FearlessRiOT’s Year-End Top 10: Favorite Music Groups of 2016

#10. Disturbed10

Disturbed is a hard rock/heavy metal band. That has been established in the near decade-and-a-half of the band’s fame. They’re created some of the most well-known anthems the genre has seen in recent years, including the karaoke staple “Down With the Sickness” and their latest album Immortalized still showed off that heavy sound. But the band has also been known to break out covers, including one of my all-time favorite covers in “Land of Confusion”. But this year, they’re scored their highest charting song ever on the Billboard Hot 100 (and their first #1 on my weekly countdown) with a somber-yet-intensely-performed cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence”. This record was so massive for David Draiman and company that it invaded Dancing With The Stars even. It was one of few times this year that a rock band actually flirted with some mainstream attention. Don’t worry though, metalheads; Disturbed is definitely not going anywhere, especially with their latest, much harder-rocking single “Open Your Eyes” also doing pretty well on the Mainstream Rock charts.

#9. Little Mix9

With the disbanding/hiatus/break of One Direction and 5 Second of Summer out of the picture for the time being, it seems like the boy band may be on its way out at the moment. However, their gender-swapped counterpart seems to be on the rise again. Even Kelly Rowland tried to get in on the girl group revival. The argument could be made that the revival started with Perrie, Jade, Leigh-Anne, and Jesy, a.k.a. X-Factor U.K. winners Little Mix. In their five years as a group, they’ve built up a dedicated fanbase of Mixers, who’ve kept them enough of a big deal that they’ve been able to release four studio albums, Glory Days being their latest. Their lead single “Shoutout to My Ex” sees them getting their Taylor Swift on by rewarding the transgressions of their (or more specifically, Perrie’s) ex with a catchy hit song. And even months before that, their Sean Paul collaboration “Hair” and BRIT Awards performance were racking up YouTube views. They recently closed out their 2016 with performances on the Capital FM Jingle Bell Ball and a return to the show where they made their name. With their popularity continually rising in America, 2017 could be the year they give a certain other girl group some competition on the charts.

#8. The Pretty Reckless8

For all the times people have made fun of Taylor Momsen, whether for her choice in thick eye makeup or her previous acting career or the fact that fellow blonde crooner Taylor Swift may look to her for fashion cues these days, she seems totally committed to her career as a rock singer. The Pretty Reckless (also consisting of Mark Damon, Jamie Perkins, and Ben Phillips) has been together since 2010, and are already one of the most successful modern bands of their format. Momsen seems to always aim for controversy with her subject matter, and she keeps her demented mindset in check with her bands’ latest album Who You Selling For, only it’s not as in your face as it was with 2014’s Going to Hell. This time, the band takes a more southern, bluesy approach to the aesthetic. “Take Me Down” has been another huge hit for them and it has allowed Momsen to continue living out her dream of being a rockstar while gifting us some awesome, rocking tunes to boot.

#7. Korn7

Is it embarrassing to admit that I still like Korn? It seems like they’re so often lumped in with bands like Limp Bizkit and P.O.D.; the dreaded bros with the funky fashion sense, grimy vocals, and soggy, distorted guitar riffs, paired with lyrics about misery and suffering. You know: the largely derided nu-metal craze. Most of those bands from the early-2000s who comes across as total jokes now have fizzled out; meanwhile, Korn never really went away. In fact, their last two albums have scored them decent success on my weekly Top 20 Countdown, with their latest, “Rotting in Vain”, going Top 5 and also doing well on Billboard’s Mainstream Rock Chart. Their new album The Serenity of Suffering also features a collaboration with Slipknot/Stone Sour frontman and all around woke person Corey Taylor that must be heard to be believed, as well as other hard rocking tracks that carry that unique Korn sound. If admitting to still liking Korn isn’t cool, then I’m probably one of the least-cool kids in all of school right now because their music still does it for me.

#6. Metallica6

“Enter Sandman”, the song that broke Metallica into the mainstream, was a huge hit the year before I was born. Metallica is a band who’s been doing it for a long time, having their fair share of highs and just as many lows (hello, Napster, LuLu, and St. Anger, though I kind of have a soft spot for the latter’s title track). But since 2008, they’ve seemed to be in form more often than not, which is why I wasn’t all that surprised to hear that their latest album Hardwired…To Self-Destruct is actually a pretty decent album for the most part. The first track on it, “Hardwired” rocked pretty hard and subsequent singles “Atlas, Rise” and “Moth Into Flame” showed that Metallica was still a force to be reckoned with. What’s even better is the fact that they must have a lot of free time on their hands, or cleared their schedule significantly, to film a music video for almost every song on their double album. I’ve been trying to get more into Metallica lately since I didn’t really grow up with them, and though not their peak, their tracks this year are loads of metal goodness.

#5. Stitched Up Heart5

Stitched Up Heart also earned their first 20-Week Club song this year with their single “Finally Free”. That one track was enough to catapult the L.A. based hard rock/heavy metal band to places they’d never previously been. Previously dropping E.P’s like E.P. and Skeleton Key, signing with Another Century has been a huge boost for the band, with “Finally Free” landing them on the Billboard Mainstream Rock chart for the first time ever and landing them touring gigs with bands like Icon For Hire and Trapt. They’ve even landed a nomination at Revolver Magazine’s newly revived award ceremony, as well as a performance spot on the bill. It was a huge deal for the band, led by former reality show singing star and Tattoo Magazine covergirl Mixi Demner, who is also up for Loudwire’s Rock Goddess of the Year Award against such heavy hitters as Taylor Momsen, Cristina Scabbia, Simone Simmons, Amy Lee, and Lzzy Hale. Further success is likely to come after the release of their debut LP Never Alone, with “Monster” briefly charting on the Mainstream Rock Charts and them being ambitious with videos like the recently released “Catch Me When I Fall”.

#4. BABYMETAL4

Two foreign-language songs made it onto my weekly Top 20 Countdown this year. One was from South Korean girl group Wonder Girls and the other was from metal/idol hybrid trio BABYMETAL. The BABYMETAL one is the one I least expected to gravitate to since BABYMETAL was kind of seen as a bit of a joke when people first heard about them years ago. Mixing idol music with metal? What kind of apples-with-spinach experiment is this?! Unsurprisingly, this was something that not many metal fans found endearing at the time. But I found that this group does in fact have a devoted following, and as soon as I heard “Karate”, I couldn’t get enough of it and I ended up buying their second album Metal Resistance in physical copy. And it rocked. A lot. They’ve certainly grown their fanbase more over the past year after performing on the Alternative Press Music Awards with Judas Priest frontman and metal music icon Rob Halford. That performance also rocked. BABYMETAL have officially won me over, even if mostly as a guilty pleasure act. Frontwoman Su-Metal is also nominated for Loudwire’s Rock Goddess of the Year Award.

#3. Twenty One Pilots3

Everyone’s favorite rock band who barely qualifies as a rock band. When pop or Top 40 stations in 2016 claimed that they have rock music on their playlist, this is the band they’re talking about. Well, them or X Ambassadors. Truthfully, the band has been categorized as indie pop as well, but in the mainstream, they’re the closest to an alternative rock act as we’ve gotten since Imagine Dragons flew off the map and Walk The Moon walked right into one-hit wonder-ville. But no matter what genre they fall under, they certainly bring something unique to the table with their mish-mash of genres, and the mainstream definitely took notice. They won a Video Music Award, won two American Music Awards, won two Alternative Press Music Awards, performed on the iHeartRadio Music Festival, had the biggest hit on the Suicide Squad soundtrack with “Heathens”, will likely win a Grammy or two next year, and dominated radio with some of the best songs to get big this year, from “Stressed Out” to “Ride”. Tyler Joseph and Josh Dunn are the mainstream kings of alternative for 2016. But as far as acts even remotely close to the genre goes, they got outdone by one band for me this year…

#2. Green Day2

Green Day was one of my earliest favorite rock bands when I first started getting into the genre as a pre-teen. I got into them a little late, with “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” being the first song I ever heard from them. Even though I still consider it my personal favorite song by them, I listened to the rest of their output and printed out my Stan card immediately. They went from being the punk band singing about things like masturbating and the joys (of lackthereof) of laziness to more mature, politically charged material, and while the road has been bumpy (hi, Uno!, Dos!, and Tre!), we knew the EMA Global Icons and Rock n Roll Hall of Famers were capable of achieving greatness once again. And we got it with their 12th (TWELFTH!) Revolution Radio, where they return with the politically charged material, including targeting mass-shooting psychopaths with “Bang Bang”, and knock it out the park just like they did in the American Idiot Era. And Billie Joe still gives very little damns, putting president-elect Donald Trump on blast numerous times, including on national television at the American Music Awards. It feels nice to have Green Day back!

#1. Fifth Harmony1

A list that’s majority rock, metal, and alternative bands is topped by a pop/R&B girl group formed on a Simon Cowell show in 2012. Seems weird, doesn’t it? A group that’s not exactly a favorite with critics (at least YouTube critics, anyway), and the ire of scorn from other fanbases (Really, when will the Harmonizers/Mixers feud finally end?) But the truth is that Normani, Lauren, Camila, Ally Brooke, and Dinah Jane were VERY hard to escape in 2016. They were on the Billboard Awards, the CMT Awards, Wango Tango, various Jingle Balls, the Today Show (never forget their twerking lesson for John Cena), Billboard’s Women in Music, and even singing “America The Beautiful” at WrestleMania 32. Even their solo efforts were hard to miss. Camila helped Machine Gun Kelly get a Top 10 hit, Lauren did some solo recording of her own and was open on social issues whenever she could be, Normani took a strong stance against bullying as a result of unfortunate trolling, and Ally Brooke dueted with anyone from Echosmith’s Sydney Sierota to her own dog. Also, “Work from Home” was a huge hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and my own weekly Top 20 Countdown, with the sexy, VMA and AMA-winning tracks hitting over a billion views. And their album, 7/27, can be a total guilty pleasure pop album for me at times. 2016 was the year of Fifth Harmony; even if they break up in the near future, they’re built up quite the legacy for themselves as a group in the past year alone.

Honorable Mentions:

+ Pop Evil – This year, Pop Evil scored their very first entry into the 20-Week Club of my weekly Top 20 Music Countdown with 2015’s “Footsteps (Go Higher)”, also their very first #1 song on my personal weekly chart. But heading into the new year, Pop Evil was still doing fairly well for themselves with “Ways to Get High” and “Take It All”, both enjoying pretty decent play on the radio and my playlists.

+ A Tribe Called Quest – 2016 is where the story of A Tribe Called Quest ends, as their latest record, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, was released months following the death of member Phife Dawg and was confirmed by the group as their final album. They went out with a socially conscious bang, complete with an SNL performance on the much-talked about Dave Chapelle-hosted episode.

+ The Girl & The Dreamcatcher – Spoilers: actress Dove Cameron appears on a few of next week’s list due to her success on Liv and Maddie and Hairspray Live. But she and her now-former fiancé Ryan McCartan just missed the cut here for the duo they formed as a couple. They release a few cute songs like “Cry Wolf” and “Make You Stay” this year, but I’m not positive if the end of the engagement also spells the end of the musical project.

+ Old Dominion – Country music doesn’t have much of a presence on Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 this year, and one of the acts I’m shocked was completely left out – though I probably shouldn’t be due to their lack of Top 40s – is Old Dominion. I heard their songs a lot when I tuned into the country station in Chicago and truth be told, I kind of like their brand of mainstream country; “Song For Another Time” is really growing on me.

 

+ Red Hot Chili Peppers – Will we ever get anything close to peak-Red Hot Chili Peppers again? Their one of those legendary bands who can still find success today, but their latest work seems to be a shell of their 90s and 2000’s selves. That said, “Dark Necessities” went #1 on my weekly Top 20 Countdown for a reason, as it’s mellow groove is actually quite inviting.

Maddie & Tae – 2014: Maddie Marlow & Taylor Dye jumped onto the map with “Girl in a Country Song”. 2015: their star grew exponentially with “Fly” and their very first CMA Awards win. 2016: they got to soak in the success their journey afforded them complete with a couple of Radio Disney Music Awards and performing on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade.

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