2016 In Review

The Top 40 Pop Songs Of 2016


The Hamilton Mixtape, a compilation on which famous musicians reinterpret songs from the blockbuster Broadway musical Hamilton, debuts atop the Billboard 200 this week with 187,000 equivalent units and 169,000 in pure sales — thereby out-charting the actual Hamilton soundtrack, which peaked at #3. Per Billboard, it’s the best sales week for a comp since Kanye West’s G.O.O.D. Music moved 205,000 copies of Cruel Summer in 2012. The mixtape’s arrival bumps the Weeknd and Pentatonix’s most recent Christmas album down to #2 and #3 respectively.

Debuting at #4 are the Rolling Stones, tallying 123,000 copies of blues covers album Blue & Lonesome, their record-extending 37th top-10 album. Then comes Childish Gambino’s Awaken, My Love! at #5 with 101,000 units (and 72,000 in sales), which marks a new chart high for Donald Glover’s project and would be good enough for a #1 debut on many weeks. At 6-7-8 we have Bruno Mars, the Moana soundtrack, and yet another Pentatonix Christmas album. Two more debuts round out the top 10: 12-year-old America’s Got Talent star Grace VanderWaal’s Perfectly Imperfect EP at #9 with 52,000 units and country bro Kane Brown’s self-titled debut album at #10 with 51,000.

Over on the Hot 100, Rae Sremmurd and Gucci Mane’s “Black Beatles,” one of my absolute favorites of the year, remains #1 for a fifth straight week. At 2-3-4-5-6 we have “Starboy,” “Closer,” “24K Magic,” “Side To Side,” and “Juju On That Beat.” Maroon 5 and Kendrick Lamar’s “Don’t Wanna Know” reaches a new peak of #7. After #8 “Let Me Love You” and #9 “Heathens” comes a new top-10 entrant: Machine Gun Kelly and Camila Cabello’s “Bad Things” rises from #17 to #10, becoming MGK’s first top-1o hit and Fifth Harmony member Cabello’s first as a solo artist. (Her Shawn Mendes duet “I Know What You Did Last Summer” topped out at #20.)


Zayn & Taylor Swift – “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever”
I like Zayn, and I like Swift, and I like Jack Antonoff, but “I Don’t Wanna Live Forever” feels like the least momentous possible combination of their respective sensibilities. This didn’t have to be a great song, it just needed to sound like an event, and it simply does not.

Pentatonix – “Coldest Winter” (Kanye West Cover)
The world’s most popular a cappella group has a tradition of repurposing old hits into holiday fare because they sound wintry (Fleet Foxes’ “White Winter Hymnal”) or vaguely spiritual (Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”). They’ve done it again with Kanye West’s 808s & Heartbreaks track “Coldest Winter,” and — goofy snowman music video aside — it’s not the unlistenable Christmas cornball I was expecting. I even kind of like it?

Steve Aoki & Louis Tomlinson – “Just Hold On!”
Whereas Zayn aimed for a darkened adult-R&B realm between Sam Smith and the Weeknd and Niall Horan went full-fledged acoustic Ed Sheeran worship, Ex-One Direction member Tomlinson is launching his solo career with an electro-pop track by Steve Aoki. The studio version is not particularly memorable, but it’s a lot slicker and more bearable than the duo’s actively bad X Factor performance, for which poor Louis really should have lip synced.


G-Eazy – “Vengeance On My Mind” (Feat. Dana)
On which the Bay Area’s not-so-great white hope completes his journey to the absolute midpoint between Drake and Macklemore.

Bastille – “Blame”
I don’t know if these guys will ever have another hit like “Pompeii,” the song that made them ubiquitous for a while. Instead, they exist somewhere in between Imagine Dragons and Alt-J in the realm of poppy alt-rock bands who get radio airplay but not critical love. If a new Bastille song were to pop off, though, it might be this one.


  • In an open letter, John Legend petitioned President Obama to pardon incarcerated non-violent drug offenders. [Rolling Stone]
  • Drake gifted DJ Khaled and his newborn son diamond keys. [Instagram]
  • Taylor Swift donated $100K to Dolly Parton’s telethon to help Tennessee fire victims. [ET]
  • Pharrell surprised NYC middle schoolers who were singing his songs from the Hidden Figures soundtrack. [NY Daily News]
  • At the Z100 Jingle Ball in NYC, DNCE, Fifth Harmony, Hailee Steinfeld, Charlie Puth, Tinashe, Rita Ora, Jake Miller, and Sabrina Carpenter debuted their all-star “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” single which will raise money for the Robin Hood Foundation. [Z100]
  • Halsey, Icona Pop, and Sting were among the performers at the Nobel Peace Prize Concert hosted by Conan O’Brien in Oslo. [YouTube]
  • Adele and Coldplay were among the winners at this year’s BBC Music Awards, though neither could make the ceremony. [BBC]
  • Ed Sheeran is back after taking a year off from Twitter. He tweeted a mysterious blue square. [Twitter]
  • Beyoncé and Blue Ivy posed with Mariah Carey and her kids backstage at the singer’s Christmas concert in NYC. [People]
  • Uber employees allegedly tracked Beyoncé and other celebrities using the service’s internal “God View.” [The Guardian]
  • The first trailer for Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk, featuring Harry Styles, is out. [Idolator]
  • Pink, Ellie Goulding, Sia, the Lumineers, Twenty One Pilots, and Justin Timberlake are among the artists eligible for a Best Original Song Academy Award nomination. [Variety]
  • Bruno Mars, Sting, Ariana Grande, the Weekend, and John Legend performed on the live season finale of The Voice. [Direct Lyrics]
  • A Massachusettes man received three years probation after pleading guilty to criminal harassment of Ariana Grande. [Lowell Sun]
  • Fifth Harmony’s Lauren Jauregui was arrested for weed. [TMZ]
  • John Mayer tweeted that December 13 (aka his ex Taylor Swift’s birthday) was “the lamest day of the year.” Then he deleted it. [Just Jared]