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Rap Genius

"50 Best Songs of 2015"

2015 was full of surprises. Kanye West, Rihanna, and Sir Paul McCartney made a song, Canadians ruled the charts (Drake, The Weeknd, Justin Bieber and Alessia Cara), and old favorites like Adele and Dr. Dre actually released new music. Who would have thought? Here are the 50 best songs of 2015.Michael Heal

50. Adele – “Hello”

Adele’s commercially groundbreaking comeback track from her 2012 Oscar-winning “Skyfall” oozes nostalgia, careful lyricism, and a panging sense of regret. The sepia sibling to the 2011 monochromatic smash hit “Someone Like You," “Hello” is a story of reflection and growth. Equipped with luscious production that perfectly complements Adele’s melodramatic, longing vocals, the track swells with an immense grandeur, soulful and impossibly powerful. Already the subject of a viral SNL skit, the track has landed firmly in the graces of pop culture, a testament to Adele’s massive cultural legacy. Unforgettable and devastatingly timeless, “Hello” is surely among Adele’s growing catalogue of classics.
serein

49. Dr. Dre feat. Marsha Ambrosius, King Mez & Kendrick Lamar – “Darkside/Gone”

“Darkside/Gone” features two instrumentals, and three generations of Aftermath in just one song. King Mez takes the first verse, giving us an insight into the future of rap as the offspring of Cole and Kendrick. He’s followed by the veteran Dr. Dre, who summarizes his illustrious career in two verses. Saving the best ‘till last, Kendrick Lamar employs a jaw-dropping flow on one of his best features in a minute. We never thought we’d see another after Eminem, but the kid from Compton is quickly climbing his way to the top of Dre’s list of protégés.
Vuk Aleksić

48. Lin-Manuel Miranda feat. Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton – Hamilton's “Alexander Hamilton”

When Tony-winning Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up an 800-page biography of first US Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton, he became convinced within 50 pages that this man's life deserved an epic hip-hop musical. The idea may look ridiculous on paper, but "Alexander Hamilton" is an undeniable proof-of-concept. Starting with only the briefest instrumentation, the song builds from a nearly acapella verse venemously spit by Hamilton's lifelong rival to a virtuosic chorus that relates—with an exhilarating immediacy for events that happened 200+ years ago—the combination hardship and hustle that would propel Hamilton out of his impoverished Caribbean hometown and into 18th (and now 21st) century American superstardom.epaulettes

47. Halsey – “Drive”

While it’s far from the most popular song on Halsey’s debut, “Drive” may be the most vivid. Halsey described the track as “more unique” and “uninhibited”. Her personal account of a slow-burning relationship is sung to the tune of an engine, with car keys, “door ajar” beeps, rain and a cassette player serving as ad-libs. With such picturesque elements, it’s not hard to get lost in this hyperrealistic setting.streetlights

46. Chance the Rapper feat. Saba – “Angels”

Chance the Rapper took the nation by storm on October 26th, performing “Angels” live on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert with fellow buzzing Chicago artist, Saba. Through the acrobatic frontflips, the flashing lights, and the animated dance moves, it truly was the music that stood out. The muffled, yet soulful vocals, vibrant steel drums, and accompanying instrumentation from the Social Experiment set the stage for Chance and Saba to shine, speaking on the untimely deaths seen each day in Chicago. After shouting out Chicago radio stations, radio took notice, and an independent artist made waves across the nation. Catch up with the nation, and do your best juke to “Angels." — Mattw116

45. Jme feat. Gigg's – “Man Don’t Care”

Kanye West’s performance of “All Day” at the BRIT Awards, surrounded by two guys with flame throwers and some of the biggest names in grime, foreshadowed UK rap’s explosive growth in 2015. Veteran Tottenham MC Jme dropped his third and most commercially successful album, Integrity this summer, and “Man Don’t Care” quickly became its biggest track. With production from Swifta Beater that’s as ruthless as the bars Jme and a snarling Giggs spit over it, “Man Don’t Care” not only stands out in the grime scene, but is one of the hottest bangers of 2015.
BasedGator

44. Susanne Sundfor - "Delirious"

Most anti-love songs involve the artist as the victim. However, Norwegian singer Susanne Sundfør plays the perpetrator with the power of a show-stopping villain. Cinematic violins make way to a foreboding 80s arpeggiator, as Sundfør self-harmonizes through her key changes. The words “I told you not to come, my victim #1” drives the point home.Chihuahua0

43. Viet Cong - “Death”

Drake, The Weeknd and Justin Bieber had monster mainstream years, but based on creativity alone, Viet Cong were Canada’s musical MVPs in 2015. “Death” perfectly encapsulates their triumphant début album. The first three minutes are led by a jingling, Donovan-esque guitar riff. Then the tempo kicks up a gear, and a real sense of dissonance and unease creeps in. Mike Wallace’s phenomenal drum work drives the song on, whilst Matt Flegel succeeds where a hundred post-punk vocalists failed and perfectly captures the spirit of Ian Curtis of Joy Division. It’s four songs in one, and all of them are gems.Vesuvius

42. Joey Bada$$ – “Paper Trail$”

The real intro to B4.Da.$$ sums up the title of the album perfectly. Backed by a soulful beat by DJ Premier and trademark scratches, "Paper Trail$" sees Joey realize money ruined everything around him. He noticed his friends become vanity slaves, and forced himself to be different. The song is a serious complaint against late capitalist culture, delivered with so much honesty that it makes us wonder if Joey will ever sign a major label contract - even if it is for 3 million dollars.Sem Groeneweg

41. Rihanna feat. Kanye West & Paul McCartney – “FourFiveSeconds”

Rihanna is, by all counts, a pop gamechanger. An artist that is constantly revamping her image and style, the Barbadian singer’s “FourFiveSeconds” is probably the closest thing in her discography to a folk track. With its acoustic, minimalist production, and set of visceral vocals, “FourFiveSeconds” is a sure example of Rihanna’s versatility and daringness - the record is no doubt the very antithesis of the great majority of her work. Backed by Kanye West and Paul McCartney, fresh off their “Only One” collab, “FourFiveSeconds” is simple, timeless, and a hangover ode for the ages.serein

40. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away with Me”

Backed up by a blaring horn hook, one of the year’s best pop singles comes from none other than the girl who wants you to call her (maybe) - Carly Rae Jepsen. Yet “Run” isn’t just the typical bubblegum pop we’d expect from Jepsen; it’s a massive, exuberant track with a bold chorus that functions as a supersaturated one-way ticket to the 80s. Jet-setting, nostalgic, and impossibly ecstatic, the dance-pop summer anthem infectiously demands the love and attention that it wholesomely deserves.serein

39. Post Malone – “White Iverson”

This track put Post Malone on the map by dominating autumn and now winter playlists. While modern in its sound, "White Iverson" is a work of nostalgia—a throwback to a bygone era when every NBA star sported cornrows and fancied himself an MC. Post and producer 1st Down used this theme as the backbone for a smooth, sultry, yet plaintive ode to his own sauce.$haz

38. Vince Staples feat Snoh Aalegra – “Jump Off The Roof”

Summertime ‘06 is incorrigibly bleak; when paralleled with To Pimp a Butterfly, its inclusive, rallying, and uplifting thematic sister, it becomes an unnerving product of black desolation. There is little room for repose or solace in Vince Staples’s vision, and no song highlights his jagged-edged, bareboned hardness better than “Jump off the Roof,” a four minute master-showing of music’s most visceral brand of introspective realism. Like Ice Cube, Vince’s lyrical power comes from plainspoken sharpness: “I pray to God cause I need him, I need him, I need him,” Vince raps over impeccably howling production; we need no elaboration to feel its force.
XerXes

37. Clarence Clarity – “Those Who Can’t, Cheat”

“Those Who Can’t, Cheat”, likely the catchiest tune off Clarence Clarity’s debut album No Now, may also be the most cryptic. Through R&B and pop influenced the melodies, Clarence tells the tale of a cheating lover while simultaneously explaining that our time on this earth is limited, relating to what might be the theme of the whole album: live life, as we never know what the future might hold. Watch this strange universe unfold on “Those Who Can’t, Cheat." — Mattw116

36. Towkio feat. Lido, Chance The Rapper & Eryn Allen Kane – “Heaven Only Knows”

Four young talents, accompanied by a hook interpolated from John Legend's "Heaven" combine to create a divine and heavenly track. "Heaven Only Knows" hosts an electric, multi-layered hook, and a strong opening verse from Towkio – as he declares SAVEMONEY “an army full of generals”. If this weren’t enough, Chance The Rapper drops a feature verse delivered so rapidly with such a condense and varying rhyme scheme, Lido literally ups the tempo to match it. And that’s why, for those reasons and more...

I love it, I love it, love it, I love it, love it, I love it

Skhills

35. Jay Rock – “Gumbo”

Real flavour is hard to come by these days but TDE’s Jay Rock delivered with standout single, "Gumbo". The strength of the song lies in the hidden references to his youth. The song title for example, refers to his grandmother's Gumbo; "The flavor, it tastes so good. It was an analogy with music” he told Genius. Similar to "Fly On The Wall," Rock shows a vulnerable side of life in the projects. Realizing how personal "Gumbo" is makes it even more fascinating.Sem Groeneweg

34. Wolf Alice – “You’re A Germ”

Since bursting to prominence with “Moaning Lisa Smile” in early 2014, Wolf Alice have been hailed as the instigators of a new wave of British grunge. Although they’ve distanced themselves from that label, “You’re A Germ” is their most grunge song yet. Its quiet introduction presents biker Georgie, who uses his age to impress schoolgirls. Then the behemoth of a chorus, complete with a monstrous count-in, tears him down; he’s a “dodgy fucker”, doomed to become a washed up rocker and ultimately get dragged down to Hell. It’s like Cobain at his best.Vesuvius

33. The Weeknd – “Tell Your Friends”

Of all the songs on Beauty Behind The Madness, “Tell Your Friends” is one of the few non-pop records. Kanye West & co samples Soul Dog’s 1976 song “Can’t Stop Loving You..” to blend soul and rock effortlessly, as Abel opens up about self destruction, chasing fame, drugs, and of course, women. “They told me not to fall in love, that shit is pointless” he croons, just moments before Mike Dean rips his best guitar solo since “Devil In A New Dress.” Want to impress your friends this holiday season? Tell them about this song.
Michael Heal

32. Florence + The Machine – “Delilah”

In “Delilah,” Florence Welch takes the phone call that she never received from her lover, and elevates it into a modern biblical adaptation. The baroque-pop stomper anchors the anguish with a clap-accompanied drum, piano chords, and throaty brass that exhales as Welch proclaims “I’m calling for my mother, as I pull the pillars down.” When she finishes with the words “These chains never leave me, I keep dragging them around,” her falsetto — and the bouncing cello — devastes.Chihuahua0

31. Joanna Newsom – “Sapokanikan”

The best candidate for this millennium’s Bard, Joanna Newsom works best when she’s able to transform complex poetic devices into a singalong, as evinced by “Sapokanikan”. She begins by referring to “Ozymandias” and the futility of creating art. Ironic, considering she created some of the most lasting music of 2015. The stunning piano piece complete with drums is an epistemic journey where every listener comes away knowing something new.Brian Duricy

30. Justin Bieber – “What Do You Mean?”

Bieber Fever hit an all-time high prior to the release of “What Do You Mean?” thanks to a month packed with promotion from Justin’s high-profile friends. The unique rollout proved worthwhile, as the song became his first ever number one single. The now-ubiquitous Bieber crooning is complimented by one Mason Levy, who adds in a syncopated synth rhythm along with that catchy clock beat. Meanwhile, maturity is shown in the lyrics -- when would you ever think the “Baby” singer would ever get real about arguing and makeup sex? Although the song highlights indecision, there’s none on our end - “What Do You Mean?” is one of our favorite tracks of the year.streetlights

29. Skepta – “Shutdown”

Grime was first introduced to the American blogosphere in 2003, but the last 12 months have seen the genre make a serious overseas crossover thanks to cosigns from hip-hop’s reigning tastemakers, Kanye West and Drake. Sensing the moment, Skepta released one of the most zeitgeisty grime songs yet. While armed with a Drake sample and a media reaction to Kanye’s “All Day” Brit Awards performance, this song completely belongs to Skepta. The frantic beat suits his energetic style, spitting tough bars while speaking the same language as Man Booker Prize winner Marlon James’ book A Brief History of Seven Killings, with both having no time for “your -ism and schisms.” No, Skepta’s only got time for making the most of his moment, something he does completely on “Shutdown." — Brian Duricy

28. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”

Kevin Parker described this song as “totally different from anything ever.” Are we sure that’s hyperbole? From the auditory Rorschach test in the bridge, to the inexplicable record skips that would feel serendipitous if Parker’s master-planner reputation didn’t precede him, “Let It Happen” sounds as much like the soundtrack to the apocalypse as it does the first notes of a glorious new wave. Synth-heavy and sensual, moody and meticulous, “Let It Happen” was the perfect sonic and thematic intro to an album birthed by surrendering to desires.Heisenferg

27. Sufjan Stevens – “Blue Bucket of Gold”

Carrie & Lowell finds Sufjan Stevens stripped bare, trading his usual experimental instrumentation for minimalism, focusing attention on the devastatingly personal delivery of his mother’s passing. The album’s final track, “Blue Bucket of Gold,” begins much the same: plodding piano keys and the fuzzy warmth of Sufjan’s voice draws the listener in with its intimacy, belying the metaphor of loss and ghostly backing vocals that threaten to knock you out cold. Sufjan asks for answers, and pleas for the impossible, as the album seems to fizzle to a bleak conclusion, swallowed by its own grief. Just then, the ethereal drone crescendos out of nowhere, its oscillations washing over like a wave of catharsis, providing comfort where words have fallen short. In the face of death, hope springs eternal.Brock Chenier

26. Travi$ Scott feat. Justin Bieber & Young Thug – “Maria I’m Drunk”

While many made a lot of Antidote, which features all the typical hooks and beats that you’d expect from a banger, Rodeo’s true work of art is a very cool and calculated two-parter. Maria sets the tone perfectly, offering a slow but captivating atmosphere that allows I’m Drunk to wash over you for a night’s cruise. This song also features a surprisingly well incorporated Justin Bieber verse, showing his newfound prominence within the hip-hop industry through his newly developed range: “Girl I want you on the rocks, no chaser, Be sure to drink it all, won't waste ya.” — Zachary “thezachman1” Mahabir

25. Drake – “Back to Back”

“Back to Back” was the biggest hip-hop event of 2015. The first diss song to be nominated for a Grammy had timelines ablaze and has so far, garnered over 105 million Soundcloud plays. Everyone knew Drake was waiting for a chance to prove himself. Everyone except Meek Mill, who fired off a series of Tweets claiming Drake didn’t write his own raps. “Is that a world tour or your girls tour?” Drake clapped back over the Noah “40” Shebib laced beat, as the punchlines kept rolling in: “Yeah, trigger fingers turn to twitter fingers / Yeah, you gettin' bodied by a singin' nigga.” Meek’s career hung by a thread. The Drizzy Drake we knew was gone. The 6ix God was born.Michael Heal

24. Father John Misty – “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment”

In the middle of a collection of beautiful unapologetic love songs, “The Night Josh Tillman Came To Our Apartment” stands out. It’s an anti-love song, in which our weary narrator complains about his lover’s annoying habits. Some lyrics are biting, with sarcasm dripping off them, others are understated and subtle. The result is a song which complements, rather than contradicts, the central message of I Love You, Honeybear. It’s Tillman’s greatest songwriting achievement yet.Vesuvius

23. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

A rap song has never won “Song of the Year” at the Grammys, but Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” might be the first. The song isn’t just a catchy, Pharrell produced banger, it’s socially aware. We’re angry: “We hate po-po / Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho” - we’re tired: “I'm at the preacher's door / My knees gettin' weak, and my gun might blow - but we have hope: “But we gon' be alright!” Black Lives Matter protesters evened chanted the hook during the 20th Anniversary Celebration of Million Man March in Washington D.C. Kendrick Lamar managed to capture the emotions of a nation, and evidently the world in three and a half minutes. No award can match that.Michael Heal

22. Beach House – “Space Song”

Though many tracks on Depression Cherry may seem to “blend”, “Space Song” is a true standout. While Beach House’s classic use of drones pulls you into the song, it’s the magnificent riffs that keep you there. These riffs promote an ambivalent feeling. On one hand they represent sorrowful cries, capable of breaking down whatever wall you might place against it, but on the other, they represent a hypnotic happiness. Contemplate “what makes this fragile world go round” as Beach House transports you to a new one on “Space Song." — Mattw116

21. Snakehips feat. Chance The Rapper & Tinashe – “All My Friends”

Drunk on a Friday night? Look no further than the infectious “All My Friends.” The soaring chorus and hypnotic synths create a party anthem with a twist. Tinashe delivers a standout vocal performance complete with vulture metaphors, while Chance the Rapper spits a sweet sixteen entirely about the effects of Xanax. You can’t escape the irony of one liners like: “The nights we won't remember / Are the nights we won't remember” in a society where today's youth consider “turning up” on their list of basic human rights.Michael Heal

20. Future – “March Madness”

Lively and anthemic, this Tarentino-produced track was the highlight of Future's best project in a year he dominated, releasing 2 Billboard #1 albums in the span of 3 months. In addition to his usual drug references, Future takes the time to acknowledge a societal ill that has particular personal significance to him, as he laments "all these cops shooting niggas tragic". Celebratory yet conscientious, it is, as its title suggests, an encapsulation of America at its best.$haz

19. Drake – “Hotline Bling”

Drake’s “Hotline Bling” has dominated the latter half of 2015 thanks to its simplistic but captivating beat and incredibly infectious hook. The song quickly became the most culturally impactful anthem of the year and earned Drake his highest charting single since 2009’s “Best I Ever Had.” The song’s popularity only grew with the release of its music video, which quickly became an internet sensation, inspiring a multitude of memes and sparking playful discussion around Aubrey’s questionable dance moves. Drizzy successfully delivers a fresh sound while still providing us with one of his his classic ex-lover narratives..shy-ink

18. Lupe Fiasco feat. Ayesha Jaco – “Prisoner 1 & 2”

It’s hard to believe that a story of mistreated prisoners, jealous guards, and an artist’s conflict with a record label could be told in 9 minutes. Lupe Fiasco, however, is not your average lyricist. On the string-driven side of “Prisoner 1”, Lupe details the tragedy of the “new Jim Crow” until the song breaks down to the sound of menacing grunts and pleas to be freed, leading towards “Prisoner 2”, where the guards abuse their privileges to feel powerful, only to realize they’re trapped as well. In classic Lupe style, the metaphorical subplot runs deep. Click here for the Genius annotated page. You’re welcome.Mattw116

17. Miguel – “Waves”

While it wasn’t the lead single on Wildheart, Miguel’s “Waves” proved to be a fan favorite. The booming instrumentation shines bright alongside Miguel’s fiery delivery that seems to endlessly intensify, leading up to a passionate-frenzy of an outro. Compared to “Coffee”, this song shines bright when performed live, the rocking guitars amplify even further while the crowd emulates Miguel’s enormous energy. Always experimenting with ways to push the genre forward, Miguel masters the crossover between Rock and R&B to create an anthemic soundtrack to our summer.shy-ink

16. Jack Ü feat. Justin Bieber – “Where Are Ü Now”

While "Where Are Ü Now" is the brain-child of Skrillex & Diplo, the super-producer duo behind Jack Ü , it's Justin Bieber who steals the show with an outstanding comeback vocal performance. “Where Are Ü Now” marks Bieber’s transition from cliched teen pop songs to sonically and lyrically interesting music. Fluttering synths, deep bass, and a flute riff that is actually Bieber’s voice anoint the song--the best traits of Skrillex and Diplo. As Bieber croons about an ex (guess who), we can only wonder: where has mature Justin been all our lives? — Babu Sea

15. A$AP Rocky feat. Bones – “Canal St.”

“Canal St.” featuring Bones is that vibe, and by no accident either. Imagine A$AP Rocky treading down Canal St. towards Mercer with his hood up and head down, watching the rain splash off his vintage leather boots smoking a blunt in the dead of night. The hustler's sermon is delivered over a stripped back, smoldering beat looping in and out of Bones’ hook. As Rocky snarls “heard the people want that raw shit, but y'all be talkin' bullshit” to end the second verse, we realize what we just heard was most definitely the formerMichael Heal

14. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian At Best”

At first listen, “Pedestrian At Best” is organized chaos. Witty bars on fame and philosophy are thrown into crashing guitar riffs. The execution might seem awkward at first, but lyrics like “Put me on a pedestal / and I’ll only disappoint you” and “I think you’re a joke / but I don’t find you very funny” are some of the most poignant and hilarious lines of the year. Barnett doesn’t need to worry about her fame falling through - songs like these will certainly keep her afloat.Babu Sea

13. Major Lazer feat. DJ Snake & MØ – “Lean On"

“Lean On” mashes EDM, reggae, and traditional Indian sounds into a dancefloor ballad about taking on love’s difficulties. Danish darling MØ brings plenty to the table as the vocalist, melting into the words “But the nights are long, longing for you to come home.” Staccato synths and a chipmunked riff complete the presentation of one of the world’s biggest Songs of the Summer.Chihuahua0

12. Alessia Cara – “Here”

"Here" functions as the ultimate introvert-anthem. In a world where mainstream pop music largely celebrates and glorifies the party lifestyle, newcomer Alessia Cara sheds light on the other side of the spectrum. Antisocials of society can find comfort in the idea that a rising star feels the same way as they do. Melodic throughout, “Here” is perfect for radio, but also has the storytelling chops of a deeper cut, drawing the listener in and allowing thought-provoking lyrical content to take centre stage. “Here” is for those who want to kick it to music with a message.Ali Yetim

11. Natalie Prass – “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”

“I don’t feel much”. These words from Natalie Prass introduce the heartbreaking “My Baby Don’t Understand Me”. A few quiet piano chords are initially accompanied only by brief woodwind notes. As the song’s story of heartbreak progresses, it crescendos, not once, but twice, with more and more instruments coming in. “Our love is a long goodbye/we keep waiting for the train to cry”, Prass sings, as the song reaches a glorious, tear-jerking peak. More, and soon, please.Vesuvius

10. Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”

A song written from the point of view of a “vampire, space-travelling Al Pacino from The Godfather Part 2 who can change gender,” "Kill V. Maim" is as eccentric of a piece as its perspective suggests. Boucher’s delivery and production are in a constant state of flux, yet melt and cohere into a glorious final product. It’s hyperactive; she moves from articulated statements into accented growls, and from taunting cheerleader chants to genderbent rebellion. The song’s a prime example of forward-thinking pop, breaking down expectations with every turn and interstellar sound effect. Fun, unexpected, and a total wild card - it’s undeniably Grimes.Tyler Yan (LanaDelReyquaza)

9. Jamie xx feat. Romy Madley Croft – “Loud Places”

On “Loud Places,” Jamie xx recruits former bandmate Romy to essentially create a new xx song, something fans have patiently awaited since 2012. “Loud Places” is a song of antithesis: searching for peace in the most rowdy of places, expressing love with no reciprocation, elevating past the clouds yet plummeting so low. Sampling Idris Muhammad’s “Could Heaven Ever Be Like This,” Jamie seamlessly blends old and new, creating music that truly transcends.Mattw116

8. Kendrick Lamar – “The Blacker the Berry”

“I’m the biggest hypocrite of 2015!” Kendrick Lamar screams on “The Blacker The Berry” as he rages over a raw Boi-1da instrumental. The song is the purest hip-hop track on To Pimp A Butterfly - a refreshing break on an album filled with chaotic jazz and G-funk production.

On a song that’s accusatory, yet self-reflecting; provocative, yet self-containing, Kendrick accurately points out how the problems addressed on the record are not just black and white. He tries to engage with every side of the discussion by emphasizing black on black violence is just as common as any other form of violence. Hypocrite? Yes, but Kendrick makes hypocrisy seem like a natural response - maybe even an inevitable one.Steven Frölke

7. Beach House – “Levitation”

A pound of feathers, or a pound of lead – which is heavier? Beach House has consistently found themselves on the former end of the common riddle, layering airy synths and organs behind Victoria Legrand’s buoyant voice to create music that seemingly hovers over the listener. But don’t mistake lightweight for superficial; a pound of feathers is still a pound, after all, and music this light on its toes is far from punchless in its qualitative or emotional weight. “Levitation” bubbles with hope in the face of the unknown. Even as they duly note the looming dread of uncertainty with metaphors of aging, they don’t leave you hanging; uplifting organs and Alex Scally’s momentous guitar riffs burst through the fear with a warm incandescence that could soundtrack a sunrise, as Legrand promises to take you away from all the darkness, inviting you to elope into her soothing arms. — Brock Chenier

6. D'Angelo – “Really Love”

D’Angelo’s “Really Love” has existed since 2007, and on the Black Messiah version of the track, he fittingly makes us wait more than two minutes before his voice is heard. The Latin funk guitar plucks serve as a transition from a whispered Spanish lover’s query, foreshadowing the intimate softness of D’Angelo’s singing. Lyrically, the song aspires to a higher order of love, that of “really” love. On an album concerned with vital, heavy topics like police brutality, D’Angelo showcases his capacity for romance nearly two decades after releasing his classic debut LP Brown Sugar. It’s (really) refreshing.Brian Duricy

5. The Weeknd – “The Hills”

Horror-influenced in theme and sound, “The Hills” was an unlikely breakout hit, a throwback to Abel’s mixtape period — in stark contrast to the Max Martin-penned MJ impression "Can't Feel My Face." It initially surfaced during a SXSW performance, immediately stirring up anticipation for The Weeknd’s 2015 domination. The track builds to the brutally honest hook and crescendos into a punishing low end. Additional eerie vibes and atmospheric feel combine for one of the most addictive songs of the year. Half past five will never be the same again.$haz

4. Kanye West feat. Paul McCartney – “Only One”

“No you’re not perfect but you’re not your mistakes” are words to live by. And if anyone knows, it’s Kanye Omari West. On Ye’s most personal song since 2008’s 808’s & Heartbreak, he draws parallels to The Beatles’ “Let It Be” - a song written by Sir Paul McCartney after waking from a dream about his late mother. Some 45 years later, McCartney joins West as he sings a strikingly beautiful, incredibly stark Auto-Tuned ballad to his daughter North. Kanye claimed he couldn’t remember the song when the lines were played to him, and concluded it was a message from his late mother, Donda West. Considering Ye delivered “Only One” on the first day of the year, here’s hoping he starts 2016 in the same fashion.Michael Heal

3. Sufjan Stevens – “Fourth Of July”

Closing the first side of Carrie and Lowell, “Fourth of July” sees Sufjan Stevens summoned to his estranged mother’s deathbed. Over quiet piano chords, Carrie pleads with her “little Versailles” for his forgiveness, and tries to console him by reminding him of the inevitability of death. Sufjan covers a tremendous amount of emotional ground over the minimalist production, searching desperately for what he “could have said to raise you from the dead”. It’s incredibly honest, and easily one of the most affecting songs of the year.Vesuvius

2. Kendrick Lamar – “u”

This visceral cut from album of the year To Pimp a Butterfly is an intense, disturbing listen. Rather than the the self-loving “i”, “u” serves as the self-loathing antithesis. Kendrick gives unrestricted access to his tormented soul as he raps about his sixteen year old sister falling pregnant and FaceTiming his childhood friend Chad Keaton in hospital while he was away on tour. This comes in an intense fit of drunken rage we’re not used to seeing from Lamar, but it ultimately makes for a more impactful song. From the haunting screams, gripping internal struggle and manic state, Kendrick tackles depression head on. Loving "u" is complicated.
Michael Heal

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

A 2014 NC State study found that “good” and “time” are two of the most frequently used words in hit songs, and “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” abides by those statistics without ever falling into triteness. The cut from Jamie xx’s solo debut features a fusion of steel drums, infectious dancehall vocals and a soulful sample derived from The Persuasions song of the same name. Perhaps the most key element, however, is the warbled euphoria of Young Thug, who contributes not only in the form of absurdly creative lyrics, but as an instrument, melodically intertwining with Jamie’s lush production. These disparate pieces blend to perfection to form a masterpiece worthy of it’s own EP. Wherever and whenever this song’s playing, we know there’s gonna be good times.streetlights

Check out the Genius Community's 20 Best Albums of 2015 here.

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