Because of how low-key 2014 ended up being, I expected 2015 to be full of excitement only to be sorely disappointed that it was an even slower than its predecessor. It wasn’t until Adele said “hello” that the year roared to life and by then, it was practically over. Despite this, I was able to occupy my time and ears with an abundance of great songs by both new and established artists that came out this year.
We all have our own music tastes and I would never expect my list to be seen as any kind of definitive list to represent 2015 any more than I would expect Rolling Stone magazine or the Billboard chart to be the determining factor of the best of 2015. With that said, these are my picks of the best that 2015 had to offer me. These are all songs I listened to, was impressed by, enjoyed, or made me feel something or anything. If you feel something or anything by this list, act on it by commenting below and sharing your favourites of 2015.
50. Jarryd James – Do You Remember
This is a hypnotic folktronica song with a slice of R&B from Australia’s Jarryd James that gets its boost by a subtle melody supported by the sound of plucking guitars before building up to an eerily satisfying chorus.
49. Lunchmoney Lewis – Bills
I expected Bills to be this year’s Fuck You. A humourous take on the unfortunate circumstance presented in an old-school meets modern-day song. Only, where Cee Lo Green made a massive splash after his single’s initial struggle, Lunchmoney Lewis failed to achieve the same popularity with his song. Hopefully he managed to pay off those bills.
48. Anderson East – Satisfy Me
From the horns to the raspy vocals of Michael Cameron Anderson, also known as Anderson East, Satisfy Me is a timeless southern soul and blues track that plays as smoothly as the hammond in the background.
47. Justin Bieber – Sorry
Sorry gives Justin Bieber his third in a row following Where Are Ü Now and What Do You Mean. After years of being the most hated pop star, he’s rebounding and surreptitiously winning over new audiences thanks to his collaboration efforts with Skrillex and Diplo. While it’s still not quite ‘cool’ to admit to liking Bieber, it’s probably okay to publicly like his new material.
46. Drake – Hotline Bling
Drake has been leading the wave of Canadian artists on the international scene for several years but up until now, he had never truly won me over with any particular single. Hotline Bling can’t be ignored – probably mostly because of the video and its unintended quality of being THE video to parody, but the song is hot.
45. Dragonette – Let The Night Fall
Three albums of carefree party music and Dragonette continue to pump out more, each one better than the last. Let The Night Fall is, in theory, a precursor to a new album that could be coming early 2016, and is for sure an upward move from their last awesome first single Let It Go from Bodyparts.
44. Cœur de pirate – Carry On
In the early 2000s, I was an absolute sucker for the sound of a woman’s vocal over a pop melody in the singer/songwriter genre. So much so that even today, hearing anything fitting that description becomes my own personal earworm. It’s in my blood. Carry On is like a return to that golden age when Canadian singer/songwriting women were coming out of the woodwork and somehow every single one of them was something spectacular.
43. Alessia Cara – Here
I don’t know whether it’s the eerie sample of Issak Hayes’ Ike’s Rap 2, including his voice hauntingly inserted throughout, Alessia Cara’s vocals that make a song about not feeling social sound so soulful, or that it’s one of the year’s standout tracks by a new artist, but Here captured my attention.
42. Elle King – Eh’s And Oh’s
While being the daughter of Rob Schnieder might have worked to Elle King’s advantage, I kind of saw it as a strike against her (I don’t really like him), but hearing it on CBC Radio first in the fall of 2014, and again into this year I changed my tune. With vocals as sweet as Brenda Lee on a song as sassy as Dolly Parton, Ex’s And Oh’s was a true win-me-over.
41. Scott Helman – Machine
The coziness of last year’s Bungalow helped Scott Helman build his name this year, touring with Walk Off The Earth, playing at the MuchMusic Video Awards, and now opening for Matthew Good’s Canadian tour. Machine, from his Augusta EP, tinkers with his folk pop sensibilities, sitting far enough outside the box to avoid the predictable or safe labels, but not too far to be strange.
40. Rihanna – Bitch Better Have My Money
Bitch Better Have My Money is to Rihanna how Run The World (Girls) is to Beyoncé. Both were polarizing songs that kicked off an album campaign (- maybe, in Rihanna’s case) that didn’t perform well but still stand out in their vast discographies. Even today, Run The World could be considered one of Bey’s signature songs. I think the same will happen with this one for Rih, and even if it’s not an easy swallow, Bitch works because it’s so left field showing versatility beyond Rihanna’s ability to record made-for-radio hits.
39. Houndmouth – Sedona
The song about little Hollywood builds the perfect picture of a long forgotten western town where dreams were buried and careers were lost. Sedona paints the scene with both its lyrics and the general sound, thanks to the instrumentation and great harmonies by Houndmouth.
38. Muse – Psycho
Oh, it’s been so long since a power rock song knocked my socks off the way Psycho does. With so much of the genre watered down or infiltrated by other genres and producers, Muse let Psycho loose to do its own work helping keep riff-based rock alive for another year.
37. Life of Dillon – Overload
Even though Mumford & Sons dropped the banjo and The Lumineers have gone MIA, that didn’t stop London’s Life of Dillon from incorporating that brand of folk into a mishmash of pop and dance for Overload. It didn’t quite make the big time, but it would have been welcome hit from the folktronica end.
36. Jewel featuring Dolly Parton – My Father’s Daughter
Jewel’s autobiographical song with the Queen Dolly Parton is the warmest she’s sounded in almost a decade and a half. And as fantastic as Jewel’s return to form is on My Father’s Daughter, when Dolly opens the second verse with her signature sweet vocal, the melt commences.
35. Lady Gaga – Til It Happens To You
Lady Gaga’s vocal performance might not her brightest on this song and Diane Warren as a co-writer is perhaps more of a hindrance than not, Til It Happens To You is still an important song from an important documentary on a very important and under-discussed topic of conversation. Also hailed as one of the most important music videos of the year, the song comes with a message that sparks discussion that could be lifesaving. That’s big.
34. Janet featuring J. Cole – No Sleeep
No Sleeep was the Janet we’ve been missing since the 90s. Comparable to her sultry sexual songs from her iconic janet. album, it marked a return to form and kicked off one of the finest comebacks of the decade from a terribly under-appreciated-since-the-90s artist. After three underperforming albums in the 2000s, it’s kind of ironic that it took Janet returning to her signature sound to make a splash again.
33. Florence & The Machine – What Kind Of Man
The layering and effects on Florence Welsh’s vocal at the beginning of What Kind Of Man bring about a menacing sensation that don’t let up once the chanting and guitar kicks in. This song is more rock than previous ones, but Florence’s signature vocals power it up a couple notches to pure satisfaction. The dramatics might be gone but the raw emotion is in full force.
32. Ryan Adams – Bad Blood
It says a lot about Ryan Adams’ ambitious attempt at covering pop music’s biggest album of the decade when the worst song from Taylor Swift’s version is the best on his. What it says is that Bad Blood wasn’t actually a bad song, it just sounded better in other forms. It’s a compliment both to Taylor’s songwriting and Ryan’s interpreting. While it didn’t always work in Ryan’s favour, when it did, the result was great.
31. Tracy Chapman – Stand By Me [Live on Letterman]
When Tracy Chapman sings, I listen. Apparently I’m not the only one as her performance of Stand By Me on David Letterman went viral on social media back in April. Tracy performed the song as one of the last performances on The Late Show as one of David Letterman’s all-time favourite songs. Justice was done, but from Tracy Chapman, it always is.