I actually had a lot of trouble narrowing this list down. There was a lot, and I mean a lot of good music this month. It got to the point where I took some really great songs off the list altogether, just because I didn’t have anything to say about them. But nevertheless, the list is done, and here it is. But first, some honorable mentions.
Boyfriend – Tegan and Sara
I had a lot of trouble choosing between this and “U-Turn,” the other new song T&S put out this month. Ultimately, “Boyfriend” got the edge because it’s super gay. They’re both great songs, though.
Champagne Problems – Nick Jonas
Here’s another great track from surprisingly good artist Nick Jonas. I was actually a fan of the Jonas Brothers, but the stuff Nick and Joe are doing right now is on a whole other level. This isn’t Nick’s best, but it’s still a really unique song that plays to his strengths as an artist.
Ain’t It a Sin – Charles Bradley
A mock-up of the James Brown era so good it’s almost indistinguishable from the real thing. And a really fun soul track. Charles Bradley is an old soul (and a pretty old body, too), but he still holds his own in the modern music world.
Only Girl – Kali Uchis feat. Steve Lacy and Vince Staples
I hadn’t really heard of Kali Uchis before this song, and from what I understand it wasn’t exactly the best place to start, but it’s still a solid R&B track, with a really good verse from Vince Staples. A bit slow, though.
If I Ever Fall In Love – Pentatonix feat. Jason Derulo
Seven years ago, Jason Derulo was a laughingstock. Hell, he was a laughingstock two years ago. But slowly, he grew on me. I think he grew on everyone. And somehow, in 2016, I get excited when I see a new Jason Derulo song. It also helps that the Pentatonix crew is behind him.
Hair – Little Mix feat. Sean Paul
If I’m gonna be honest, this song isn’t very noteworthy on its own. I heard the album version a while ago and thought nothing of it. But the single version sets itself from the rest when those drums kick in and the legendary Sean Paul shows up out of nowhere. I will listen to practically anything with Sean Paul on it.
Finesse – Jim Jones feat. A$AP Ferg, Rich Homie Quan, and Desiigner
Jim Jones is a rapper I don’t know much about. I’ve heard him on some features here or there, he had a hit single back in ’06, there was some sort of controversy between him and Jay-Z, but if this song tells me anything about him, he’s kinda mediocre. He gets outshone by all three guests on his latest single. A$AP Ferg is his usual goofy self, Rich Homie Quan delivers, and Desiigner does a surprisingly good job, but what I really love about the song is how well the four artists work off of each other, especially towards the end, when they start trading off line by line. Finesse indeed.
Making a Murderer – Black Thought feat. Styles P
Delivering what is likely the best verse of the year so far, Black Thought proves he’s still got it after seven years playing second fiddle to the worst Weekend Update anchor of the century. The verse is bars on bars on bars, and while Styles P’s part feels relatively slight, it’s still impressive on its own.
OK, now on with the list.
10. TRUE COLORS – Zedd & Kesha
This is the first song released by Kesha since the devastating outcome of her legal battle with Dr. Luke, and it’s really good. Technically, it’s a cover of a song Zedd released in 2014, but this version showcases Kesha’s powerful vocals and has a more grandiose feel to it. I’ve read that the song was originally written for Kesha, but Tim James had to record it for legal reasons. Whatever the case may be, it’s pretty great.
9. I’M NOT FAMOUS – AJR
This starts off as a cutesy little Weezer-esque indie song about the joys of not being famous, but it quickly turns into something greater. AJR lead singer (insert whichever guy that is) starts flexing his vocals, and the song brings in horns and other grand arrangements throughout, slowly morphing into a transcendent ode to privacy.
8. CAN I GET A WITNESS – SonReal
SonReal is a pop rapper who, from what I understand, is fairly popular in Canada. And I can certainly see why. This song doesn’t have much going for it at face value. It’s repetitive, and functions pretty poorly as a hip hop song. But people misunderstand that SonReal really isn’t a hip hop artist. As I said before, he’s a pop artist who utilized the technique of rapping, and when you look at this as a pop jam, it’s splendid. It talks about how SonReal’s old fans don’t like his new stuff, but he doesn’t care because he’s just being himself. Wow, how far could this guy’s catalogue possibly go?
7. MY GIRL – Wyclef Jean feat. Sasha Mari
Yes, Wyclef Jean is back in action, triumphantly heralding in the “return of the carnival man.” The track starts out boastful and brash, but quickly turns into a Caribbean love ballad with some modern flare. It’s still really good. Wyclef has had a tumultuous couple of years, but he’s still a damn good musician.
6. JUST A LIL THICK (SHE JUICY) – Trinidad James feat. Mystikal and Lil Dicky
One of the most unlikely collections of rappers in recent memory presents a salute to the “gorgeous, healthy sisters all around the world,” referring to girls with some extra junk in the trunk. I used to harbor a lot of ill will towards Trinidad James, but I’ve come to realize that his point isn’t to be a highly technical rapper. He’s just having fun, and that’s what this song’s all about. Mystikal delivers a solid verse, and Lil Dicky’s got bars. But at the end of the day, it’s just a good time.
5. NUTSHELL – Phife Dawg
Yes, Phife Dawg died. Yes, it’s a tragedy. But I feel like this song would have probably made the list regardless (even though it probably wouldn’t have been released if he weren’t dead). It’s just a really clever, well-written, fun song. It’s classic Phife and isn’t that enough?
4. TEXAS LOVE – Young Thug
Young Thug’s biggest flaw so far has been trying to be Birdman when he’s meant to be Ol’ Dirty Bastard. But in the past year or so, he’s been getting weirder. He’s working with more unique beats, more original sounds, and putting more effort into his songs. This song might be the apex of his career thus far, featuring wordplay up the ass, some of his best flows yet, a really bizarre chorus that has nothing to do with the rest of the song, and more of the stuff we love from Young Thug. The beat is kinda weak, but in this case, it’s sparse enough for Thug’s raw personality to overpower it.
3. THE BOOGIE – Outasight
Outasight seamlessly blends sounds stretching from the ’70s to today to create an irresistible track that could easily catapult him into the mainstream. Not the most original song ever, but it takes well-known elements and merges them to create something new and exciting. This song might not be nearly as good as I’m hyping it up to me, but whatever.
2. STRIVE – A$AP Ferg feat. Missy Elliott
Anthony Fantano hated this song, which is one of the most glowing praises I can give it. It’s A$AP Ferg’s biggest foray into pop, and with a killer feature from Missy Elliott, it gets the job done in a big way. It’s infectious and strange, it’s bubblegum pop but also the antithesis of pop. I love it.
1. ONE DANCE – Drake feat. WizKid and Kyla
By sheer coincidence, here’s another song the internet’s busiest music nerd doesn’t like very much. Arguably the single best track on Drake’s new album Views, “One Dance” is an infectious dancehall track with some really cool production and interesting if sparse features from Kyla and WizKid, two people I have never heard of. The song’s already an international juggernaut, and with good reason. It’s just that good.