The 20 Best Pop Songs Of 2015: Idolator Editors Pick Their Favorites

Idolator Staff | December 14, 2015 8:49 am
The 15 Best Albums Of 2015: Editor's Picks
Our editors select their 15 favorite albums of the year.

In some ways, a year can be defined by the music that created its soundtrack for us all. And just as we recently roundup up our editors’ pics for the best albums of 2015, best EPs of 2015 and, hell, even the 50 best songs from 20 years ago, we here at Idolator have also selected our 20 favorite songs from the past 12 months.

Sift through our picks below, and see if some of our favorite slices of pop from 2015 matched your own.

20. ILOVEMAKONNEN, “WHERE YOUR GIRL AT?”

In the space of a few fake orgasm grunts, Makonnen does here what thousands of rap skits couldn’t — make funny sex sounds actually sound funny — without the annoying “skit” part. The song is equally revolting, hilarious and exhilarating. — CARL WILLIOTT

19. TRAVI$ SCOTT, “ANTIDOTE”

Travis Scott Antidote

Travi$ Scott isn’t one you would typically place in the mainstream “pop” arena, but the Houston rapper boosted his fame this year with one of the more ubiquitous songs of 2015, Rodeo‘s “Antidote.”

The artist took every sonic aesthetic he’s become associated with in the rap scene (haunting production, woozy vocals pricked with high-pitched Auto Tune and lyrics overflowing with intense drug usage) and translated it into a raging banger that could be blasted from your friendly neighborhood thug’s car to a college sorority party in middle America. That’s pretty impressive for a tune that wasn’t even meant to be a single. — BIANCA GRACIE

18. EVES THE BEHAVIOR, “ELECTRICAL”

Aussie newcomer Eves The Behavior filled the gloom-pop void created by Lorde’s absence with sublime debut single “TV” and then upped the ante with a even better follow-up. The 21-year-old describes “Electrical” as a comment on the friction between the organic and the synthetic — a description that makes complete sense when you hear her fragile vocal wrapped in crisp synths. — MIKE WASS

17. NIYKEE HEATON, “SAY YEAH”

Niykee Heaton Say Yeah

Niykee Heaton reigned supreme on Instagram in 2015 with an onslaught of eye-popping thirst traps.  She also held her own on SounCloud — dropping a series of gritty, DIY pop anthems that racked up millions of streams. A fiery ode to living in the moment, “Say Yeah” is the pick of the bunch. It evokes late-night summer drives with the roof down and volume turned up. — MIKE WASS

16. LIZ, “WHEN I RULE THE WORLD”

There are more memorable hooks in these three minutes than most artists fit onto a whole album. You almost wish LIZ and SOPHIE had saved some for subsequent songs so you’d have time to digest it all. But then you remember what it was like being a kid and binging on your Halloween bounty. — CARL WILLIOTT

15. TINA ARENA, “I WANT TO LOVE YOU”

Tina Arena Eleven

The best power ballad of 2015. Sorry, Adele. — MIKE WASS

14. KENDRICK LAMAR, “ALRIGHT”

Kendrick Lamar Alright

2015 was incredibly rough one for us Americans, from multiple mass shootings to the ongoing fate of African Americans due to police brutality. Music has always been a source for comfort, and Kendrick Lamar’s “Alright” off To Pimp A Butterfly provided some blissful motivation that we were all searching for.

The opening lines “I’m fucked up, homie you fucked up / but if God got us we then gon’ be alright” sent a jolt of hope that was visible as partygoers gathered together to dance along with assurance. It’s no surprise the song rightfully snagged four Grammy nominations. — BIANCA GRACIE

13. JUSTIN BIEBER, “SORRY”

Justin Bieber Sorry

Bad Boy Gone Good pop star Bieber created a winning formula of masking melancholy over massive dance production with his chart-dominating singles this year. One of the more memorable “Am I supposed to cry to this?” tunes is Purpose’s “Sorry.”

Co-produced by 2015’s musical mastermind Skrillex and Blood Diamonds, this vibrant tropical house and dancehall groove serves as another apologetic plea to ex-girlfiend Selena Gomez (have you checked Bieber’s Instagram lately?). When the singer croons, “Because I’m missing more than just your bah-dee” over a swelling, infectious beat, you don’t have much choice but to forgive him. — BIANCA GRACIE

12. GRIMES, “FLESH WITHOUT BLOOD”

When I first heard this, I hated it, thinking it was power pop without the power. But repeated listens revealed it’s about finesse, not force. There’s a flurry of activity fueling everything — syncopated crackles, wispy melodies, processed vocals, a remedial guitar line — resulting in a shrunken-down “Since U Been Gone” for the MIDI set. Let this be a reminder to never trust your first impressions. — CARL WILLIOTT

11. TAYLOR SWIFT, “STYLE”

Taylor Swift Style

It happens with every Taylor Swift album: There’s that lone song that manages to bridge the deep ravine between her haters and loyal Swifties. The powers that be didn’t come charging out of the gate during the 1989 campaign with what is arguably the 26 year old’s best pop song to-date; instead, “Style” was unleashed as the third single off Swift’s blockbuster LP.

Sounding like some rare track from the 1980s that remains timeless, and much like a James Dean daydream, this entry in the vast catalog of Taylor’s hits will likely never go out of style. — ROBBIE DAW

10. ALL KINGS AND QUEENS, “VOODOO”

Plenty of pop songs are energetic or loud or cocky, but very few legitimately kick ass. “Voodoo” kicks fucking ass. We talk about swagger all the time now, as if anyone doing a not-sad song is exhibiting swagger. No, folks — this is what swagger sounds like. — CARL WILLIOTT

9. FOXES, “BODY TALK”

Why isn’t Foxes massive? The Brit’s debut LP Glorious lived up to its title and she spent 2015 delivering a string of immaculate singles from the follow-up. All of them deserve your attention, but “Body Talk” stands out as a near-perfect addition to the canon of dance-the-pain-away anthems with its sublime chorus and shimmery synths. — MIKE WASS

8. ASTA FEATURING ALLDAY, “DYNAMITE”

There’s more to Australian rap than Iggy Azalea. Take Allday; the 24-year-old’s syrupy flow imbues Asta’s “Dynamite” with a shot of heavily-accented flavor that set it apart from the other soulful nu-disco anthems to emerge this year. — MIKE WASS

7. MAJOR LAZER & DJ SNAKE FEATURING MØ, “LEAN ON”

Major Lazer DJ Snake Mo Lean On

Some songs rule the summertime with a bright flame, fizzle out by October and become a punchline until 20 years later, when the inevitable nostalgia for two decades ago kicks in (see “Macarena,” “Cheerleader,” etc.). And then there are the cuts that, while somewhat ubiquitous, fly juuuust under the radar enough that they’re welcome by the public and radio to carry on carryin’ on. Diplo‘s hypnotic house-reggae jam “Lean On” was the latter, and will no doubt be one of the songs that transcends the summer from which it blew up and helps define this decade. — ROBBIE DAW

6. DRAKE, “HOTLINE BLING”

Drake Hotline Bling

Leave it Drake to release a song about subtle misogyny and have it totally dominate the charts. Pushing aside the context of “Hotline Bling” that pseudo-feminists may expect me to harp on, the one-off single possesses a relateable charm that’s made it become even more massive than expected.

The delicate, twinkling production, which plays like office water cooler background music for an HBO series, is juxtaposed with the singer’s neglectful lyrics about an ex-lover that he can’t seem to shake off. The Toronto artist has displayed his Heartbreak Drake persona countless times in the past (“Marvin’s Room,” anyone?), but none of those tracks could ever reach the meme-worthy levels of “Hotline Bling.” — BIANCA GRACIE

5. FUTURE, “MARCH MADNESS”

The prettiest beat of 2015 paired with the darkest, most damaged rapper of 2015. Of course it would lead to a swirl of contradictions: It’s hypnotic and heavy and glimmering and grimy and exasperated and hopeful. And that’s why this is so true. — CARL WILLIOTT

4. BRANDON FLOWERS, “CAN’T DENY MY LOVE”

Killers frontman Brandon Flowers is one of those few artists who operates within a space that isn’t bothered with the pop music trends of the moment. Thank God. When it arrived in the spring on a wave of synth squelches and atmosphere, “Can’t Deny My Love” hinted that the work Flowers and producer Ariel Rechtshaid were doing on Brandon’s The Desired Effect would be pretty great — an allusion that proved to be true once the album was released. — ROBBIE DAW

3. THE WEEKND, “CAN’T FEEL MY FACE”

The Weeknd Can't Feel My Face

The Weeknd has been moaning about drugs ever since his 2011 debut mixtape House Of Balloons, but he managed to make this schtick unexpectedly mainstream for Beauty Behind The Madness single “Can’t Feel My Face.”

The song has “hit” written all over it, from Max Martin‘s co-sign to the catchy, retro vibes to the dark lyrical undertones and the Michael Jackson-inspired dance moves. For naysayers who thought The Weeknd (who was once a dark horse) couldn’t make it as one of 2015’s biggest pop stars, “Can’t Feel My Face” proved them wrong. Being numb never felt so damn good. — BIANCA GRACIE

2. FETTY WAP, “TRAP QUEEN”

Trap Queen Fetty Wap single

Fetty Wap managed to pull off the hat trick of being one of 2015’s breakout stars, releasing the biggest rap song of the year and following it up with a string of further hits. It all started with “Trap Queen,” a cut brimming with aspiration about dealing crack with your beloved and doing it with class. On the surface, this all might seem sinister, but much like the cocaine in question, that RGF production is so very addictive. — ROBBIE DAW

1. SKRILLEX & DIPLO FEATURING JUSTIN BIEBER, “WHERE ARE Ü NOW?”

This is truly asking a lot, but if you’re willing to set the perceived douchebaggery and enfant terrible-ness of Justin Bieber aside for just four minutes and 11 seconds, and listen without prejudice to the way Skrillex and Diplo wrap the singer’s emotional plea in a blanket of not-trite EDM, “Where Are Ü Now” manages to clutch you where it counts the most: The heart. There’s a reason Bieber had such a massive comeback in 2015, and this is it. — ROBBIE DAW

What were your own favorite songs from 2015? Let us know below.