RIFF REWIND 2016: Bowie, Beyoncé, and—for one last time—Metallica

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David Bowie, Blackstar

There will be entire chapters in future history books about 2016.

Look, it was just a just a couple years ago. You lived through 2016. It was revealed on Monday that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey sent his beard hair to Azalea Banks to make an amulet to protect him from ISIS and that more or less sums the year up. Things were funny, then they stopped being funny when we realized half the country was serious, then things got extremely real. It was a car accident in slow motion.

To top it off, everyone you like died in 2016: Bowie, Prince, Sharon Jones, George Michael, Glenn Frey from The Eagles, Phife Dawg from A Tribe Called Quest, Paul Kantner from Jefferson Airplane, Maurice White from Earth, Wind & Fire. DEEP BREATH. Both Keith Emerson and Greg Lake of Emerson, Lake and Palmer; Leonard Cohen, Carrie Fisher, Muhammad Ali, Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder. READY FOR ROUND THREE? John Glenn, Alan Thicke, Garry Shandling, Garry Marshall, Florence Henderson, the guy who played R2-D2, the voice of Admiral Akbar in Return of the Jedi, Miss Cleo. Even Abe Vigoda died and he’d been 73 years old for decades!

On the bright side, the music was pretty good.

David Bowie — “Lazarus”

On Jan. 8, 2016 we got an unexpected David Bowie album. It was great; I listened to it three times the day it dropped. We all thought things were looking up.

On Jan. 10 David Bowie died. He knew it was coming. He had released his own eulogy set to music. In retrospect, listening to the lyrics, it’s all obvious. We should have known, and it’s possible we knew and just didn’t want to admit it to ourselves.

What a way to cap off an amazing life, though. It was an extremely Bowie move.

Kina Grannis, Nataly Dawn — “No”

It was a depressing year and this is going to be a depressing column so I’m giving myself this one.

I have personal biases for this song. I also love the ’90s, obviously, but mostly Kina Grannis’ sister is a longtime friend of mine. Still, even in a vacuum, this is a brilliant arrangement of a bunch of entirely unrelated ’90s songs around the framework of a Meghan Trainor song, and Grannis and Dawn’s voices mesh together almost too perfectly.

Just enjoy it. We have more 2016 to come.

Beyoncé — “Formation”

We should have known things were going to go poorly when Hillary Clinton said she also carries hot sauce in her bag. She takes a lot of heat for “Pokemon Go to the polls” but, man, that was corny. That was so disingenuous and pandering and artificial.

Hindsight is 20/20, I guess. Oh, right. Music.

Beyoncé is that rare combination of artistic genius and marketing genius. As an artist, Lemonade isn’t just an album but a full visual statement, released alongside an hourlong movie on HBO. As a marketer, she released that video above the day before performing the song during the Super Bowl halftime show, then closed the halftime performance by announcing her tour. And it debuted free on Tidal, the music streaming service she co-owns.

It’s hard to say someone as famous and beloved as Beyoncé is underappreciated and underrated but it may very well be the case.

YG — “FDT”

The video begins with the following message: “As young people with an interest in the future of America… we have to exercise our intelligence and choose who leads us into it wisely. Twenty-sixteen will be a turning point in this country’s history… the question is…in which direction will we go?”

Bad news from the future, YG. We went the bad way.

FDT indeed.

Metallica — “Hardwired”

Unless Metallica comes out with a surprise album in the next couple weeks (oh please oh please oh please) this is going to be the last of their nine songs on the list. That’s a lot, yes, but I love Metallica and it’s my column, so deal with it.

Plus, what better way to end a column about 2016 than with a song with the chorus, “We’re so fucked; Shit outta luck; Hardwired to self-destruct.” It encapsulates the year both as it felt at the time and in a historical context.

It wasn’t intended to be of course, James Hetfield is on record that the phrase “hardwired to self-destruct” doesn’t actually mean anything and he chose it because it sounds cool. But whether that’s what was meant, he really nailed it.

Honorable Mentions

Rhianna — “Work”
Chance the Rapper — “Angels”
Solange — “Don’t Touch My Hair”
A Tribe Called Quest — “We the People…”

Follow editor Daniel J. Willis at Twitter.com/BayAreaData

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