BreatheHeavy counts down the best singles of 2015.
Singles. In an industry where no one seems to know what a single is anymore, you might think that the importance of the lone track was diminishing, but as music becomes increasingly digital, the single is the most important tool in any artist’s belt. Without a killer single you can forget about selling an album and if you don’t sell your album you might as well not even bother thinking about going on tour. The single rules the music industry so it should come as no surprise that some of your favorite pop stars released some quite good singles this year. We made a list of them. I know, we’re too kind.
20. Major Lazer & DJ Snake – “Lean On” (feat. MØ)
A cut initially offered to both Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, “Lean On” is an eastern-influenced slice of dance magic.
19. Justin Bieber – “What Do You Mean?”
This earworm officially re-established Bieber as a pop force to be reckoned with.
18. Demi Lovato – “Cool for the Summer”
Infectious piano hook? Check. Sultry vocals? Check. Implied homoerotic undertones? Check. Demi’s best lead single yet? Most definitely check.
17. Nicki Minaj “Feeling Myself” (feat. Beyoncé)
“On this song alone, bitch is on her fourth flow.” A career highlight for both Minaj and Knowles.
16. Years & Years – “King”
A perfect example of what dance music should sound like in 2015, and another enormous international hit that inexplicably failed to take off in the US.
15. Troye Sivan – “Fools”
A stunning trap-ballad from one of the most promisingly talented new artists in the industry.
14. Rihanna – “Bitch Better Have My Money”
The most divisive entry on our list, “BBHMM” may not be Rihanna’s most nuanced effort, but it’s immediacy and impact is something to be applauded.
13. The Weeknd – “The Hills”
A smooth-jam masquerading as a club track; if The Weeknd is the future of R&B then sign us up.
12. Naughty Boy – “Runnin’ (Lose it All)” (feat. Beyoncé & Arrow Benjamin)
After a failed alliance with Zayn Malik, all eyes were on Naughty Boy to see who he’d work with next. Of course, he managed to land Beyoncé for a stunning love song, so we’d say he landed firmly on his feet.
11. Florence + The Machine – “Ship To Wreck”
Once again, Florence treads the fine line between insanity and universality with ease.
10. One Direction – “Drag Me Down”
Between losing a member, baby mamma drama, intensely public relationships and rumors of a secret romance within the band that simply refuse to die, One Direction are a band all too readily defined by their personal lives. So much so that the enormous step-up in the quality of their music over 2015 has largely gone unacknowledged, which is a shame really, because “Drag Me Down” is one of the best pop songs of the year and a career highlight for the British-Irish foursome.
9. Rihanna “FourFiveSeconds” (feat. Kanye West and Paul McCartney)
Rihanna’s “FourFiveSeconds” was the perfect way to launch her then-untitled eight studio album. The Kanye West/Paul McCartney collaboration was the furthest thing from what anyone expected from the Bejan superstar and despite limited promotion, the acoustic throwback boasts a strong showing in the charts. Of course, we all know that the ‘ANTi’ campaign went disastrously wrong not long after the track’s release, but “FourFiveSeconds” is still some of Rihanna’s best work.
8. Selena Gomez – “Good For You” (feat. A$AP Rocky)
With “Good For You,” Selena Gomez defied everyone’s expectations. In comparison to the other tracks vying for ‘Song of the Summer,’ “Good For You” was a breath of fresh air. The R&B/electro crossover utilizes Gomez’ distinct vocal style perfectly, cruises confidently over an en vogue snap-drop beat and has enough flavor and character to be truly memorable, despite its mellow leanings.
7. Jack Ü – “Where Are Ü Now” (feat. Justin Bieber)
“Where Are Ü Now” was a very necessary change of pace for both Bieber and Jack Ü – the production powerhouse comprised of Skrillex and Diplo. Toning down both Skrillex and Diplo’s propensity for excess, and neatly circumventing Justin Bieber’s seemingly endless need for self-destruction, “Where Are Ü Now” is both understated and immediately emotive. Needless to say, the track kicked off a fantastic year for Justin and was an instrumental part of the reformation of his public image.
6. Madonna – “Living For Love”
Realistically, “Living For Love” is everything the world should have needed from a Madonna lead single. Nostalgic but not retro, current but not try-hard, enormous but not overwhelming, “Living For Love” should have been a huge hit. It wasn’t, and we could spend hours discussing why, but the fact remains that the Diplo-produced break-up anthem is Madonna’s best lead single since 2005’s “Hung Up” and her celebration of love in the face of overwhelming odds is something we’d all do well to remember.
5. Giorgio Moroder and Britney Spears – “Tom’s Diner”
Whether she likes it or not, Britney’s contribution on Giorgio Moroder’s album Déjà Vu was officially released as a single. According to the superstar producer, Britney approached Moroder asking if he was interested in overseeing her cover of Suzanne Vega’s version of “Tom’s Diner.” Of course the 75-year-old agreed, though he ran into a bit of drama along the way. Despite his many attempts at reaching out after her initial submission, Britney never recorded a bridge for the song. Moroder claimed he wanted Lady Gaga to take it on, but after that fell through, too, he ended up crafting the missing piece himself. Aside from a Tweet, Britney had zero involvement with the release of the song… but we’ll take what we can get. The robotic-edits to her voice accent the synthy production and electric guitar riffs heard throughout, allowing fans to forget “Pretty Girls” and gear up for the next studio album hopefully with more songs like this. – Jordan Miller
4. Justin Bieber – “Sorry”
Justin Bieber proved it’s never too late to say sorry. After a roller coaster past leading up to his ‘Purpose’ album launch, Bieber side-stepped further drama with his smash single “Sorry.” Skrillex, who helped Bieber relaunch to the forefront with “Where Are Ü Now” and “What Do You Mean,” co-produced the song alongside Blood Diamonds and Yektro. The 21-year-old also enlisted help from the songwriters behind ex-flame Selena Gomez’s “Good For You” single, Julia Michaels and Justin Tranter, nabbing one of the most successful singles in 2015 based on digital downloads and airplay. It’s pretty damn catchy, too! Sorry not sorry. – Jordan Miller
3. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away With Me”
In a world where record labels don’t make foolish mistakes at the expense of what they think is ‘cool’ or ‘hip,’ “Run Away With Me” would have been the lead single from Carly Rae Jepsen’s outstanding third album, ‘Emotion.’ The track is a transcendent, breezy look at what it is to fall in love, set to an ’80s synth-pop back drop and it’s everything that ‘Emotion’ and Carly Rae Jepsen does so well. The lyrics manage to both be carefree and pack a meaningful punch, the melody (especially during the pre-chorus) is contagious and uplifting and ultimately “Run Away With Me” is a clear example of a near perfect pop song. – Aaron Butterfield
2. Taylor Swift – “Style”
Great music never goes out of style, which is why Taylor Swift’s third official 1989 single scored so high on our list. Swift co-wrote “Style” with pop masterminds Max Martin and Johan Shellback, seamlessly incorporating the classic ‘80s-vibe heard throughout most of the record. The track was a mature progression for the 26-year-old, who described the song in an interview last year about a relationship “that’s always a bit off.” She says, “The two people are trying to forget each other. So, it’s like, “All right, I heard you went off with her,” and well, I’ve done that, too … My previous albums have also been sort of like, “I was right, you were wrong, you did this, it made me feel like this”—a righteous sense of right and wrong in a relationship. What happens when you grow up is you realize the rules in a relationship are very blurred and that it gets very complicated very quickly, and there’s not a case of who was right or who was wrong.” In many of her previous breakup tracks, we find ourselves siding with Swift in the victim role. However this time around she’s admitting fault, and we come back every time. – Jordan Miller
1. Adele – “Hello”
2015 was the year of Adele and it all began with “Hello.” Where most artists need months of hype, promotion and social media activity to sell a fraction of what Adele’s achieved so far, the British singer-songwriter simply launched her comeback single with a 30 second television commercial, containing nothing but her voice. Needless to say the world fell apart. By the time the track premiered in full, less than a week later, it was already clear that it was going to become one of Adele’s greatest success stories, but no one could quite predict the emotional impact that “Hello” would have. The song is nostalgia and regret personified, a dark glimpse into what it’s like to leave someone – or a part of yourself – behind and realize that there’s no way back to what you once were. With her incisive lyrical style, her killer vocals and her raw honesty, there’s no way that any other song this year could top “Hello.” – Aaron Butterfield