By Jack Sharkey, January 6, 2017

This is the first installment of a year-long blog series 50 Years, 5 Songs, 50 Weeks. For the next 50 weeks we’re going to offer up five songs from each of the last fifty years that tell the story of music as it existed during that year, and how that music ultimately played a role in getting us to where we are today..

Some of the 250 songs will be giant hits and some will be somewhat obscure: To make the list a song needs to be representative of the time, or the beginning or end of a particular style or movement. Was the song an important part of the year or was it a harbinger of things to come? Did other artists copy the style or feel of the song and turn that into a whole new stylistic movement? The songs are not ranked in anyway, as each one played an equal part in the year in music.

 

Just like music doesn’t just exist only in the past, music can never exist without a vision of what has gone before. Music evolves and changes pretty much based on what one musician takes from a musician who has gone before. Like every subjective list of art, we hope this will at times make sense and at others spark debate (and maybe even a little criticism). Take the trip with us in 2017 as we look back on the music that got us to where we are today.

 

2016

Twenty-sixteen will long be remembered as a year of loss as some of the greatest icons in all music history left us behind. Some of the songs on this week’s list very deeply owe themselves to those who have gone before while others are purely a result of where the culture is right now.

 

 

Drake - Hotline Bling. Totally representative of popular music in the mid twenty-teens: Minimal chording over a hip-hop arrangement all wrapped in a fun and catchy hook. Hotline Bling extracts deeply from pop music over the past 15 years but it also introduces us to a new, more accessible (read: mainstream) direction in pop hip-hop.

 

Florida-Georgia Line - Confession

Beer. Pick-up trucks. Satruday night. Beer. Add that to the blurring of lines between metal, hip-hop and super-slick Nashville production and you leave country far behind as you cross the Florida-Georgia Line. Melodically, there is very little difference between Hotline Bling and Confession, that's because that's sound of money being made.

 

Andy Grammar - Good To Be Alive

If you're between twelve and 24, this song will forever be ingrained as part of the soundtrack of your life. If you're aging rapidly above the age of 24, you'll be hard-pressed to deny that this is a great pop song with a catchy hook. Ignore the similarities with other hits from the year - that's called the sound of the times and every time has a specific sound. GTBA summarizes it perfectly.

 

Chris Stapleton - Tennessee Whiskey

It's not specifically "country" and it's not specifically "the Blues" this song was released before January 1, 2016, but it really didn't hit national stride until this year. Tennessee Whiskey is the kind of song America produced way back in the day that helped change the world. It's just a good song, but more than that, it's a bit of welcome relief from the mainstream. Only time will tell if Tennessee Whiskey  changed the direction of what popular music is.  

 

Adele - Hello

Viewed over a billion times on Youtube, this carry-over from 2015 will be the song that represents 2016 when some smart-aleck does a list like this in 2066. You couldn't escape it, no one could escape it, and that's a bit of a shame, because it really is a very good song.

Next week: 2015

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