Best Soul Music of 2016

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Listen to a compilation of the best soul tracks of 2016. From new school to old school, this mix has it all.


As the world says goodbye to 2016, we take a look back at the best soul music of the year. From start to finish, it was a great year for soul music, with both established artists and newcomers alike delivering some truly fantastic music.

Whether it was Kendrick Lamar’s masterful album “To Pimp a Butterfly”, D’Angelo’s long-awaited return with “Black Messiah”, or Anderson .Paak’s breakout album “Malibu”, there was no shortage of great soul music this year. And that’s not even mentioning the numerous great EPs, mixtapes, and singles that were released throughout the year.

In this list, we’ve compiled our picks for the best soul albums of 2016. These are the albums that we think represent the best of what soul music had to offer this year, and we hope you enjoy them as much as we did.

Best R&B Songs of 2016

It’s no secret that 2016 was an amazing year for music. We’ve compiled a list of our favorite soul songs from this past year. These tunes will make you dance, cry, and everything in between.

“Formation” by Beyoncé

“Formation” is a song recorded by American singer Beyoncé for her sixth studio album Lemonade (2016). The song was written by Beyoncé, James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, Mike Dean, and Sonny Moore; while production was handled by Beyoncé, Blake, Dean, and Mike Will Made It. “Formation” was released on February 6, 2016 as a single from Lemonade to iTunes with no prior announcement. Later that day it was also serviced to contemporary hit radio in the United Kingdom. A music video for the song was released on the same day along with the album’s release on Tidal. “Formation” is an uptempo R&B and trap-influenced song with hip hop elements. The song talks about southern pride in African-American culture and features references to Hurricane Katrina.

The track received positive reviews from music critics upon its release. Some labelled it as one of Apocalypse’s best songs while others praised Beyoncé’s vocal performance and delivery. A number of critics lauded the socio-political aspects of its lyrics which they felt were timely given the Civil Rights Movement that had been ongoing in the United States since 2015 as well as Hurricane Katrina and Black Lives Matter protests over police brutality which had taken place earlier in 2016. Commercially “Formation” peaked at number seventy five on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and entered various other international charts. The track won Best R&B Song at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards held in February 2017.

“No Limit” by Usher ft. Young Thug

“No Limit” is a song recorded by American singer Usher for his eighth studio album Hard II Love (2016). It features vocals from American rapper Young Thug, who also co-wrote the track along with Usher, Sean “Levi” Douglas, Carlos “Los Da Mystro” McKinney, Norman Watts Jr., and Daniel Glendining, with production handled by the latter two.

The midtempo trap and R&B ballad contains a sample of “Hold Me Tight or Don’t” (2017) by Fall Out Boy. “No Limit” peaked at number five on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number two on the US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart. The song became Usher’s twentieth top ten single on the former and tenth number one on the latter.

“Work” by Rihanna ft. Drake

This song starts off with a slow, sensual beat that picks up the pace as the song goes on. Rihanna’s sultry vocals are the perfect complement to Drake’s rapper verses. The result is a steamy, sexy track that is impossible to resist.

“Needed Me” by Rihanna

Rihanna’s “Needed Me” is a sultry, slow-burning R&B track off of her eighth studio album, Anti. The song peaked at No. 7 on the Billboard Hot 100 and topped the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart for seven weeks. “Needed Me” is about an experience with an ex-lover who was only interested in Rihanna for sex and not for a relationship. The lyrics are empowering, as Rihanna rejects the advances of this man and proclaims that she doesn’t need him in her life. Musically, “Needed Me” is a seductive displaying Rihanna’s vocal range and sensual delivery. The song’s minimalist production highlights Rihanna’s vocals and creates a sultry atmosphere.

“Sorry” by Beyoncé

“Sorry” is a song recorded by American singer Beyoncé for her sixth studio album, Lemonade (2016). The song was written by Beyoncé, Geoffry Owens, Ebony Oshunrinde, and Bret Williams, with production handled by Beyoncé, Melo-X, Wynter Gordon, and Mike Dean. A downtempo R&B ballad spends most of its runtime slow and simmering with 808s before exploding into a trap-influenced movement in its chorus. Lyrically it features confrontational themes of marital infidelity.

The song’s music video was directed by Jonas Åkerlund and premiered on Tidal on April 23, 2016. In the visual, Beyoncé is seen in various states of undress while walking through hallways and lobbies in a apartment complex; she also appears in front of a wall plastered with “JAY-Z” graffiti. The video features cameos from Jay Z’s daughter Blue Ivy Carter and Rachel Roy.

Best Soul Albums of 2016

It’s been a great year for soul music, with a lot of amazing albums being released. Here are my picks for the best soul albums of 2016.

Lemonade by Beyoncé

2016 was an amazing year for music, and soul music was no exception. So many great artists released incredible albums that it was hard to narrow it down to just ten, but we managed to do it. Here are our picks for the best soul albums of 2016.

1. Lemonade by Beyoncé: This album was a tour de force from start to finish, andBeyoncé proved once again that she is a master of her craft. From the hauntingly beautiful ballads to the upbeat anthems, there was something for everyone on this album.

2. A Seat at the Table by Solange: Another member of the Knowles family, Solange delivered an amazing album that explored themes of race, identity, and self-acceptance. It was a powerful and necessary voice in the conversation about race in America, and it sounded amazing too.

3. Empire: Original Soundtrack from Season 1 by Various Artists: The soundtrack to one of the most popular TV shows in recent memory, this album featured some of the biggest names in soul music today including Jennifer Hudson, Jussie Smollett, and Courtney Love. The songs perfectly captured the feeling of the show and will no doubt be stuck in your head for days after you listen to them.

4. We’re All We Need by Banks: Banks’ sophomore album was a departure from her debut in terms of sound, but it was no less amazing. She took her R&B roots and infused them with pop sensibility to create an sound that was all her own. This album is sure to be a classic in the years to come.

5.” Cheetah Ep” by Janelle Monae: This EP was a delightful surprise from Janelle Monae, and it showcased her incredible range as an artist. From funk to soul to pop, she did it all with ease and charisma. We can’t wait to see what she does next.

Anti by Rihanna

Rihanna’s eighth studio album, Anti, was released in January 2016 to critical acclaim. The album debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, making it Rihanna’s sixth consecutive album to top the chart. Anti is a departure from Rihanna’s previous work, with a heavier focus on R&B and pop ballads. The album features guest appearances from Drake, SZA, and PARTYNEXTDOOR.

A Seat at the Table by Solange

A Seat at the Table is the third studio album by American singer Solange. It was released on September 30, 2016, through Saint Records and Columbia Records. The album peaked at number one on the US Billboard 200. Upon its release, A Seat at the Table debuted at number two on the US Billboard 200, earning Solange her highest-charting album on the chart. The album also debuted at number one on Billboard’s Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart, earning Solange her first number-one album on the chart.

On October 7, 2016, A Seat at the Table was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA), signifying one million equivalent units shipped in the United States. The album was nominated for four Grammy Awards, including Best R&B Album and Best Urban Contemporary Album.

What a Time to Be Alive by Drake and Future

What a Time to Be Alive is a collaborative album by Canadian rapper Drake and American rapper Future. It was released on September 20, 2016, by Young Money Entertainment, Cash Money Records and Republic Records. Recording sessions took place between July and September 2015, with both artists contributing to the production. The album guest features include PartyNextDoor, Baka Not Nice, 21 Savage and Gap Band frontman Charlie Wilson.

The album debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200, with 154,000 equivalent album units; it sold 132,000 copies in its first week of release. It received generally positive reviews from contemporary music critics upon release.

Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper

Coloring Book by Chance the Rapper is one of the best soul albums of 2016. With hits like “No Problem” and “All Night”, this album is sure to get you moving. If you’re a fan of soul music, don’t miss out on this one!


After much deliberation, we have come to our final decision for the best soul music of 2016. Though there were many great contenders, our top pick goes to
“Don’t Give Up” by Mavis Staples. This song is a soulful ballad with a message of hope that is relevant to many people today. The lyrics are poignant and uplifting, and the musicianship is top-notch. We believe that this song deserves the title of best soul music of 2016.

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