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In a year where the album suddenly mattered more than any of us could have anticipated, there was less consensus around the essential songs of the year (save a few). Albums like Lemonade and Anti contained definitive statements of purpose, but an equally excellent album like Blonde divided listeners into factions. (If you’ve made poor texting decisions because of “Self Control,” please know that you’re not alone.)

The 50 songs written about here all have at least one fierce champion on our staff; most have more than one. These are the songs we cared about, the ones that mattered to many. These are the best songs of 2016.

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