Running a bit behind, but for the seventh year, I’ll be counting down my top 10 songs of the year. My favorite song of the year will be revealed on New Year’s Eve. I do have some rules–I’m funny that way. The only songs that are eligible are those that hit the Billboard Top 10 on the Hot 100 at any time during 2015. I’d rather discuss songs that most people heard, even if there may be songs you or I like better. In 2015, 55 songs hit the top 10. My other rule is that I eliminate any song that was in my 2014 Top 10, even if it’s eligible in 2015. “All About That Bass,” “I’m Not The Only One” and “Thinking Out Loud” were in last year’s top 10 so those songs are not eligible this year.
Taylor Swift has never made my year-end top 10. Will this be the year? Or will we continue with our “Bad Blood?” How high will I place Adele? Should I just “Shut Up And Dance?” Dare I say, Bieber had a pretty good year?
As always, comments are welcomed. I’ll try to cross-post interesting comments from other social media sites—this countdown is now on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. And what are your top songs (top 10 or not)? Feel free to comment or slam me–I get a lot of that.
1. Uptown Funk, Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, RCA.
Before Adele was setting all kinds of sales records late in 2015, “Uptown Funk” was destroying a few chart records. A tribute to retro funk and Prince’s Minneapolis sound, the songwriters included the Gap Band, whose classic “Oops Upside My Head.” was one of several inspirations for Ronson and Mars. The song debuted at number one in the UK in December 2014. In America, it hit number one in mid-January and got a bit comfortable there. With 14 weeks at number one, “Uptown Funk” is the longest-running number one song of this century and is tied for the second-longest run of all time. Its 21 weeks in the top three beat a record held by Santana w/ Rob Thomas, and with 25 weeks in the top five, that tied the record held by Le Ann Rimes (“How Do I Live”). Among other accomplishments, its success prevented Ed Sheeran (“Thinking Out Loud”) and Maroon 5 (“Sugar”) from hitting number one. It has already been parodied by Alvin and the Chipmunks, who recorded “Uptown Munk.” So what made this song so special? It seems to have captured the essence of funk into a catchy and highly danceable package. Its long run at number one is well-deserved.
Official video: Vevo link
Baltimore Orioles 2015 Opening Day video: YouTube link
Ronson and Mars on The Voice: YouTube link
SNL performance: YouTube link
Glee cast cover: YouTube link
Fleur East on X-Factor: YouTube link
2. Hello, Adele, XL/Columbia.
Adele seemed to be everywhere after her musch anticipated 25 album came out this fall. The album shattered sales records and the lead single is still the number one song in America. Lionel Richie once did a piano-based ballad called “Hello.” Adele’s piano ballad of the same name is a bit more bombastic, the kind of song people like me belt out with her. I recently heard a college band playing “Hello” at a bowl game, impressive as the song was released in late October, when the current college football season was more than half over. It has hit number one in 27 countries, including a three-week run in her native country. In America, it’s still number one for nine weeks and counting. Its run at the top has so far denied Justin Bieber number one status for his huge hit, “Sorry.” “Hello” was written by Adele with producer Greg Kurstin. Kurstin also played piano on the record, while Adele played drums.
3. FourFiveSeconds, Rihanna & Kanye West & Paul McCartney, Westbury Road/Roc Nation.
Between the three of them, they have won 47 Grammys. Wilson Phillips makes an uncredited appearance singing backup–no Grammys but five nominations. The star-studded hit was written by a large team headed by McCartney and West. It’s Rihanna’s vocals that truly shine. Kanye West holds his own and McCartney’s guitar playing is outstanding. The song was released in January and topped the charts in Australia, Denmark, Ireland, Luxembourg, New Zealand and Sweden. In Am erica, it spent eight weeks in the top 10, peaking at number four shortly after a performance at the Grammys. Three distinctive instruments are heard–it’s Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors) playing organ. It’s not McCartney on bass; that’s actually hip-hop producer Mike Dean. McCartney handles the acoustic guitar. I like the cross-genre strength of this track. There’s a little folk, a little soul and a Rihanna’s gospel-influenced vocal.
4. Shut Up And Dance, Walk the Moon, RCA.
Walk the Moon is a Cincinnati-based band that had some modest success with its first album, called Walk The Moon. The band’s second album, Talking Is Hard spawned its breakthrough hit single, “Shut Up And Dance.” I don’t think I’m alone in stating that I like this song but I’m not quite sure why. It’s somewhat repetitive with silly lyrics but very infectious. The lyrics are apparently based on a true story. Singer Nicholas Petricca was at a bar, he has having trouble getting a drink and his girlfriend got him out on the dance floor. She was actually wearing the backless dress and beat up sneaks described in the song. Petricca told an interviewer that the song has “become and anthem for the dork who is 100 percent me.” “Shut Up And Dance” was released in September 2004. It took a while to crack the Top 10 in late April 2015. It spent 17 straight weeks in the Top 10 before it headed down the charts, only to rebound for another week at number 10 in September, almost a year after its release. On the Billboard Rock Songs chart,, “Shut Up And Dance” was number one for a record 27 weeks.
5. Want To Want Me, Jason Derulo, Beluga Heights/Warner Bros.
In a bit of a departure for Jason Derulo, the first single off his Everything is 4 album was more of a pop song than is found in his usual R&B repertoire. His falsetto on the verses is no departure, a smooth R&B vocal. Derulo shifts down to his normal register for the 1980s-style chorus. Released in early March, “Want To Want Me” hit the Billboard Top 10 in May and spent nine weeks there, including two weeks at number five. Across the pond in the United Kingdom, “Want To Want Me” spent four weeks at number one in June. For a mild disclaimer, I will point out that one of the songwriters is a friend of a friend. Mitch Allan, who grew up in Baltimore County and is a Randallstown High School graduate also co-wrote Heartbeat Song for Kelly Clarkson, which missed the top 10.
Official video: YouTube link
“Duet” video with Leona Lewis: YouTube link
Derulo on Idol Sverige (Swedish Idol): YouTube link
Derulo with contestants India Carney and Kimberly Nichole on The Voice: YouTube link
6. Ex’s & Oh’s, Elle King, RCA
Elle King is 26 years old and had some minor success in the music industry. “Ex’s & Oh’s,” co-written by King and Dave Richard Bassett, is by far her biggest hit. The video premiered on May 1 and by June, the song had topped the Billboard rock chart and later the alternative chart. The single was released to pop radio in late September and peaked at number 10 for one week at the end of November, although it is still in the top 20. The lyrics suggest her treating men like men stereotypically treat women. The video echoes that theme, featuring men wearing very little. It’s a high energy song with a very catchy rhythm. “Ex’s & Oh’s” is up for two Grammys in the rock category, for best performance and best song. I predict a chart rebound if she is chosen to perform at the Grammy ceremony on President’s Day.
Live on Today in February: YouTube link
Official video: Vevo link
From Jimmy Kimmel Live: YouTube link
Ellie Lawrence cover on The Voice: NBC link
King with finalists on the German version of The Voice: YouTube link
7. Sugar, Maroon 5, 222/Interscope
Maroon 5 songs are usually hit-or-miss for me and lately there have been more misses than hits. The first two releases from 2014’s V album (“Maps,” “Animals”) were underwhelming to me, to say the least. The third single, “Sugar,” is the gem on the album. Mike Posner orginally wrote it for himself but Adam Levine heard it and wanted it for Maroon 5. Posner refused, but when Posner changed labels and his album project was scrapped in favor of more recent material, he decided to give it to Levine. Levine did some re-writing and Posner was reportedly happy with the outcome. Maroon 5 released it in January 2015 along with a video in which they crashed a bunch of Los Angeles weddings. The footage is great, but I can’t help but think it was way more staged than it seemed. By the end of January, “Sugar” debuted in the top 10 for the first of 21 consecutive weeks. It was only the 68th song ever to have spent 20 or more weeks in the top 10. For four weeks in the spring, it was at number two behind “Uptown Funk!” A remix featuring Nicki Minaj was released in March. “Sugar” did top the charts in Lebanon, Slovakia, South Africa and Turkey.
8. Fight Song, Rachel Platten, Columbia
Rachel Platten is a 34-year-old overnight success who first recorded “Fight Song” in 2014. Columbia Records built an EP around it and released the single in mid-February. It took a slow and steady climb to reach the top 10. It finally did so in mid-July and spent 10 weeks in the top 10, peaking at number six for a week in late August. Platten co-wrote the song with Dave Richard Bassett, a songwriter who had worked with other artists, but finally had a big hit with “Fight Song,” and later with Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s.” The song is reportedly about Platten’s struggling to get a break in the music industry and her unwillingness to give up. In that sense, the popularity of “Fight Song” proved successful for both songwriters. Hard to imagine not hearing this song–it has been used in commercials and other inspirational settings. It was even bigger in the UK, where “Fight Song” spent a week at number one in early September.
9. Style, Taylor Swift, Universal Studios/Republic
People who know me know that I’m not a Tay-Tay fan. That said, “Style” is by far her best song. Swift used to write all of her songs solo, but wisely dumped that for her Red album in favor of “co-writing,” primarily with Swedish hit machine Max Martin. She continued her co-writing strategy for her more recent 1989 album. “Style” originated from a beat line written by Ali Payami. Martin seems to have wrote it with Swift’s strengths in mind. The song is more about timing than about hitting notes. The staccato sections require good timing, not great pitch or range. Of the first four singles from 1989, “Style,” the third single, was the only one not to hit number one. “Style” was released in February and spent nine weeks in the top 10 in the spring, peaking at number six. Although other singles were more successful, I think “Style” will have more staying power. Just ignore the cringe-worthy “slicked-back white T-shirt” lyric. I have no doubt Tay-Tay wrote those lines herself.
10. Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey), The Weeknd, Universal Studios/Republic
The Weeknd was Billboard‘s top singles artist of 2015. “Earned It,” from the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, was not one of his two number one hits, but was his most mainstream effort of the year. It hit the charts in February and spent 18 straight weeks in the top 10, peaking at number three. The song is played twice in the movie, and was one of two top-five hits from the film, along with Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do.” For those unfamiliar with this breakout artist, his name is Abel Tesfaye and is from suburban Toronto. Apparently there is another Canadian band called “The Weekend,” so Tesfaye dropped an E to make “The Weeknd” his pseudonym. He co-wrote “Earned It,” and was reported to have been the primary writer.