2015 has been an unprecedented year for music, so far. Amazing album after amazing album, tons of great singles, it just seems like everyone’s been trying their best this year (with a few exceptions). And since the hit train doesn’t seem to be slowing down, I figured I’d use this point roughly halfway through the year to go over the best songs of the year so far. You should know that all these songs were released as singles in 2015, and that the ranking of them is arbitrary a lot of the time, but they are listed from worst to best. Keep in mind, though, that all 25 of these songs are very good, and each is worth listening to in its own right.
25. HEARTBEAT SONG – Kelly Clarkson
This song is standard Clarkson fare, but we could all use a little Kelly Clarkson in our lives every once in a while. The way I see it, Kelly Clarkson songs have about a 50% success rate, but this one is really good, even though it doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think it would be cooler if there was an actual heartbeat effect going on, but I understand that it wouldn’t quite fit the rhythm. Either way, cool song.
24. TEAR IN MY HEART – twenty øne piløts
For those of you who haven’t heard of twenty øne piløts, they’re basically the emo version of Outkast. They tool around with a lot of different genres and sounds, like hip hop and ukulele and dubstep, but this one is an awkward little electropop number that manages to both fit in and stick out among Top 40 hits of today. It’s different, but familiar. I could probably have swapped this out with any of tøp’s other singles this year off their wonderful album Blurryface, but they probably would have wound up in right around the same place, and I like this one. It’s cute.
23. THIS SUMMER’S GONNA HURT LIKE A MOTHERFUCKER – Maroon 5
The title says it all. This is a song by Maroon 5 entitled “This Summer’s Gonna Hurt Like a Motherfucker”. This video really came out of left field. A lot of the hype around it was mainly about Adam Levine’s ass, and while I appreciate that booty as much as the next person, the song kind of blew me away too. It has this sort of angry, rambling vibe to hit, with a space age synth riff that fits surprisingly well. It’s just a fun, intense, weird song, three traits that Maroon 5 really needed.
22. RAY GUN – Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD ft. MF DOOM
Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD’s recent joint album Sour Soul received mixed reviews from critics, which surprised me, because Ghostface has been on the same shit for over a decade and this album was a refreshing change of pace, even though it wasn’t nearly as high-concept as we’ve come to expect from Ghost. And speaking of high concept, on this track he teams up with MF DOOM to trade bars on a short but worthwhile track from a short but worthwhile album. I don’t have much to say, but this song is really groovy thanks to BBNG and DOOMSTARKS’ bars are killer. Check it out.
21. WHAT KIND OF MAN – Florence and the Machine
If I had to complain, I’d say that this song starts out super slow. It doesn’t give you incentive to keep listening to get to the good part. But if you do manage to get to it, it’s good. Florence and the Machine are really good at making you feel like a woodland elf warrior, and this fiery guitar-and-horn-infused banger about cruel lovers is a great example of it.
20. OFFERING – Jaden Smith
Say what you will about Jaden Smith, but the dude has a lot to say. From his ridiculous but occasionally deep tweets to his spoken word tracks, he’s a young and promising philosopher. And, it turns out, a pretty great rapper. With a great flow, complex rhyme scheme, and fascinating subject matter, Jaden pours his heart and soul into this track, and the result is a pleasant surprise.
19. HEY MAMA – David Guetta, Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha, and Afrojack
Now, I don’t typically like David Guetta songs, but there’s an exception to every role. Although, truth be told, this song’s main selling point is Nicki Minaj, who delivers a killer verse and some Trinidad flavor to what would otherwise be a mediocre EDM track. The beat is actually pretty good, but it’s Minaj and Albanian singer Bebe Rexha who really make this song worth checking out.
18. BLESSINGS – Big Sean ft. Drake and Kanye West
When Big Sean first came onto the scene, many perceived him as just GOOD Music’s answer to Drake. Whether or not that’s true, both artists have evolved considerably over the past few years, and when they finally came together, the distinction was obvious. That being said, both artists hold their own on this brooding yet boastful song, capped off by a killer verse from Kanye.
17. TRUFFLE BUTTER – Nicki Minaj, Drake, and Lil Wayne
I probably would have put this song higher on the list if it weren’t so overplayed. I’ve kind of gotten tired of it. That being said, it’s pretty impressive when you step back. It illustrates the three artists’ distinct styles well. This was the first I’ve heard of Wayne’s new goofy-bars-and-rhyme-schemes phase, and I have to say, I really like it. Weezy’s back. For now, anyway. Drake and Nicki also have pretty dope verses, but one thing I’ve noticed is that when Drake collaborates with other MC’s, he pretty consistently has the worst verse. Like, I like Drake, but when put up against most other rappers, he struggles. Maybe that’s just me.
16. SLIP SLIDE – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment ft. Busta Rhymes and B.o.B
B.o.B fell off the map after his third album Underground Luxury was a miserable failure. But now, he’s back, with the help of Busta Rhymes and one of my new favorite bands, Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment. This song’s about being strong and independent, and along with the whole album, it’s helped me through a lot of stuff. I could see myself changing my mind and placing this higher on my favorites list, but we’ll see what happens.
15. GLORY – Lil Wayne
Lil Wayne is back and better than he’s been in years on this track, with puns aplenty and unparalleled rhyme scheme. This is pretty much just a brag rap, but despite a lot of goofy bars, it still got me hyped for the forthcoming Free Weezy Album (more on that one when it comes out). As he boasts at the end, “You are not immune to this kind of music, you got ’em, Tunechi”. You got ’em.
14. MURAL – Lupe Fiasco
This eight-minute (!!!!), mostly freestyled track was the highlight of Fiasco’s recent album Tetsuo and Youth. Not all of it makes sense, but technical skill alone is enough to make this track worthwhile. It really is an amazing song, if you can follow it. And it has this really chill sort of beat that’s a recurring style throughout the album. Good stuff.
13. CAN’T FEEL MY FACE – The Weeknd
The Weeknd, previously known for sad, slow, boring R&B numbers, has gone over to the dark side with this leading candidate for song of the summer. Produced by hit machine Max Martin, this groovy Jacksonian dance number is about a crippling cocaine addiction.
12. ALL YOUR FAULT – Big Sean ft. Kanye West
Fun fact: when I first made this list, the video for this song hadn’t come out yet, and I actually had to go back and alter the list to make room for it about a third of the way through the article, knocking Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me” off the list. Anyway, this song is awesome. Kanye does another phenomenal job on the beat, and even though he phones it in a bit on his verse, the final verse where he and Sean trade bars goes harder than almost any other verse this year.
11. UMA THURMAN – Fall Out Boy
Here’s where we get into the real shit. This is one of the best songs Fall Out Boy has ever made. A lot of elements need to come together to make a really good Fall Out Boy song, and this one pulls out all the stops. It’s catchy, it’s fun, it’s not too overwritten, and it showcases Patrick Stump’s vocal range without being too grating. Essentially, it’s about a woman who dominates her relationships. It’s a bit wordier than that, but there’s the gist of it.
10. SAUSAGE – Lil Mama
I’ve probably listened to this one more than any other song on the list. There’s just so… much of it. It’s raw, it’s old school, it’s hilarious. Let me put it this way: she rhymes “As-salamu alaykum” with “Oscar Meyer bacon”. That’s what I’m talking about. With one song, Lil Mama propelled herself from a has-been who barely ever was to one of my favorite female rappers. Which isn’t to say that I’m basing my opinion of her on this song alone. I looked into her other stuff. “ROCKABARBABY” is really good.
9. SPEEDOM (WWC2) – Tech N9ne ft. Krizz Kaliko and Eminem
This lightning-fast track is the fourth and apparently final entry in Tech N9ne’s increasingly popular “Choppers” series. Starting with 2007’s “Midwest Choppers”, these songs have gotten bigger, better, and faster with each successive entry. This latest one features one of the biggest stars in the game, Eminem. According to Tech, it was meant to feature Nicki Minaj as well, but Tech was afraid to ask. Oh, what could have been. Even without Onika’s involvement, this song is killer. Em’s verse feels like a roller coaster, and it closes out the series nicely with callbacks galore, including a verse and chorus from Krizz Kaliko, who appeared on the original “Midwest Choppers”.
8. HALLELUJAH – Panic! at the Disco
It’s been a rough ride for Panic! at the Disco. They’ve lost three out of four original members, gone through a lot of different phases, had three year gaps between albums, and struggle to achieve the mainstream success of their earlier years. But they still pull through, and with each new era of their career they bring a sound that’s unique, yet distinctly Panic!. This gospel-inspired anthem is a great example. Brendon Urie’s versatile voice helps propel this track to the juggernaut that it is. It’s a really powerful track. The song itself is about Panic! entering this new post-Spencer Smith chapter of their career in stride. And it’s a promising start.
7. BILLS – Lunchmoney Lewis
This was a prime early contender for song of the summer that tragically fell off the map before its time. I do hope that it sees a resurgence later in the year, because it’s a really great song. It has a jaunty swing vibe without all the haughtiness of the swing revival of the early ’90s. Its subject matter is a lot more down-to-earth than a lot of hit songs, even more than most of the other songs on this list. It just makes you want to get up and dance. And put in work.
6. TOM’S DINER – Giorgio Moroder ft. Britney Spears
Giorgio Moroder, whose most successful work to date was the Flashdance soundtrack, practically invented electronic music, and this collaboration with Britney Spears proves he’s still got it. It’s a cover of Suzanne Vega’s ’87 hit “Tom’s Diner”, and it improves on the original in a lot of ways. Moroder’s amazing beat work and Britney’s inviting vocals serve to make this one a surefire hit.
5. SMUCKERS – Tyler the Creator ft. Kanye West and Lil Wayne
Cherry Bomb is Tyler the Creator’s best album. He strays from his typical “edgy rap” formula, drawing influence from the likes of Stevie Wonder, N.E.R.D., and Death Grips. But this track serves to prove that he’s still got his rap chops, going up against two all-time heavyweights: Kanye West and Lil Wayne. Tyler performs admirably against the giants, and Kanye delivers one of his best guest verses ever, but Wayne really destroys the track on his joint verse with Tyler. Beautifully produced and featuring some of the best verses of the year, this one is a must-listen.
4. REMEMORY – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment ft. Erykah Badu
I’m all about songs that abandon the typical pop structure (verse, chorus, verse, chorus, bridge, optional third verse, chorus), but that’s not the only thing I love about this song. It has a really chill beat, a killer verse from Chance, some really hard-hitting subject matter, and a beautiful hook by Erykah Badu. It’s practically perfect.
3. AHHA – Nate Ruess
My problem with a lot of Nate Ruess’ solo efforts has been that they’re simply too normal. Where fun. was weird and exciting and Queen-like, his own stuff typically turned out more like “Just Give Me a Reason”: fine, but way too subdued. With his debut mixtape Grand Romantic, he’s throwing away that lame shit and getting back to the basics with a song whose beat consists of Ruess cackling like a madman, softly whispering, and a powerful piano-and-drum riff, at various points. It’s absolutely ridiculous, and I love every second of it.
2. EVERYDAY – A$AP Rocky ft. Miguel and Rod Stewart
Yes, THAT Rod Stewart. And for those of you unfamiliar, Miguel is the rich man’s Jeremih, and A$AP Rocky is a gangsta rapper, but like… a really good one. They come together with “Uptown Funk” producer Mark Ronson on this banger. It’s one of the most memorable songs of the year, and Flacko brings his unparalleled flow to elevate this track to a whole other level. I realize that it’s hard to make this song sound as good as it is, but just trust me. It’s fantastic.
1. THE BLACKER THE BERRY – Kendrick Lamar
I tried to limit myself to one Kendrick Lamar track, since this has been an amazing year for him and he’d have an unfair advantage, so I was forced to choose my favorite single from To Pimp a Butterfly. Ultimately, I landed upon the brooding, thought-provoking, beautiful, twisted, and all-around godly track that is “The Blacker the Berry”. The beat by Boi-1da, one of the biggest hitmakers in the game, the chorus by Assassin, powerful and catchy, and of course Kendrick Lamar’s unprecedented lyricism. While this is a darker track than I’m typically interested in, it’s just too good to count out.
Originally disregarded but probably deserves a place on the list: DREAMS – Beck
Not released as a single but a shoo-in for one of the top spots if it were: FOR FREE? – Kendrick Lamar
#26 that was knocked off the list thanks to a late entry: WANT TO WANT ME – Jason Derulo
And that concludes my ranking of the top 25 singles of 2015. Remember, these are just my opinions, so they’re very much subject to change. Let me know what some of your favorites are in the comments below. Like this post if you like it, follow my blog if you like it like it, and be on the lookout for reviews of Magic Mike XXL and Terminator Genisys, as well as some more playlist-type articles like this one.