The Best Songs of 2016 (So Far)

Yes, dear reader, this blog has been light on music coverage the past few months; I plan on correcting that course with this post. Despite my lack of music reviews, I have been sampling the great pop that has arrived with the late winter and early spring. Here are my picks for the best songs released so far this year:

5. "Be Alright" by Ariana Grande
Grande continues her reign as a purveyor of hip dance music. While recent singles "Focus" and "Dangerous Woman" did not grab me, I adore "Be Alright," in part because it plays to the more laid-back style of her debut, Yours Truly. I many ways we could hear this song as a sequel to her first hit "The Way," in which she reassures the lover from her debut single that, after all they have been through, everything will be fine if they have each other.

4. "Piece by Piece" by Kelly Clarkson
I sang my praises for Clarkson's most recent hit after she performed the tune on American Idol. It still holds up, even though it had a brief presence in the top 10. I would argue that "Piece by Piece" stands alongside some of the best of her work.

3. "Cheap Thrills" by Sia
The newest single from Sia's This is Acting, "Cheap Thrills," sounds straight off the best kind of Rihanna record. Given that Rihanna's Anti is such a  shamble of sounds, it is no wonder "Cheap Thrills" was abandoned by the its intended superstar. Thank goodness Sia salvaged the tune for herself. It's bouncy production, a chorus of voices shouting the title, and Sia's playful phrasing makes it a keeper.

2. "Pillowtalk" by Zayn
I've been simmering on Zayn's foray into solo stardom for the past few months. As the first to step out of One Direction to pursue his creative muse, Zayn has already set a high bar for his boyband peers. "Pillowtalk" is a sexy take on young love and romantic turbulence. It betters a tune like Justin Bieber's "What Do You Mean" because Zayn delivers a more dynamic vocal performance. He sounds committed--both to his lover and the track.

1. "The Sound" by The 1975
I'm still digesting The 1975's latest LP, which finds the band besting their remarkable debut. "The Sound" captures what makes them such a compelling and remarkable act. Though lyrically moody, the production--an expert mix of retro electric guitar, modern dance beats, and synthesizers--gels to make pop magic. The tune loops in and back around on itself to create a whirlwind of energy.

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