quest for serenity, creating a sort of musical safe space for the beautiful, uncluttered respite that Solange spends the single desperately searching for. — N.W.
11. Troye Sivan, "YOUTH"
With a voice that still bears a subtle crack between his alluring lower and yearning upper registers, Troye Sivan was pop's man-child of the year: a star who seemed both fully ready for his moment and intriguingly incomplete. In the first line of this synth-pop gem -- "What if we ran away? What if we left today? What if we said goodbye to safe and sound?" -- Sivan framed himself as the ardent romantic both boys and girls would want: vulnerable, brave, trustworthy, idealistic. The chorus, with its repeated "MY YOUTH," sounds like a mantra for Millennials, but as it builds to an ecstatic electro climax, it turns into the kind of dance-floor magnet even listeners who've already left their 20s couldn't resist. — R.M.
10. A Tribe Called Quest, "We the People..."
Who would've guessed that in a year where Public Enemy hooked up with Rage Against the Machine for the ultimate power-fighting supergroup, it would be a reunited Tribe Called Quest who'd deliver the finest protest song from hip-hop's golden class? From the clever (but not too clever) Black Sabbath sample and spare, old-school beat to lyrics about bald-faced racial and religious bigotry and deportation threats, "We the People" instantly became the national anthem of the anti-Trump nation. “All you black folks, you must go/ All you Mexicans you must go... Muslims and gays, boy we hate your ways,” Q-Tip mews on the chorus, (barely) parodying the sentiments of our future president. Who can come back years later and still hit the shot? These guys, clearly. — G.K.
9. Rihanna, "Needed Me"
We already knew that Rihanna was a savage -- her supreme self-confidence and total lack of f---s to give have made that abundantly clear over the years. But in case you missed the memo, "Needed Me" is the perfect reminder, pairing nihilistic razor-sharp lyrical barbs with a bass-heavy down-tempo beat that could almost be confused with a pained love song -- but only if you weren't paying attention. The way she eviscerates a former lover ("Don't get it twisted / You was just another n---a on the hit list") is delivered so casually and with so much barely-concealed contempt that it can't even be called cocky; she's just stating the truth, and if you haven't caught on by now there's no hope left for catching up. — D.R.
8. Fifth Harmony feat. Ty Dolla $ign, "Work From Home"
Fifth Harmony’s follow-up to its 2015 debut Reflection was always going to feature a maturation of sound and substance, and the fact that sophomore LP 7/27's lead single is packed with sexual innuendos (while not dropping any explicit language) was a logical progression that pop fans saw coming a mile away. But “Work From Home” is much more than cheeky lines about “Ain’t no getting off early!” -- the vocal performances from the quintet are incredibly poised, selling every wink and come-on with a confidence in concept that was missing from the group’s debut. Combined with a pumping chorus that sounds specifically designed for spin classes, and Ty Dolla $ign in full goofball mode on his guest verse (including the world's most dramatic crooning of the word “timesheet”), “Work From Home” puts in extra hours to showcase 5H’s collective charm, and where they’re heading as adult artists. — J. Lipshutz
7. Drake feat. Kyla & WizKid, "One Dance"
"One Dance" earned Drake his long-awaited first No. 1 as a lead artist on the Billboard Hot 100; and the song comfortably sat atop the charts for 10 weeks, most of which while parent LP Views was still in residence at the Billboard 200's peak. With a molasses-sweet-and-slow Kyla hook (lifted from her own "Do You Mind?") and a bouncing, piano-led dancehall groove so hypnotic not even a midsong round of gunfire could break its spell, the tropical track served as an infinitely repeatable summer jam. "You know that I don't play," Drake sings, and the hit's success makes him irrefutable. — L.H.
6. Ariana Grande, "Into You"
Ariana Grande’s Dangerous Woman is rife with provocative lyrics, but the album's second single feels like the sexiest track of them all, because of its seductive bass and the 23-year-old singer’s alluring vocals. Even apart from than the Elvis (or Fall Out Boy?)-borrowed “a little less conversation and a little more touch my body" chorus, though, the lyrics are subtle in their raciness, simply teasing at the quality time to come with her desired object, rather than heading straight for the bedroom. And even if you don't want to follow her up there, "Into You" is catchy and propulsive enough to work just as well on the dance floor. — T.W.
5. Kanye West, "Ultralight Beam"
Before The Life Of Pablo dropped -- back when it was called Swish, or maybe Waves -- Kanye said he was making a gospel album. Given Mr. West’s penchant for hyperbole, people scoffed; then, on February 11, he opened his listening party/fashion show at Madison Square Garden with a sample of a viral video of a four-year-old talking about God. Then a lone synth, then The-Dream, then Kanye, praying. The song built, but the climaxes didn’t come from West himself — instead, he receded into the background as Kelly Price, Chance The Rapper, and Kirk Franklin offered spine-tingling sermons in turn.
In a year when everything appears to be coming apart at the seams, Kanye offered community, togetherness and hope — a musical statement completely in opposition to most of the year’s politics, in spite of his stated affinity for the president-elect. Hopefully in 2017 he’ll go back to pursuing change we can believe in — like most of his’s best songs, this sounds nothing like a Kanye song — and let artists everywhere keep feeling like Chance: “I met Kanye West, I’m never going to fail.” — N.W.
4. The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk, "Starboy"
Centric pop with frayed edges has been the M.O. for The Weeknd ever since he first signed on to the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack, and "Starboy" proves the culmination and likely end of that formula. With Daft Punk in tow to provide sighing background vocals and occasionally drift the song's production dangerously close to out of frame, the spellbinding night-drive assumes Abel Tesfaye's new alternate identity with the confidence of a star big enough to dictate his own nicknames: Even the opening lines ("I'm tryna put you in the worst mood, ah / P1 cleaner than your church shoes, ah") barely bother setting the scene, since you remember where the movie last left off. "Starboy" might not've been titled to serve as a Ziggy Stardust tribute, but it reflects how, like Bowie, Tesfaye understands the importance of constant evolution in both his music and his image. When he shows up in a white suit doing K-Ci and JoJo covers on his next album, try to act surprised. — A.U.
3. D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty, "Broccoli"
Leave it to Big Baby D.R.A.M. to make his top 40 entrance with a song that turns the most villainous of parent-food into a narcos watchword, and leave it to Lil Boat to one-up that by rhyming "sunshine" with "Colombine" in his guest verse's opening couplet. That was "Broccoli" in 2016: R-rated programming on daytime television, a song that embraced the world's negativity as an opportunity to rise above the fuck shit. The co-headliners spend their verses celebrating their unlikely success with Rodeo Drive shopping sprees and lox-and-bagel breakfasts, while the flute hook instructs the youth of America to follow the duo's pied (and otherwise) piping. The lesson, obviously: Smoke your vegetables, kids. — A.U.
2. Beyonce, "Sorry"
Between "Tell 'em boy bye" memes and the "Becky with the good hair" witchhunt, Beyonce's "Sorry" ignited more online chatter than most non-Trump political campaigns this year. But more importantly, Beyonce executes one miraculous vocal tonal shift after another on "Sorry," going from pissed-off exasperation to dignity at any cost ("Suicide before you see this tear"), to small-voiced vulnerability at the very end. On "Sorry," Beyonce proves your life doesn't have to be perfect for you to remain flawless. — J. Lynch
1. Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane, "Black Beatles"
To say we needed a song like "Black Beatles" at the end of 2016 would be a "Hey Jude"-sized understatement: With the charts stagnant, the surprise-release schedule slowing down and the real world desperately needing distraction, Top 40 was begging for any kind of Invasion. That it came from Atlanta made as much sense as anywhere; years of rapturous reception on the Internet and hip-hop radio to local cult heroes like Future, Young Thug, and yes, no-flexing duo Rae Sremmurd, was bound to culminate with one smash crossing over to all levels of mainstream America. It'd be a song bleeding with raw underground energy and youthful vitality, with hooks enough to co-exist alongside Drake and The Chainsmokers in the pop stratosphere. And in the spectral hopscotch of "Black Beatles" -- featuring the joint blessings of ATL aural architect Mike WiLL Made-It and godfather MC Gucci Mane -- we finally had the song.
An intoxicating mix of futuristic production and retro cultural references that somehow balanced out to sound more like the present than any other song this year, "Black Beatles" was a touchdown before it even got to its instantly iconic opening lines, and just ran up the score from there, winning more hearts with every meme and Fab Four reference. Of course, the rise of "Beatles"-mania happened as rapidly as it did thanks to the Mannequin Challenge, the hyper-viral Internet phenomenon that adapted the song as its unofficial freeze-frame soundtrack, bringing it to the attention of everyone from Michelle Obama to Paul McCartney himself. But the song's rock-star exuberance and mesmeric sonic palette would've eventually seen its momentum snowball to viral proportions regardless. In the end, the swag you take is equal to the swag you make. — A.U.
Listen to Billboard's Spotify playlist of our Top 100 Pop Songs of 2016 below!