By James Pavel
20. FUN – COLDPLAY
Coldplay was on a war path to attempt to make the most peaceful and benevolent album known to planet Earth after the dreary affair titled, Ghost Stories. Yet the heart pangs left over in the debris from divorce and tales from the dead still manage to infiltrate Coldplay’s dogged attempt at a smiley face emoticon album. ‘Fun’ doesn’t sound as fun as it should be, because it’s really about somebody reflecting on the best parts of a relationship past its due date. (Below is a cover track.)
19. TRUE AFFECTION – FATHER JOHN MISTY
Father John cruises from Earth to space and only in the dark corners of nowhere does he allow his most sensitive thoughts to escape. It sound as though it has enough instruments to commission three school bands all competing at once, but all somehow works thanks to the genius of one of the few musical priests we can trust.
- NO ROOM IN FRAME – DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE
Nobody takes inanimate objects and transforms them into marvelous, complex observations like DCFC. A picture in a frame should be as so, but to Ben Gibbard, his lack of presence in the photo indicates a direct snub. No one is as hyper sensitive as poor ol’ Benny, but then nobody is more self-aware either. The latest Death Cab offering was nowhere near the scope and value of the one prior (Codes and Keys), but it still contained enough genuinely sharp perspective to keep the Death Cab camp content.
- BALLAD OF THE MIGHTY I – NOEL GALLAGHER
A rock n’ roll living legend demonstrates he still has a few aces up his pissed-on rain jumper. If there was ever any quarrel over who the more talented Gallagher brother was, Noel, the grumpier one, put those debates to a bitter sleep with the release of his second solo album. It sounds alive and ready to entertain an aging but eager audience, and yet it still smells of that familiar Oasis cologne we dosed ourselves in the 90s with.
- SUGAR – MAROON 5
They’ve been downloaded more than Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z combined. They are a group that will never go away and now we are kind of happy they didn’t. Sure, ‘This Love’ and ‘She will be Loved’ were barrels of fun, but we didn’t expect it to continue. But the stupidly catchy ‘Moves like Jagger’ arrived followed by ‘Love Somebody.’ Oh and just in case we didn’t know who Adam Levine was yet, the reality program The Voice implanted him into every living room across North America. In 2015, we received a charming and delightful track about nothing we’ve never heard before, but now we can all finally agree that we are content that the band named after the colour between red and purple managed to stick around.
- IN MY EYES – BEST COAST
They are the Beach Boys for hipsters and new millennials. Their obsession with California dreamin’ is equal, but with a female singer comes a unique set of issues and reservations. Best Coast lead singer Bethany Cosentino can’t recall how she met John Doe in the first place, but he has successfully infiltrated her mind, her heart, and even the two pools of water stuck in her head.
- BEYOND LOVE – BEACH HOUSE
It is a wave of dreams brushing over velvet skies, a description that one could apply to everything Beach House in general. They have such a specific sound, yet continue to engineer new methods of making it sound all new again, a quality that can only be used to describe a great band.
- LEAN ON – MAJOR LAZER & DJ SNAKE
It lands in the top three songs of summer 2015. It was everywhere, like women’s jean shorts with white pockets seeping through the thighs and Lipton’s twisted iced teas. This banger has an absurdly catchy refrain pounding its way through every sound system north of the Antarctica. ‘Lean On’ made contorting one’s fingers into a gun the wildest hand gesture since we were throwing up the Westside symbol.
- HOTLINE BLING – DRAKE
Nobody has had more harmless fun poked at them than Drake. People genuinely hate Kim Kardashian. People genuinely hope Kanye West is attacked by sharks. But nobody genuinely hates the homie from the 6. He manages to combine tennis lessons, skiing, and grey turtlenecks into the strangest version of interpretive dance we’ve seen in music video format. He has managed to make owls and Toronto appear to be his inventions and now he has turned a generic line like “you used to call me on my cellphone,” sound like yet another signature Drizzy quip.
- SORRY – JUSTIN BIEBER
Trumpets, raspy voices and a new four-minute, half-ass apology define another Bieber banger. Just in case ‘Where are Ü now?’ or ‘What do you mean?’ didn’t sell you on the Bieber fever revamp, ‘Sorry’ was the one that finally lured you in. Even the biggest haters were declaring their sudden affection for Canada’s most lovable brat. Couples were breaking up on purpose so they could sing this track to one another in unison. The power of Biebs was undeniable at the halfway point of the decade.
- FLESH WITHOUT BLOOD – GRIMES
This song is more hype than the sprinkler under the trampoline in the summertime. It’s a song by a woman who is believably weird as opposed to the forced blue hair and contrived rebellion of Miley Cyrus, Hillary Duffy etc. As they say in Austin, Texas, stay weird Grimes.
- LET IT HAPPEN – TAME IMPALA
No song sounded as desperately urgent as ‘Let it Happen,’ a title that begs the listener to surrender to the cheetah-like pace of life. “All this running around, I can’t fight it much longer,” they sing during a brief hiatus from the technological chaos we’ve been submerged in since the turn of the decade. The robotic, computer blizzard that blisters in and out of this MDMA-laced bouncy castle is the perfect sound to symbolize the never-ending text messages, the infinite Facebook and Instagram feeds and the obsessive reality jungle we all swing vine to vine from.
- ANIMALS – DR. DRE FEAT. ANDERSON PAAK
Dr. Dre skipped the detox and headed straight for Hollywood. Dre hasn’t experienced failure in decades and that certainly wasn’t going to stop in 2015. He helped release one of the most successful movies of the year, a film depicting his rise to greatness, and then attached a very 2015-sounding soundtrack to it. The album was meh, but ‘Animals’ packed the exact same power, venom and tenacity that made NWA the world’s most dangerous group. (Below is an instrumental only.)
- KING KUNTA – KENDRICK LAMAR
Kendrick Lamar rides shotgun with the doctor as they pop the top on Dre’s Chevy Impala and manage to bounce all the way back to 1993. This instrumental could be off of Dre’s The Chronic or Snoop Dogg’s Doggystyle, but instead it arrives with the second most influential rapper in the game, the self-proclaimed King Kunta. Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly album was criminally overrated, but this Kunta track has legs on a daddy-long leg scale.
- STILL WANT YOU – BRANDON FLOWERS
Climate change and debt, he still wants her. The world is burning, but the Killers front man can only think about being madly in love. His second solo album would be telling, as it was certainly time for B-Flow to roar in a new direction. We heard every tale Las Vegas could offer, could Brandon finally revise his storytelling? The answer was a scintillating yes. He brought Mo-Town flavour to the reflection bakery and managed to carve a thoughtful and purposeful cake without sounding preachy or whiny. Brandon’s smiling the entire video, as if he knows we are all going to be OK, even if it doesn’t feel like it.
- BACK TO BACK – DRAKE
Back to back like he Jordan 96’, 97. Drizzy wants to be like Mike, but in reality he is the Steph Curry of the game right now. He’s making shots so easily and so consistently that the competition is currently suffering from a combination of slack jaw and night tremors. This is the most important diss track since 50 Cent destroyed Ja Rule’s career with ‘Back Down.’ It’s grimy, intimidating and laced with a couple of deadly one-liners, none more exceptional than “Is that your world tour or your girl’s tour?” Drizzy sings, he dances and he used to play a handicap kid in high school, but he proves you best not piss him off.
- BELIEVE – MUMFORD & SONS
Mumford and Sons borrow Coldplay’s template for ‘Fix you’ and achieve similarly explosive results. A slow, reflective build-up, followed by a memorable shotgun blast of electricity. It was Mumford’s best way of letting fans know that the banjo has been retired to the closet for now, and they better bring their ear buds and stomping boots in 2015.
- COFFEE – MIGUEL
It’s not Starbucks or Tim Horton’s. Nah, what Miguel is brewing can’t be found in stores, but only in private bedrooms near you. Coffee is what deters half the nation from driving off a bridge every morning or destroying the photo copier with a sledgehammer, but for Miguel a fresh pot symbolizes a successful night prior. ‘Coffee’ is a return to tremendous vocals and sensual RnB, a musical beverage desperately lacking from today’s musical vending machine.
- I CAN’T FEEL MY FACE – THE WEEKND
Billy Jean drama with Bruno Mars funk made the coolest song ever made about banging out booger sugar the second greatest track of 2015. From Tom Cruise lip-syncing on The Late Show with Jimmy Fallon, to every dance floor going mental when the DJ dropped it, this weekend madness was inescapable. With the exception of Taylor Swift, 2014 was void of any true pop classics. But in 2015, we have at least one single that will remain a dance floor anthem until we all go numb.
- WHERE ARE Ü NOW? – JACK Ü feat. JUSTIN BIEBER
The Bieber comeback plan was executed to perfection. Such a rotten apple in 2014, he was almost certainly on the path to wash-up village, population Lindsey Lohan. Bieber was mocked, ridiculed and despised. The boy who was supposed to be the next Justin Timberlake had fallen, and no one was certain if anyone cared enough to help him back up. And so began operation comeback. It began with the Justin Bieber roast on Comedy Central. The comedians/guests occasionally peppered Biebs, but left the heavy artillery for each other. When Biebs finally took the podium and thanked everyone, he gave us a juvenile smirk as if to say, “Why so serious?”
He gave a semi-sincere apology and we all sort of forgave him. But all was truly washed away with the tide when he finally did what he was supposed to do – release tremendous pop music. ‘Where are Ü now?’ is the defining song of 2015 because it sounds from the version of the future that we were all supposed to live in. Yet we don’t have spaceships, teleports, or vacations planned in other galaxies. What we do have is music videos where paintings, tattoos and graffiti collide. We have music where boy band hysteria blends with underground dub step and pretty boys collaborate with tattooed skids. What we do have is a world where a megalomaniac from Ontario, Canada is the king of pop culture in 2015.