Tag Archives: Camila Cabello

Bob’s Top 10 Pop Songs of 2017

Here we go again. This is my 9th annual countdown of the top pop hits of the year.

Some frequently asked questions that recur:

1. Why is it all pop music?
I chose to do a pop music countdown because I wanted to limit to songs that most readers have heard. For that reason, it’s not necessarily my favorite songs of the year–that would be a different countdown.

2.  Do you not like other genres? 
I do enjoy songs that are off the beaten chart and genres other than pop. I’d love to hear your selections in those areas.

3. Which songs are eligible?
I start with any song that made the top 10 on the Billboard Hot 100 in any week of 2017. This year, there were 66 songs that qualify. Then I start to eliminate some from consideration. Any song that made last year’s top 10 is ineligible for this year’s top 10. There are four such songs: “Starboy” by The Weeknd ft. Daft Punk, “24K Magic” by Bruno Mars, “Closer” by the Chainsmokers ft. Halsey and “Bad Things” by Machine Gun Kelly & Camila Cabello.

Okay, that leaves 62 songs for consideration, including one song released in 1994 that just hit the top 10 for the first time. While I did not make that song officially ineligible, I decided against ranking Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You” because it just feel right to put it among the top songs of this year.

4. Which songs are ineligible?
If it didn’t make the top 10 at any time this year, it does not make this countdown. Some of this year’s biggest songs were near misses. There were three big hits that peaked at #11: James Arthur’s “Say You Won’t Let Go,” “Issues” by Julia Michaels and “Slow Hands” by Niall Horan. Other big hits that didn’t quite make it are “Redbone” by Childish Gambino and Kesha’s comeback hit, “Praying.”

Beginning on December 26, I will reveal my number 10 song, followed by two more songs each day in this space. I will reveal my number one song on New Year’s Eve.

On the whole, 2017 was a mixed year. There were quite a few songs I don’t like, but my top five songs this year would be strong contenders for number one in just about any other year I have done this. If I had to describe 2017, I’d call it the year of former band members going solo.

As usual, I welcome comments and criticism, and feel free to bring it. So, without further babbling, here is my list:

1. Love On The Brain, Rihanna, Westbury Road/Roc Nation
I have long thought that Rihanna has a great voice, but doesn’t always use it on many of her records. “Love On The Brain” allows her to shine. Adele’s 25 and Beyonce’s Lemonade got a lot of attention in 2016, but Rihanna’s Anti album was quite good—her best. The fourth single from Anti, “Love On The Brain” was released in September 2016. I was well aware of the song last year, but it didn’t hit the top 10 until March 2017. It’s a throwback—a song you might have heard from a pop-jazz diva back in the doo-wop era. Like Ed Sheeran’s “Perfect,” it has a 12/8 time signature, unusual in modern pop. Written mainly by producer Fred Ball, ‘Love On The Brain” details the excruciating highs and lows of a tumultuous relationship. It allows Rihanna to pour in some emotion and belt it out at times. Her timing and phrasing is exquisite, a potential defining moment in her career. In most countries, it took some time to catch on, perhaps due to not sounding like a pop hit from this era. It did take off in Poland, where it spent four weeks at number one in 2016. In the USA, it was originally released to urban R&B radio. Pop radio discovered it over time, and “Love On the Brain” took off in March 2017 and peaked at #5 later that month, more than six months after the single’s release and more than a year after the album release. Rihanna first performed the song on television for the Billboard Music Awards in May 2016. This is Rihanna’s third appearance on my year-end top 10 lists, following “Take Care” with Drake in 2012 and ‘FourFiveSeconds” with Kanye West and Paul McCartney in 2015.

Official video: YouTube link
Alternate black & white video: YouTube link
Live at 2016 Billboard Music Awards: YouTube link
Stay/Diamonds/Love On The Brain medley, 2016 MTV Music Awards: YouTube link
Jessie James Decker cover: YouTube link
Little Mix live cover: YouTube link
Kelly Clarkson cover from Facebook live: YouTube link

2. Chained To The Rhythm, Katy Perry featuring Skip Marley, Capitol
Katy Perry’s fifth album, Witness, is a departure from her past adult pop sound. Unfortunately, in trying to be different, she would up with an album that’s uneven and really all over the place. The first single from Witness is easily my favorite Katy Perry song. You can hear the influence of four major songwriters. Perry came up with the concept and prolific Swedish writer Max Martin gives it a strong dance melody. Skip Marley, grandson of the great Bob Marley, adds the Jamaican dancehall feel. He is a featured artist on “Chained To The Rhythm.” Another songwriter is Sia, who also provides uncredited backup vocals. Sia gives the song a little of her edge. The collaborative effort is outstanding. On the surface, it’s a catchy dance tune about dancing to a favorite song. Dig deeper into the lyrics, and there’s a clear message about living in a bubble and ignoring troubles. According to Perry, the song concept was borne out of her frustration with the 2016 presidential election, however, the lyrics are not at all specific to any individual. “Chained To The Rhythm” was released in February and hit number one in Croatia, Hungary, Latvia, Poland and Serbia. It peaked at number five in the U.K. and number four in the U.S. This is Skip Marley’s first appearance on my year-end top 10 lists and Perry’s second. “Firework” made my 2010 favorites.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at the BRIT Awards: YouTube link
Perry singing with the semifinalists of The Voice France: YouTube link
Boyce Avenue acoustic cover: YouTube link
Cover by Rebecca Black with Adam Goot: YouTube link
Alexander Stewart cover: YouTube link

 

3. Havana, Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug, Syco/Epic
I was obsessed with this song the first time I heard it. The bouncy piano, the Latin groove, the understated brass, and well, I just love a good cha-cha rhythm. Camila Cabello is a 20-year-old Cuban-born singer who first gained fame as a member of Fifth Harmony, a girl band put together by Simon Cowell on The X Factor. She released two collaboration singles on her own in 2016—one (“Bad Things”) hit #4 and made my year-end list for that year. In December 2016, Fifth Harmony announced Cabello’s departure. Going solo appears to have been a great decision. “Havana,” co-written by Pharrell Williams, who also sings backup, has hit number one in six countries, including Australia, Canada and the U.K. In the United States, “Havana” shot up the charts in November and spent five weeks at number two behind “Rockstar” by Post Malone. Now I don’t quite understand this but reportedly, a YouTube hack artificially (but legally) inflated the chart position of “Rockstar,” likely preventing “Havana” from hitting number one. It marks the biggest hit for either Cabello or for Young Thug, who performs the rap verse. Young Thug is an Atlanta-based rapper who has had considerable success with mixtapes and has recently done well as a featured artist on pop hits. There is a rap-free solo version that excludes Young Thug designed for play on radio stations that avoid playing rap, but I prefer the version with Young Thug. The video, which features a young woman obsessed with telenovelas, delightfully captures the steamy sultry nature of this track. “Havana” is still at number three headed into 2018, behind “Perfect” and “Rockstar.” It’s still one of the songs I actively search for on my car radio.

Official video: Vevo link
Live on NBC’s Today: YouTube link
European Music Awards performance: MTV UK link
Spanglish version, Latin American Music Awards, Los Angeles: YouTube link
Spanglish remix with Cabello and Daddy Yankee (audio): YouTube link

 

4. Perfect, Ed Sheeran or Ed Sheeran Duet with Beyoncé, Atlantic
I can’t remember the last number one hit with a time signature of 12/8. Ed Sheeran’s love ballad, written for his girlfriend Cherry Seaborn, seems more suited to a Viennese waltz dance floor than pop radio. Sheeran manages to pull it off. Originally a solo hit from his ÷ (Divide) album, “Perfect” was a top ten hit worldwide, including in the United Kingdom and the United States. A duet version with Beyoncé was released on December 1. Billboard treats an alternate version as the equivalent of the flip side of a record. In some cases, the B-side becomes the A-side. The December 16 issue listed the solo version at #3 as the A-side. The following week, the duet was the A-side, giving Sheeran had his second #1 hit. It’s Beyoncé’s seventh #1 and her tenth if you include Destiny’s Child songs. The duet remains #1 headed into 2018 and has reached #1 in 16 countries. In the UK, Sheeran’s duet version also boosted “Perfect” to #1, giving Sheeran and Beyoncé the prestigious Christmas Number One status. More recently, a version with Andrea Bocelli has been released, but the bulk of American airplay is divided between the solo version and the Beyoncé duet. One more trivia chart fact—in the UK in March 2017, Sheeran had all the top five songs, and 16 of the top 20 the week his album debuted. “Perfect” spent a week at number 4 long before its chart run near the end of the year. On my year-end lists, “Perfect” is the second appearance for both Sheeran and Beyoncé. I’ll end with a misheard lyric. When I first heard this song, I wondered what was up with the “barefoot on the cross” line, before eventually coming to realize it was Sheeran’s pronunciation of “grass” that had me confused.

Official video: Vevo link
Official audio with Beyoncé: YouTube link
Official video with Andrea Bocelli: Vevo link
“Live” duet with Beyoncé: YouTube video
Live performance on X-Factor Italy finale: YouTube link
Anthony Alexander cover on NBC’s The Voice: YouTube link

 

5. Feel It Still, Portugal. The Man., Atlantic
Portugal. The Man. is not just a man, and not from Portugal. It’s actually a five-man band from Wasilla, Alaska. Yes, that Wasilla. Their breakout hit, “Feel It Still,” was a major airplay hit in America before it really took off on the Billboard Hot 100. The retro-sounding lead single from the band’s Woodstock album borrows just enough from “Please Mr. Postman” to give the song a clear 1960s feel while still sounding original. “Feel It Still” originally hit big on rock and alternative stations. After a mid-March release, “Feel It Still” was number one on the Adult Alternative chart by the week ending May 9. It took a bit longer on the Alternative Songs chart, but spent a record-breaking 20 weeks at the top of that chart. Eventually, pop radio got in on the act. “Feel It Still” entered the Billboard Top 20 in mid-September. The band’s first big hit went on to spend nine weeks in the Top 10, two of them at its peak position of four. The lyrics are intentionally vague (“am I coming out of left field”) and are reportedly somewhat of a political statement, mainly frustration with the whole political party structure. Some of the better songs of recent years have a retro-feel; I suspect that trend will continue. “Feel It Still” was one of few songs to top six different Billboard airplay charts, but did not hit number one on the Hot 100. It was successful worldwide, but only reached number one in one country: Slovenia.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at the American Music Awards: YouTube link
Stripped down studio version: YouTube link
London rooftop performance: YouTube link
Acoustic cover by Megan Davies: YouTube link

6. Despacito, Luis Fonsi & Daddy Yankee featuring Justin Bieber, Universal Music Latino/Raymond Braun/Schoolboy/Def Jam/UMLE/Republic
I’ll pre-emptively state that the version with Justin Bieber is the only one eligible for this countdown. “Despacito” was a record-breaking hit in so many ways that it’s hard to list them all. A chart-topper in at least 47 countries, “Despacito” was a clear winner of Billboard’s official Song of the Summer competition, and is the only song in history to spent all of June, July and August at number one. It’s tied for the longest-running number one hit with “One Sweet Day,” at 16 weeks. Luis Fonsi is a Puerto Rican superstar who is well-known in the Latin music community. Daddy Yankee is also from Puerto Rico and is a reggaeton star, mostly known to U.S. listeners for his 2004 hit, “Gasolina.” “Despacito” was originally released in January 2017 and immediately took off on the Latin charts. Starting in mid-February, “Despacito” spent 35 straight weeks atop the Billboard Hot Latin songs chart. In mid-April, a remix featuring Justin Bieber was released, subsequently, sales and airplay surged dramatically in English-speaking countries. By August, its original YouTube video, without Bieber, became the first video ever to hit 3 billion views. It has since reached 4.5 billion. Perhaps surprisingly, “Despacito” was only the second-biggest hit of 2017, according to Billboard, however, that is mainly because Ed Sheeran’s “Shape Of You” came out well before the Bieber remix, giving Sheeran’s hit a big head start. “Despacito” has already won four Latin Grammys, and is nominated for three more Grammy Awards, for Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. This is the first appearance for Fonsi and Daddy Yankee on my top 10 lists, and the third for Bieber.

Official video (without Bieber): YouTube link
Official video (with Bieber): YouTube link
Merengue cover by Antony Santos (audio): YouTube link
Croatian duo 2Cellos: YouTube link
Peter Bence piano cover: YouTube link
Postmodern Jukebox Broadway-style cover: YouTube link
Luis Fonsi and others at the Latin Grammys: YouTube link
Daddy Yankee in Merida, Mexico: YouTube link
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee at the Billboard Latin Music Awards: YouTube link
Luis Fonsi and Justin Bieber in Puerto Rico: YouTube link

7. I Feel It Coming, The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk, XO/Republic
The Weeknd makes the list for the third straight year with this year’s entry, “I Feel It Coming,” his second straight single to feature French electronic duo Daft Punk. Their previous collaborative single was the title track to the Starboy album, which opened 2017 at number one. “I Feel It Coming” was released in November 2016 and is a little less edgy and more dance pop than “Starboy.” “I Feel It Coming” entered the Billboard top 20 as “Starboy” was falling down the chart. It peaked at number four in April and spent just four weeks in the top 10. It was a number one hit in France and Mexico. Daft Punk appears on my lists for the third time, following last year’s “Starboy” and my number one song of 2013, “Get Lucky.” Both “Starboy” and “I Feel It Coming” were nominated but lost in the Top R&B Collaboration category at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards  Starboy is nominated for Best Urban Contemporary Album at the upcoming Grammy Awards in January 2018.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at the Grammy Museum’s Clive Davis Theater: YouTube link
Anthony Alexander and Michael Kight on NBC’s The Voice: YouTube link
Spanish cover by Chilean singer Kevin Vasquez: YouTube link
English cover by K-Pop star J. Fla: YouTube link

8. Million Reasons, Lady Gaga, Streamline/Interscope
I could probably not give you a million reasons why I think you’ve at least heard this song, but since Lady Gaga performed “Million Reasons” at halftime of the Super Bowl, odds are that you have heard it at least once. “Perfect Illusion” was the first single from Lady Gaga’s album, Joanne, released in September 2016. Although it hit number one in France and Spain, it was a bit of a disappointment here, peaking at #15. “Million Reasons,” the second single is a minimalist ballad written by Lady Gaga with Mark Ronson and country songwriter Hillary Lindsey. I credit Lady Gaga for taking what is a so-so country-tinged ballad and adding a little funk to it. It still didn’t chart very well initially. “Million Reasons” peaked at number 52 in December 2016, but re-entered the chart at #4 following her performance at the Super Bowl in Houston. “Million Reasons” was never intended to be a single. It was supposed to be a promotional extra for people pre-ordering the Joanne album. After performing “Million Reasons” on a carpool karaoke segment with James Corden, demand for the song led to its official release as the album’s second single. “Million Reasons” also earned Lady Gaga a Grammy nomination for Pop Solo Performance. This marks the fifth song for Lady Gaga on my year-end top 10 lists and the first since 2011.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at Super Bowl 51: YouTube link 
Carpool Karaoke segment on The Late Late Show with James Corden: YouTube link
Live from Saturday Night Live: YouTube link
Royal Variety Performance (orchestral backing), Hammersmith Apollo in London, December 2016: YouTube link
Cover version by Bob Weir and Trey Anastasio, Wanee Music Festival: YouTube link

9. Thunder, Imagine Dragons, Kidinakorner/Interscope
It would be difficult to rationally explain why I like “Thunder.” The target audience seems to be around ages 6-8. It’s very repetitive, the synthetic voice shift is corny, the synthesizer bridge is weird and the transition into that bridge is not at all smooth. It has shown up already on more than a few worst songs of the year lists, however, it was among the most requested songs on radio at the end of 2017. “Thunder” topped the charts in Belarus, the Czech Republic and Latvia and was truly an international sensation. Released in April as the second single from the Evolve album, “Thunder” hit the Billboard top 10 in late October and remained in the top 10 for the rest of the year. It spent two weeks at #4 and seven additional weeks at the #5 position. “Thunder” has topped some of Billboard‘s other charts, including Adult Top 40, Alternative Songs, Mainstream Top 40 and Hot Rock Songs. Perhaps the “so silly it’s good” strategy is working. “Thunder is nominated for a Grammy in the Pop Duo/Group Performance category. “Thunder” is also the first Imagine Dragons song to make any of my year-end Top 10 lists.

Official video: Vevo link
Live from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: YouTube link
Live at the Wind Music Awards at Verona, Italy: YouTube link
Live mashup at the Billboard Music Awards with Khalid’s “Young Dumb and Broke:” YouTube link

10. Strip That Down, Liam Payne featuring Quavo, Hampton/Republic
All five former members of One Direction hit the top 40 in 2017. Three of them had top-10 hits and Niall Horan just missed (“Slow Hands” peaked at #11).  Payne’s first big hit takes him into more of a dance/hip-hop direction than that of his former bandmates. “Strip That Down” is a result of a collaboration between Payne and Ed Sheeran along with producer Steve Mac. They wrote the song in the summer of 2016 and brought in Quavo to perform the hip hop verses. Quavo, who seemed to be the featured artist of 2017, is listed as a songwriter with Payne, Sheeran and Mac along with a slew of other songwriters. The writers of “Strip That Down” borrowed from Shaggy’s hit “It Wasn’t Me,” which itself borrowed from a War song called “Smile Happy.” Every credited writer on both of those songs is credited on “Strip That Down.” Released in May 2017, “Strip That Down” was intended to be the first single from Payne’s first album, although that album has yet to be released. It began to pick up airplay throughout the summer and hit the top 20 in August. Although it hung around for some time, it only spent one week at #10 in September. I chose this as my number 10 song of the year after going back-and-forth with another song that peaked at #10, “Malibu” by Miley Cyrus. I settled on “Strip That Down” as recently as December 26. In addition to the songwriting credit, Ed Sheeran’s vocals are on “Strip That Down,” but uncredited.

Official video: Vevo link
Performance from BBC’s The Graham Norton ShowYouTube link
Live performance at the Capital FM Summertime Ball at Wembley: YouTube link

 

Bob’s Top 10 Pop Songs of 2016

For the eighth year, I am counting down my top 10 pop hits of 2016. That’s pop hits–not necessarily the best songs of the year. When I started this in 2009, I decided that limiting the countdown to songs that have been heard by a wider audience would generate more commentary. So while others do their favorites regardless of chart success, I limit my countdown to any song that hit the Billboard top 10 at any time in 2016. This year, there were 57 top 10 hits.

However, my selection was limited to 54 songs. As with other years, any song that I chose in my 2015 top 10 is not eligible, even if it was still in the top 10 going into 2016.  That eliminates Adele’s “Hello.” As with Whitney Houston a few years ago, I decided not to rank songs that charted after a singer’s death. So while “When Doves Cry” and “Purple Rain” hit the top 10 this year, those songs really belong to other years in my mind.

It was a big year for Justin Bieber, who had the top two songs of the year according to Billboard. Will that success translate to my top 10? Tay-Tay only had one top 10 song this year, a duet at year’s end. Do I dare include Taylor Swift for a second straight year? What about the Chainsmokers? Or twenty-one pilots? Drake? Or J.Cole, who obliterated a record by having 10 singles in the top 40 on the December 31 chart? Stay tuned to find out.

I’ll release a few songs daily and reveal my number one song on New Year’s Eve. I think many will figure out my number one. Comments and heavy criticism are welcomed as always. I love a good debate.

-Bob

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1. Can’t Stop The Feeling!, Justin Timberlake, DreamWorks/RCA
Quite predictable, I’m sure. The big summer dance-pop smash, “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” is my number one song of the year. Justin Timberlake co-wrote “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” with prolific Swedish songwriters Max Martin and Shellback for the movie, Trolls. Timberlake first performed it in May as a guest at the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest in Stockholm. That performance marked the first time that a major star who was not a former contestant was invited to perform. The song took off quickly. It topped the charts in 17 countries and was the best-selling single in the United States in 2016. It was the number one song in America for only a week in late May, but it stayed in the top 10 the entire summer and is still on the charts at year end. Timberlake has had quite a bit of chart success, however, it’s a bit hard to believe that “Cant Stop The Feeling!” marked his first number one hit in over nine years. The version heard in the movie begins with Anna Kendrick singing. James Corden, Zooey Deschanel and Gwen Stefani also can be heard. There have been a few covers—perhaps one of the more unlikely ones by Lady Antebellum, not necessarily known for dance-pop.

Official Video: Vevo link
Lyric video: YouTube link
Official film clip from Trolls: YouTube link
Performance at Eurovision 2016 (medley with “Rock Your Body”): YouTube link
Lady Antebellum on stage: YouTube link
Season seven winner Mateusz Grędziński on The Voice of Poland: YouTube link

2. Piece By Piece, Kelly Clarkson, 19/RCA
My number two song of the year wasn’t even a hit when it was first released in February 2015. The second single was the title track from Kelly Clarkson’s album, Piece By Piece. She first performed it to the public on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon on March 2, 2015. Co-written by Clarkson and Greg Kurstin, the lyrics refer to family and fatherhood. According to Clarkson, it’s inspired by abandonment (by her father) and support (by her husband). The February 2015 release was promotional, not commercial, to promote her album. The song was re-recorded and released as a single in November 2015. It spent eight weeks on the chart and peaked at number 32. But the song wasn’t yet done. The producers of American Idol brought back the first winner to perform in the show’s final season. Clarkson performed “Piece by Piece” on the February 25, 2016 live episode, a year after the song’s initial release. The reception of the live and home audience revived the single. An “Idol version” of her performance was also released to radio. A second televised performance on the March 3 episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show enhanced the buzz around “Piece By Piece.” Remarkably, well over a year after the song’s debut, “Piece By Piece” re-entered the Hot 100 at #8 the week of March 19. Based on its unusual chart run, “Piece By Piece” will likely be remembered as one of Clarkson’s minor hits, but it’s among her best performances to date.

Official Video: Vevo link
Acoustic video released in March 2015: YouTube link
February 2016 performance on American Idol: YouTube link
On The Ellen DeGeneres Show: YouTube link
Caitlyn Vanbeck’s audition on The X-Factor UK: YouTube link
Nancy Ponto on The Voice Indonesia: YouTube link

3. Sorry, Justin Bieber, Schoolboy/Raymond Braun/Def Jam
I overlooked Justin Bieber a year ago when three singles from Promise were in the midst of a long stretch of chart dominance that lasted well into 2016. The second single, “Sorry,” was released in October 2015 and debuted at number two on the Billboard Hot 100. It was stuck behind Adele’s “Hello” and finally hit number one the last week of January. “Sorry” stayed at #1 for two weeks before Bieber’s third single from Promise knocked it out of that spot. The music was written by producer Michael Tucker (aka “Blood”). Justin Tranter and Julia Michaels penned the lyrics. Bieber sings falsetto in a song with a reggaeton feel and a touch of brass. The mysterious backup vocal motif was the result of producer Skrillex manipulating the voice of Julia Michaels from her demo tape. The song was a worldwide smash and was the number one song of the year in Canada; number two for the year, behind Bieber’s “Love Yourself,” in the United States.

Official Video: Vevo link
Lyric video: Vevo link
On The Ellen DeGeneres Show: YouTube link
Live at the 2015 American Music Awards: YouTube link
From The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon: YouTube link
Piano performance on the Fall 2015 finale of NBC’s The Voice: YouTube link
Contestant Bryan Bautista on NBC’s The Voice: YouTube link

4. Cake By The Ocean, DNCE, Republic
So what happened to the Jonas Brothers? Well, Joe Jonas and his longtime friend & roommate Jack Lawless formed DNCE, which is not an acronym, but rather an imperfect spelling of “dance.” Lawless played drums for the Jonas Brothers, Korean female guitarist JinJoo Lee had backed the Jonas Brothers and Cee Lo Green, and bassist Cole Whittle came from the band, Semi Precious Weapons. The concept of DNCE is for a rock band to play dance-friendly uptempo disco, R&B and funk. Their first single, “Cake By The Ocean,” was released in September 2015. The previously unknown group’s hit took some time to catch on. Their break may have come on January 31, 2016, performing on Fox’s live version of Grease. One of the songs that the band played was a ’50s-style version of “Cake By The Ocean.” Two weeks later, the single entered the top 20 and spent eight nonconsecutive weeks in the top 10 in March/April. Although it peaked at #9, “Cake By The Ocean” continued to get significant airplay well into the summer and fall. Billboard ranked it as the 18th biggest single of the year. With mysterious lyrics and an infectious beat, “Cake By The Ocean” will be associated with mid-2010s music for quite some time.

Official Video: Vevo link
Slowed down ’50s version from Grease live (audio): YouTube link
On The Ellen DeGeneres Show: YouTube link
In the BBC Radio Live Lounge: YouTube link
On stage from Jimmy Kimmel Live!: YouTube link
Alvin and the Chipmunks cover: YouTube link
Contestant Mateusz Grędziński on The Voice of Poland: YouTube link

5. Starboy, The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk, XO/Republic
My #5 song of 2016 is the first number one hit of 2017. After 12 weeks in the top five and eight straight at #2, “Starboy” has been announced as the new number one song on the first Billboard chart of 2017, replacing Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles.” Abel Tesfaye is the Canadian singer who uses the purposely misspelled pseudonym, “The Weeknd.” He had a fabulous breakthrough year in 2015, and in my mind, deserved the Best Song Oscar for “Earned It,” from the horrifically awful movie Fifty Shades of Grey. The first single from the new album, also titled Starboy, is a collaboration with the French superstar electronica duo Daft Punk. The collaboration works–“Starboy” has an almost futuristic moody sound with an excellent grove. A song called “Starboy” immediately brings to mind the late David Bowie’s song, “Starman.” Whether that influenced The Weeknd and Daft Punk is unknown, but the video does suggest reinventing a persona. The lyrics contain some clever references to several luxury cars and even Star Trek.

Official Video: Vevo link
Lyric video (NSFW): YouTube link
From Saturday Night Live: YouTube link
The Weeknd live on NBC’s The Voice: YouTube link
Victoria’s Secret 2016 Fashion Show Performance: YouTube link

6. 24K Magic, Bruno Mars, Atlantic
Bruno Mars has had some success with retro-funk with recent hits such as “Treasure” and the Mark Ronson collaboration, “Uptown Funk.” His newest album, 24K Magic, is his first release of new music since “Uptown Funk” debuted in November 2014. The first single, also titled “24K Magic,” dropped on October 7, 2016, the same day as the album. This song sticks with that funk, R&B, disco throwback sound, centered on synthesizer chords. Mars is primarily a showman. The vocals on “24K Magic” allow the performer to shine. The single debuted at #5 the week of October 29 coming off a performance on Saturday Night Live. After falling to #7, it rebounded and spent the final four weeks of 2016 in the top five. So far, it has hit #1 in Argentina, France, Israel and New Zealand. Mars included his newest hit on a December 13 edition of “Carpool Karaoke,” a popular feature of The Late Late Show with James Corden. Corden will host the upcoming Grammys, but “24K Magic” was released after the deadline for Grammy consideration this year. “It’s Showtime!”

Official Video: Vevo link
American Music Awards performance: YouTube link
From Saturday Night Live: YouTube link
Live in Rotterdam at the 2016 MTV European Music Awards: YouTube link
Victoria’s Secret 2016 Fashion Show Performance: YouTube link

7. Love Yourself, Justin Bieber, Schoolboy/Raymond Braun/Def Jam
Justin Bieber’s “Love Yourself” was ranked the number one song of 2016 by Billboard. Bieber has had a pretty good year, one of the most successful calendar years of all time by a pop artist. “Love Yourself” was the third single from Bieber’s Purpose album, and his third straight number one hit from that album. Co-written by Ed Sheeran, Benny Blanco and Bieber, “Love Yourself” is basically a nasty way to tell an ex where he/she can go. Released on November 9, 2015, it debuted at #4 the week of December 5, giving Bieber three of the top five songs that week. Stuck behind Adele’s “Hello” and Bieber’s “Sorry” for two months, “Love Yourself” finally hit the top in February 2016. In the United Kingdom, Bieber broke an all-time record when “Love Yourself,” “Sorry” and “What Do You Mean” held the top three spots on the British chart. Additionally, he broke a record held by the Beatles by having the top two songs on that same chart for four straight weeks. The “Love Yourself” video has logged over one billion views. It’s up for two Grammys: Song of the Year (the songwriters award) and Pop Solo Performance. I think you get the idea—this was a huge hit!

Video: Vevo link
From The Ellen DeGeneres Show: YouTube link
At the 2015 Capital FM Jingle Bell Ball: YouTube link
Alessia Cara cover version: YouTube link
Halsey cover (NSFW lyrics): YouTube link
Moushumi on NBC’s The Voice: YouTube link

8. Closer, The Chainsmokers featuring Halsey, Disruptor/Columbia
The Chainsmokers first hit, “#Selfie,” didn’t endear me to this DJ duo. It’s still one of the worst songs I’ve heard on radio in recent years. They followed that song up with a few more conventionally sounding hits before releasing their big breakthrough, “Closer.” The collaboration with singer Halsey spent 12 weeks on top the Billboard Hot 100, a rare achievement, indeed. Halsey is a 22-year-old singer from New Jersey named Ashley Frangipane. She broke through late in 2015 using her pseudonym, a rearrangement of her first name, with a hit on the alternative chart called “New Americana.” “Closer” is the first top 40 hit for Halsey and the fourth for the Chainsmokers, and is the first number one hit for both. Internationally, “Closer” topped the charts in 10 countries on five continents. Both members of the Chainsmokers and Halsey were listed as songwriters upon its July release, however, in early September, Isaac Slade and Joe King of The Fray were added as co-writers. Apparently, “Closer” is somewhat similar to “Over My Head (Cable Car).” Although it was the longest running number one hit of 2016, Billboard ranked “Closer” as the 10th biggest hit of the year. It’s up for one Grammy, for Pop Duo/Group Performance.

Official video: Vevo link
Live at the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards: YouTube link
At the 2016 American Music Awards: YouTube link

9. I Hate You, I Love U, gnash featuring Olivia O’Brien, Atlantic/Warner Brothers
“I Hate You I Love U” is a breakthrough hit for both rapper/DJ gnash and 17-year-old singer-songwriter Olivia O’Brien. Their collaboration began after gnash heard a cover of one of his songs that O’Brien performed and posted online. He asked if she had material and she sent a demo of “I Hate U, I Love You.” They re-wrote it and released it in February. This song began to take off after they performed it on Late Night with Seth Meyers. It started climbing the charts in September and peaked at number 10 the week of October 22, making it barely eligible for this countdown. O’Brien’s vocals work well with this sad song about a breakup aftermath. The rap verses from gnash are pretty low-key but they fit well with O’Brien’s voice. O’Brien released her own solo version as a single in December.

Official video: Vevo link
In the Live Lounge: YouTube link
Olivia O’Brien solo version (audio): Vevo link

10. Bad Things, Machine Gun Kelly & Camila Cabello, Bad Boy/Interscope/Epic
Okay, I knew nothing about Machine Gun Kelly until watching this video. “Bad Things” was released in mid-October, and just hit the top 10 the week of December 24. It fell from number 10 to number 14 on December 31, but that may have been the effect of three J. Cole songs debuting ahead of it. So it’s still on the charts now and may or not hang around a while longer. I am familiar with Camila Cabello, formerly of Fifth Harmony. That “formerly” is also very recent–she left the group put together by Simon Cowell for The X-Factor, via an announcement on December 18. The 19-year-old Cabello’s vocals far outshine Kelly’s rapping, which brings to mind a bland Pitbull imitation. However, Kelly, a white rapper from Cleveland, really just provides a backdrop that allows Cabello to shine.  The song is based on “Out Of My Head,” a Fastball hit from the late 1990s. The video seem to combine Bonnie and Clyde with Romeo and Juliet. Not so subtly, the characters’ names are Bonnie and Romeo.

Official video: Vevo link
Performance from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon: YouTube link
Performance from The Late Late Show with James Corden: YouTube link
Live at the Z100 Jingle Ball concert: YouTube link