It was a pretty great year in music. So when we were tasked with picking our favorite tunes from the past 12 months, it turned out to be difficult. The same names kept coming up again and again: The Weeknd, Drake, Future, Justin Bieber, Diplo. And we realized, the men were killing it in 2015. That, and there weren’t many one hit wonders, either.
So what worked on the charts this year? Crossover appeal, energy, individuality, and a dash of equal parts earnest and satirical lyrics – all wrapped up in a package that makes you want to dance.
Take a look at our choices below. Note: these are Global Grind’s favorite songs of the year, the tracks that we returned to again and again – not necessarily the greatest technically. Our only complaint? Not enough women. Please come harder in 2016, ladies!
Before we get started, some honorable mentions:
Jeremih “Planes” – an ode to the Mile High Club.
Alessia Cara “Here” – an ode to antisocialness.
Future “Where Ya At?” Featuring Drake – an ode to hanger-ons (and twerking).
Chris Brown “Liquor” – an ode to…you guessed it.
15. Adele “Hello”
Produced by Greg Kurstin
After taking time off to raise her child and lie low in London, Adele was like hey, what’s up “Hello” with her first song in three years. The sweeping ballad is quintessential Adele, full of soul, piano progressions, and a deep sense of longing that seems to way surpass any usual 27-year-old’s emotional maturity. While “Hello” isn’t exactly groundbreaking, we can’t underestimate how deeply Adele makes us feel well, feelings – moving some of our weekend plans past plain ol’ “Netflix and Chill” straight to “Adele and Cry.” Not to mention Adele was a welcome breath of fresh air in a year full of dudes, double cups, and booty calls.
14. Post Malone “White Iverson”
Produced by FKi
When we first heard Post Malone’s debut song “White Iverson,” we were like, ‘What is this??’ and then we were like, ‘Oh, this is kind of amazing.’ The white grill-wearing Dallas crooner is a bit of an odd figure among the usual hip-hop suspects, but this smooth basketball metaphor-laden track is undeniably infectious. Not to mention his amalgamated style is the definition of millennial – Post is a little bit of everything, and many could (correctly) accuse him of appropriating Black culture, but in a time when music, fashion, food, etc. are the epitome of multicultural, the sound makes sense to listeners. Look for Post to be featured on Kanye’s long-awaited album SWISH; if that isn’t the ultimate co-sign, we don’t know what is.
13. The Weeknd “The Hills”
Produced by Illangelo, Mano Cameron Waker
It’s probably an understatement to say The Weeknd had a huge year. Not to be one of those people, but Global Grind loved the dark, depressing, drug and sex-obsessed melancholy version of the crooner found on his first trilogy of mixtapes. And that’s why we love “The Hills.” The eery affair anthem’s chainsaw-reminiscent refrain could be culled straight from a horror flick, but the chorus still maintains just enough slick production and melodic posturing to maintain listenability. We’re surprised – but glad – they play “The Hills” so often on the radio. For Abel Tesfaye, the lyrics “When I’m fucked up, that’s the real me,” have never rang truer.
12. Travi$ Scott “Antidote”
Produced by WondaGurl, Eestbound
We dig Travi$ Scott, and “Antidote” is the G.O.O.D. Music artist at his peak, toeing the line between completely weird, totally tweaked out, and appropriately turned up. Travi$ is like the deranged younger brother of Yeezy, and “Antidote” is his anthem. From druggy autotune opining, to references to his complete dickish-ness (“Kickin’ the cameraman off of my stages/’Cause I don’t like how he snappin’ my angles”) RiRi’s possible boyfriend is a messy and dark twisted master rhymer. We’d pick “Antidote” as our poison any day.
11. Fetty Wap “My Way”
Produced by NickEBeats, JayFrance
You’re not reading this anymore, are you? Nope, you probably just started belting out, “Baby won’t you come my waaaayyy…” We don’t blame you, because the New Jersey singer/rapper basically took over our lives this year. I for one couldn’t get past a Kylie Jenner Snapchat (don’t judge) or a co-worker’s cubicle without hearing at least that one line. And yes, by the time you get through all three and a half minutes of the track, you’re probably a little tired (or dizzy) from the oft-repeated melody, but we have to give Fetty props for crafting some of the catchiest pop-rap of 2015. “My Way” is an almost-perfect example of his specific brand of artistry (keep reading to see what’s even more perfect). Squah!
10. Justin Bieber “What Do You Mean?”
Produced by Justin Bieber, MdL
Oh, Bieber. We can’t quit you. Just when we were ready to write Justin off as a former tween idol-gone-bad, he came storming back into our lives. “What Do You Mean?” is hilarious pop bliss. The lyrics are so juvenile, yet sincere, and the production is somehow so polished, yet spontaneous – the ticking clock and the flute instrumentation are downright genius. Plus, we get the insight we never needed into the Biebs’ girlfriend woes. Our favorite ad-lib admonishment to his bae? “Be more straight forward.” #RelationshipGoals.
9. Drake “Back To Back”
Produced by Daxz, Noah “40” Shebib, Drake
There’s not even much more to say than the fact that Drizzy got a Grammy nom off this Meek Mill diss track. Mic drop. OK, we won’t leave you there, but we will say Drake’s verbal barbs, “Is that a world tour, or your girl’s tour?” and “Trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers/You getting bodied by a singing n*gga” are, to use a completely overused word, epic. With “Back To Back,” Drake solidified his spot as an artist who will go number one on the charts by singing a nice pop-approved melody, and then completely cut you with those real rhymes – and still probably go number one. In 2015, no one does it better.
8. Big Sean “Blessings” featuring Drake and Kanye West
Produced by Vinylz, Allen Ritter
With the help of Drizzy’s confident and flippant hook, Big Sean solidified his huge comeback following last year’s GG favorite “IDFWU” and offered another hit off the truly excellent Dark Sky Paradise. “Blessings” features three rap giants doing what they do best: Drake takes a seemingly simple turn of phrase and sing-morphs it into a motto, Sean proves he can hold his own with a triple time verse, and ‘Ye’s closer referencing Star Wars, Snapchat, and North West shuts shit down. Plus, “Blessings” is Riley Curry’s favorite.
7. The Weeknd “Earned It”
Produced by Stephan Moccio, Jason “DaHeala” Quenneville
As the lead single off the 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack, “Earned It” first proved Abel could make music for the masses – including the 40 and over ladies worshipping at E.L. James’ altar. The sweeping melodramatic strings and slightly BDSM-referencing lyrics nicely complement The Weeknd’s sensual falsetto. It’s refreshing to hear the singer without all the production and electronica, merely showcasing his voice and artistry. On “Earned It,” Abel is as intimately exposed as one Miss Anastasia Steele.
6. Kendrick Lamar “Alright”
Produced by Pharrell Williams, Sounwave
Kendrick came back in full force this year, but no song captured the hope, degradation, desperation, and sluggish progress that was 2015 than “Alright.” There’s a reason why this song is the anthem of Black Lives Matter. It’s angry, uplifting, and inspiring, and if anyone could perfectly tap into the frustrating feeling of being a young Black person in a disenfranchised area of the country with so much intelligence and passion, it’s Compton’s new king. Police may be shooting first and asking questions later, Bill Cosby may not be who we thought he was, and Trump may be running for president, but we still gon’ be “Alright.”
5. Omarion “Post To Be” Featuring Chris Brown & Jhene Aiko
Produced by DJ Mustard
While this song was technically out at the end of last year, it really popped this past summer. “Post To Be” is a perfect pop song, with three equally strong verses from the artists and a bouncing beat courtesy of the inimitable DJ Mustard. The former B2K singer proved he could stand strong on the charts alongside his newer R&B counterparts, not to mention the track gave us the best lyric we heard all year (decade?) Yes, of course we’re talking about sweet Jhene Aiko’s “gotta eat the booty like groceries” line. And, we love when they sing their names at the end. “I’ll make him do it!”
4. Major Lazer “Lean On” Feating MØ.
Produced by Major Lazer, DJ Snake
Thank you Diplo, for another crossover dance hit we just don’t get sick of. “Lean On” is a perfect combination of reggae elements, sweet synths, and a pulsating beat that elicits uncontrollable head swaying. Danish singer MØ’s lyrics are sentimental, but not too syrupy, and possess the perfect amount of pop repetition to sing along to, without becoming annoying. Diplo may have caught flak for using musical elements from other cultures in the past, but on “Lean On,” he helps craft a crazy addictive sound all his own.
3. Jack Ü “Where Are Ü Now” Featuring Justin Bieber
Produced by Skrillex & Diplo
So we know we already gave the 2015 crown to Future, but damn, Diplo had one hell of a year. This is the best we’ve ever heard Bieber, and this song helped prove the troubled teen was growing into an actual bearable adult. His airy falsetto really sells the relatable lyrics, while the flute-sounding riff repeated throughout (it’s actually a screwed up loop of Justin’s voice) worms its way into your brain and refuses to leave. The partnership of two seemingly very different DJs works to perfection on this hit, swirling Skrillex’s flair for the dramatic with Diplo’s dancehall vibes into the saddest and most addictive electronic song we heard all year.
2. Fetty Wap “Trap Queen”
Produced by Tony Fadd
This is the song that started it all. Serving as the introduction to Fetty’s 1738 world, this trap banger appeals to everyone from hip-hop heads to moms, and had pre-teens everywhere looking up “Trap Queen” on Urban Dictionary. The way the Paterson, N.J. rapper sings to his woman is downright respectful compared to most rap joints, and we can’t stop from yelling out the infectious lyrics. After all, there’s a “sack to roll” and “pies in the kitchen” – we basically love this house. “Trap Queen” is the perfect crossover song, introducing rap to the mainstream while still maintaining its edge. “Yeahhh, baby” indeed.
1. Drake “Hotline Bling”
Produced by nineteen85
Ah, the song that launched a thousand covers. And there’s a reason for that. “Hotline Bling” is both intimate and soaring – Drake at his Drakest. It’s sad and also a little funny, thanks in part to the spectacular dancing happening in the accompanying video. Yes, Drizzy snagged the video game-inspired beat from DRAM’s pretty amazing “Cha Cha” and that may knock this song down a few pegs in your mind, but don’t let it. Drake turned a great beat into a nearly perfect four and half minutes dedicated to booty calls and jealousy. And there’s something to be said for a song that actually makes us consider picking up that phone instead of just sending out a desperate text. As long as Drake actually takes our call, that is.