What Was Your No. 1 Spotify Song of the Year? A Billboard Staff Roundtable

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The end of the year always brings with it a time for reflection on the year that was, and for music writers, that mostly entails an abundance of list-making, ranking our favorites from the last 12 months. These lists usually involve a lot of soul-searching, a lot of joyous and painful remembrances, and a lot of guilt over those songs and albums inevitably left behind. What they don't involve, for the most part, is science: When it comes to determining your personal year-end lists, there usually isn't much room for cold, hard data.

That is, until now. This year, Spotify has done listeners the favor of making their year-end lists for them, with Your Top Songs of 2016 playlists (personalized for each user) removing emotion, memory and bias from the equation. Of course, the process is still an imprecise one -- Spotify's catalog is not yet perfect, leading to a couple superstar-sized holes in our playlists, and the exact formula they've used to determine our favorite songs of the year is a bit blurry -- but it's an interesting way to reveal our 2016 favorites that we might not even realize are our favorites, even those first released well before 2016.

Read on to see ten of our staffers reveal what Spotify says their No. 1 song of the year was, as well as one song from their playlist that they never would've expected to see there.

​Lyndsey Havens, Editorial Assistant

Top song: Sufjan Stevens, "Should Have Known Better"

Often times, a specific song will vividly transport you back to a point or place in time. “Should Have Known Better” does that for me. I moved to New York this summer and one of my first weekends here, I was sent to cover the inaugural Panorama Music Festival, where I spent most of the hot and humid days running between stages. I finally caught my breath the moment I walked into the shaded tent within which Sufjan Stevens stood, in all his colorful glory, while this gorgeously serene song poured out of him. Though stripped down, I couldn’t get the haunting vocals and minimalist production out of my head, and proceeded to listen to the track on repeat for weeks.

No idea how that got on there: The Lonely Island feat. Adam Levine, "I'm So Humble"

Jason Lipshutz, Music Editor 

Top song: Rico Nasty feat. Lil Yachty, "Hey Arnold (Remix)" 

I didn’t to a lot of music on Spotify this year (shout-out to Tidal, Lemonade, the entire Prince discography and the Year of our Lord 2016), but, sure, I guess I listened to a lot of “Hey Arnold (Remix)” by Rico Nasty and Lil Yachty on Spotify this year. And why not? It has an amazing drop and a very gross Nickelodeon simile at its core!

No idea how that got on there: Fitz & the Tantrums, "Handclap"
Chalk it up to playlist malleability: “Handclap” sorta works in a pop, rock or dance collection. It also just sorta works on its own; damn you, Fitz, and your maddeningly catchy tantrums.

Joe Lynch, Senior Writer

Top song: RuPaul, "Cover Girl"

Am I surprised a RuPaul song from 2009 is my most-listened-to song on Spotify for 2016? Honestly? No. Beyonce's Lemonade isn't on Spotify, and this was the year I went from a casual, occasional viewer of RuPaul's Drag Race to a rabid consumer of the entire series. Which means Ru's "Cover Girl," her go-to anthem for strutting the runway, became my favorite pre-party playlist song… not to mention the soundtrack to many a Snapchat.

No idea how that got on there: Buddy Collette, "I Want to Be Happy"
My initial reaction was "Wait, who is Buddy Collette? Is he jazz or something?" Turns out: Yes, and I apparently listened to his flute playing on "I Want to Be Happy" quite a bit this year. At press time, I haven't forgotten about this song again.

Chris Payne, Staff Writer 

Top song: The 1975, "A Change of Heart"

You know what, calling this my No. 1 song of 2016 is pretty accurate. It was the first track from the 1975’s album I fell in love with, and I just wrote about why it topped our staff’s list for best rock songs this year. It’s just gorgeous, alright? Matty Healy can sing about falling out of love with someone in a self-absorbed way (“Was it your breasts from the start? They played a part”), but make it sound heartfelt just the same with his little quips about lighting the wrong end of a cigarette, Instagramming a salad -- and have you seen him Sad Clowning in the music video? That video is basically one big, “Your move, Brendon Urie.”

No idea how that got on there: Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Snow (Hey Oh)" 

I used to always think the Red Hot Chili Peppers were annoying and overexposed (hah!), and mostly rejected them without listening too closely. I was out at Coachella this year with a group of people who played their hits a lot (and did a lot of cocaine, while out in California, how about that!) and after hearing this particular song for the third or fourth time, I started to think, “Wow, the production and little nuances of this song are actually kind of awesome.” So that translated to me going back on Spotify a lot later on, listening to those keyboards come in during the second verse. Rick Rubin is really good at things; who would have thought!

Adelle Platon, Staff Writer

Top song: Bas, "Clouds Never Get Old"

This single off Bas' 2016 sophomore LP Too High To Riot got major love from my headphones this year. The old-school sample of Aaliyah's "Never Comin' Back," paired with the rapper's unabashed honesty ("My best pickup line is young n---a with money, I ain't playin'") satisfied my Rap&B cravings on the regular, whether after a long day of work or during a weekend chill session. Bas also keeps it real by letting his listeners know that he's never been the type to chase love over money but also reps my native borough of Queens, which is why a homegrown record like "Clouds" probably had my finger stuck to the repeat button.

No idea how that got on there: Kanye West, "I Love Kanye"
Remarkably, this was my No. 2 song on Spotify, which came as a shock to me since my speakers were smoking after playing out "Ultralight Beam," "Father, Stretch My Hands," "Famous" and "Fade" off his The Life of Pablo album. Regardless of his headline-grabbing antics, I guess it's a subliminal sign that deep down, this hip-hop head still really does love Kanye.

Leslie Richin, Social Media Editor

Top song: Aerosmith, "Sweet Emotion"

In May, I won a pair of tickets to see Steven Tyler in concert, and the experience re-ignited a serious Aerosmith phase for me. The ensuing Spotify rush landed a whopping nine Aerosmith songs on my list, topped by this classic from 1975's Toys in the Attic

No Idea how that got on there: Harold Faltermeyer and Steve Stevens, "Top Gun Anthem"
What can I say? My fiancé really likes the film.

Kevin Rutherford, Chart Manager (Social, Streaming, Rock)

Top song: Ghost, "Square Hammer"

A band of Swedes who dress up as an undead pope and five anonymous, demon-masked ghouls worshipping the devil recorded my most-played song on Spotify this year. I didn’t see it coming; metal isn’t exactly my forte. But it’s hard to deny the chorus on Ghost’s “Square Hammer,” which is not only the catchiest on hard rock radio in 2016, but also of this decade at least. I just wish I knew who to thank – besides Satan, apparently.

No idea how that got on there: Rob Zombie, "Dragula"
Between this and Ghost, should I be worried? Whatever. It’s #onbrand for 2016.

Andrew Unterberger, Senior Associate Editor

Top song: Kvelertak, "1985"

Like a friend that knows you a little bit better than you're comfortable with, indeed, Spotify nailed my No. 1 song of 2016. Marrying guttural howling to shimmering Van Halen riffage, Norwegian sextet Kvelertak aimed to breathe new vitality into '80s pop-metal with "1985" and succeeded beyond their (or at least my) wildest expectations. I'm not really a single-track Spotifier -- mostly full albums and playlists for me -- but "1985" was the song I played when I just wanted to crawl behind a wall of sound this year. Even in 2016, there wasn't much that could penetrate the guitars of this one.

No idea how that got on there: Foo Fighters, "The Neverending Sigh"
Couldn't have been that neverending, I had no memory of this song even existing.

Taylor Weatherby, Associate Editor

Top song: The Chainsmokers feat. Tritonal and Emily Warren, "Until You Were Gone"

While I was surprised to see this not-as-overplayed Chainsmokers song at the summit, there was definitely no question that was going to make it on my “Your Top Songs" playlist. I wouldn’t doubt it if the song’s No. 1 spot was established over the summer, when I pretty much had it on repeat after having a magical time at Firefly Music Festival in June. This was particularly because of a guy, who I gradually lost touch with after parting ways on the final day of the fest. No matter how pathetic this all may sound, there was something seriously therapeutic about that beat drop after hearing the line, “And the truth is that I didn’t know how good you were / Until you were gone.”

No idea how that got on there: Niall Horan, "This Town" (Tiesto Remix)
Not surprised that "This Town" made my year-end list, but what did catch me off guard was the fact that it was via the Tiesto remix. I don’t think I could count the amount of times I’ve listened to that version on even one hand, as it’s not nearly as enjoyable as the charming original. And I was shocked to see that only one Mumford & Sons song was included, considering I probably listened to the band’s entire discography at least 10 times after seeing them live -- also at that Firefly.

Natalie Weiner, Associate Editor

Top song: Ciara, "Body Party"

My No. 1 song on Spotify for 2016 is also my No. 1 song for all eternity: “Body Party,” the Ghost Town DJs-sampling, Mike Will Made-It-helmed Ciara single that stole my heart in 2013 when it ensured that organ, along with the rest of my body, would never again want for a reason to celebrate. Personally, my gateway was the song’s visual, a uniquely Atlanta fantasy co-starring Future in the least-believable and most-charming seduction scene (this was back when they were an item, and Future Jr. was just a twinkle in his father’s eye) in music video history.

Songs about sex are so often basic and/or gross, but “Body Party” presents the topic at its best: fun and blushing and sweet, with enough heat to (hopefully) bring to mind some recent bedroom festivities of one’s own. The video translates its theme quite literally, as a party featuring many bodies (including but not limited to Ludacris and Trinidad James) evolves into one of only two. Thanks to Mike Will’s familiar yet fresh flip, though, the song alone is charming enough to lift one’s spirits even without the promise of a boudoir-ready Ciara or ATL-style turn up — even if the only body in the room is yours.

No idea how that got on there: Jadakiss feat. Styles P, "Synergy"

The vast majority of the songs on my Spotify-offered playlist are ones that I did, in fact, listen to a bazillion times throughout the year. Some, though, are results of brief binges — like this one, off Jadakiss’s last album Top 5 Dead Or Alive. It’s triumphant, unfiltered New York hip-hop, courtesy of 2/3 of The Lox and the iconic Just Blaze, and as a result there are few better soundtracks to mean-mugging your way through crowded city streets.

Billboard Year in Music 2016


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