Top 10 Best Hit Songs of 2015
Here we are, the last list I will be making for quite some time, The Top 10 Best Hit Songs of 2015. While I found 2015 as a whole to be somewhat overrated, there was still a good deal to like about this year. While 2015 didn’t have the most great songs of any year I looked at (in fact, only 2016 and 2018 had less in the 2010s), the songs I did like were still amazing (obviously). Only 12 songs scored a 5/5 this year, and there will be two ties on this list, so that means that, as in 2018, there is only enough for a Top 10, no Honorable Mentions here. No point in delaying it any longer, let’s get going with our #10.
#10: Locked Away by R. City ft. Adam Levine (Peak: #6, Year-End: #40)
The bottom two songs on this list were ones that snuck up on me in how much I enjoyed them. Granted, part of it may have been that I was severely lacking in best list candidates and was thus inclined to be more lenient towards songs that were on the border between 4/5 and 5/5, but I like these songs enough to feel justified in placing them here.
The first of these is Locked Away by the Virgin Islands based production duo R. City with Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine. A blend of Dancehall, Reggae and mainstream pop, the song’s themes are that of the narrator asking his partner if she’d (I’m assuming neither Adam nor the brothers from R. City are gay) stick around through the bad times, whether it be economic misfortune or legal troubles. This is summed up best through Adam’s chorus.
“If I got locked away
And we lost it all today
Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?
If I showed you my flaws
If I couldn't be strong
Tell me honestly, would you still love me the same?”
Granted, if you can’t do the time, then don’t do the crime (unless you were falsely accused or framed of said crime), but the sentiment of “will you stand by me in the bad times?” was still touching nonetheless. How about the other song that snuck up on me in the process of making this list?
#9: El Perdón by Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias (Peak: #56, Year-End: #96)
Yup, this song peaked at #56 and made the Year-End Top 100. At the time, this was by far the lowest peaking song to make a Year-End list, somehow staying on the Hot 100 for 30 weeks entirely in the bottom half. It became increasingly common over the course of the 2010s for low peaking songs to make year-end lists, and this was the lowest until FGL broke that record with Talk You Out Of It making the 2019 Year-End list with Talk You Out Of It four years later.
That chart fact aside, how about the song itself? ’ve had a complicated relationship with Latin music in general, and Reggaeton in particular in the past. I don’t speak a lick of Spanish beyond whatever trinket amount your average Anglo-American knows, so lyrics effectively don’t matter when judging Spanish songs, or songs in any other language, for that matter (I did take French in high school, but I was never fluent in the first place and have forgotten most of it since I graduated). It all comes down to production and delivery with foreign language songs.
My biggest problem with the Reggaeton crossover hits of the latter half of the 2010s was just how monotonous and dull they were. Most, if not all of them, use the same “dun-da-dun-da” beat and have monotone, autotune lathered vocals. While El Perdon still has the same beat as the other later Reggaeton hits, it also has more detail like piano and a drum machine near the end. As for the vocals, there’s clearly more emotion and passion put into this than there is into, say, Te Bote. Enrique Iglesias is a great singer (well, when he’s not singing about how he’s gonna f**k you tonight), and Nicky Jam certainly sounds better than he does on anything else I’ve heard from him.
So, what are they singing about? Obviously I don’t speak Spanish, so I couldn’t understand it. However, I did get an idea of what it was about from the title, as El Perdon is directly translated as “the sorry”. The proper translation is “forgiveness”, but I got the general gist. Looking at the translated lyrics, it’s about a guy who’s about to spill his heart out to his ex about how much he misses her and how he wants to be forgiven before she ties the knot with her new man. Basically, it’s what Marry Me by Thomas Rhett would’ve been if Thomas hadn’t bit his tongue at the end of the song, but instead confessed his undying love at the altar in front of both her and the groom. It is kind of implied that he’s trying to get her back, but I can’t be certain about that, and he could just be trying to bury the hatchet. Is it a good idea? No, but since it’s in a tongue I can’t understand, I can’t just go and nitpick it. Now, back to songs in the one language I can understand…
#8: Ghost by Ella Henderson (Peak: #21, Year-End: #93)
Welcome back to One Hit Wonderland, where we take a look at bands and artists known for only one song. Now, Ella Henderson, having been a fairly popular X-Factor contestant, wasn’t a one-hit wonder in her native UK (where she’s had eight Top 40 hits), but only her debut single Ghost crossed the pond and became a hit in America. It just so happens that said debut single is a bop.
In terms of composition, Ghost was produced by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, and it shows in the Pop Rock sound, not going fully into either genre. It’s kinda hard to describe the exact sound, since I feel like I’ve heard both a ton of and very few songs that sound like. Similarly, Ella Henderson’s voice is both familiar and distinct. Sean from Diamond Axe Studios compared her voice to Carrie Underwood, and I can kinda hear it (I can also kinda hear fellow American Idol winner Kelly Clarkson), but she does sound noticeably different from anyone else I can recall. Lyrically, it’s about Ella trying to get over her ex, but being unable to fully let him go - his ghost continues to haunt her.
“I keep going to the river to pray
'Cause I need something that can wash out the pain
And at most
I'm sleeping all these demons away
But your ghost, the ghost of you
It keeps me awake”
Overall, Ghost is a song that sounds both similar to and distinct from other Pop songs, and sounds like it could’ve been a hit at any time between the Late 2000s and Mid 2010s. However, it’s got a great sound, and that’s more than enough to get it onto the list, and I wouldn’t have minded Ella Henderson having another hit stateside. Hey, speaking of One Hit Wonders.
#7: Shut Up And Dance by Walk The Moon (Peak: #4, Year-End: #6)
Yeah, big surprise that this is making the list. If anything, you’re probably surprised that it’s only at #7 and not higher, but it was a bit overplayed back then (I mean, it was the sixth biggest hit of the year, of course it was inescapable). With that said, Shut Up And Dance is an absolute banger, for reasons that I have no need to explain, but I’ll do so anyway.
By this point, you guys should all know my general thoughts on U2. Sure, Bono is a colossal douchebag, and I have no idea what they were thinking when they made Numb (the video for which is pretty much the Dooo It of the 90s), but they’ve legitimately made some of my favorite songs of all time (just look at my Best of 1987 and Best of 2001 lists). As it just so happens, Shut Up And Dance sounds like a U2 song, especially in the guitar work, which sounds obviously inspired by The Edge. However, there are plenty more reasons to like this song than just that. The instrumentation, while highlighted by the aforementioned U2-ish guitar lick, is fantastic New Wave tinged Pop Rock. with one of the best synth solos I’ve ever heard (not the best, that’d be Versace On The Floor easily. Seriously, had it been a legit hit, it’d likely be one of my Top 10 best hit songs of the 2010s, maybe even Top 5). The verses, pre-chorus and chorus all flow into each other seamlessly, yet maintain their distinct qualities. This is the type of upbeat, infectious pop music that was desperately lacking in the following years, and is only now starting to return to the charts.
The lyrics fit into the atmosphere of the song perfectly, describing the narrator meeting the woman of his dreams at a nightclub and enjoying the night of his life dancing with her.
“Oh don't you dare look back
Just keep your eyes on me
I said you're holding back
She said shut up and dance with me
This woman is my destiny
She said ooh ooh
Shut up and dance with me”
This could’ve easily been higher on this list, but was kept lower by both residual overplay sickness and the flaws in how I rank songs (these lists are far from definitive), but it’s a bop nonetheless.
#6: Drag Me Down by One Direction (Peak: #3, Year-End: #65)
You know, I never hated One Direction. Even when I was in 5th and 6th grade in 2012, when every guy at the school I went to was trashing these guys, I didn’t really get it. Granted, I wouldn’t call myself a fan of 1D, but I’ve always thought they got too much crap. However, I will say that I prefer their later, more Pop Rock leaning material over their earlier straight ahead teeny bopper stuff, with this being the prime example.
Really, Drag Me Down is pretty standard. The lyrics are pretty standard, being about how their girlfriends have always been there for them, and how when they’re with their girls, they can’t be dragged down.
“All my life, you stood by me
When no one else was ever behind me
All these lights, they can't blind me
With your love, nobody can drag me down”
In terms of composition, it combines Pop Rock production with a song structure more typical of EDM. The verses start off more subdued, with tension and volume building towards the drop. While the drop doesn’t hit as hard as some of my favorite EDM hits, it’s still a rewarding payoff, which is what makes or breaks any song with a drop IMO (just look at Starships by Nicki Minaj, which squanders catchy verses and a great buildup with a drop that sounds like ass). The production, as mentioned earlier, is Pop Rock, with multiple layers of guitar, both organic and programmed percussion and backing keyboards that help with the buildup. The guys from 1D all deliver solid performances to boot. Is this song basic as all heck? Sure, but a song doesn’t need to be exceptional or special for me to enjoy it, and this definitely fits the bill of a song that I like for pretty mundane reasons. Now, how about a band I was obsessed with at the time?
#5: Centuries by Fall Out Boy (Peak: #10, Year-End: #43)
I was in 8th grade between 2014 and 2015, and in that year, I was in my Pop Punk phase. This was particularly the case with Fall Out Boy and Paramore, who I listened to constantly between late 2014 and early 2015. I’ve talked about Paramore several times on this blog, as all three of their Year-End hits made previous best lists (including The Only Exception topping my Best of 2010 list), However, I haven’t had the chance to talk about Fall Out Boy yet, but that changes right now.
After a string of hits in the Mid-Late 2000s, where they scored six Top 40 hits (including three that hit the Top 10), the band went on hiatus from 2009-2012, before returning in 2013, scoring a Top 20 hit in the process (I was a bit underwhelmed by that song upon revisiting it for my 2013 lists). Towards the end of 2014, FOB dropped the lead single for their album American Beauty/American Psycho, that lead single being the fifth place song on this list.
While Fall Out Boy did make a stylistic shift away from their Pop Punk origins upon their return from hiatus (much to the ire of some of their fanbase, who gave them the moniker of Sell Out Boy), I’d still say they stay faithful enough to their Rock roots here. Sure, it’s not as hard as their earlier stuff, but the guitars are audible, the percussion is natural and boy does that hook stick. It’s easily one of the strongest hooks on the Year-End list, and considering some of the other songs on this list, that’s saying something. When it comes to the lyrics, well, it’s a Fall Out Boy song, do the lyrics really matter? This is the band that is known for absurdly long song titles and have been called the masters of the word salad, it doesn’t matter if the lyrics sometimes reach Astronaut In The Ocean levels of nonsensicalness. I initially thought this song was about the band bragging about how awesome they were, but it turns out that it’s actually about the fight to stay relevant in an ever-changing music industry, where some artists become legends and others get swept away by the sands of time.
“Some legends are told
Some turn to dust or to gold
But you will remember me
Remember me for centuries
And just one mistake
Is all it will take
We'll go down in history
Remember me for centuries”
Between that and the Suzanne Vega interpolation, Centuries is the best of the three hits Fall Out Boy got during the Mid 2010s, and it’s unfortunate that they followed it up with Mania, an album that I’m sure Todd In The Shadows will cover on Trainwreckords one day (Young And Menace in particular was a disaster). Still, Centuries is a bop that I like just as much now as I did when I was in eighth grade. Now, let’s get to one of the defining artists of our generation who arguably had her peak in 2015.
#4: Style/Wildest Dreams by Taylor Swift (Peak: #6/#5, Year-End: #29/#57)
It’s no secret that Taylor Swfit’s 2014 album 1989 was an absolute behemoth of a record. Not only was it one of the best selling albums of the decade, being certified 9x Platinum in the U.S. and being eligible for Diamond certification, but it also dropped five Top 10 hits, three of which hit #1. However, the two that didn’t hit #1 happen to be the best hits from the album, and among the best of Taylor’s entire career.
I’ll start with Style, the song that is higher on the Year-End list (the two songs were equally sized hits, but Wildest Dreams’ run was split between 2015 and 2016, whereas Style’s run was entirely in 2015). The song’s instrumentation fits into that brief trend in late 2014 and early 2015 where 80s tinted mid to high tempo electro pop, and spoilers, this will not be the only song on this list that fits into that sound. That sound, while short lived, was one of the best trends in music during the 2010s, as nearly every song I’ve heard with that sound was at least good, if not great. The driving synth groove sounds great, the guitar licks in the pre chorus add some organic touches to the song, and the chorus is one of the strongest of Taylor’s entire career. Taylor’s vocals are just as great as the production, she could not have sounded better behind the mic on this track. Now, what was she singing about here?
Lyrically, Style is about being in a relationship that you know is probably going to fail, but sticking together because it looks good to other people and draws a lot of publicity.
“You got that James Dean daydream look in your eye
And I got that red lip classic thing that you like
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
'Cause we never go out of style, we never go out of style
You got that long hair, slicked back, white T-shirt
And I got that good girl faith and a tight little skirt
And when we go crashing down, we come back every time
'Cause we never go out of style, we never go out of style”
The title of the song being “Style” is possibly a not to Taylor’s past relationship with One Direction’s Harry Styles, and that hypothesis was only made stronger by One Direction’s single Perfect, which came out in Late 2015 and was suspected to be a response to this song, it even sounds pretty similar (it also happens to be just as good as this song, as it was my fourth favorite hit of 2016. BTW, here’s a mashup of the two). Whether or not the two songs are related, Style is a great pop song that is easily one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs - but it’s not her only great hit song from 2015.
That brings me to Wildest Dreams, the fifth single off of 1989 and the last one to be a major hit. The theme of Wildest Dreams isn’t all that different from Style, being about a relationship that is doomed to fail, but hoping her BF will remember all the great moments they had together until the day he dies.
“Say you'll remember me standing in a nice dress
Staring at the sunset, babe
Red lips and rosy cheeks
Say you'll see me again
Even if it's just in your wildest dreams, ah-ha
Wildest dreams, ah-ha
You'll see me in hindsight
Tangled up with you all night
Burnin' it down
Someday when you leave me
I bet these memories
Follow you around
You'll see me in hindsight
Tangled up with you all night
Burnin' it down
Someday when you leave me
I bet these memories
Follow you around”
The wistful lyrics are matched by equally ethereal production, which nails the vibe of the song perfectly. The song follows a classic formula, starting low and building to a climatic bridge and final chorus. The mix of strings, dreamy synths and percussion is absolutely breathtaking, as are Taylor’s vocals, which one again could not have been better. It’s so good, in fact, that I feel like #4 on the list is lowballing it a bit, this would fit perfectly on the podium. It’s easily one of the best ballads of the decade, and the perfect climax to the Pop-dominated era of 2008-2015. Speaking of great pop songs…
#3: Can’t Feel My Face by The Weeknd (Peak: #1, Year-End: #12)
Wow, a Weeknd song making the best list, what a shocker! The Weeknd absolutely blew up in 2015, and if it weren’t for the massive success he had in 2020 and 2021, 2015 could easily have ended up being Abel’s banner year. While the horror-themed The Hills may have been the more unique song as well as the one that ended the transitional period towards dark minimalism that Royals started (The Hills fits a sound that I like to call Grunge Trap), Can’t Feel My Face is the one that I’ve always preferred.
As with so many other Weeknd hits, this is a throwback. The production combines elements of 70s Disco, 80s Synth-Pop and 2010s Pop to create a song that is both retro and fully modern. This was produced in part by Max Martin, the biggest pop producer of the past 25 years, and while not everything he’s produced has been great, he’s definitely at the top of his game here. The Weeknd has drawn many comparisons to Michael Jackson as a vocalist, and he’s probably never sounded more like the King of Pop than he has on this song (well, either this or I Feel It Coming). He even does some MJ-esque vocal hiccups, particularly in the outro.
Now, what is he singing about? At first glance, it’d appear that he’s singing about a woman, one who makes him feel so such that he can’t even feel his face. However, it’s not actually about a woman. It’s about cocaine. I know that’s the lamest way I could’ve possibly put it, but I am so burnt out of doing this that I couldn’t even care to make something more creative. He knows that his addiction will end up being his downfall, but he can’t help but return to that magic white powder.
“And I know she'll be the death of me
At least we'll both be numb
And she'll always get the best of me
The worst is yet to come
But at least we'll both be beautiful and stay forever young
This I know, yeah, this I know
She told me, "Don't worry about it"
She told me, "Don't worry no more"
We both know we can't go without it
She told me, "You'll never be alone", oh, oh, woo”
Can’t Feel My Face is a bop of the highest order, one of the best #1 hits of the 2010s and more than worthy of the bronze medal in 2015’s Pop Olympics. However, it wasn’t even the best hit The Weeknd had in 2015, which brings us to…
#2: Love Me Harder/One Last Time by Ariana Grande (Peak: #7/#13, Year-End: #56/#67)
You know, there’s kind of a perception with pop stars, particularly female pop stars. That being that all you need to become famous is to be physically attractive and make sexually charged music and videos, and you’ll become super popular even if you have no actual talent. I remember hearing this about Katy Perry when she was popular, and I’m sure people said it about Britney Spears (although talking crap about her nowadays would get you a decidedly different reaction), and while I do think both Katy and Britney are decidedly unexceptional vocalists, they’ve both made music I enjoy (as well as music I can’t stand, see my Worst of 2008, 2011 and 2014 lists for more info). However, then there are pop stars who manage to be both attractive AND talented. These include both older pop stars like Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey and their modern-day heir, Ariana Grande.
I’ll start off with Love Me Harder, the bigger of the two songs she has on this list. I’ll be honest here: this is probably my favorite Ariana Grande song. You know how I said that Style wouldn’t be the only song that fit into that retro-modern pop sound that was big between 2014 and 2015? Well, this is that other song. The driving tempo and low but not too dark electro pop synths fit surprisingly well with Ariana Grande’s voice, and ooh boy do I have things to say about her voice on this song.
Ariana Grande has never sounded better or sexier than she does on this track. She’s not doing any Mariah Carey-esque belting, but rather sensually cooing throughout the track about how she wants you to love her harder, meaning exactly what you think it does. Jurgen Klopp would be very pleased by the sound of Ariana’s voice. While I wouldn’t go as far as to say that Ariana makes me horny, I’d be lying if I said that I wasn’t at least a little bit turned on.
Then there’s The Weeknd, for whom this was his breakout moment into the mainstream, something that would be solidified over the following year as he became an A-list pop star. While this isn’t his sexiest performance by any measure (that’d be I Feel It Coming, whose title is basically a That’s What She Said joke), he still fills the role of the male who will love Ariana harder very well, even if, as Todd In The Shadows said, he sounds like a leaking balloon.
For as great as Love Me Harder is, it wasn’t the only Ariana Grande hit from this year to make the list. That brings me to One Last Time, her follow-up single that, while it may not be AS great as Love Me Harder, is still one of the best hits of her career. The EDM-tinged production sounds somehow bright and melancholic at the same time, setting a bittersweet vibe. Ariana’s vocals fit the same mold, being more restrained on the verses and expressive on the chorus, although she doesn’t go into full-on belting. Lyrically, the song I would most compare this to would be Whatcha Say by Jason Derulo, in that Ariana is begging for forgiveness after being unfaithful to her partner, hoping to be with him just one last time. However, I’d say that this is a better song than Whatcha Say, since not only have parts of Whatcha Say aged really badly in a way that One Last Time hasn’t (although I’ll always have nostalgia for Late 2000s pop production), but I’m more able to sympathise with Ariana since she openly admits that she doesn’t deserve him back, even if she really wants to be with him again. I can get why someone wouldn’t like this song, but I did, and I stand by it making the list. Now, finally, let’s get to The Best Hit Song of 2015…
This is the last list I will be making for a long, long time. Barring something like a Pulse rankdown I’m interested in, I’m going to be taking all of 2022 off, at least. I’ve been feeling less and less inspired to do this since about late 2020, and I’m sure that’s been reflected in my writing being of a lower quality. So, for the last placement I’m making on this blog for the foreseeable future, I find it fitting that’d it’d be an artist who’s been on so many of my best lists, including at #2 in two consecutive years, but has never taken the #1 spot until today. Thus, I can only say one thing: congratulations, Adele, you’ve finally done it.
#1: Hello by Adele (Peak: #1, Year-End: #35)
Well, here we are. The Best Hit Song of 2015, and it could’ve only come from Adele. I’ve placed Adele on my best lists for 2011, 2012, 2016 and 2017, which is every year she’s appeared on a Billboard Year-End Hot 100 list thus far (although she will be almost certainly be on 2022’s Year-End list), and in the final best list of the 2010s, she’s finally taken the gold with Hello, her megahit that sold a million copies in its first week and appeared at #35 on the 2015 Year-End list with only three weeks of charting data, and it completely deserved all the records and accolades, because Hello is one of the best #1 hits of the 21st Century.
In the first verse, it’s just a spare piano ballad. Adele calls her ex (presumably Lionel Richie), wondering if he’d like to reconnect and explaining that, even after all the time that has passed, she’s been unable to move on.
“Hello, it's me
I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet
To go over everything
They say that time's supposed to heal ya
But I ain't done much healing
Hello, can you hear me?
I'm in California dreaming about who we used to be
When we were younger and free
I've forgotten how it felt before the world fell at our feet
There's such a difference between us
And a million miles”
Then the chorus hits, and it hits like a ton of bricks.
“Hello from the other side
I must've called a thousand times
To tell you I'm sorry for everything that I've done
But when I call, you never seem to be home
Hello from the outside
At least I can say that I've tried
To tell you I'm sorry for breaking your heart
But it don't matter, it clearly doesn't tear you apart anymore.”
Instant chills, everytime. Sure, she’s pestering this guy with repeated calls, and he clearly has no interest in answering (matter of fact, he’s probably had his friends collect his records and then changed his number), but she makes me feel the desperation and heartache, and that all she wants is to reconcile. However, this guy has moved on and doesn’t want anything to do with her, so it’s ultimately a hopeless endeavor. With that said, the song is far from over.
“Hello, how are you?
It's so typical of me to talk about myself, I'm sorry
I hope that you're well
Did you ever make it out of that town where nothing ever happened?
It's no secret that the both of us are running out of time.”
Through all this, the song keeps building up, adding more instrumentation like drums and bells, and it finally comes to a dramatic climax in the final chorus. After that final chorus, the song finally winds down, thus wrapping up The Best Hit Song of 2015, and the final song to top one of my best lists for a long, long time.
Well, that’s it. The last list I’ll be making for the foreseeable future. I’ll be honest, it feels good to have this monkey off my back heading into 2022. I can take a step back, chill and rest, and who knows, maybe my appetite for music will come back. Regardless, I wish you all a belated Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Take care, everyone, and goodbye for now.