No time to waste as the year is almost out, so to the top ten we go.
10. “Hello”by Adele
Hello, Adele. Adele hasn’t been on the charts or in the media since 2012’s “Skyfall” and winning her OScar for the performance. No one saw her coming back quite yet until a phone ad revealed her single “Hello.” IT is fortunately not a cover of the classic Lionel Richie ballad, but an original song about trying to contact the past to move on. It’s a rich ballad with all the aesthetics we’ve come to love from Adele from dramatic romantic production and the overdubs throughout. She still has heartbreak in her voice and suffering in her performance. It’s beautiful and a bit harsh to muster up the feelings of the past. It’s tearful, but brilliant.
9. “The Hills” by The Weeknd
How this song got on the radio, I will never know, but thank the lords on high that it did because it is pure dark joy. The Weeknd brings his signature R&B style, but creates a dark atmosphere that brings out the intense lyrics. It’s a song about a man in a cheating relationship, constantly addicted to drugs and sex and owning up to the fact the only reality that’s real is when he is high. The composition of the song is prefect with a gorgeous breakdown section that could fit in a dramatic thriller. The Weeknd is a new guy in the mainstream who has been around and we should be glad he hit the big time. He will be sticking around for quite awhile.
8. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa
How do you make a stupid over-the-top awesome thrill ride like Furious 7 make the audience question the afterlife and their own existence? Simple: add “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth to the end of it and you have tears. On a personal note, I had not heard the song till I saw the film with a friend. When it played at the end (spoilers ahead) as Brian O’Connor, played by the late Paul Walker, rides away from Dominic Toretto, played by Vin Diesel, me and my pal nearly started to tear up. The song is very effective in putting a theme to the film’s finale. On it’s own, it’s actually quite good. The chorus and vocal work by Puth, a relative unknown, is very well done and Khalifa, who I’ve never been a big fan of, actually shines on it. Khalifa understands how it is to lose someone in your life, be it a friend or family member, and his verses reflect that. It’s less about trying to compete for radio play and more written for the message it was trying to convey; the loss of a friendship. I’ve been hearing this could be up for an Oscar soon and I would not be surprised if it wins.
7. “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy
Who would have guessed that Fall Out Boy of all bands would have survived the chaotic wave of the Emo era? Well, they did and have progressed into pure pop-rock badasses on “Uma Thurman.” Sampling the classic theme of The Munsters, FOB combines the surf-rock sounds of the theme against the more modern sounds of their own. Patrick Stump shines as bright as ever in his vocal work while the band goes through different waves throughout the tune from loud and bombastic, electronic sounds at the beginning and the Munsters theme. It’s interesting to see a band sample other work to progress, but I digress. These guys really love Uma Thurman with the tongue-in-cheek references to the actress throughout the song. Their album American Beauty/American Psycho is also my favorite album from this year and there are tracks on there that outshine this film, but “Uma Thurman” gives casual listeners a taste of why Fall Out Boy has stood out from the old era they were lumped in with.
6. “Want to Want Me” by Jason DeRulo
DeRulo, you did it. It took about four years, but you made it to the top 10 songs portion and that’s an accomplishment. Last year, I described him as the baseball player that isn’t popular, but can hit a homer. Here, he pushed himself to the moon and is finally respected on this track. This track combines some classic pop vibes along with modern synths along with DeRulo’s signature favorite subject: bangin’. DeRulo has made a career on the formula of singing about sex and love. DeRulo hits all the marks from the highest of high notes, a spectacular breakdown section and that weird “chika-chika-chika-chika” in the final chorus. He is a great act and I’ve always enjoyed his singles. He made it.
5. “The Less I Know Better” by Tame Impala
Before randomly going through Spotify, I had never heard of Tame Impala. None of my friends had ever mentioned them, none of my writing colleagues talked up about them and I was never aware they have been active for close to eight years. “The Less I Know The Better”is a great introduction to them (in my case anyway) by combining a great bass line, smooth chords and psychedelic flair. Singer Kevin Parker lets his one-sided love affair with sadness and anger by questioning what can be done to be with his lover. It’s quite depressing once listeners listen to the lyrics as he constantly loses himself over one woman he will never come to be with. Tame Impala is a hell of a great band with a throwback sound (guess that’s the theme this year) that is surefire. For those reading this, please watch the video above because the video is an acid trip waiting to happen.
4. “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran
This might be a complete cheat as this song came out at the end of last year, but “Thinking Out Loud’s” popularity increased to rousing heights this year by garnering the number two spot of the Billboard Year-End (“Uptown Funk” being number one). Ed Sheeran creates a simple song about being with the one you love forever or at least till one of the parties falls off. Sheeran has an acoustic guitar sound that is honest in the vein of John Mayer and less douchey than Jack Johnson. When one thinks out loud about the one they love, the other party can be there to hear what they want out of them and it’s quite beautiful. The song is starting to become the modern wedding song of choice and it is a gorgeous song simply about wanting to stay intact in a relationship. Compared to the past songs covered about sex and lost romance, it is simply wonderful to have a true love song. Sheeran is a great artists and continues to prove his worth, both in his native land and here in the States.
3. “Love Me Like You Do” by Ellie Goulding
Ellie Goulding can set my heart on fire anytime she sings and “Love Me Like You Do” is further proof at that statement. This is one of the first songs Goulding performs that she didn’t write, but can still make it her own as it relies on her electro-pop sounds. Those sounds are combined with the bombastic drums and gorgeous overdubs to create a modern “wall of sound” song. Goulding sings of love in both the passionate form and the head over heels way by letting them “Set the pace” because she’s “not thinking straight.” She loves the passion set by the lover, but enjoys the race at the same time. This song became popular due to being a featured song on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack. One can say this is a throwback to the days of the soundtrack of the film being better than the film (looking at you, Space Jam). Either way, the song is a standout of this year and a highlight of the romantic songs on the list.
2. “Wet Dreamz” by J. Cole
J. Cole is one hell of a rapper, possibly the best around alongside Kendrick Lamar. My friend introduced me to him and his 2014 Forest Hills Drive album that blew me away for its honest words, great low key samples and beats as well as J. Cole smooth flow and style. “Wet Dreamz” is the stand out of the album, complete with a subtle humorous video, that focuses on Cole’s first time having sex. It does not dramatize the entire situation feeling by being real about the situation. He lied that he had done it before, tried his best to learn how to do it and the end of the song is pure and utter brilliance. The sample feels like a classic Chicago oldie sound, but there is a certain modern sound due to Cole’s hazy voice over them. Cole is a fantastic rapper that isn’t as popular as his competitors which is quite the shame. Hopefully, more people will listen to Cole and his star can rise brighter.
Before we get to number one, here’s a few honorable mentions:
“One Last Time” by Ariana Grande
“Wildest Dreams” by Taylor Swift
“Alright” by Kendrick Lamar
“Bassically” by Tei Shi
“Feeling Ok” by Best Coast
And the number one song of the year is…
1. “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd
For the first time in the history of this list, an artist that not only who was just “featuring” last year is number one, but had two songs in the top ten not as a featuring credit, but on their own. “Can’t Feel My Face” is a great song about being addicted to drugs. The “she” is this song is representing his vice of choice and the pain he goes through with it. It’s a back and forth dance between the two in an eloquent balance of the misery between them and the high it causes into him to be numb. It’s a macabre masterpiece, but holy hell, is a great pop song oozing of classic Michael Jackson dance hall sounds. It also takes the modern pop sounds of today, destroy them and builds them up again to a gorgeous drug fueled song that is beyond compare. The backdown of the song also breaks away and is closer to the aforementioned “The Hills” with the hypnotic line of “she told me don’t worry about it.” It’s a song about torture on the inside and probably accepting your fate to the vice. It is a pop song that strays away from the typical and that is why it’s number one.