THE 100 BEST SONGS OF 2015

As 2015 comes to and end, it’s time to look back onthe year’s greatest tracks. With a clear pace-change in electronica, a fight for integrity in hip hop, some legends being made, newcomers being introduced, and some huge comebacks in the mix, it has certainly been a noteworthy year. From massive hits to some key cuts, here are the 100 Best Songs of 2015.


 

100. “I’m Ready” Twin Shadow

100. I'm ReadyAt points, Twin Shadow’s “I’m Ready” feels ready for a sports highlight reel, but that’s hardly a negative thing. There’s an uplifting spirit throughout that sometimes borders on cheesy, but he always pulls it back just in time.


99. “Black & White” Kylie + Garibay featuring Shaggy

99. Black & WhiteKylie Minogue desperately needed to pair up with someone like Fernando Garibay simply for the sake of broadening her horizons; “Black & White” is the luscious fruit of their labor. Who would have thought Shaggy would fit in so well?


98. “Crystals” Of Monsters & Men

98. CrystalsOf Monsters & Men’s sophomore effort wasn’t instant, and probably won’t have the same sleeper effect as their debut, but the quality was on par. True to form, “Crystals” is uplifting and anthemic, but it feels far more confident.


97. “Only One” Kanye West featuring Paul McCartney

97. Only OneThe first Kanye West and Paul McCartney collaboration we were gifted this year was strikingly low-key. The ode to his daughter North features just West’s vocals and Macca’s keys, but nothing else was necessary.

96. “BURNITUP!” Janet Jackson featuring Missy Elliott

96. BURNITUP!If “No Sleeep” represented Janet’s yin, then “BURNITUP!” is her yang. The R&B-dance jam is classic Miss Jackson, even featuring an all-too-brief feature from Missy Elliott. For embodying so many classic elements, it feels strikingly fresh.


95. “The Fool” Ryn Weaver

95. The FoolThe title track to Ryn Weaver’s debut album does sound like a desperate attempt to tap into Florence Welch’s patented Machine, but she definitely reminds us that she has something different to offer. The track is a winner, regardless.


94. “Believe” Mumford & Sons

94. BelieveMumford & Sons mixing up their sound was just as vital as it was risky. The jury is still out, but “Believe” is a glimmer of hope that a group as one dimensional as them trying to go 3D  could actually lead somewhere pretty exciting.


93. “Love Me Like You Do” Ellie Goulding

93. Love Me Like You DoFor better or worse, Ellie Goulding has found a comfortable home in the Top 40. “Love Me Like You Do,” her offering to the Fifty Shades Of Grey soundtrack, has a little bit of spark left in it to remind us how great she actually is.


92. “U Mad” Vic Mensa featuring Kanye West

92. U MadKanye’s current protege, Vic Mensa, is slowly making some headway. With West’s clear stamp of approval (and participation, too boot) and a hard-hitting track like “U Mad,” it won’t be long before he’ll be hitting his stride.

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91. “Uma Thurman” Fall Out Boy

91. Uma ThurmanFall Out Boy’s “Uma Thurman” is kind of a novelty, but it’s so well executed and deliriously fun that it’s worth taking seriously. Sampling The Munsters theme song was brilliant, but the track around it is awesome.


90. “Hold My Hand” Jess Glynne

90. Hold My HandAfter lending her voice and gifting Clean Bandit a few massive hits, Jess Glynne was ready rack up some of her own. “Hold My Hand” is a dazzling dance pop record that certainly showcases her ability to do just that.


89. “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” Courtney Barnett

89. Nobody Really Cares If You Don't Go To The PartyIt’s a shame that tracks like this have no chance at radio success anymore. The catchiest cut from Courtney Barnett’s debut LP, “Nobody Really Cares If You Don’t Go To The Party” sacrifices zero integrity to try and score a hit.


88. “Cause I’m A Man (HAIM Remix)” Tame Impala

88. Cause I'm A ManTame Impala’s “Cause I’m A Man” was a proper stand out from Currents on its own, but bringing HAIM on board to remix (or rather re-record) was brilliant. The lyrics resonate that much stronger sung from a female perspective.


87. “Bang That” Disclosure

87. Bang ThatLong featured in Disclosure’s live sets, “Bang That” was given a proper due, and although it was downgraded to bonus track status, ended up being one of the duo’s best releasees this year. It simply exemplifies their inherent genius.


86. “Entropy” Grimes and Bleachers

86. EntropyHearing Grimes’ spacey voice atop a delicate arrangement of Bleacher’s real-life instrumentation is jarring, if not completely unrecognizable, but, much like chocolate and peanut butter, it’s a pairing that undeniably works.


85. “Lampshades On Fire” Modest Mouse

85. Lampshades On FireModest Mouse are constantly toggling back and forth between trying to score a radio hit and doing everything possible to avoid one. The hooky “Lampshades On Fire” is undeniably the former, but they rise to the occasion.


84. “Used To Love You” Gwen Stefani

84. Used To Love YouGwen Stefani channeled her intense heartbreak into one hell of a pop banger. “Used To Love You” is low-key, still catchy, and well-executed, but Gwen’s vocals, sitting front and center, are its most remarkable aspect.


83. “Girl” The Internet featuring KAYTRANDA

83. GirlThe Internet is hardly Odd Future’s most in-your-face act, but their “Girl” proves they’re still a force to be reckoned with. The smooth, hypnotic 6-minute piece may feel repetitive, but it constantly feels intentional and inspired.

82. “Bored In The USA” Father John Misty

82. Bored In The USAThe only thing that reminds us that “Bored In The USA” isn’t an Elton John reject is its particularly scathing lyrics. Father John Misty’s slight of hand really makes for a brilliant track, but it’s considerately never quite fulfilling.


81. “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” Unknown Mortal Orchestra

81. Can't Keep Checking My PhoneThere’s almost too much going on in “Can’t Keep Checking My Phone” to rationalize, but the end result is astounding. From the funky bass line and to the uplifting handclaps to the hypnotic melody, it all just kind of comes together.


80. “Our Own House” MisterWives

80. Our Own HouseIndie pop acts these days tend to walk the ever-thinning “coolness” tightrope pretty intensely, but MisterWives seem up for the challenge. “Our Own House” is a bonafide herald.


79. “Dopamine” DIIV

79. DopamineShoegaze masters DIIV clearly don’t have an intent on straying far from their distinct sound, but, if “Dopamine” is a fair indication, they are still crafting compelling tracks. It’s as if the reverb can’t possibly get any bigger.


78. “Tutti Frutti” New Order featuring Elly Jackson

78. Tutti FruttiPeter Hook-less New Order is a grim concept, but Elly Jackson’s featured role on “Tutti Frutti” may just be a needed distraction. Nonetheless, the group’s dance floor instincts are clearly still very much in tact.


77. “Coming Home” Leon Bridges

77. Coming HomeThe title track from Leon Bridge’s debut album is aptly titled. Despite his young age, his old soul delicately injects itself into the otherwise straightforward song. “Coming Home” captures the essence of a time and a place.


76. “Giant Peach” Wolf Alice

76. Giant PeachNewcomers Wolf Alice captured the spark of female-led 90’s alt rock and built a raging fire out of it. “Giant Peach” is seductively unhinged, yet beautifully atmospheric, and through all of its twists and turns, the ride is beautiful.


75. “Pressure Off” Duran Duran featuring Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers

75. Pressure OffIt’s been a long time since Duran Duran’s hey day, but “Pressure Off” is as vibrant and exciting as they’ve ever been. Janelle Monáe and Nile Rodgers breathe life into the track, but it’s the band sticking to their guns is most remarkable.


74. “Random Name Generator” Wilco

74. Random Name GeneratorWilco have historically been reliable, and their Star Wars LP was hardly and exception. “Random Name Generator” is just as quirky and catchy as you’d expect, but there’s a rejuvenating spirit subtly tucked underneath it.


73. “Johnny Delusional” FFS

73. Johnny DelusionalSupergroups so rarely work out, but even on paper Franz Ferdinand and Sparks joining forces makes sense. Standout “Johnny Delusional” is exciting, sparkly, and compact, and to top it all off, it’s undeniably fresh.


72. “Run Away With Me” Carly Rae Jepsen

72. Run Away With MeFor all intents and purposes, Carly Rae Jepsen is a one hit wonder, but she is sticking to a strikingly high caliber of bubblegum pop. “Run Away With Me” follows many classic formulas in sound and structure, but feels like a renaissance.


71. “Til It Happens To You” Lady Gaga

70. Til It Happens To You“Til It Happens To You” may be more of a gap-filler while Lady Gaga keeps her (relatively) low profile, but it’s not to be written off. Co-penned with Diane Warren, this gorgeous ballad truly showcases her raw talent.


70. “Stressed Out” Twenty One Pilots

69. Stressed OutThere’s a lot of whim and chaos injected into “Stressed Out,” but the end result is strikingly refined. The parts shouldn’t come together as well as they do, but there’s more than enough evidence that this track isn’t a fluke.


69. “I’m A Ruin” Marina & The Diamonds

68. I'm A RuinMarina is one of pop’s most under-appreciated gems (err… diamonds.) “I’m A Ruin” is an elegant pseudo-ballad that both highlights her voice and her ability to craft a hook. For an artist like her, that’s business as usual.


68. “Everyday” A$AP Rocky featuring Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson

67. EverydayThe most striking aspect of “Everyday”, with so many power players involved, is that A$AP Rocky is able to hold our attention so well. What could have been a sensory overload ended up just solidifying the lead artist’s value.


67. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” Jamie xx featuring Young Thug and Popcaan

66. I Know There's Gonna BeBy Jamie xx standards, this is pretty pure pop; in reality, it’s far from it. Inviting Popcaan was fun, Young Thug was definitely interesting, but it’s the Persuasions sample that’s the most left-field, but ingenious component.


66. “bodyache” Purity Ring

65. Bodyache“Bodyache” is part trip hop, part dream pop, and completely mystifying. With a masterful trap beat and bewitching vocal, the electronic duo gave us something equally as delicate as it is explosive and as whimsical as it is tactful.


65. “Can’t Deny My Love” Brandon Flowers

64. Can't Deny My LoveBrandon Flowers clearly feel (a little) freer to indulge his ’80s new wave infatuation than with The Killers, but that’s really quite ok. “Can’t Deny My Love” is riddled with modern production, but is pretty damn authentic otherwise.


64. “Mountain At My Gates” Foals

63. Mountain At My GatesWhen you hear “Mount At My Gates,” you really have to wonder why Foals isn’t one of the biggest bands in the world. With its poppy bounce, building energy, and festival-ready chorus, the track is a total knockout on all fronts.


63. “The Answer” Savages

62. The AnswerAfter their gobsmacking debut, Savages is back, and these ladies main business. “The Answer” is more frenzied, more scathing, but noticeably more melodic than previous works, but they certainly haven’t lost any of their spark.


62. “Stole The Show” Kygo featuring Parson James

61. Stole The Show“Stole The Show” feels like Kygo is on the verge of something big. Whether or not he follows in the footsteps of Guetta, Harris, and Avicii and reigns as EDM’s brief DJ-Du-Jour is still to be seen, but with a track this good, he could pull it off.


61. “Lionsong” Björk

60. LionsongIf there’s one thing Björk is undeniably, it’s avant garde; “Lionsong” only reiterates that point. With its delicate strings and intricate vocal arrangement, the track stands out as a striking, delicate, and gut-wrenching piece of work.


60. “Grief” Earl Sweatshirt

59. GriefYou either get Earl Sweatshirt or you don’t, but “Grief” is kind of hard to just pass over. His lyrics hold nothing back, almost to a fault, but it’s his detached delivery that really drive the point home. The beat is pretty great, too.


59. “Teenage Talk” St. Vincent

58. Teenage TalkWhile on surface, “Teenage Talk” may seem little more than a reject from St. Vincent’s 2014 self-titled album, the track jam packs a ton of atmosphere and emotion into an otherwise compact space, and the result is near-perfect.


58. “Leave A Trace” CHVRCHES

58. Leave A TraceCHVRCHES know how to make great synth pop; that’s no secret. The band is more assertive and confident on “Leave A Trace,” that ever before, and it’s proof that they can move their sound forward, a rare feat for an act like them.


57. “Depreston” Courtney Barnett

57. DeprestonA proper standout from Courtney Barnett’s stunning debut LP, “Depreston” presents a welcomed cool down from her hectic bangers. It’s repetitious progression gives her deadpan vocals and dazzlingly witty vocals the spotlight.


56. “Breathing Underwater” Hiatus Kaiyote

56. Breathing UnderwaterHiatus Kaiyote throw everything at us from funk to jazz to prog rock in “Breathing Underwater,” but they weld it together flawlessly. It’s really been quite some time since soul has felt the rejuvenating and innovate.


55. “These Walls” Kendrick Lamar featuring Bilal, Anna Wise, and Thundercat

55. These WallsThe contemplative “These Walls,” musically feels ripped right out Prince’s songbook, but it’s (per usual) the lyrics that resonate strongest. When Kendrick talks, we listen, and when he flips the switch, it’s awe-inspiring.


54. “DEATHCAMP” Tyler, The Creator

54. DeathcampTyler, The Creator’s fearlessness is always exciting. “DEATHCAMP” swirls with a hard-hitting Dee Edwards sample that injects a level of rock that Tyler hasn’t quite hit before. His biting lyrics only add fuel to the fire.


53. “Sparks” Beach House

53. SparksDream-poppers Beach House gifted us two full studio albums this year, and in the hoard of exciting material sits the astounding single “Sparks.” They fill the empty space with reverb galore, but it’s magnificently uplifting.


52. “Antidone” Travi$ Scott

52. Antidote“Antidote” parallels Travi$ Scott’s own polarizing nature. With it’s dumbed-down melody, questionable lyrics, and true-to-form autotune, it’s pretty easy to forget how well it actually works together in the end.


51. “REALiTi (Demo)” Grimes

51. RealitiWhen Grimes released “REALiTi” as a placeholder, she dubbed it a demo. She did touch it up a bit for Art Angels, but the original is a total knockout. It really is a complete experience with just enough hook to go back for more.


50. “Ghost Town” Adam Lambert

47. Ghost TownWith a track like “Ghost Town,” it’s difficult to understand why Adam Lambert has struggled commercially. With its extremely current dark house production and stellar vocal performance, the track is truly pop gold.


49. “Magnets” Disclosure featuring Lorde

48. MagnetsIt’s a collaboration that makes almost too much sense, and they didn’t disappoint. Lorde takes complete command over “Magnets,” but something has to be said for Disclosure’s restraint that honors their integrity.


48. “Hotline Bling” Drake

46. Hotline Bling.jpgSometimes it’s hard to blur the dichotomy between “smart” and “novelty” in pop-oriented hip hop, and “Hotline Bling” is no exception. When it comes down to it, though, any track this infectious is worth celebrating.


47. “Black Sun” Death Cab For Cutie

45. Black SunNo matter where Ben Gibbard goes, his legion of hipsters will follow; it’s nice that he stopped by Death Cab this time. “Black Sun” is fairly true-to-form, but there just enough of a hint of modernity to make it a highlight.


46. “Gosh” Jamie xx

49. Gosh“Gosh” epitomizes Jamie xx’s brilliance. The creative, almost back-to-basics layering of samples creates such a dynamic atmosphere that never quite reaches its potential height, but leaving us a bit unfulfilled endears us back for more.


45. “Bitch Better Have My Money” Rihanna

44. Bitch Better Have My MoneyRihanna has been alarmingly elusive these past few years, but her few emergences from her reclusive state have been epic, and quite diverse. “Bitch Better Have My Money” is intense and a little frightening, but it’s a showstopper.


44. “Adventure Of A Lifetime” Coldplay

43. Adventure Of A LifetimeColdplay have dabbled in dance before, but disco? It works almost effortlessly. Chris Martin thankfully doesn’t steal most of the focus here allowing that infectious groove to do most of the work. It sits nicely in their canon.


43. “Swords” M.I.A.

42. SwordsYou can always bank on M.I.A. sending forth a great track; it’s almost clockwork. “Swords” is no exception, utilizing the namesake weapon as a percussive element that (of course) pairs spectacularly with her melody.


42. “Should Have Known Better” Sufjan Stevens

50. Should Have Known BetterWhen Sufjan introduces a hopeful keyboard and bare-minimum percussion halfway into “Should Have Known Better,” it feels like a black and white movie slowly transitioning into color. He has an uncanny ability to hold our emotions captive.


41. “Air” Waxahatchee

41. AirWaxahatchee’s earthy “Air” is a mountain of sound, which is saying something considering how restrained and scaled back it is. There aren’t that many parts throughout, but the space in between resonates like a wolf’s howl.


40. “Living For Love” Madonna

40. Living For Love.pngFrom Diplo’s masterful knob-work, to Alicia Keys’ clunking piano, to the array of bombastic backing vocals, “Living For Love” was both a step forward and a needed return to form for Madge. The timing was perfect.


39. “WTF (Where They From)” Missy Elliott featuring Pharrell

39. WTFThe fact that Missy Elliott allows Pharrell such a prominent guest spot on a comeback single this decisive only showcases his pull. Luckily, Misdemeanor (expectedly) slays the uniquely structured piece and walks away a winner.


38. “False Hope” Laura Marling

38. False HopeLaura Marling has built such a rapport with critics that her every move is going to be acknowledged. Cue the perfect opportunity for her to evolve her acoustic folk into folk rock, and “False Hope” is the glorious byproduct.


37. “King” Years & Years

37. King.jpgThis is a pop song so momentous and dazzling that it never really ran the risk of getting lost in the shuffle. A chorus this explosive only comes around every so often, and hopefully Years & Years remembers that.


36. “Buffalo” Toro Y Moi

36. Buffalo.jpgToro y Moi’s unique brand of electro-R&B is always evolving. “Buffalo” has a slight touch of jazz, but the presence of guitar really helps him further blur the line between “excitement” and “chill,” and it’s a cool ride.


35. “Clearest Blue” CHVRCHES

35. Clearest Blue.jpg“Clearest Blue,” in a lot of ways, feels like CHVRCHES just wanted to put their heads down and go to avoid a sophomore slump; it worked. The climatic synths are a herald and Lauren Mayberry’s vocals are a life source.


34. “River” Leon Bridges

34. River.jpegLeon Bridges decided to throwback to a very meaningful and important era of soul and gospel, and his “River” really exemplifies his authenticity. He may not be Sam Cooke, but the powerful backing vocals make up for lost ground.


33. “Ballad Of The Mighty I” Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

33. Ballad Of The Mighty I.pngPost-Oasis Gallagher brother material has been hit or miss, but Noel and his High Flying Birds knocked this one out of the park. Featuring the incomparable Johnny Marr on guitar, “Ballad Of The Mighty I” is invigorating.


32. “Alright ” Kendrick Lamar

32. Alright.jpgIn true Pharrell fashion, the production is lush, highlighted by a looped backing vocal-led progression. Still, Kendrick’s hopeful lyrics and impassioned delivery sit front and center, and the impact is undeniable.


31. “Coffee (F***ing)” Miguel featuring Wale

31. Coffee.jpgMiguel has never shied away from sensuality, almost to a fault. Following suit, “Coffee” is great, but the Wale-featuring, slightly more lyrically formidable “Fucking” version only enhances his velvety vocal work.


30. “No Sleeep” Janet Jackson featuring J. Cole

30. No Sleeep.pngJanet Jackson made a comeback the way only Janet Jackson could: simply. Akin to previous lead-singles like “That’s The Way Love Goes” and “Got Til It’s Gone,” the J. Cole-featuring “No Sleeep” is a masterful earworm of a slow jam.


29. “A New Wave” Sleater-Kinney

29. A New Wave.jpgThe chorus kicks off with, “no one here is taking notice,” but even after a decade long absence, Sleater-Kinney are not suffering that particular fate. The simple three-instrument punk formula is all they need to shine.


28. “Dreams” Beck

28. Dreams.jpgIn a noticeable contrast to his last studio effort, Beck’s currently-stand alone single “Dreams” is upbeat, funky, even slightly disco-tinged, not to mention catchy as hell. It all seems so effortless, but simply because it’s Beck.


27. “Bros” Wolf Alice

27. Bros.jpgNewcomers Wolf Alice’s wistful and sentimental “Bros” delicately walks the tightrope between forward-thinking alt rock and ’90s throwback, but it is undeniably one of the most gorgeous tracks of its kind this decade.


26. “How Could You Babe” Tobias Jesso Jr.

26. How Could You Babe.jpgThis track could have been any arbitrary piano-led singer-songwriter ballad of the 1970s, but it’s 2015, and Tobias Jesso Jr.’s heartbroken lament sounds far less a throwback than a tribute. He sells the hell out of it.


25. “L$D” A$AP Rocky

25. L$D.jpgIt’s almost 2 and a half minutes into the track before A$AP Rocky even begins to rap, and even then it’s barely audible and short-lived. The grimy, downplayed, and overtly trippy “L$D” absolutely thrives in its absence.


24. “Flesh Without Blood” Grimes

24. Flesh Without Blood.jpgThis track once again proves that Grimes’ genius knows no bounds. The perfect balance of pure pop and decisive anti-pop, “Flesh Without Blood” is a whirlwind of excitement and euphoria, and it manages to be pretty catchy, too.


23. “No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross” Sufjan Stevens

23. No Shade In The Shadow Of The CrossSufjan Stevens’ soul-baring “No Shade In The Shadow Of The Cross” is chillingly sparse, both in instrumentation and melody. There are no need for tricks here; his lyrics are touching, poignant, and painfully honest enough.


22. “Energy” Drake

22. EnergyDrake (thankfully) didn’t hold his tongue much this year. Although he doesn’t directly call anyone out in “Energy,” he sneaks in plenty of one-liners that successfully assert his power; the experience enjoyable.


21. “Go Out” Blur

21. Go Out.jpgThe lead single from Blur’s reunion album was everything we didn’t know we wanted from them. “Go Out” is raw, clunky, loosely structured, albeit still fairly hooky, but it sounds like a welcomed audible rejuvenation.


20. “All Day” Kanye West featuring Paul McCartney, Theophilus London, and Allan Kingdom

20. All Day.jpgThere is far too much personnel to rationalize for a track this simple, but no matter how Kanye lands on the final product, it’s always captivating. “All Day” is a step forward, but the exact direction is, excitingly, still a mystery.


19. “Biscuits” Kacey Musgraves

19. Biscuits.jpg“Biscuits” doesn’t particularly take Kacey Musgraves into new territory, but her witty lyrical handiwork and delicate instrumentation are surefire winners 100 percent of the time. The track is a masterwork.


18. “What Do You Mean?” Justin Bieber

18. What Do You Mean.pngJustin Bieber’s against-all-odds transition into a likable, adult-friendly pop star seemed complete upon the release of “What Do You Mean?” Following sonic suit with his Jack Ü collabo, his low-key electro thumper is truly decadent.


17. “High By The Beach” Lana Del Rey

17. High By The Beach.pngTrue to form, “High By The Beach” never quite challenges a particular range of emotion, but Lana never ceases to amaze with how much she can do with so little. Not to mention, it’s easily one of her catchiest works.


16. “Black Lake” Björk

16. Black Lake.jpgFor an artist as fearless as Björk, a ten minute work like “Black Lake” hardly comes off as shocking. It’s the masterful tension between the strings and synthesizers and her soul-baring lyrics that truly make it an opus.


15. “What Kind Of Man” Florence + The Machine

15. What Kind Of Man.jpg“What Kind Of Man” is exactly the record Florence + The Machine needed to make to reach a new peak. The guitars are piercing, the drums are thundering, and at the center of it all is Welch’s commanding vocal. It’s uplifting.


14. “Loud Places’ Jamie xx featuring Romy

14. Loud Places.jpegJamie xx’s “Loud Places” is a prime example of where EDM needed to go, and thankfully did. The track goes against the grain, remaining slower, simpler and more spacious, but strikingly climactic at the same time.


13. “Hello” Adele

13. Hello.jpgA typical Adele track sets her vocals front and center, often running the risk of not giving us much else, but the aptly titled “Hello” leaves us feeling fully nourished, and, if anything, approaches going a tad too far; it never does.


 

12. “Don’t Wanna Fight” Alabama Shakes

12. Don't Wanna Fight.jpg“Don’t Wanna Fight” reiterates the group’s determination to restore integrity in modern music. Its infectious groove paired with Brittany Howard’s vigorous soulful bellow still manages to feel strikingly fresh, though.


11. “Blackstar” David Bowie

11. Blackstar.jpgThe ever-reclusive Bowie has trained us to expect the unexpected, but no one saw this terrifying ten minute epic coming. Within its two seamlessly woven sections, there’s still an underlying beauty that cuts through the tension.


10. “The Hills” The Weeknd

10. The Hills.pngIn a stark juxtaposition to the pop oriented singles bookending its release, “The Hills” sits in a class with The Weeknd’s more alternative works. Regardless of the success it went onto achieve later, the track never loses its terrifyingly dark edge that feels ripped right out of a horror flick. With drug-infused lyrics far less ambiguous than “Can’t Feel My Face” and his possessed and phased vocal that slithers across the gritty backing track, Abel Tesfaye creates some sort of hypnosis that seemingly convinced everyone into turning the track into one of the most unlikely massive pop hits ever.


09. “The Blacker The Berry” Kendrick Lamar

09. The Blacker The Berry.pngMusic has long been an important vessel for social commentary, but no track in recent years has been quite as earnest as Kendrick Lamar’s “The Blacker The Berry.” Yes, the production is impeccable and the backing track is flawless, but the crux of the track is its lyrics. Lamar is clearly fired up and fearlessly unleashes his scorching verses outlining the modern ramifications of racism and what he considers a parallel issue of hypocrisy. He is so impassioned that it’s almost impossible not to feel slightly uncomfortable, but, in the end, we’re undeniably awestruck. It really is an incredible execution on all fronts.


08. “Lean On” Major Lazer and DJ Snake featuring MØ

08. Lean On.jpgJust when EDM started to feel a little stale in the pop realm, 2015 ushered in a couple bouts of salvation for the genre. Major Lazer and DJ Snake’s “Lean On,” featuring an effective vocal from MØ, is one of two pretty huge three-way collaborations involving Diplo this year that gave us a new perspective on an otherwise contrived concept. With a tempo slowed down just enough to feel far more reflective than momentous, the track is just as infectious and vivid as any dance floor would ever need. There is far more sensuality than sleaze and there are far more intricacies than cheap shots, and it’s undeniably successful.


07. “Ship To Wreck” Florence + The Machine

07. Ship To Wreck.pngIt’s no secret that Florence Welch and her Machine are talented song-crafters, but there’s something particularly special about “Ship To Wreck” that subtly acknowledges their evolution. The bouncy, folk rock piece remains as jubilant as some of their most recognizable works but holds back just enough to avoid feeling equally as calculated. There’s a freeness here that doesn’t quite show up initially; Welch’s voice is as dynamic and powerful as ever, and that steals most of our focus. The fact that it isn’t their catchiest melody or biggest burst of euphoria actually works in its favor and urges us to go back for more.


06. “Where Are Ü Now” Jack Ü featuring Justin Bieber

06. Where Are U NowI’m not sure who would have believed a year ago that Skrillex, Diplo, and Justin Bieber would have joined forces to crank out one of the most understated, yet dynamic dance tracks of the decade, but they did just that. Jack Ü counterintuitively decided not to chase after the peaks of euphoria, but instead create a delicate range of emotion that can be equally as enjoyed cozied up in bed as on the dance floor. With Skrillex and Diplo casting aside their respective worst qualities and Biebs daring to give us an authentic performance, even just for a few short minutes, we’ve been gifted a truly sublime juggernaut.


05. “Let It Happen” Tame Impala

05. Let It Happen.jpegPsychedelic rockers Tame Impala hardly threw us a bone this year with the lead single off their impeccable Currents LP. If anything, “Let It Happen” is tediously circular, draining, and verges on overstaying its welcome, but, more so, it’s gloriously uplifting and tactfully structured. Slithering from one motif to the next, the sections aren’t as distinct as one might hope from a nearly 8 minute jam. Even when the group tests our patience with the likes of record-skipping effects, they manage to captivate our emotions so profoundly that we’re so blindly invested in the experience.


04. “Pedestrian At Best” Courtney Barnett

04. Pedestrian At BestWith so many highlights from Courtney Barnett’s gobsmacking debut LP to put on a pedestal this year, it’s rather poetic that the track held in the highest regard is the one that proclaims, “Put me on a pedestal and I’ll only disappoint you.” Her explosive “Pedestrian At Best” appeals to each of our aural tastebuds simultaneously. She throws us a loose series of contradictory internal banter externalized atop a reckless set of power chords that comes out sounding just as bitter as it does sweet and just as salty as it does sour. Disappointing? Quite the opposite. The track is rather glorious.


03. “FourFiveSeconds” Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney

03. FourFiveSeconds.jpgWhat makes “FourFiveSeconds” such a triumph is how the whole is far greater than the sum of its parts. When your parts include one of the most compelling pop stars of the last decade and a half, hip hop’s distinguished mad scientist, and a flipping Beatlethat’s really saying something. The instrumentation is kept at a bare minimum, leaving space for the not-quite-instant melody to sink in. The musical restraint is a witty vehicle in which the lyrics outlining a near-breakdown in self-control are magnified. There’s more personality jam packed in this 3 minutes than anyone could hope for.


02. “King Kunta” Kendrick Lamar

02. King KuntaKendrick Lamar’s opus, To Pimp A Butterfly, has more stand out cuts than any other record this year by far, but none stand out more than “King Kunta.” Using  Roots’ iconic Kunta Kinte as a metaphor for Lamar’s determined and unapologetic fight for integrity, the track is far more than a scathing commentary, it’s a decree. While this is indeed a lyrical triumph, the intricate production is what ups the ante. This is a bonafide funk masterpiece that both toys with our senses and smokes out our instincts, but still remains downright fun. Hip hop is nothing if not clever in some capacity, and Kendrick Lamar is clever.


01. “Can’t Feel My Face” The Weeknd

01. Can't Feel My FaceThe Weeknd has clearly been flirting with the idea of taking his unique brand of alternative R&B into the pop realm, but upon the release of “Can’t Feel My Face,” it seemed more like he was putting in his bid for becoming pop’s next messiah. What makes the song a soaring success isn’t simply its earworm of a hook and its heralding bass line, but its tactful restraint to ensure those two elements remain at the forefront of our focus. A track this impeccably crafted and universally appealing doesn’t come around often, but when it does, it’s always game changing; “Can’t Feel My Face” is no exception.


THE PLAYLIST

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