More than perhaps any other year, 2016 has been marked by surprises, both beautiful and heartbreaking, and sometimes even both. The rise of the “surprise release” continues, as the stars that once initiated the practice — Beyoncé and Radiohead — came back to do it again. There were more big names, too, like the unexpected drops of The Colour in Anything, Coloring Book, and untitled unmastered.. On top of all that, there were the records that came with just a little notice though still unpredictable in their final release, like Kanye’s ever-changing Life of Pablo, Drake’s Views, and Rihanna’s ANTI.
Though, as we all know, not all surprises are happy. We also had to deal with shocking loss, mourning the passing of Glenn Frey, Prince, and David Bowie, to name a few. Though surprising, the latter of those came with a beautiful silver lining, the album that will stand as Bowie’s stunning farewell. That kind of shattering artistic presence will be sorely missed, and we’ll forever be digging back into the remarkably layered curtain call that is Blackstar.
Finally, there were other, less obvious surprises: the near-constant surprise that comes with each excellent new album. It might not register similarly on a newsworthy scale, but we’re still stunned each and every week by the flood of excellent new albums that make their way into our world. They can break us down to crying puddles or raise us up to unknowable heights, and we’ll be waiting patiently, gratefully for the next one to arrive.