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Every year around this time, the #PopHatesFlops community comes together to celebrate the year in pop music and to compile our annual list of our favourite songs of the year. While previous years lists have been microcosms of the genres that populated them - last year focused heavily on country-pop, while 2016 was big on slinky synthpop and 2015 was loving the tropical pop trend - this year's list is remarkable for it's lack of trendiness, showing that in 2018 there's no longer any such thing as an era in pop music. It's a testament to how fractured the industry is in the age of streaming apps and the dwindling importance of radio that our members have chosen such wide ranging songs as piano ballads, acoustic guitar work and 90s-styled R&B, and that all of them sound current and fresh. For the first time ever, we've included a Spotify playlist of this year's entries so you can listen along to the songs while you read our thoughts. Whether you're out partying it up at your local New Year's celebrations or spending a quiet day nursing your hangover at home, we hope that this list will bring you joy as you celebrate the coming of another year. And once again, we have to say a big thank you to the amazing members who make not only this list, but also this forum possible. We love you all and we wish you only the best in 2019! 18. Clean Bandit - Baby (Feat. Marina & Luis Fonsi) Submitted By: @Skinny Legend Little had been heard of the artist previously known as Marina and the Diamonds since 2015's experimental Froot album, which is why it was all the more surprising that she decided to make her long-awaited comeback with dance-pop sensations Clean Bandit and generic Hispanic stereotype Luis Fonsi. 'Baby' is just as generic as it's composers would imply, but that doesn't stop it from being one of the best-produced and straight up fun songs of the year. Marina handles the change from squeaky sex kitten in the verse to acoustic guitar balladeer in the pre-chorus to triumphant Selena impersonator in the chorus with style, and even the typically irritating Fonsi manages to impress with his brand of Latin flair. Hopefully 'Baby' is a sign that Marina's ready to give up her pretentions of making alternative music in favour of a more laidback, carefree style. 17. Avril Lavigne - Head Above Water Submitted By: @kallumlavigne Avril Lavigne's powerful comeback after a long hiatus 'Head Above Water' - apart from the obvious green screen and body double in the video - is stunning. The song itself is quiet: a powerful, slow ballad that finds redemption towards it's last chorus, and it's a very different sound from the in your face guitar-based pop-punk tunes she's known for. But the piano delivers well, the instrumental is a euphoric experience and Avril's semi-soft vocals take the crown this year for me. Also, its low, but it's on Billboard's list of the best songs of 2018. 16. Kim Petras - Tell Me It's a Nightmare Submitted By: @Turn Ya Head Kim Petras, perhaps the most promising upcoming singer from the past three years, has released numerous buzz singles between 2017 and 2018; but in my opinion, her best work so far is one of the tracks from her Halloween-themed EP Turn Off The Light, Vol. 1. 'Tell Me It's a Nightmare' is a dark dance-oriented track which follows a remarkable instrumental song on the EP, creating an ethereal flow that some albums seem to lack these days. The ambiguous, yet intriguing lyrics, manage to convey a sense of horror and desperation that slightly contrasts with the rest of the EP. "Tell me it's a nightmare/And you ain't going nowhere/Try to save ya, warn ya, keep you alive/Try to stop ya, but you paid the price", sings Petras in a pleading manner. Who is she trying to save? What is she trying to save them from? Only her and the person who this song is dedicated to will ever know. Maybe she's trying to save them from herself. Maybe she's trying to save them from a potentially abusive relationship. The mystery allows the listener to apply the lyrics to their own personal life and therefore makes them relatable to almost anyone. The high-pitched vocals showcase Petras's singing ability and charisma. The production allows her crystal clear voice to shine and complement the haunting bass that's so prominent in the instrumental. The song ends with a haunting segment, in which she repeatedly sings non-lexical vocals in a catchy tune. What else could a pop fan ask from a song? Good lyrics, stellar production, a carefully engineered instrumental and outstanding vocals. 'Tell Me It's a Nightmare' might not be a mainstream hit or a chart topper, but it surely is a masterpiece. 15. Kacey Musgraves - Happy & Sad Submitted By: @nanapop99 I used to hate country music and I probably still do, but the good sis Kacey really did that with her latest album Golden Hour. In my opinion the album deserves to win Album of the Year at the Grammy's, but that's another subject. Anyways, country music is a genre I don't really listen to but these past few years we've seen pop divas like Gaga, Miley, Kesha and Kylie bringing their yeehaw out of nowhere, so you could say that I've gotten used to that type of music. I first heard of Kacey in a meme comparing Carly Rae Jepsen's E•MO•TION to Golden Hour and I was really wondering what was so special about that country girl. A few months after that, I heard a snippet of 'High Horse' and it was a bop at first listen so I decided to download the album while preparing for my trip to Vietnam and South Korea. I listened to the first half of the album on the plane and it really was so good! I was shook and my wig definitely flew to Texas or Tennessee or whatever yeehaw place you can think of. But the track that really stood out for me was 'Happy & Sad'. I don't think that there's anything special sonically about the track but the vibe, the lyrics, and the E•MO•TION of it that meant I couldn't stop my tears from falling while listening to the track for the first time. Unfortunately, my moment had to be cut short because the plane was about to land and I had to pretend that I was crying because of the loud noises. I was lowkey a mess back in July because I've just graduated high school and I didn't really know where I'd end up in September, study-wise. And while I was happy to travel with my family, I was kinda sad at the same time within my personal life so you could say that I was "lost.mp3". But this song and the album in general were like a warm hug for me. Golden Hour is the soundtrack to my summer 2018 and 'Happy & Sad' is definitely my song of the year! Who knew I had to become a space cowboy in order to survive this year? 14. Little Mix - Wasabi Submitted By: @Ari 2018 saw the release of LM5 from legendary iconic girl group Little Mix. After the massive success of their previous album Glory Days, they had big boots to fill but they did not disappoint! Many songs on this album are very different to their previous sound which has received some mixed reactions, but one song we can all hopefully agree on is the iconic bop that is 'Wasabi'. Penned by none other than legendary group member and LGBTQ icon Jade Thirlwall, as well as written and produced by the iconic MNEK, 'Wasabi' is the hoe anthem that we all need in our lives. From the catchy lyrics to the boppy beat and bass to even the harmonising "oh oh"'s, Little Mix show us that they will never be limited to one sound as a girl group and that each album they give us will be unique and fresh and work with all four members no matter the style of song. And that is why 'Wasabi' is one of the best songs of 2018. 13. Mariah Carey - GTFO Submitted By: @Skinny Legend Mariah Carey was never entirely gone from the music scene, with releases like the festive 'The Star' and the messy 'I Don't' holding fans over since her last album, 2014's Me. I Am Mariah... The Elusive Chanteuse. Even so, our first offering from this year's Caution plays out just like a comeback single should, harking back to the classics that made gave Mariah her 18 #1's while propelling her unique form of balladry into the modern age. Don't let the title fool you; 'GTFO' is a down-tempo, moody heartbreak song, which is only slightly offset by it's angsty and comedic chorus of "How 'bout you get the fuck out?". While 'GTFO' was far from a hit, it did reach meme status pretty quickly and it's sound is probably the closest thing to a smash song that Mariah could get to in 2018. Fingers crossed that the next release from Caution will do a little better. 12. Ariana Grande - No Tears Left To Cry Submitted By: @Fetish My favorite song of this year has to be the gorgeous introduction to Ariana Grande's fourth album Sweetener. 'No Tears Left To Cry' almost instantly became a hit due to its beautiful production and even dreamier music video. The track defied expectations for Ariana, as she took inspiration from the Manchester tragedy to curate both a meaningful hard-hitting track and a seemingly lighthearted dance track. The upbeat nature of the production secures the song as a beautiful track filled with the celebration of all things, as Ariana twists the idea of no longer being able to cry into a transition towards happiness. With a catchy instrumental and even catchier lyrics by Max Martin, the song has easily established itself as one of the best songs of 2018 in my books. 11. Tinashe - Ooh La La Submitted By: @Glamleska Tinashe Jorgensen Kachingwe is the slept on R&B up-and-comer that's been championed as an unbeatable contender for seven years running, and this year she takes the stage with my favourite song 'Ooh La La'. Though this year has been considered a difficult one for Tinashe – from being dropped by RCA to going home earlier than deserved on Dancing With The Stars to the unjustly scrapped EP project NASHE – she still delivered one of my favorite R&B tracks of this decade. Track number five, 'Ooh La La', off her sophomore album Joyride has remained at the top of my rotation since its release. Though the album was heavily criticized, I found this track to be an incredible standout. I didn’t mind the album either, with the exception of there being way too many features. Between the nostalgic squeaking sound effect reminiscent of Trillville’s 'Some Cut', the heavy pulsating 808s, and her smooth harmonies over the chorus, 'Ooh La La' was everything I needed from an R&B track in 2018. It’s a shame it wasn’t released as a single over some other questionable choices - *cough* 'Me So Bad' - but I digress. Here’s to 2019 and another year of hoping my Aquarian sister finds some success independently! STOP SLEEPING ON TINASHE 2K19. #BuyJoyrideOniTunes 10. Lady Gaga - I'll Never Love Again Submitted By: @Skinny Legend Although she's best known for her dance/pop tracks, Lady Gaga has always been an incredible balladeer, as she's shown countless times in fan favourite songs like 'Brown Eyes', 'Speechlees' and 'Angel Down'. But while she's explored rooting tooting rock ballads and unsettling acoustic work, Gaga had never lent her vocals to a straight up power ballad before the release of this year's A Star Is Born soundtrack. 'I'll Never Love Again' is the final track on that album, although it appears as the penultimate song on the tracklisting as well with a slightly different ending, and after the high energy rock and roll attitude of the soundtrack and the movie it's the perfect song to listen to as the audience reflects back on the events of the story. Although the lyrics can be slightly over-sentimental and cheesy, the beautiful orchestral work can't be faulted and Gaga's voice sounds the best it ever has, even without any hint of Autotune or post-production work. Put simply, 'I'll Never Love Again' is a masterpiece on par with Whitney's 'I Will Always Love You', Mariah's 'Without You' and Celine's 'All By Myself', and the only shame about the song is that the charts didn't revere it as such. 9. Cher - The Winner Takes It All Submitted By: @Ruthless Love Yes, the song itself is not from 2018, however Cher's rendition is and it is magically perfect. Following her role in Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again, the legendary Cher announced she'd be releasing an album full of ABBA covers, and the result was Dancing Queen. The album itself is flawlessly perfect from beginning to end, and the standout song for me is the second-to-last, 'The Winner Takes it All'. Originally released by ABBA in 1980 from their Super Trouper album, the song is magical in its lyrical content, and under the direction of Cher and music producer Mark Taylor, it's truly uplifting and easy-listening at its best. It's still ABBA, but with a special twist of Cher-riffic talent and gold. This song is not-to-be-missed. 8. Hailee Steinfeld & BloodPop® - Capital Letters Submitted By: @Cypher There were a lot of songs this year that were good in glimpses, but one that stood out is 'Capital Letters' by Hailee Steinfeld and BloodPop®. Coming down from his production on the Justin Bieber collaboration 'Friends', BloodPop® was able to capture the cinematics and emotions of a new romance. With Ellie Goulding thrown into the mix as a co-writer, the song comes together with some of the highest highs of 2018. 'Capital Letters' is a feel-good song about falling into the whirlwind that comes with any new relationship. After what seemed to be a melodramatic 2017 full of anticipation, this song kicked off 2018 with new goals, bright rays of light, and hope for a better tomorrow. Though the single did not become a smash hit in any region, it thrives as an underrated piece of pop perfection with a timeless sound. 7. Au/Ra - Emoji Submitted By: @Cock Destroyer 'Emoji' is underrated and one of my most played songs this year. I thought 'Panic Room' would be Au/Ra's best song but then she released this masterpiece. I love the production, the melodies, everything. It's quite different from today's pop but still a pop song. I feel like if t.A.t.U released a song today, it would sound like this. 6. Demi Lovato - Sober Submitted By: @Whoknowsmehere I have listened to a lot of my favorite songs from 2018 (and there are a quite a few of them) over the last couple of days to determine my fave; but this one particular song just kept coming back to me over and over. The fact that this song hit so close to home for me is my primary reason for choosing it. That, and I actually enjoyed listening to it very much over and over again. I have probably listened to it at least a hundred times since it came out. I will not get into a long drawn out explanation, other than to say I know what exactly Demi is talking about in this song. I know this song did not get a lot of air time. Nor much, if any, acclaim. But for me that is not what makes a great song. The message is what did it for me. 5. Rina Sawayama - Cherry Submitted By: @Skinny Legend Rina Sawayama might still be a relative unknown in the pop music scene, but in the burgeoning realm of underground queer pop artists which includes Charli XCX and Kim Petras she's a frontrunner of the genre. Like these two artists she's fully capable of self-referential and ironic hyper-pop bops, as she proved last year with 'Cyber Stockholm Syndrome'; but with 'Cherry', the Japanese-English Sawayama proves that she has more up her sleeve than just that. 'Cherry' is not only a slice of alternative pop heaven in it's production, but a vulnerable admission of sexual curiosity that's rarely heard in pop music. "Down the subway, you looked my way/With your girl gaze, with your girl gaze/That was the day everything changed/Couldn't stay the same" introduces the song, and for the most part it's the perfect introduction of Sawayama herself - soft yet strong, insecure yet confident, and enigmatic yet honest. If Rina has more "cherries" like this on the way, then we get the feeling the sky's the limit for how far she'll go. 4. Mark Ronson - Nothing Breaks Like a Heart (Feat. Miley Cyrus) Submitted By: @Tweener After taking a social media hiatus, the legendary Miley Cyrus teamed up with the amazing producer Mark Ronson (known mostly for his work with Lady Gaga) and created the song of the millennium! Miley did what other girls wished to do and what they should've done a long time ago. The song and the powerful music video convey a very important message of contemporary society mindlessly following the news about the Kardashians, and other celebrities not paying enough attention to real problems like police brutality, racism, kids running around with guns, greed in stores, and clerks' hypocrisy. The video is comprised of many LGBTQ references as well, which doesn't come as a surprise considering Miley is an LGBTQ icon who, unlike many other pop girls nowadays, fight for our rights not for publicity but because she truly believes in our cause. This is a new gay anthem which charts high all around the world. It's undeniably one of the best songs of 2018 if not of all time. 3. Robyn - Honey Submitted By: @BlackoutZone Crowned the second best song of 2018 by Pitchfork for a reason, the title track of Robyn's recent album is a joyful journey of the senses. After two years of teasing, expectations for the track reached high heavens yet Robyn effortlessly exceeded them all and delivered the masterpiece we all wished for. The song itself is so juicy and so flourishing as it builds that you can almost taste it. The sound becomes the flavour of golden honey waves that your mind surfs on while listening. Though Mariah and Katy B already showed us how seductive honey can be, it's never been done with such delicacy, and Robyn totally elevated the concept of it being a pure sexual pleasure. 2. Kim Petras - Heart To Break Submitted By: @Skinny Legend Kim Petras first hit my radar with her insanely catchy ode to consumerism 'I Don't Want It At All', but it was with 'Heart To Break' that she truly claimed her position as one to watch. 'Heart To Break' went on to become my most listened song of 2018, but it's more than just an earworm. In describing the fairytale of a girl who gives her heart away even while knowing it will soon be broken, Petras ascends to the level of lyrical mastery shown by artists such as Robyn and Utada Hikaru, both of whom pen bittersweet pop songs with danceable beats made even more brilliant by their heartbreaking lyrics. 'Heart To Break' is impressive on it's own, but when you consider it in the context of Kim's strong voice, brilliant lyricism and unique image it makes you question why she isn't already #1 on every chart. 1. Christina Aguilera - Accelerate (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign & 2 Chainz) Submitted By: @liberation Six years after the not so well received album Lotus, Christina Aguilera released 'Accelerate', the first taste of her sixth album (or eighth if you count Mi Reflejo and My Kind of Christmas). When it was revealed that the song was produced by Kanye West and featured Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz, everyone knew that Urbantina was making her comeback, but I guess that we were all very surprised after our first listen, because the song is so...weird? The intro is very strange with hypnotic Ty vocals and heavy drums, and when Xtina starts with her verses there's a lot of ad libs by him. The song is pretty much a duet between two of them until the beat changes drastically and 2 Chainz joins with an iconic bridge. When the song ended I was shocked because it was the messiest thing I've ever heard, but that's the reason why I loved it. I'm pretty sure that the reason why XTina is my favorite artist is because she's not afraid of taking risks. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. When it comes to 'Accelerate', I think it's the best song off Liberation and also her best song in a very long time, so I guess it worked for me. The video is very simple and sometimes it even looks a bit low budget, but I don't mind; I think it's sexy and fits the song very well, and it shows that she still owns her sexuality and doesn't give two fucks about what people think of her. At the end of the day, 'Accelerate' is a 10/10 song that is not predictable at all and I believe that it will age very well, and that’s why it is my song of the year. What songs did we forget about in our hunt for 2018's best track? Let us know in the comments down below!
2016 may have been marked by some as a year of loss, with notable celebrity deaths including David Bowie, Prince, George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds tarnishing the seasons for many; but at least in pop music it was a year of great success and activity, with major releases from some of our consistently brilliant pop girls (Britney Spears, Lady Gaga and Rihanna) and some unexpectedly stellar debuts from newer artists who weren't even a blip on our radar last year (Terror Jr, Kiiara and Dua Lipa) keeping us going through the tragedies that dotted the months. With so many great singles topping the charts this year, and even more coming to our attention through the blogospheres and Spotify, it was hard to cut down our list to just ten, an action which necessitated losing several well-loved bops from our ranking (although a part of me is glad I don't have to admit how many Justin Bieber songs I genuinely enjoyed this year). But after much careful consideration and weeks of rearranging, we've finally come up with our definite list of the best singles of 2016. It might be a little too late to play these at your New Years Eve celebrations, but they should still be good to tide you over until the wave of new releases hits us in February. Don't forget to let us know your own opinions regarding the years best tracks in the comments section below! 10. Tove Lo - Cool Girl One of pop music's biggest dark horses, Tove Lo's unexpected breakthrough with 'Habits' seems to have instilled a possibly ill-advised sense of trust into the singer from her label. With one hit under her belt, Lo has managed to not only release a received and provocative sophomore album with Lady Wood, but also a short film which includes every song from the album and a slew of hit singles; all while Lady Gaga struggles to get funding for even one decent music video. But there's little to complain about when each of Lo's songs seem to be so meticulously planned and executed, as we noted once again with this years lead single 'Cool Girl'. An advancement from the sombre, moody beats of 'Habits', 'Cool Girl' aims for a snappy, sexy techno vibe with biting lyrics of "I'm a cool girl/Ice cold, I roll my eyes at you" to match. We're not quite sure how she manages to keep breaking into the mainstream with her unique, wacky brand of personalised pop and arthouse visuals, but if Tove Lo has more tracks like 'Cool Girl' in store for us then we're definitely in for the long haul. 9. Ariana Grande - Into You Often referred to as 2016's most perfect pop single, Ariana Grande's 'Into You' owes much to it's cast of co-writers which includes the legendary Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Ilya, Alex Kronlund and, of course, Grande herself, who seem to have crafted the song as a composite based off the best parts of other successful tracks. Beginning with a moody thump of beats before rising into a crescendo perfectly designed to show off Grande's pitch perfect vocals, 'Into You' is somewhat let down by a chorus which doesn't quit match the expectations set by it's verses, but all is saved with a climactic bridge and some meticulous ad-libs from the singer. Riding the dance-pop train that first started with Lady Gaga's 'Just Dance' back in 2008, 'Into You' hardly adds anything new to the pop genre like some of the other tracks on Grande's Dangerous Woman release, and the lyrics are as generic as can be. But like the guilty pleasures of Carly Rae Jepsen and Alexandra Stan before it, the song accomplishes everything it sets out to do and earns its place as a near-flawless single, a title aided by its raunchy music video and several high-profile performances. We're just surprised it didn't make it higher on the charts. 8. Skylar Grey - Come Up For Air From the outside, it seems as though Skylar Grey has always fancied herself a rebel without a cause - an image she tried and failed to cultivate with her mess of hip-hop beats and trailer trash glam lyrics back in 2013s Don't Look Down. But what we didn't know is that when she stops trying so hard, as she did in this years single 'Come Up For Air'. there was an abundance of vulnerability and beauty to her on the inside which we had never before seen. Backed only by a sparse R&B beat produced by frequent collaborator Eminem, Skylar plays the role of a long-suffering lover who waits for her partner to "come up for air" from the scary seas of their depression. And her voice, when she doesn't strain it with belts or hide it behind the tones of their collaborators, conveys a beautiful vulnerability that's rarely found in pop music. Time will tell if Skylar's ever able to blow up on the charts as a solo artist, but if she continues the winning formula of ballads she's captured with 'Come Up For Air' and 'Coming Home', she's bound to find her niche no matter what. 7. Bonnie McKee - I Want It All The incredibly talented Bonnie McKee has been searching for a hit ever since her debut album, Trouble, failed to make any impact on the charts back in 2004. Since then, the self-proclaimed "popstar in training" has done more than her fair share of self-education, penning hits for the likes of Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Kesha; but even with the commercially-minded bangers 'American Girl' and 'Sleepwalker', she's failed to nab the elusive #1 record she so desperately seeks. Yet even with her previous bops taken into consideration, Bonnie hasn't ever come closer to an iconic song than she did with this year's 'I Want It All', the third single from 2015's Bombastic EP. From the opening stomps of the 808 to the guitar riff which sounds like something right out of Michael Jackson's Thriller, 'I Want It All' trades the bubblegum pop of McKee's major label efforts for a 80s glamrock anthem which takes more than a few liberties with her tried and true pop formula. Unheard of in a McKee song, the track takes over a minute to finally hit on a hook worth humming too; but the slow burn is more than worth the payoff when the head-banging, fist-pumping chorus finally kicks in. And the 'Billie Jean' inspired music video, in which a pink haired Bonnie struts down a dark alley in a leather jacket and crotch pumps the leader of a gang, just makes the whole thing even better. After giving her ideas away to other popstars for so long, McKee's bravely reclaimed the sound she created; let's just hope it's not too late for her to make it big. 6. The Weeknd - Starboy (Feat. Daft Punk) The Weeknd's lead single 'Starboy' from the album of the same name promised a revolution from the opening frames of its video. Set in an archetypal Hollywood Hills mansion adorned with posters and placades of the singer himself, the clip begins with a masked figure sitting across from The Weeknd, silhouetted by his trademark chicken hair; before the man in the mask abruptly strangles him and takes off his balaclava, revealing himself as a newer, better haired version of the man himself, who then goes on to smash up the rest of the mansion with a pink neon cross. It's an obvious metaphor but an effective one: and anything that replaces his chicken hair with a buzz cut and his slow R&B beats with some heavy 80s synths courtesy of Daft Punk is fine by us. 'Starboy' trades The Weeknd's usual cooing for a dark, urgent lament of LA materalism before slowing down for a sparse, eerie refrain of "Look what you've done/I’m a motherfuckin' starboy", implicating the audience in his own success and, by association, his sadness. It might not be the feel good song of the summer, but 'Starboy' was instrumental in pushing The Weeknd's sound forward from the now popular slow-pop genre he helped to develop which has infilitrated the mainstream in the last year, and remains one of the most interesting songs of the year. 5. Fifth Harmony - Work From Home (Feat. Ty Dolla $ign) While they first hit the big time with their breakout single 'Worth It', Fifth Harmony (or H4RMONY as they're now unnofficially referred to by fans) really only came into their own this year with 'Work From Home'. Riding the wave of construction themed songs they started with 'Sledgehammer' which was continued by Miley's 'Wrecking Ball', the girls utilise their subject matter to its full shameless potential, working in lyrically genius lines such as "I know you're always on the night shift but I can't stand these nights alone". But it's not until that ridiculously catchy chorus, in which the girls chant "You don't gotta go to work/Let me body do the work/We can work from home" that the song makes its mark as a dancefloor banger. A moderately inoffensive verse from Ty Dolla $ign and a high-dance, high-budget music video in which the girls seductively stroke hammers and pour cement are just the cherries on top of this dessert. With 'Work From Home', Fifth Harmony have finally shed the good girl image they cultivated on The X Factor, and we can't wait to see what happens next. 4. David Bowie - Lazarus The world was shaken this January when it was announced that David Bowie, one of the most iconic popstars of all time, had been found dead in his home of liver cancer: an event made even more shocking given the fact that the notoriously private Bowie had not even disclosed news of an illness to the public. And as with all celebrity deaths, Bowie's passing forced a reevaluation of his previous works, most notably his last recorded album Blackstar (which was released two days before his death on his 69th birthday) and his New York musical Lazarus (whose opening night was the last public event Bowie would attend in his lifetime). On the one hand, the fact that Bowie's recent work was getting the recognition it deserved was a godsend given that it was some of the best of his career: but on the other, it was a shame that it took his death for the public to appreciate his latest efforts. 'Lazarus', the third song on the album and the title track of the musical, is one of his best: written in the months leading up to Bowie's passing with longtime producer Tony Visconti, the song acts as a self-epitath for the funeral he never had which foreshadowed his impending death. "By the time I got to New York/I was living like a king," he reflects, a possible reference to the days of partying which caused his terminal illness: before promising that soon "You know I'll be free/Just like that bluebird". Powerful, spiritual and enigmatic to the end, Bowie's swan song is a rare glimpse into the life of someone who is so close to death they can taste it: the final character in the singers revolving door of alter-egos. 3. Rihanna - Work (Feat. Drake) Given the unprecedented four year wait between her last album, Unapologetic, and her current project, ANTI (Rih typically releases an album every year on the dot), expectations were high for the Bajan popstars lead single from #R8. Smartly, she avoided any hugely dramatic rollout for the single in exchange for what amounted to a surprise release, announcing the existence of 'Work' only hours before we first heard it; and the lack of spectacle extended to the songs sound as well, which avoided the huge EDM choruses of leads like 'Only Girl (In The World)' and 'We Found Love' for an altogether slower, more laidback vibe. Avoiding the temptation to continue one upping herself yet another dancefloor hit, Rih instead opted for a twist on her dancehall roots, launching off the back of her previous reggae and Drake-assisted songs like 'What's My Name' to craft a new sound for herself unlike anything else on radio. And thanks to some catchy wordplay that matches the nonsensical catchiness of her breakout 'Umbrella' and those trademark husky vocals, the song still remains quintessentially Rihanna. Despite some concern from critics, 'Work' provided the comeback that the popstar needed after her hiatus: it's just a shame that once she had us hooked with the lead single, she let us down with a B-grade video and an absolute mess of an album campaign. 2. Kiiara - Gold From the very opening trip-hop strains of Kiiara's breakthrough single 'Gold', we knew we'd found the song we'd be obsessed with for the rest of the year. What we didn't realise was how it would light up the charts, or how long such a process would take: the single was actually first released in October 2015, but promo really only began in after all the unofficial online buzz in May, and the track peaked on the charts in October of this year. Hit or not, the songs ridiculously catchy and nonsensical hook assured its presence on hundreds of Spotify summer BBQ playlists, and introduced Kiiara's name and trademark style of breathy digitized vocal delivery to the masses. Little seperates Kiiara from her younger cousins over at Terror Jr, with the acts sharing sound, producers and fame - but where Terror Jr cultivates an ambibuous identity, Kiiara puts her trailer trash aesthetic beginnings out there for the world to see, something she's been doing a lot more of since promo for her EP officially began. Now all we're waiting to see is if she can sustain her fame with follow up singles 'Feels' and 'Hang Up Tha Phone'. 1. Terror Jr - 3 Strikes We may still not definitively know who the elusive 'Lisa' behind Terror Jr's hits might be - is it Lisa Vitale? Kylie Jenner? Or a complete unknown? - but one things for sure: the band, comprised of an enigmatic female singer, The Cataracs' David "Campa" Singer-Vine and Felix Snow has yet to make a wrong move, an impressive feat given their association with the Kardashians and an entire EP rollout. They kicked things off with '3 Strikes', an edgy and provocative track which first rose to prominence with a placement in a Kylie Jenner lip gloss ad but which has since stuck on Snapchat stories and Spotify playlists for months. Utilising 2016's favourite vocal stutter technique and some deliciously ridiculous lyrics - "You were like 95 on the interstate/Looking for a dinnerplate" - '3 Strikes' excels at quirky, catchy pop with a difference, and it does so exceptionally well. Where other artists struggle without a label and a big budget, Terror Jr has utilised their lack of resources in a viral, interesting way - and the fact that they hit #1 on our list without an official single release or music video says a lot about the state of pop music in 2016. Regardless of what does or doesn't happen for the band in the new year, we're sure that their particular brand of promotion - where artists forsake big label opportunities to create meaningful and intimate connections with the fans who have "discovered" them - will continue for years to come.