Happy New Year! Hopefully 2016 is just a distant memory for you and the new year is treating you much better. Despite everyone’s moans about 2016 being a garbage year, I think we can all agree that last year was a killer time for music. So many records dropped that got a lot of people excited and I started to hear songs on the radio that I never thought I’d hear; not that a song’s radio presence is a determinate of their worth but it’s nice to hear some honest music sometimes, you know?
Now I’m not one for dwelling in the past but S16 president Dianna, chief editor Molly, and I put together a super quick list of artists we were impressed by this year. What’s cool about this list is that it shows, for Molly and Dianna at least, how versatile our head staff’s music taste is! Dianna, our metal-loving leader, was excited about pop this year while Molly, who legitimately loves a ton of different music, was swept off her feet by some kickass female artists. My additions to the list are directly correlated to my love for all things dramatic, so there’s no surprise there.
With further ado, here is our list of artists that got us excited in 2016!
Dianna’s pick: TOPxMM
twenty one pilots toured with Mutemath last summer and it was something special. To see so much talent on one bill got a lot of people itching for a possible collaboration in the future. Months after the tour ended, that collaboration seemed as if it would never come, until twenty one pilot’s alter ego Twitter, @blurryface, dropped a hint and thus, the Mutemath sessions were born. The two bands set up shop in a studio and performed five remixes: “Heathens,” “Heavydirtysoul,” “Lane Boy” (Dianna’s favorite!), “Ride,” and “Tear In My Heart.”
These remixes are exactly how you would think Mutemath would twist them, and yet somehow they’re even better.
You can find the full performance here!
Molly’s pick: Crybaby by Melanie Martinez
We all know Melanie from her breakout season on The Voice, but if you haven’t been paying attention, you’ve missed the truly outstanding transformation she’s made from timid indie singer to an otherworldly, badass artist. Although her debut album Crybaby was released in 2015, success found her in 2016 as she headlined a few tours and watched her single, “Dollhouse,” go platinum. One of the coolest things about this album cycle are her music videos, each one telling another piece of Crybaby’s story in true Melanie Martinez fashion.
Sheila’s pick: I like it when you sleep… The 1975
Oh boy, was I late to the 1975 party because how long have these guys been around? And how long did it take me to actually give them an honest listen? They get a lot of shit for blurring some genre boundaries and cultivating a Tumblr aesthetic but when you get down to the music, it’s honest art. Plain and simple, this band has a way with music that not many do. Matty Healy writes with such integrity that I find myself wondering if it’s too personal for me to be listening. They dropped their latest album in early 2016 and haven’t stopped touring since, and 2017 won’t be much different. Alongside Melanie Martinez, they use their music videos to create a much larger, more in-depth vision for their songs.
They finished off 2016 by releasing a video of their full set at their sold out show at the O2 in London, which you can (and should definitely) watch here!
Dianna’s pick: “Mercy” by Shawn Mendes
Although she’s metal at heart, Dianna can not get enough of Shawn Mendes! It’s not all that surprising because everywhere I turn, someone else is raving about how great a performer this kid is. What’s cool, although not uncommon lately, is that Mendes started his career by posting covers on Vine; eventually a few record labels took notice of his following and got the kid signed in no time. A few of his singles hit the radio and charted, but it seems as if his latest, “Mercy,” is the song grabbing everyone’s attention. Dianna recommended his performance of the song on his Saturday Night Live! debut.
Molly’s pick: “Cheap Thrills” by Sia
What a year for Sia! A true performer and master of mystery, Sia reached the top in 2016 with her single, “Cheap Thrills.” Her remix with Sean Paul helped her achieve her first No. 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance! Her seventh album, This Is Acting, also tabbed a Grammy nom for Best Pop Vocal Album. Get on the Sia train now because 2017 is bound to be even better for this Australian pop star.
Sheila’s Pick: Sprained Ankle by Julien Baker
I haven’t exactly been quiet about my adoration for Julien Baker but I truly believe her debut record deserves every ounce of recognition. Sara Scoggins, host of Idobi Radio’s Let’s Talk Music, recommended via Twitter that we all listen to Julien’s songs. For whatever (stupid) reason, I never got around to it and ended up hearing “Blacktop” on the show. If you’re anything like me and like to listen to sad music on every occasion, Julien is the girl for you. Sprained Ankle was released in 2015 but according to Spotify, my top three most-listened to songs for 2016 were all by Julien Baker. I think that speaks for itself.
Dianna’s pick: “A Million Reasons” by Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga’s latest Joanne was on everybody’s AOTY list; even people who didn’t like the album! I saw a lot of folks claim they weren’t into it but could respect the art, and for someone to put that on their year-end list? Amazing. It was released as a promotional single and yet it still found its way onto the Billboard Hot 100 chart, making it her 24th career entry and second from Joanne. 2017 is bound to bring even more Gaga and I can’t wait.
Molly’s pick: “Dangerous Woman” (a capella) by Ariana Grande
Another star born from a different form of media, but who’s complaining? “Dangerous Woman” is the lead single off her 2016 album of the same name. It’s her fifth single to appear in the Billboard Hot 100 and has been nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Solo Performance. Molly chose to include the a cappella version of the song and I’m glad she did. Whether you like her music or change the station when one her many singles comes on, you cannot deny she’s got some serious talent, and it’s seriously showcased in this video.
Sheila’s pick: Montgomery Ricky by Ricky Montgomery
Like Mendes, Ricky used Vine as a platform to build a following by posting six-second original songs, some serious and some not so much. His vocal abilities are unmatched and refreshing on his debut self-titled album, and it’s got a lot of people riled up for what’s to come. Demos may or may not be recorded already and the LA musician may or may not release some new stuff in 2017, but Montgomery Ricky is going to have to hold us over until then!