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Best of 2015

The Ultimate 2015 Pop Playlist: 21 Songs That Dominated Top 40

No question: These 20 smashes were inescapable this year

1 / 21

Justin Bieber, "What Do You Mean?"

"What Do You Mean?" was not only important in being the perfect track to solidify Justin Bieber's comeback when it debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it helped usher in tropical-house sound to the mainstream. It recalls how Britney Spears gave the first mainstream nod to dubstep with her single "Hold It Against Me"--which also debuted at No. 1.

2 / 21

Demi Lovato, "Cool for the Summer"

A new Demi Lovato single was bound to roar loud in the pop world, but the headbang-worthy rock sound added an edge we hadn't heard in pop for a hot minute.

3 / 21

Taylor Swift ft. Kendrick Lamar, "Bad Blood"

One of Taylor's best pop moments was the chant-heavy "Bad Blood" remix, which also shone a huge spotlight on Kendrick Lamar who jumped on a new remix of the cut.

4 / 21

Drake, "Hotline Bling"

For what started as a one-off summer single, "Hotline Bling" soon became an inescapable pop phenomenon, and that's not just because of its amazing dance video. That "Cha Cha"-recalling beat could get anyone dancing.

5 / 21

Adele, "Hello"

Ah, the ballad that stopped the world in its tracks and made us all collectively weep. "Hello" was not only the latest Adele's stunning song, but a record-breaking comeback single that sold more than any other digital single in a week. Ever!

6 / 21

Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars, "Uptown Funk"

Yes, technically "Uptown Funk" was released last year, but you'd be a fool not to count this as one of the biggest pop songs of the year. The song spent 14 weeks at No. 1 and was everywhere. We're not complaining, either. This song combined all the things good about funky songs of years past, and gave a slight modern update for one of the best pop smashes in recent memory.

7 / 21

Major Lazer ft. MØ & DJ Snake, "Lean On"

On first listen, "Lean On" didn't scream "hit!!!," given its international flavor and MØ's trippy vocals. But as further evidenced in Diplo tracks like "Where Are Ü Now," 2015 radio loved the experimental producer and helped bring new refreshing new sounds like the ones heard here.

8 / 21

Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink, "Worth It"

The girl group finally found a huge hit with "Worth It" that not only helped the group finally breakthrough, but also brought a healthy dose of kickass feminism onto radio.

9 / 21

Maroon 5, "Sugar"

Yet another sweet single from the Maroon 5 gang. One of their most bubblegum to date, "Sugar" brought feel-good guitar strums, Adam Levine's signature falsetto and some of M5's most memorable hooks in years.

10 / 21

Selena Gomez ft. A$AP Rocky, "Good for You"

The hip-hop-friendly "Good for You" marked a sultrier, moodier sound for Selena and became the biggest single of her career. 

11 / 21

Walk the Moon, "Shut Up and Dance"

One of the most vibrant pop crossovers of the year. Expect "Shut Up and Dance" to take you back in 2015 pop music when you hear it at every future wedding you will ever attend.

12 / 21

Ellie Goulding, "Love Me Like You Do"

This gorgeous ballad made the double cultural impact by not only being a radio staple, but a part of the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack.

13 / 21

One Direction, "Drag Me Down"

Revealed as a surprise release, One Direction's first single as a quartet was just as stadium-ready as its past releases, but felt a bit more mature than its previous smashes. Fans agreed when it broke the Spotify record for most streams in 24 hours.

14 / 21

Jason Derulo, "Want to Want Me"

From "Whatcha Say" to "Talk Dirty," Jason Derulo is one of pop's go-to hitmakers, and he didn't disappoint with the '80s-inspired "Want to Want Me." Don't act like you didn't try to scream the falsetto hook at a bar this summer.

15 / 21

Jack Ü ft. Justin Bieber, "Where Are Ü Now"

The Jack Ü/Justin Bieber collab marked a breakthrough moment when pop started getting more experimental with its beats. This melancholy dance track was a changeup for the pop superstar and helped radio get a little more weird.

16 / 21

The Weeknd, "Can't Feel My Face"

While The Weeknd was on more or less a pop-culture fixture, "Can't Feel My Face" solidifed his superstar status with a Michael Jackson-recalling rhythm. Soon enough, everyone knew who The Weeknd was, after he was previously relegated to the "alt-R&B" space.

17 / 21

OMI, "Cheerleader"

Years (literally!) after becoming a hit in his native Jamaica, OMI's ode to monogamy slowly grew into a monster in the United States. Felix Jaehn's remix helped streamline the track's radio appeal, and a song of the summer was born.

18 / 21

Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth, "See You Again"

Originally a single made to appeal to hip-hop and Fast and Furious fans, "See You Again" was the inescapable pop track of the summer, and continues a long legacy of excellent tribute tracks to those that are no longer with us a la "I'll Be Missing You" and "One Sweet Day."

19 / 21

Little Mix, "Black Magic"

Little Mix's "Black Magic" was not only the U.K. act's biggest single to date, but one that combines all the things we love about British girl groups: The girl-power theme recalled the Spice Girls, those tight harmonies were very Sugababes-esque, and that saccharine chorus definitely reminded of us B*Witched.

20 / 21

5 Seconds of Summer, "She's Kinda Hot"

5SOS peppered a little punk into the pop world with yet another expertly crafted single via "She's Kinda Hot." 

21 / 21

Carly Rae Jepsen, "Run Away With Me"

Trust that no Ultimate Pop Playlist will be complete unless you include the year's best one. Carly Rae Jepsen's pop masterpiece throws '90s sax riffs over a bouncy beat that all blend into its explosive chorus that's a sonic representation of euphoria. Too much? Maybe, but it's by far one of the best pop songs in a long time.

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Photo of the day

Apr 2: Basket-Bros

Currently on his 'The Man of the Woods' tourJustin Timberlake brought out a special guest for his Cleveland show. LeBron James surprised concertgoers by showing up alongside Timberlake and taking a shot on stage. On Friday, the singer was also seen cheering on LeBron during the Pelicans and Cavaliers game. James gave a shout out on Instagram, "My brother @justintimberlake showed up and showed out last night at the Q! One of the greatest to ever do it in my lifetime and still going strong."