The Best Songs of 2015

These are the top tracks that came out this year.

best songs of 2015


best songs of 2015

At any given moment, there are about 90 songs on the Apple Music Hot Tracks list, 30 on your Discover Weekly collection on Spotify, and 100 songs on, go figure, the Billboard Hot 100. Of these roughly 220 songs, let's say about 75 percent of them are from 2015, 72 percent of those fall into pop, rap, R&B, dance, and other genres that Complex covers, so that brings us to 118.8 songs. Then you retrieve the lost two-tenths of that one song, which brings the count to 119. Next, you write all of those titles on slips of paper, throw them in the air, and the 50 that touch the ground first make our year-end list.

Or not. 

Just as it did with our best albums of 2015 list, our best songs list required many conversations, drafts and redrafts, raised hands and written co-signs, followed by lots of last-minute decisions about rankings. Sometimes songs make it on there because of statistics. Other times, you have to consider a track because you've been spouting its lyrics at coworkers all year or because it made a handful of editors remain in a dark conference room long after the official meeting had ended just so they could listen again. It is not an exact science, but we are not scientists, nor are we mathematicians (please never make us do percentages again). We are though, allegedly, writers, so here are our picks for the best songs of 2015 and the reasons why we chose them. 

Listen to our Best Songs of 2015 playlist on Spotify and Apple Music right now.


RELATED: The 50 Best Albums of 2016

RELATED: Best Songs of 2016

50. Selena Gomez “Hands to Myself”

Producer: Mattman & Robin, Max Martin
Label: Interscope
Released: Oct. 9

Selena Gomez snuck in one of the best lines in music in 2015—“I mean I could, but why would I want to?!”—on her hit single “Hands to Myself.” On the Max Martin-produced pop hit, Selena’s coy attitude and breathy vocals come to a peak while singing about that “metaphorical gin-and-juice” and finding her man, through good and bad, absolutely irresistible. It’s an effortlessly catchy pop smash, but more importantly, it finds Selena at her most playful—she’s making grown and sexy music now, and she’s not afraid to show it. —Lauren Nostro


49. Tory Lanez “Say It”

Producer: Pop & Oak
Label: Mad Love, Interscope
Released: July 31

Tory Lanez isn’t an unknown talent anymore. Without a major co-sign in his corner, the Toronto crooner/rapper has organically built up his fame through impressive projects and radio-ready singles that blend his propensity for good songwriting and velvety hooks. He’s anchored songs by Meek Mill and G-Eazy, becoming a fresh face to check out outside of established stars like Chris Brown and Trey Songz. This summer, we were treated to “Say It,” a pop/R&B ballad that quietly took over the Internet and ruled romance playlists in 2015. Produced by Pop Wansel with an incredible Brownstone sample, the slow-burning track describes what we want after the lustful stage of a relationship wears off. Simply put, show your attraction, don't just tell it. —Eric Diep


48. Kranium f/ Ty Dolla $ign “Nobody Has to Know”

Producer: Lamar "LMR" Reynolds
Label: Atlantic
Released: July 28

Kranium didn’t need Ty Dolla $ign to make “Nobody Has To Know” a hit. But, damn does he sound good on the remix and gave the track a second breath. I heard the song in a video on Amber Rose’s Instagram (sue me), and it’s immediately captivating, and later soundtracked my entire summer. But even in the depths of winter hell, this song still goes—the original dropped in 2013 and is still gaining buzz these days. Slow grind to this during cuffing season and we’re sure you’ll be more successful than last year. —Lauren Nostro


47. Hudson Mohawke “Ryderz”

Producer: Hudson Mohawke
Label: Warp
Released: April 12

There’s a genre I think of as “black gloves” music. For a Halloween costume he wore years ago, someone close to me put on black gloves. Near the end of the night, he punched out the driver’s side window of a car (He was drunk; he was on a college campus; he’s sorry). After he told the story, I asked why? Why would he punch through the window of a car? He said, “I was wearing black gloves: I felt like I could do anything.” The thing is, I understood him immediately. Some songs make you feel that way. Powered by a rollicking, heartfelt sample of D.J. Rogers’s “Watch Out for the Riders,” Scottish producer Hudson Mohawke’s “Ryderz” is the feeling of invincibility. Especially the drop at 53 seconds in, coming as it does on the heels of a gentle repetition of the song’s refrain. Then the song busts glass. —Ross Scarano 


46. Boogie “Oh My”

Producer: Jahlil Beats
Label: Interscope
Released: April 9

Was I hasty in my proclaiming Boogie's "Oh My" the song of Summer 2015? Yes, OK. I failed to predict that the Weeknd would blow the doors off the Hot 100 with the greatest post-disco MJ facsimile of all time; and that Future would spark the hottest mixtape spree of the decade so far. Still, in a year that's yielded so much worthy competition for our attention, "Oh My" is an early coup for the indie rapper from Compton. On Boogie's latest mixtape, The Reach, "Oh My" is the bold exception to a soulful aesthetic; the only one these songs that's crafted to be a blockbuster. —Justin Charity


45. Carly Rae Jepsen “All That”

Producer: Ariel Rechtshaid
Label: 604, School Boy, Interscope, Universal
Released: April 5

For anyone who's been aching from that void left by 1999-era Britney Spears, Carly Rae's slow dance jam will ooze right into that space and warm up the empty seat. After establishing herself with some very quotable radio hits ("Call Me Maybe," "I Really Like You") Carly paired up with musician/producer Dev Hynes, a.k.a. Blood Orange, to show us she actually shines brightest in the feels department. "All That" is a make-eyes-across-the-room prom number that's a little bit of Prince and a whole lot of "From the Bottom of My Broken Heart" Britney. —Kristen Yoonsoo Kim


44. Vince Staples “Norf Norf”

Producer: Clams Casino
Label: ARTium, Def Jam
Released: June 22

Of all the sparse, black beats of Summertime '06, "Norf Norf" is the best suited to Vince Staples' voice; one of just a few moments on the album when Vince is truly, unconquerably in the pocket. Where many contemporary street rappers are introspective to the point of claustrophobia, Vince is a curator and mayor and Long Beach: "Hit the corner, make a dollar, flip it/Split the dollars with my mama children/Folks need Porsches, hoes need abortions." —Justin Charity


43. Action Bronson f/ Chance the Rapper “Baby Blue”

Producer: Mark Ronson
Label: Atlantic
Released: March 2

Action Bronson came into his own with Mr. Wonderful, showing that he’s actually not a carbon copy of Ghostface Killah, but an eclectic MC with a sharp eye for storytelling. That became abundantly clear on “Baby Blue,” one of the standouts on the album featuring Chance The Rapper. Veteran producer Mark Ronson provides a nice contrast for the rappers to express their feelings about moving on from women who broke their hearts. The production is triumphant and warm, giving you all the more reasons to sing along instead of sulking over the break-up. Both approach the soulful ballad differently, but it's Chance’s vivid descriptions of wishing misfortune on his ex that steals the show. —Eric Diep


42. Rich Homie Quan “Flex (Ooh, Ooh, Ooh)”

Producer: DJ Spinz, Nitti Beatz
Label: T.I.G. Entertainment
Released: Jan. 2

Last year, it seems like you couldn’t escape Rich Homie Quan. He was rolling with Rich Gang and was part of two crossover hits (“Lifestyle” and “Flava”) that racked up millions of views on Vevo. But as time went on, Young Thug and Quan grew apart for reasons still unknown. Some jabs were exchanged, and now the two are concentrating on their solo careers until Birdman decides to get the band together again. One good thing that came out of the split was “Flex,” which originally appeared on February’s If You Ever Think I Will Stop Goin’ In Ask Royal Rich* Since then, it has gained “Type of Way” levels of popularity by inspiring a dance craze from his moves in the video led by iHeart Memphis' “Hit the Quan." The insanely catchy song with a carefree hook shows that RHQ is doing just fine on his own. —Eric Diep


41. Meek Mill f/ Tory Lanez “Lord Knows”

Producer: Play Picasso, Tory Lanez
Label: MMG, Atlantic
Released: June 29

“R.I.C.O.” may be the most talked about Meek Mill record of 2015, but “Lord Knows” is his absolute best. The opener of Dreams Worth More Than Money features two extended verses full of tenacity and quotables from the Philly spitter. “They locked me up and slowed my album up/But I did not give up cause I knew I would prevail” rings out over booming production, and a noticeable flip of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s haunting “Lacrimosa” only adds to the intensity. Tory Lanez previously revealed this was a throwaway cut from his stash. We’re glad he shared it with Meek to absolutely rip. Still, It’s no “Dreams and Nightmares.” —Edwin Ortiz


40. dvsn “The Line”

Producer: Nineteen85
Label: N/A
Released: Oct. 3

Ross and Zach really, really love this song. So much so that they each had to write part of this blurb.

What makes "The Line" great is the ambition and grandeur. Much like a lot of the long R&B songs of the '70s, stuff like "I Miss You" and "Cause I Love You," this is swinging for the fences, both in terms of sheer length and in other arrangement decisions, like the multi-tracked vocals. I respect it because you open yourself up to so much potential corniness attempting something like this, but dvsn and nineteen85 pull it off. In part because there's nothing tongue in cheek about it. It's insanely sincere. —Ross Scarano

The production, vocals, lyrics—everything about "The Line" is really a moving experience. The enigmatic dvsn longs for someone to trust and eventually gives into his feelings on the track. He's only released three songs so far, but when you hear all of them together, you realize that a promising career is sitting right in front of him. —Zach Frydenlund


39. Jason Derulo “Want to Want Me”

Producer: Ian Kirkpatrick
Label: Warner Bros.
Released: Mar. 6

Maybe people weren’t checking for Jason Derulo this year. After all, “Talk Dirty” and “Wiggle” were almost unlistenable, although they eventually went viral thanks to Vine and... poor taste. When “Want To Want Me” dropped, it’s to no surprise that it went under the radar, critically. But Derulo is a pop genius and his Ian Kirkpatrick-produced 2015 hit is a borderline perfect pop song—maybe not as memorable as others this year, but it’s up there. His falsetto is hypnotizing, the disco-influenced melody reaches a peak during the chorus, which in it of itself is simple—borderline corny—but catchy as hell. “Want to Want Me” is just fun, and is a strong departure from his Talk Dirty sounds. —Lauren Nostro


38. Jamie xx f/ Romy “Loud Places”

Producer: Jamie xx, Romy Madley Croft, Rick Nowels, Tony Sarafino
Label: Young Turks
Released: Mar. 25

The beauty of Jamie xx's collaboration track with his xx bandmate Romy is that it's equally a dancefloor celebration as it is a solitary nightcap number. The joyful Idris Muhammad sample of "Could Heaven Ever Be Like This" is the warm toast to Romy's coat of molasses, her soft, melancholy-tinged whisper brought to life by Jamie's arrangement. It's complex in taste but not hard to digest, and it's impossible not to warm up to. Jamie xx, of course, is one hell of a baker and this In Colour track—which could easily soundtrack a sepia-toned movie montage—is cooked to perfection. —Kristen Yoonsoo Kim 


37. Young Thug “Check”

Producer: London on da Track
Label: 300 Ent., Atlantic
Released: April 1

There's approx. 10,000 rap songs called "Check," all of them dropped this year, and this one is the very best. Overall, Barter 6 is a dark tape, even in Thugger's most buoyed and amused moments. In particular, "Check" is an enigmatic contradiction of mood (somber) and gist (I'm rich): "I pull up in Bentleys with London." Not one, shared Bentley, mind you, but separate cars. Earlier this year, I asked "Check" producer London on da Track himself about his musical influences and modus operandi. London told me that his pessimistic melodies will, ideally, drive you to drink. I suppose this explains why "Check," a payday anthem, sounds rather like a field hymn. —Justin Charity


36. Ty Dolla $ign f/ Big TC and D-Loc “Miracle/Wherever”

Producer: D'Mile, Nate 3D, Ty Dolla $ign
Label: Taylor Gang, Pu$haz Ink, Atlantic
Released: Nov. 13

From the opening note on Ty Dolla $ign's "Miracle/Wherever," you can tell the song is special. Through a prison phone, Ty's brother, TC, is singing his heart out. TC, who the album's named after, sings about life's blessings, even though he's currently facing a life sentence. The gut-wrenching opening proceeds to a hook with both Ty and TC joining forces. You can feel the connection between the two and how important their brotherly bond is, no matter the distance. Of course, with Ty comes his everlasting versatility, so there's no surprise that the second half of the track is all about his filthy journey with a chick. —Zach Frydenlund


35. Snakehips f/ Tinashe and Chance the Rapper “All My Friends”

Producer: Snakehips
Label: SONY
Released: Oct. 20

“All my friends are wasted, and I hate this club, man, I drink too much.” And just like that, Tinashe puts a very real twist on production duo Snakehips’ song about going out on a Friday night. “Sure I get lonely some nights,” she says as she carries the verses, save for a few warnings of self-care from Chance the Rapper toward the end. Vulture metaphors aside, this song often feels less like a pop hit and more like an Irish sing-along, complete with a sad cheers to your friends: If you are going to be out and find yourself lonely, take comfort in knowing that at least you have some company when the chorus kicks in. —Christine Werthman


34. A$AP Rocky f/ Rod Stewart, Miguel, and Mark Ronson “Everyday”

Producer: Mark Ronson, Emile Haynie, Frans Mernick, Jeff Bhasker, LORD FLACKO, Tom Elmhirst, Hudson Mohawke
Label: A$AP Worldwide, Polo Grounds, RCA
Released: May 7

The story of A.L.L.A: its themes, its recording history; its creator's mindset, are all here packed into this one song, the penultimate on the album. A$AP Rocky, Miguel, Mark Ronson and.. Rod Stewart?! This shouldn't work. But Flacko immersed himself in London, got on his Hendrix wave moreso than Future this year (if we're being honest), and made a winning fusion of hip-hop and '60s-era rock, extolling the ups and downs of his rockstar life. "How it feel to get a deal, come back and the whole hood look like you?" A.L.L.A, is Rocky in a haze of post-fame ennui, "Everyday" is its pleasantly surprisingly successful thesis statement. Many rappers have tried to genre-bend with rock, but the general of A$AP Mob is one of few to actually pull it off. —Frazier Tharpe


33. Kendrick Lamar “The Blacker the Berry”

Producer: Boi-1da, Terrace Martin, KOZ, Katalyst
Label: Top Dawg, Aftermath, Interscope
Released: Feb. 9

To Pimp a Butterfly is topping a lot of Best Album lists, and it’s easy to see why based on “The Blacker the Berry.” Whereas K. Dot’s first single “i” was generally hated on by critics and fans, “The Blacker the Berry” was a more conventional hip-hop record with complexities about being black in America. K. Dot’s politically charged track is an important one this year, transcending our expectations of “just another rap single” and becoming part of an ongoing conversation on racial tension in America and the Black Lives Matter movement. Like the album itself, the song has been examined thoroughly and sparked intrigue, peeling the meanings of Kendrick’s claim he’s the biggest hypocrite in 2015. It’s a history lesson for anyone who feels conflicted about showing love to a culture they’re born in, while being frustrated with how it has evolved over time. "The Blacker the Berry" is K. Dot's message to encourage change. It's about time we listened. —Eric Diep


32. Kehlani “Bright”

Producer: Geoffro Cause
Label: N/A
Released: April 28

Undoubtedly, "Grammy-nominated R&B singer Kehlani" has a nice ring to it. Whether her latest mixtape, You Should Be Here, wins Best Urban Contemporary Album in February, we're presently sure enough that "Bright" is one of the most endearing songs of her young career. With blues swagger and compassionate gusto, Kehlani sings to "a little girl watching her reflection" and then "a little boy sitting in the bleachers," exhorting both subjects to take better care of themselves instead of begging for the love of others. Such confidence is why we love Kehlani. —Justin Charity


31. Tinashe f/ Chris Brown “Player”

Producer: Lulou Alexander, Kronlund
Label: RCA
Released: Oct. 2

Tinashe was the stealthy MVP of R&B in 2015. Amethyst—the quick, mixtape follow-up to Tinashe's debut album, Aquarius—was the prelude to the rollout of her sophomore album. So far we've got two singles: "Party Favors," featuring Young Thug, and "Player," featuring Chris Brown. It's the latter single that's really taken off; in just two months, it's accumulated 8.5 million views on YouTube and surpassed the peak position of "2 On" in Billboard's Digital Songs tracking. Sonically, "Player" is an R&B boss fight. Not yet the biggest song of Tinashe's young career, but a sign of bigger hooks and bigger strides. —Justin Charity


30. Janet Jackson “No Sleeep”

Producer: Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis
Label: Rhythm Nation, BMG
Released: June 22

Janet Jackson, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis form one of music’s holy trinities. The work they’ve created together—including the immaculate four-album streak of Control, Rhythm Nation 1814janet., and The Velvet Rope—stands as some of the greatest collaborative work in not just R&B, but all of popular music. So when, in 2015, Jackson releases a single with Jam and Lewis after going seven years without a new album, the bar is set really freaking high. “No Sleeep” doesn’t embarrass itself chasing an of-the-moment sound; it’s mellow sex music driven by a deep bassline and Jackson’s spun-sugar vocals. The song doesn’t try to fit Jackson into anhedonic K-hole. No, if anything this is grown and sexy music, but minus the Bluetooth and boot-cut jeans. It fits perfectly. —Ross Scarano


29. Joanna Newsom, “Sapokanikan”

Producer: Joanna Newsom, Noah Georgeson
Label: Drag City
Released: Aug. 10

In his Aeneid, the Roman poet Virgil wrote, as an earnest aside, "If my songs have any power, the day will never dawn that wipes you from the memory of the ages." In the spirit of such commemoration, Joanna Newsom has written "Sapokanikan," a song all about erosion, erasure, and the wrecked immortality of even the most vigorous societies. At the top of "Sapokanikan," a piano wakes, a snare rolls from bed, and Joanna Newsom marches into fond contemplation of one borough's many buried, pre-industrial achievements. The music video, filmed in Lower Manhattan, provides a guided tour of Newsom's sparkling ode to New York's fossil record, with village life predating the intrusion of European settlers in 1524 by like six thousand years. See? The verse preserves us all. —Justin Charity


28. Wet “Weak”

Producer: Wet
Label: Columbia
Released: Sept. 23

SWV’s “Weak,” released in 1993, is an ode to the helpless, vulnerable feeling brought on by someone you like. It’s fitting then that Wet’s Kelly Zutrau is admittedly a fan of the song and had it on her mind as she wrote the words for her own group’s track of the same name. Hers has more desperation in it, her straight line of a voice simple and clear but never thin as she knocks out a round of “Baby, baby, baby”s. The instruments take a stronger stance in this version too, with the swell of drums, piano, strings, and guitar at the close providing the perfect backdrop for her final pleas: “If you’re leaving, you would only take from me.” If SWV catches the moment when you melt into a puddle, Wet finds you when you’re on your knees. —Christine Werthman


27. Towkio f/ Chance the Rapper, Lido, and Eryn Allen Kane “Heaven Only Knows”

Producer: Lido
Label: N/A
Released: April 8

You’d be hard-pressed to find a better record that exemplifies the SaveMoney state of mind than Towkio’s “Heaven Only Knows.” A jubilant backdrop from Norwegian producer Lido that also borrows from John Legend’s “Heaven” sets the tone, and Towkio delivers an opening verse that is equal parts self-assured and inspiring as he raps, “It's my job to make them think, and make music that they feel.” Chance the Rapper keeps the energy level high with a double-time flow and his usual vibrant demeanor; we wouldn’t put it past Chance if he was juking while recording this in the studio. Towkio earned his seat at the SaveMoney table this year with his breakout mixtape, .Wav Theory, and “Heaven Only Knows” was a major reason why. —Edwin Ortiz


26. Tyler, the Creator f/ Kanye West and Lil Wayne “SMUCKERS”

Producer: Tyler, the Creator
Label: Odd Future, Sony
Released: April 13

Tyler, the Creator admits he appreciates certain era of creativity from Kanye West and Lil Wayne. It’s ‘Ye and Weezy in '05/'06 mode when they were so refreshing, innovative and at the top of their game. When Late Registration and Tha Carter II dropped in 2005, Tyler was only 14 years old. “SMUCKERS” isn’t about stunting that you have two of the biggest rappers on your song. Really, it's about paying homage to these influencers that shaped the sound of new rappers we see today. “SMUCKERS” bridges the gap between the past and the future, with Tyler serving as the young novice who will carry the torch. You got ‘Ye rapping like this (“Richer than white people with black kids/Scarier than black people with ideas”) and Tune rapping like this again (“It’s Tunechi, homie, master of ceremonies/I knock ‘em down, domino effect; no pepperoni”) all over Tyler's luscious soundscapes. This is his proudest achievement by far. —Eric Diep 


25. Lupe Fiasco “Mural”

Producer: The Buchanans
Label: Atlantic, 1st & 15th Entertainment
Released: Jan. 17

Lupe Fiasco has had lyrical blackouts in the past (“SLR” comes to mind) but there’s no song where he’s gone quite as Super Saiyan as he does on “Mural.” He flips a familiar sample of Alain Mion and Cortex’s "Chanson d'Un Jour d'Hiver" but finds so many pockets within the beat to to variate his flow. His raps are essentially “assorted memories” from his Chicago upbringing, but there’s a stream of flashes of brilliance of imagery, language, delivery, and wordplay that reward repeated listens for rap nerds eager to find a puzzle worth deciphering. There’s few eight-minute rap songs with no hook anyone would bother listening to, but Lupe’s ability to keep a listener engaged throughout proves he’s everything his biggest proponents always made him out to be because no one but him could have made a song like this. —Insanul Ahmed


24. Jeremih “oui”

Producer: Needlz, DONUT
Label: Def Jam
Released: Oct. 29

The world of “Late Nights” that Jeremih has been crafting his since 2012 mixtape and finally realized with his long-delayed recently released third album is one of dim lights, quick-burning dalliances, and the occasional turn up. With “Oui,” Jeremih opts for something brighter as he uses his sparkly tenor to express love for a woman he’s not afraid to be seen with during the daylight hours. It’s a light ditty that combines the aesthetics of previous songs like the boyish “Starting All Over” and the lust-drunk “773 Love.” It’s a welcomed departure for a guy who’s become known more as conduit for rapper-backed R&B hits. Hopefully we don’t have to wait another three years to get a peek into his world. —Damien Scott


23. Future “Stick Talk”

Producer: Southside
Label: A1, Freebandz, Epic
Released: July 17

It’s tough not to believe that Future wanted you to pay attention to “Stick Talk.” The first half of DS2 works well in contrasts: The album’s somber opening, for example, gives way to “I Serve the Base,” a song that has Future rapping over what sounds like a broken electrical wire. But after “Lil One,” a subdued number highlighted by horror movie screams, all hell breaks loose. It sounds as if whoever mixed the album turned up track six so that when you hear “Took a shot of Henny, I’ve been going brazy, brazy!” you damn near fall out of your seat. The squealing alarm and Future’s manic ad-libs do well to keep your eyes bugged. Then there are the lyrics. Other than him choosing 10 million dollars in cash over a friend, this is one of the few songs on the project that doesn’t harp on the depressed state of a lovelorn codeine addict. It’s straight galloping aggression. Perhaps that why he wanted you to hear it. —Damien Scott


22. Big Sean f/ Drake “Blessings”

Producer: Vinylz, Allen Ritter
Label: G.O.O.D. Music, Def Jam
Released: Jan. 29

Big Sean will have his revenge. Some would argue that he got Drake on the pair's previous crew-mob collab, “All Me,” but I, personally, have never forgotten the way Drake casually stole Sean's lunch in 16 bars on Finally Famous 3's “Made.” And of course the world at large will always remember the home-invasion homicide of “Control.” Part of the post-Hall of Fame redemption tour was a recommitment to the #bars, and that goes double for all future instances that find him rapping alongside an equally hungry peer. Does he “get” the 6ix God on this standout? Maybe not, but he damn sure isn't embarrassed either. It's just one of an album full of examples that the G.O.O.D. protégé is finally maximizing on potential to take his career waaaay up, word to Riley Curry's dad, Steph. —Frazier Tharpe


21. Shura “2Shy”

Producer: Shura
Label: Polydor
Released: March 9

Imagine your own rendition of an ’​80s prom, you and bae slow dancing in the middle of a shabby high school gym bedazzled with tinsel and tacky cutouts. You are both trying to make the best out of one of the most anticipated nights of a teenager’s life. Shura’s sweetheart serenade has just enough sparkle and retro electro-pop to it to take you to that place and make you feel all sorts of cute inside. But even if you don’​t have prom on the horizon, this song is also appropriate for a Saturday night when you are in bed caught in your feelings. Regardless of the circumstances, this pop ballad will spark some warmth and magic within you. —Ishani Desai


20. Drake “Know Yourself”

Producer: Boi-1da, Vinylz, Syk Sense
Label: Cash Money
Released: Feb. 13

Drake owned 2015, and while cuts like "Hotline Bling" and "Back to Back" got way more shine (for obvious reasons), the initial standout from Drizzy's If You're Reading This It's Too Late was "Know Yourself," or rather the "I WAS RUNNIN' THROUGH THE SIX WITH MY WOES" that laced the middle of the track. Forget what you heard; when that project dropped, that's all that blared in the streets, and if your streets weren't blaring it, your streets weren't official. It ended up—like most Drake lines—perfectly defining how people chose to rock while in the field. —khal


19. Travi$ Scott “Antidote”

Producer: WondaGurl, Eestbound
Label: Grand Hustle, Epic
Released: July 29

With its reference to his infamous incident at Hot 97's Summer Jam, it would seem "Antidote" is the last song La Flame recorded or at the very least completed, for his debut album. Crazy, considering it's not only the best track on there but one of the best turn-up jams of the year, easily. No disrespect to the other bangers on Rodeo, but "Antidote" is the most complete synthesis of Travi$' appeal. It's weird, off-putting—for two-thirds of the song, he doesn't even sound like himself—and undeniably head-thumping. This is night owl, hit three different moves (all entered through the back door, of course), cross-faded, marauder music—tailor-made for a night that's anything but lowkey. I can't tell you how many weird looks I've gotten from involuntarily yelling "Poppin pills is all we know!" in various public places. Thanks, Trav. —Frazier Tharpe


18. Fetty Wap “Again”

Producer: Peoples, Shy Boogs
Label: RGF, 300
Released: Aug. 13

This was the tropical-sounding song of the summer in Paterson, N.J., Fetty's hometown. Fetty's go-to producer/engineer, Peoples, knows how to finesse Zoovier to any beat. "Again" is yet another example of his song-making ability. Play this for the one that got away. Play this for your current boo when she gets jealous of your loyalty to the streets. "I know my lifestyle is driving you crazy." Come on, guys, sing it. Let's get our two-step on while cooking up something on the stove. Let's get this money, ma. We call 'em fans, girl, you know how we do. —Angel Diaz


17. Jazmine Sullivan “#HoodLove”

Producer: Chuck Harmony
Label: RCA
Released: Jan. 13

Light a cigarette, drop a beat, and then talk about the pistol in your purse. That is how Jazmine Sullivan opens “#HoodLove,” a song off of her criminally underrated Reality Show. The plodding beat and Sullivan's low and slow delivery, not to mention the crackling cigarette that burns in the background, make the song sound threatening, the only respite coming when she slides into the chorus with a yearning in her voice and leans in on the track's title. Sullivan is not the first woman to sing about being a ride or die, but she may be one of the most believable when she states, “Imma ride this b*tch till the wheels fall off.” Take cover. —Christine Werthman 


16. Post Malone “White Iverson”

Producer: FKi
Label: N/A
Released: Feb. 5

Rarely does an artist just blow up over night with just one song. It usually takes a while for buzz to build and people to take notice. For Post Malone however, once "White Iverson" caught on, his entire life changed. The young Dallas folk rapper soon became an "it" artist in 2015, and it was all because of an ode to Allen Iverson. The song is about as infectious and catchy as they come, with Post crooning about balling while he's still young over the incredibly smooth production. With a mix of signature Texas and Atlanta sounds, the track is different, yet it has a sound of familiarity that bodes well for Post moving forward. Still, wherever Post's career goes from here, he'll always be linked to "White Iverson," and that's not a bad thing at all. —Zach Frydenlund


15. Justin Bieber “Sorry”

Producer: Skrillex, Yektro, Blood Diamonds
Label: Def Jam
Released: Oct. 23

Much of the world has been obsessed with Justin Bieber’s video for “Sorry.” Directed and choreographed by Parris Goebel, the 23-year-old New Zealander took an inconceivable challenge of creating a lyric video for a tropical house anthem under a tight deadline and succeeded with a viral hit on YouTube. Bieber doesn’t appear in the video. Instead, the emphasis is on girl dancers from ReQuest and Royal Family dance crews having fun and enjoying themselves. Their energy is as infectious as the song itself, which is in the same wheelhouse as singles “Where Are Ü Now” and “What Do You Mean?” Not only is “Sorry” a sign of Bieber’s transformation into an adult hitmaker, but it really got his fans excited to see him focused again. Regardless of the controversial headlines he’s made in the past, Bieber fever is at high temperatures. It's only going to get hotter from here. —Eric Diep


14. Adele “All I Ask”

Producer: The Smeezingtons
Label: XL
Released: Nov. 20

From the moment Adele announced she had a new album coming, everyone trotted out their best red wine and Kleenex jokes. Well, you all wanted sad? This is sad. The high point on 25 is also the most heartrending. Written with the golden assistance of the Smeezingtons (Bruno Mars, Philip Lawrence, and Ari Levine), “All I Ask” is a plea for genuine romantic affection on what’s most likely the final night of a relationship. “It matters how this ends,” Adele sings, accompanied by just piano, “’Cause what if I never love again?” Because nothing ever really ends, and no matter how much you sometimes wish it were true, heartbreak doesn’t kill you. You keep going, living with the memories of that last time. Anything that makes you feel like Adele sings doesn’t come with a clean break. Everything is a mess, and you can track that kind of mess with you for the rest of your life. —Ross Scarano


13. Grimes “Kill v. Maim”

Producer: Grimes
Label: 4AD
Released: Nov. 6

Art Angels may be Grimes' most meticulously crafted album yet—scrapped and reworked until she got 14 tracks exactly to her liking. The undivided attention she's put into each song is evident—each production touch undoubtedly hers, with new instruments she learned to play just for the record. Thus selecting a best song on the album is no easy task. But "Kill V. Maim" is immediately addictive and Grimes to the core—cute, psychotic, deadly, with her voice covering the rainbow spectrum from ethereal to throaty graveling. There's even a cheerleader chant, but it comes with a devilish grin, like something Harley Quinn might listen to while kicking a**. —Kristen Yoonsoo Kim


12. The Weeknd “Can't Feel My Face”

Producer: Max Martin, Ali Payami, Peter Svensson
Label: XO, Republic
Released: June 8

Is it weird that a non-R&B fan is writing about the Weeknd? Maybe, but I see it more as a testament to the singer's strength that—genre be damned—his single "Can't Feel My Face" is so well-liked across the board. (Yes, even I love it.) It took a September wedding for me to finally realize how good it is, but I should have realized it was certified flames when it arrived this summer with those Michael Jackson hooks and its infectious melody, never not met with welcome, dancing, drunk bodies anytime it's played at the bar or club. —Kristen Yoonsoo Kim


11. Jamie xx f/ Young Thug and Popcaan “I Know There's Gonna Be (Good Times)”

Producer: Jamie Smith, Ted Daryll, Andrae Sutherland, Jeffrey Williams
Label: Young Turks
Released: May 20

No other track felt as good as this Jamie xx x Young Thug x Popcaan collaboration, nor was anything on Jamie's In Colour as huge. From the ultra throwback sample that created the hook to Popcaan's dancehall coasting to Young Thug letting his freak flag fly, Jamie crafted a cut that gave summer vibes during three minutes and 33 seconds. This is one of those "this is what 2015 sounded like" songs. Similar to the "all sounds welcome" feeling that producers like Diplo employ but instead of trying to mash down the rave, Jamie cultivated cuddle moments for you and bae to slow wine to. —khal


10. Alessia Cara “Here”

Producer: Sebastian Kole, Pop & Oak, Rahul Pathak
Label: Def Jam
Released: April 30

Where did this girl come from? #Industryplant or not, she speaks to my soul. This is the introvert theme song, and she sings for people who would rather smoke while watching Kubrick flicks on a Saturday night. Lowkey is the way to be most of the time. The Isaac Hayes sample of "Ike's Rap II" from probably the greatest soul album ever to grace God's green earth is another reason why "Here" knocked so hard, and she used it well. On the flipside, she comes off as petty and too good to be social. But you know what? Petty is a way of life, it's a vibe. And sometimes people deserve pettiness. —Angel Diaz


09. Future “I Serve the Base”

Producer: Metro Boomin
Label: A1, Freebandz, Epic
Released: July 17

“I Serve the Base” finds Future washing his pop sins away with Metro Boomin’s disorienting production and the nutrients he (supposedly) finds in purple Actavis. Like everything he’s done these past 18 months, it’s a reminder that the guy who wrote Rihanna’s “Loveeee Song,” also made “Tony Montana” and “Move That Dope.” DS2 is relentlessly dark at times, but this underdog’s anthem is all about the ethos of Future 2.0; being a franchise player who loves his fanbase as much as they love him. With all the success he’s seen as of late, serving the base has served Future Hendrix well. —Insanul Ahmed


08. Major Lazer and DJ Snake f/ MØ “Lean On”

Producer: Major Lazer, DJ Snake
Label: Mad Decent
Released: March 2

While most of the Diplo talk from 2015 has been how he and Skrillex revitalized Justin Bieber's career with cuts like “Where Are Ü Now,” Diplo also crafted some solid EDM x dancehall gems with Major Lazer's Peace Is the Mission, and one of the biggest cuts was "Lean On," a collab with DJ Snake and MØ that encapsulates the chill vibes of club culture. MØ's vocal fights the island sound, and the beat perfectly drops into one of those quirky melodies that, over the right rhythm, is bananas for radio land and the rave circuit. Diplo really is the plug, and cuts like this prove it. —khal


07. Drake “Back to Back”

Producer: Daxz
Label: Cash Money
Released: July 31

Honestly, are you truly surprised that this song was Grammy-nominated? I mean, it is Drake's best songwriting to date, after all. The way this song ingeniously builds to raucous moments that serve as death blows to one Meek Mill and club-ready bellow-along-with-your-boys moments, Drake may as well be the "I'm Not a Rapper Guy." He had something to prove, something he's been itching for the opportunity to prove: to OVO, to his city, to the rap game. And Meek was the unlucky sacrifice, the harbinger for the back-to-back affirmation—after the 6ix God did as we prayed and responded to Meek's claims not on social media but with music—that Drake is not to be messed with. This is Michael Myers music, as Drake stalks his prey calmly and assuredly—"I'm not sure what it was that really made y'all mad"—before quickening pace—"trigger fingers turn to Twitter fingers—and going in for the kill—"Shout to all my boss b*tches wifin' n*ggas!" Drake recorded one of the most laser-sharp, precisely crafted songs while inebriated. God, I hope the Grammys televises this award when he wins it.—Frazier Tharpe


06. Rae Sremmurd “This Could Be Us”

Producer: Mike WiLL Made-It, Marz
Label: EarDrummers, Interscope
Released: Jan. 6

SremmLife's half-life is impressive. Rae Sremmurd, the rap duo from Tupelo, released two of the very biggest hits of 2014, "No Flex Zone" and "No Type." A year later, subsequent singles "Throw Some Mo,""This Could Be Us," and "Come Get Her" have all burned from dawn through annual dusk. Slim Jxmmi Sinatra's pop swagger at the top of "This Could Be Us" is this album's valedictory moment and a deceptively dark one: "Girl, improvise, look me in my eyes and lie to me." Five singles deep into such improbable success, Swae Lee's vocal idiosyncrasies now pollinate rap and even R&B, peace to Jeremih. —Justin Charity


05. The Weeknd “The Hills”

Producer: Million Dollar Mano, Illangelo
Label: XO, Republic
Released: May 27

It’s fun to imagine the person who bought Beauty Behind the Madness because “Can’t Feel My Face” had a neat beat. Imagine the first time they listened to “The Hills.” The dissonant chords of static that open the song. The bass that pushes your stomach low into your hips. The sheer confusion about who would be up using their phone at that hour of the morning. “When I’m f*$ked up, that’s the real me”: This song is nasty. It’s inconsiderate, shallow, careless, reckless, damaged. The feeling of, “I know I shouldn’t sleep with this person, but here we go,” bottled up into four minutes. In the same year as “Uptown Funk,” “See You Again,” and “Cheerleader” (among others), this song was also a No. 1 hit. There’s hope for the world yet. —Ross Scarano


04. Skrillex and Diplo f/ Justin Bieber “Where Are Ü Now”

Producer: Skrillex, Diplo
Label: Atlantic, Mad Decent, OWSLA
Released: Feb. 27

"Where Are Ü Now" will go down as a defining moment for each artist involved. For Justin Bieber, the record delivered a convincing performance of honesty and passion, something the global star sorely needed in the wake of his troubled past. Skrillex pushed his sound deeper into pop, a wonderful blend that continued on Bieber’s impressive Purpose album. The record also kick-started Diplo’s incredible 2015 run that culminated with a Grammy nod for Producer of the Year. “You mix a little [of] this color and that color, and you create a new shade and a tone that you maybe haven’t seen before,” is how Skrillex described the process of making the song. The portrait they painted with sound here is one of brilliance. —Edwin Ortiz


03. Future “March Madness”

Producer: Tarantino
Label: A1, Freebandz, Epic
Released: March 16

"Dress it up and make it real for me" is the first thing you hear before heaven's gates opens. Tarantino is but an instrument of the Lord, and Future is His prophet. This beat is simultaneously spiritual and haunting. Macbeth heard the "March Madness" beat right before the witches spoke to him, and he let the faint sound of piano keys drive him insane. "March Madness" is Hendrix's epic, making Nayvadius rap game Homer. This is space music, my G; Neil Armstrong wrote the hook, and Buzz Aldrin could have played this when he landed Apollo 11 on the moon's surface. Don't listen to this while traveling with a pack because it will give you a false sense of security and invincibility. Play this song at my funeral. —Angel Diaz


02. Kendrick Lamar “Alright”

Producer: Pharrell Williams, Sounwave
Label: Top Dawg, Aftermath, Interscope
Released: March 15

I cried the first time I heard this song. Not like bawling but a good cry for sure. I was driving through my old neighborhood. I saw hope, I saw pain. I saw fiends with their best years behind them, and I saw kids playing in the streets with their whole lives ahead of them. "I'm at the preacher's door/My knees gettin' weak, and my gun might blow/But we gon' be alright," is what got me. Coming from where we come from, all you have is hope. We're numb to pain. "Alright" put Kendrick's opinions on Ferguson to bed. It's a song that says we can be against police killing us and want better from our community at the same time, a song that you can mob to while still having a spiritual feeling. All is right with the world for those three minutes. Loving us is complicated. —Angel Diaz


01. Drake “Hotline Bling”

Producer: nineteen85
Label: Cash Money, Republic
Released: July 31

A common refrain is that Drake is not a rapper, he’s a pop star. This, of course, rang loudest this year after Meek Mill outed the fact that Drake employed credited writers for some of his songs. In response to both, Drake took to his OVO Radio show and released a diss track (“Charged Up”) and a summer-tinged ditty that ran counter to the stark, cold harshness of If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late. Despite its sunniness, “Hotline Bling” features the covetous ex-boyfriend version of the Drake we’ve come to know—the one who chastises women for moving on and “wearing less and going out more.” None of that takes away from its infectious melody and chorus, or from the excellent nineteen85 beat that’s both airy and intimate and makes you want to shimmy (or, yes, cha cha). There’s a reason why everyone jumped to remix it or why it’s the highest-charting song Drake’s ever released. Even though it never went No. 1 as he hoped, it’s still proof positive that he’s indeed one of the biggest pop stars of our time. What’s wrong wit that? —Damien Scott


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