Guest Picks: We Asked Experts What Songs They Loved in 2016

Read more

In addition to rounding up our own favorite songs of 2016, this year, we invited experts across the industry – editors, producers, DJs, festival directors – to share what songs they were feeling most in 2016. Check out our guest picks below, and stream a playlist with these picks on Apple Music here.

Ebro Darden, Beats 1 Host

“Safari” – J Balvin ft. Pharrell, Sky, and BIA

Pharrell’s drums, J Balvin’s style and swag, plus Pharrell singing in Spanish made for something that was super catchy and fun. “Safari” is dope. That’s the kind of multi-genre collaboration that makes for great moments in music. We gotta give props to J Balvin for continuing the reggaeton movement and keeping it mainstream and working to get collabs like that done. –Ebro Darden

Julianne Escobedo Shepherd, Culture Editor at Jezebel

“Botando Chispa” – El Alfa

Every year El Alfa makes some of my favorite songs, not just because he’s so prolific but because he has such a huge range of weirdo, funny earworms. Dembow remains one of the best dance genres on the planet, and the flurry of contrasting sounds — the rev of a race car, the subtle bass drum, el jefe’s ability to modulate his voice from wildboy falsetto to come-on and that interminable “cheep!”— kept me hip-bumping for the duration. –Julianne Escobedo Shepherd

Rocio Guerrero, Global Head of Latin Content Programming at Spotify

“Safari” – J Balvin ft. Pharrell, Sky, and BIA

“Safari” is the song that I have played the most this year, because J Balvin nailed the new sound of reggaeton (a pop dancehall sound that no one was doing in Spanish) but it also represents the sound that Spotify has been trying to surface for a while now. It perfectly represents what the genre means today culturally, and its ability to cross genres and borders. It sounds like the present and the future of reggaeton, and it is the best reminder to all of us that, by far, we are living in the best moment for Latin music globally today. –Rocio Guerrero

Eric Sundermann, Noisey Editor-in-Chief

“All the Way Up” – Fat Joe & Remy Ma ft. French Montana, Infrared

In a year of anthems, “All the Way Up” is probably one of the goddamn best — simply because it did something that, 12 months ago, we’d deem fuggin’ crazy: it gave Fat Joe another shot. It’s a banger in the classic sense of the word — catchy, loud, and boisterous to rap the words to, even if you don’t know the words. Numerous times this summer I found myself cranking “All the Way Up” at a party and arguing about how if Fat Joe can have a comeback to relevance after trying to sell the world his pyramid scheme, the future might not be so dark for us after all. –Eric Sundermann

Phil Allen, US Programming and Partnerships at Boiler Room

“House of Love (Ogbe Yekun)” – ÌFÉ

The Puerto Rico-based band ÌFÉ hit my radar at the end of 2015 with their debut single “3 Mujeres.” Like Ibeyi, ÌFÉ brilliantly explores the spiritual Yoruba influences in Latin music of the Caribbean. Where Ibeyi goes acoustic, ÌFÉ takes a hybrid approach, blending rumba percussions with live improvised electronics. Their second single “House of Love (Ogbe Yekun)” is a beautiful track weaving between Spanish and Yoruba lyrics. Be sure to check the Nicola Cruz remix as well. –Phil Allen

Steve Lean, Producer at 808 Mafia

“Ahora Tan Atra de Mi” – Lito Kirino

For me, Lito Kirino is one of the most solid-sounding Latino artists, and one who’s constantly working. He spent the entire year releasing material, and he literally crowned himself [the king] with his mixtape Coronamos. Personally, I think that 2017 will make it even clearer that he’s one of the greatest examples of Latino trap, putting the Dominican Republic on the map. –Steve Lean

Yamile Fernandez, Head of Latin at TIDAL and Roc Nation

“Encantadora” – Yandel

I’ve spent a lot of time on planes traveling the world this year and every time I listen to “Encantadora” by Yandel it makes me feel good. It reminds me of my rubia and the first time I laid eyes on her. When the beat drops, it takes me to my happy place. –Yamile Fernandez

Mozart la Para, Urbano Artist

“Hasta El Amanecer” – Nicky Jam

The song is jevi. I like they rhythm; I like the lyrics. This situation could happen to anyone, and the video is lit. –Mozart la Para

Tomás Cookman, Founder of Nacional Records and CEO of Industria Works!


“Ven A Verme” (Partynextdoor Remix) – Jesse Baez

It’s hard to pinpoint one song (not choosing anything on Nacional Records) that resonated more than others this year, as my daily bread is listening to and interacting with music. That said, the song that I kept on finding myself going back to time after time most was “Ven A Verme” (Partynextdoor Remix) by Jesse Baez. I like how he has been growing his career, releasing songs at his pace, finding his comfort place and during the process, becoming one of the more exciting artists I have seen in some time. I look forward to him writing more original music and further defining who he is and what he does. I also think it is great he is from Guatemala – we can now stop mentioning Arjona as the reference of the Guatemalan music scene 🙂 –Tomás Cookman

Mai-Elka Prado, Founder & Co-Director of Afro-Latino Festival NYC

Photo by Julia Newman

“Mi Maria Luisa” – La Tribu de Abrante

La Tribu de Abrante captured us in 2016 with “Mi Maria Luisa,” fusing traditional bomba and plena with a youthful sound and kickass horns. This song is sure to get the party going this holiday season. In a celebration of Afro-Boricua cultural heritage, they will have you dancing like you are at the beach. –Mai-Elka Prado

Analuz Vizarretea, International Talent Buyer, Lunario

“10 Años” – Marrón

Marrón was without a doubt my favorite discovery this year. Hailing from the Pacific beach of Acapulco via Mexico City via Brooklyn, he produced the beautiful EP ETC. It was a no-brainer…it became a road trip/sunset anthem, a journey of warm, rose tones (“10 Años”) with electronic, cooler blues (“Stairs to Stars”). –Analuz Vizarretea

El Guru, CEO & Founder of Rapetón

“Joderme Pa’ Hacerme” – Darell ft. Ñengo Flow

“Joderme Pa’ Hacerme” by Darell ft. Ñengo Flow was the song I sang the most in 2016, especially because of the chorus: “Tuve que joderme pa’ hacerme/josear un par de peso y moverme/par de enemigos mal quieren verme/no voy a parar ahora que estamos arriba.” That part of the song was like an anthem that made me remember how hard I had to work to get where I am, coming from the projects in Puerto Rico. The tone of the chorus is from “Power” by Young Thug, but I don’t care – Darell’s voice is very emotive. Plus, Darell and I grew up together, and that’s why I understand and appreciate the song so much. –El Guru

Marcos Juárez, Head of Latin Music Programming, Pandora

“Farolito” – Jhoni “The Voice”

When this song crossed my desk in August, it really caught my ear. Jhoni “The Voice” has been releasing genre-bending music for a minute now, and I think in many ways, he’s ahead of the curve as far as embracing a bilingual identity and expressing that across different production styles. This is a straight trap R&B joint, and although it leans heavily on an existing template that we’re all familiar with. The vocal performance (your boy got bars!) and production by Chris Hierro, make this a standout for me. The remix with Lito Kirino is tight, too. –Marcos Juárez

Roberto Montero, Director of Epicentro Festival

“La Magia” – Little Jesus

Some songs are a well-received gasp of fun and positivity. “La Magia” from Little Jesus quickly moved up to the top of my list. Part of their second album Río Salvaje, a compilation of inventive sounds, relatable, well-written lyrics, and good rock ‘n’ roll, this song is both catchy and good for all the right reasons. The band has consolidated their sound gravitating to a unique and fresh take on pop rock – and in the case of “La Magia,” one that makes you dance, sing. and have a good time, something we all needed in a year injected with daily frustrations. –Roberto Montero

Alejandro Hernandez, Content, Programming & Social Media Manager at VEVO

“Antes Que No” – David Bisbal

If you want a powerful and controlled voice, David Bisbal is your man on his last Hijos del Mar album singing “Antes Que No.” Without a doubt, he keeps playing on all my playlists, year after year. This song is futuristic with a cool hip-hop beat and synths leading into a climax of powerful vocals. The video for this track is pretty cool too, taking him into a drowning ocean journey of love with a beautiful redhead keeping his attention. Ever since I watched him on his acoustic tour promoting his live album for Una Noche En El Teatro Real, I’ve been more hooked on his voice than ever. Without a doubt, his transitions from pop, to bulería flamenco, acoustic, to electronic modern pop are what keep me following David’s career very closely. –Alejandro Hernandez