2016 has possibly been the weirdest year in history.
It’s been a year in which multiple celebrities and icons have passed away, a mom wearing a Wookie mask became the most watched person in Facebook history, millions of people worldwide have developed a… gesture, I guess, of nestling their head in their inside elbow and flinging their other arm out, the biggest threat to national security was a bunch of dumb-asses dressed up as clowns, a former reality TV star was elected as President of the United States, and 11,000 Americans woke up, got dressed, and left the house to vote for a dead gorilla in the very same election.
Did I mention that it’s been a weird year?
As hard a task as it may seem, I’m going to attempt to encapsulate and define 2016 into several songs that are reflective of this truly bizarre, troubling and unpredictable year.
David Bowie- ‘Heroes’
Bowie created something that couldn’t be topped. A fallen legend in his own right, David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ is an anthem that celebrates those moments in life when we feel alive and inspired. And it goes out as an ode to those heroes we’ve lost in 2016; to the musicians who will no longer write the songs to soundtrack our lives, to the actors who will no longer light up our screens, to the entertainers who will no longer entertain us, to the storytellers who can no longer transport us to another world – ‘Heroes’ goes out to you. “We can beat them, just for one day/We can be Heroes, just for one day”.
Kendrick Lamar- ‘The Blacker the Berry’
A song that made waves upon its release last year has become that much more relevant in 2016. The international movement of Black Lives Matter has faced even more difficulties and hardships this year and society has regressed, and near imploded, at times. Kendrick Lamar’s masterpiece of a song is a passionate and furious take on race, mainly the treatment of African-Americans in the United States. It’s shocking that in 2016 this is an issue with humanity, but racism is still a problem in the 21st century and one that, unfortunately, doesn’t seem to be going away. In 2016 alone, the deaths of Alton Sterling, Philandro Castile and Korryn Gaines led to widespread protesting and, in some awful cases, rioting. And on top of this, there has been protest within the NFL as Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem stating in an interview that “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour”. Just watch the harrowing clip from Ava DuVernay’s superb documentary 13th which shows the comparison between treatment at Trump rallies and in the 1960s. This song speaks on Black Lives Matter and the deep rooted issues in our society, of which there are many. Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Blacker the Berry’ is an unfortunate yet important anthem for 2016. “I know you hate me, don’t you?/You hate my people, I can tell cause it’s threats when I see you/I can tell cause your ways deceitful/Know I can tell because you’re in love with the Desert Eagle”.
It’s frightening how accurate this new song from the metal legends really is now. What at first seemed to just be an excellent new song from the band for their new album is actually an incredibly relevant and powerful metaphor for 2016, at least from a political point of view. Whilst the older generations and the disillusioned revel in the fact that they basically “won” 2016 in politics, the younger among us lament the outcomes of elections and referendums – yes, that means you Brexit and Trump – and how we seem to be either imploding or regressing, possibly even both. But with ‘Hardwired’, Metallica proved to be one step ahead of us. “We’re so fucked/Shit out of luck/Hardwired to self destruct” is their cry, and it’s easy to see why; it’s tough to have optimism right now and we do seem to be a people who are inherently destined for some kind of self-destruction. Scary? Yes. “Once upon a planet burning/Once upon a flame/Once upon a fear returning/All in vain”.
Weezer- ‘Pork and Beans’
More for its video than anything, this song will never not be applicable to any year. The video, released in 2008, was a parody, a tribute and an addition to viral videos and the growing medium of YouTube, which is now of course one of the biggest websites on the planet. And 2016 was another banner year for memes and viral videos; Chewbacca Mom, Carpool Karaoke, Spongegar, Harambe, Killer Clowns, the mannequin challenge, Joe Biden memes, Damn Daniel, bottle and chair flipping, the huh challenge, deez nuts… and I’m pretty sure that I’m missing a number of other ones. Internet, never change – we need obscure and random happiness in life like this. “Imma do the things that I wanna do/I ain’t got a thing to prove to you”.
Arcade Fire- ‘Wake Up’
In and among all the doom and gloom of 2016, we got some silver linings and when things get us down and when it seems like hope is dwindling, we’re inspired to look forward to a new day and to try and push through with what we have. Stories like Walnut the Dog’s final walk, the Chicago Cubs fan who went to watch their World Series winning game at his deceased father’s grave to keep a promise to him, and even little things like the police who pulled a woman and her child over only to give them both an ice cream cone: it’s stuff like this that gives hope. And songs like ‘Wake Up’ by Arcade Fire encapsulate this. “With my lightnin’ bolts a glowin’/I can see where I am goin’”.
The Mountain Goats- ‘This Year’
For one line and one line alone, this song is perfect for 2016: “I am gonna make it through this year, if it kills me”. The Mountain Goats and John Darnielle just get it and this song endures because of it.
Check out this playlist and others on The Edge‘s Spotify account.