Beyoncé made the best drunken-hookup song ever, DJ Snake and Lil Jon refused to turn down for any reason, Sia swung from the chandeliers and more. Here are the 50 best tracks of the year.
Adam Duritz and Co. come through with an alt-rock burner full of self-deprecating wit.
The alt-country vets get real about what it's like to be a band for 20-plus years in this wry lament.
A gem-like, 1:40 fragment from a rising Philadelphia singer-songwriter that raises the bar for home-recorded pop.
If only all arguments between couples were as breezy and sweet-natured as the one captured on this easygoing folk-rock tune.
Big, bright synths carry the underappreciated British house diva's vocals to the sky as she fantasizes about "a little loving like Valium."
The Brooklyn band ditches romantic indie-pop for something with sharper edges on this spiky plea.
Annie Clark's visionary fourth album peaks with this dreamy space-rocker: "Remember the time we went and snorted/That piece of the Berlin Wall that you'd extorted?"
An ecstatic celebration of pure pop, with a hell of an earworm for a chorus and "ba-ba-ba" backing harmonies that are straight out of Brian Wilson's Sixties sandbox.
The year's sexiest nightmare is full of unsettling synthwork, breathy sighs, hot come-ons ("I can fuck you better than her") and twisted imagery ("Pull out the incisor").
The fantastically frenetic Montreal art-punks slow down for this warped ballad, like the grandkid of the Velvets' "Heroin."
A great band's guns-blazing return to form after nearly a decade apart. Hallelujah!
A furious, exhilarating blast of punk-rock snarl.
Monumentally chronic beat plus extra-slick rhymes.
A barreling groove with a winningly sour narrator.
A garage-pop treat with the perfect ratio of fuzzed distortion and melodic sugar.
These alt-country-loving Swedes sing like true sweethearts of the rodeo.
We haven't loved a trip-hop vibe-out this much since the summer of 1997.
Memories of youth in the Sixties, reflected through decades of lived truth.
Don't even bother trying to resist this hook. It'll be in your head until 2016.
Scream yourself hoarse on the most empowering alt-rock rager Hole never made.
A gently burbling beat and an aching chorus made this 2014's chillest love song.
The country star teams with Little Big Town for this lovely, bittersweet ballad.
Prince turned a jokey Twitter hashtag into a sparkling sex jam. Voilà!
Seven wordless minutes of pure guitar bliss and blaze, as only Moore can do it.
The year's most bodacious bragfest: six minutes that pan across the whole Drake saga. He even claims he's got as good a jump shot as Steph Curry.
Canadian avant-pop experimenter Dan Snaith (a.k.a. Caribou) goes all-in on dance-floor soul and shows us how smooth and subtle EDM can be.
The closing track on Turn Blue is a dazed and confused Seventies-radio scorcher, right down to the Stones guitar strut, bell-bottom-blues grind and cowbell thump.
This ode to self-medication is both a little bit Lorde (the cushy, post-hip-hop beat) and a little bit Kesha (opening lines: "Eat my dinner in the bathtub/Then I go to sex clubs").
Lana making fun of hipsters is sorta like Ted Cruz making fun of assholes. But when she pouts, "My boyfriend's in a band/He plays guitar while I sing Lou Reed," she speaks for generations of cool-kid dreamers.
Imagine there's no Raditude. It's easy if you try: On this comeback single, Rivers Cuomo apologizes to the fans he's tortured for years by "rockin’ out like it's '94" with some perfect power-pop guitar buzz.
Ten years ago, Old Crow turned a Dylan fragment into "Wagon Wheel." Here's the sequel: a pristine cowboy ballad based on an outtake from the Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid sessions.
On paper, it sounds ridiculous: a Dirty South throwdown by way of…Australia? But "Fancy" ruled the summer of '14, thanks in no small part to Charli XCX's weapons-grade hook.
Therapy rock that's as fun as it is cathartic: Jack Antonoff shouts about fear and desperate loneliness, while the crazy-catchy group chorus and hyperactive synths suggest he's going to be just fine.
This Mississippi hip-hop duo sound like they're still in junior high. But that boyish hype-ness and an eerily sparkling beat from Mike Will Made-It make for a zany baller anthem that pops like bubble gum.
No one does heartsick California folk rock like Beck. This isn't his version of the pop classic so much as an all-new séance that sends its lonely-world desolation through a mellow haze of Laurel Canyon beauty.
Aussie songwriter Sia had her first U.S. hit with this skyscraping ballad, inspired by her battle with alcoholism. The massive chorus captures the exact moment boozing stops being fun and starts to get terrifying.
Canadian electro-R&B singer Grimes doesn't push at pop's boundaries – she torches them. "Go" is a club hallucination somewhere between Rihanna and Skrillex, sung with a ravenous desire that's all her own.
On this powerful Sonic Highways track, the Foos peel out searing alt-rock, and Eagles guitarist Joe Walsh adds a mythic Seventies-L.A. solo, making for a stadium-size, cross-generational blowout.
The breakout hit from U.K. soulman Smith is a slow-burn ballad about a romance he knows won't last. But between the gospel-choir backing and Smith's achingly gorgeous singing, you might just fall in love to it anyway.
Three minutes of uncut indie-guitar bliss: Singer Molly Rankin takes the initiative and promises her boy a lifetime of trouble over swirls of hopeful noise, to give us the fuzzy-cardigan "Drunk in Love" we never knew we needed.
Hip-hop's most exciting young voice rocks some spiritual self-love over a classic Isley Brothers lick: "Peace to fashion police, I wear my heart on my sleeve." He wears it well.
Synth-pop to send a chill up your spine: Singer Samuel T. Herring walks a fine line between Erasure and Tina Turner, oozing sad-white-boy soul.
"I washed your dishes/But I shit in your bathroom," Van Etten sings on this majestic stomper – bad-mood indie folk that hits as hard as any rock all year.
A rock-soul riot that boils the world's wisdom down to one simple phrase – "It all starts with a kiss" – and proceeds to drive home that gospel truth with fire-starting fury.
"They'll tell you I'm insane," Swift sings. No way! The high point of 1989 was a superstorm ballad that hits like a pitching wedge through your windshield. And in inventing her own sound between Beyoncé and the Pet Shop Boys, she brings the cray-Tay with as much elegance as vengeance.
The sharp-witted, golden-voiced queen of L.A. indie pop dropped a beautiful, Beck-produced truth bomb about midlife malaise – from not yet having kids to dealing with her aging guy friends' forever-24 girlfriends. Just like that, Lewis flips the script on the male gaze. Checkmate.
A rap song about dealing drugs? How novel! In fact, Auto-Tuned ATLien Future turned well-worn boasts about the gold on his links and the coke in his sink into an irresistible anthem. The beat makes you feel high as hell; the joy in the hustle makes you wanna be a customer.
The emotional centerpiece of Songs of Innocence is a stark, shimmering ballad that recalls "With or Without You" in its searching power. "Are we so helpless against the tide?" Bono asks, staring down time's passage. The music answers back with gently heroic uplift, giving him the salvation he seeks.
The year's nutsiest party jam was also the perfect protest banger for a generation fed up with everything. DJ Snake brings the synapse-rattling EDM and Southern trap music; Lil Jon brings the dragon-fire holler for a hilarious, glorious, glowstick-punk "fuck you."
Of all Beyoncé's flawless accomplishments over the past 12 months – pulling off the ultimate surprise-album stunt; raking in millions on one of the year's hugest stadium tours; coming out as a proud feminist on national TV – this one stands out as the flawless-est: She managed to make marriage sound ridiculously hot. This future-pop fantasy was the sexiest thing on the radio, from the heavy bass throb to the wild thrill in her voice when she sings about juicy nights ("I get filthy when that liquor get into me"), hung-over mornings and, uh, surfboards. So steamy, even her famous husband’s uncomfortable Ike Turner joke couldn’t kill the vibe.