What song best captured 2016 for you? A turbulent year defined by political and environmental fights, 2016 was also marked by the deaths of many beloved artists, writers and celebrities.
There won’t be many loving farewells for this year when the clock ticks from 11:59 p.m., Dec. 31, 2016, to midnight, Jan. 1, 2017.
The year began with the deaths of David Bowie, Alan Rickman and Glenn Frey, and ended with the loss of George Michael, Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds. In between, we lost more notable people than can be listed. 2016 will also be remembered as the year politics completely collapsed into a foul partisan stew.
In a year that so many talented and iconic figures died, and identity politics took hold, it is normal for people to turn to music for relief, validation, expression and coping. I asked Kevin Cole, KEXP’s chief content officer and host of the afternoon show, and Riz Rollins, who hosts KEXP’s Sunday evening show “Expansions” and DJs Monday nights, to pick a song that best summed up the year. Let us know in the comments section or via email at email@example.com what song encapsulated 2016 for you. We’ll write about your responses next week.
Kevin Cole, chief content officer and host of the afternoon show:
David Bowie’s “Changes” might be an obvious choice for a song to represent 2016. Or, Prince’s “The Pope,” with the lyric, “So U can be the president, I’d rather be the pope, U can be the side effect, I’d rather be the dope.” The song that sums up 2016 for me, though, is Charles Bradley & His Extraordinaires’ version of Black Sabbath’s “Changes” performed live at KEXP on May 23. It was one of the first live performances we hosted in our new home at Seattle Center.
Bradley’s performance gave me a glimpse of the potential impact our new public space could have for cultivating and connecting a community of music lovers. The performance happened after the deaths of David Bowie and Prince, and took on a deeper significance, as the band broke down the song in the middle, and Charles, with sweat and tears streaming down his face, told the story of his mother’s recent passing, and shared these words of wisdom: “Brothers and sisters, it’s later than we think. If you’ve got a loved one on this planet, you’ve got grace in your heart. So ladies and gentlemen, let sorrows be gone, let love stand a chance.”
Many of us in the room shared tears with Charles, moved by this powerful, emotional performance about forgiveness, reconciliation, strength, grace, love and transformation, all of which we’re going to need in 2017.
Riz Rollins, KEXP’s host for “Expansions” on Sunday nights and DJ on Monday nights:
The first song that comes to mind is “Positivity” by Prince from his “Lovesexy” release. The song from 1988 reminds me of the necessity of positivity as a force in this relentless epoch of fear. I didn’t think of it until Prince died and I revisited his catalog. I’ve been learning a lot from him these days.
The song that best reflects 2016 for me was “Anthrocene” from Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ latest album “Skeleton Tree.” In a year with so much loss and a deteriorating political system, it seemed fitting to go with a Nick Cave song. His always dark take on the world became more heartbreaking after one of his twin teenagers died while the album was being recorded. Any track from the album would have worked. A sense of loss is felt in every note, every lyric, on every song.
“Anthrocene” felt appropriate because it wraps up the loss felt this year and the severe impact of humans on the environment. The word Anthrocene was first used instead of the more common Anthropocene in 1992 by science writer Andrew Revkin in his book “Global Warming: Understanding the Forecast” to describe a geological era significantly impacted by humans.
Cave sings in the second verse:
“All the things we love, we love, we love, we lose
It’s our bodies that fall when they try to rise
And I hear you been looking out for something to love”
He continues the third verse:
“There are powers at play more forceful than we
Come over here and sit down and say a short prayer
A prayer to the air, the air that we breathe
And the astonishing rise of the Anthrocene”