Now 2015 is officially over, It allows us to recap on an incredible year for music with many highs such as the comeback of Adele after 3 years, the sheer dominance of Taylor Swift cleaning up at every award show and of course Justin Bieber sporting one of the best comebacks of all time after the world had pretty much written him off, The Meek Mill vs Drake feud which spawned Drake’s incredible Grammy-nominated ‘Back to Back’, and how could we forget the biggest winner of 2015 – Left Shark!
Although with the highs there have been some musical lows especially for One Direction who have experienced their worst year to date, the constant delays of Rihanna’s new album ‘ANTI’, Tidal (the less said about this the better), Tyler the Creator being banned from the UK based on music he released in 2011, even though he’s been in the country several times before ’cause logic, and last but not least the decline of the legend that is Madonna. Madonna is a true pop icon but nearly being 60 years of age and singing the lines “I poured a beer into my shoe and got my freak on” and “We go hard or we go home” reading those lyrics you wouldn’t be surprised if it was lyrics from Rebecca Black’s next single- You’re better than that, Madge! Such disastrous music even eclipsed this little incident…
Saying all that 2015 produced some absolute bangers and here are my top 20 songs of the year:
(20) Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You
When Carly Rae Jepsen first burst into our lives with the insanely catchy ‘Call Me Maybe’ in 2012, many people pegged her down as potentially just another one-hit wonder and although her following solo singles never really achieved the same success followed by a 3-year break many feared the worst for her career. However, luckily for her and us it truly was worth the wait with Carly dishing out yet another hook-laden track filled with poppy goodness.
It’s pure, solid gold pop, nothing more, nothing less. It’s not a song, that makes you ponder the meaning of life, it is simply just a fantastic pop song. Sometimes music is meant to be just fun and this is definitely that. I mean Tom Hank and Justin Bieber feature in the video, what more do you want?!
(19) Sawyer Fredericks – Imagine
When I wanted to do this article I thought to myself “no covers allowed” simply because it’s not their song but then I realised some of the best songs aren’t the originals. Many people think ‘All Along The Watchtower’ is a Jimi Hendrix song when in fact it is originally written and performed by Bob Dylan, the same goes for Whitney Houston’s iconic “I Will Always Love You” which is actually a Dolly Parton song.
Now, it’s fair to say when people say “Imagine” people will instantly think of John Lennon and a winner from the US version of The Voice isn’t going to change that nor is anyone else due to the level of its success already. However, the first time I heard this song was an audio clip on Youtube and already I was sceptical before it even began as I do whenever someone tries to cover such an iconic song. From the first few notes, I knew this was something special, this old, soulful voice singing each line with every ounce of passion and emotion. To then find out that the person singing isn’t a fully-grown man but in fact, only a 15-year-old kid truly blown my mind and I for one am incredibly excited to see what he produces in 2016. Hopefully, we will see him build a much-deserved fanbase in the UK and the rest of Europe.
(18) Fetty Wap – 679 ft Remy Boyz
Easily one of the biggest success stories of 2015. Fetty Wap has literally been a constant presence in the charts all over the world. He became the first male rapper in four years to have concurrent singles reach the top 10 of the same chart since Lil Wayne in 2011, not bad for a debut album!
For me, Westcoast banger “679” is the standout track for me. It’s the track that confirmed that Fetty is, in fact, going to be more Wiz Khalifa than Chamillionaire. There haven’t been any rappers who have excited me this much and had this amount of buzz around them since Drake came on the scene.
(17) Sia – Elastic Heart
Before Chandelier was released in 2014, Sia had only achieved a modest level of success in her home country of Australia and around Europe and was far better known for her songwriting abilities and her features on top 10 hits with David Guetta and Flo Rida that first gave her, her first taste of global chart success as a vocalist. This track was originally released in 2013 featuring future chart-dominator The Weeknd and super producer, Diplo for the Hunger Games: Catching Fire but still failed to chart in the US. Fast-forward 2 years, the removal of The Weeknd and Diplo and most importantly a number 1 smash hit and a “controversial” music video and you have a song that peaks at number 17.
Sia’s powerful albeit unique singing voice makes this song such a standout, could Rihanna or Beyonce make this song the hit that it was? Sia has undoubtedly found her forte performing big, belting ballads with killer hooks. As long as Sia keeps churning these out I’m sure we’ll be seeing a lot more of her face in the charts (excuse the pun).
(16) Drake – Back To Back
You don’t really get any serious Hip Hop “beef” anymore apart from Kanye West vs The World. The only music feuds now are often done by pop stars whether it’s Iggy Azalea and Britney Spears being passive aggressive on social media or Taylor Swift firing shots at Katy Perry by releasing “Bad Blood”. So when Meek “Twitter Fingers” Mill went off on a rant due to either being compared to Drake or Drake not retweeting his album (it’s most likely to be both) by making claims Drake doesn’t write his own songs. Drake hit back with 2 tracks “Charged Up” and “Back to Back” and after that any chance of a comeback was long gone, although Meek attempted to respond with “Wanna Know” but nobody did.
I’m not usually a fan of disses, more often than not, they’re sloppy and usually the insults are lazy and predictable and generalised and could be aimed at anyone. However, with this track I simply held my hands to my mouth in disbelief, it has been a long time since I’ve heard someone be so creatively put down. Writing, delivery and production make it easy to understand why this has a Grammy nod.I have in fact listed some of the best lines for you.
- Is that a world tour or your girl’s tour?
- Trigger fingers turn to twitter fingers, you getting bodied by a singing n****.
- I don’t wanna hear about this ever again, not even when she tell ’em that they better as friends.
(15) Meghan Trainor – Like I’m Going To Lose You ft John Legend
This track almost never made the list but I had to have Meghan Trainor appear somewhere on here. It seems every song she touches turns to commercial gold and this latest offering featuring the legendary John Legend is right up there with the best.
Musically Meghan Trainor doesn’t get a lot of credit although she has a good singing voice and can write incredible pop songs, working with John Legend definitely showcases a whole new side of her. John Legend undoubtedly brings out the best in whoever he works with and he definitely has here with emotional lyrics, solid harmonies that will tug on those heartstrings in the same way “All Of Me” did. This romantic ballad is guaranteed to be ringing out at every high school prom and wedding in 2016.
(14) 5 Seconds of Summer – She’s Kinda Hot
It’s been a big year for Aussie rockers/boyband 5SOS, they have broken away from their musical parents One Direction and are now standing on their own 8 feet. Although commercially the singles from their new album “Sounds Good Feels Good” aren’t doing as well as hoped there has been one song that has stood out for me – “She’s Kinda Hot”.
This pop/rock anthem sees them opt for a more stripped back sound with a simple but quirky guitar riff, before changing halfway through the song for punchy power chords and anthemic “Na Na Na’s that will you have you pounding the air and stomping your feet. 5 Seconds of Summer have proclaimed that they are indeed the leaders of a new broken scene. and with My Chemical Romance now no more, Fall Out Boy going for a more mature poppier sound and All Time Low pretty much disappearing from the charts it’s fair to say they currently are the leaders of this pop-punk/misunderstood teenage angst scene by default, let’s hope they can fix it.
(13) Shawn Mendes – Stitches
Since Justin Bieber first bounced onto our screens as a floppy-haired and stole the hearts of every female which has turned him into the face of pop culture for the 21st century. Record label officials all over the world rubbed their hands with glee after figuring out the winning formula for success – A teenage boy who looks and acts a bit “cool” and has every teenage girl will fall in love with and every female over 20 will refer to as “cute”. Sadly, it was not as easy as that as Cody Simpson, Austin Mahone and Conor Maynard will tell you.
This track from 17-year-old Shawn Mendes has gained a lot of airplay both sides of the Atlantic and even peaked at number 5 in the US charts along with various charts around Europe has gained the attention it rightfully it deserves. The infectious clapping-beat mixed with strong vocal performance makes it such a great song. At only 17 years of age, this guy is definitely one for the future.
(12) James Bay – Let It Go
It’s hard to believe it was only just over a year ago this guy was performing in venues containing only a couple of hundred. Fast forward one year and he has a platinum, number 1 selling album which broke the top 10 in charts all over the world, 3 Grammy nominations, 1 Brit Award, 1 performance at the MTV EMA, an abundance of new fans including The Rolling Stones and One Direction and also over 100 million views on Youtube on his 2 most popular tracks alone. It truly has been a great year for the long-haired, big-hatted one.
The re-release of “Let It Go” is the reason for its inclusion in the list. His soulful voice pierces deep in this song which compliments the powerful lyrics perfectly. The song seems so simple and stripped back but it works so wonderfully, it doesn’t need any extra touches, the music simply speaks for itself.
(11) Ariana Grande – One Last Time
Ariana’s public image has taken a fair battering this year, if she’s not been angering doughnut shop owners then she’s angering Americans in general. Apart from those 2 incidents and her she has been relatively quiet since she released her last single from the platinum-selling album “My Everything” which was probably the best single on the album.
This song features Ariana at her best, vocally she is one the best and can reach notes only few can achieve. Some of Ariana’s other tracks often sound overly produced and can deflect from her amazing vocal ability. That’s why I feel she doesn’t get the credit and respect she deserves as a musician.
(10) Taylor Swift – Style
2015 has been all about Taylor Swift and her sheer dominance over all of her rivals since the release of “1989” last year. Every awards show has been dominated by the “1989” behemoth, her world tour grossed over £160m. Her tour saw her bring out all of her A-list celebrity friends such as Mick Jagger, Avril Lavigne, Justin Timberlake and most importantly her performance with Friends character Phoebe Buffay.
Although “Style” wasn’t even her best song from the album it speaks volumes for the quality of the album that it places so high on this list. This Harry Styles-inspired song sees Taylor, step further away from her country roots and make the most of this new funk-pop sound that has pushed her to the forefront of pop music.
(9) Justin Bieber – Love Yourself
The world has watched the Biebs change his sound and public perception this year. His “Purpose” album saw him gain plaudits from music critics all over the world and gain a more credible audience. It’s fair to say the tide has finally turned for him and he’s getting the respect he deserves.
You can hear Ed Sheeran’s influence all over this track and whatever Ed touches instantly turns into a hit. This acoustic track highlights the powerful lyrics and shows Bieber can hold his own without all the fancy production that made “Believe” a commercial success. This track feels more real than anything Bieber has ever released. Although “Believe” was a fantastic pop album it lacks proper substance and with this track it shows a lot more what Bieber is like as a musician rather than just a pop figure.
(8) Fall Out Boy – Uma Thurman
Since Fall Out Boy returned from their hiatus they have a new-found buzz around them. Their songs still have you singing as loud as you can in the shower while thinking about what they even mean at 3 am in bed – I’m still trying to work out what “I’ll be your number one with a bullet, a loaded God complex, cock it and pull it” means. Many thought it was over for the US rockers after a commercially poor album and hiatus. However, two number 1 albums later and some new hairstyles the band have managed to cement their status as kings of the Rock/Pop genre.
This up-tempo, Munsters-sampled track sees Fall Out Boy on top form which shows why they are the only band of recent times to successfully make the rock/pop crossover without completely selling out – Yes, I’m looking at you Maroon 5.
(7) Rachel Platten – Fight Song
Who is Rachel Platten? Honestly, I can’t answer that. A quick Google search shows she is a 34-year-old American singer. Like many, I discovered her when I turned on the radio to hear this song being played on every station.
This song has taken a fair few beatings from critics especially for being unoriginal, but personally, I feel that’s what makes it so good. This could easily be a mid-noughties Kelly Clarkson song, a song that is just pop perfection, uplifting, inspiring and incredibly well written. Pop music needs another Kelly Clarkson since even Kelly Clarkson has stopped being Kelly Clarkson. Whether Miss Platten is going to step-up and release a consistent stream of pop bangers is unknown, only time will tell but it is definitely looking promising for the New Yorker!
(6) Justin Bieber – What Do You Mean
There hasn’t been such a divisive figure in pop music before, although he has held up his hands and apologised for let’s just say an eventful year. His career was based around his big comeback single, he entered 2016 with only his Beliebers (which were inevitably in decline) for support against the world in 2016. A constant stream of apologies on The Ellen Degeneres Show, publically being roasted on Comedy Central and a top 10 hit featuring on a track with 2 of the most in-demand producers Diplo & Skrillex helped set him up his own solo release and the rest, as they say, is history.
This is not what we had come to expect from Justin Bieber, he needed another hit after his experimental hip-hop/RnB “Journals” era. It would have been a safe bet to bring in a team of super producers and writers with a host of A-list features and leave Justin to be the face. Instead, he released a string of hits that pushed him from just another regular pop singer to a credible musician. Lyrically, What Do You Mean is the most hard-hitting as it is the first time we can truly witness what the real Bieber is all about which is assisted by his killer delivery of each line. Bieber has experimented with a whole range of sounds over the years but this is by far the most confident he has sounded.
(5) The Weeknd – Can’t Feel My Face
What a year it has been for the big-haired, softly spoken singer. The Weeknd has been bubbling under the surface for the past few years featuring on songs with Drake, Wiz Khalifa and Sia but it wasn’t until 2014 till he got his own first breakthrough in the charts with “Often” which set him up for an incredible year that saw his album go platinum and produce 2 Number 1 hits.
His music has seen him draw comparisons to the late Michael Jackson with his high-pitched vocals, funky 80’s beats and MJ-inspired dance moves. We’ve not heard a quality R&B song like this in a while. It will be interesting to see whether he can keep this level of consistency up in his next album.
(4) One Direction – Drag Me Down
What a year it has been for the now four-piece boyband, they lost their best vocalist, their tour was dogged by rumours of a decline in ticket sales compared to their tour the year before which was the 12th highest grossing tour of all time, losing out to comeback kid Justin Bieber in the sales race for number 1 followed by an indefinite hiatus rumoured to be around 18 months.
One of the only few positives from this year for the band is their lead single “Drag Me Down” this track sees them remain with their stadium-rock/pop sound that made their previous 2 albums so successful amongst critics. Not even the loss of a Zayn Malik high note could take away from this anthemic pop gem with Harry Styles showcasing his own impressive vocal ability towards the end of the song.
(3) Jamie Lawson – Wasn’t Expecting That
So Jamie Lawson is number 3 on my list. It’s fair to say you weren’t expecting that (Ha! Been waiting all day to use that one). Jamie is the first artist to be signed to Ed Sheeran’s new label Gingerbread Man Records and also went on tour with Ed and One Direction last year.
This hit has all the makings of a quality acoustic song beautiful lyrics and a captivating hook that even Ed would be proud of. The first time I heard this song was at One Direction’s concert in Glasgow and the way the whole arena was engrossed in watching this one man performing this song was similar to the way Ed does, it was incredible to watch. Whether his other songs will achieve the same level of success only time will tell but for the time being the “wasn’t expecting that”hook is so simple but memorable and that’s how the full song works so well.
(2) Little Mix – Black Magic
What a year for Little Mix it has been, they got their highest-charting single in the US and had their first number 1 single in 3 years and it stayed at the top for 3 weeks. They have been busy promoting themselves in the US once again with Fifth Harmony as their main competition in the girl group stakes.
There is nothing better than hearing a great pop song, nothing pretentious or over the top, just a well-written pop song filled with catchy hooks and that’s what “Black Magic” is all about it. It has that “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” party anthem kind of vibe that makes it just instantly enjoyable to listen to. A song that pushes beyond Little Mix’s usual demographic and appeals to a wider audience.
(1) Adele – Hello
There honestly is nothing I can add that hasn’t been said before about Adele in the past 3 months. In only one month her album has already sold 12 million copies worldwide, her first single in 3 years went to number 1 in 85 countries and topped the singles chart on Itunes in over 100 countries – Quick Quiz: Try and name 100 countries without using Google. There has been no one who has made such an impact on music in decades commercially her sales are through the roof. When Adele finally hangs up the mic she will go down as one of the biggest stars of all time.
In her big comeback, Adele sticks to the winning formula that made “21” the biggest-selling album of the century in only a short few years. A slow ballad with a big, belting chorus that will have you clutching your chest while calling in sick to work for the rest of the year due to a severe case of the feels. Incredibly well written and easily one of the best songs of the decade if not this century.
And there we have my top 20 songs of 2015, you can catch all of these tracks on my Pookiepop Playlist on Spotify except for Taylor Swift’s “Style” and Sawyer Fredericks cover of “Imagine”.
Let me know what you think of my choices and what your top 20 would be either in the comments or on my social media channels.