The songs on this best of 2016 playlist are not ranked or limited to big pop hits. You will find some of those here, from No. 1 albums by Drake, Rihanna, and Solange. But this 2016 musical survey is meant to be holistic, not hierarchical. It's put together to be heard as a whole - either in order or via shuffle - on a streaming Spotify playlist at philly.com/inthemix.
Rihanna feat. Drake. Pop stars were preoccupied with "work" in 2016, both as a self-reminder to stay on the grind and as a euphemism for it-takes-two physical activity. Rihanna outpaces Fifth Harmony's smash "Work From Home" in this most irresistible of hits from Anti-, with Drake as her handyman.
Drake, "Controlla." The Canadian rapper's Views was long and indulgent but also packed with hits. This dancehall-flavored, insinuating rap-sung confection is so simple you'd never guess it credits nine songwriters and five producers.
Leonard Cohen, "Steer Your Way." Advice for living, originally published as a poem in the New Yorker, from the late, sepulchral- voiced songwriter's You Want It Darker.
Drive-By Truckers, "What It Means." Patterson Hood's organ-and- accordion-accented musings about living in a world of miraculous technology where innocent teenagers get gunned down in the street. From American Band.
Solange, "Cranes in the Sky." Fragile and beautiful standout song about seeking escape from sorrow on A Seat at the Table, Beyoncé's little sister's step up as a major artist in her own right.
Adia Victoria, "Stuck in the South." "I don't know nothing about Southern belles / But I can tell you something about Southern hell." Haunting blues-infused lamentation from South Carolina songwriter's Beyond the Bloodhounds.
Maren Morris, "My Church." Breakout country star up for a best new artist Grammy. Roll-down-the-windows driving song of the year.
Margo Price, "Hurtin' (On the Bottle)." Loretta Lynn swagger from Illinois-bred songwriter behind honky-tonkin' Midwest Farmer's Daughter. Drinking song of the year.
Margaret Glaspy, "Emotions and Math." A snaking guitar and a lyric about the two things music is made of, from a rising young songwriter.
Hurry, "Nothing to Say." Bittersweet power pop from Philadelphia band led by Matthew Scottoline.
Strand of Oaks, "Radio Kids." Anthemic ode to the airwaves from Chestnut Hill's Tim Showalter, from the forthcoming Hard Love. Beats out Sylvan Esso's "Radio."
Iggy Pop, "Gardenia." A good year for Ig, from his Post Pop Depression album collaboration with Josh Homme to Gimme Danger, the career-surveying Stooges movie directed by Jim Jarmusch.
Parquet Courts, "Dust." Perky, tidying-up music from uncommonly consistent Brooklyn band whose latest is the excellent Human Behavior.
Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane. "Black Beatles." That's "drummer's ear" spelled backward. The Tupelo, Miss., rap twosome of Khalif and Aaquil Brown earned a Paul McCartney endorsement with this celebration of unconventional behavior.
Xenia Rubinos, "Mexican Chef." "Brown cleans your house, brown takes the trash, brown even wipes your granddaddy's a-." Beat-happy protest in support of workers of color from the Puerto Rican and Cuban American singer's Black Terry Cat.
Young M.A., "OOOUUU." A Brooklyn rapper with an effortless flow, her moniker stands for "Me, Always." Wordless hook of the year.
The xx, "On Hold." The British trio fronted by Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim are back in form on this understated romance. From I See You, due in January.
Whitney, "No Woman." Former members of the Smith Westerns wistfully bring Thunderclap Newman to mind, capturing the hopeful spirit of the road ahead.
Lucy Dacus, "I Don't Want to Be Funny Anymore." Acutely honest, bewitching songwriting with fuzzed-out guitar, from Richmond, Va., breakout indie artist's No Burden.
Japanese Breakfast, "Everybody Wants to Love You." Philadelphia guitarist-songwriter Michelle Zauner's bubbly pop fizzes up the mournful Psychopomp.
Rolling Stones, "Everybody Knows About My Good Thing." Chicago blues covers do wonders for Mick Jagger's concentration, from Blue & Lonesome, the best Stones album in a dog's age.
Beyoncé, "Don't Hurt Yourself." Speaking of the blues, Queen Bey fired a warning shot, with Jack White's Led Zeppelin riffage as backup.
Chance the Rapper, "Blessings." Chicago rapper spreads the gospel good feeling, from his wondrous Coloring Book.
Kanye West, "Ultralight Beam." It was a rough year for Kanye, whose The Life of Pablo was frightfully inconsistent. With the self-aware "I Love Kanye," this gospel rap with Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin, and Chance was the highlight.
Childish Gambino, "Have Some Love." Let's go out on a hopeful note, from Donald Glover's impressive P-Funk homage, Awaken My Love!