Reviews for Normal People

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Review: Vacation is… Weird — July 31, 2015

Review: Vacation is… Weird

The Vacation franchise has had its ups and downs. The first one was good. The Christmas one was good. I don’t remember the others. I’m pretty sure they sucked. But after the franchise was dead and buried, the dudes who made the underrated Horrible Bosses were like, “Hey, let’s just go back to what made the movies work in the first place!” The result is Vacation, starring Ed Helms as Rusty Griswold. It’s odd that, even though I’m somewhat of an Ed Helms fan, I always cringe when I see his name attached to something. Hes just a bad luck charm for movies.

And this one is no different. It’s just… weird. And not a charming, Grand Budapest Hotel kind of weird. It’s weird to me that they made this movie. I don’t comprehend the choices they make. The movie is essentially a compilation of running jokes, but none of them are funny. The teenage boy keeps running into a girl he likes, but it never explains why they keep bumping into each other, even though there’s a fairly easy explanation present the whole time. Chris Hemsworth keeps making… faucet-based metaphors? Helms and Christina Applegate keep trying to have kinky sex and are constantly interrupted. One of Hemsworth’s steers is a cannibal. These are just the ones that occur constantly, but trust me when I say that every single joke in this movie happens more than once.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there are a few things I like about this movie. Keegan-Michael Key and Chris Hemsworth are gifts from God. Charlie Day does an excellent job with the mediocre material he’s given. There’s a really funny joke involving Nick Kroll, Tim Heidecker, Michael Peña, and Kaitlin Olson as cops from different states patrolling the Four Corners. There are actually enough genuine laughs in this movie to keep you in the theater, but just barely.

Ultimately, my main problem with the movie is that I don’t care. I don’t care that Helms and Applegate’s marriage is in shambles. I don’t care that the kid has a new girlfriend. I don’t care that Helms is jealous of the pilot guy, or Keegan-Michael Key, or his father, or… yeah, that’s another problem. Rusty is a shitty guy. As sympathetic as they try to make him, he’s just not fun to watch.

So yeah, overall, I’m giving it a C-. I wouldn’t recommend you see it. But I do recommend you leave a like if you liked this review, follow my blog if you super duper liked it, leave a comment if you’ve got something to say, and stay tuned for some more cool reviews in the very near future.

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Review: Ant-Man — July 23, 2015

Review: Ant-Man

I think it’s safe to say we’ve finally figured out how to make heist movies. While as recently as 2011 we were handing over these concepts to the likes of Brett Ratner (Tower Heist), in recent years we’ve had our fair share of great heist films (Fast & Furious 5-7, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Town, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, etc.). I think there are a few films that played a big part in this genre reinvention. In addition to the aforementioned The Town and Fast Five, 2010’s Inception proved that heist films could cross over into sci-fi effectively, as also seen in Marvel’s Ant-Man.

I brought up Tower Heist specifically because, oddly enough, I think that Ant-Man contains an explicit reference to it, despite the fact that maybe 20 people ever saw it. Michael Peña’s description of a previous rendezvous of his has a very similar plotline (stealing millions from a corrupt corporation and then giving it back to the people it rightfully belongs to, and also driving a Bentley into a pool), and Tower Heist‘s crew just happened to include composer Christophe Beck and actor Michael Peña (the same one who told the story!).

Thankfully, Ant-Man is quite a few steps above Tower Heist (I didn’t even dislike Tower Heist, but it’s fun to disparage Brett Ratner). It combines a hilarious script by Adam McKay with a mind-blowing story by Edgar Wright to create what’s certainly one of my favorite Marvel movies. The entire cast is great (special props to Michaels Douglas and Peña), and while it does drag at certain points and have a fair share of plot holes (Why does no one notice when swarms of ants start coming out of the sink and shit?), none of it really distracts from the overall great experience of watching the movie.

Spoiler alert: the post-credits scenes set up a potential upcoming Wasp movie (!!!!!!) and give us a relatively uneventful look at Falcon and Captain America struggling to bring back Bucky’s memory. Falcon says he “knows a guy”, and I’m not 100% certain what that means but I’m sure it’s awesome. Speaking of Falcon, there’s a pretty funny scene where he and Ant-Man duke it out. Director Peyton Reed isn’t really good at fight choreography, but it’s fun to watch.

The interesting thing about the villain, played by Corey Stoll, is that he’s Obadiah Stane. They are the exact same character. I have to say that was probably the worst part of this movie. While most of the characters were relatively unique, Darren Cross was far too predictable to be enjoyable, although Stoll delivered a pretty solid performance.

And holy shit, the special effects. This is really the most impressive shit I’ve ever seen in a Marvel film. The shrinking scenes feel so real, and the set design is amazing. At one point, a giant Thomas the Tank Engine crashes through a two-story window and smashes a police car. You won’t see any of that in Iron Man 3.

So overall, I give it a B+. Not perfect, but I don’t think a Marvel movie ever will be, and this is one of their best attempts. Like this post if you like it, follow my blog if you like it like it, comment if you’ve got something to say, you can also follow my Twitter @BreakingPOORLY, and be on the lookout for more reviews and other cool shit real soon.

The Top 10 Albums of 2015 (so far) — July 20, 2015

The Top 10 Albums of 2015 (so far)

Does this list really need an introduction? Albums. 2015. Let’s do this.

10. FROOT – Marina and the Diamonds

Marina and the Diamonds has been flying just under the radar of mainstream pop for a few years now. And with a growing fanbase building hype for her new album Froot, her first in three years, it’s no wonder the album was such a hit. And it is really good. It carries a cool ’70s electropop vibe and Marina has this really unique, beautiful voice that really carries the record.

Best song: Savages

Worst song: Happy

9. GRAND ROMANTIC – Nate Ruess

Nate Ruess’ debut EP is chock-full of everything people want from Nate Ruess: weird shit. And while it does start to get more somber, even to the point where it drags a bit, it’s great to see Ruess back in the booth with his first solo album. Despite only having twelve songs, Grand Romantic goes in a lot of different directions, from the spirited folk-y “What This World Is Coming To” featuring Beck, to the massive violin-infused pop punk ballad “Great Big Storm”, to the balls-out insanity of “AhHa”. But every song carries a certain power that Ruess seems to bring out better than any other musician around today. This generation’s Freddie Mercury? Just maybe.

Best song: AhHa

Worst song: Moment

8. SOUR SOUL – Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD

Ghostface Killah has been on the same shit for twenty years. Don’t get me wrong, it’s good shit. It’s cool and different and well-written and intricate. But when you take a step back and look at the good picture, it’s all pretty much the same thing. Not this time though. This time around, he has a band. Canadian experimental jazz trio BADBADNOTGOOD, to be precise. And while the album doesn’t give its concepts quite enough time to flesh out, everyone gets their time to shine, and they all work surprisingly well off of each other.

Best song: Ray Gun

Worst song: Tone’s Rap

7. TETSUO AND YOUTH – Lupe Fiasco

It’s been a rough couple of years for Lupe Fiasco. After his 2011 album Lasers was bombarded by fans saying he’d sold out, and his earnest attempt at a comeback with 2013’s Food and Liquor 2 was met with lukewarm reviews, it really seemed like he’d fallen off. Then in 2014, he started putting out some new singles. They were garbage, but even as his public offerings got worse and worse, he kept promising over and over again that his new album would be a game changer. Then the album came out. “Next to It”? Not on the album. “Thot 97”? Not on the album. “Pu$$y”? Not on the album. Lupe had fooled us all, on his weakest shit for a full year (his performance at the Columbia Bacchanal that year was described as “pretty bad” by friends of mine) just so we wouldn’t be expecting this epic album. While not every song hits, when you step back and look at the album as a whole, it’s a beautiful thing.

Best song: Mural

Worst song: Chopper

6. AT. LONG. LAST. A$AP – A$AP Rocky

As you can see below, I decided that “Everyday”, featuring Miguel, Mark Ronson, and Rod Stewart, is the best song on the album. But that’s a bit belittling. While it is my personal favorite, there’s just too many great songs to choose from on this one. You’ve got one of Lil Wayne’s best verses on “M’$”, you’ve got a killer Kanye beat and an appropriately killer Kanye verse on “Jukebox Joints”, you’ve got a long-lost Pimp C verse on “Wavybone,” the best posse cut of 2015, and that’s just features. Flacko is constantly on this album. I’ve already sung the praises of “L$D”. So, to say that there were five albums this year that were better than this one is pretty spectacular.

Best song: Everyday

Worst song: Better Things

5. THE ALBUM ABOUT NOTHING – Wale

We’ve known for quite some time that Wale is a bit of a Seinfeld fanatic, but that love truly came to fruition this year when he did a full album with Jerry Seinfeld, The Album About Nothing. The record, based on conversations between the two of them, is interspersed with sound clips from Seinfeld and his eponymous legendary sitcom. The truth is, the album would have been just as good with or without these clips, but it’s a nice touch nonetheless. Wale is in peak form on this record. It’s one of the best-produced albums I’ve heard in years, and the subject matter is always fresh and interesting.

Best song: The Pessimist

Worst song: The One Time in Houston

4. BLURRYFACE – twenty one pilots

In emo circles, it could be said that twenty one pilots has filled the void left by My Chemical Romance. But tøp is much more… experimental than MCR ever was. This album, for example, is a bizarre fusion of reggae and Deathgripsian industrial rap. Much of the album is open to interpretation, but its overarching plot is lead singer Tyler Joseph’s dilemma with Blurryface, the embodiment of his angst and doubt. With beautiful production by Tyler Joseph and fascinating lyrics by… Tyler Joseph (the other guy just kinda plays drums), it’s yet another example of the Death Grips formula done right by everyone except Death Grips.

Best song: Message Man

Worst song: Hometown

3. CHERRY BOMB – Tyler the Creator

I’ve already lavished praise on the songs “Smuckers” and “Fucking Young”, so step back and consider that neither of them is the best song on the album. That honor goes to a cool orchestral piece called “2Seater”, with instrumentals recorded by some of Hans Zimmer’s crew. The point is, this is a fantastic album. Tyler is a really good rapper, a really good producer, and a surprisingly good singer, and this is the first album where he really goes experimental, drawing influence from the likes of N.E.R.D., Stevie Wonder, and Death Grips. There’s also a lot of good features, including some straight bars from Kanye West, one of Lil Wayne’s best features of all time, and additional appearances from Pharrell Williams, Charlie Wilson, Cherry Glazerr, and a verse from ScHoolBoy Q on a song called “The Brown Stains of Darkeese Latifah Part 6-12 (Remix)”, which is one of my all-time favorite song titles. High quality shit, Tyler. Keep it up.

Best song: 2Seater

Worst song: Special

2. SURF – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment

I actually went back and forth between this and my #1 pick for a long time. Ultimately, I decided that Surf is the better collection of songs, but #1 is the better album. This album was a massive undertaking (Chance the Rapper claims there are about 50 people on every track) and it comes through in the music. With a wide range of guests including Busta Rhymes, Erykah Badu, J. Cole, Janelle Monae, and even Quavo from Migos, there are a lot of different styles to be heard on this album. But even in its darkest moments, it carries an air of pride and celebration. It’s a really inspirational album, it’s helped me through a lot, and it’s just a collection of really good music.

Best/worst song: N/A

Before we get to the #1 album of 2015 so far, here’s some honorable mentions:

VULNICURA – Bjork

B4.DA.$$ – Joey Badass

IN COLOUR – Jamie xx

HOW BIG, HOW BLUE, HOW BEAUTIFUL – Florence + the Machine

NO CITIES TO LOVE – Sleater-Kinney

IF YOU’RE READING THIS, IT’S TOO LATE – Drake

SUMMERTIME ’06 – Vince Staples

TWELVE REASONS TO DIE II – Ghostface Killah

CURRENTS – Tame Impala

ATTITUDE CITY – Ninja Sex Party

1. TO PIMP A BUTTERFLY – Kendrick Lamar

This is probably one of my all-time favorite albums. It’s only been out since February and I’ve listened to it four or five times. It’s an extremely layered album, exploring Kendrick’s life since the end of GKMC, hip hop, and race relations in America as a whole. It’s just one beautiful piece after another, and it comes together in mind-blowing ways as you listen on. It all culminates in a simulated interview with Tupac Shakur that ties together the album’s many themes. It’s Kendrick at his finest, and I can’t wait to see what the next step for him is (*cough* movie *cough*).

Best song: For Free?

Worst song: Hood Politics

So, those are the best albums of 2015 so far. Hopefully we’ll be getting as many awesome albums in the second half of this year as we did in the first. Only time will tell, but be on the lookout for some more juicy articles like this one in the very near future.

Review: Take Your Nemisys to See Terminator Genisys. — July 7, 2015

Review: Take Your Nemisys to See Terminator Genisys.

So basically, John Connor and Kyle Reese are leading their troops to disable Skynet’s time machine weapon, while different troops in Colorado are taking down Skynet at its core. Unfortunately, they don’t make it in time, and the original terminator is sent back to 1984. So, they decide to send Kyle back to protect Sarah Connor, but as he’s going back, Matt Smith grabs John and he’s all “you thought it would be that easy?” And Matt’s hand glows, indicating that he’s a spooky scary terminator. So as Kyle’s going back to 1984, he has these visions of Sarah telling him something about moving in a straight line and someone telling him to remember that Genisys is Skynet, but we don’t even know what Genisys is yet. So anyway, the original Arnold terminator is destroyed by the older Arnold terminator, with the help of Sarah herself. Kyle steals a homeless man’s pants and is attacked by a T-1000 without anything ever really explaining how it got there. He saves a cop’s life and rides off with Sarah, but then he tries to attack older Arnold, who Sarah calls “Pops”, and so Pops knocks him out and they drag him to their base. It turns out that Pops was sent back to when Sarah was a kid and that Sarah’s father told her the straight line thing and that Pops raised Sarah to fight the terminators. So Sarah wants to go to 1997 to prevent Judgement Day but for some reason, Kyle knows that the vision he saw was in 2017, and since Genisys is Skynet, that means that Judgement Day was somehow shifted forward 20 years. Kyle tells Sarah the straight line thing and apparently that’s all the convincing she needs, so they go to 2017, just a day before Genisys launches, and they wind up in the middle of a highway naked and are taken into police custody, who are convinced that they were trying to set off a bomb. Arnold got stuck in traffic and couldn’t be there in time, but lucky for them, the cop that they saved in the ’80s is still there and he’s JK Simmons now, and he believes Sarah and Kyle, but nobody believes him. But then John shows up and saves the day and takes them out into the parking garage. Also, it turns out that Genisys is a network that connects every electronic device in the world, and it’s made by Cyberdyne. It also turns out that Kyle is John’s father and Kyle gets all upset that no one told him. So then Pops shows up and immediately shoots John, and Kyle takes it to mean that it was Pops’ plan all along, but it actually turns out that Matt Smith injected nanobots into John that turned him into a terminator and then sent him back in time to create Genisys. So they make it to the Cyberdyne compound but John is following close behind and somehow the countdown to Genisys advances from 13 hours to 15 minutes. Also, it turns out that Genisys is Matt Smith, which doesn’t make a ton of sense because it would mean that Genisys created itself, sort of like how Fry is his own grandfather on Futurama. Anyway, the final battle ends with Sarah shooting John with a gun, which has not worked once the entire movie, but this time Pops shoves his hand through the hole so it can’t regenerate and then holds him down in the time machine, telling Sarah to turn it on even though it’ll tear Pops and John apart. After an extremely touching moment they do it, but Pops survives anyway so none of it matters.

The action is pretty cool.

The Top 10 Music Videos of 2015 (So Far) — July 5, 2015

The Top 10 Music Videos of 2015 (So Far)

Music videos are more cinematic than ever, it seems. Where they used to be short little vignettes that sometimes tell a brief story and more often than not featured the artist just kinda hanging around, more and more music videos seemed like short films this year. You’ve got J. Cole playing a house slave who struggles to attain the trust of his subordinates in “G.O.M.D.”, “I Really Like You” takes us through a day in the life of Tom Hanks, and “Media Midgets” by R.A. the Rugged Man presents us with some sort of strange post-apocalyptic hellscape that features gas masks and a disproportionate amount of little people. But even though music videos in general have become more a vehicle for filmmakers than for the musicians themselves, some of them are better than others, and I’ve decided to give you my personal favorites. Now, it’s only July, and we’ll no doubt be seeing a lot more impressive videos before the year’s up. But for now, here are my picks.

10. AHHA – Nate Ruess

This is one of the most ridiculous music videos I’ve seen in years. I laugh every single time I watch it. It features bobblehead Nate Ruess busting some moves, then flying through the sky, and then just looking off into the distance and singing soulfully against a concentric circle/stripe pattern background. He’s also underwater at some point. It’s just amazing.

9. NO CITIES TO LOVE – Sleater-Kinney

There were a lot of cameo-packed music videos this year (“Bitch I’m Madonna”, “Choices”, and a few we’ll see later on in this list), but this one is decidedly the cutest. It’s cameos include the likes of Fred Armisen, Gerard Way, Ellen Page, Sarah Silverman, Andy Samberg, Norman Reedus, Carrie Brownstein, Vanessa Bayer, and more. And they’re just… goofing around. The only thing they’re all really doing is singing the song, and Samberg is barely even doing that. It’s just celebrities being themselves and having a good time.

8. FUCKING YOUNG – Tyler the Creator

This is probably the funniest video of the year, from one of the funniest people in the music industry, Tyler the Creator. The plot of the video is that after jumping off a roof into a shallow pool of water, Tyler encounters a girl who he develops a crush on, but who unfortunately is “too fucking young”. The video plays out kind of… bizarre. The whole thing is apparently a movie Tyler is watching, and it ends with the girl burning his house down, but then they kick Tyler out of the theater, and then “Deathcamp” starts and it gets all Mad Max-y. It’s weird. But still, super funny.

7. BAD BLOOD – Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar

This is one of those other cameo-heavy videos I was talking about. The gist of it is that Selena Gomez’s character, who represents Katy Perry, tries to kill Taylor Swift, so after Dr. Kendrick Lamar restores her to peak physical health, she enlists some of her badass buddies, including Zendaya, Lena Dunham, and Hayley Williams, to help her train and go to war against Selena and her faceless friends. Not super high-concept, but it is a rather well-made video that fits the song surprisingly well.

6. PHENOMENAL – Eminem

It was a bit rough comparing this one to “Bad Blood” since they’re so similar, but the truth is that this is the slightly better video. It’s funnier, it’s cooler, it fits the song better, and it makes a little more sense despite featuring Eminem driving a flaming motorcycle and hitting a dude with a fish. But come on, how cool is that? While it doesn’t go into much detail as to what any of it means, it ups the cool factor to 1000, featuring an awesome John Malkovich cameo and a suspiciously foreshadow-y Dr. Dre cameo at the end. In the words of Malkovich himself, “Pointless, but impressive.”

5. L$D – A$AP Rocky

This trippy, colorful, imaginative video takes you through the highs and lows of LSD (love, sex, dreams, that is. Also, LSD). With the help of a verse from a different A$AP song, “Excuse Me”, this is a video that, no matter how slow it gets, still keeps your attention. It’s also a refreshing change of pace for A$AP Rocky, who despite being a very good artist, has struggled to stray outside of his comfort zone in the past. Good on you, Flacko.

4. BITCH BETTER HAVE MY MONEY – Rihanna

When I said music videos were cinematic, this was one of the main songs I had in mind. It’s practically a whole movie, complete with great characters, awesome action scenes, a cool narrative, stunning direction from Rihanna herself in collaboration with MegaForce, and a twist ending (SPOILER ALERT: Mads Mikkelsen, better known as NBC’s Hannibal, is the bitch). I could probably sum up my feelings for this video this way: if it were a movie, I’d watch the shit out of it.

Now, note that at one point or another in this list’s conception, all three of these next tracks were considered for the #1 spot. Given more time to think about it, I may have switched them around. From here on out, it’s less a ranking and more a statement of which videos are the best. Keep that in mind.

3. ALRIGHT – Kendrick Lamar ft. Pharrell Williams

Legendary music video director Colin Tilley brings this gem off Kendrick’s GOAT album To Pimp a Butterfly to life. I can never put on this video without watching the whole thing. It’s just so fun to watch. It features the Top Dawg crew riding through town on the backs of cops, Kendrick floating through the city streets, and a ton of other stuff that, while I’m not quite sure what it means, is really cool to look at. At some point I read an analysis of what this video means, but I don’t really care all that much. You get a feeling for what it stands for just by watching, and it’s amazing.

2. PLAY NO GAMES – Big Sean ft. Chris Brown and Ty Dolla $ign

If you’re into the ’90s sitcom aesthetic, then you’ll love this video. If you’re into good music videos, you’ll probably love this one too. It really replicates the look and feel of a sitcom, and at the same time it fits the song perfectly. Despite the presence of any actual dialogue, you can practically hear the laugh track. Also, towards the end, there’s an actual laugh track. It’s amazingly well-done and a really funny and original concept.

Before I talk about the #1, here’s some honorable mentions

Bitch I’m Madonna – Madonna ft. Nicki Minaj

Feelin’ Myself – Nicki Minaj ft. Beyonce

Feel Right – Mark Ronson ft. Mystikal

Uma Thurman – Fall Out Boy

G.O.M.D. – J. Cole

Sober – Childish Gambino

Ray Gun – Ghostface Killah and BADBADNOTGOOD ft. MF Doom

And the best music video of 2015 so far is…

1. SUNDAY CANDY – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment

I’m actually surprised this has been left out of so many other people’s best music videos of 2015 lists. It was done in one take onstage with huge set pieces and a ton of actors. Even disregarding all that, it has a cool ’50s vibe to it, and the dancing is super impressive, especially given that it was all done in one take. It’s the most elaborate video this side of OK Go, and unlike an OK Go video, it fits the song well.

So, those are my favorite videos of 2015, so far. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing more cool music videos in the near future. And you’ll be seeing some awesome articles in the near future. Like this post if you liked it, follow my blog if you liked it liked it, and comment if you think I missed anything.

Music News-ic Playlist: The Top 25 Best Songs of 2015 (so far) — July 1, 2015

Music News-ic Playlist: The Top 25 Best Songs of 2015 (so far)

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.