Top Songfacts of 2016

by Ed Pearce

These are the 10 songs that got the most views on the Songfacts in 2016. It was a year in which we lost a number of outstanding songwriters and performers, which explains some of the older songs on the list.
The Top 10:
(click the song titles to see the Songfacts entries)

10) "Uma Thurman" - Fall Out Boy

"Uma Thurman" was released as third single from American Beauty/American Psycho, peaking at #22 on the Billboard Hot 100. In doing so, Fall Out Boy bucked one of 2016's trends, which saw guitar-based bands increasingly failing to breach the charts.

The quirky tune got a lot of attention on Songfacts by dint of the title, as you wondered why Fall Out Boy named a song after the Kill Bill actress. And what's up with that Munsters sample?

The original idea for the tune already had The Munsters theme sample in it. The Illinois rockers thought it evoked another surf rock throwback, the movie Pulp Fiction, so they referenced in the chorus the scene where Thurman's character asks John Travolta to dance with her during the twist contest at Jack Rabbit Slim's.

9) "Hello" - Adele

The one-woman music industry that is Adele Laurie Blue Adkins greeted her zillions of fans after a three-year hiatus with the words, "Hello, it's me, I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet." By the time, we'd listened to the rest of her comeback single, "Hello," the answer was a resounding YES!!

The song shifted 1.1 million downloads in its first seven days in the US, becoming the first ever to sell over a million downloads in a week. The records keep rolling with the accompanying album, 25, which sold a mammoth 3.38 million copies in its first seven days of release. Naturally, many of you came to Songfacts to find out who Adele was addressing in the song. Answer: She had no specific person in mind, as it was a composite of people from her past.

8) "Kiss It Better" - Rihanna

After a three-year hiatus, Rihanna returned in 2016 with her eighth album, ANTI. There were hit singles, "Work", "Needed Me" and "Love on the Brain," which all reached the Top 20 of the Hot 100, but track three on the album, "Kiss it Better," proved to be an early ANTI climax.

The Barbadian pop star has been raunchier in the past, but the bad-gal electro ballad finds her at her most aggressive barking out commands to "take it on back, boy."

"Kiss it Better" was the Rihanna track that was viewed the most on Songfacts in 2016, as many of you wanted to know its meaning. We explained that the Navy Commander was addressing a former lover, telling him to swallow his pride, kiss the hurt he's feeling after their breakup and take her back. Who wouldn't respond to such an offer from the Caribbean Queen!

7) "Stitches" - Shawn Mendes

2016 found former Vine star Shawn Mendes spinning his teen stardom into something sturdier. He achieved his goal with "Stitches," which was his first song to appear on a Billboard airplay chart. It also became Mendes' first Top 10 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and reached #1 in the UK and Germany.

Many of you wanted to know who wrote "Stitches." We explained that it was penned by Daniel Parker, Teddy Geiger and Daylight, and added that Mendes, who generally composes his own material, wasn't sure he wanted to record a song that he hadn't written himself. However, the Toronto teen was persuaded once he'd heard the tune's bridge.

6) "Ex's & Oh's" - Elle King

For many years Elle King was known as the daughter of former Saturday Night Live comedian Rob Schneider, but after her breakthrough single "Ex's & Oh's" and the album Love Stuff, she earned fame under her own accord as a singer-songwriter who cooks up a stew that is a smorgasbord of country, soul, rock and blues.

When you first heard the song, you probably wondered, "Who is this girl and who are the exes she's singing about?" King wrote the tune with a seasoned songwriter named Dave Bassett. The inspiration was four specific former boyfriends, who are mentioned in the song.

5) "Purple Rain" - Prince

In 2016, far too many musical icons departed to the great gig in the sky. David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Lemmy, Leonard Cohen and George Michael were among the many greats that sadly passed away. On April 21, 2016, we suffered the loss of another giant when Prince Rogers Nelson unexpectedly died at Paisley Park aged just 57. Following the Purple maestro's death, several Prince songs returned to the charts, most notably "Purple Rain," which re-entered the Billboard Hot, 100 rising to #4.

"Purple Rain" was also the most-viewed Prince song on Songfacts. Its mysteries are intertwined with those of the Minneapolis musician, who rarely revealed anything about his life or music. "Purple Rain" is in some ways a work of fiction: It's the title song to a movie Prince starred in, but didn't write. In the film, the song brings all the infighting, anguish and simmering tensions to a head, washing them away in a furious musical catharsis. Purple Rain is based on Prince's life, with his musical cohorts starring in the film. Elements of the song may have been contrived for the movie, but the feeling behind it is very real. It became Prince's signature song, and the one he played live more than any other. His 2007 Super Bowl performance where he closed out the halftime show with a blistering rendition in the rain is the musical equivalent of David Tyree's catch against the Patriots the following year.

4) "Hotline Bling" - Drake

Aubrey Graham's Views album may have been another record about how tough it is being the Canadian MC called Drake, but once again it contained a fair share of bangers. Drake's knack of communicating the minutiae of modern relationships has led to a huge following that made him one of the most popular artists on Songfacts. (Only Taylor Swift and Justin Bieber get more hits on our site). None more so than Views' lead single "Hotline Bling," which finds him recalling the late night phone calls from a former lover.

The song meaning is fairly straightforward: Drake misses the booty calls he used to ger from his girl on his cell phone. But the song has lots of curious musical elements and instrumentation that require some deconstruction. The beat comes from Timmy Thomas' 1972 hit "Why Can't We Live Together."

3) "Faded" - Alan Walker

This is the surprise entry on our list. In fact many of you might be wondering: Who on earth is Alan Walker and how did this guy that I've never heard of get to #3 on the Songfacts Top 10 of 2016?

Walker is an EDM producer and DJ who was born in England and raised in Norway. "Faded" was his breakthrough hit, topping the charts in several European countries, including France, Germany and Switzerland. The song was also popular in Asia, and many of the viewings came from that continent, with about 10 percent from India and another eight percent from the Philippines.

2) "Cake By The Ocean" - DNCE

2016 found Joe Jonas' DNCE outfit having their "Cake" and eating it too. "Cake By The Ocean" was a Top 10 smash, which the quartet followed up with another Top 50 hit, "Toothbrush." And to crown it all, they achieved the honor of "Cake" being the second-most-viewed song of 2016 on Songfacts!

The big mystery (besides their outfits), is of course the seaside-dessert lyrical content. So what does it mean to have "cake by the ocean"? Joe Jonas says it can be beachside sex, or a piece of cake while watching the waves - it's all up to the listener. And the phrase is not one you've heard before: The song was produced by the Swedish hitmakers Mattman & Robin, and when Joe Jonas overheard the duo say they wanted to get some "cake by the ocean," he heard a title. The Swedes really were trying to ask about a drink called a Sex on the Beach.

1) "Hallelujah" - Jeff Buckley

When Leonard Cohen died on November 7, 2016, his most famous song received a huge sales spike. The Canadian legend's original version of "Hallelujah" charted all over the world, most notably in France, where it debuted at #1. Remarkably, the iconic song's arrival on the Hot 100 after Cohen's passing was his debut appearance on the listing as an artist.

Leonard Cohen wasn't the only artist to receive a listening bump following his death. A cappella group Pentatonix's 2016 cover of "Hallelujah" climbed into the Hot 100's Top 40, while versions by the late Jeff Buckley and Rufus Wainwright also entered Billboard charts.

The cryptic lyrical content about a once-soaring love gone stale incorporates biblical Old Testament imagery. Even before Cohen's death, it was one of the most popular entries on Songfacts, with detailed analysis and a string of interpretations in the comments section.

Top Songfacts of 2015
More Song Writing

Comments: 1

  • Chris from Detroit, MiKind of surprised not to see any David Bowie songs on the list.
see more comments

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