We’re about to leave 2015 behind, but before we hurtle into New Year’s resolutions it’s time to cast a look back at the soundtrack of the last 12 months. From pop bangers and house floor-fillers to indie, folk, grime and R&B, here are the 100 best songs of 2015.
Scroll through our picks – ranked from 100 right down to Number One – or listen to the whole playlist below. And when you’re done, don’t miss our round-up of the 25 best albums of 2015 for more new audio gold. It’s time to give those stale old playlists a spring clean ready for 2016.
Like 2Unlimited’s ‘No Limit’ for the shuffling generation: derivative, dumb yet curiously lovable.
95. Danny L Harle – ‘Broken Flowers’
Sure, this track on the meta-hyped PC Music label sounds like a glitched, contemporary refix of 2-step pop anthem ‘Sweet Like Chocolate’. But damn: it’s catchy, fun, clever and silly all at the same time.
94. Girls Names – ‘Zero Triptych’
Have patience: the slow build on this 11-minute post-punk workout pays off spectacularly.
93. Formation – ‘Hangin’
The young London duo staking a claim as the next LCD Soundsystem put out a string of excellent singles this year, but here’s the standout.
92. J Cole – ‘Wet Dreamz’
We didn’t realise we needed an detailed description of J Cole’s awkward teenage sex life until we heard this laid back jam.
Surely the only song of 2015 to feature lyrics about watching ‘Top Gear’ with one’s trousers down, this winding, grinding distorted trip from droney Dublin noise rockers Girl Band is a disturbing but bizarrely compelling listen.
Scott’s debut ‘Rodeo’ features appearances from Kanye West, Pharrell, The Weeknd and the shape-shifting Bieber, but it was this entirely solo and insanely catchy ode to the joys of narcotics that provided the real stand-out.
68. Miguel – ‘Coffee (Fucking)’
Which do you prefer in the morning? R&B Adonis Miguel is more than happy to serve up either or both on his hyper-impassioned comeback single.
Bristol’s Sam Binga and Manchester’s Chimpo make music you might not instantly recognise as D&B, splitting the 174bpm tempo in half and dragging in influences from dancehall, hip hop and beyond. This recent link up with legendary MC Trigga for Toddla T’s imprint is as explosive as it is innovative.
Baroque pop single ‘Feel You’ may have been radio-rinsed, but it’s this harrowing, Nick Cave-ish ballad that stole the show on Julia Holter’s ‘Have You in My Wilderness’ album, with no more than those rising and diving strings and Holter’s haunting voice.
47. Sia – ‘Elastic Heart’
The follow-up to ‘Chandelier’ was the catchy electropop hit we’d been craving, with a bonus controversial video starring Shia Labeouf.
Dissolute, debauched and decadent, with a bellowing bassline any trap banger would be proud of, this single from The Weeknd’s ‘The Beauty Behind The Madness’ signalled a glorious return to filth-mouthed form.
45. Kelela – ‘Rewind’
Björk-approved artist Kelela showed the R&B hordes how it’s done with this sweet-but-spiky number, reminding us when made properly, R&B can be absolutely banging.
44. Stealing Sheep – ‘Deadlock’
Our favourite Liverpool lasses switched up their style in 2015, as exemplified by this sweet synth treat.
43. Kanye West featuring Allan Kingdom, Theophilus London and Paul McCartney – ‘All Day’
The Macca riff that opens and closes ‘All Day’ may date way back to 1969, but the whole dizzying track makes Ye sound more than ever like an emissary from the future.
42. Lady Leshurr – ‘Queen’s Speech 4’
A killer freestyle, a viral hit and a treatise against bad dental hygiene – all in a day’s work for Solihull spitter LL.
41. Justin Bieber – ‘What Do You Mean?’
This was the year the world was forced to ask itself: is Justin Bieber cool now? Based on this tropical-house hit, the answer is yes. Deal with it.
Some time after putting it out as a standalone track in March, Grimes apparently changed her mind and decided to include this bizarre banger on her ‘Art Angels’ album after all. We say: good call, Claire.
11. Fatima Yamaha – ‘What’s a Girl Got to Do’
Though it was originally released in 2004, this slow-burning electronic dreamscape was one of the biggest club tracks of 2015.
10. Alessia Cara – ‘Here’
Ever spent a night at an awful party, counting down the minutes until it’s polite enough for you to leave? ‘Here’ is a brilliantly honest account of that experience – with a banging Isaac Hayes-sampling beat.
5. Missy Elliott featuring Pharrell Williams – ‘WTF (Where They From)’
Stood astride a Swegway in the video, the queen of hip hop swooped in right at the end of the year to remind us she’s still the boss.
4. Drake – ‘Hotline Bling’
As well as the video that launched a thousand memes, Drizzy’s megahit came packing at least three unshakeable hooks. No wonder it’s become scientifically impossible to leave the house without hearing it.
What a year it’s been for grime – and what a year it’s been for Skepta. With the sound he helped build over a decade ago suddenly resurgent, the Boy Better Know founder’s YouTube views have gone from the thousands to the millions in a year that’s seen him on stage with Kanye West, in the studio with Drake and on the radio with Pharrell. And – as the head-jerking rhythms and fiercely witty bars of his summer smash ‘Shutdown’ prove so neatly – he’s done all this without once compromising the gloriously British street-level sound and style that typifies grime at its very best. ‘This ain’t a culture, it’s my religion’: preach, Skeps.
Listen to the full Spotify playlist
The 100 best songs of 2015
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