The Best Pop Music of 2016

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A look at the best pop music of 2016. From Adele to Justin Bieber, these are the artists that dominated the charts this year.


Pop music is a genre of popular music that originated in its modern form in the United States and United Kingdom during the mid-1950s. The terms “popular music” and “pop music” are often used interchangeably, although the former describes all music that is popular and includes many diverse styles. “Pop” and “rock” were roughly synonymous terms until the late 1960s, when they became increasingly differentiated from each other.

Generally, pop music is characterized by a strong melody, catchy hooks, and a danceable beat. Pop songs are usually shorter than rock songs and are often written in a verse-chorus form, which makes them easy to remember and sing along to. A big part of pop music’s appeal is that it is easy to enjoy without having to understand or analyze it deeply.

The best pop music of 2016 was eclectic and exciting, with something for everyone. From catchy earworms to soul-searching ballads, there was a wide range of great pop music released this year. Here are some of the best pop songs of 2016:

Best Pop Songs of 2016

It’s hard to deny that 2016 was a great year for pop music. Whether you were jamming out to “Work” by Rihanna or “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake, there was no shortage of catchy tunes to keep you entertained. And while there are too many great songs to list them all, we’ve compiled a list of our favourites. So without further ado, here are the best pop songs of 2016.

“Formation” by Beyoncé

“Formation” is a song recorded by American singer Beyoncé for her sixth studio album Lemonade (2016). The song was released on February 6, 2016, along with a music video directed by Melina Matsoukas. It is a trap song with elements of New Orleans bounce music and hip hop. Lyrically, “Formation” celebrates African-American women and southern black Pride. The video features cameos from New Orleans residents and references the city’s history of racism and police brutality.

The song debuted at number 10 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming Beyoncé’s first lead single to enter the top 10 since “Run the World (Girls)” in 2011, and her highest-charting single since “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” in 2008. It peaked at number one on the Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, making it Beyoncé’s sixth number one single on that chart, tying her with Rihanna for the most number one singles as a lead artist. The song was nominated for three Grammy Awards: Record of the Year, Song of the Year and Best Music Video; it won Best Music Video.

“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” by Justin Timberlake

“Can’t Stop the Feeling!” is a song recorded by American singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake for the soundtrack to the film Trolls (2016), his fifth studio album, Man of the Woods (2018), and his first single in four years. The song was released on May 6, 2016, through RCA Records. Written and produced by Timberlake, Max Martin and Shellback, it is a dance-pop, disco and funk song that contains elements of new jack swing. It received generally positive reviews from music critics, who praised its production and called it a “feel-good” tune. In the United States, the song peaked at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for three non-consecutive weeks in June 2016, becoming Timberlake’s fourth number-one single there. The song also topped the charts in twelve other countries including Australia, Canada, Denmark, Finland and Sweden; as well as peaking within the top five in France (), Italy (), New Zealand (), Norway (), Spain () and Switzerland ().

“One Dance” by Drake

“One Dance” by Drake topped the charts in several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and France. The song also peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 and US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs charts.

“This Is What You Came For” by Calvin Harris

“This Is What You Came For” is a song by Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, featuring English singer Rihanna. It was released on 29 April 2016 as the fourth single from Harris’s fifth studio album, Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 (2017). The song was co-written by Harris and Neil Thomas Proto, while the production was handled by the former. It peaked at number two on both the UK Singles Chart and US Billboard Hot 100.

The music video for “This Is What You Came For” was directed by Emil Nava and released on 26 May 2016. The video features footage of Rihanna and Harris in a nightclub as well as CGI effects. The song won the award for Best Collaboration at the 2017 MTV Video Music Awards.

“Work” by Rihanna

Rihanna’s “Work” was one of the best pop songs of 2016. The song debuted at number one on the Billboard Hot 100, becoming Rihanna’s 14th top 10 hit in the United States, and her ninth number-one single on the chart. It also became her 25th top 10 single on the UK Singles Chart. The song has been certified double platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), and has sold 2.3 million copies in the United States as of January 2017.

Best Pop Albums of 2016

2016 was a great year for pop music. Albums like “25” by Adele, “Lemonade” by Beyonce, “Views” by Drake, and “A Head Full of Dreams” by Coldplay were released this year and they are all amazing. If you’re looking for some good pop music to listen to, then you should check out these albums.

“Lemonade” by Beyoncé

Released in April 2016, “Lemonade” was Beyoncé’s sixth studio album and her second visual album. A departure from her previous work, “Lemonade” is a conceptual album that explores the topics of infidelity and betrayal. The album received critical acclaim, with many praising Beyoncé’s vocal performance and the songwriting. “Lemonade” won Best Urban Contemporary Album at the 2017 Grammy Awards.

“Views” by Drake

“Views” is the fourth studio album by Canadian rapper Drake. It was released on April 29, 2016, through Young Money Entertainment, Cash Money Records and Republic Records. Recording sessions took place between 2015 and 2016, with both Canadian and American producers contributing to the album. The album’s title track was first released as a promotional single in February 2016, followed by two more singles – “One Dance” and “Hotline Bling” later that month. The former peaked at number one in several countries, including the United States, United Kingdom and Canada, where it became Drake’s first number-one single as a lead artist. Upon its release, “Views” received mixed reviews from critics; despite this it became Drake’s best-selling album to date.

The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200—becoming Drake’s fourth consecutive album to do so—and broke several streaming records upon its release. One week after its release, “Views” earned Drake his eighth consecutive number one on the Billboard Hot 100 with the single “One Dance”, which featured Wizkid and Kyla. Views was credited as having been responsible for reviving Billboard’s flagging Hot 100; prior to its debut at the top of the issue dated May 21, 2016—the first non-holiday issue since January 23—the majority of lead artists had been older or deceased (Drake himself being 29 years old at the time). With Adele being featured as lead artist on two tracks from Views (“Hotline Bling” and “One Dance”), she became only the second female overall after Taylor Swift (with her 2014 hit song “Blank Space”) to achieve this feat since Lady Gaga’s two 2009 hits (“Poker Face” and “LoveGame”). As of October 2016 according to Nielsen SoundScan , Views has sold 1,710,000 copies in North America alone.

“Anti” by Rihanna

It’s been three years since Rihanna last released an album, and in that time, the pop landscape has shifted dramatically. Kanye West and Taylor Swift have feuded, Justin Bieber has abandoned his neighborhood to live in the hills, and Drake has become the world’s most inescapable artist. But Rihanna has stayed the course, delivering a record that is both a return to form and a masterclass in pop craftsmanship.

“Anti” is Rihanna’s eighth studio album, and it is her most personal and introspective work to date. The record was preceded by the lead single, “Work,” which features Drake and debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The album itself debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 chart with 166,000 equivalent units sold in its first week.

“Anti” is a departure from Rihanna’s previous work in both sound and style. The production is sparse and minimal, with more focus placed on Rihanna’s vocals than on catchy hooks or danceable beats. This new approach suits her well, as her songwriting has always been her strongest suit. On tracks like “Needed Me” and “Kiss It Better,” she delivers some of the best lyricism of her career.

Thematically, “Anti” is focused on relationships—both good and bad. Rihanna opens up about her complicated feelings for an old flame on “Work,” while on “Kiss It Better” she laments a love that has gone sour. But it’s not all doom and gloom—on the shimmering ballad “Close to You,” she sings about finally finding happiness in a new relationship.

Rihanna has always been one of pop music’s most reliable hitmakers, but with “Anti,” she has delivered her best album yet. It is a bold statement from an artist who continues to evolve and surprise us with each new release.

“Purpose” by Justin Bieber

“Purpose” is the fourth studio album by Canadian singer Justin Bieber. It was released on November 13, 2015, by Def Jam Recordings and School Boy Records. The album was preceded by the release of four singles: “What Do You Mean?”, “Sorry”, “I’m the One” and “2U”. All four reached the top 40 of the US Billboard Hot 100. Bieber also released three promotional singles in preparation for the album: “Mark My Words”, “No Pressure”, and “Bigger”.

“25” by Adele

Adele’s “25” is one of the best pop albums of 2016. The album was released on November 20, 2015, by XL Recordings and Columbia Records. “25” is a commercial success, debuting at number one on the UK Albums Chart and the US Billboard 200. The album has sold more than 3 million copies in the UK and more than 7 million copies in the US.


2016 has been an amazing year for pop music. We’ve seen the return of some of our favorite artists, and the debut of some incredible new talent. It’s been a year of experimentation and innovation, and we can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

Thank you for reading our list of the best pop music of 2016. We hope you enjoyed it and found some new music to love. If you have any suggestions for next year’s list, please let us know in the comments below.

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