The 2016 Soundtrack


Previous annual soundtracks: 2015 // 2014 // 2013 // 2012 // 2011

This is the chronological soundtrack of my 2016! The rules: no repeat artists (duets and feat.s don’t count) and the final product has to fit on a CD. You can listen to this playlist here, or to the longer unedited version here here. I make no apologies or excuses for my musical taste, and am pleased by how this year’s soundtrack came together. Fun fact: five of 20 songs directly include my One Word for the year.

1. A Beginning Song – The Decemberists
Let’s commence to coordinate our sights
Get them square to rights, get them square to rights
Condescend the calmest riot in your mind
Find yourself in time, find yourself in time

I was very into the latest Decemberists album at the end of 2015. I listened to this song on New Year’s Day and decided it was a good check-in for the start of my year.

2. Same Old Love – Selena Gomez
Where I stood romantically at the beginning of 2016: fully fed up with the BS doled out by most single dudes.

3. Stars – Demi Lovato
My favorite ironic-but-not ode to GOING OUT WITH MY CREW YO!!! It never fails to provide simple joy.

4. Cheap Thrills – Sia
The conclusion of this trio of enjoyable party-girl tunes. Sia is my current spirit animal. I am so attuned to her style that recently, while watching The Voice, I correctly recognized a song I hadn’t heard before as written (and not even originally recorded) by her.

5. Stressed Out – Twenty One Pilots
We used to play pretend, give each other different names
We would build a rocket ship and then we’d fly it far away
Used to dream of outer space, but now they’re laughing in our face
Saying, “Wake up, you need to make money”

Probably the best-written and most relatable pop song of the year.

6. Wait For It – Leslie Odom Jr. (from Hamilton)
I am the one thing in life I can control
I am inimitable, I am an original
I am not falling behind or running late
I’m not standing still, I am lying in wait

As everyone knows, this was my Year of Hamilton, and as everyone also knows, choosing a best or favorite Hamilton track is nearly impossible. But Wait For It consistently strikes closest to my heart and life experiences.

7. Gold – Kiiara
This first perked up my ears before a keynote session at the Festival of Faith & Writing. Lack of actual lyrics aside, it has a great vibe and is good for driving with the windows down.

8. Make Me Like You – Gwen Stefani
I was fine before I met you, I was broken but fine
I was lost and uncertain, but my heart was still mine
I was free before I met you, I was broken but free
All alone in the clear view, but now you are all I see

My feelings upon entering my first relationship in six years, appropriately written by my celebrity role model since high school, when I last knew him.

9. Be Okay – Oh Honey
Fresh cut grass, one cold beer
Thank the Lord I am here and now, here and now
Summer dress, favorite park
Bless your soul, we are here and now, here and now

A great expression of a couple of early-summer months when I was very happy.

10. Can’t Stop The Feeling – Justin Timberlake
No 2016 Memphis wedding or event was complete without the latest JT!

11. Send My Love (To Your New Lover) – Adele
We’ve gotta let go of all of our ghosts
We both know we ain’t kids no more

One of the more fun tracks from 25 later turned out to be pretty applicable.

12. Never Be Like You – Flume + Kai
I’m only human can’t you see, I made, I made a mistake
Please just look me in my face, tell me everything’s okay
‘Cause I got it, I’ll never be like you

When I realized I was starting to relate to the rather unhealthy perspective of this hit song, I knew I had to rethink my relationship. On a purely musical note, I think the glittery chime effects juxtaposed with the dubstep and dark subject matter make this song really interesting.

13. How We Love – Ingrid Michaelson
We hate the rain when it fills up our shoes
But how we love when it washes our cars
We love to love when it fills up the room
But when it leaves, oh we’re cursing the stars

I was #blessed to see Ingrid Michaelson in Kansas City in October, with my sister, soon-to-be SIL, and her best friends. Though a longtime Ingrid fan, I wasn’t super familiar with the Human Again album and heard this song for the first time live. She played it quietly on a ukelele and everyone was transfixed. I think I may have cried a little. I definitely cried a little on subsequent listens.

14. 22 (Over Soon) – Bon Iver
Where you gonna look for confirmation?
And if it’s ever gonna happen
So as I’m standing at the station
It might be over soon

Everything about this weird little tune captured my exact mood when I first heard it one downhearted Wednesday morning. One of those time-capsule musical moments.

15. Morning Comes – Delta Rae
Oh, rain don’t change the sun
Jealous is the night when the morning comes
But it always comes

Delta Rae rocked my world when I blindly went to their September show at the Levitt Shell, and I feel like this song represents the arc of my whole year… the slowly increasing hope that my long night is ending.

16. Don’t Let Me Down – The Chainsmokers feat. Daya
Running out of time, I really thought you were on my side
But now there’s nobody by my side

I can’t stand most contemporary Christian music, but I have a tendency to find God in songs that aren’t about Him at all. Right or wrong, it hit me one day that this is my current prayer and psalm. It indirectly helped to inspire my One Word for next year. I generally love Daya – “Hide Away” and “Sit Still, Look Pretty” were contenders for this list.

17. White Flag – Joseph
Noises closing in from all sides, warning all the ways to die
They say “you’d better give up, you’d better give up”
I say “I’ll never give up, I’ll never give up”

The 2016 Gryffindor Anthem. Every year needs one! (See also Johnnyswim, “Diamonds,” previously)

18. When God Closes a Door – Larkin Poe
When God closes a door, He leads you up the stairs
Leave your earthly cares on the second floor
Then God cracks a couple skulls, God cracks a couple more
His plate is full on the second floor

I heard about Larkin Poe via Jayson Bradley‘s Instagram, investigated them on Spotify, and loved this song immediately. I don’t necessarily condone all the lyrics, but this image of God as biker vigilante amuses me. Jayson is correct that these sisters ROCK. They’re like Haim meets Johnny Cash.

19. Reflecting Light – Sam Phillips
Now that I’ve worn out, I’ve worn out the world
I’m on my knees in fascination, looking through the night
And the moon’s never seen me before
But I’m reflecting light

I really enjoyed the Gilmore Girls revival, and thought this closing song was beautiful.

20. Finish Line / Drown – Chance the Rapper feat. …errrbody
All my days, I prayed and prayed, and now I see the finish line
I’m gonna finish mine.

I kept hearing Chance the Rapper described as the most joyful rapper in the game, so I added a few of his recent songs to my running playlist. This one happened to come up as I was running through the campus of St. Jude during the St. Jude half-marathon, which everyone will tell you is an emotional experience, and it seemed perfect for the moment. Watching Chance perform it on SNL last weekend confirmed to me that it’s the right song to end 2016 on. I’ve been thankful to hit some important personal milestones this year, even as others remain ahead. My brother is getting married New Year’s Day, and I’ve already told him we need to dance to this at the pre-wedding New Year’s Eve party. May we all cross our finish lines in 2017!

About Brenda W.

Christian. Memphian. Reader. Writer. True blue Tiger fan. Lover of shoes, the ocean, adventure, and McAlister's iced tea. View all posts by Brenda W. →
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3 Responses to The 2016 Soundtrack

  1. Sarah Parsons says:

    Brenda! I love this playlist! Some of these I’ve heard and love (Reflecting Light, Make Me Like You, Cheap Thrills), one of these is on my 2016 Can Die In A Fire playlist (Stressed Out), and the rest that I haven’t heard before, but can’t wait to give them a listen. Music has always been A Very Big Part of my life, and reading why people love a particular song/how they relate to it is one of my very favorite things ever.

  2. Oh my word, this is an absolutely BRILLIANT idea! As someone who shares a love of the mixtape, I MUST try this for myself! Thanks for sharing!! :)

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