Heavy Rotation: My Top 5 Songs of 2016

Realistically, no one cares what my top 5 songs of 2016 are. I know this, and yet here I am, writing this post anyway. Since I haven’t updated this blog in nearly two months now, I guess any topic that gets me going again is a good one, even if it’s a little self-indulgent.

So Spotify has this nifty little feature where it generates a playlist called Discover Weekly based on your listening history. Whatever algorithm they’re using learned my tastes fairly quickly and has gotten pretty good at suggesting new music. Sure there’s been the occasional left-field miss or an earsplitting cover that completely butchers the original, but for the most part, I like it and I’ve had good experiences using it. Same goes for Spotify in general; it’s been my music service of choice for the majority of this year.

As the year draws to a close, Spotify’s apparently decided to bless us with another playlist: Your Top Songs 2016, which is exactly what it sounds like: your most-played songs of the year (which aren’t necessarily what I would rank as the “best” songs of the year, but whatever). I clicked mostly out of curiosity, knowing the selection would be pretty accurate since I consume 95% of my music through Spotify. I figured it might be interesting (if to no one but myself) to reflect on why I had these particular songs on heavy rotation this year.

1. Gemini Feed — Banks


The title track of Banks’ newest album, The Altar. I love it because it’s darkly atmospheric, sets the tone for the album and completely draws you in with its seductive beat and escalating intensity. Not to mention the sparkly-yet-gritty witchy vibes practically radiating from it. Amazingly, Banks can sing about fucking abusive relationships and it still makes me wanna dance… er, gyrate? She’s a huge blessing for emotional shawtys errywhere.

In all seriousness though, she’s one of my favorite artists. She gives voice to the craziness that occurs when you’re trapped in or trying to break away from an abusive relationship, which isn’t easy, and isn’t something you can truly understand until you’ve lived through it. Banks and I clearly have this in common. Just knowing that someone else out there not only understands, but dares tackle such a taboo subject and articulates it so honestly and eloquently is a huge comfort.

Banks helped me heal, as I’m sure making music helped her. I think it’s beautiful that by exposing her own pain she’s helped others with theirs—and I’m not the only one, either. I read an interview where she talks about her favorite phone call, from a girl who told her “Goddess” helped her overcome past sexual abuse. It takes courage to be that raw and open, especially in such a judgmental world, but I’m seriously thankful for it, because a Banks song is better than therapy.

2. Starboy — The Weeknd

starboyEssentially this is one long brag with some sick percussion. And since I’m all about that bass (sorry), I’m a total sucker for this song. It’s theatrical as fuck. I mean, we’ve got car puns (“Star Trek roof in that Wraith of Khan”), braggadocio out the ass (“main bitch outta your league too, ah / side bitch outta your league too, ah”), and girls snorting cocaine (“cut that ivory into skinny pieces / then she clean it with her face, man I love my babe”), which is apparently one of Tesfaye’s main turn-ons. It’s ridiculous and chock-full of shit I would usually hate, but The Weeknd’s voice can seriously make anything sound pretty. It’s one of the main reasons I adore him, because he’ll sing about the nastiest shit in his ethereal, angelic voice. What can I say guys, guess I really enjoy dissonance. The subject matter isn’t of the highest quality here, but it’s still a great song for when you wanna channel blustering, I’m-the-shit overconfidence.

3. Alice — Dream Koala

blurDream Koala was actually (surprise, surprise) suggested to me by Spotify. I dug and little deeper and discovered most of his music is instrumental, which is nice because music without lyrics is the only kind I can listen to while I’m writing without getting distracted. As I was making my way through his discography, I was struck by this piece. It’s super short, clocking in at exactly 2 minutes, but has a nice beat and an off-kilter, dreamy feeling I’m in love with. It also sounded like something my boyfriend would rap over, and when I told him so, he actually ended up liking it and did and it’s beautiful. Yay for serendipitous finds!

4. Controlla — Drake

3b385c122fde43a8f39b41ba31280377-1000x1000x1My main summer jam (which was probably only because Views came out right before summer hit, but whatever). It’s the perfect soundtrack for a summer romance, as Drake details the lengths he’s willing to go to for the girl he loves: “I think I’d lie for you / I think I’d die for you / Jodeci ‘Cry For You’ / do things when you want me to / like controlla, controlla.”

I love this song because it’s accurate and a bit scary, how sometimes you can become so infatuated with the person you love that it almost feels like they’re “controlling” you. In the verses there’s a nice role reversal, as Drake assumes a dominant role in the bedroom and temporarily becomes her “controlla”: “okay, you like it / when I get / aggressive, tell you to / go slower, go faster.” Kinky stuff. 😛

Apparently the genre of this song is dancehall? I could definitely get used to hearing more Jamacian-inspired stuff from him, like “One Dance” and his collab with Rihanna on “Work.” I really hope he continues to go this direction because sonically I love the feel of it. That reminds me: I want to start listening to more reggae and related genres next year, because I like most of what I’ve heard but haven’t explored it much.

5. Trainwreck — Banks

banks-the-altar-compressedAh yes, another Banks song because I’m predictable. 😛 If I was exacting vengeance on someone, this is the song that would play in the background. I’m literally ALL ABOUT the pure venom she spews over this track: “and there’s no fixing to the problem when you’re talking to… an idiot!

I can personally vouch for the fact that screaming along with this song is cathartic. It’s hard not to feel empowered when she literally contemplates decapitating a fuckboy (“hey, you try to compensate / for thinkin’ with ya one brain, I should decapitate”). She may even be talking about chopping his dick off?? At least, that’s what first came to mind when I heard this—that adage about men thinking with their dicks. Either way, I feel you, girl. Wanting to do bodily harm to a shitty ex: relatable. It’s kind of scary how many Banks lyrics you can slap on my life, but thankfully there’ll be no more fuckboys for me in 2017.

I’ll close with a couple fun facts: first off, she wrote this song when she was 14. FUCKING FOURTEEN. I can’t, ya’ll. Also, Banks and The Weeknd are apparently friends. That’s right, two of my absolute favorite artists are friends! She’s also opened for him on tour before, so fingers crossed for a future feature. *dreamy sigh*


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