Tag Archives: Justin Bieber

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