There’s so much music out there, it’s hard to keep up! We’re halfway through this, the year of our Lord Beyoncé’s 2016, and thousands of albums have been released already. Several major stars put out chart-topping records, and a bunch of smaller names produced totally uncelebrated greatness. It’s really not safe to head into July without catching up.
We already gave you our top 25 songs for January through March. For the second quarter of the year, our selections are dominated by women and people of color. Female performers may be vastly underrepresented on Billboard's Top 40 charts, but they comprise 52% of our list.
Here are the 25 songs we loved the most this quarter:
1. "Sorry" by Beyoncé
It's hard to pick any song from Lemonade over the truly surprising "Daddy Lessons," but "Sorry" is such a mantra of power and strength. Its Caribbean layers and auto-tuned backing vocals made it the highest-charting single off Beyoncé's new album, but it's also one of her most culturally pervasive: "Boy, bye" and "Becky with the good hair" have already taken over our speech in 2016.
2. "What's it Gonna Be" by Shura
Alexandra Lilah Denton, better known as Shura, gives us a fast-paced summer banger about having a huge massive crush on someone in "What's It Gonna Be." It sounds like restless summer nights laden with nostalgia and it feels like optimism. There's no better kind of song for a summer playlist.
3. "Ultralight Beam" by Kanye
"Famous" is certainly the most controversial song off Kanye's brilliant album The Life of Pablo, but "Ultralight Beam" is maybe the best. With its soaring hymnal feel and backing church choir, there is something sacred about "Ultralight Beam."
4. "Lost Boy" by Ruth B
Ruth B's "Lost Boy" is a slow, melodic, song about "Peter Pan." Her voice is smooth as sliding into a crisp pool, and just as soothing. It's also the only song to hit the Top 40 this year that was entirely written, produced, and performed by a woman.
5. "Abduction" by Simonne Jones
"Thought I was alone 'til you took my body / Thought I was alone 'til you took my soul," Simonne Jones opens "Abduction," off her first EP Gravity. This electro-pop song is rich in both lyrical reference to complex concepts like relativity and gravity and otherworldly sounds.
6. "Free" by Broods
I added Broods' "Free" to my best songs of the year playlist 30 seconds into my first listen. The structure of this song shifts drastically from anthemic to hymnal and back over and over again, keeping it engaging and beautiful throughout.
7. "What If" by Bibi Bourelly
Bibi Bourelly is most famous for writing Rihanna's "Bitch Better Have My Money," but on her personal EP, Bourelly gets even wilder, even more raw. Most pop music in 2016 favors clean, electronic sounds, but Bourelly leans into grit on "What If" with a solid electric guitar riff and her signature grainy, almost callous vocals.
8. "Bad Decisions" by Ariana Grande
Deep in Ariana Grande's Dangerous Woman is a Max Martin-written banger that somehow has yet to rise to the top of the charts. "Bad Decisions" is Grande at her best: soaring vocals, a little bit of spunk, and an unbelievably catchy chorus.
9. "I Need a Forest Fire" James Blake feat. Bon Iver
James Blake did more this spring than appear on Beyoncé's new album. His own album, The Colour in Anything, is a soft, sleepy, springtime release that truly comes alive on the wonky "I Need a Forest Fire" featuring Bon Iver.
10. "Look Alive" by Rae Sremmurd
I won't make a playlist this summer without "Look Alive" on it. It's catchy. It's fun. It's bolstered by a comforting electronic background, and how can you deny a song that promises, "Imma rock you like a baby?"
11. "All In" by Kid Cudi
"I'm exposed and I am pure," Kid Cudi sings. "No one makes me feel secure / Except you and now we're all in." This summer's music is full of atmospheric vibes and clapping beats and nowhere is that better exhibited than on "All In."
12. "One Dance" by Drake
This song has been the number one song in America for the past five weeks, so if you don't know it, I don't really know what to do with you. But there's a reason "One Dance" is number one. It's brilliantly produced, expertly sung, and completely inescapable.
13. "Only Girl" by Kali Uchis feat. Steve Lacy and Vince Staples
Kali Uchis has hovered on the edge of pop stardom since her 2015 EP Por Vida. She's more soulful and bluesy than a lot of rising pop stars right now. On "Only Girl," she's found a sweet spot, exchanging verses with Steve Lacy and Vince Staples, that just might push her into the public consciousness once and for all.
14. "Me Too" by Meghan Trainor
I want to not love this song. I want to dislike it for its incessant thumping beat and Trainor's obvious display of body positivity for capitalist gain. But I can't. I love "Me Too."
15. "24/7" by Kehlani
Is there any anthem better for anxious people than "It's okay to not be okay / to dive in your pain/ It's all right to be not all right?" Kehlani confronts her struggles over the last few months on this single, and her vulnerability makes it one of the most relatable songs of the year.
16. "We Live" by G.L.O.S.S.
Hardcore band G.L.O.S.S. released their single "We Live" in the wake of the Orlando tragedy, and it couldn't have been a more fitting anthem for the week. As Pilot Viruet wrote for Pitchfork, "It echoes and reminds of why we must choose to live. To just exist is both the easiest and hardest way to bash back for the ignored, marginalized, and targeted among us."
17. "All Night" by Chance the Rapper
In the midst of Chance the Rapper's sometimes ethereal, always beautiful album Coloring Book, "All Night" stands out as the undeniable hit. It's a song to dance to, a song to drink to, a song with star power almost as bright as Chance himself.
18. "A Little Deeper" by KR3TURE & The Human Experience feat. Kelly Koval
Creating electro-pop that doesn't sound like it was made on someone's iPhone requires dozens of perfectly placed layers. On "A Little Deeper," KR3TURE nails that, building in a girl's laugh, a pulsing beat, and Kelly Koval's round, swirling voice. "Fall just a little deeper," she coos, and you do easily.
19. "Augustine" by Blood Orange
Dev Hansen's "Augustine" gets its name from a passage at the beginning of the song where he quotes extensively from Saint Augustine's Confessions, a text almost as globally relevant as this song sounds. Made with just a guitar, piano, and drum sounds, "Augustine" is a song that shines in its simplicity.
20. "Hard Time" by Esther Vallee
Esther Vallee's premiere single "Hard Time" showed up in my Spotify Discover playlist one week after an extensive trip through electro pop-greats, and her song certainly belonged. Vallee's morphed, childlike voice creates a hazy, sleepy atmosphere throughout this fragmented track.
21. "Dreams" by Kelsey Lu
At nearly eight minutes long, "Dreams" by Kelsey Lu is difficult to pin down as any one genre. With layers and layers of cello sounds built on top of each other, "Dreams" becomes a trance-like, almost mournful acoustic gem—all before Lu's voice emerges somewhere past the three-minute mark. It's a soothing, beautiful song perfect for winding down a day or slowly ramping one up.
22. "My Church" by Maren Morris
Maren Morris's pop-ified country album Hero doesn't get any more meta than "My Church," an ode to listening to the car radio. There's something you have to love about a country song that starts out with a line like "I've cussed on a Sunday."
23. "Broccoli" by D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty
D.R.A.M. croons over a blinky piano on "Broccoli" with Atlanta's Lil Yachty. A song named "Broccoli" shouldn't be one of the catchiest songs of summer, but the flexing bass and repetitive piano riff makes it absolutely addictive.
24. "Female Vampire" by Jenny Hval
At the very end of "Female Vampire," Jenny Hval whispers, "It hurts everywhere," but there is absolutely nothing painful about this song. There's a throbbing beat and a pulsing electricity, but "Female Vampire" is complex, smart, and brilliant through and through.
25. "My Blood" by AlunaGeorge feat. Zhu
Aluna's sensual R&B voice elevates this electro-pop single over so many others. And on "My Blood," she is perfectly paired with Zedd's sizzling beats and head-bopping rhythm. The duo's highly anticipated album is expected this year, and if this song is any indication, it'll be well worth waiting for.
Twenty-four of the 25 songs on this list are available on Spotify. They (along with March's list and a few other greats) can be found in this playlist:
Kelsey McKinney is a culture staff writer for Fusion.