Here are our picks for the best songs of 2015:
10. “Sorry” – Justin Bieber
Although released in November, this second single released from Bieber’s new album Purpose, “Sorry” is likely to remain a hit for the rest of the year and into the summer. The success of “Sorry” largely goes to hit-making Producer and DJ, Skrillex, but Bieber’s matured voice carries the track above and beyond similar club anthems. A catchy hook and a beat faintly rooted in salsa make the track endlessly danceable. “Sorry” is evidence that Bieber has left his days of simplistic crooning firmly in the past.
9. “Don’t Wanna Fight” – Alabama Shakes
The second song from Alabama Shakes’ sophomore record, Sound and Color, encapsulates the variety of sounds, skills, and singing techniques that encapsulate the band’s first Billboard number one album. Brittany Howard’s vocal expertise impressively squeals the song to start, and through the course of the track, she runs through a litany of falsettos, screams, and whispers that notably display her Motown influences and cements her among the most powerful voices in modern music. The song’s central riff showcases a refreshing combination of intricate jazz chords coupled with a steady rock beat that proves for a relatively simple, yet satisfying, listen.
8. “Really Love” – D’Angelo
The most most mesmerizing track off an entire album filled with mesmerizing soul cuts. During the 15-year gap between the release of D’Angelo’s last album and Black Messiah, he apparently taught himself how to play guitar—boy, does it show. The blistering flamenco solo that opens “Really Love” is a nice instrumental flourish, but what comes next is even better. In contrast to the heavy vocal overdubbing of his previous work, D’Angelo uses only a single track here, sounding tender, intimate, and almost vulnerable over the sleepy groove of his backup band. Even by his unattainable standards, this track is gorgeous.
7. “California” – Grimes
While it’s hard to pick one particular as a standout on Art Angels, “California” has to be one of Grimes’ finest songs to date. “California / You only like me when you think I’m looking sad,” she shrieks. It is both a finger-point and heartbroken confession on her rise to fame. She follows this up with “California / I didn’t think you’d end up treating me this bad” over one of the catchiest melodies released this year. “When you get bored of me I’ll be back on the shelf” she says, firmly tongue-in-cheek, but with this song—and the entirety of this record—it’ll be a while before people get bored of her.
6.“Love/Paranoia” – Tame Impala
Everything about “Love/Paranoia” pierces directly into the heart of anyone who has experienced a breakup. The frank title and lines like “I’ve heard those words before, / Are you sure it was nothing? / ‘Cause it made me feel like dying inside” encapsulate the intense hurt, regret, and remnants of love that follow a broken relationship. Add some sweeping synth work and a powerful bassline and you have the perfect breakup song. Yet, the song is neither overly-dramatic nor cold; the pop sensibilities of Tame Impala frontman Kevin Parker ground the track in reality, where life goes on.
5. “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” – Jamie xx
This was definitely the song of the summer. Built around a mixture of ‘70s soul and Jamie’s typically buoyant production, “Good Times” is a blast of pure sunshine to the ears. Young Thug’s verses are borderline incomprehensible as usual, but his playful style suits the production perfectly. Perhaps the most impactful thing about the song is its versatility. There’s something in “Good Times” for everyone from old-school ravers to modern-day trap queens. You could bump it in the club or play it lounging by the pool. Mostly though, it just sounds like summer.
4. “Depreston” – Courtney Barnett
On her debut album’s standout track, Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett deals with things that are all too familiar for the average 20-something: Hipsters, urban sprawl, and the question of how many cars can fit into a garage. “You said we should look out further / I guess it wouldn’t hurt us / We don’t have to be around all these coffee shops.” But as Barnett and her partner look around a potential bungalow she learns that it’s a deceased estate, prompting her to recognize the many lives being lived around her that she’s totally blind to. “Depreston” is the most millennial song ever written.
3. “Complexion (A Zulu Love)” – Kendrick Lamar
In the middle of an album that’s entirely about how the world functions in the present, Kendrick Lamar audaciously jumps back 200 years to tell a love story about a relationship between a field slave and a house slave on a cotton plantation. It unabashedly embraces its soul and R&B influences, with its thumping basslines and funky hook bringing a feeling of romance and levity to an otherwise heavy album. Despite its subject matter, it might be the most optimistic track on the album, extolling the virtues of love, no matter the cost.
2. “The Only Thing” – Sufjan Stevens
“Should I tear my heart out now? / Everything I feel returns to you somehow,” sings Sufjan Stevens in memory of his mother. He’s both wishing for her to return whilst also contemplating the possibility of ending his own life because living without her is simply too hard. “The Only Thing” captures the emotion of the entire record perfectly: It’s both longing and forward-looking; finding the tiniest light of happiness in an otherwise dark room; accepting and dealing with loss in order to fix a broken heart and live life fully.
1. “Sunday Candy” – Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment
2015 was not a good year. In the United States, police brutality, gun violence, and domestic terrorism crippled national trust and inspired the coast-to-coast “Black Lives Matter” movement. It was in this volatile climate that Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment released “Sunday Candy,” an upbeat sermon of song featuring Chance the Rapper’s sunshine verses and Jamila Woods sugar sweet chorus. The song is a welcome contrast to the atmosphere it was created in—simple but full of love. It inspires Chance’s lyrical Sunday best: “I am the thesis of her prayers / Her nieces and her nephews are just pieces of the layers / Only ones she love as much as me is Jesus Christ and Taylor.” Featuring both heartwarming lyrics, gospel-esque trumpet, and excellent production, “Sunday Candy” affirms itself as the best song of the year. It’s a celebration of family, tradition, and most importantly, love.