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Best of 2016

20 Songs That Should Have Been Hits in 2016

Featuring tracks from Kehlani, Zara Larsson, Dua Lipa and more, this list represents the year's most under-appreciated singles and undiscovered gems. Here's to these tracks slowly catching on in 2017

1 / 20

Fleur East, "Sax"

America, how did we mess this one up so bad? "Sax" had all the markings of a feel-good smash and was essentially the female version of the Bruno Mars/Mark Ronson powerhouse "Uptown Funk." Fleur landed herself on a couple morning shows in the U.S., but The X Factor U.K. performer didn't see this crossing over like it should be. We'll continue boogeying over here in the meantime. –Jeff Benjamin

2 / 20

Dua Lipa, "Blow Your Mind (Mwah)"

If you weren’t in tune with Dua Lipa before, then “Blow Your Mind” will immediately lock you in. From the velvet-smooth vocals to the cheeky “love me or leave me” theme and the in-your-face production, the rising London star’s single has all the elements for a bombastic crossover smash. –Bianca Gracie

3 / 20

Becky Hill & Matoma, "False Alarm"

This collaboration embodies the sound of summer, with British singer Becky Hill joining Norwegian producer Matoma for a jam that will have you dancing your cares away as soon as the bass drops. Hill’s impassioned vocals on top of the warm and bouncy production makes for the perfect pair. –Bianca Gracie

4 / 20

Zara Larsson, "Ain't My Fault"

Zara proved she’s a true force in this new pop music game with “Ain’t My Fault,” her latest single that’s flooding with enviable sass. Released in September, it’s all about a chick who has zero fucks to give about you or your man. We’ll be turning up in the club to this one way after the new year hits. –Bianca Gracie

5 / 20

Kolaj & Eric Nam, "Into You"

This EDM-pop collaboration brought a fresh, exciting take on the tropical-house genre. "Into You" had the perfect pairing of EDM newcomers Kolaj with singer Eric Nam, with both acts' sexy, breathy delivery making for a simmering summer jam that should have soundtracked every pool party. –Jeff Benjamin

6 / 20

The Weeknd, "Sidewalks"

We’d already heard four promotional singles prior to the release of Starboy, but the best song actually comes smack dab in the middle of the album. The track is riddled with emotion as The Weeknd and Kendrick Lamar trade stories about their struggles growing up. It’s always fun to hear Abel talk his shit: “‘Cause too many people think they made me. Well, if they really made me then replace me.” And Daniel Wilson’s heartbreaking vocals on the hook top it all off. With any luck, this will be a single in 2017 despite our first listen in 2016. –Bianca Gracie

7 / 20

Era Istrefi, "BonBon"

"BonBon" was a sexy, synthy bop that turned Yugoslavia's Era Istrefi into a well-known name across Europe and Australia. Despite the song gained nearly a quarter of a billion views on YouTube, the 22-year-old re-recordeding "BonBon" in English, and signing a deal with Ultra Music (the same label that broke Omi's "Cheerleader" last year), "BonBon" has yet to connect with American audiences. We'll keep shaking our bonbons in the meantime. –Jeff Benjamin

8 / 20

Kehlani, "CRZY"

Despite having a rocky few months earlier this year, Kehlani came back stronger than ever with this summer’s “CRZY.” “If I gotta be a bitch, I'mma be a bad one,” she boasts on the pounding, swagged-out track. The singer is back in control of her life, and she’s having so much fun doing so. –Bianca Gracie

9 / 20

KDA, "Just Say" feat. Tinashe

Tinashe has already mastered the pop and R&B worlds, and this summer she proved she could handle U.K. house music. Her chilling vocals play like a race against time alongside the dizzying club synths, making for a damn fun musical adventure. –Bianca Gracie

10 / 20

Cash Cash, "How to Love" feat. Sofia Reyes

Years after breaking out with their 2013 hit "Take Me Home," dance trio Cash Cash finally put out their full-length album Blood, Sweat & 3 Years with "How to Love" as its sparkling centerpiece. The song not only had an undeniable beat, but saw Mexican-pop star Sofia Reyes belting some of the most relatable lyrics one could hear on the dancefloor as she belts, "I have faith in nothing / But love, pray for me / I never had somebody so I don't know how to love / Pray for me / I know I need somebody, so I can learn how to love."
–Jeff Benjamin

11 / 20

Aminé, "Caroline"

This Portland newcomer is presenting a smart take on the weirdo rap scene with his insanely catchy “Caroline.” The song was just released in June and already garnered 52 million YouTube views and counting, thanks to Aminé’s laid-back flow and those Quentin Tarantino references. And his political flip of the song during his Tonight Show will catapult him even further into the mainstream. –Bianca Gracie

12 / 20

M.I.A., "Go Off"

Say whatever you want about her political views, but M.I.A. knows how to blend cultures and sounds for incredible creations. "Go Off" indicated major things for her AIM album by bringing producers Skrillex and Blaqstarr together for a mind-bending, Auto-Tuned electro-pop gem. Sadly, the rest of the LP didn't live up to the single's promise, but if this is truly M.I.A.'s last album then at least we got one last incredible single from her. –Jeff Benjamin

13 / 20

Travis Scott, "Beibs in the Trap" feat. NAV

The undeniably LIT vibes of this track will make you forget that Justin Bieber is unfortunately not the guest star. Rather, it’s rising Canadian producer/rapper NAV who steals the show with his opening verse to this hazy, codeine-laced, Auto-Tune–dripping wonderment. –Bianca Gracie

14 / 20

Birdy, "Keeping Your Head Up"

If many had long written off singer-songwriter Birdy as simply a YouTube cover artist (full disclosure: I definitely had), one listen to "Keeping Your Head Up" would change all of that. The uplifting anthem saw the 20-year-old bring her oh-so-mature vocals to twinkling, electronic-pop production, making for a truly magical pop gem. –Jeff Benjamin

15 / 20

GoldLink, "Fall in Love" feat. Ciscero

What do you get when you pair GoldLink, Kaytranada and BadBadNotGood on a track? Sheer ‘70s bliss. GoldLink called upon his producer buddies and fellow DMV native Ciscero to create “Fall In Love,” which will drift you to the hazy disco groove era with a single listen. –Bianca Gracie

16 / 20

Zendaya, "Something New" feat. Chris Brown

What should have been the smash lead single off Zendaya's sophomore album somewhat halted the singer/actress' musical plans. While it could have been due to issues with the featured guest, "Something New" had all the markings of a nostalgic-tinged hit with its brilliant interpolation of TLC's "Creep" and ultra-smooth delivery from Z. –Jeff Benjamin

17 / 20

Kaytranada, "Got It Good" feat. Craig David

Kaytranada has been killing the DJ and mixtape game for years, and he finally released his debut album 99.99% in May. The immediate highlight is presented in the form of a comeback, as New Millennium R&B favorite Craig David returns to lay down his buttery vocals on “Got It Good." His voice has gotten better with age, and so has his sex appeal. –Bianca Gracie

18 / 20

Lany, "Where the Hell Are My Friends"

In all of 2016's heavy helpings of sad-boy pop (we're looking at you Bieber and Drake), Lany was making similarly emo tunes that felt miles more relatable. From just the title alone, "Where the Hell Are My Friends" is something everyone's asked themselves at one point before spiraling into a storm of self-doubt. There's loads more all-too-real lyrics inside here ("Friday, wine, and the Internet / The only love I seem to get") along with a cool-yet-punchy production to add that additional pang of melancholy. –Jeff Benjamin

19 / 20

K. Michelle, "Not a Little Bit"

Classic R&B isn't dead and K. Michelle proved that with the lead single off her More Issues Than Vogue album. "Not a Little Bit" kept the focus on the singer's much-underrated vocals and took us back to the days when Whitney HoustonMary J. BligeFaith Evans and similar R&B divas ruled the radio waves. –Jeff Benjamin

20 / 20

PartyNextDoor, "Not Nice"

Some of PND’s best work happens when he flexes his Caribbean roots (like his penmanship on Rihanna’s “Work”). “Not Nice,” from his second album PartyNextDoor 3, is no different. The slinky dancehall-flecked beat is what late-night basement parties dream of, and the Vybz Kartel sample makes it all the more authentic. –Bianca Gracie

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Apr 2: Basket-Bros

Currently on his 'The Man of the Woods' tourJustin Timberlake brought out a special guest for his Cleveland show. LeBron James surprised concertgoers by showing up alongside Timberlake and taking a shot on stage. On Friday, the singer was also seen cheering on LeBron during the Pelicans and Cavaliers game. James gave a shout out on Instagram, "My brother @justintimberlake showed up and showed out last night at the Q! One of the greatest to ever do it in my lifetime and still going strong."