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Best of 2015

The 20 Best Songs of 2015

Check out the Fuse staff's picks for the 20 essential tracks of 2015

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There are millions of songs released every year, and compiling a list of our favorite 20 was no easy task. With some rock, pop, hip hop, country, metal, R&B, dance and (hell yeah!) K-pop, however, we’ve tried to compile a collection of songs that represent the very best of what popular and unpopular music had to offer in 2015.

Check out the Fuse staff’s picks for the 20 best songs of 2015, from Adele to BIGBANG, from “512” to “679.”

Words from Jeff Benjamin, Maria Sherman, Zach Dionne, Jason Lipshutz and Mark Sundstrom

1 / 20

Carly Rae Jepsen, “Run Away With Me”

Carly Rae Jepsen became something of a pop folk hero in 2015: Three years removed from the ubiquity of “Call Me Maybe,” the Canadian singer-songwriter has been deserted by Top 40 radio and GRAMMY voters, but heralded by a crazy-dedicated contingent of online fans who recognize the majesty of her new music, the bleeding-heart honesty of her songwriting. They’re correct.

“Run Away With Me,” the lead track on Jepsen’s E•MO•TION album, is an invitation to escape, but also a outstretched hand from a collection of ideas and sounds too delicious to reject. It’s the easiest listen of the year, in the sense that its sensory pleasures are not concealed; it’s the most romantic song of the year, in the sense that it makes the surrounding world appear boundless. It’s the best song of the year because we’ve never needed convincing to listen to it again and again. “Run away with me, run away with me!” Carly Rae exclaims on the chorus, but she never needed to tell us twice. – Jason Lipshutz

2 / 20

Kendrick Lamar, “Alright”

K. Dot’s second album is full of pain, rage, terror and confusion; also, in careful, masterful doses, celebration and affirmation. “Alright,” produced by Pharrell Williams and To Pimp a Butterfly MVP Sounwave, is all its album’s sides at once, with the motivational corner shining brightest. Pharrell’s chorus of has become an anthem for the Black Lives Matter age—and the fulcrum of an instant-classic rap song. – Zach Dionne

3 / 20

Jack Ü feat. Justin Bieber, “Where Are U Now”

Justin Bieber's 2015 comeback was kicked off by this melancholy dance track that made culture snobs super uncomfortable over how they could be possibly be digging a Bieber tune. The experimental single was a risk for all parties involved (with Diplo and Skrillex potentially losing credibility for working with Bieber, and the pop star potentially alienating his pop fan base), but it wound up being a tribal-infused breath of fresh air this summer. – Jeff Benjamin

4 / 20

The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”

The Weeknd came close to topping the charts with his Ariana Grande collaboration “Love Me Harder” and Fifty Shades of Grey slow-burner “Earned It,” but he finally got there with this MJ masterstroke, a funky burner that’s secretly a devastating ode to addiction. Sure, it’s painful, but we love it. But we love it. – Jason Lipshutz

5 / 20

Little Mix, "Black Magic"

It's going to take some work before Little Mix has the same sort of resonance as Fifth Harmony stateside, but we welcome our English sisters with open arms. "Black Magic" is not only the best song on their triumph of a third studio album, Get Weird, it might be the best song they've ever written, and the best song in recent girl group history. There's a certain '80s retro celebration here that feels both familiar and fresh. Plus, have you seen the Craft-channeling music video? These British babes might be geniuses. – Maria Sherman

6 / 20

Alabama Shakes, “Sound & Color”

The strength of Alabama Shakes’ 2012 debut Boys & Girls came from its rock ’n’ soul steadiness, and the way that Brittany Howard to announced herself as the rare artist who didn’t already exist in popular music, in any form. That was the record’s topic sentence, body and conclusion.

So the wait from Boys & Girls to Sound & Color was fraught the way first-to-second-album transitions always are for great new acts. The comeback's title track/opening act explained immediately that this wasn’t just a different ride, but an entirely new theme park. It was one of the year's best surprises to realize the prologue is itself a deeply emotional, infinitely replay-able standalone. – Zach Dionne

7 / 20

Janelle Monáe feat. Jidenna, “Yoga”

Five days after Rihanna dropped “Bitch Better Have My Money,” Janelle Monáe introduced the world to “Yoga” featuring her pal and Wondaland breakout Jidenna; like Rih’s banger and Beyoncé’s “Flawless,” it’s essentially a straight hip hop track, although it trades snarling braggadocio and designer jacket aesthetics to soak in light-hearted vacay vibes. Prime example: “Baby bend over” going from strip club command to empowering recommendation the second it gets followed by “let your booty do that yoga.” – Zach Dionne

8 / 20

Troye Sivan, “Wild”

YouTuber-turned-pop-star Troye Sivan kicked off his second EP with this lush ode to young love, personified by a soft synth-pop production blended with children chants. While the song details going crazy upon seeing a boyfriend, Sivan describes it in a way that is completely universal—not to mention supremely pacifying thanks to his gorgeous low timbre. – Jeff Benjamin

9 / 20

Drake, “Back To Back”

In hindsight, the Drake-Meek Mill feud was a bit too goofy—Drake with his OVO Fest meme-a-thon, Meek with his Funkmaster Flex bombs, Quentin Miller with his Quentin Miller-ing—to resonate as a classic hip hop beef. At the very least, we got “Back To Back,” a pitch-perfect takedown that found Drake stepping up to the plate and smacking one over the fence in a single effortless stroke. – Jason Lipshutz

10 / 20

Rihanna, Kanye & Paul McCartney, “FourFiveSeconds”

"FourFiveSeconds" sounded nothing like what we'd expect a new Rihanna, Kanye West or Paul McCartney single to sound like, and that is a huge part of what makes it so brilliant. The song combines aggressive yelps from Rih and 'Ye over Macca's subtle strumming, making this a fantastic juxtaposition of styles. – Jeff Benjamin

11 / 20

Adele, “Water Under the Bridge”

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- "Matthew McConaughey" Episode 1689 -- Pictured: Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Dana Edelson/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Adele’s 25 held on to the classic-sounding, era-exempt pop that made 19 and 21 great, but it’s got a couple real 2015-pop-sounding thumpers. “Water Under the Bridge" is the most fun, coming in midway as a shove onto the nearest dance floor. The zesty hand-claps and that crashing orchestral wave of Adele croons at the end are what sets it just above "Send My Love (To Your New Lover)." – Zach Dionne

12 / 20

Big Sean feat. Kanye West, “All Your Fault”

On the sparklingly cohesive Dark Sky Paradise, Sean Don found some of his tightest chemistry with mentor and label boss Kanye West, whom he hadn’t duetted with in four years. Yeezy co-produced the song, bringing out his vintage side with a sample of Ambrosia's 1978 soulful jam "How Much I Feel” and spitting one of his hardest verses since Yeezus. “Young Walt Disney / I’mma tell you truthfully / If you leave Mickey you gon end up with a Goofy” gives way to the prescient, necessary:

I don't give a fuck, I don't give a fuck 
But cops chokin' n---as out in the media 
We finna have to protest and tear the city up 
We bout to tear this whole place up pretty much

All that, and the perfect chemistry between 'Ye and an on-fire Sean put "All Your Fault" above Sean's own "Blessings" and a bunch of the other best rap songs of the very competitive year. – Zach Dionne

13 / 20

One Direction, "What A Feeling"

One Direction are embarking on an indefinite hiatus in 2016, but at least they're going out with a bang. Made in the A.M. is their fifth and final studio album for a while, and their first without prince Zayn Malik. The album truly feels like one of the first artistic outpouring from the guys, that has us asking about the music they make and not the people they date. "What A Feeling" is by far the best song on the album, a Fleetwood Mac-channeling ditty that somehow skirts around derision. This is 1D at their best. This is their swan song. And this is a hell of a lot better than most of the pop-rock songs released this year. – Maria Sherman

14 / 20

Jazmine Sullivan, “Let It Burn”

Jazmine Sullivan’s “Let It Burn,” off her critically acclaimed Reality Show album, may not have been a proper single, but upon the album’s release it was an instant fan-favorite. And for good reason: The mid-tempo track carries a cozy, ‘80s R&B vibe—which make sense, given its sample of the 1989 No. 1 hit “Ready or Not” by vocal group After 7. R&B fans know Jazmine’s raspy, robust voice always lifts the overall value of pretty much any song it graces, but it’s on jams like “Let It Burn” where the soulful singer/songwriter is able to let her pen game shine and her vocals soar. – Mark Sundstrom

15 / 20

Walk the Moon, "Shut Up and Dance"

Walk the Moon deserve an award for being the most positive dudes in a room, any room, always. Their band didn't really take off on radio until "Shut Up and Dance" happened this year, and as much as it was overplayed, it deserved to be. It's uplifting, catchy as hell and a perfect new-school wedding track. Continue doing you, Walk the Moon. – Maria Sherman

16 / 20

BIGBANG, “Loser”

This year marked a banner year for the K-pop phenoms BIGBANG, who promoted eight (!) different singles this summer. It all kicked off in May with this brilliant mid-tempo track, that mixed BIGBANG's emotion-soaked hip hop with a slew of impassioned hooks. From G-Dragon and TOP's honest bars to Taeyang and Daesung's sky-high belting, "Loser" moves you regardless of what language you speak. – Jeff Benjamin

17 / 20

Kacey Musgraves, “Biscuits”

Pageant MaterialKacey Musgraves’ second LP, had many crying “sophomore slump” (unfairly), but the euphoric single “Biscuits” advised all the haters to hush up, while also offering some sage advice. The lyrics are clever, but it’s Kacey’s sparkling delivery that makes “Biscuits” not just a great country bop, but a trustworthy one. – Jason Lipshutz

18 / 20

Rihanna, "Bitch Better Have My Money"

Before Rihanna’s ”Bitch Better Have My Money,” there was "FourFiveSeconds," a warm surprise from RiRi, Kanye West and Paul McCartney. Then Rihanna dropped "Bitch Better Have My Money," and something changed. When Rihanna is making Rihanna songs on her lown there's often a certain unapologetic aggression to them. She's unforgiving and strong, the kind of fierce feminist icon necessary in 2015. Not only is "BBHMM" an earworm of sorts, it's an important message of understanding self-worth. For that, Rihanna is a queen. – Maria Sherman

19 / 20

Lamb of God, “512”

The Virginian lords of American metal didn’t just wait three-and-a-half years between albums—they also paused everything to see if their frontman, Randy Blythe, would spend years in a Czech prison for the death of a fan at a Prague concert. During the month Blythe spent locked up awaiting a trial, which would eventually find him not guilty, he began penning “512,” named after the cell he was confined to for 23 hours a day. The result, with lyrics like “My hands are painted red / My future's painted black / I can't recognize myself, I've become someone else,” is one of most substantial and harrowing offerings in the band’s 21-year career. – Zach Dionne

20 / 20

Fetty Wap feat. Monty, “679”

“Trap Queen” put Fetty Wap on the map, but it was “679” that synthesized his goofy charm and established the NJ MC as far more than a one-hit wonder. With Monty riding in the sidecar, Fetty rolls with an elastic beat and lets his otherworldly ad-libs do the talking. – Jason Lipshutz


Below, check out Fuse's video roundup of artists picking their favorite songs of 2015:

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