Pazz & Jop, the Village Voice Music Critics Poll: The Top Albums of 2016


David Bowie, Blackstar

Death as performance art. Laurence Station

The ultimate trick: Eschew media-induced sympathy, deliver a tour de force, and die as the raves swirl around you. Holly Gleason

Sentimentality? It would’ve been the best album of 1978, too. Steve Erickson

Beyoncé, Lemonade

What the backlash tells you: There’s nothing that scares Americans more than the sound of a strong, confident black woman at the peak of her powers. Ken Capobianco

Frank, tough, and political amongst the personal, this is a true de force for feminists and feminine mystiquers everywhere. Holly Gleason

Beyoncé makes the great Gesamtkunstwerk of the 21st century. The most important thing about it was that she insisted on the uniqueness of that argot: Black music for Black people, with no effort at including white desire or white understanding, the argument against universalism was a gift in a low, dishonest, post-truth year. Anthony Easton

If this couldn’t score the first album win by a woman of color in the 43rd or 44th year of this poll, what could? Dan Weiss

A Tribe Called Quest, We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service

If you told me twenty years ago that in 2016: a) my favorite albums would be from A Tribe Called Quest and De La Soul; b) I would buy more records than CDs; and c) Donald Trump would be president — I would have no reason not to believe you. After all, I was only seventeen. Michael Pollock

Fuck return to form, this is the form. Hobey Echlin

The political album of the year, getting the edge over the Drive-By Truckers by remaining joyous — and these are the black guys. Michael Tatum

Chance the Rapper, Coloring Book

Finding brilliance in rap’s corniest corners. JD Swerzenski

He’s annoyingly good at making you happy when you don’t want to be. Michael Tedder

Chance the Rapper is his own puppet master, committed to controlling his destiny as an artist. During his sold-out tour he proved he could pull the strings of an audience like the best gospel preachers. Plus there were literally puppets. Katie Moulton

Solange, A Seat at the Table

Where Beyoncé’s 2016 output shone for unapologetically proclaiming her stratospheric celebrity and womanhood, Solange’s eloquently (and equally unapologetically) explored the consciousness of being a Black woman living in modern America. This song cycle explores the soul and Blackness of a people, long-suffering, deserving of an indemnity and reparation which is historically ignored, repudiated, or snuffed out permanently at the hands of a society and system long overdue for course correction. EJ Friedman

I listened to this so much, and genuinely missed it at times when it wasn’t possible to listen to music. Josh Timmermann

Radiohead, A Moon Shaped Pool

Dense and obtuse, yet clear as a bell. Ken Rayes

Leonard Cohen, You Want It Darker

Cohen always hinted at a collapse into self-parody, and his best work absorbs it with full force, so a work this genuine and devoid of irony made me nervous (it does have one great joke, though; it’s not a Lenny record without one great joke). But I doubt that any other human being could write his own obituary with so much power. An act of secular majesty and Hebrew sanctity, it is his last argument proving that he is one of the century’s great theologians. Anthony Easton

Leonard Cohen lived with dignity and elegance, and he died the same way. No kicking, no screaming, no fear. When you’ve done it all, there’s no need for that. Deb Sprague

Car Seat Headrest, Teens of Denial
A brilliant concept album about going home and not being able to arrive there. Michael Tatum

Kanye West, The Life of Pablo

For all the talk of impeaching Kanye, Pablo is his most compelling work in quite a few years. The audio equivalent of a manic episode. Martin Douglas

Gotta love an album that requires a changelog. Josh Bis

Don’t miss the rest of the 2017 Pazz & Jop, Village Voice Music Critics Poll coverage:

The Top Singles of 2016

This Year’s Most Far-Out Ballot

The Best of the Rest

This Year’s Tabulation Notes

The Black Stars of 2016: From the Knowles Industrial Complex to the Hip-Hop Avengers

In a World of ‘Lemonade,’ Misogyny Creeps Onto the Pop Charts

Chance the Rapper’s ‘Coloring Book’: Digital Music Victory or Corporate Land Grab?