2015 has been an absolute standout year for new music, making the task of choosing only 15 songs and albums far more difficult than I remember in the past. I will not pretend that this list represents the best since I know I haven’t listened to everything made this year. But it does represent the songs that I have most enjoyed using to soundtrack my life this year. If there is no embedded video, the titles will link to a place where you can hear the tracks for yourself.
The production on this track is pretty subtle, at least for trap, and I can’t get enough of it. The hook is catchy, the beat is bouncy, and the whole thing never fails to bring a smile to my face.
(14) Should’ve Been Us – Tori Kelly
It took me a little too long to jump on the Tori Kelly train, but now I might as well be the conductor. Not only does her voice rival divas twice her age, she has the talent and charisma to stick around for the next several decades. For the most part I like her covers better than her originals, but “Should’ve Been Us” is my exception.
Jamie of The XX has for the last few years been regularly reminding me that he is not going away as one of my favourite dj/producers. I could have included a few tracks from his debut solo album, but ultimately it was this song featuring The XX bandmate, Romy Madley Croft, that has ended up on more of my playlists than any other.
This along with “Classic Man” launched Jidenna’s career this year, which was fine, but I was just happy for some new J.Monae music. “Yoga” is a bit of a departure from anything on Electric Lady, but I’m just happy that people dance to a song that includes the lyrics, “get off my areola!”
(11) Borders – M.I.A.
Still no new album from M.I.A. (she announced that one is on its way back in July), but this new video is enough to tide me over. Between the striking images of refugee boats, style-fusing production and politically charged lyrics, she is back to “Bad Girls” status.
Usually posted on youtube as a “Hotline Bling Remix,” this cover from Badu’s mixtape You Caint Use My Phone shows us how great this song can be if you put it in the hands of an artist like Erykah Badu. She turns a mainstream earworm into something both sexier and more whimsical, reminding me of what Nina Simone would do with standards.
Out of a whole album of songs devoted to Sufjan’s complicated emotions about his mother’s death, “The Only Thing” is the one gets me the closest to tears every time. It also is the song that most sounds like it could have come from an earlier album like Michigan or even Seven Swans, except for its deeply personal theme.
Chance is my man of the year. He has been shifting the landscape of 2015 music with every free release and collaboration with one brilliant young Chicago artist after another. (“Israel (Sparring)” is available for download on the Soundcloud link attached to the title above). Here he introduces me to the slam poet/rapper Noname Gypsy who seems to chill Chance out so much that he raps a little slower and clearer than usual.
(7) Mercy – Eryn Allen Kane
Every sound heard in this song was vocalized by Kane herself, though it is still a super impressive song even without knowing that bit of trivia. The artist formerly known as the artist formerly known as Prince was so impressed with this track that he’s since done a collaboration with Kane, so I think we have plenty more to hear from this young talent.
This was certainly my surprise this year: to be not only including Bieber in my list, but actually having to choose between a couple contenders from our favourite wayward Canadian teenager. “What Do U Mean” made it for its consistent groove, best representation of Purpose’s new trademark dolphin-esque sound, and lyrics like, “be more straightforward”!
The most recent release on my list signals my most anticipated 2016 album from Santigold, 99 Cents. It’s only been out for a few weeks, but I can’t get enough of this positive, upbeat jam.
Like “The Mother We Share” from their debut album, The Bones of What You Believe, “Leave a Trace” is the outstanding single from Chvrches’ latest record, Every Open Eye. The understated verses let the synthesizers and drum machines shine, while the chorus builds to become all about Lauren Mayberry (and me yelling along).
(3) WTF (Where They From) – Missy Elliott featuring Pharrell Williams
So, Missy Elliott is back, which, along with new music from Janet and M.I.A., has made this year a dream come true. And true to Missy’s career so far, this track is just as much about the visuals as the audibles. Since it hit the internet mid-November, this video has been on non-stop repeat in my household.
(2) Alright – Kendrick Lamar
This was another very difficult decision, since “Alright” comes from the very connected and cohesive album, To Pimp A Butterfly. Still, this song stood out with a positive message in the face of racialized police brutality, and became a kind of anthem for party-goers and protesters alike.
(1) Sunday Candy – The Social Experiment featuring Jamilla Woods
In a year full of fantastic music, there was no question about what my song of 2015 would be. If you haven’t been won over by either this sweet tribute to Chance the Rapper’s grandmother, or the playfully staged music video, I believe you either have yet to experience “Sunday Candy,” or you lack a heart.
Just for the record, there are a few honourable mentions that I went back and forth on. The Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face” was undoubtably the dance track of the year and I am a gigantic sucker for Jason Derulo’s “Want to Want Me“. Also, if it weren’t for every grocery store in Toronto overplaying it, I’d likely include Alessia Cara’s “Here“. Sometimes CanCon requirements really suck. Right up until the moment I hit publish, I will consider swapping any of these three into my list.
Also, I feel as though I need to say a little something about Adele’s “Hello“, which very much seems to be the planet’s song of the year… it just isn’t mine. Check back next week for my 15 choice albums of 2015!