Another year. Another music list? Absolutely.
Every year, I make a big playlist of all my favorite songs from that year, a lot of which I discover from reading online music publications, tracking everything that’s been critically acclaimed, unless of course I just know about the songs from the charts or from hearing them in movies or because they’re by artists I like and follow (most of which are mainstream, anyway, with a few exceptions).
This year was no different. Since I’ve been out of school and spent – let’s face it – a good chunk of my time consuming different kinds of art and media in an effort to develop my knowledge of the subjects I’m interested in, I’d like to think I expanded my music horizons wider than I ever have. Alas, there’s flaws in that thought, because more so than ever, this year’s list of the best music is the most chart-loaded list I think I’ve ever assembled, and certainly the most pop-heavy.
Still, making lists is literally my favorite thing in the world to do – so much that I wrote my Common App essay about it – and my year wouldn’t be complete without a rundown of the songs that shook me the most this year. In a year that’s been largely spent (physically) disconnected from the world I’m used to – I’ve been in three different countries and worked entirely from my laptop – my escapism into music has been more important than ever, to the point that I started writing a surrealist novella about it (which I hope to finish next year but never publish).
I’ve been busier than ever before with my writing and work for The Spread this year, so while I’ve probably listened to more music than in any previous year (thanks Spotify), I haven’t listened to half the amount of new music as I would have liked. That’s because I can’t work when I’m listening to something new, because something new requires focus, and so I’ve had my “Sugar Rush” playlist, which includes every song I’m currently “addicted to”, on repeat for a good chunk of my year, though the songs on that list has of course changed as musical crushes have come and gone. Given that, my year has largely been shaped by catchy pop songs with simplistic messages – often, there wasn’t time for nuance.
This lack of nuance is starkly noticeable throughout my year-end list, much of which is made of songs with their main themes directly in the title, or spelled out blankly and directly in the chorus. This was a year for the anthemic, for the absolute, and for the affirmative. The same, I think, was true of the most popular songs of the year, but that’s usually the case, anyway.
Anyways, here are my top 100 songs of the year. (1) Yes, I am that specific about my music, to the point where it’s obsessive. Judge all you like; it’s definitive to my personality. (2) Actually, that it ended up being exactly 100 songs was a coincidence – I simply whittled down my 300+ list of songs I liked this year to the ones that truly stuck with me or that felt important, and it came out as exactly 100, which I eventually edited to include a few extra songs, and after which was refined back down to 100 by the removal of a few songs by artists with multiple appearances on the list.
I’m writing this mainly for myself – I love to internally track how I’ve changed and how the entertainment world has affected that – but to those that do read this: do tell me which songs affected you the most this year, and which of my choices are the most egregious. This list is both personal and critical, meaning subjective taste, “objective” quality (as much as I hate that term) and importance were all considered. The rankings are very loose, and will certainly change in retrospect.
Spotify playlist (in reverse order)
100. SOAK – “Sea Creatures“
Heard this one on a Spotify ad. After a few passing listens I decided “dammit, I want that whole song.” Worth the ten seconds of effort to find it.
99. Years & Years – “King“
Infective electro belter. The third-ghostly, third-primal, third-robotic screams driving the backing track could’ve been annoying, but they’re strangely affecting.
98. Kelly Clarkson – “Good Goes the Bye“
Swelteringly sad breakup ballad that movingly closes Clarkson’s otherwise messy Piece by Piece. One of the more memorable song titles of the year. 2015’s “Not a Bad Thing”.
97. The Knocks ft. Alex Newell – “Collect My Love“
Funky, soulful EDM track featuring one of the year’s least complicated and most energetic vocal performances from Glee star Alex Newell.
96. Alabama Shakes – “Don’t Wanna Fight“
These guys are the real rockin’ deal, and this is there most straightforward tune yet. That’s far from a bad thing.
95. Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars – “Uptown Funk“
Initially my favorite song of the year than a steep plummet right down into the most annoying of the year, this recently shot back up into my top 100. Once the craze is over, the most ubiquitous pop songs do come back to bite you. Still waiting on “Rolling in the Deep” to become catchy again, though.
94. The Go! Team – “The Scene Between“
Like a legendary tale echoed through an endless valley of hope, this geographically-minded choral epic is one of the year’s major “appreciators” – meaning, I didn’t always want to listen to it, but when I did, I appreciated the heck out of it.
93. Andy Grammer – “Honey, I’m Good“
A lotta songs about not consenting lately – good thing, too, no? This is the most simplistic and enjoyable.
92. Adele – “Hello“
This wouldn’t have been on my list if it wasn’t for the SNL sketch. That’s what really made me like the song. Unlike “Rolling in the Deep”, this one grows on you, and might end up being Adele’s most positively-remembered song.
91. Dan Deacon – “When I Was Done Dying“
Classic-feeling indie rock yarn with the most creative animated music video of the year (pic below related).
90. Justin Bieber – “What Do You Mean?“
Bieber’s back, and he’s here to stay. This song has so much Purpose, and I think he’s considerably streamlined his.
89. Selena Gomez – “Revival“
What you think of that, Biebs? I put your ex one place in front of you. Don’t worry, you’ll both get two more chances later in the list. There’s something very confident about this track, which sounds like an angel descending from a sort of tropical-digital-heavy-metal-heaven-hell. A successful revival for one of pop’s most underrated performers, then.
88. Adam Lambert – “Ghost Town“
So this song actually sounds like a ghosttown. That’s an achievement in itself. Those whistles.
87. Sleaford Mods – “The Blob“
I’d like to think if I was an artist, I’d be closer to these very English consonance-teething profanity-spitters than any other artist. That’s mainly because talking fast is easier for me than singing to any kind of tune, but hey, performance poetry is vital, and quite possibly the next big thing in music. The blob ent bovvered indeed.
86. Big Sean – “Paradise“
The hallmark of a new kind of paradise, a twisted, ghastly combustion by a man fully released from any restraint. Big Sean’s “Rap God”, and on a similar level.
85. Tyler, the Creator – “DEATHCAMP“
This song seems meant to make you physically scared to ever come into contact with The Creator, or at least to submit to his greatness. It works. Love the Mad Max-inspired video (pic below related).
84. Aaron Watson – “The Prayer“
“Upon my castle made of sand, I cannot be the king of me” highlights this symbolic western tale, a rolling, sweeping campfire behemoth that threads us through the essence of frontier history with a self-importance characteristic only of America. Timeless and important.
83. Robin Schulz ft. Francesco Yates – “Sugar“
This yogurty breeze of summer sun is the year’s “Instant Crush”. You can feel the smooth. Maroon 5 who?
82. Whitey Morgan and the 78’s – “Waitin’ Round to Die“
The sort of pummeling, deep-toned cautionary song you’d listen to, meaning, this guy has something important to say, and we’d better damn well heed it.
81. Alessia Cara – “Here“
Doesn’t this sample Portishead’s “Glory Box”? No review I’ve read (though that’s only a few) has seemed to mention that. Either way, one of the best party anthems of the year – could retrospectively shoot into my all-time favorites like Katy B’s incredible “5 AM”.
80. LunchMoney Lewis – “Bills“
Goddamn, goddamn, goddamn, goddamn. Aw man, aw man, aw man, aw man. If this isn’t endearing to you, that’s a shame.
79. Rihanna, Kanye and Paul McCartney (?!) – “FourFiveSeconds“
Disappointed that we haven’t actually heard McCartney’s voice in these collaborations, but then again, maybe that’s the genius of it.
78. Natalie Prass – “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”
Natalie’s voice is unlike anything I’ve ever heard, and yet at the same time is utterly normal. This is one of those songs we’ll rediscover 30 years from now and all cry over. It’s got that “Natural Woman” feel.
77. Grimes ft. Janelle Monáe – “Venus Fly“
The two most important women to my year in music, joined together in sisterhood for one great big outrageous intergalactic horror show. Oh boy.
76. Hayden James – “Something About You“
Besides the one song from the Eircom adverts, this is the only song I looked up after hearing it in an advert (this was while I was in France). Considering you can barely understand what the hell Hayden’s saying, finding it took quite some time, but it was well worth it.
75. Circuit Des Yeux – “Fantasize the Scene“
Every year there’s a voice you hear where you go “damn, I didn’t know that could be”. Last year, it was Future Islands’ Samuel T. Herring. This year it’s Circuit Des Yeux’ Haley Fohr. Most infuriating is how mumblecore the video is – c’mon, this blistering hurricane of a vocal performance isn’t about drunkenly jumping into a bed full of balloons while being captured on home-video shakycam. But in 2015, it is (pic below related).
74. Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky – “Good For You“
So no joke, Selena was one of the best artists of 2015. This was her biggest hit, and second best song. I also think it was my first exposure to A$AP Rocky, who I loved in the crime dramedy Dope.
73. Skrillex, Diplo & Bieber – “Where Are Ü Now?“
O.k., this wasn’t even closed to planned, but this time the Biebs gets his own back on Selena, largely because the video for this romantic chipmunker of a miss-you is the greatest of 2015. More like this please, Earth.
72. M.O – “Preach“
These girls aren’t as famous as Little Mix or Fifth Harmony, but they more than match the talent. Last year their single “For a Minute” was among my absolute favorites of the year, and I also heavily enjoyed this year’s headline single for the group.
71. Lost Frequencies – “Are You With Me?“
One of the most unique-sounding songs of 2015, this electric slice of the southwest will appear in many films about millennial America.
70. Willie Nelson and Merle Haggard – “It’s All Going to Pot“
Two old country legends singing tongue-in-cheek about Mary Juwanna. As awesome as it could possibly be.
69. Janelle Monáe ft. Jidenna – “Yoga“
Steamy beach-ready thumper that will irk anyone who doesn’t like how hyper-sexualized pop music has gotten. Introduced Jidenna, my favorite new artist of 2015, to the world.
68. Stereophonics – “Song for the Summer“
You can always count on Stereophonics to present us with a nice, syrupy flower petal of a summer ballad with each otherwise underwhelming new album. Here’s this year’s.
67. Jamie xx ft. Young Thug & Popcaan – “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”
This one was on pretty much everyone’s favorite songs of the year list, and I totally get the appeal. It’s a Caribbean-feeling head banger that matches the bright universality of that instantly-iconic album cover. This one will absolutely continue to grow on me.
66. One Direction – “Drag Me Down“
These guys always get laughed at by people who claim to enjoy only “real music”, but 1D are our generation’s closest answer to Robbie Williams, a consistent, endearing pop act that’s fully British yet demands mass appeal. This was one of the catchiest songs off of their spectacular new album, Made in the AM.
65. Sizzy Rocket – “Bestie“
Thought “Yoga” was too sultry? Oh boy, are you in for a treat.
64. WALK THE MOON – “Shut Up and Dance“
2015’s song for all those out there wishing the 80’s were still on. Given that 95% of modern art tries to imbue that aesthetic anyway, it’s pretty much like they still are, but this was one of the purest – and best – imitators.
63. Blur – “Ong Ong“
Damon Albarn is among music’s most important auteurs. That a music video with a dancing ice cream accompanies one of the year’s finest slices of optimistic melancholy – more Gorillaz than Blur, let’s face it – is proof of his genius (pic below related).
62. Thomas Rhett – “Die a Happy Man“
Country’s sincerest try-hard goes Ed Sheeran to nostalgic effect.
61. John Grant and Tracy Thorn – “Disappointing“
The song is far from it. One of the most satisfyingly weird songs of 2015.
60. One Direction – “Olivia“
1D channel The Beatles. Would hold up with a lot of that band’s songs-with-a-title-that’s-a-girl’s-name.
59. Dawes – “All Your Favorite Bands“
Remember when I mentioned earlier that a lot of my favorite songs from this year are message songs? This is one of them. As with their masterful “Million Dollar Bill”, this one takes a simple concept – wishing an ex well – and runs it through the gamut. Not a dry eye.
58. OMI – “Cheerleader“
You didn’t dance along to this one? Whatever you say…
57. Mumford and Sons – “Thompson Square Park“
I genuinely love it when artists abandon there sound and just make music. This is nothing like Mumford’s equally special “I Will Wait”, but it’s just as potent.
56. Omarion ft. Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko – “Post to Be“
“But he gotta eat the booty like groceries.”
55. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face“
Was this The Weeknd’s best song, or was “Earned It” or “The Hills”? The latter, but not for long. This guy had three timeless hits and changed music. Biggest breakout of 2015.
54. Jidenna ft. Roman GianArthur – “Classic Man“
This swanky club banger wears its elegance on its sleeve, and its sleeve on its elegance (pic below related).
53. Wiz Khalifa & Charlie Puth – “See You Again“
This hopeful Oscar winner paid respect to Paul Walker with emotion and class. Most memorable ending to a film all year.
52. Snoop Dogg ft. Kendrick Lamar & Rick Ross – “I’m Ya Dogg“
The best song from Snoop’s solid new album BUSH, featuring my favorite Kendrick guest verse since “Control”.
51. Selena Gomez – “Me & the Rhythm“
A highlight of the year’s most surprising album, this love story between a girl and her music is angelic and textured.
50. M.I.A. – “Borders“
Only M.I.A. could make a song listing things and saying “what’s up with that?” after each one the perfect entertaining end to a troubled year.
49. Kid Rock – “First Kiss“
He’s one of the most underrated rockers out there – like NickelBack but not deserved of the criticism – and here Kid Rock gives us a slice of young, white, American middle class life a-la Kenny Chesney’s “American Kids” last year. Simple fun.
48. Brandon Flowers – “Still Want You“
Love transcends time, crime and natural disasters, The Killers frontman argues. I hear his point.
47. Tove Lo – “Talking Body“
One of my friends called this their least favorite song of the year, mainly because, while catchy, it’s hyper-sexualized. That’s certainly true. For me, the catchiness gets rid of any worries with the lyrical simplicity.
46. Coldplay – “Adventure of a Lifetime“
A more fitting Superbowl act could not have been picked. Say what you want about their nuance, but these lads can light up a stadium. I get the chills during the “heart beating” bridge, when the guitars cease and the bass pumps on.
45. Chorusgirl – “Oh, To Be a Defector“
One of the writers for The Spread directed the music video for this indie track (pic below related). Video’s fun, song is unforgettable.
44. Shamir – “Call it Off“
It’s not Shamir’s fault, and that’s that. Gracefully deadpan and vividly vocalized.
43. Death Team – “Fucking Bitches in the Hood“
The perfect song to characterize rich white people trying to be “gangsta”. As scary as it is hilarious.
42. Kanye West, Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney – “All Day“
The BRIT performance was the best and most important live-on-TV performance of the year, methinks.
41. One Direction – “Hey Angel“
Made in the AM’s album opener introduced 1D’s best work – even without that one guy who left the band, remember him? – with lighthearted, britpop swagger.
40. Psy – “Napal Baji“
“Daddy” overshadowed Psy’s actual song of 2015, a silly-funky Daft Punk-ish hit about trousers that’s impossible not to dance to.
39. Kendrick Lamar – “The Blacker the Berry“
Hard to argue that this was one of the most important songs of the year, and I understand why Anthony Fantano put it all the way at the #1 spot. It’s not catchy enough for a superficial listener like myself, but it moved me immensely when it came out at the exact time it was needed earlier in the year.
38. David Hasselhoff – “True Survivor“
There’s no such thing as guilty pleasure. This is just pleasure. Thanks Fantano for reminding me that this was one of the best songs of the year. 100 times better than the lame short film it accompanied.
37. Meek Mill, Rick Ross, Wale & Boosie Badazz – “You Mean“
This will rise up my list in retrospect. For now, it’s one of 2015’s ‘ardest rap hits, with a beat straight from the claws of the gods.
36. Justin Bieber – “Sorry“
I’ve been a Bieber defender since “#ThatPower”, but this was the song that got everyone to realize, wait a minute, this guy’s famous for a reason. Apparently the video’s good but I haven’t actually watched it yet.
35. Kate Tempest – “Europe is Lost“
Kate Tempest is to modern England post-London Riots as Tom Hanks is to the universe of Cloud Atlas, the de-facto poet laureate of a lost generation. In this assembly line of an urban poem she tackles everything troubling modern Britain (and really, the world) from traffic to terrorism to climate change and, of course, David Cameron molesting a dead pig.
34. Lady Leshurr – “Queen’s Speech 4“
The best song ever made about brushing your teeth, and that includes the magnum opus of Chip Skylark (pic below related).
33. Erik Hassle – “No Words“
This mesmerizing guitar-pop track came to me while I was in France. It’s very European, and very hard to skip. That hairstyle.
32. Rihanna – “Bitch Better Have My Money“
I originally had no intention of including this on my list, then I realized, subconsciously, I’ve been humming this non-stop all year. Shower epiphany: wait, did I just sing “Bitch Better Have My Money!” to myself? Have I been singing this to myself every morning. Turns out, I have.
31. Rachel Platten – “Fight Song“
Too self-aware to win Cameron over? Fat chance. What an empowering time to be alive (that’s not sarcasm).
30. Twenty One Pilots – “HeavyDirtySoul“
Of all the songs of 2015, this one sounds closest to its title. Short, snappy and overcrowded, it’s an adrenaline rush of hyperactive introspection straight outta the era of movie pirates and 5-hour Energy.
29. Hailee Steinfeld – “Hell No’s and Headphones“
I’m as shocked as you are. Of all the child stars-turned pop icons, Hailee Steinfeld seemed to come out of the most nowhere. But this song is equal parts True Grit and Pitch Perfect, and none of it feels faux. In fact, it might be the best album we’ve ever had about introversion.
28. Demi Lovato – “Cool For the Summer“
The hottest (and I mean that by all 3 common definitions) song of the summer came from an unlikely source, but given the comfort Demi has always had in her own skin during her X Factor gig (I almost said Idol lol), it shouldn’t have been a surprise. With this song, Demi does what Miley did in 2013 without losing herself in the grotesquerie. The most intensely affecting chorus since M.O’s “For a Minute” last year.
27. Europe – “Days of Rock and Roll“
My most-listened rock song of 2015 came from – surprise, surprise – a band right from the 80’s. I’m starting to see a trend here. To be fair, that’s only because I didn’t listen to enough rock this year, but as it stands, this was the rocker of 2015. Possibly even better than their classic “The Final Countdown”, and this year’s equivalent to Van Halen’s “Stay Frosty” a few years back.
26. Major Lazer, MØ & DJ Snake – “Lean On“
Yet another example of a simple-message, gorgeous melody banger that took over 2015. Matches and arguably outdoes “Turn Down for What” from last year (though I think that one will be remembered longer for its significance).
25. Sufjan Stevens – “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross“
The saddest song of 2015. Stevens deals with the death of his mother through some of the most affecting music he’s thus-far written. An emotional stampede and the highlight of his fantastic Carrie & Lowell.
24. Rae Sremmurd ft. Jace of Two-9 – “Unlock the Swag“
Listen the song, the song listen. “I’m in London like a Beatle” might be the most absurdly good line of the year, and it’s official – Sremm is love, Sremm is life. The back-and-forth panning of the song’s beat is comparable to “Bugatti”, which is thus far one of my favorite rap songs of the decade. This is up there, too.
23. Nick Jonas – “Levels“
What’s great about Nick’s funky new single is that it’s in-and-out before we know it. It starts in media res, wasting no time with its message. “Get on my elevator” he announces. The video is awful – as was the case with his phenomenal “Jealous” last year – but it’s the music that matters, and Nick Jonas is one of our best pop performers right now.
22. Eminem, Big Sean, Danny Brown and a lot of other Detroit rappers – “Detroit vs. Everybody“
My connection to the ‘Gan no doubt made me biased towards this song, but each of the 700 rappers on this thing gives a very enjoyable verse. Danny Brown is the wacky standout, as always (pic below related).
21. The Weeknd – “The Hills“
Speaking of Danny Brown – oh, wait, The Weeknd (they both have unique hairstyles), never mind. Anyways, this was my favorite song from 2015’s biggest star. It perfectly captures his creepy, stalkerish, self-destructive persona, while showing off his next-level vocal ability over a haunting beat.
20. Drake – “Hotline Bling“
Drake’s one of those artists that we shake our heads at, but can’t help but love. “Hotline Bling” is that reaction captured, packaged, and memed to high hell. It’s hard not to feel where the hype is coming from, though, because that’s one of the most idiosyncratic song productions pop has given us in a while.
19. Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen“
I’m gonna posit that this song’s style is going to be the most influential of this generation, and if this list was based on importance alone this would likely be #1. Besides that, it’s one of the year’s catchier wild rides, and it’s an uncanny snapshot of millennial excess.
18. Diet Cig – “Harvard“
An f-you to the Ivy League dream I’ve so long aspired to. I now realize what I do is more important than where I do it, and this song is a big part of that. But hey, if Harvard’s reading this, that’s not to say I’m not interested.
17. Diplo, CL, Riff Raff & OG Maco – “Doctor Pepper“
This is some glorious “American Hustle” kinda mess, a unicorn vomit glitterfest combining multiple styles – and ethnicities – into a melting pot of blissful nonchalance. Riff Raff is some kind of mad genius, CL deserves international attention, and OG Maco is miraculously indifferent (pic below related).
16. Kacey Musgraves – “Biscuits“
The message song to end all message songs, this anthology of antebellum aphorisms masters the keep-it-simple-stupid methodology Kacey has refined with knee-slapping reverie. Don’t like it? I’ll just do me and honey, you can just do you.
15. Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta“
The catchiest track from Kendrick’s masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, “King Kunta”, I would say, is also the most lyrically complex. What I like about this as opposed to, say, the still excellent “The Blacker the Berry”, is that it has importance not only within a purely political context, but as a part of music history as well. It’s got a bit of past, present, and future in it, and that’s rare these days.
14. Jason Derulo – “Want to Want Me“
Uncomplicated fun refined to a T. Derulo’s best song yet and one of my most-listened songs of the year.
13. Jidenna – “Long Live the Chief“
As aforementioned, Jidenna was my favorite new artist of 2015. Along with his work with Janelle Monáe, Jidenna released this self-proclaiming statement, first as a live Vevo music video and then on its own. The Vevo original had more unhinged flair than the later video, featuring a DJ in the background banging his head with no care in the world. If you wanna know why I think Jidenna’s the real deal, look no further. He’s the chief diplomat.
12. Skepta – “Shutdown“
Skepta and his crew were the guys shooting fire behind Kanye at the BRITs, and this is that aesthetic given a song of its own (an aside of a fake woman calling in censors to complain about the intimidating effect of the “All Day” performance features in the song). My favorite solo rap song of the year, it also features 2015’s best line: “if Selassie saw you he would say, ‘blud, take off the red, gold and green.'”
11. Madonna – “Ghosttown”
She’s the best in the business, and I would even argue that she’s only just getting started. What a comeback (really, though, her 2000s output was better than that 80s stuff) for Madonna – who went to my high school (and hated on my town, Rochester Hills, this year). Who would’ve thought that there would be TWO phenomenal songs called “Ghosttown” this year? Not me, but I’m glad. This is the strongest power ballad of the year.
10. Little Mix – “Black Magic“
Problematically suppressive in the typical “you belong to me” way? Perhaps. But in this case – they’ve got a point. It’s hard not to waive your soul over to this lot with a chorus this enjoyable.
9. Zara Larsson – “Lush Life“
Perhaps the first social media pop star (in that she has grown up with social media and embraces it as a lifestyle), Zara Larsson, who once won some Swedish singing competition when she was like 13, was behind one of 2015’s most empowering – and contemporary – pop hits. Making simplistic rhymes like crush and rush and lush, Zara gives an important performance that will make her a star. The biggest criticism against her? She sounds like Rihanna. And?
8. Deep Cotton ft. Jidenna – “Let’s Get Caught“
You didn’t think I was done with the Jidenna, did you? I’ll admit, this song didn’t catch on with me until the end of the year, and I might be a little rash in naming it better than all of the Jidenna solo songs. But hey, I haven’t stopped listening to this smooth, kinda-Outkast-y, kinda Prince-y funk-rock hit for about two weeks now, and that’s something worth getting caught in.
I’m actually shocked a French song made it onto my list, and this high, even and especially because I lived in France for half this year. But the genius of Héloïse Letissier cannot be denied, and this is one of the most haunting and original songs of the year. The slow, buzzing melody will entrance you, Christine’s dancing will make you want to flail robotically (in both videos – one for the original and one for the English version – there are different dances), and you’ll hopefully be as stunned as me when even the translated version comes up with lines a incredible as “if I die before Methuselah” (on paper, maybe not, but when performed, that’s the nicest-sounding line of 2015).
6. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me“
Carly Rae Jepsen is very likely our greatest pop star, and it’s a shame the charts are wasting her effervescent energy. Her verse in “Good Time” is perhaps my favorite guest vocal (besides rap verses) of the decade so far, and this power-pop masterpiece is that feeling, but for four beautiful minutes. The video makes it even better.
5. Missy Elliot ft. Pharrell – “W.T.F. (Where They From)“
Flat-out, the catchiest hip-hop song of the year. Rolling Stone named it the best music video of the year, too. A vital part of 2015 that I haven’t yet found words to explain, mainly because I’m still listening to it for how good that beat is.
4. Carrie Underwood ft. Sam Hunt – “Heartbeat“
I knew I’d find a way to put Sam Hunt on here even if all of his solo stuff was last year (“Leave the Night On” has been my alarm for over a year – but I’ve seldom used it because of that gap year life). But to give him much credit would be unfair, as he only has backing vocals and this is very much Carrie Underwood’s show. Her vocals are the moving as always, and the way she moves up and down the words – “and I wanna feel it like a kick drum” is two or three seconds of pure rhythmic bliss – is tear-jerkingly gorgeous.
3. Kero Kero Bonito – “Picture This“
When I mentioned “message songs” earlier, this was what I was talking about. Kero Kero Bonito, fronted by Sarah Midori – of Japanese descent – is like The Chainsmokers’ sorely underrated “#SELFIE” from last year, but with JPOP intonations. Teaching us how to take a picture of ourselves, Midori spins the ultimate semi-educational yarn for the era of instantly-gratifying narcissism, and I haven’t taken it out of my favorite songs rotation since the moment I first heard it half a year ago.
2. Grimes – “Flesh Without Blood“
Speaking of Japan, here’s a western masterpiece for weaboo generation, a groundbreaking confection of filthy casualness that has catapulted Grimes right up to the top of my list of musical crushes. I wasn’t that big a fan of her before this monster of a track, but before long, I understood her appeal, and after discovering this song I was motivated to bask in the rest of her oeuvre and now, I totally get the appeal. Some have said this is a rejection of her sound; I guess I’m lucky this was the first song I liked of hers – because of this I was able to appreciate the rest of her work, which is admittedly an acquired taste. But shame on me for not getting her sooner. Grimes is a bona-fide musical genius, and this is her swagnum opus.
1. Thomas Rhett – “Crash and Burn”
So I guess it’s over, baby, deja vu again. As with last year, I’ve opted with a cheeky pop hit from a white male perspective that adds some life to its evolving genre. I wish I had the critical capability of putting a more politically or culturally significant song than this post-bro frat-boy winky-face in my number one spot, but alas, no song moved me more than Thomas Rhett’s “eh, whatever” breakup single “Crash and Burn”. Some said it’s killed country. I say it’s the birth of something new, something great. This is harmless, energetic fun, and you can tell Rhett is putting his heart and soul into his work. It hasn’t got many layers to it, but on bang-for-yer-buck smiles-per-second, it takes the cake for my favorite song of the year and eats it, too. Yes, it’s a problem that this song (supposedly) samples Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” in the context of a love song, there’s no denying that. But as I write this, and am listening to the song, I have a smile on my face bigger than I’ve had with any other song in years. Like “She Looks So Perfect” last year, this one of those tears of joy song that just seems to get me. That it’s 90% chorus is pivotal to that. “Crash and Burn” was the song I needed in 2015, and from France to Ireland it was the wings lifting me through a lot of change this year. Is it country? I dunno, but country was my genre for 2015, and pop my style – in pining for a return to America and trying to hold onto my youth as I waited patiently for college. No other song would fit the #1 spot.
Let me know your favorite songs of 2015 in the comments. What songs did you find important, or innovative or moving or special?