The best year of music was 1967. That’s the answer to the question what was the best year for music ever? With that doubt resolved, the matter of personal taste remains. Therefore, in this post, we’re going to provide a series of alternatives that cover a few more years, and where we’ll share playlists featuring the best from those years so that you can choose. Nevertheless, for us, it’s clear. Without the year 1967 in music, the Woodstock ’69 concert wouldn’t have been what it was, and the 70s wouldn’t have been what they are: the greatest music decade up until now, in the summer of 2022, as we write these lines.
However, as we’ve mentioned, in the end, it’s a matter of musical tastes and personal experiences. After all, the justification we’ve just provided for choosing ’67 as the best year in music could also apply, with slightly different terms, to the year 1979 or ’93. That’s why we want to give you a few options. Not only as alternatives but also to help you discover what are, for us, the best music years by decade.
So, without further ado, after this introduction, you’ll find our playlists divided by the best musical year for each decade. Because actions speak louder than words, and we believe in showing rather than just telling. Enjoy discovering what was the best year of music in each decade from 1960 to 2019. And feel free to explore our profile on Spotify, where you can find these and other playlists that are usually also available on the blog.
What was the best year of music?
Year 1967: 100 Timeless Classics
Within the reasoning for awarding the title of best year of music to the year 1967, it’s not just what we’ve already mentioned. Another relevant factor is the actual date. The older the music, the more likely it is to become outdated and confined to its time. However, in this year, we find the best of every genre. Timeless music that retains its essence and is still current today. Of course, some songs in the list might not have the same impact, but genres like rock or soul only gain more over time.
Among the best songs of 1967, we find classics like Aretha Franklin’s Respect, or two Bee Gees hits before they became the flag-bearers of white disco music. Iconic groups like The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, or The Doors shared the airwaves and topped the US Billboard charts. Less remembered yet creatively rich bands like Captain Beefheart & His Magic Band, Cream, or the psychedelia of Jefferson Airplane also make an appearance.
Year 1979: 98 Songs Ahead of Their Time
By and large, 1979 is the best year of music for most music experts. In our case, we can mention journalist Xavi Sancho, who dedicated an article in Babelia to explaining the reasons why we’re facing The Year. We largely agree with everything he says, and the fact that our playlist has more songs from this year than any other from the 70s only further confirms it.
Among the main reasons behind this choice, aside from the ones already mentioned, is that it’s the year that seems to encapsulate the most genres at their prime or, at least, at the perfect moment to introduce what was to come next. We have the best of disco music. Electronic music had been evolving for a few years, morphing pop into something entirely new. Rock, which had transcended the past decades with new sounds and hairstyles, also seemed to find new ways to be cool, highlighting both punk and hard rock. New wave was everywhere, as was dance music. Commercial rap was born. ABBA was already the world’s music powerhouse.
While 1967 stood out for being practically the best year for all the groups that appeared there, an unsurpassable lineup for any festival even today. A year where all existing sounds up until then seemed to have reached their peak, refined to the extreme. Meanwhile, 1979 was a year of new sounds, mainly, blending with some that wouldn’t last much longer, but that help explain why the 70s are the best musical decade for us, despite the ’80s nostalgia. We love the mix of subgenres that appear, the fusion of orchestral sounds with those produced by some kind of computer. Maintaining soul and R&B but now with funk using synthesizers to create new and unique sounds not heard before.
Year 1984: 97 Danceable Pop and Rock Hits
If we go by the number of songs in our playlists, the best year of the ’80s is 1984. In this case, not because of a matter of summum or the quantity of genres or subgenres sharing hit lists and presence in current TV commercials. On the contrary, what stands out here is the number of songs that we like. Music from 1984 is more remarkable for the variety of artists and groups than anything else, despite the variety in other senses. However, it’s surprising to see the dominance of pop music, whether mixed with other subgenres or not. It’s the decade of power ballads, exemplifying how pop absorbed everything that was still alive.
Nevertheless, ’80s rock icons like Bon Jovi, Iron Maiden, Kiss, or Metallica were holding strong. Besides the three rock groups mentioned, the hits of Alphaville and Bonnie Tyler stand out. The three singles Bruce Springsteen released as a preview of the Born In The U.S.A. album. The empowering pop of Madonna or Cyndi Lauper. The disco-funk of Chaka Khan or R&B by Dennis Edwards with Don’t Look Any Further. Also, iconic acts like Depeche Mode, Eurythmics, Foreigner, or Frankie Goes To Hollywood. We won’t continue because listing singer and group names lacks a criterion beyond the release of their singles or albums. Keep in mind that we’re still at the letter M, so there’s more than half of the playlist left to discover.
Year 1999: 127 Ways to Close a Century and a Millennium
On occasion, especially when talking about our ’90s playlist, we’ve stated that the year 1999 is, in terms similar to 1979, the start of a new era and the end of another. In this case, of course, personal experiences and memories also play a role in this choice, in addition to the musical aspect. For starters, because the Nu Metal that was reigning around that time seemed like the best thing back then, alongside ’90s rap. A golden era that, unlike the ’80s that followed the end of the ’70s, didn’t last as long at the top.
However, there are still similarities, like the prevalence of a new pop that seemed to have originated in Europe but was transformed by American producers into the pop of the Backstreet Boys. In Europe, though, the Spice Girls were there to cast a shadow, but they were also competing with the rising star Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Additionally, punk had been in a revival mode for a few years (especially in California) with the presence of Blink-182 or the humor of the Bloodhound Gang. Grunge persisted, although it was beginning to give way to post-grunge, less depressed but not much happier. Then, on the other hand, there were the Latin rhythms making their way into the Anglo-Saxon world. Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin were starting to make it big by singing their Spanish hits in English (or vice versa), and Jennifer Lopez as well. All in all, alongside the disco and house music that had been dominating the dancefloors (known as ‘bakalao’ in Spain) for most of the decade, other existing genres were evolving and contributing to the new sound of modern music.
Year 2008: 100 Ways of Revival
To choose the best year of music in the 2000s, we’ve had to change the way we select it. Where we previously based it on the number of songs per year, now we need to pay attention to the number of songs that I have listened to per year since 2005. The reason is that our playlists from the year 2000 onward have the same limitation for each year. There’s no longer any stand-out in this regard. Therefore, let’s see what Last.fm says in terms of the number of songs listened to per year.
According to these statistics, in 2008, I listened to a total of 54,472 songs, surpassing the 54,165 from the year 2007. Among them, three genres stand out above all others. First, the danceable hip-hop that preceded everything that was about to come over the following years (handled by David Guetta and the Black Eyed Peas primarily).
Secondly, the genre of pop divas, if we can lump them all together: Lady Gaga with Just Dance and Poker Face, Beyoncé with Halo and Single Ladies, Katy Perry with Hot N Cold and I Kissed A Girl, or Rihanna with Disturbia.
Finally, we’d group several genres together, as music experts did throughout this decade, defining various types of sound as indie music. Notable among them are Kaiser Chiefs, Kings Of Leon, Foals, or Fleet Floxes.
Year 2016: 100 Songs Hard to Define
It seems true that variety is the spice of life. At least, it’s a good method to understand the evolution that has occurred in music since its beginnings. Besides all the implications of the transition from rap to trap, or the changes brought by the global success of reggaeton, it’s also interesting to note that the current market has defined how we listen to music more than ever.
In addition to having partially returned to the way artists in the ’50s and ’60s released singles rather than albums, the boundaries separating big hits from songs that passed by unnoticed seem to have disappeared. This is because now, at least in part, it’s the listeners themselves who decide. Not entirely, of course, because we’re still exposed to what’s offered in nightclubs, on the radio, or on TikTok (and other new ways to reach people). However, that doesn’t mean we’re not subjected to algorithms that provide us all with the same, albeit different, content based on what you listen to and what others who listen to the same things as you also listen to.
Where I’m trying to go with this digression is a mystery. What is clear is that in the year 2016, there’s a bit of everything, making it difficult to define what appears on our playlist. The presence of major legends that were already succeeding in 2008 is surprising, but what’s even more surprising is how the self-awareness produced by knowledge of what already exists serves to create so many new sounds that still seem similar to those past sounds. However, just listening to Aesop Rock with Kirby or Kanye West with Famous (featuring Rihanna) demonstrates how much hip-hop has changed in its own lack of change. Epic on one end of the spectrum, complete simplicity on the other.
(Madrid, 1987) Novelist by vocation, SEO specialist by profession. Music lover, cinephile and reading lover, but in “amateur” mode.