Songs of loss, despair and societal issues were among those chosen by Seattle Times readers to sum up 2016.
We made it. We made it through 2016, a cruel year in which many beloved artists and celebrities died. The pain of those deaths and the nasty turn politics took were evident in the songs readers selected to sum up last year.
Last week, KEXP’s Kevin Cole, Riz Rollins and I each picked a song that captured 2016 for us. Cole, KEXP’s chief content officer and host of the afternoon show, went positive with Charles Bradley’s live cover of Black Sabbath’s “Changes.” Rollins, host of KEXP’s “Expansions” on Sunday nights and DJ on Monday evenings, mirrored Cole’s positive feelings with Prince’s “Positivity.” I went the opposite direction with Nick Cave & the Bad Seed’s “Anthrocene.”
We asked readers what song they thought best represented 2016. Most of the responses highlighted songs dealing with crushing sadness like “Disintegration” by The Cure or “Hurt” by Nine Inch Nails. The excellent Johnny Cash cover of “Hurt” also got a mention. There were relatable songs like The Mountain Goats’ “This Year,” or the smart “Nobody Speaks” from DJ Shadow and Run the Jewels. The “nasty woman” line Donald Trump used during a presidential debate to describe Hillary Clinton could be heard in the picks of two Elle King songs, “America’s Sweetheart,” and “Good Girls.”
All good songs to describe last year. Maybe the best summation in song of 2016 was from the Drive-By Truckers. Reader Neil Watkins’ pick, “What it Means,” focuses on police violence against African Americans and the willful suspension of critical thinking. In the song’s final verse, the Truckers sing:
“We’re living in an age
Where limitations are forgotten
The outer edges move and dazzle us
But the core is something rotten
And we’re standing on the precipice
Of prejudice and fear
We trust science just as long
As it tells us what we want to hear
We want our truths all fair and balanced
As long as our notions lie within it”
Not a bad description of America in 2016.