Top 15 of 2015: Songs


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“Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” was one of the most talked-about songs of the year, with an unforgettable beat and dance moves to match. The year 2015 was jam-packed with toe-tapping tunes and moving melodies catering to a variety of listeners.

Adithi Ramakrishnan and Avni Singh

The year 2015 had no shortage of viral videos and heart-warming ballads, featuring both upcoming artists and unbelievable comebacks.  Here are a few of the most memorable melodies of 2015.

15. “Love Myself” by Hailee Steinfeld

Pitch Perfect actress Hailee Steinfeld released the song “Love Myself” on Aug. 7. Steinfeld says the song is supposed to inspire self-empowerment and independence. The music video shows the reactions of people to seeing the hashtag “Love Yourself” written on large mirrors, reiterating the track’s theme. The song’s catchy chorus gave it a peak position of #30 on the Billboard Top 100 list.

14. “Renegades” by X Ambassadors

“Renegades” is an endearingly passionate track from alternative rock band X Ambassadors.  It is the second song off of the band’s debut album, “VHS,” and connected with audiences instantly with its rhythmic cadences and bold message.  The song is a tribute to the underdogs and the misfits, encouraging them to live life freely and bravely.  Though it is not one of the most popular music videos in terms of views, the video accompanying “Renegades” is a touching one.  The video tells the stories of several people with disabilities persevering to overcome their physical limitations and achieve their dreams.  X Ambassadors identifies personally with the video, as one of the band members has been blind since birth.  “Renegades” is an ode to those who strive to be different and give life a run for its money, and it is as much mesmerizing as it is moving.

13. “Trap Queen” by Fetty Wap

Fetty Wap, also known as Willie Maxwell, has become popular after his catchy hip-hop song “Trap Queen”, which achieved high ranks on many charts. Although the song seems to reference drugs, Wap says that it’s supposed to portray women as having an important and respected role in his life. Wap also said that his inspiration came from the trap, which is a place where drug dealers conduct their business, and a woman he was involved with when he was there. Wap intends to show that the song talks about relationships, and how everyone wants a stable, dependable partner they can spend money with. The music video shows Wap in fancy cars, and he is seen with lots of money.

12. “Cheerleader” by OMI (Felix Jaehn Remix)

“Cheerleader” was originally developed in 2008 and released on an independent label Oufah.  In 2013, the writer of the song, OMI, signed onto US Label Ultra Music, hoping to connect the song to a wider audience.  As per Ultra Music’s request, two disc jockeys produced remixes of “Cheerleader.”  One of them, German DJ Felix Jaehn, added his own twist to the baseline of OMI’s song, going for a more upbeat, tropical-sounding tune.  The Felix Jaehn remix of OMI’s original song achieved global success, captivating audiences with its light conga beat and feathery feel.  “Cheerleader” reached number one in 20 countries across the globe, and released one music video for each of its three renditions.  During the song, OMI describes his lover as someone who is incomparable to other women – someone on whom he can always rely and depend.  The Felix Jaehn remix of “Cheerleader” has transformed OMI into a household name, setting him up for greater feats in the years to come.

11. “Lean On” by Major Lazer and DJ Snake

“Lean On”, by Major Lazer and DJ Snake, begins with an innocent friendship experienced in youth. The gist of the song is that everyone should have someone to lean on, whether it be a friend or a family member. The catchy set of lyrics “Blow a kiss/fire a gun” is used to say that no matter what a person is doing, he or she needs someone to lean on. Other lyrics also wonder about whether experiences change with age, and whether friends today will be friends tomorrow. The music video for Lean On is set in a palace in India, and shows many Indian dancers. The song’s highest position on the Billboard Top 100 chart was #17.

10. “Hey Mama” by David Guetta ft. Nicki Minaj, Bebe Rexha and Afrojack

David Guetta worked with artists Nicki Minaj, Babe Rexha, and Afrojack to produce this song, and the catchy tunes and clever lyrics helped make it popular. The song tries to promote equality between the man and a woman in a relationship. Minaj’s rapping also says that Minaj will keep her life in check for her man, and that she will respect him. Though she does reference traditional gender roles by talking about cooking and cleaning, Minaj implies that she still requires respect. The music video shows a large group of people partying and having fun in the middle of the desert. The song was #1 on three different charts.

9. “Worth It” by Fifth Harmony ft. Kid Ink

Fifth Harmony, an American girl group, is adored by millions of girls around the world. Their recent song “Worth It” features Kid Ink, and has a beat similar to that of Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty”. The music video shows the five members of the group in typical job positions, and tries to show that women can excel at all jobs. According to the group, the song is supposed to empower women to believe in themselves. However, the song had mixed reviews from critics, and many said it was too “raunchy” to be a feminist anthem. However, the song’s catchy beat and use of saxophone made it very popular among the group’s fanbase. Their collaboration with Kid Ink on the track also gave it a different dynamic from their other songs, and helped expand their fanbase.

8. “Locked Away” by R. City ft. Adam Levine

A collaboration between Virgin Islands production duo Rock City and Maroon 5 lead singer Adam Levine, “Locked Away” made a mark on 2015 with its sweet message, catchy beat and simple vocals.  Released in June of this year, the singer asks the important people in his life if they would still love him even if they lost everything they had.  The song is a testament to the strength of love and companionship: though bonds can be tested, if they are tight enough, they can never be broken.  Levine’s honest asking of “would you still love me the same?” in the song is raw and endearing, and each repetition of this chorus slides seamlessly into another verse from R. City, imploring their loved one to consider the depth and breadth of their relationship. Levine’s voice is not uncommon on radio stations due to his immense success with his band Maroon 5, but this partnership with R. City displays his vocal ability in a new setting, and both collaborators shine in this musical masterpiece.

7. “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” by Meghan Trainor ft. John Legend

Meghan Trainor’s song “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” took the world by storm with its soulful tune and meaningful lyrics. Trainor worked in collaboration with John Legend, who is known for his song “All of Me.” The song reminds listeners not to take the person they love, or love in general, for granted, and to make the most of the time they have left with them. The music video expands on this idea, extending this message to beyond a significant other. The video shows not only couples, but also a man and his dog, a woman and her grandmother, and a woman and her baby, to show that people should not take anyone they love for granted. The song also delivers the message that pain can teach someone how to love, and to learn from mistakes he or she could have made. In an interview, Trainor said that inspiration for the song came from a nightmare she had about losing her brother, and that the song tries to emphasize love between family members.

6. “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silentó

Originally published by American hip hop recording artist Silentó as his debut single in June 2015, “Watch Me” has become associated with not only its catchy lyrics and beat, but also its unforgettable dance moves to match.  The music video for “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” has garnered over 500 million views on YouTube and the Whip/Nae Nae dance moves accompanying the video are still worming their way into pop culture.  Since its release, people across the globe have tried their hand at the Whip and Nae Nae, ranging from elementary school students to presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.  Though Silentó’s lyrics may or may not permeate the music industry within the next few years, the Whip and Nae Nae surely will.

5. “What Do You Mean?” by Justin Bieber

Canadian artist Justin Bieber released the energetic song “What Do You Mean?” on Aug. 28 of this year. The song was at the top of many charts, and was well-received by both fans and critics of the artist. According to Bieber, the song serves to highlight the indecision he has felt from talking to women. He also says it comes from personal experiences of women crying and pushing him away in his bedroom. The music video features model Xenia Deli, and the two are shown in a motel room. The song illustrates the “indecisiveness of women,” and Deli is seen kissing Bieber before pushing him away, only to make a move on him once again. The song is slightly different from Bieber’s previous songs, and the artist said that he’s been trying to “find his sound,” leading to the blend of music that can be heard in “What Do You Mean?”

4. “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten

Rachel Platten’s empowering anthem soared to the tops of Billboard and iTunes charts this year.  In the song, Platten emphasizes the impact of small acts on society, saying that although she “might only have one match… I can make an explosion.”  The song’s sharp staccato drum beats and commanding chorus made it a favorite among listeners of all ages.  Listeners were also able to immediately identify with the song’s message to seize life and take control of their own fate – and maybe change the world along the way.  Platten performed her “Fight Song” at the 2015 Teen Choice Awards and, during the performance, honored nine teenagers actively fighting to improve their communities.  This may be Platten’s first viral single, but she has a promising future with her ability to craft heartfelt, inspirational melodies.

3. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa ft. Charlie Puth

The song “See You Again” was recorded by Wiz Khalifa and features Charlie Puth. The song was written for the seventh Fast and Furious movie. Part of the song reflect Khalifa’s split with former wife Amber Rose. Some lyrics talk about family, and how family is all that we have. The song also plays homage to Paul Walker, and parts of the music video shows scenes from Fast and Furious movies with Walker in them. Puth said that the meaning of the song can change for different circumstances, even though it was written specifically as a tribute to Paul Walker. During the final scene of Fast and Furious 7, Walker is seen driving off into the sunset while “See You Again” plays in the background. The song reached the Hot 100 #1 spot after a jump from #10.

2. “Hotline Bling” by Drake

Canadian rapper Drake has long charmed listeners, with his album “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” being the first album released in 2015 to sell a million copies in the United States.  Drake’s latest single, “Hotline Bling,” did not fail to meet these standards, becoming an instant earworm.  In the song, Drake is singing to a past lover from a relationship gone sour, reminiscing about the times they used to share and listing how his lover has changed since they split up.  The song’s music video opens in a call center, but later switches to Drake dancing in dimly-lit, multi-colored settings while gently chiding his former flame.  Viewers have superimposed other songs into the background of the viral “Hotline Bling” video, including the Dora the Explorer theme song, the Rugrats theme, and “Take On Me,” further adding to its prevalence this year.  Though not the most vocally complex song of 2015, Drake’s “Hotline Bling” is catchy, eye-catching, and compelling enough to earn its place as one of the year’s top songs.

1. “Hello” by Adele

After a break of about four years, Adele made her triumphant return to the music industry with “Hello.”  The song was an instant hit, shooting to the top of iTunes charts and becoming an immediate classic in the likes of Adele’s previous chart-toppers.  The song was a fascinating addition to Adele’s “25” album, featuring a woman who is reconnecting with a past lover after breaking his heart.  The music video accompanying “Hello” was the first to be partially shot using IMAX cameras, which use custom lenses to capture sharp, high-quality images.  The video tells a poignant yet heart-rending story, flashing back to the singer’s moments with her ex and recalling moments from the singer’s perspective.  Adele’s soulful, rich tone of voice resonates with a variety of listeners, and her matchless vocal ability combined with her sincere lyrics predict great success for the British powerhouse.  “Hello” is only the beginning.