The music industry has had a historic 12 months as the streaming wars heated up and album sales reached record-breaking highs thanks to Adele after years of diminishing returns. As the business itself faced incredible changes, breaking artists and veteran musicians alike experimented with their sounds, doing everything from throwing back to the Seventies to getting everyone to cha-cha. As 2015 comes to an end, we asked our readers to vote for their favorite songs of the year. Here are the results.
Drake's "Hotline Bling" wasn't even an official single off an album; he dropped the track on his OVO Sound radio show alongside his second Meek Mill diss track "Back to Back." The simple and primarily-sung song from the Toronto rapper pulls from newcomer D.R.A.M.'s equally catchy "Cha Cha" and ended up dominating pop radio as Drake's two mixtapes, If You're Reading This It's Too Late and What a Time to Be Alive, shook up hip-hop.
On Alabama Shakes' sophomore album, the Southern rockers expanded their sound and got weird. They kicked off their new era with the deliciously funky "Don't Wanna Fight," which features a soulful riff supporting singer Brittany Howard's raspy, passionate vocal performance. The Shakes go full Bee Gees for the chorus, hitting a harmony of falsettos repeating the song's title.
Off their eighth album Untethered Moon, Built to Spill's "When I'm Blind" is a rough, energetic track that dives into psych-folk territory until the song hits its stride on the straightforward, indie-rock chorus. The real highlight of the song, however, is the glitchy, frantic solo that may very well be one of the year's strongest guitar moments.
Tame Impala's third album, Currents, opens with the psych-rock band's boldest cut yet. The opening riffs of "Let It Happen" hit a disco stride before slowing down to the more hypnotic, psychedelic fare the band has come to be associated with. The single also sees Tame Impala at their catchiest, making for a deeply engaging earworm of a track.
Cold War Kids hit pay dirt earlier this year with "First," the second single off their 2014 album Hold My Home. The emotional powerhouse of a single officially hit the top of the rock charts in September, a year after its release. Appropriately, it's Cold War Kids' first Number One.
Courtney Barnett had a huge breakthrough year that has led to a Best New Artist Grammy nomination for the Australian rocker along with widespread accolades for her debut full-length, Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit. Barnett's "Pedestrian at Best" was a riff-heavy Nineties throwback with the singer hitting a perfect punk whine that builds into an urgently delivered chorus.
In 2015 Ghost did what every occult Swedish metal band eventually seems to do: They went prog. The band's single "He Is" hit a psychedelic note, going back to metal's folkier roots from the Sixties and Seventies. It was one of the most effective cuts on a largely effective album, Meliora, that saw musical growth from the mysterious band.
Adele's comeback to music following a break from the spotlight for a couple of years was one of 2015's most triumphant returns. The singer was met with open and loving arms by the public as she first teased single "Hello" during a TV ad and later dropped the soaring, emotional ballad just weeks later. Her third LP, 25, continues to break records, having sold over 3 million copies in its first week alone.
American Idol-alum and guest frontman for Queen delivered one of the year's most shocking drops and best house single with "Ghost Town." The song starts slowly with just Lambert's voice and an acoustic guitar, then dips into a goth EDM beat. The Original High single remains one of the most criminally overlooked dance tracks of the year.
Even in a great year for pop music, Madonna is still the queen. The power ballad off her March album Rebel Heart was a more classic pop turn for the singer after the house hit "Living for Love" and trap digression of "Bitch I'm Madonna." On the massive, romantic track, the singer tackles both world issues and a reflection of self. Even though the single didn't crack the Billboard Hot 100, it still topped the dance charts and showcased one of the singer's strongest vocal performances.