Music that saved 2016

During her music video for Formation, Beyonce Knowles leans on her car.


During her music video for Formation, Beyonce Knowles leans on her car.

From turbulent politics to international tragedies, there were numerous events that took place in 2016 that caused the world to mourn. Though it seemed as if many aspects of our lives were taking a turn for the worse, thankfully, the wrath of 2016 spared the music industry. In fact, musicians took their music to a whole new level in 2016, using their art to speak out about what mattered most to them.

In 2016, both Beyonce Knowles and her sister Solange Knowles released albums that created waves of praise among the music community. Beyonce’s visual album Lemonade unapologetically conveyed messages against racism and police brutality, while also showing Beyonce claiming her body and sexuality. Women are often forced to tone down those areas of their personality, which is why Lemonade is such an important, progressive album of 2016. Solange’s album A Seat at the Table had a similar message, but was much more lyrically subtle than her sister’s. In the song “Weary,” she explains how she is “weary of the ways of the world,” but then sings, “I’m gonna look for my glory.” Solange’s lyrics resonated deeply with me and her fans because despite all the issues in the world, there is still hope.

Frank Ocean and Chance the Rapper also released albums in 2016 that were highly acclaimed. Ocean’s album Blond was one of my favorite albums because it expressed heartbreak in personal and political issues, with a minimalistic sound. The easy flow between a soft, indie vibe in “Ivy” to intense rap in “Solo (Reprise)” is what makes this album unique and interesting. In May of 2016, a more uplifting album was released called Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper. The album opens with “All We Got” featuring Kanye West and Chicago Children’s Choir, where Chance sings about what matters most to him. As the album progresses, similar messages of hope, spirituality and love are also sprinkled throughout the inspiring, but truthful mix of songs. In fact, Chance showed just how impactful this album was when he led Chicago residents in a “Parade to the Polls” to vote in the 2016 presidential election. Through his music, he encouraged people to become politically active in a time when many felt disenfranchised. Coloring Book’s positive messages helped to inspire people despite the turbulence of 2016.

There were many albums released in 2016 that were lesser known, but of equal quality. Whitney, a band based in Chicago, released their debut album Light Upon the Lake in June of 2016. The album is a collection of warm, folk-rock songs with lyrics that express heartbreak, happiness and death in a refreshing way. “Golden Days,” one of the more catchy songs, brings a mix of nostalgia and comfort, with soft vocals weaving in and out of melodic guitar riffs. In September, Angel Olsen, a St. Louis native, released her fourth album, My Woman. This album achieves a delicate balance between soft folky songs, like she has done previously, and electric guitar driven melodies like “Shut Up Kiss Me.” Olsen expresses her raw emotions as a woman trudging through her life full of love and heartbreak. Similar to Beyonce, Olsen claims her emotions and sexuality in My Woman, offering this as an answer to the questions she raises about love.

To see 2016 positively, all you have to do is look on the musical side. Although there were many other great albums released in 2016, the ones I have mentioned stood out among the rest because they brought happiness and comfort in a time when many needed it, and showed that the power of music can make a difference in the world. As Chance the Rapper says, sometimes “music is all we got.”