There is really only one question that needs to be answered when determining a good party song: Does it make women dance?
Sure, there are other factors. It has to have a great beat, a catchy hook, a...um...well actually that’s pretty much it. If it doesn’t get the girls moving, then the guys won’t be moving, and then the party as a whole won’t be moving, and then what you’re left with is a group of people on their phones, either texting friends to see whether a more popping function exists or customizing a Domino’s pizza online in preparation for the journey back home.
To gain prestigious Party Song of the Year honors, however, the song must be ubiquitous. It must be heard at every party, every club, every pregame. Every party bus and every drunken daytime get-together. You must find it in every DJ set for months, and once it drops you must be able to liken the scene of frantically excited clubgoers flooding the dancefloor to the stampede that brought Mufasa to his untimely end. Asses must be shaking. Twerking must commence.
Rihanna's "Work" isn't just the best party song of the year, it's one of the best songs of the year—period. Anti saw RiRi move away from her tendency to release albums as halfway houses for radio-tailored singles, rather than cohesive bodies of work, and "Work" fits almost like a dream sequence inside her collection of smoked-out, introspective bedroom jams. It’s the extroverted outlier amidst lowkey anthems for bloodshot eyes—a runaway chart smash right out of the gate.
In the small world of female R&B superstars, there exists an upper echelon consisting of one Beyoncé and one Rihanna, though only the latter scored a No. 1 hit this year. While the former's big smash this year was a triumphant, in-your-face middle finger about cultural heritage, "Work" similarly embraces the artist's roots in a far more subtle, yet no less noteworthy manner. Armed with a deadly Caribbean patois, which many had incorrectly and sadly pegged as “gibberish,” Rihanna glides over sultry and similarly island-inspired production from Boi-1da.
Oh yeah, the song also features someone named Drake, who in sing-song, steal-your-girl style creeps in to graciously cede control (not only the time but the place too!) to his co-star.
Parties had a great soundtrack this year. “Broccoli” was the feel-good hit that caught everyone by storm. “Wicked” and “Panda” had the world mumbling in unison. “One Dance” held the charts with an iron OVO talon. “1 Night” and “Money Longer” helped spark 1000 think pieces. “New Level” made me punch a hole through my wall (metaphorically). “2 Phones” had us buying multiple phones, and “Pick Up The Phone” had us answering them.
In the end, though, the off-then-maybe-on-and-then-off-again power couple of Rihanna and Drake made the whole world work, and throughout the morbid, spirit-crushing landfill of a year that was 2016, helped us dance away the pain.