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50 Best Songs of 2015

Adele, Drake, Fetty Wap, the Weeknd and more

50 Songs

Illustration by Ryan Casey

2015 was the year Drake made our hotlines bling, the Weeknd made sure we couldn't feel our faces, Adele said "Hello" again and Fetty Wap made us all jealous of his steady pie-cookin' companion. Check out the year's 50 greatest songs below, and stream them all here.

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Illustration by Ryan Casey

18

Lana Del Rey, “High by the Beach”

This narcotically catchy anthem was prime Lana in a year when we often just wanted to toke up and stare at some waves.

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17

Tame Impala, “Let It Happen”

Somehow this impossibly warm, pillowy synth-pop groove reminds us of Syd Barrett partying with Gary Numan. 

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16

Madonna, “Ghosttown”

An indomitable power ballad for a ruined world that sounds so great you might start rooting for the apocalypse.

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15

Grimes, “Flesh Without Blood”

Addictive dance pop as only Canadian oddball Claire Boucher could conceive of it: A chrome-shiny liberation anthem full of turbocharged electro beats and airy, ghost-diva hooks. It's currently ruling the clubs on Mars.  

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14

The Arcs, “Stay in My Corner”

A sweet falsetto-soul valentine from Black Keys frontman Dan Auerbach's other band, complete with a hook that splits the difference between Curtis Mayfield-style guitar heat and the pretty melody of John Lennon's "Jealous Guy."

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13

Bully, “Trying”

In a year that was lousy with great young Nineties-drunk guitar bands, Bully stood apart – channeling Hole and Veruca Salt with loads of heart and resilience on this gold-plated shouter about toughing out a so-called life.

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12

Foals, “What Went Down”

Ambitious British art-rock dudes reboot their sound with a seething guitar epic that sounds like Radiohead and My Morning Jacket going in together on a souped-up space vessel and setting the controls for the heart of the sun.

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11

The Weeknd, “The Hills”

The Weeknd's second Number One smash of 2015 is much more like the guy we knew from his old mixtapes: Horror-movie shrieks and stormy electronics punctuate his seductive moans about a nihilistic affair, and somehow it's all catchy as hell.

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10

Jack Ü feat. Justin Bieber, “Where Are Ü Now”

EDM superfriends Skrillex and Diplo rescue the Bieb from celebrity purgatory, bending and processing his voice into a trippy space-dolphin croon that was one of the year's most instantly indelible sounds. 

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9

Tobias Jesso Jr., “How Could You Babe”

The NBA-tall Canadian with the Harry Nilsson voice stole our hearts with this defeated piano ballad about watching an old flame move on without you. No wonder Adele tapped him to co-write a song for 25 after this.

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8

Future, “Fuck Up Some Commas”

From Atlanta to Pluto, the man who's dubbed himself "Future Hendrix" came back strong in 2015, taking a money shower – thousands, millions, the more commas the better – over a siren-laced banger of a beat.

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7

Kendrick Lamar, “King Kunta”

The fiercest and most funkadelic track on To Pimp a Butterfly takes aim at everything from Lamar's haters to "the power that be." We already knew Kendrick was a great lyricist; turns out he's kind of a badass, too.

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6

Adele, “Hello”

When Adele says "hello," people listen – like, tens of millions of them. Whether she was singing to an ex (as the video seemed to imply) or to her younger self (as she's maintained), this achingly intense ballad hit home like an emotional sledgehammer.

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5

Jamie xx feat. Young Thug, Popcaan, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

2015's sunniest summer jam came from the unlikely trio of Jamie xx, Young Thug and Jamaican toaster Popcaan – plus sweet R&B harmonies sampled from the Persuasions, for a true street-corner symphony.

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4

Courtney Barnett, “Pedestrian at Best”

The most thrilling four minutes in rock in 2015: garage-y guitar crunch and a darkly hilarious rant lead to a chorus that your favorite Nineties alt band would have eaten its Doc Martens to have written.

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3

Drake, “Hotline Bling”

A vintage Seventies drum-machine sample powers Drake's exquisitely rueful remembrance of booty calls past. Now all he can do is miss that girl, brood about her new life at the club and dance like the world's biggest fool for love.

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2

Fetty Wap, “Trap Queen”

The year's biggest brand-new star sent a stylish "Hey, what's up, hello" from Paterson, New Jersey, to the entire world. Fetty Wap conquered the radio with a gangsta love song – behind that nuclear-level catchy hook is the tale of a criminal-minded hustle for two, a Scarface dream where Fetty and his trap queen can cook up hella-illegal pies and ride high together forever. It definitely says something about our crazy times that the most credible romantic fantasy out there is about a drug-slinging couple, but perhaps that's what we've come to. A pair of matching Lambos? Now that's true love.

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1

The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”

It was the "oooooh!" that changed everything. That single ecstatic syllable, slipping out just before each chorus, transformed Abel Tesfaye (a.k.a. the Weeknd) from a cult R&B singer to a full-on pop star – just as decisively as a similar yelp of joy marked a new era in Michael Jackson's career when "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough" hit 36 years earlier. Max Martin's satin-smooth production helped, too, vaulting "Can't Feel My Face" straight to Number One on the pop charts with Scandinavian efficiency. But Tesfaye's showstopping vocal performance is what makesit an instant classic. He spends the song remaking himself as a pop giant – cleverly disguising his obsession with drugs beneath a metaphor about a dangerously hot fling, and playing down his angst-y tendencies until there's just a hint of existential pain in his lighter-than-air falsetto. By the time the song is over, you'll do anything for another hit.

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