This one was a little harder to narrow down. There were actually a lot of good songs in 2015. So, if something you really liked didn’t make the list, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it. With that being said, here are my picks for the best of the year.
Ghost – Ella Henderson
I’d never heard of Ella Henderson before this song, and frankly, I’ve never heard of her since. But if this underappreciated bop is her only legacy, I’m down with that. My one gripe is that the dark, paranoid subject matter doesn’t really fit the sunny atmosphere of the song.
Ex’s and Oh’s – Elle King
This brash blues rock track was a surprise success in the later months of the year. It’s really an all-around great track, with great storytelling and a killer riff that just makes you want to fight something. Not bad at all, I just found ten songs that are better.
Bitch Better Have My Money – Rihanna
Only Rihanna could get a song called “Bitch Better Have My Money” in the top 10. But it’s not just the title that makes it a gutsy move. It’s a very ugly, bitter song, and decidedly different from what we’ve come to expect from Rihanna. RiRi has gone in a lot of weird directions this year, and they’ve all gotten me pretty hype for her upcoming Anti album (if it ever drops).
I Don’t Fuck With You – Big Sean feat. E-40
This is one of the first Big Sean songs that I really liked. It’s just the right mix of hateful bitterness and giddy sarcasm. The track also features the unlikely pairing of Kanye West and DJ Mustard on production, along with a fire verse from the tragically underrated E-40, so yeah. It’s good.
Want to Want Me – Jason Derulo
Mark your calendars, folks! Call National Geographic! Let it be known that 2015 was the year I liked a Jason Derulo album. The perplexingly-titled Everything Is 4 is far from perfect, but it’s as good a pop album as any. And I never would have given it a chance if it weren’t for how much I like “Want to Want Me”. This year’s “artist to imitate” was Michael Jackson, and aside from a certain fine slice of Canadain bacon I’ll talk about later, no one did a better job than ol’ JD. The song is fun, well-made, and not nearly as douchey as “Talk Dirty”.
Shut Up and Dance – Walk the Moon
Walk the Moon is an anomaly. A good pop rock act with a top ten hit that’s also good. The complexity of the verses, the simplicity of the chorus, and the synth solo towards the end all helped make this song one of the nation’s biggest summer jams. But now, on with the list.
10. HOTLINE BLING – Drake
Some people have called this song misogynist, and understandably so. Personally, I think it’s a “Marvin’s Room” situation where Drake is playing a character who’s kind of an asshole. The problem is that it lacks that same knowing wink that “Marvin’s Room” has. The listener has no way of telling if he’s serious or not. Leaving all that aside, though, it’s just a cool song. It sounds authentic, like it was made in a hotel lobby, and it’s got an irresistible hook.
9. SORRY – Justin Bieber
Another artist that redeemed himself in 2015 is Justin Bieber, who rose from the ashes like the mighty phoenix and released one of the best pop albums of the decade. The standout single from the record, “Sorry”, sounds like a candy colored ink blot test, and features Justin owning up to his past “mistakes”. Is it too late now to say sorry? Maybe. But I’ll take it.
8. HEY MAMA – David Guetta feat. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha, and Afrojack
Of the cumbersome four artists featured on this song, I openly dislike two of them and have never heard of one. Luckily, Queen Nicki manages to pull everything together with some flavorful vocals and a solid verse. Somehow, despite its questionable lyrics and interesting but unremarkable beat, the song just works.
7. UMA THURMAN – Fall Out Boy
I’ve already sung my praises for this song, so I’ll keep it short. It’s fun. It’s weird. It’s got cool production. Everyone loves it. Yay!
6. BACK TO BACK – Drake
Yes, yes. Drake absolutely demolished Meek Mill. But that’s not what I’m gonna talk about. Not this time, anyway. I’m here to talk about how “Back to Back” is a good song. Lyrically, it’s some of Drake’s best work. It has a really solid hook and a beat that’s catchy but not overbearing, perfect for a hip hop song in the realm of pop. Also, on top of all that, he totally destroyed Meek Mill. But we’ll get to that soon.
5. HERE – Alessia Cara
This bluesy throwback isn’t just an exquisitely well done song. It also covers a subject that we need to hear more of in pop music: introversion. When was the last time you heard a song about not wanting to be at a party, let alone one this good? It’s a great song all around, but there can only be one #1, and this didn’t quite make the cut.
4. LEAN ON – Major Lazer and DJ Snake feat. MØ
I spent most of my year not even considering that this song would make my best list. I mean yeah, I liked the song, and I think Major Lazer and DJ Snake are two of the most exciting artists in all of mainstream EDM, but I just didn’t really think about it. MØ’s vocals, while grating to some, are different enough to be attracting but not jarring. The lyrics are really clever without being too pretentious. And on top of all that, it’s got a really good beat. There were a ton of good songs this year, but this was arguably the most unique.
3. DOWNTOWN – Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feat. Eric Nally, Grandmaster Caz, Kool Moe Dee, and Melle Mel
No explanation needed. This song is pure gold.
2. CAN’T FEEL MY FACE – The Weeknd
The Weeknd, an underground R&B favorite who’s been gaining steam this past year or two thanks to bumps from Ariana Grande, Drake, and Apple, was first introduced to a mainstream audience by “Earned It” earlier this year. That song was widely regarded as sort of cool, but super boring. This was when he realized that his acclaimed style of slow, sinful R&B wouldn’t work with a broader audience. So, he went in a new direction. “Can’t Feel My Face” represents the Weeknd’s rapid ascent to pop royalty. It manages to be one of the catchiest, most enjoyable songs of the year while keeping a looming sinister quality and the Weeknd’s passion for darker subject matter.
1. UPTOWN FUNK! – Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
There can be only one. After being practically inescapable for the first three months of 2015, this song still never really got old. It’s a song we’ll be telling our children about, a song that’ll go down in history, a song that kids will perform during spirit week in 40 years, a song that will dominate our “classic pop” stations. Don’t believe me? Just watch.
So, those are my favorite hit songs of 2015. I’ll have a lot of film- and music-related lists coming in the next couple of days (or weeks). In the meantime, like this post if you like it, comment with some of your favorites from this past year, follow this blog or my Twitter @BreakingPOORLY for more of my bullshit, and have a happy new year.