Best Of 2016,  Entertainment,  Reviews

Jon ALi Presents: The Top 50 Albums of 2016

Ladies, gents, mo’s and hoe’s: We have (almost) reached the end of 2016!

If your year was anything like mine, than I am truly sorry and hope you’re seeking help. I kid! In the midst of life’s many expected ups and downs this year, there was – thankfully – a ton of music to help distract, heal and lift us up.

First up, I’m counting down my Top 50 Albums of the Year! As per usual, this list is usually my favorite because its much easier to rank my love for an album based on if I can get through the whole thing from start to finish without banging my head against a wall (repeatedly). WITH THAT SAID: That doesn’t necessarily mean I find album #29 any more or less tolerable than the ones before or after it so please save your trolling for someone who actually cares. I love music. You love music. We love music!

K, without further ado, here’s the list:

50. Flume – Flume
49. Dragonette – Royal Blues
48. Skylar Grey – Natrual Causes
45. Kris Allen – Letting You In
44. Olly Murs – 24 HRS
43. Miike Snow – iii
42. ZHU – Generationwhy
41. AlunaGeorge – I Remember
40. Craig David – Following My Intution
39. M.I.A. – AIM
38. Nathan Sykes – Unfinished Business
37. The Knocks – 55
36. Dawn Richard – Redemption
35. Alicia Keys – HERE
34. Netsky – 3
33. Jon Bellion – The Human Condition
32. Tkay Maidza – TKAY
31. Daya – Sit Still, Look Pretty
30. Chance The Rapper – Coloring Book
29. Emeli Sande – Long Live The Angels
28. Gwen Stefani – This Is What The Truth Feels Like
27. Solange – A Seat At The Table
26. Frank Ocean – Blonde
25. Bruno Mars – 24K Magic
24. Drake – VIEWS
23. Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death
22. Katy B – Honey
21. 1975 – I Like It When You Sleep, for You Are So Beautiful yet So Unaware of It
20. Fifth Harmony – 7/27
19. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
18. JoJo – Mad Love
17. James Blake – The Colour in Anything
16. Foxes – All I Need
15. Gallant – Ology
14. Lady Gaga – Joanne
13. Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
12. Shura – Nothing’s Real
11. Sia – This Is Acting

10. BeyoncéLemonade: To say Beyoncé has had a great year would be an understatement, she’s had an incredible year. When it comes to being a well-rounded musical ICON, we can always count on Queen B to deliver the unclockable goods. And while her accompanying one-hour film surely aided us to enjoy the fresh Lemonade this time around, there was still plenty of undeniably great music to love from the diva’s latest set, including her soul-bearing ballads (“Pray You Catch Me,” “Sandcastles“) the catchphrase-filled “Sorry,” the country-inspired “Daddy Lessons” and “All Night,” which is, well, honestly the best song on the record. The power of Beyoncé doesn’t come from just the music, it’s the overall package and the fact that the woman herself only continues to break new artistic grounds is what makes her such a ‘stop your life’ presence in today’s musical landscape. Highlights:Hold Up,” “Sorry,” “Forward” (feat. James Blake), “All Night” and “Formation.”

9. Kaytranada99.9%: In a year when pop radio became increasingly defined by Justin Bieber-like musical trends, the first full-length by Canadian-born DJ-producer Kaytranada (aka Louis Kevin Celestin) was refreshing for the way it leaned increasingly outward, bringing slinky disco, garage house and sultry throwback R&B together in the name of finding musical transcendence. 99.9%‘s smooth transitions and genre-bending production treasures — not to mention the help from Craig David, AlunaGeorge, Vic Mensa, Syd, Little Dragon and Anderson. Paak — show that there’s still uncharted territory left in the pop-meets-r&b-dance world, and that thankfully someone like Kaytranada is more than willing to put in 99.9% effort in order to find it. Highlights:GOT IT GOOD,” “TOGETHER,” “ONE TOO MANY” and “YOU’RE THE ONE.”

8. BANKSThe Altar: On the follow-up to her fantastic 2014 debut, BANKS returns badder, more unfiltered and more confident than ever before. As displayed on the cover art and promotional images for the LP – where BANKS is seen completely bare and makeup-free – her guards are completely down and her insecurities are completely visible for anyone willing to look beyond the face. She’s bleeding into each and every one of these songs, at times scary, confrontational and aggressive like on “Trainwreck” and “Weaker Girl” where she snarls with edge and attitude. The Altar pushes the haunting vibe of Gooddes to the hilt – quite literally – while refining its vertiginous beauty and increasing its production value. Highlights:Gemini Feed,” “Lovesick,” “Trainwreck,” “Judas” and “To The Hilt.”

7. ZAYNMind of Mine: One Direction bad boy Zayn Malik‘s first solo LP is a wonderfully cohesive set that finds the young singer confidently declaring his independence over an abundance of intimate and emotional, moody (and sometimes haunting) pop gems, brimming with smooth-sailing grooves of thumping electro-R&B. And though he proudly wears his influences — Frank Ocean, The Weeknd, Miguel, and any number of moody R&B belters — on his sleeve. Mind Of Mine‘s many strengths come from ZAYN‘s very own edgy risk-taking stylings, making this debut a win from start to finish. If you’d told me I’d be completely obsessing over a One Direction member’s album a year ago, I’d probably laugh in your face. But lo and behold, ZAYN has totally won me over and I’m not ashamed of it at all. Highlights:iT’s YoU,” “BeFoUr,” “wRoNg” (feat. Kehlani), “rEaR vIeW” and “LIKE I WOULD.”

6. The WeekndStarboy: Last year’s Beauty Behind the Madness saw The Weekend master his “official” transition into a genuine mainstream pop player, showcasing a playful-yet-wise mix of pop, dance, R&B and soul that had us all paying much more attention. Starboy picks up right where Beauty Behind the Madness left off… Except this time around, the Canadian crooner clearly had more fun with it, enlisting Daft Punk, Labrinth, Cashmere Cat, and Swedish hit-makers Max Martin, Peter Svensson and Savan Kotecha to join the party and elevate his strengths. He’s a motherfuckin’ Star, indeed. Highlights:Starboy,” “Party Monster,” “Rockin’,” “Secrets,” “A Lonely Night,” “Die For You” and “I Feel It Coming.”

5. Britney SpearsGlory: The Queen of Pop’s loyal fans are probably the only people who care at this point if she makes another record, but Glory – her ninth studio album – isn’t just another Britney record, it’s undoubtedly one of her best records next to In The Zone and Blackout. Thanks to an amazing A&R team this time around, Brit pulled it off with flying colors and cured whatever brain damage was left from the disastrous Britney Jean. Britney steps up her game in every way on Glory: The production is cooler, the melodies are stickier, the lyrics are sexier and her infectious personality is brighter than ever. There are no duds to be found as Brit werks it and twerks it on the dance floor with sexy pop throbs (“Do You Want To Come Over?,” “Slumber Party“), gives nods to her back catalog (“Liar,” “Coupure Électrique“), and shakes things up in the bedroom (“Invitation,” “Just Luv Me“). While so many of her contemporaries went for a more “serious artist” direction this year, Britney stayed true to the pop star she has been for years, and delivered an album that hopefully reminds us all that unapologetically fun pop music can still thrive in this day in age. Not everything has to be so god damn serious y’all – It’s Britney, bitch. Highlights:Man On The Moon,” “Make Me…,” “Just Luv Me,” “Do You Wanna Come Over?,” “Slumber Party,” “Hard To Forget Ya” and “If I’m Dancing.”

4. Tove LoLady Wood: Tove Lo is a rock star disguised as a pop star, and she’s everything we need in 2016: a badass song-writing savant who’s legitimately the “Cool Girl” at the party. Two years after breaking through the smoke and shining through with her gritty, unrelenting honesty and stellar debut Queen of the Clouds, the 22-year-old Swedish darling returned just as faded and fucked up on her thrilling follow-up Lady Wood, a “zero fucks” joyride packed into 12 hypnotic pop gems. It’s a dance party and a feminist rally all at once. In every sense, Tove Lo is THAT Swedish pop star we have all come to revere. Highlights:Lady Wood,” “True Disaster,” “Don’t Talk About It,” “Flashes” and “WTF Love Is.”

3. Majid JordanMajid Jordan: This attractive Toronto-based duo – Majid Al Maskati and Jordan Ullman (the group’s singer and producer, respectively) – may not have made the loudest of impacts in 2016, but they surely caught my attention with their moody self-titled debut LP. Each track seamlessly feeds into the next thanks to a series of transitions and smartly placed fades, resulting in a non-stop late-night soundtrack that takes us even deeper into their spacey next-level R&B, future house world. Majid Jordan are master crafters when it comes to after-hours vibes and there’s no one else out there right now doing it quite like they are. And that, my friends, speaks volumes. Highlights:Learn From Each Other,” “My Love (feat. Drake),” “Shake Shake Shake,” “Something About You” and “Every Step Every Way.”

2. Ariana GrandeDangerous Woman: In a time when pop has felt particularly serious and very politically-charged, pint-sized diva Ariana Grande came strutting through to save our sorry souls with her ridiculous-yet-amazing latex bunny ears on what is unquestionably one of the best pop albums of the year, Dangerous Woman. This time around, Ari took on a more ambitious concept throughout, enlisting her “Problem” collaborators Max Martin, Ilya Salmanzadeh and Savan Kotecha to help complement her strengths on the majority of Dangerous Woman. The LP is a record brimming with undeniable melodies, huge perfectly turned choruses, and Ariana‘s winning soaring vocals. Visually, she’s got plenty of work to do (slowly getting there), but when it comes down to the music, no one came close to snatching that pop princess title in 2016 other than Ariana with Dangerous Woman. Irresistible earworm “Into You” is surely proof enough. Highlights:Dangerous Woman,” “Be Alright,” “Side To Side” (feat. Nicki Minaj), “Everyday” (feat. Future), “Touch It,” “Into You,” “Into You,” “Into You” and “Into You.”

1. RihannaANTI: While everyone already seems to have their concrete opinions on Navy Queen Rihanna, ANTI speaks for itself as one of her best albums yet. It’s here that she finally cements her sound. The 16-track record has its ups and downs, but they’re mostly the same triumphs and faults from her previous albums, only now they’re more unapologetic and hitting harder than ever before. ANTI is the album of a new Rihanna–or rather the same Rihanna we’ve always had but expressing for the first time a more honest version of her moods, her loves and her vision. ANTI‘s thesis is clear: this is Rihanna‘s antithesis, a shedding of the teenage skin that gave us Music of the Sun and A Girl Like Me, an evolution from the princess of pop product of Good Girl Gone Bad, Rated R and LOUD and an evolution of the maturity we got glimpses of in Talk That Talk and Unapologetic.

No other artist demands pop radio to adapt to her and that’s why ANTI is a standout Rihanna record. She very clearly slayed the charts this year and still made an album that is sonically and artistically interesting, without having to shove a message down our throats and artificially recreate any one artist’s signature sound. While many may very well never consider ANTI to be Rihanna‘s best product, it is definitely her most focused and riskiest effort because for once — finally! — yeah, she said it. Highlights:Consideration” (feat. SZA), “Kiss It Better,” “Work” (feat. Drake), “Desperado,” “Needed Me,” “Same Ol’ Mistakes” and “Love on the Brain.”



  • Alex

    I almost wish you would’ve written your opinion and a description for all albums listed… I love the way you write and what you have to say is relevant and on point. Thanks for this post!

  • Jay

    So happy to see Britney and Banks in the Top 10, and Gallant at #15! Quite surprised that there’s no Radiohead or Kings of Leon, though.

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