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50 Best Songs of 2016

Beyoncé owned our world, Drake lit up the dance floor, and Rae Sremmurd got their John Lennon on

Top 50 Singles of 2016, Drake, Fifth Harmony, Rae Sremmurd

Fifth Harmony, Drake and Rae Sremmurd made some of the best songs of the year.

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All corners of the music world kept booming in 2016 – even when everything else about our world looked like it was on the verge of blowing apart. From rock & roll legends to rap upstarts, from future-shock R&B visionaries to rootsy country story-tellers, from teen-pop smoothies to leather guitar heroes, from the dance floor to the mosh pit, great songs seemed to keep coming out of nowhere. Some became worldwide hits; others were lurking in the shadows. But these were the songs that hit hardest and rang truest all year long.

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38

Maren Morris, “80s Mercedes”

The Nashville breakout star is writing cooler car songs than anyone else these days – she's a "Nineties baby in an Eighties Mercedes," blasting Hank Williams and Johnny Cash on her radio.

37

Tacocat, “Night Swimming”

The Seattle grrrl-punk band offers a maddeningly catchy escape from city malaise – cruising to the lake for a late-night skinny dip. Bring your boombox, but there's only one rule: You can't play R.E.M.

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36

Drive-By Truckers, “Ever South”

Patterson Hood and Mike Cooley wrote an album of political post-Skynyrd rockers for American Band, but Hood really drives it home here, tracing his family roots from Ellis Island to Appalachia, only to end up "a blue-eyed Southern devil" who doesn't feel at home anywhere.

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35

Japanese Breakfast, “Everybody Wants to Love You”

Michelle Zauner vents about grief, sex and food ("Will you lend me your toothbrush?/Will you make me breakfast in bed?") with Cure-worthy guitars and a vocal assist from a kindred spirit, Radiator Hospital's Sam Cook-Parrott. Psychopomp isn't just her album title – it's her way of life.

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34

Britney Spears, “Clumsy”

A TRL princess turned Vegas queen revisits the high-energy disco-ball hysteria of her youth for this shoulda-been-a-hit highlight from her comeback album Glory. No singer has ever brought so much resonance to the word "oops."

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33

Mitski, “Your Best American Girl”

"If I could, I'd be your little spoon," Mitski sings in one of the standouts from Puberty 2. The indie firebrand traces a culturally crossed romance, making casual connections between racial and sexual politics, shrugging, "I guess I couldn't help trying to be your best American girl."

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32

Kodak Black, “Everything 1K”

The Florida rap phenom has the confidence to call his album Lil Big Pac – a bold claim, even if he wasn't born in either Biggie or Pac's lifetimes. But he lives up to it with this boast: "Before I had the name I had the fame."

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31

Miranda Lambert, “Vice”

Miranda doesn't make nice in her first hit since her high-profile split with Blake Shelton. She's in fighting spirits, an unrepentant Nashville bad girl ready to steal your man then hit the next town to do it all over again tomorrow night.

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30

A Tribe Called Quest, “The Space Program”

The triumphant return of the Tribe – including the late, great Phife, who tragically didn't live to see it come out. They trade rhymes about the end of the world, as Q-Tip spits, "We about our business, we not quitters, not bullshitters, we deliver."

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29

Cobalt, “Beast Whip”

The reconstituted Cobalt emerge for the first time in seven years, opening Slow Forever with this massive slab of extremely extreme metal: a nine-minute countdown to Armageddon.