There’s a comfort that comes with the end of the year. On the one hand, we’re closing a chapter (one I think many are excited to put behind them) and start new one where we are able to write our own story. This also comes together alongside the festive season and while many use this time to relax and to celebrate, I love using this time of year to reflect on the music that was released over the past 12 months. I’ve spent the past week and a bit compiling my favourite South African songs of 2016 and these are the tracks that really had an impact on me this year.

20) Charlize Berg – Braaf

Over the past few years, Afrikaans pop music used to almost only consist of cheesy lyrics and generic beats, however, with the change in direction pop music has taken globally over the past few years, the industry has had to play catch-up. While many Afrikaans artists are still struggling with the change, Charlize Berg is one pop star who has done it right. ‘Braaf’ is the second single off her new album ‘As Jy Weet Dis Liefde’ and has really managed to stand out of the crowd. The song is a powerful ballad which is not only incredibly well-polished sonically, but Charlize’s essence and emotion shines through the song. Her vocal ability is insane and this song really showcased what the star can do.

19) Josh Wantie – Fall Again

Josh Wantie is easily one of the most exciting new artists I discovered in 2016. His debut EP ‘Paper Crowns’ is proof that the singer thinks outside the box and ‘Fall Again’ is easily the standout track on the record. So, it’s no surprise that radio stations across the country jumped at chance to playlist the song. Josh blends tropical house and pop alongside delicate vocals to release something different – something that makes the listener sit up and take notice. If this is what Josh is releasing at such an early era in his career, I can’t wait to see the level he takes his music to next.

18) Kyle Deutsch – Can’t Get Enough

Over the past two years, Kyle Deutsch proved that he is a fantastic singer. He has released hit after hit but it was ‘Can’t Get Enough’ that really showed off Kyle’s talent. Unlike singles such as ‘Back To The Beach’, ‘Wildside’ and ‘All Night’, ‘Can’t Get Enough’ saw Kyle slow it down for the first time. Not only was it incredible to see Kyle take on a ballad, but it also allowed him to play with his vocal in a way we’ve never heard before. Not only is his vocal talent on point on this song, but it’s also a song that is written and produced beautifully. So, it’s no surprise that it became such a smash hit around the country. Oh, and if you haven’t already, check out the remix with Kwesta, Bigstar, Tellaman and Sheen Skaiz.

17) Locnville – Cold Shoulder

2016 has been a big year for Locnville. Not only did they officially sign to Warner Music South Africa, but they released their highly anticipated new album ‘Taste The Weekend’. The record spawned hits such as ‘Grapevine’, the title track and the Sketchy Bongo-assisted ‘Cold Shoulder’. The song is a fantastic pop record – and the country has taken notice. In fact, the song was nominated for an MTV Africa Music Award earlier this year. Locnville shine on the song and sound more comfortable than ever. Sketchy Bongo also made magic with his production skills. The song is different, unique and one Locnville will be remembered for for a long time.

16) Yo Grapes – I Play The Drums

Desmond and the Tutus are probably the hottest indie group in South Africa at the moment. They have dropped a string of hit singles off their recent album ‘Enjoy Yourself’ which landed up winning Best Rock Album at this year’s South African Music Awards. However, drummer Craig Durrant also works on his side-project, Yo Grapes, and released the epic single ‘I Play The Drums’ earlier this year. The song has heavy pop influences and is incredibly catchy. I loved the way the song was written and the epic instrumentals. The singer also stays true to the sound and music he enjoys while making the song commercial enough to appeal to a mass audience. This is an incredibly unique song and is easily one of my favourite pop records of the year.

15) AKA – One Time

AKA has yet another super mega year. He dropped smash hit after smash hit and is featured on some of the greatest hip-hop tracks of the year. However, it’s ‘One Time’ that really caught my attention this year. The song is one of his best produced singles to date. The ‘80s-inspired synth over a catchy beat is something different and, again, makes the rapper stand out. AKA’s swagger and confidence oozes out of the song as he spits out yet another flawless rap. AKA blends the perfect amount of hip-hop and pop into his music and it’s that which has made him one of the most successful rappers out of South Africa.

14) Mi Casa & Euphonik – Don’t Wanna Be (Your Friend)

Although this song was technically released in December 2015, it was earlier this year when it really blew up. The song was an interesting one because it was all about collaboration. Mi Casa and Euphonik blended the main elements that they incorporate into their own music together to create a track that encompasses their own essence. J’Something’s smooth, silky vocals are flawless on the song while Euphonik created some banging beats. There is something special about the song – and the public took notice very quickly. This is a fantastic release from the artists and is deserving of a spot on this list.

13) GOODLUCK – Thinking About You

Local electronic trio GOODLUCK have been very busy this year. Besides for touring the globe, the group has also dropped their third studio album ‘The Nature Within’ earlier this year. One of the group’s major hit off the record is their cover of Londonbeat’s ‘I’ve Been Thinking About You’ which they gave their very own spin to. Sonically, the group has made a beautiful tropical house track while Jules gives a warm and almost comforting vocal performance. The song is simple, but packs a punch and it’s easily one of my favourite tracks from the group.

12) Nasty C – Hell Naw

I must be honest, when I first heard this song I wasn’t blown away. However, I can officially confirm that this is the greatest grower of the year. Nasty C is an incredible talent and this song became one of the biggest crossover tracks of 2016. The rapper spits some incredible rhymes on the record and the production sets clubs around the country alight with the very first note. This song proves that Nasty C is incredibly talented and I have a feeling 2017 is going to be an even bigger year for him.

11) Jimmy Nevis & Sketchy Bongo – All About It

Sketchy Bongo and Jimmy Nevis teamed up earlier this year as part of 5FM and Sony Xperia’s Mashlab after they were partnered up by 5FM listeners and given a week to create a track. The result was ‘All About It’ – a pop track with banging dance and African elements to it. Again, Sketchy’s creativity shines through on the track and Jimmy’s effortless vocal delivery gives the track life. This is a stellar collaboration.

10) Babes Wodumo – Wololo (Feat. Mampintsha)

In the beginning of the year, Babes Wodumo was virtually unknown in the industry. However, she is ending off 2016 with one of the biggest hits of the year. The singer teamed up with Big Nuz member Mampintsha on ‘Wololo’ which not only slayed airwaves across the country, but also became a viral sensation thanks to the video’s epic dance moves. If fact, the video currently has over 3,5 million views on YouTube. Talk about a success! The track’s beat is insane and Babes gives us something fresh and different. This is an artist you need to keep an eye on.

9) Mathew Gold – Never Mind

Mathew Gold is known for his smooth vocals and emotional delivery but he made it clear he can tackle any genre when he released the deep house track ‘Never Mind’ earlier this year. The song is strong on the three major aspects: the production, lyrically and sonically. Mathew gives yet another flawless vocal delivery and tells a deeper story than we’re used to with dance music. Sketchy Bongo and Deemo did a fantastic job blending the slow piano and club beats together with a sick bass line. I love how Mathew pushes boundaries and wants to be better with every single he releases. He did a fantastic job with this one.

8) Joe Louis x Dominic Neill – Better Day

I’ve been following Dominic Neill’s career ever since his Idols journey back in 2012. However, after a long journey, it was only this year that the singer got the commercial success he has been waiting for thanks to his collaboration with 17-year-old DJ Joe Louis. The duo collaborated on the smash hit ‘Better Day’ which dominated local radio. The song is interesting as it blurs the line between traditional EDM and tropical house. The production is incredible and Dominic shines vocally. However, it’s the song-writing that sets this song apart. Dominic has written some of his best material to date with this track. The two made magic in the studio and the song deserves all the success it received.

7) Matthew Mole – Run

Matthew Mole made his highly anticipated comeback earlier this year when he dropped his humongous new single ‘Run’ alongside his new album of the same name. ‘Run’ sees Matthew try something new as he mixes soft beats, tropical influences and the indie pop sound we know and love together – creating something fresh and unique. Vocally, Matthew delivers one of his most soothing performances to date and gives a stellar performance. The song became one of the most downloaded and played songs of the year making it one of the most popular local releases of 2016.

6) TiMO ODV – Make You Love Me (Feat. Ryki)

TiMO ODV is one of my favourite success stories. With only one EP to his name, the singer/producer has managed to cement himself as one of the leading dance acts in the country. With hits such as ‘Save Me’ and ‘I Need You’ under his belt, the star was pretty much an overnight sensation. However, it was his collaboration with Ryki that really piqued my interest. The song is bold, dirty and exquisite. TiMO is all about taking risks and this is a risk that has certainly paid off for him.

5) Heavy K – Celebration (Feat. Tresor & Sdudla noMa1000)

House music is one of the most popular genres in South Africa. African percussions are often added to the tracks giving them a local twist and none made quite an impact for me as much as Heavy K’s ‘Celebration’. The song blends African and South American sounds to create something extraordinary. The production is flawless and Tresor’s vocals add a summery, tropical sound to the song while Sdudla noMa1000 add their flair as well. This is what Africa is about – celebration, unity and music. I had this on repeat for a good chunk of the year.

4) Opposite The Other – Stutter Love

After releasing their debut single ‘Stutter Love’ earlier this year, newcomers Opposite The Other were on everybody’s lips and the Cape Town-based band gained a huge audience soon after. The song is a fantastic piece of poetry. The lyrics are beautiful and the group gives an emotional vocal performance. The song proves that the band has what it takes to make it in the industry and just need to make sure that they have a solid follow-up single to keep the momentum going. Keep an eye on these guys.

3) Snotkop – Cool Soos Koos Kombuis

Afrikaans rapper, Snotkop, is known for his tongue-in-cheek lyrics, simple beats and energetic performance and has become one of the biggest Afrikaans acts in the country. So, it was no surprise that the country waited with bated breath for his new album. Since release, Snotkop’s ‘HKGK’ has achieved gold status and much of the success is due to the record’s brilliant lead single ‘Cool Soos Koos Kombuis’. The song has everything needed to become a hit. It’s well written, the melody is catchy AF and Snotkop stays true to the artist he has cemented himself as. What’s interesting about this song is that the singer ditches the rap and proves he can take on the pop genre effortlessly. This is easily one of Snotkop’s best singles to date.

2) Daniel Baron – Children of the Sun

Daniel Baron is one of the most talented musicians in our country – and often doesn’t get the credit he deserves. However, no one could deny the brilliance of his dance hit ‘Children of the Sun’. What I really liked about the single was the fact that it was the first time Daniel ventured out of his comfort zone – and the risk paid off. ‘Children of the Sun’ is a fantastic dance track. The song, produced by Daniel himself, follows the international pop trend while still staying true to Daniel’s artistry. Many people identified with the song and it charted on many radio stations across the country. This quickly became my favourite track from the star.

1) Kwesta – Ngud’ (Feat. Cassper Nyovest)

Kwesta has had a phenomenal year. His new album ‘DaKAR II’ is a brilliant collection of songs and the album’s hit single ‘Ngud”, which features guest vocals from Cassper Nyovest, quickly became one of the biggest local tracks of 2016. What is really interesting about the track is it’s crossover appeal. Although a hip-hop track, the song found its way to many pop stations around the country and people of all backgrounds fell in love with the song (the power of music, eh?). Vocally, Kwesta gave an epic performance rapping in an incredibly low register. The production is fire and the song brought people together. If there’s any track that deserves the title of best South African song of 2016, it’s this one.

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