Friday, December 18, 2015

50 Favorite Pop Songs of 2015 (Part Five)

10. "Player" by Tinashe feat. Chris Brown

For her upcoming second album, Tinashe has seemingly pulled out all of the stops. "Player" is her strongest number to date, aiming straight for the club jugular as a lovechild of PBR&B and synthpop. The song waits nearly 90 seconds to finally kick into overdrive, and when it does... wow. It slams listeners with a wall of electronic sound, with extraneous sythesizer hits coming in at all the right times. And fortunately, Tinashe's malleable soprano voice isn't compromised when embedded in this sea of sound, and it blends nicely with Chris Brown's as they tag-team the final chorus.

9. "Borders" by M.I.A.

Political unrest, racial inequality, and hot social issues have always been the cornerstones of M.I.A.'s art form, so it's about time she spit her thoughts on this year's state of affairs over a banging club beat. The song (and video, which is exclusive to Apple Music) zeros in on her youth, when she was a Sri Lakan refugee, and parallels it to the Syrian refugee crisis. Also in the mix is commentary on society's obsession with pop culture as opposed to sociopolicital concerns; each issue is then met with a snarky "what's up with that?" banter. The song has been slammed as "pro-terrorist" and "blatant propaganda" by Internet trolls and radical Republicans, but I'd like to argue that it's simply pro-human; in a nutshell, the only request made here is that we co-exist.

8. "Style" by Taylor Swift

I was in the large "STYLE FOR THE NEXT SINGLE" camp since the release of 1989 (or perhaps even before that when I had heard just the small snippet of the song in Swift's Target commercial) and was elated when our demands were met towards the beginning of this year. Everything about the song, from the sultry guitar-led verses to the blossoming choruses, puts it towards the top of the list of Swift's best pieces to date. But on a final note: of the five singles released from the album, "Style" was one of the two not to reach the summit of the Billboard Hot 100. I don't know how we let this happen, America. We dropped the ball on this one.

7. "Good for You" by Selena Gomez

Goodness gracious, what an unexpected, yet very welcomed, change of pace for Selena Gomez. Following the sonic footprint of "The Heart Wants What It Wants," the lead single to her second solo album Revival impresses with sultry R&B production. Both through her vocals and the video, she gleams with confidence as she croons through the song with an accented wisp and poses in a shower. It embodies all that is seductive and sultry, with its climaxes coming from subtle bass booms and the utmost focus being placed on Gomez's voice alone.

6. "Here" by Alessia Cara

Never have I heard a song that suits my attitude more appropriately than Alessia Cara's "Here." Far too often do we hear the typical drugs, sex, and party anthems, but not enough do we get songs for those of us who prefer late night drives with a few friends or solo Netflix binges on Saturday nights. She slides into this moody R&B track with the strongest insinuated eye-roll ever: "Since my friends are here, I just came to kick it / But really I would rather be at home all by myself / Not in this room with people who don't even care about my well-being / I don't dance, don't ask, I don't need a boyfriend / So you can, go back, please enjoy your party / I'll be here." Her smooth vocals take precedence over the sampled beat, proving the raw talent behind the buzz.

5. "REALiTi" by Grimes

Unbeknownst to us at the time, "REALiTi" was our first glimpse at Grimes' fourth studio album, Art Angels. While it was originally a demo from the full album she scrapped, it was remastered and thrown onto the new album by popular demand -- and I couldn't be happier for that. The atmospheric video demo and the peppier final version differ in a sound and definitely each have their own perks, but in any form, this song is just undeniably amazing. The airy, reverberated vocals, the dreamy soundscape... really everything about this song embodies who Grimes is as an artist.

4. "Love Me Like You Do" by Ellie Goulding

Ellie Goulding wasn't going to stamp her name another soundtrack song, but I bet she's glad that she did. Goulding and The Weeknd were two of the main acts that surged in popularity once again via the buzz that surrounded the raunchy Fifty Shades of Grey saga this year; Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do," a passionate, Tove Lo-penned anthem, was pushed as one of the singles to the soundtrack that has outlived the legacy of the movie itself. The timeless song caused one of Goulding's strongest grips on American radio, second only to breakthrough single "Lights," and it displays some of Goulding's purest vocals over her first Max Martin production.

3. "Run Away With Me" by Carly Rae Jepsen

"Run Away With Me" is simply pop music done right.  There are so many reasons why this song deserved to match the success of "Call Me Maybe," and then some. Carly Rae Jepsen crafted this song, as well as the rest of E•MO•TION, to channel the '80s with the precision that most of her contemporaries lack. On this track in particular, a blaring saxophone run and a sea of bouncy drums and synths accumulate into ground-shaking choruses that can be outmatched by only a few pop songs out there today; rumor has it that if you blare the song loud enough as Jepsen shouts, "Baby, take me to the feeling / I'll be your sinner in secret when the lights go out," it will literally shatter the Earth. I know it has nearly shattered my car windows multiple times.

2. "OctaHate" by Ryn Weaver

Okay, so I had to cheat a bit for this one to count. "OctaHate" was released last year on SoundCloud and found its first wave of popularity on the streaming site, but it received its push towards mainstream audiences this year and stalled somewhere in the top 40 range of Billboard's US Pop Songs chart. While The Fool, her debut full-length album, may be a solid piece of work overall, "OctaHate" is easily her magnum opus. Her rich, vibrato-accented vocals are highlighted in the childish, twinkling verses before they are immersed in one of the few choruses that can one-up Carly Rae's "Run Away With Me." (In fact, those vocals come out on top even against those relentless drum machine hits in that glorious temper tantrum of a chorus.)

1. "What Kind of Man" by Florence + the Machine

Florence + the Machine delivered one of the best albums of the year with How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, so it's no wonder the lead single to the album gleamed with power. After a fragile opening minute, the song commands attention with pounding drums and Welch's aggressive vocals. In tradition Florence + the Machine style, Welch's voice is a vital source of commanding energy, further concreting the fact that only she could get away with the music she makes. Accompanying the track, like the rest of the singles from the album, is a cinematic music video that brings the last possible bit of life to the song. It's a beautifully unpredictable and irregularly-formatted song that stands towards the top of Welch's catalog, although it is hard to choose just a handful of her best works with three extraordinary albums under her belt.

1 comment

  1. YASSS WHAT KIND OF MAN! We have a small collection of singles in common this year, and some of the ones we've listed are really close to the same spot. My two-part list is going up next week.


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