Top 20 classic rock songs of 2016



In a singles-driven era for the music industry, our list of the 20 best classic rock songs of 2016 shows how stars who rose to fame in another era can still manage. Artists like David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Paul Simon and Graham Nash helped define when albums were king, but they still have the ability, all those decades later, to condense it all into an individual moment of brilliance. that springs from our speakers.

Most of these songs – even those from newcomers like the Tedeschi Trucks Band and Airbourne – haven’t exactly reached the top of the singles charts, but that’s more of an indictment of the current industry climate than a big blow to the job. We think the Top 20 Classic Rock Songs of 2016 will stick around for much longer anyway.

  • 20

    “We are all someone from somewhere”

    Steven tyler

    Aerosmith fans who weren’t so sure about a switch to country sounds on Tyler’s latest album might take comfort in the title track, which weaves its way through his band’s familiar brand of cheeky lust.

  • 19


    Graham Nash

    An elegiac farewell to Nash’s first set of new songs since 2002, “Encore” seems to be about personal struggles with mortality – but also the fierce disagreements that seem to have ultimately torn apart his old band Crosby, Stills & Nash.

  • 18

    “I knew”

    Bonnie raitt

    Raitt may seem like an ageless wonder, but there’s a hard-earned depth on every album, moments where she shows you her scars. Hear the way she sings then swear at the line “Time has never healed a wound; I can’t think of anything that gets better because it’s old.” This is not his first rodeo.

  • 17

    “When I wake up tomorrow”

    Cheap tip

    Bang, Zoom, Crazy … Hello came after the longest break between albums in Cheap Trick’s long career – and the layoff clearly inspired them to try a few new things. With this cut, it’s a Bowie-esque mood, cut halfway with a bright blast from Rick Nielsen’s guitar.

  • 16

    “Let me pass”

    Tedeschi Truck Band

    The intriguing blend of southern soul, funk, blues, roots rock and jazz of the Tedeschi Trucks Band is found here in a carefully packaged package. This mind-boggling mix of musical vocals includes Derek Trucks (a former member of the Allman Brothers Band), blues star Susan Tedeschi and bassist Tim Lefebvre, a star of the band who backed Bowie on Black Star.

  • 15

    “You want it darker”

    Leonard cohen

    As for David Bowie’s 2016 album, discussed later in our list of the 20 best classic rock songs of 2016, You want it darker will be forever colored by the subsequent death of its creator. It’s clear now what might not have been so obvious at first, as Leonard Cohen battles death in what, even then, seemed like an uncomfortable closeness. (“I am ready, my Lordhe sings on that title song.) A few weeks later, we learned just how good.

  • 14



    “Alone” is more than the title track from Pretenders’ latest album; it’s an updated mantra, as Chrissie Hynde moves forward without any other regular member of her group – claiming it for herself once and for all. (“Nobody tells me that I can’t,” Hynde asserts. “Nobody tells me I won’t.”At the same time, new songs like this examine how uplifting and hopelessly lonely being alone can be.

  • 13

    “Me and Madeleine”


    The Monkees’ first album since 1996 Only U.S included a number of reliable wacky songs that recalled their heyday as sitcom stars – either because they were written by longtime collaborators or modern like-minded fans like Weezer‘s Rivers Cuomo. “Me & Magdalena”, composed for the Monkees by Ben Gibbard from Death Cab for Cutie, is not it. Instead, this Mike Nesmith-sung gem displays a surprisingly introspective bent.

  • 12

    “Breakin ‘Outta Hell”


    Some songs are made for thinking, others for rolling the car windows down and turning completely. File “Breakin ‘Outta Hell” – the title track from Airbourne’s fourth studio effort – under the latter. “Put this record on”, frontman Joel O’Keefe said, “and that’s f — the boss, f — the traffic fines I just got, f — all my bills and f — all the taxes I owe. get pissed off and i’m gonna listen to rock’n’roll. “

  • 11

    “Path of Peace”

    Neil young

    The title track from Neil Young’s second album in 2016 is re-energized by its stripped-down sound, after a period of collaboration with rockers Promise of the Real. A message of resilience in the face of so much external adversity (“Don’t think I’m going to cash it just yet,” he sings) finds Young working alongside drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Paul Bushnell. A pair of Auto-Tuned Young voices works as a powerful counterpoint.

  • ten

    “Fillmore East”


    No song from Santana’s 2016 reunion album more perfectly sums up the joys of improvisation of their early ’70s era – and Carlos Santana wouldn’t want it any other way. Before recording this thunderous trippy instrumental, he specifically advised the band: “Look, let’s go back to the studio right now, and everybody start playing, and remember the patchouli oil, the weed … let’s play like that.” Mission accomplished.

  • 9


    Jeff Beck

    After another typically eruptive studio project, Jeff Beck leaves the screenplay with this contemplative album closing song. Starring new collaborator Rosie Bones front and center of voice, “Shrine” takes a bold inward look, though the rest of the group is at times overtly political. megaphone pushes hard against outside forces.

  • 8



    Sting’s much-discussed return to rock 57th and 9th was perhaps a bit of a stretch. It’s more that he’s honed a few edges of his polished adult pop sound, best heard on this remarkable cut. “50,000”, a sort of homage to fallen rock stars, skillfully moves between meditative verses and a soaring redemptive chorus – and there is no lute in sight.

  • seven

    “Someone knocks”

    Eric clapton

    Eric Clapton has certainly done a lot to make us forget his roots in the blues tradition, starting with his psychedelic turn in Cream and continuing the reggae experiments in the 70s, then the clean pop sides that followed. But every album, and every show, includes a nod to this foundational influence – and “Somebody’s Knockin ‘” from his most recent studio project is one of the most satisfying examples.

  • 6

    “Don’t be hungry anymore”


    By now, the story of Tom Petty’s cursed pre-Heartbreakers group Mudcrutch is probably familiar: The guys from Florida head to Los Angeles for their big break, but instead they go their separate ways. “Hungry No More”, the atmospheric closing song from their second reunion album, 2, explores the kind of passion and determination that leads to a homecoming decades later. It is linked by one of guitarist Mike Campbell’s most expressive turns.

  • 5

    “Cool Papa Bell”

    Paul Simon

    Simon contemplates both heaven and our overuse of the word “mother — uh” on a witty song titled after a legendary Black League center player who was once hailed as “the man. the fastest in the world “. This is just the latest example of Simon’s ability to weave seemingly disparate elements into a delightfully intriguing whole. Towards the end of “Cool Papa Bell”, he adds “i will never stop. “One can only hope.

  • 4


    Iggy Pop

    Gardenia was a true stripper, once chased by Iggy Pop and Allen Ginsberg. (See line, “America’s greatest poet has been eyeing you all night.”) Credit producer Josh Homme for combining it with a memorable bassline, turning a fun anecdote into an exhilarating comeback song that introduced Post-pop depression. If it’s really Pop’s latest album, he stormed out.

  • 3

    “Atlas, get up! “


    “Atlas, get up! Is one of those moments when Wired … to self-destruct sounds like everything you wanted Metallica to be for so long: a band that incorporates both their distant and more recent past into one breathtaking song. They succeed here by intelligently switching from thrashy aggression to thunderous grooves, without the emotional turmoil that seemed to pose such an existential, post-millennial threat to the band.

  • 2

    “Ride ‘Em on Down”

    Rolling stones

    The Stones’ long-standing ability to dig deep into the blues legacy – early songs included slow-boiling “Little Red Rooster” by Willie Dixon and “I’m a King Bee” by Slim Harpo – comes into play here with a new take on a largely forgotten Eddie Taylor song. As with those previous covers, there is a lot to tie the two legacies together – starting with the twin guitars. Mick Jagger’s closing harp is just molten.

  • 1


    David Bowie

    This unique advance for Black Star started, now ice cold, with the line: “Look here, I am in Heaven.” Turns out, that wasn’t the only clue Bowie left before his death from cancer, just days after the album arrived. It looked like they were everywhere, really – starting with an accompanying video that showed Bowie confined to a hospital bed, his eyes obscured by bandages. It was his last career turn, and perhaps the most amazing.


    Top 20 Classic Rock Albums of 2016

Next: Top 100 Classic Rock Artists

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