RollingStone / 50 Best Albums of 2016

Beyoncé smashed the system, Chance the Rapper counted his blessings, David Bowie left a powerful goodbye and more

2016 was seemingly hardwired to self-destruct, as Metallica sang on their furious 10th album – and music stared down the chaos. It was a year of explicitly political R&B molotovs, (Beyoncé, Solange), revolution rock (Green Day, Esperanza Spalding), hip-hop that heals (Chance the Rapper, A Tribe Called Quest) and even one especially poignant country plea from a Red State (Drive-By Truckers). Powerful and unique personalities like David Bowie and Leonard Cohen had the powerful and unique ability to say goodbye with album-length farewells. Anohni sang about the environmental apocalypse over a dance beat. But of course there was also no shortage of messy pop stars, indie rock diarists and proudly indulgent rappers happy to simply let their pens and personalities explode. Here’s the year’s best.

50. Death Grips, ‘Bottomless Pit’


It’s remarkable to think that noise-rappers Death Grips once seemed as unstable as radioactivity: battling record labels, canceling shows and presumptively announcing their breakup via napkin in 2014. Two years later, the Sacramento trio has evolved into a dependably provocative unit that operates at the nexus of punk rock, live electronics and barking energy raps. Fifth album Bottomless Pitoffers further refinement: “Giving Bad People Good Ideas” rattles like an old industrial banger, “Hot Head” applies breakcore dynamics like smeared lipstick and “Warping” stutters on a toy piano melody. Then there’s MC Stefan Burnett, an animated and muscular presence who splits the difference between DMX and Henry Rollins, and whose vocal performance goes beyond mere war chants. When he quietly shrugs “Eh” over Andy Morin and Zach Hill’s whirligig rhythm, he sounds just as devastating as when he’s bellowing “My death is money” on “Ring a Bell.” M.R.

49. Dawes, ‘We’re All Gonna Die’


This L.A. outfit’s first four albums faithfully recreated the folksy, confessional vibe of Seventies Laurel Canyon singer-songwriters like Jackson Browne, but with the band’s former guitarist Blake Mills producing, the studio now becomes Dawes’ playground. “As If By Design” is overrun with wild barroom piano and mariachi horns, while on several tracks Taylor Goldsmith’s vocals are filtered with heavy electronics and the drums and guitars are processed to a digital crunch that recalls the more adventurous side of the Black Keys. Goldsmith’s lyrics are still thoughtful and earnest (“I’m asking you for help/How do you fall in love with anything?” he sings on the title track), but he’s also looser and more playful on cuts like the lead single, “When the Tequila Runs Out” (“We’ll be drinkin’ champagne”). With this bold left turn into sonic experimentation, Dawes proves that you can be faithful to your roots and still branch out. K.H.


RollingStone / See Miranda Lambert’s Heartfelt ‘Vice’ on ‘Fallon’

On the eve of her highly-anticipated new album’s release, Miranda Lambert delivered an impassioned version of the top 10 hit “Vice” on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Written by Lambert with Josh Osborne and Shane McAnally, “Vice” is the leadoff single from The Weight of These Wings, which is officially out today.


“If you need me, I’ll be where my reputation don’t precede me,” Lambert sings, following the song’s a capella introduction. The live performance strays slightly from her recording, most notably with the newly added backup vocals from Gwen Sebastian during the song’s outro.

“Vice” was the first song Lambert released following her high-profile divorce from Blake Shelton in 2015.

“I’m nervous as hell,” Lambert told Billboardback in August. “Now that I’m coming with a song, it does make me nervous, and I hope that people are respectful of it and understand what I’ve been doing. But I’ve never hidden anything or tried to be too mysterious. I’m pretty straightforward in my music. I always have been, and that hasn’t changed. . .I feel like the right thing to do was just come out with something really honest.”

Lambert recently announced her headlining Highway Vagabond tour, which kicks off January 26th in Evansville, Indiana.


RollingStone / Steven Van Zandt Calls on ‘Hamilton’ to Apologize to Mike Pence

“Audiences shouldn’t have to worry about being blindsided like that. Theater should be sanctuary for Art to speak,” guitarist writes

E Street Band guitarist Steven Van Zandt called upon Lin-Manuel Miranda to apologize to Mike Pence for the Hamilton cast’s speech to the Vice President-elect following Friday’s performance.

Although Van Zandt tweeted that “everyone who is sane disagrees with [Pence’s] policies,” he argued that a Broadway show – or anywhere where art is performed – is not the proper venue to “bully” an audience member.

Hamilton made a mistake. Audiences shouldn’t have to worry about being blindsided like that. Theater should be sanctuary for Art to speak,” Van Zandt wrote.

“Lin-Manuel is a genius. He has created the greatest play since West Side Story. He is also a role model. This sets a terrible precedent. Completely inappropriate. Theater should be a safe haven for Art to speak. Not the actors. He needs to apologize to Mike Pence.”

Van Zandt reiterated that he is a staunchly against Donald Trump and Pence’s policies – “Nobody on this planet disagrees more with everything Pence represents,” the rocker said – but likened the Hamilton cast’s curtain call speech to the “same bullying tactic” employed by Trump during his presidential campaign.

“It was the most respectful, benign form of bullying ever. But bullying nonetheless. And by the way, human rights must be won, not asked for,” Van Zandt said.

“When artists perform the venue becomes your home. The audience are your guests,” Van Zandt continued. “It’s taking unfair advantage of someone who thought they were a protected guest in your home… A guy comes to a Broadway show for a relaxing night out. Instead he gets a lecture from the stage! Not a level playing field. It’s bullying. You don’t single out an audience member and embarrass him from the stage. A terrible precedent to set.”

Fans were quick to call out Van Zandt for taking the side of Trump on (strictly) this matter, but as the guitarist noted, “There has never been a more outspoken politically active artist than me.” Van Zandt also admitted that while the Hamilton‘s cast message itself was “beautiful,” the Richard Rodgers Theatre wasn’t the appropriate venue to relay it.

“The statement is beautiful. And completely inappropriate at that time. And I would defend the cast’s right to be inappropriate forever,” Van Zandt said. “That statement may prove to be correct for these men in their new positions, we’ll see. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose our civility.”

Van Zandt’s E Street band mate Nils Lofgren took the opposite opinion, however. “I don’t see any [bullying] here. Bravo,” Lofgren tweeted of the Hamilton remarks, while adding of Van Zandt’s stance, “It is ok to disagree. The audience had the freedom to boo. The statement was truth to power… Any chance you get to speak truth to power right now, you have to take it.”


RollingStone / Listen to ‘Rolling Stone Music Now’ Podcast: Springsteen on Touring Future

The latest episode of Rolling Stone Music Now, our first-ever podcast, is now available. Listen and subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, Spotify or check it out below.

Greetings from Colt’s Neck, New Jersey! In this exclusive audio from his Rolling Stone interview with Brian Hiatt, Bruce Springsteen goes deep into his childhood, masculinity, his creative process and why does those four hour shows.