Thursday, December 31, 2015

Year End Recap: The Best of 2015



Social media fueled our nostalgia in 2015, which explains why so many of the new songs on this list sound distinctly like 1980's & 1990's throwbacks. Between #tbt and Buzzfeed Rewind, a myriad of tv show reboots (Full House, The X Files, 24, Boy Meets World), and the resurgence of 90's fashion, not much escaped the influence of the past. Then again, I'm not complaining if today's musicians want to take a few lessons from decades past.

10. The Weeknd - "Can't Feel My Face"

Ominous and haunting but joyous at the same time, this song held a special place in my heart during 2015. First, I saw The Weeknd perform it with Taylor Swift at her epic concert in the Meadowlands in July. A stadium of 70,000 fans dancing with LED bracelets blinking in unison to the beat was ultimately perfect. Second, I was at the taping of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon when Tom Cruise won the Lip Sync Battle with his awesome rendition of "Can't Feel My Face". This song was unescapable and who would want to escape the closest thing we'll get to a resurrection of Michael Jackson? This could have been released in 1984 and it would have been a massive hit. And that's the sign of a true pop masterpiece.

And I know she'll be the death of me, at least we'll both be numb
And she'll always get the best of me, the worst is yet to come
All the misery was necessary when we're deep in love



9. Brandon Flowers - "Can't Deny My Love"

Everything comes back into style someday, and the trend in vogue this year was 80's new wave - Psychedelic Furs, OMD, Dead Or Alive - a synthpop for the new century. The beat could have been recorded on a Casio and the song could have been played on a Walkman, tinny through felt-padded headphones. The song is heavy with Biblical imagery, the lingering effects of a Mormon upbringing, Peter denying Jesus three times and weeping with bitter tears at the realization of the betrayal.

When you close your eyes, tell me what you see.
Locked up in your room is there any room for me?
In the spoils of your mercy
In the reverence of your bed
In the cradle of the morning
What was it that you said?



8. One Direction - "Love You Goodbye"

It's as if MTV's parody boy band 2Gether released a song with a Backstreet Boys earnestness.. The song is on the border of ridiculous with its lyrics about  "I know there's nothing I can do to change it /  But is there something that can be negotiated?" trying to charm an ex into bed for 'one last goodbye'. It's a ultimate guilty pleasure song.


Oh, why you're wearing that to walk out of my life? (Hey, hey, hey)
Oh, even though it's over you should stay tonight (Hey, hey, hey)
If tomorrow you won't be mine
Won't you give it to me one last time?





7. Charli XCX featuring Rita Ora, "Doing It"

Charli's album "Sucker" might just be the best Brit-pop album since the Spice Girls invented Girl Power.  Cut through with a 90s aesthetic and a modern edge, "Doing It" should be an anthem for any girl who's still living in 1996. Both the original and the remixed version featuring Rita Ora are examples of what pop should sound like in 2015.

Locked inside my veins you're in my blood, in my blood
And we united forevermore
We're staying all night, we never slow down
I think we better do it like we're doing it now



6. Ed Sheeran - "Thinking Out Loud"

Ed won me over this year; I have to admit "X" is a brilliant album, sonically adventurous and original. There is no denying this song could be a perfect first dance wedding song (and I've seen it!) and somehow it manages to transcend cloying. "Thinking Out Loud" lands solidly in the classic love song category; something about it is timeless

'Cause, honey, your soul could never grow old, it's evergreen
And, baby, your smile's forever in my mind and memory
I'm thinking 'bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways
Maybe it's all part of a plan



5. Kelly Clarkson - "Piece By Piece"

The best track on Kelly's latest album features the sort of earnest songwriting that simultaneously elevates and destroys. The first verse leads the listener to believe it's about a lover, then Kelly zeroes in on the abandonment that only parents can bestow on their children, the gift that was never wanted. This song is a master class in songwriting: a scathing indictment of her estranged father and a love letter to her husband and daughter. A powerhouse vocal that is even more heartbreaking live.

Piece by piece I fell far from the tree
I would never leave her like you left me
She will never have to wonder her worth
Because unlike you I'm gonna put her first



4. Fall Out Boy - "Uma Thurman"

To everyone who ruled out Fall Out Boy after their 2009 breakup/hiatus, the band proved their naysayers wrong with their 2015 album American Beauty/American Psycho. It's by far one of their best and works start to finish in a cohesive way. It was hard for me to pick a favorite track off this album to include on this list ("Irresistible" [both the Demi Lovato featured version and the original], "Jet Pack Blues", "Fourth Of July", "Novocaine" would all deserve the spot). But I chose "Uma Thurman" because of its chart success (double platinum) and the way it marries The Munsters theme song with a handclap beat and staccato lyrics.

The blood, the blood, the blood of the lamb
Is worth two lions, but here I am
And I slept in last night’s clothes and tomorrow’s dreams
But they’re not quite what they seem



3. Lauren Alaina - "Next Boyfriend"

It's such a shame that the songs on Lauren's 2011 debut CD Wildflower were so paint-by-the-numbers, as the singles she's released since have been clever tongue-twisters in the vein of Carrie Underwood or Miranda Lambert. In a perfect world, she'd knock the bro-country hacks (e.g. Florida Georgia Line, Sam Hunt) off the country charts and take over arenas. "Next Boyfriend"

It's driving me crazy where I’ve seen you before
Maybe it's the white t-shirt that you're wearing
The danger in your eyes or your fingers in your hair
It's a pretty small town, it's coming to me now
Whoa, I just figured it out
You look a lot like my next boyfriend
I can't believe how much you act like him
You and me, we'd be unbelievable
And I'm available



2. Taylor Swift - "Wildest Dreams"

 "Wildest Dreams" is the most adult of all of Taylor's songs, a hint at a possible future direction in her lyrics.The heartbeat echoes the pounding heart of the girl on the passenger side. Slow and languid, building to a frenzy "burning it down", both a plea and a promise. Faded pages and nostalgia, ambitious and yearning, dancing in headlights in a fog.

I said, "No one has to know what we do"
His hands are in my hair, his clothes are in my room
And his voice is a familiar sound,
Nothing lasts forever but this is getting good now



1. Kitten - "I'll Be Your Girl"

The epic in the arcane, twinkling prom lights across a sea of faces, the love that only a 16 year old can express. A mix of Concrete Blonde, "Metro" by Berlin, OMD's "If You Leave", 70's Swedish disco, and 80's new wave. A song that wholeheartedly deserves the label of "spectacular", and even more so because the band's front woman is talented beyond the measure of it at just 18 years old.

I'll be the connection between you and God 
I'll be your foundation I'll be a mirage 
I'll be there in summer I'll be there in rain 
I'll be the lie that's erased from your brain 
I'll be there to love, I will be there to hate 
I'll be the anchor that ties you to fate



Honorable Mentions:
* Adam Lambert, "Ghost Town"
* Twenty One Pilots, "Tear In My Heart"
* Prince Royce with Jennifer Lopez & Pitbull, "Back It Up"
* Meghan Trainor, "Dear Future Husband"
* Carrie Underwood, "Dirty Laundry"
* Bruno Mars & Mark Ronson, "Uptown Funk"



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