Top 25 Pop Songs of 2015
From singles that revolutionized the phrase "party song" to huge albums pushing artists in new directions, 2015 was another huge year for music. To christen this site with its first countdown list, I'm counting down the top 25 pop songs of 2015. This list is something of my own opinion (obviously), which takes into consideration the amount of Top 40 radio airtime the song received, the song's position and length of time on various music charts, and, honestly (because all criticism is subjective like that), whether or not I enjoyed listening to the song.
I originally had something like 30 or 35 songs for the list, so in order to include as many as I could, I threw in a few honorable mentions just, because.
"Fourfiveseconds," Rihanna feat. Kanye West & Paul McCartney
An interesting combination of ingredients makes for a delicious musical soup. I'm not usually one for Rihanna, but the blend of voices between hers, Kanye's and Paul McCartney's is something extraordinary, given the strange combination of musicians.
"Bad Girls," MKTO
From the makers of the infectious "Classic," MKTO came out with this slightly less catchy song earlier this year. It's sexy, it's got that vintage R&B sound (Those horns, though...), and it's just plain fun.
"Renegades," X Ambassadors
I keep hearing this song in Jeep commercials, and it's grown on me, especially in the last few months as I was putting the finishing touches on this list. "Renegades" just makes you want to go out on a rainy day and explore. The lyrics speak about empowerment despite adversity, which, despite its grayer musical layout, gives the tune a really cool depth when the two are paired together.
"Want To Want Me," Jason Derulo
This song off Derulo's newest album, Everything Is 4 just screams "fun." The song reached number 5 on the Billboard Hot 100, and hit the top of the UK charts, where it remained there for four consecutive weeks. I'm one of those people who associates songs with certain colors, and I see "Want To Want Me," as a bright, sky blue. It's one of those "roll down the windows on the highway and sing" songs.
"Style," Taylor Swift
2015 was a huge year for Taylor Swift, as her 1989 album sold over 1 million copies during its first week of release, and has sold 5.5 million copies in 2015 alone. There's a few more T-Swift songs coming up later in the countdown, but "Style," brings an 80s pop sound to the table, with an enticing hook, and lyrics more mature than we've seen with Swift's earlier tracks.
"Sugar," Maroon 5
With Adam Levine being everywhere it seems nowadays, I wonder why the band hasn't put his name above its title yet. "Sugar," from the band's V album provides less grit than songs like "Animal," but the Levine falsetto isn't as annoying here as it is in songs like "Feelings." "Sugar" was released in January and reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
The Top 25:
25. "Drag Me Down," One Direction
Confession: I've secretly always really liked One Direction, five members or not. Their songs are catchy and infectious, but what more could you ask for when looking for music that you like to listen to? "Drag Me Down," is another one of those. While I was skeptical about the track at first, the guitar riffs paired with the catchy hook is fantastic. Why the four of them are dressed as American astronauts in the music video is completely beyond me, though.
24. "On My Mind," Ellie Goulding
"Love Me Like You Do," off the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack makes me uncomfortable for some reason. "On My Mind," which I just discovered around Thanksgiving, has the opposite effect. The track is very radio-friendly, with its quirky, fast moving, but simple and creative lyrics and unique backing instrumentation, and I think it's one of the best songs Goulding has released thus far in her career. "On My Mind," was a top-10 hit in the UK, and has thus far reached #13 on the Billboard Hot 100. An interesting thing to note: could this be an answer piece to Ed Sheeran's "Don't"?
23. "Budapest," George Ezra
"Budapest" is gloriously simple. George Ezra's voice is simply gorgeous. This indie rock track from Ezra's album Wanted on Voyage, while released in Italy in late 2013, was released in the US in October 2014, and reached peak air time on American top 40 radio in mid-2015. The song uses very few chords on guitar, (as they were some of the only ones Ezra knew while writing it), and has an extremely hummable melody. As Ezra commented about "Budapest," it was his first failed attempt at writing a love song, which is something that really resonates with me, both as a person and a musician.
22. "Hotline Bling," Drake
I shouldn't like this song. I didn't when it was first released, and I think that was because of the music video and various Vine clips of Drake dancing. The video was directed by someone named Director X, who I'm pretty is either Drake or a five-year old. It just doesn't really have anything to offer me, and I think people are going to look back on this video in the same way we look back on 80s pop music: "Wait... we liked this?? Why??" So disregard the video and Drake's horrendous dancing. The song, however, is pretty damn good. Not that "cell phones" are a thing anymore, but we're all suddenly fans of the horribly-unmelodic phrase "you used to call me on my cell phone" again. Trivial, yes. But we can't. Get it. Out. Of our. Heads. And what exactly is a "hotline bling," anyways? It's one of those songs where you don't give a shit about the meaning, look the other way and enjoy thoroughly. Listen to it alone when you're driving in the car. You'll get it.
21. "Honey, I'm Good.," Andy Grammer
If you're wondering where Andy Grammar has been for all those years (and I assume you weren't), we found him. "Honey, I'm Good." which, for some reason has punctuation in the title, has a very country feel about it. Likable and singable, this song from Grammer's second studio effort Magazines or Novels is pretty straightforward: Andy's in a club, sees a hot girl and says "LOL JK I can't, I have someone at home." Cute, right? Another of those "roll-down-the-windows-on-a-hot-day-and-blast-the-music" songs.
20. "Hello," Adele
Ah, Adele, you've done it again. She's back in the land of the living and given us another soul-stirring piano ballad with one hell of a hook. Though Adele's new album, 25 hasn't been out long, but it's already the best-selling album of 2015, selling over 3.3 million copies in its first week. The leading single, "Hello," was Adele's return to civilization, a statement entrance chock-full of emotion, signature backing vocals, and riffs upon riffs upon riffs. Had 25 been released earlier in the year, "Hello" might be higher on this list. But the fact that it's entering its 8th week at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 isn't hurting it, either.
19. "G.D.F.R.," Flo Rida feat. Sage the Gemini & Lookas
At the start of last year's NBA season, this song by Flo Rida (who was also apparently MIA before this song came out) was a part of many a-commercial. I mean, that horn part during the hook? SO good. The additional verses by Sage and Lookas only make this song better.
18. "Cheerleader," OMI
So apparently the original of this song is from 2012. Who knew? 2015's Felix Jaehn remix of "Cheerleader" features a faster tempo, a dash of autotune, and some added orchestrations from the original reggae track. The song's about finding that one person that you can count on as your "cheerleader," a feel-good track that almost anyone can relate to. "Cheerleader" reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this past summer.
17. "Ex's & Oh's," Elle King
When I first heard this song, I could have sworn that it was Gin Wigmore. After further investigation, I learned the "Ex's & Oh's" was by Elle King, who I later also learned was the daughter of actor Rob Schneider. The song, which was originally huge on most rock charts, features a driving beat the remains the pulse of the song while King's catchy vocals complete the track. The song was the only the second song since 1996 by a solo female to reach the top of the Alternative Songs chart (the first being Lorde's "Royals" in 2013), and it received two Grammy nominations, for Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song.
16. "Stitches," Shawn Mendes
From the opening acoustic guitar notes to the memorable hook, "Stitches" is everything Shawn Mendes could have hoped for this song from his debut album Handwritten. The chorus gets stuck in your head so easily, as Mendes dotes on lost love, and how the lack of it in his life has left him broken. Both danceable and heart breaking, "Stitches" has it all. The song peaked at #4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Also, check out the acoustic version of this song featuring Mendes and Hailee Steinfeld.
15. "Someone New," Hozier
Forget "Take Me To Church;" this is your new favorite Hozier song. The song's a lot brighter than the aforementioned "Church," featuring a catchy hook in a major key, lyrics about being able to be honest with oneself and loving many people in different ways, and greater range of vocals from Hozier. However, the real hero of this song is the chord selections on guitar, which range from simple to delightfully complex. The blues-y chords are very John Mayer-sounding in that respect. Just listen to it and you'll fall in love with it.
14. "Bright," Echosmith
First "Cool Kids," and now "Bright." I like Echosmith a lot, I enjoy their sound, I enjoy their instrumentation, and I enjoy their lyrics. After I saw The Fault in Our Stars last year (and remembered how to cry), I heard OAR's song "Peace," and "Bright" reminds me a lot of the former. It's a song about cute, adorable, love! What more could your inner teenage girl want? I'm also a big fan of the opening lines of the hook and its metaphors regarding stars and constellations and all that. Good stuff.
13. "The Wolf," Mumford & Sons
At last! The long awaited return of Mumford & Sons! I'm a huge fan of their Wilder Mind album, which sees the band move away from their neo-folk sound that made them famous, and embracing their electric instruments, resulting in a more alternative sound. "The Wolf" is a driving alt-rock number, and the music video, which shows the band at a music festival, perfectly reflects the spirit of the song. It's one of those songs like The Killers' "Mr. Brightside," in that it makes you wanna stand at the foot of the stage at Bonaroo and jump up and down to every beat of the song. Ya done good, Mumford. Keep on keepin' on.
12. "Bad Blood," Taylor Swift feat. Kendrick Lamar
The second of three Taylor Swift songs on this post, "Bad Blood," is the most defiant from the style that built Taylor's career. With a deep, pulsing bass and a guest appearance from Kendrick Lamar (and apparently tons of celebrities in the music video), "Bad Blood," is an unreal friendship-breakup smash. I'd also like to point out that, while I traditionally have not been a fan of rap, nor have I been a fan of rap remixes of songs, the Kendrick version of "Bad Blood" is far superior than the Taylor-only version. The verses are stronger and have more bite, and the instrumentation is MUCH better. With the version not featuring Kendrick, Taylor's verses lack any kind of complexity, and it's just plain annoying.
11. "Talking Body," Tove Lo
Tove Lo's "Habits (Stay High)" peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts, the highest for a Swedish artist since Ace of Base's "The Sign." Personally, I'm way more of a fan of "Talking Body" than of "Habits." Maybe that's just because I'm a fan of the thrill of the physical part of a relationship, and not vomiting in my own bathtub. Regardless, the electro-pop sound of "Talking Body" is fantastic, and the hook that pulls the whole thing together, anchored by Tove Lo's melodic "if you love me ri-i-ight..." is divine and instantly memorable. I "can't get this one off my mind, ooooh," as it were.
10. "Lay Me Down," Sam Smith feat. John Legend
You'll notice that this version of "Lay Me Down" is not the version that features solely Smith from In the Lonely Hour. Instead, I've chosen this version, which was released in March for Red Nose Day, a British charity telethon event founded in 1985 by comedians Richard Curtis and Larry Henry to support those affected by famine in Ethiopia. This version surpasses the original due to the lack of additional instrumentation, and the addition of one John Legend, who is the featured pianist for the track. Plain and simple, the harmonies Legend and Smith create together will make you cry. Legend adds a certain soulfulness to the song, and, while the song's meaning when it only features Smith (in that version of the music video, anyway) is about mourning the loss of a lover, the two Grammy-winning artists together give this version of "Lay Me Down" a hopefulness. It's oddly perfect for the event it was created for.
9. "Cool for the Summer," Demi Lovato
This song is so easy describe, I can do it in one word: Hot. "Cool for the Summer," very much like the season Demi is referring to, is hot, steamy, and all those other words that you're thinking of. The glaringly obvious undertones to Demi's experiences with another woman are, well, awesome. Let's not forget that Lovato got her start on the Disney Channel, so it's nice to see someone finally break the mold, and not in the whole Miley Cyrus way, where she rammed it down our throats. I for one am a huge fan of Demi's new outlook (Go check out "Confident."). There are really so many lyrics that make this song great (and hot), like when Lovato references cherries being bitten into, having two people of the same body type, and even whispering the simple "don't tell your mother." And I've never heard anyone slide so hard between notes during a chorus like that either. Yas, Demi.
8. "Believe," Mumford & Sons
Marcus Mumford and his band are back and better than ever. Many people were a little skeptical about the band's change from a folk-rock sound into an alt-rock sound. "Believe," the first single from their most recent album Wilder Mind, has a mystical quality about it for the first two minutes, and then explodes into an array of pounding drums and wailing electric guitar. However, it still contains that wondrous, awe-inspiring feeling that Mumford & Sons are known for. While it doesn't have an official music video, watch that audio track video above. It's just someone on a motorcycle with a mounted camera riding around London, but it's mesmerizing. It's good to have you back, boys.
7. "Uma Thurman," Fall Out Boy
Yes. That would be a sample from the television show "The Munsters" included in Fall Out Boy's newest smash, "Uma Thurman." The song is clearly Pulp Fiction inspired, what with all the coke sniffing, surfer guitar riffs (reminiscent of that epic final scene), and references to Uma Thurman and what not. I appreciate how far Fall Out Boy has come musically, beginning as a punk rock band, gradually including deeper bass sounds applicable to most of the music found on today's top 40 radio, but still managing to keep that unmistakable sound, confusing lyrics and all. "Uma Thurman" is just an all around great song. So get up and dance to it. Now.
6. "Blank Space," Taylor Swift
"Nice to meet you, where you been" indeed. "Blank Space," the second single from Taylor's 1989 (the first being "Shake It Off") further immerses the- finally- pop star into the sound we've all been craving. This song was really the first one that made me really care and believe what Taylor was talking about. She understands that she's done all this crap with men in the past (a.k.a. writing #1 hits about men that broke her heart- although one has to make money somehow, am I right?), but is still putting herself out there and attempting to go at it again. If "Shake It Off" was the prologue to this chapter of Taylor's career, "Blank Space" is the perfect genuine first few pagers of the book.
5. "See You Again," Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth
Everything about The Fast and The Furious franchise (aside from the first movie) annoyed the crap out of me. They went from racing cars to jumping out of planes, and then somehow The Rock got involved. However, the events leading up to Furious 7 and the release of "See You Again," is simply heartbreaking. The track is the perfect homage to the late Paul Walker, who really made the franchise what it is. The soft and haunting hook from Charlie Puth, combined with the meaningful lyrics (while not aggressively overbearing) from Wiz Khalifa is a magical blend of sound. It gets me thinking about the people outside of my family who really mean a lot to me, and how that group of people becomes your second family. I'm pulling for this song to win an Oscar, because it deserves it.
4. "Can't Feel My Face," The Weeknd
Is this song about cocaine? Yeah, probably. Does it really matter, because the song is incredible? No. The Weeknd's first #1 single channels a little Michael Jackson, between the vocals, the memorable hook, and the uptempo, all-in, jam out sound. It's this amazing slice of neo disco, with some 80's synth and 2010's R&B/hip-hop sound. One critic called it "retro-modern disco-funk," which I think is a perfect way to sum it up. It'll be interesting to see if The Weeknd can keep up his success as we enter 2016.
3. "Thinking Out Loud," Ed Sheeran
Say what you want about this song: It's annoying, it's overplayed, it's stupid, it's corny. I think it's the best love song of the year, simplistic as it is. It's just so genuine and so damn cute. Not to mention Ed singing his little heart out for whoever it may be. "Take me into your loving arms/kiss me under the light of a thousand stars." Awwwww. The guitar solo is absolutely fantastic (and I'm a sucker for a well-placed guitar solo), and it's a crime that it has been cut from many radio versions of this song. Also, look at the music video! Ed's lost a lot of weight from his + album, and he spends most of the video dancing. I'm so proud of him. But really, you can bash this song all you want. I think it's great, and it receives the bronze medal spot on this list for being so effectively cute and mushy.
2. "Shut Up and Dance," Walk The Moon
Taking the silver medal on this list is the catchy, bouncy, happy-go-lucky smash hit from the first album by Walk the Moon. For this song to not reach #1 on the Billboard charts is an absolute travesty. It's a dance hit, but it's got so much rock and roll infused in it, which is great. The heavy power chords on the guitar, combined with the up-tempo nature of the song, paired with the fun lyrics and vocals of lead singer Nick Petriccia make the song a full out yacht-rock song (Yes, I said yacht-rock). The song reminds me so much of summer, but it's really a track that can be enjoyed all year round, without hesitation. I think we'll look back on this song years from now, and still be able to shut up and dance to it.
1. "Uptown Funk," Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars
Oh come on, how could it be any other song? "Uptown Funk," in my humble opinion of blogger and list maker, has reached the upper echelon of one of the best party/dance songs of all time. Let me give you a little bit of background as to how popular this song was this year. I studied abroad in England at the beginning of the year, in January. It was the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100 when I left in the first week of the New Year. It was the #1 song in the UK for about half the time I was there. I returned in early March to the U.S. "Uptown Funk" was STILL the #1 song on the Billboard charts. Bruno Mars' lyrics and vocals are unmistakable, and the intro is so memorable. But the two real heroes of the song are the horns and bass, especially in the final portion of the song (Skip to 4:08 in the video, where there's an amazing section not included in the radio single). When I first heard it at the end of the 2014 (when it wasn't receiving much airtime, thus it being included in the 2015 list), it sounded like any other 80s song I had heard before. Now that I've had a chance to really learn to love this song, it's become one of my favorites, to be sure. Uptown has funked me up, and I love it.
If I missed one of your favorites, I can only apologize. Maybe I'll get it on the next one. But just so I know, which songs do you think were the best from 2015? Leave a comment if you so desire. Happy New Year everyone!
I enjoy making lists, countdowns, and making sense of the world that I see around me.