Welcome to Part I: The Opening Act.
This year was supposed to be a good year. Momentum was on our side. In 2015:
- Adele came back and graced us with some beautifully sad music
- The USWNT won gold at the World Cup
- The dopest Pope in history blessed Philly, NYC and D.C.
- SCOTUS voted to allow same sex marriages nationwide
- Then, in the first week of 2016, El Chapo was captured
After that, of course, has been a disaster. David Bowie died. Then Prince died. Then Phife Dawg died. Musicians, celebrities and global icons were all put on watch by Death. Not to mention the politics and the disaster of the election coverage and outcome. For many, 2016 was a terrible, horrible, no good, filthy, rotten year.
I picked my favorite album from different categories. I did this because comparing genre to genre is nearly impossible. Hell, picking only one per genre is nearly impossible.
Who was the best sports champion last year? To start the year, Alabama continued a modern dynasty like no other in winning a thrilling college football playoff final. Unprecedented success bore you? Fine, the Cavaliers won their first championship in 58 years in June. Over five decade droughts not your thing? Well the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in over a century in November.
Of course then there were the Olympics. Michael Phelps somehow still won some gold medals. Katie Ledecky is better at swimming than you and I are at anything. And don’t forget the year Simone Biles had, just purely dominant.
American sports not your thing? Portugal won some soccer something or other without Ronaldo for the championship game. Leicester won the Premier League even though they are essentially the Cleveland Browns.
How would you rank all those historic champions? Don’t try. You’ll hurt yourself and I don’t want that for you.
The sports world and the music world share a diversity of greatness this year. Sports and music are meant to be fun, playful, entertaining, and distracting. Sports and music are also meant to be serious, meaningful, enlightening and disheartening. They are all these things at the same time. Beautiful paradoxes of our lives.
These awards reflect that. Some are fun, some are serious. Without wasting any more time, our first award is…
I visited Washington D.C. during the last week of 2016. You can really feel the history in the air while walking around the streets. Historical sites, museums, monuments are everywhere and in plain sight. Many of these things are free to walk up to, into and around.
The presidential monuments are the most impressive, physically. I mean, these dudes (so far, only dudes) made such an impact on history that years of effort, millions of dollars, and thousands of tons of concrete were poured into just hoping people remembered them.
Then you think about the history the city itself has gone through. From being chosen by the founding fathers as a neutral location to appease the states, to being burned down by the British, to construction being ordered to continue on the Capitol even as the Civil War raged on. You can feel it all in the air. That or it was just really fucking cold and I was going crazy.
In the Capitol building, there are several statues and paintings of the “founding fathers” of America, the men who had the most influence on not only splitting from Great Britain, but also setting up the ideological and physical structure of this 240-year old country. I didn’t really know what Alexander Hamilton looked like but I kinda do now (nothing like the Broadway dudes, btw).
Walking through the Museum of American History, there is a lot to take in. Exhibits range from the gravely serious (Civil War) to the innocuously playful (Dorothy’s Red Slippers). There is one, fitting somewhere between those two extremes, honoring the presidents and the first wives of history with cool anecdotes and pictures from the respective terms.
The second week of November, 2016, 62 million voters of America cast their ballot for Donald Jesus Trump. While nearly three million more voters cast a ballot for Hillary Clinton, the electoral system our beloved Hamilton put in place gave victory to Trump.
In 240 years, out of the roughly 500 million people who have ever called themselves Americans, only 44 men have served as President. That’s 0.0000086%.
On November 8th, Donald Trump was elected to be the next president of the United States of America. A statement that still makes me sick to my stomach. He will be the 45th man to serve as president. His face and name will be alongside Barack Obama and the 43 other men on the walls of museums for the rest of American history, which I’m hoping is still a long time, but I’m not so sure anymore.
We got it from Here… Thank you for your Service, A Tribe Called Quest
On November 11th, A Tribe Called Quest released We got it from Here… Thank you 4 your service. It is a political, cultural, lyrical, and musical masterpiece. Part homage to Phife Dawg, part commentary on current culture; it is really quite amazing how accurately ATCQ nails it.
The release date is three days after election day, two days after the election was called for Trump, and on Veteran’s Day for crying out loud. Hell, there’s a song named The Donald on it. There was no timelier album than this. There may not have been a more meaningful album than this all year.
Coming from a group whose previous album was old enough to vote in this election, that is damn impressive.
Runner Up: Run The Jewels 3. The perfect way to say fuck you and goodbye to 2016 is to get pumped up listening to RTJ3 and just beat the living pulp out of it.
Best Cash Money Record
Cash money has been a powerhouse, a machine of highly popular and successful artists and albums that — ok yeah I can’t keep that up. Cash money has been a wreck recently.
Of course, Cash Money has it’s golden star, with one of the best albums of the year:
This Is Not The Album, Austin Mahone
Cash Money’s best artist is easily Nicki Minaj, but she sat out 2016 as far as major releases go (even though she got us excited back in October). Second in line, then, could be the youngster Austin Mahone, who put out a fantastic mixtape that smartly fused pop, hip hop, and — ok, yeah, I’m fucking with you. Again.
Drake is plain fucking unstoppable at this point. If every stream of Views was a millimeter in length (about the size of the letters on your screen right now), you could put them in a row and make it from Toronto to Miami.
Album That Will Break Drake’s Streaming Record in 2017
Speaking of Views, that stream number currently sits at almost 2.5 billion. A billion. With a b. To get to that point, an album can’t just be popular. There are barely 2.5 billion people in the world that have internet access. Views was many of the things that music can be: fun, sad, thoughtful, playful, etc. Oh and it’s also really popular.
One artist and album fits all of the same criteria.
Starboy, The Weeknd
Already, the nominal song to the album has seemingly played on the radio a billion times, aka hella popular. But it’s staying power will be the overall quality. The album runs eighteen songs deep and the number of songs that could have a long radio run is in the double digits. Starboy already places six records on the Billboard Hot 100.
With tracks like “Sidewalks” and “False Alarm,” the Starboy also combines a playful yet meaningful tone that can carry it to that two bill mark. Not to mention all the sex exuding straight from the album into your bedroom.
The Weeknd will be a big part of your 2017. He won’t win any Grammys in February because his album was released too late, but he will be on your radio, on your playlist, on at the club, stuck in your head at work, performing at the Victoria’s Secret show, used as background music at your kid’s talent show… you get the point.
It won’t be all that different from last year, where The Weeknd was seemingly everywhere as well. Abel is giving us a good bridge from 2016 to 2017. He might not know it (ok he definitely doesn’t know it), but he gives us a good bridge here as well.
Stay tuned for Part Deaux: The Second Part, coming to this very website near you soon.