Culture / Entertainment

The 50 Best Songs of 2015

From Jamie xx to Panda Bear — and Don’t Forget Justin Bieber

BY // 12.15.15

2015 was an explosive year in music, whether you like electronic, hip-hop, soul, R&B, or the space that all four of those genres have been cross-pollinating for a few years now. A generation of listeners growing up playing music through “Shuffle” on their iPods have now begun creating music young listeners of today will consume through “Shuffle” (as well as via Spotify, Apple Music, YouTube, Tidal, Pandora, et. al).

There are fewer barriers to hearing music now than there have ever been, and listeners are arguably now more open-minded than ever before. Most can see no problem appreciating both Justin Bieber — who released a tropical-house record — and the cult Chicago DJ who invented footwork (RP Boo).

To be sure, plenty of classic-type singer-songwriters — Natalie Prass, Mac Demarco, Julia Holter  all released great albums in 2015. However, Jamie xx bottled up the entirety of modern music across 11 world-busting songs, the best of which featured a Jamaican dancehall hook from Popcaan alongside a classic Persuasions sample alongside one of the the best vocalists in music, Atlanta- based Young Thug.

Elsewhere, Erykah Badu reunited with Andre 3000 and interpolated Todd Rundgren to heart-stopping effect. Kendrick Lamar delivered an impassioned affirmation of perseverance and unofficially soundtracked a movement. (He also delivered the video of the year with this song.) Be sure to catch him at Day For Night in Houston this weekend!

Empress Of penned a moving song about street harassment — “I’m fending for myself when you call me pretty, let me walk away” — that struck right at the heart of the issue. Missy Elliott returned with predictably amazing results. Miguel followed up 2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream with the heavily Prince-indebted Wildheart. Viral hit-makers iLoveMemphis not only created a dance craze, but radio’s most joyful, funky song. Sufjan Stevens released the greatest album of his career.

After appearing all over Kendrick Lamar’s epic To Pimp a Butterfly early in the year, Kamasi Washington got hip-hop heads into free jazz with an equally epic triple album, more than appropriately titled (what else?), The EpicBeach House took three years to release a follow-up to 2012’s Bloom with August’s Depression Cherry, then took not even three months to follow that with surprise album Thank Your Lucky Stars (which might have secretly been better). Grouper side-project Helen released an album that was appropriately dreamy and gorgeous.


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Be sure to follow us on Spotify @papercitymag for all our public playlists we’ve produced this year and click through the playlist above to listen on the Spotify app.

Below, our Top 50 Songs for 2015 in list form:

1. Jamie xx/Popcaan/Young Thug: “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

2. Erykah Badu/Andre 3000: “Hello

3. Kendrick Lamar: “Alright”

4. Jeremih: “Oui

5. Justin Bieber: “What Do You Mean?”

6. Carly Rae Jepsen: “All That

7. Empress Of: “Kitty Kat

8. Missy Elliott/Pharrell: “WTF (Where They From”)

9. D.R.A.M. “Cha Cha”

10. Natalie Prass “My Baby Don’t Understand Me

11. Chairlift “Ch-Ching”

12. Janet Jackson: “No Sleeep

13. The Weeknd: “Can’t Feel My Face

14. Neon Indian: “The Glitzy Hive

15. Miguel: “Waves”

16. Jazmine Sullivan: “Let it Burn

17. Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment: “Sunday Candy”

18. Shamir: “Demon

19. iLoveMemphis: “Hit the Quan

20. Ty Dolla Sign/Jagged Edge: “Straight Up

21. Kehlani: “Unconditional

22. Omarion/Chris Brown/Jhene Aiko: “Post to Be

23. Sufjan Stevens: “Fourth of July”

24. The Internet: “Special Affair

25. Nicolas Jaar: “Fight

26. Vince Staples: “Summertime

27. Rihanna/Paul McCartney/Kanye West: “FourFiveSeconds”

28. Alex G: “Bug”

29. Kamasi Washington: “The Rhythm Changes

30. Holly Herndon: “Morning Sun”

31. Kelela: “Rewind”

32. Julia Holter: “Feel You”

33. Mac Demarco: “No Other Heart

34. Courtney Barnett: “Pedestrian at Best”

35. Bjork: “Stonemilker

36. Arca: “Front Load

37. Oddisee: “First Choice

38. RP Boo: “Bang’n on King Dr.”

39. JLin: “Black Ballet

40. Susanne Sundfor: “Fade Away”

41. Blood Orange: “Sandra’s Smile”

42. Jefre Cantu-Ledesma: “Disappear

43. Grimes: “Realiti”

44. Jessy Lanza/DJ Spinn & Taso: “You Never Show Your Love”

45. Oneohtrix Point Never: “No Good”

46. Dam-Funk: “Free

47. Beach House: “The Traveller

48. Chromatics: “I Can Never Be Myself When You’re Around

49. Helen: “Motorcycle

50. Panda Bear: “Tropic of Cancer”

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