Albums of the year 2016 – our readers respond

After Beyoncé topped the’s list with Lemonade we asked readers to tell us their favourite album of 2016 – and why it should be up there

Many readers had David Bowie’s Blackstar at the top of their list.
Many readers had David Bowie’s Blackstar at the top of their list.
Many readers had David Bowie’s Blackstar at the top of their list.

Last modified on Wed 31 May 2017 11.31 EDT

A jaw-dropping audiovisual work” by Beyoncé saw her top music’s list of their favourite albums of 2016, with Frank Ocean, David Bowie, Kanye West and Solange completing the top five.

Right down to Shura’s emotional Nothing’s Real, at number 40, you can read the full list here, but now it’s our readers’ turn.

As well as populating the comments with your own lists – naturally pretty much all of you were thoroughly in agreement and unquestioning of our rundown ... ahem – readers have been telling us why their favourite album was the best via a form launched alongside the main list. Below are some of the records that came up again and again in your suggestions, along with your mini reviews and justifications for picking them.

Blackstar, David Bowie

We’re not claiming there’s anything scientific about this roundup, or of the whole body of your contributions, but one thing was clear – David Bowie received by far the most nominations. Here’s what some of you said about Blackstar:

While it might appear an obvious or even maudlin choice given its critical acclaim and Bowie’s untimely death, Blackstar is an extraordinary piece of work. It’s an art installation that forces a total reevaluation of how music is released and listened to. The electro-soaked jazz tone, the premonition in the lyrics and the constantly revealing vinyl cover, in a world of disposal streams of music, make this more than a collection of legacy tunes – it defines everything Bowie. It will watch over us all for decades.
David Hodgson, Harrogate

It’s funny, it’s sad, it’s sexy, it’s a farewell to old friends and an introduction to new.
Tony Wood, London

Blackstar on sale after Bowie’s death on 10 January.
Blackstar on sale after Bowie’s death on 10 January. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA

This would have been one of the most musically and lyrically arresting albums of the year even if Bowie’s death within days of its release had not brought a whole new dimension to the work, a whole new register of resonances to his very last lyrics, written in the knowledge that he was terminally ill. Bowie transformed his life into a work of art and did the same with his death. A true pioneer until the very end.
Chris Hughes, Cambridge

A difficult choice between two goodbyes. Bowie and Leonard Cohen’s leaving framed the year for me. Both left huge life legacies and also knowing farewell notes. In the end, forced to a choice, I have gone for Bowie’s majestic Blackstar for its typically Bowie yet entirely new, alien soundscape and often opaque lyricism. I’m still wondering what half of it is about, lyrically and musically – and that’s meant as praise.
Ken Fletcher, China

Lemonade, Beyoncé

Many of you were in agreement with music’s favourite when asked for yours.

Beyoncé performs in New Orleans in September.
Beyoncé performs in New Orleans in September. Photograph: Daniela Vesco/AP

IMO Yes, there's loads of collaborations, producers, etc... but at the heart of it is an incredibly hard-working singer who has developed amazing vocal and performing abilities. I would love to see her in a small venue, rather than a stadium. Speaking as a vocal coach, I think she is incredibly dexterous and pretty much flawless. (There's a song title in there somewhere.)

The songs of Lemonade are fantastic in and of themselves – but the film and spoken word of the visual album make it soar. I would class it as one of the top three concept albums ever.
Joanne Cook, Canada

I agree. Lemonade is politicised and beautiful. To find your place in the world, and the fight for the right to be there…not easy. Anyway, "Sorry" and " Formation" touched me. Well done, Beyonce.

A Moon Shaped Pool, Radiohead

Radiohead made number 10 in the music rundown – and in your responses were mentioned more than any other artist bar Bowie.

The most accessible and melodic Radiohead album in years. A true return to form including the quite stunning Decks Dark and the haunting True Love Waits. A reminder of how significant this band is.
Jonny Marshall, Leigh on Sea

It seemed like the perfect culmination of a mature Radiohead with Johnny Greenwood's mastery of orchestration and arrangement.

A brilliant and haunting record that describes Radiohead at their best. Maybe they don’t deliver a rock opera like Paranoid Android anymore or a Stanley Kubrick-esque track like Idioteque, but songs like Daydreaming and Identikit deliver the same magic that only Radiohead can bring.
David Wahyu Hidayat, Jakarta, Indonesia

Skeleton Tree, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

The Observer’s review at the time called this a “raw document of grief” – and it had a powerful effect on many readers.

Whether it would have had the same emotional impact had I been unaware that Cave’s son died while the album was being recorded, I can’t say, but no other album has ever moved me in the same way before. It was around about halfway through the song I Need You, near the end of the album, that it finally broke me – it almost sounds like a guttural cry of pain, like Nick Cave was on the verge of tears throughout. Chances are I’ll never listen to Skeleton Tree again, but it will stick with me forever. A masterpiece.
Chris, Bristol

In the age of inauthenticity, Skeleton Tree is a beautiful, simple testimony to the rudiments of what is to be alive, in all it’s heartbreak and hope, and I’ve listened everyday for weeks.
Ian Seddon, Wigan

Hopelessness, Anohni

Anohni, no 6 on the music list.
Anohni, no 6 on the music list. Photograph: PR

Hopelessness is a fitting title for a year that has shocked the world to its core and an album that has stuck with me throughout. It’s lyrics reflect the state of the world, from drone strikes to execution, climate crises to surveillance. But through the bleakness and negativity there is hope; in hopelessness, Anohni’s songs invoke empathy in the listener. Hopelessness is a call to action that unites us in its despair.
Jon Cornejo, London

Viola Beach, Viola Beach

Here, a review – one of many for the band – that speaks for itself.

Death can often make you reassess an artist’s body of work, making you cherish it a whole lot more. However, I truly believe even without the tragic circumstances surrounding this album it would still be high on my list for album of the year. The songs are incredibly catchy and show how fun indie pop can be when done right. It’s impossible to remove the tragic context from your mind, which adds a bittersweet element to the joyful nature of the songs, but I’m thankful for the great pop songs they left rather than the ones we have lost.
Luca Van Dresh, Brighton

22, A Million, Bon Iver

Experimentalism abounds here, and many of you were impressed enough during the album’s short running time to give Justin Vernon your vote.

When I read the reviews of this album I was expecting something really obtuse. When I heard it, it was 30-odd short minutes of pure syrupy vocal harmonic bliss. Lots of rising major 7ths and 9ths, sliced up saxophones and glitching pianos, it sounds like an early morning run on the beach, the sun cracking through the edge of the sky.
Bren Collins, Liverpool

Even if they (/he) were off their usual far-sighted creativity, Bon Iver still produce the most interesting music around today. Not afraid to experiment, to distort, to wrong-foot; the brilliance of this album is evident from the opening bars. There is not a trite idea or note on this collection of songs – the only disappointment is that it is too short.
Joff Curtoys, York

The Colour in Anything, James Blake

Readers making the case for Blake’s third album might have been disappointed to see it at only number 29 on the list.

James Blake performing on the West Holts stage during Glastonbury 2016.
James Blake performing on the West Holts stage during Glastonbury 2016. Photograph: Gary Calton/The Observer

A bold move away from the winning formula of Overgrown, this album really gets under your skin, and the more I listen to it the more I hear its beauty and depth. My favourite track keeps changing – today it is Choose me, tomorrow it could be I Hope My Life –as all are so strong. Blake is ahead of his peers with his unique sound, amazing vocals and depth of emotion, and there are some great guest vocals, particularly Justin Vernon on I Need A Forest Fire.
Lizzie Reake, West Sussex

Night Driver, Busted

Finally – though this hasn’t been an exhaustive list of your suggestions of course – it turns out a lot of Busted fans who found our callout really liked the band’s return.

I have been a fan of Busted since they first emerged onto the music scene over 14 years ago. Like most of their fans, I was heartbroken when they decided to split in 2005 and never imagined they would ever reunite, let alone create a third album. The album is completely different to Busted’s old sound, yet I think I prefer it. Night Driver will be on my playlist for years to come.
Ellie, South Wales

Honorable mentions for Suede, Kate Tempest, Bruno Mars, Iggy Pop, Sleaford Mods, Turin Brakes, Avalanches, Emma Pollock and Anderson Paak who all received multiple nominations or were well justified by readers.

Many thanks for all your suggestions and justifications. You can continue the debate and add your own favourites in the comments, below.

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