“Running Behind” by self-described brat-pop duo Holychild was featured in an Apple Watch commercial; it should have been featured on a whole lot more than that. With percussion that demands attention and Liz Nistico’s playful hopscotching across syllables, “Running Behind” highlights Holychild’s sorely underrated debut LP.
Declared a “World Record” by Zane Lowe in August, this multi-pronged piece of electro-pop should have been a radio smash, if only to make Top 40 a little more weird. Speak-singing? A breakdown in French? A jolting stutter of a hook? “Jitter” is a record that should have taken over the world.
Nick Jonas impacted Top 40 with dance gems like “Levels” and “Jealous,” but Austin Mahone’s funky gathering of double entendres should have been standing tall alongside those hits. “Dirty Work” takes Mahone’s kid-friendly presentation and gives it necessary dimension without pushing too many boundaries; drop this at a bar mitzvah and see even the grandparents get down.
Sure, Phoebe Ryan landed a major label deal and got a Taylor Swift shout-out in 2015, but her effervescent “Mine” should have been her mainstream breakout. With a pre-chorus and hook that builds up anxiety and then releases it, “Mine” introduced the world to an engaging new voice with a killer knack for songwriting.
When archeologists investigate how Carly Rae Jepsen did not rule the year 2015 thousands of years from now, they should also research this baffling fact: “Boy Problems” did not chart anywhere, because it was never released as a single, even though it’s a bulletproof pop song. With a clever concept and dazzling collection of hooks, “Boy Problems” details an eye-roll in the most euphoric way possible.
The dream-pop stylings of sister duo Say Lou Lou has been enticing for a few years, but Lucid Dreaming, their long-awaited and exhilarating debut LP, has one clear culmination. “Nothing But a Heartbeat” captures a whole range of emotions within one breathless bit of onomatopoeia in its chorus, and Say Lou Lou made good on many promising early singles.
Another irresistible confection from U.K. singer-songwriter Little Boots, this one a team-up with taste-making producer Ariel Rechtshaid. A throwback to the cheeky synth-pop of the mid-90’s, “Better In The Morning” features a subtly lovely performance from the veteran critics’ darling.
Alex Newell spends part of the “Collect My Love” video singing the dance track into a bedroom mirror, and that act captures exactly the type of unabashed joy this Knocks single emits. When a gigantic hook sounds appropriate both on the dance floor and in church, you can’t go wrong.
Paper Towns, the latest John Green novel to be adapted into a feature film, did not create as much of a stir as The Fault In Our Stars, and Sam Bruno’s “Search Party” single from its soundtrack did not blow up like Charli XCX’s “Boom Clap” did in 2014. That’s a shame, because “Search Party” is original and prodding, the sound of a promising new songwriter yearning for exploration and achieving it.
It’s hard to feel too bad for OMI after “Cheerleader” became the 2015 song of the summer, but, damn, “Hula Hoop” is just as catchy and perhaps even more charming. “Round and round, your loving winds me up/Like a hula, hula hoop” is the silliest love lyric of the year, but it’s also one of the most memorable… and likable.
The electro-pop group landed a No. 1 hit in the U.K. with this defiant dance jamm and we thought the excitement would translate over to U.S. audiences. We aren't counting out Y&Y's brand of uplifting-yet-moody bangers, and feel like it's just a matter of time before we hear frontman Olly Alexander's voice all over Top 40 radio.
Foxes has had her share of successes (winning a GRAMMY for "Clarity" with Zedd) and missteps (debut album Glorious didn't connect stateside), but the starlet nailed it with her synth-drenched comeback single. The song kickstarted a string of incredible singles ("Feet Don't Fail Me Now," "Better Love" and "If You Leave Me Now" are all hit-worthy), but "Body Talk” solidified Foxes as a go-to hook singer, and we can't wait to see what her upcoming All I Need album brings.
French experimental pop nymph Petite Meller could be considered a bit too out there to connect with a larger audience, but this feel-good tune is positively irresistible. A light house beat blended with African drums and a chorus that sounds like it’s composed of a bunch of excited kids make "Baby Love" a banger that should have broken straight out of left field.
It's been a moment since we had a Latin female breakthrough a la Shakira or Jennifer Lopez, and we have high hopes in the young Sofia Reyes, who blends English and Spanish influences into her sound. "Conmigo (Rest of Your Life)" was a summery dance bop that was just poppy enough to break through on Top 40; with a ton of support in her corner (Latin superstar Prince Royce signed her), we have a feeling this won't be the last stunning Spanglish single we hear from Ms. Reyes.
Guys, we really dropped the ball on this one. "Boys Like You" finally deviated from pop’s heteronormative ways, and did so with a perfectly crafted earworm that you couldn't help but groove along to. “Boys Like You” could have been a breakthrough moment for pop radio by showcasing a male singing about flirting with another male, but unfortunately, the song has yet to break into Billboard's Hot 100 chart, despite having two big names attached. The song only came out last month, so we hope there's still time to make this a hit in 2016.
The evocative songwriting and relatable presentation of Cady Groves' "Crying Game" fills a space that Taylor Swift vacated when she embraced huge pop hooks and took over the world. Featured on Groves' Dreams EP, "Crying Game" is worth getting lost in, even if you don't know the story behind the lyrics.