Top 10 songs of 2015
2015 gave us the first legitimate mainstream rap beef in years, an album with the biggest first week sales in history, Kanye West and Rihanna literally collaborating with a Beatle, the best One Direction song ever, and the return of Carly Rae Jepsen. None of the above are mentioned in the following list of the top 10 songs of 2015. It was a good year.
Number 10: The Michael Jackson One
Can’t Feel My Face- The Weeknd
The Weeknd is not a likable figure and likely never will be. It lines up with reason that the most bountiful time of his career, previous to 2015, was during the run of his first 3 mix tapes, which were released anonymously. It also makes sense that the “Kiss Land”-era lull in his career came after his identity was revealed.
It was easy to find this stumble in his career satisfying and feel more than comfortable never listening to his music again. Abel Tesfaye’s character showed no plans of growing, and his music showed no signs of evolving. He was quickly revealing himself as a one-dimensional performer and musician.
Unfortunately for those finding satisfaction in this narrative, Abel had one more trick up his sleeve. That trick was called “Can’t Feel My Face.”
Whereas The Weeknd’s past hits have been slow, slogging through layers of regret and drugs and sexually-transmitted-diseases, “Can’t Feel My Face” trembles on an engine of exhilaration.
A snap and a few synths explode into drums and a bass line that take your pants off for you.
“Can’t Feel My Face” is a song title lifted straight off of a Weeknd parody album, but it avoids self-parody in all the ways the artist needed to extend his career. The fact that a musician who has been so joyless and unlikable in the past could draw on love to incite such exuberance proves he is more than just the best haircut in music.
Number 9: The Sad One
No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross- Sufjan Stevens
Like so many of pop culture’s geniuses, Sufjan Stevens has been wandering through a fog since the release of his magnum opus, 2005’s “Illinois.” He’s tried strange experiments — some bordering on performance art — and made some incredible songs. But with 2015’s best album, “Carrie & Lowell,” it feels as though Stevens rediscovered his wheelhouse.
That wheelhouse is exemplified entirely by “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross.” The sparse instrumentation may not speak to the epic bombast of “Illinois,” but the emotion is not lost. The religious imagery, the honesty, and the haunting falsetto; this is peak Sufjan. May he bless us with another masterpiece before 2025.
Number 8: The Holy One
Angels- Chance the Rapper feat. Saba
There is a long tradition in music of amazing lead singles leading up to mediocre and disappointing albums. Chance the Rapper collaborated with Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment to create a new entry in this tradition with the single “Sunday Candy” and subsequent album “Surf.”
“Sunday Candy” is one of the best songs of Chance’s already great career, and set sky-high expectations for “Surf,” which obviously were never met. Somehow, Chance has managed to set expectations even higher for his third mixtape with “Angels.” Where “Surf” disappointed with its aimlessness and experimentation, “Angels” thrives in its precision.
Chance unleashed a triumphant ode to his city which wastes no time. Every word matters, the beat hums, the chorus sings, and the song works. It’s just perfect enough to set me up to get hurt again. Only time will tell.
Number 7: The Undeniable One
“Alright”- Kendrick Lamar
“good kid, m.A.A.d City” and “To Pimp A Butterfly,” Compton rapper Kendrick Lamar’s first two albums, have both been widely accepted as classics. They are both overrated. Sorry.
GKMC contained 2 or 3 of 2012’s best songs, but was weighed down with a considerable amount of filler. It was instantly received as a modern masterpiece because of its undeniably respectable ambitions and Kendrick’s abilities as a rapper as well as a storyteller. But GKMC, like TPAB, gets lost in its ambitions, and ends up being too long and, ultimately, boring. While TPAB is a more realized version of Kendrick’s vision, it has the same failings.
The one song that showed everything that GKMC could have been was “mA.A.d. City,” and TPAB holds its counterpart in “Alright.” “Alright” and “mA.A.d. City” both ditch the overwrought pretentiousness and get to the point. “m.A.A.d City” captured the anger and fear sprinkled throughout GKMC, and “Alright” manifests TPAB’s endless feeling of triumph through struggle.
If Kendrick can make more songs this focused, he may finally get the praise he deserves. Oh, wait--
Number 6: The Young Thug One
“I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”- Jamie xx feat. Young Thug and Popcaan
“In Colour” is the formal debut album of one of electronic music’s most prominent figures of the last few years, Jamie xx. It’s an excellent record filled with a variety of styles and little-to-no filler. If this were instead a list of top ten albums of 2015, “In Colour” would certainly be on it.
I love “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” so much that if I were given the bizarre choice by some sort of fiddle-playing satan to either keep “Good Times” or the other 10 songs on "In Colour," I would choose the former and sleep soundly.
Honestly, I had a feeling this would be the case as soon as I saw that Young Thug was featured on “In Colour.”
Thug and Jamie xx seem like an odd pairing on face value. But after listening to their collaboration, it makes it almost disappointing to listen to any of the work they do separately. Young Thug gives Jamie’s music a much needed edge; a vocal juxtaposition to his perfectly rounded and forgiving instrumentals. Jamie on the other hand must be incredibly fun to work with because I have never heard Young Thug having so much gosh darn fun.
Young Thug says some of the most absolutely bonkers things I’ve ever heard on this track — “She gon get on top of this dick and she gon squish it like squish” being a personal favorite. And while it certainly turned off plenty of Jamie xx’s fanbase, it also contributed to “Good Times” being a perfect song of the summer. While the rest of “In Colour” explores seriousness — both emotionally and musically — “Good Times” indulges both Young Thug’s and Jamie xx’s sunniest and silliest pop tendencies. Keep your fingers crossed for "XX Thuggin" in our near future.
Number 5: The “This Music Makes Me Cry” One
I feel regretful even as I begin to try and put into words the way “California,” the best track from Grimes' stunning 2015 album “Art Angels,” makes me feel. Mainly because, given that I am writing about it for a newspaper, I am forced to use words instead of just emojis.
On her November 6 takeover of the SiriusXMU radio station, Grimes played “California” for the first time and revealed that it is a diss track towards music publication Pitchfork. There is nothing that sums up what I love about Grimes better than her ability to turn a diss track into the most joyous pop explosion on her album. While her vocals certainly bring a note or two of melancholy, “California” is an absolutely booming pop track the likes of which she has never produced before. It is beautiful and amazing. Heart emoji, heart eyes emoji, green heart emoji, blue heart emoji, watermelon emoji.
Number 4: The Biggest Song of the Year One
“Hotline Bling”- Drake
Every single thing Drake says in “Hotline Bling” is stupid, save 7 words. But something gives me the feeling that Drake knew how resonant “Ever since I left the city you” would be; and it’s not just that he says it about a hundred times.
The smash-hit is riddled with passive-aggressive “you’re a good girl and you know it” Drake-isms and odd double standards. Even the phrase “I know when that hotline bling” makes no sense. But Drake has made a career of covering up his embarrassing mistakes through sheer charisma and force of will, and there may be no better example than “Hotline Bling.”
If it wasn’t enough that “Hotline Bling” is the catchiest song Drake has ever made, the Canadian rapper put on a grey turtleneck and made himself into a meme in a glowing pink room for four minutes just to remind us all, “It’s not that serious.”
Number 3: The One That Should Probably Be Number One One
“Eventually”- Tame Impala
I’ll keep my thoughts about the best song Tame Impala has ever made brief since you’re probably impatient to find out what my number one song is, not that people actually read the words in top ten lists anyway.
“Currents,” Tame Impala’s 2015 album, came out July 17 and I listened to “Eventually” several times a day, every day, for at least three months. It is a timeless song which would have been as beloved in 1963 as it still will be in 2083. It would likely still be the only one I ever listened to if it weren’t for the following two.
Number 2: The “Baby Girl You’re So Damn Fine Though” One
“679”- Fetty Wap feat. Monty
“Trap Queen” is the Fetty Wap song you will find on most top ten lists you read at the moment, and that’s completely fair. “Trap Queen” has three things going for it: It is Fetty’s biggest hit, it’s incredible, and Monty isn’t featured on it.
Unfortunately for “Trap Queen” though, Fetty decided to say “Baby girl you’re so damn fine though/I’m tryna know if I can hit it from behind though/I’m sipping on you like some fine wine though/And when it’s over, I press rewind though” on “679,” and this fight was over faster than Ronda Rousey against anyone on earth not named Holm.
By following “Trap Queen” and “My Way” with “679,” Fetty essentially poses the question, “What if Francis Ford Coppola had followed ‘The Godfather Part 2’ with ‘Citizen Kane?’” While Fetty is unlikely to ever earn the acclaim Coppola did, his career will likely be longer and much more consistent. Besides, Coppola never had to work with Monty.
Number 1: The Best One (Ever)
“Sorry”- Justin Bieber
I have no idea how Justin Bieber and Skrillex met in real life, so I decided to come up with my own origin story that involves them bumping into each other at some sort of “Why Does Everyone Hate Us So Much” convention held for celebrities in Calabasas. That’s where they figured out they had more in common than anyone could have imagined and decided to enlist the help of Diplo to conquer music in 2015.
Skrillex and Bieber’s musical marriage is one that would have made milk come out of my nose as recently as 2013. Now the main effect it has on me is making love come out of my soul. I listened to “Sorry” until my ears bled, and then I went to the ear store and bought new ears. I saw a .gif of Phoenix Suns point guard Archie Goodwin doing an amazing dance routine in front of an audience of thousands and knew, “Even though this .gif is clearly from a couple years ago, he is dancing to ‘Sorry’ right now, one way or another.”
There is significant scientific evidence that Steve Jobs invented the repeat button so in the future his daughter wouldn’t have to hit the back button to listen to “Sorry” 20 times in a row. There is a video on YouTube titled “Sorry (1 hour long version)” that is just “Sorry” over and over again for an hour, and it recently passed “Gangnam Style” to become the most viewed video in YouTube history. No, Justin: I’M sorry for ever doubting you.