30. Christine & The Queens — ‘Tilted’
Strictly speaking this isn’t a 2016 single but it basically is a 2016 single. Let’s not have an argument about it, there’ll be enough shouting and crying on Christmas Day. Sometimes we think, ‘imagine if Katy Perry released a song like this, that would be nice’. And then other times we think, ‘that just wouldn’t work because Katy Perry has a different sort of profile’.
29. Pet Shop Boys — ‘The Pop Kids’
“We loved the pop hits, and quoted the best bits.” 1
28. Sia and Kendrick Lamar — ‘The Greatest’
Sia really changed things up with this song about overcoming adversity.
27. Clare Maguire — ‘Elizabeth Taylor’
Obviously there are times when you need Sia to wheel out her metaphor machine and tell you how powerful and unstoppable you are, but just-about-getting-through-life-thanks-for-asking is one of the best pop genres. Another of the best pop genres is yeah-being-a-popstar-is-quite-hard-work-sometimes — it’s tricky to get right, and it’s hard for popstars not to sound like dicks then they do it, but ‘Elizabeth Taylor’ sits alongside Mike Posner’s ‘I Took A Pill In Ibiza’ (which very narrowly missed out on a place in this list) as an example of how to get it right. The line “I feel like Elizabeth Taylor at the after party, in a room full of strangers, just me and my Bacardi” is almost ‘Super Trouper’-worthy.
26. AlunaGeorge and Popcaan — ‘I’m In Control’
Fucking hell that AlunaGeorge album wasn’t up to much, was it? Anyway this single was good.
25. Cilia — ‘Hardcore Heartbreak’
Meghan Trainor almost made this list with late-90s-influenced comeback single ‘No’, but sadly any/all goodwill towards Meghan evaporated following the events of the tragic M-Train derailment of September 2016. Fortunately ‘Hardcore Heartbreak’, the latest in a succession of pop triumphs by Swedish pop triumph expert Cilia, fills the late-90s-influence gap rather nicely.
24. Lady Gaga — ‘Million Reasons’
Clear balladbanger status aside, one of the things we like about this song is how you could easily apply the lyrics to the creative struggle all big pop acts feel when approaching new endeavours in the modern age: they’re critiqued and bashed from every angle, across every social network, from different types of fans demanding different types of direction; understandably they often doubt their own abilities to keep everyone happy, but they also know that all they really need is one moment of clarity in order for the whole thing to make sense.
23. Rihanna and Drake — ‘Work’
This wasn’t the Rihanna single we wanted, but it turned out to be the Rihanna single we needed.
22. Clean Bandit and Louisa Johnson — ‘Tears’
When this came out we got quite excited about it and we were right to do so. Apparently it started off as a ballad, briefly became a donked-up megabanger, and eventually settled somewhere in the middle. Fancy that!
21. Hanna & Andrea — ‘Always On My Mind’
We still think Zara Larsson could be one of the best popstars of the next five years, and there are at least two legitimately brilliant songs due for release in 2017, but her 2016 single choices felt disappointing after ‘Lush Life’. One Larsson got it right, though — Zara’s sister Hanna teamed up with her mate Andrea and turned in this incredible reimagining of Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’.
20. Rihanna — ‘Kiss It Better’
Do you know what we’ve done? We’ll tell you what we’ve done. Basically we’ve made a Spotify playlist which is Rihanna’s ‘Rated R’, and we’ve just chucked ‘Kiss It Better’ in the middle. It fits right in there. And if a song can fit in on Rihanna’s best ever album, that means it’s Officially Good.
19. MUNA — ‘I Know A Place’
People don’t half make pop creation sound complicated. The funny thing is, sometimes all you need to chuck some beautiful lyrics at a top tune.
18. Dagny and BØRNS — ‘Fool’s Gold’
Eight times better than the Stone Roses (ask your clapped out raver uncle) song of the same name, amipyrite?
17. Fifth Harmony — ‘That’s My Girl’
Three amazing things about this song:
1. “You’ve been down before, you’ve been hurt before, you got up before.” That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
2. Waiting until the second chorus before “what you waiting for” turns into “what you wai, what you wai, what you waiting FOR-OR”.
3. Well obviously if you’re namechecking Destiny’s Child you’re onto a winner.
16. DNCE — ‘Cake By The Ocean’
Another not-strictly-2016 song, but as the saying goes, “a man bound by rules is a man doomed to cry while compiling his end-of-year singles list”. Written by Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels, like various good songs.
That’s quite literally the best bit.↩