The 100 best songs of 2015
Number One across the world, 300 million views, one unstoppable chorus: in late October, Ms Adkins casually dropped the biggest song of the year. ‘Hello’ indeed.
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Not since Seal’s ‘Kiss from a Rose’ has a pop singer deployed a triple-time ballad to such devastating effect.
Like 2Unlimited’s ‘No Limit’ for the shuffling generation: derivative, dumb yet curiously lovable.
Have patience: the slow build on this 11-minute post-punk workout pays off spectacularly.
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.
We didn’t realise we needed an detailed description of J Cole’s awkward teenage sex life until we heard this laid back jam.
Heavily channeling ‘Sabrina, the Teenage Witch’ in the video, the Mixers cast a spell over the charts with this irresistible banger in May.
Teenage flashback-inducing indie magic from this half-Swedish London band.
Straight out of Kinshasa, this riveting five-piece cook up a dreamy and affecting mix of chiming guitars and hazy basslines.
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.
On this big tune from her ‘M3LL155X’ EP – her only release this year – Twigs staked her claim as R&B’s answer to Kate Bush.
One of the catchiest tunes of the year, this soulful, head-nodding number from Jamie Woon’s most excellent second album, ‘Making Time’, is sure to make you swoon.
A slice of super-retro soul that wouldn’t work if it wasn’t so perfectly done, right down to the ’60s-style vocal compression.
Older listeners might think of Kajagoogoo, but Shura’s from the new generation: she treats ’80s pop like a painter’s palette on this breathy hit. Even a Mumford & Sons cover couldn’t ruin it.
Mack ’n’ Ryan’s not-so-subtle tribute to Mark ’n’ Bruno, ‘Downtown’ swapped the cokey sheen of ‘Uptown Funk’ for goofy honks and weirdly endearing power-balladeering.
Sizzling, upbeat Afrofunk fuelled by bounding, bouncy pop hooks – all from a former backing singer who was always going to steal the limelight.
The perfect soundtrack to that ‘looking out of a train window in the rain’ scene from any indie rom-com, courtesy of folk scene stalwart Rozi Plain.
Norse disco giant Todd Terje flexes his cosmic muscles on this total voyage of a remix.
While Time Out in no way endorses the view ‘anyone from London, fuck off out’, this amazing retooling of early ‘90s hardcore rave by Bristolian producer Borai kicks Jamie XX’s ‘Gosh’ well into touch.
The bonus track from Drake’s surprise album ‘If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late’ is a glorious sequel to ‘9am in Dallas’ and ‘5am in Toronto’.
If you only enjoy one neon-coated post-heartache pop banger from 2015, make it this one.
A transcendent, quarter-hour jazz-funk exploration by Kendrick Lamar’s favourite sax visionary.
A slinky showcase for the Australian four-piece’s tricky soul-jazz grooves, taken from their genre-hopping epic ‘Choose Your Weapon’ album.
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.
A dreamy foray into the outer reaches of jazz, rooted by Seb Rochford’s precise percussion.
Further proof that Josh Martin (aka DG) isn’t just a pretty face and a baritone croon: this new wave-edged track suggests he’s a sharp songwriter too.
In the year that gender politics entered mainstream media like never before, Ezra Furman stuck up two fingers at heteronormativity with this joyful glam rock groover.
Listen hard and you’ll hear a cool summer breeze whistling through this lovely synthpop track from our favourite Finnish producer.
JoGru’s frontwoman Alanna McArdle quit the band shortly after they released their latest LP. Here’s a perfectly formed indie-pop micro-drama to remember her by.
North London’s hottest young rhymer set out her stall magnificently on this highlight from her album ‘A Curious Tale of Trials + Persons’.
The super-stylish synthpop collective channel disco and ’80s synthpop on this stylish instrumental preview for their new album.
A standout track from the London five-piece’s underrated debut album, ‘Land Gone’ is the perfect showcase for Novella’s old-school psychedelic wig-outs and ultra-cool vocals.
Late Of The Pier’s Sam Eastgate returns, with all the weird vibes and squelchy synths of his old band plus a nimble new approach to songcraft.
We had our socks knocked off by this new London band’s first full-length track – and by full-length we mean seven and a half hypnotic minutes including the sax solo.
‘Never underestimate creative people and the depths to which they’ll go’: true wisdom from the ex-Moloko singer on this downbeat floor-filler.
Despite the iffy video (the artists gyrating in India like they’d never even heard the words ‘cultural appropriation’), this was a certified banger with one of the year’s biggest dance hooks.
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.
The follow-up to ‘Chandelier’ was the catchy electropop hit we’d been craving, with a bonus controversial video starring Shia Labeouf.
Our favourite Liverpool lasses switched up their style in 2015, as exemplified by this sweet synth treat.
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.
A killer freestyle, a viral hit and a treatise against bad dental hygiene – all in a day’s work for Solihull spitter LL.
One of several tracks from the London D&B producer that would definitely scare your gran, but leave dance floors in rapturous awe.
Haven’t come across this offbeat French singer? The massive chorus here is a perfect introduction.
Janelle called in her Wondaland family for this unforgettable protest song, sending a shiver up the spine with its righteous anger against racist police brutality.
A trip in so many ways: Kevin Parker’s psych crew return with a steady seven-minute freak-out that goes to some weird places.
Young London producer RWJ shows his hooky side on this slippery synth-funk track.
Wonky psych guitar and funk bass anchor this one (despite the wacko lyrics) until the sublime chorus hits.
Deep in the digital dump that was the free, Flaming Lips-assisted ‘Miley Cyrus And Her Dead Petz’ album, this heartfelt ’80s-style ballad stood out like a beacon.
The West Coast king gives hope to the masses on this bass-heavy war cry from 'To Pimp A Butterfly'.
An oceanically deep highlight from the pair’s ‘What a Time To Be Alive’ mixtape. It’s so good, Skepta had to jump on the beat for a freestyle.
Remember jungle? As his reworking of the DJ Monita 1992 classic shows, Fracture’s not prepared to let anyone forget. ‘Luv Ta Luv Ya’ plunders the past to create something startlingly fresh.
Who were the only act this year to rhyme ‘jet ski’ with ‘Emile Heskey’? Six-strong grime syndicate Section Boyz, that’s who.
An itchy, groovy, utterly compelling workout by Manchester producer Julie Campbell. This one comes with brains and a beat.
Was there a purer, more infuriatingly catchy example of sugary pop mastery released in 2015? We really, really, really, really, really, really, really doubt it.
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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.
Though it was originally released in 2004, this slow-burning electronic dreamscape was one of the biggest club tracks of 2015.
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.
Melbourne’s answer to Patti Smith showed off her self-deprecating wit on this dry-as-the-Outback garage rock hit, with a swirling riff to boot.
This unforgettable banger dropped in early 2014, but it took a year for its unstoppable thrust, tight beats and love-and-crime narrative to make Fetty Wap briefly the biggest rising star in hip hop.
A creeping funk beat, a mesmerising flow with refs to Chinua Achebe, Richard Pryor and Michael Jackson, and the root of 2015’s most asked question: ‘What’s the yams?’
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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.
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.
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A scorchingly fiery highlight from one of the albums of the year, Flo’s mighty ‘How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful’.
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.
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