Fresh off the warm holiday glow, 2016 started out like all years. That is to say, it was there for the taking; fresh, ripe and full of the optimism all new calendar years bring. Then David Bowie died, Earth shifted off its axis and we haven’t recovered since.
Hyperbolic much? Of course and I am grateful for many things this year, but if the loss of this iconic, beloved artist wasn't an omen for the unrest, confusion, terror and general out of control orbit-spin to come, then I don't know what could have prepared us for such a topsy-turvy 12 months.
While I won't dwell here on politics and musings about divides and frustrations. I will point out that many of the year’s best releases did the talking. General paranoia and climate change panic (see: Radiohead), black identity in America (see: Beyoncé, Blood Orange, Solange, Frank Ocean etc), the difficulties and joys of pursuing work as an independent artist (see: Hiss Golden Messenger, Chance The Rapper, Car Seat Headrest) and reactions to gun violence (see: Kevin Morby’s single Beautiful Strangers, A Tribe Called Quest reuniting in response to the Paris attacks).
Amongst the multitude of beloved artists we lost in 2016, one can deduce that the arts are alive and well; and I’m bullish on that trend in 2017. Unfortunately from my vantage point – I predict many of the problems we faced in 2016 to only grow deeper and more profound. If there’s any silver lining, history has taught us that those creators we revere the most will only work harder to push their worldviews on matters at hand.
I’m also bullish on the opportunity ahead to distribute equal worth of productivity and proactivity. If ever there was a time to feel, see and realize your effect on your community and surroundings, next year seems poised to be the one to do so.
In the waning days of 2016, I had the great pleasure of seeing Henry Rollins deliver a 2.5 hour ‘sermon’ to a small audience in Los Angeles. His talents are innumerable but one great takeaway was his penchant for motivation. Rollins didn’t talk down to us as a troubled society, but spoke of our great responsibility to uphold our ‘very generous’ freedoms... to share our opinions and knowledge if someone seeks it and to lend a helping hand in our communities. Just a couple examples of the basic rights, privileges and charges we’re afforded simply by living in America.
I came across a Ralph Waldo Emmerson quote that packed in all of these feelings far more eloquently than I could begin to do:
“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”
I take a bit of exception with this - as I believe it’s important to live as charmed a life as personally attainable and that happiness is essential, but I gravitated to his notion of being useful. In the current state of things - I truly think we’ll need to completely break, to become fixed again. Everyone will need to be at the ready to help with the rebuild.
In 2017 - I pledge to be useful, peaceful and a difference maker. Just like many of the artists that inspire us day-to-day.
Happy holidays to you and yours. Below you’ll find my favorite songs and albums of 2016.
Top 10 Songs of 2016
(counting down 10 to 1)
Best Albums of 2016