Drew Haskins: “Into You” by Ariana Grande is the best song of the year. Does it have synths so sonorous they could make the floor shake? Yep. Just the right touch of funky bass? But of course: this is a Max Martin production. Delightfully dumb lyrics like “A little less conversation and a little more touch my body?” Indeed it does, and many more where that came from. What else could it possibly need? Oh, what? It also has a stunning diva turn from the greatest pure pop singer of the decade? That’s how you make the best song of the year.
Dillon Fernando: Billy Eichner is killing it. With his hilarious, abrasive man-on-the-street comedy game show “Billy on the Street” and his Hulu show “Difficult People,” Eichner proves to the world that yes, sporadic psychopaths can be both loved and funny. Eichner has been all over TV in recent months and easily had one of the best election tweets of the season *insert tweet about someone please explain ….. to Donald Trump* I can’t wait to see how his career skyrockets in 2017.
Nina Wilder: I think 2016 was a really fantastic year for film, but “Swiss Army Man” is a particular standout for me. The movie is about a guy, stranded on an island, who finds a corpse washed up on the beach and essentially personifies and befriends it. “Swiss Army Man” is easily written off as weird or niche, but it’s also incredibly fun–there’s a dark sense of humor present that you don’t often get from the mainstream comedy genre. Not to mention its strangely poignant moments, which are dispersed throughout and add to the film’s stunning originality.
Aaron Paskin: "Coloring Book" was certainly the most important album of 2016. Chance The Rapper's success as an independent artist, his record being the first streaming-only album to chart on the Billboard 200, and his advocacy for mixtapes and streaming albums to be considered by the Grammys are all tied together by technology's rising impact on music. The Internet is making music more accessible than ever before and is giving more and more artists a voice. "Coloring Book" officially made Chance The Rapper the face of this movement.
Will Atkinson: For a record that deals with depression, objectification and the daily existential dread that comes with being twenty-something, Puberty 2 never feels quite as dark as its themes. Mitski’s music is made of equal parts goth and bubblegum, balancing despair with a fair dose of humor. On “Fireworks,” lyrics about pulling a knife out of her side are placed against chords that are infectious in their unpredictability; on “Happy,” happiness is imagined as the one-night stand who leaves while you’re in the bathroom. That Mitski can weave together so many divergent musical elements in just 31 minutes and still make one of the best pop records in a year full of them is a testament to her talent, whose potential we’re only just beginning to see.
Aditya Joshi: The four traits I look for in a TV show are as follows: Great writing, lovable characters, relatable, and thought provoking/conversation inspiring. Have none of these and I'll avoid the show like the plague. A select few with one trait will garner a binge watch and guilty pleasure (Gossip Girl). Get up to three of these, and you’ll usually find an exceptional series that I consider among my favorites (BoJack Horseman, Atlanta, You're the Worst). If a show comes along that checks all the boxes, though, sometimes it climbs onto my own personal TV Mt. Rushmore. Master of None is one of those shows. Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang created a show so quirky, so funny, so real, and were rightfully rewarded with a best writing Emmy for it. With just 10 quick, extremely rewatchable episodes, near universal acclaim, and an accompanying stand up special and psychology book, Aziz Ansari’s Master of None machine is making its case for the strongest pound-for-pound moment in pop-culture. Best Episode: Mornings
Alex Griffith: "Atlanta" is the show of the year. Donald Glover is one of the best writers out there, and his look at being black and poor was simultaneously moving, funny and surreal. With a stellar cast of characters and a loosely defined plot, "Atlanta" can only get better from here as it continues to follow Earn and his business partnership with Paperboy and relationship with Van—as long as searingly insightful and hilarious detours like "B.A.N." keep happening along the way.”