Sunday, December 27, 2015

Discopop Directory: Top 10 singles of 2015

Usually, my Top 10 is a breeze to compile. I look at the songs I listened to most then write them down in order. This year, there were dozens all clustered around the same score - either evidence of a very good year or a totally banal one.

I will say this, though - the Top Five completely took me by surprise. I'd been preparing to write about Kanye's All Day, The Weeknd's Can't Feel My Face and Missy Elliot's WTF (Where They From?) in this list. In the end, they fell just short of the countdown - which proves something, although I'm at a loss to explain what it might be.

10) Demi Lovato - Cool For The Summer
The year's best Katy Perry song in a year where Katy Perry released no songs. Rip-roaring vocals and a terrific guitar riff from the "Sexy! No No No" schools of rock. Could have done without the gratuitous - and grammatically awkward - swear word in verse two.

9) Alessia Cara - Here
An "anti-party anthem"; a "loner anthem"; an "anthem for introverts". The critics' were united - this wasn't just a song about socially awkward teenagers, it was a rallying cry for like-minded souls. Never mind that Alessia Cara is the least introverted pop star this side of Lady Gaga. She just didn't like this one party. Still, with lyrics and melody this good, who's scoring points?

8) Lianne La Havas - What You Don't Do
A simple, sublime love song. "Those three little words are overused," she sings, before smiling: "You don't need to show it - I already know it." Gorgeous.

7) Major Lazer ft MØ - Lean On
It's great to see that a left-field, obtuse pop song like this can still have a global impact - even after it's turned down by Rihanna. Lean On needed a few listens to "bed in", but once I'd fallen under the spell of the lilting rhythm and MØ's unflinchingly positive lyrics (essentially a hipster re-write of the Neighbours theme tune) there was no turning back.

6) Disclosure ft Lorde - Magnets
This slinky story of boyfriend theft is the absolute highlight of Disclosure's ho-hum second album - and here's why. "Lorde was involved with every aspect of the song as opposed to just doing the lyrics and melodies and then leaving the rest to us," Guy Lawrence told Spin. "It was like someone challenging us, someone saying, 'We can get that extra ten percent.'”

5) Janet Jackson - No Sleeep
Janet's six year hiatus gave her a clean slate with the prudish US public, and it didn't hurt that her comeback single was an understated masterpiece. Jam and Lewis's silky-smooth groove recalled That's The Way Love Goes while the lyric - about ruffling the bedsheets with her beau - proved Janet could still sing about sex without using words like "moist".

4) Carly Rae Jepsen - I Really Like You
A 21st Century update of I Should Be So Lucky, with added glitter cannons (courtesy of former Cardigans writer Peter Svennson). The video starred Tom Hanks, for some reason.

3) Little Mix - Black Magic

Little Mix's venture into "proper" girlband territory (80s pastiche, Motown pastiche, Jason Derulo duet) hasn't been a resounding success - but this song gets everything right. Predictable yet surprising, it transcends the appropriation of Cyndi Lauper's Girls Just Wanna Have Fun to become the most likeable single of the year. Then the "falling in love" coda kicks in and you think to yourself, "why am I grinning?"

2) Kendrick Lamar - King Kunta
I was disappointed that The Weeknd's Michael Jackson rip-off tribute Can't Feel My Face didn't make the Top 10 - but at least this contains an allusion to Smooth Criminal. It is neither as incisive nor as powerful as Kendrick's other big hit of 2015 (Alright was adopted as the rallying cry of the Black Lives Matter movement) but King Kunta sounds much better at parties.

1) Carly Rae Jepsen - Your Type
Move over Sam so-called Smith, this is the saddest pop song of the year. I might be married with two children, but it transports me straight back to 1995 and being infatuated with someone who didn't know I existed. There's something in Carly's delivery - resigned, but hoping her pleas will make a difference - that breaks your heart in two, and then into smaller and smaller fragments with every chorus. It's not the most original or complex song on this list but I found myself singing it at top volume, by myself, in the car at midnight. And that, pop fans, is the ultimate seal of approval.

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