The music critics of The New York Times share their picks for the best songs of the year.
1. Rihanna featuring Drake “Work” (Roc Nation/Westbury Road) The year’s ultimate earworm: nagging, insinuating and then irresistible, with a chorus for an era that demands relentless productivity.
2. Paul Simon “Wristband” (Concord) A backstage anecdote swings its way toward thoughts of privilege and income inequality.
5. Solange featuring Sampha“Don’t Touch My Hair” (Saint/Columbia) Quiet and steely, Solange patiently explains how a look is a statement.
6. Anderson.Paak“Celebrate” (Steel Wool/Obe) A pep talk for modest expectations grounds itself in 1960s soul.
7. John Legend featuring Brittany Howard“Darkness and Light” (Columbia) Opposites explode in a ballad about unstoppable desire.
8. Blood Orange“Augustine” (Domino) A determined beat and an uplifting melody carry thoughts of faith, family, martyrdom and loss.
10. Kanye West featuring The-Dream, Kelly Price, Kirk Franklin and Chance the Rapper“Ultralight Beam” (Def Jam) Mr. West and guests offer up prayers and affirmations in a track that compresses a gospel service for hip-hop impact.
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