40 Best Singles Of 2015

EW's music staff names the best singles of the year.

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    40. Rihanna, "Bitch Better Have My Money"

    "Don’t act like you forgot, I call the shots"—and RiRi does just that on this undeniable earworm with one of the funniest catchphrases of 2015. — Madison Vain

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    39. Cam, "Burning House"

    Nashville has a new lady who's climbing the charts—and she broke out with this brilliant, heartbreaking lament to a relationship gone wrong. — M.V.

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    38. Hailee Steinfeld, "Hell Nos and Headphones"

    Hailee Steinfeld may be an Academy Award nominee, but the actress reintroduced herself as a pop star to watch with her excellent debut EP, "Haiz." The standout is this second single "Hell Nos and Headphones," a sweet middle finger to lame party scenes and lamer "friends." In a year where the weirdos and wallflowers got mainstream dap—from Grimes to Alessia Cara—Steinfeld also celebrated the oddballs who couldn't care less about fitting in. — Jessica Goodman

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    37. Hippo Campus, "Suicide Saturday"

    Somehow not a death metal buzzsaw, it’s actually a breezy, laconic, bittersweet summer jam full of muted surf guitars and loads of “oh oh ohs.” — Kyle Anderson

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    36. Wolf Alice, "You’re a Germ"

    On the breakout track from the British quartet’s stellar debut, there’s a way in which Ellie Roswell and Joff Oddie harmonize during the verses that makes it sound like they’re telling each other a series of secrets about schoolyard insecurity. They’re praying to the goddess of catharsis, who arrives in the form of shouted counting, a straight-outta-’95 buzzsaw riff, and Roswell’s throaty threats. There aren't a ton of new ideas on “You’re a Germ,” but Wolf Alice made them all feel alluringly alive. — K.A.

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    35. Future feat. Rick Ross & Big Sean, "F--- Up Some Commas (Remix)"

    Over a turnt-up piano loop that sounds like a hammered Tom Hanks trying to stay upright on that giant keyboard from "Big," Future uses his slurry croon to celebrate building his bankroll and making it rain. Ross and Sean show up to breathe fire like two cartoon dragons with dollar signs in their eyes. — K.A.

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    34. A$AP Rocky, "L$D"

    The Harlem-bred rapper loves a good club banger—and club-goers love a good A$AP Rocky banger. But on this highlight from his second LP, he lays out a druggy, genre-blending, neo-psychedelia-tinged gem. — M.V.

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    33. Grimes, "California"

    Grimes (a.k.a. Claire Boucher) returned after a three-year hiatus with "Art Angels," an entirely self-produced, self-written collection displaying her immense crossover potential from alternative noise artist to bona fide pop star. The strongest track, “California”, layers sugary electronic beats with rushing, anxious lyrics about self-worth, and Boucher’s high-octane vocals elevate it to become one of the most devastating songs ever written about the Golden State. — J.G.

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    32. Calvin Harris, “How Deep Is Your Love”

    One of the world's biggest DJs brought the fire of '80s house music back to the charts with this irresistible club-wrecker. Is it like nirvana? Hell yes. — Kevin O'Donnell

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    31. Waxahatchee, "Air"

    The Alabama folkie abandons sweet intimacy for something bigger, grander, and gratifyingly tougher on this airy cinematic anthem, intoning rueful lines like “It fogged up again/My spotless exit/So we walked two by two/With tedious intent” over dream-like ooohs and thunderous drums. — Leah Greenblatt

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    30. Tobias Jesso Jr., "Without You"

    His own work might always be eclipsed by his recent collaboration with Adele, but the shaggy Canadian with the soul of a ‘70s AM-radio star and the physical presence of a friendly stork made one of the most understated beautiful records this year. When he sighs “I can hardly breathe without you/There is no future I can see without you” on the album's centerpiece ballad, it lands like a gut punch, but a gorgeous one. — L.G.

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    29. Nick Jonas, "Levels"

    On this jittery slab of disco-funk, the JoBro morphs into a 21st century cassanova—with a cheeky ode that's about more than just riding skywards in an elevator. — K.O.

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    28. Robyn, "Set Me Free"

    This single from the Swedish pop star's side project La Bagatelle Magique is a tribute of sorts to her late friend and collaborator Christian Falk—and she honors his spirit with this life-affirming disco odyssey. If your hairs don't stand on edge at the 3:00 mark, check your pulse. — K.O.

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    27. Madonna, "Bitch I’m Madona"

    She go hard or she go home, she gon do this all night long—the Queen of Pop's standout from Rebel Heart has everything you love about her music: hooks, humor, attitude for days. — K.O.

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    26. Vince Staples, "Norf Norf"

    In one of the most stirring moments on his titanic debut "Summertime '06," the Long Beach rapper takes on police brutality and racial profiling, rhyming that he "ain't never run from nothing but the police." A bleak Clams Casino beat propels Staples' wry observation that "change gonna come like Obama and them say, but they shootin' everyday 'round my mama." — Eric Renner Brown

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    25. Beach House, "One Thing"

    The heaviest song yet from the Baltimore dream-pop duo—with alluringly elliptical lyrics ("Perfect in the morning / And you ruin it in the evening") about one seriously effed-up relationship. — K.O.

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    24. Ellie Goulding, "On My Mind"

    The British pop star and Max Martin cook up one of the year's best kiss-off tracks—with an excellent stutter-step beat, knotty guitar riffs, and Goulding's breathy voice. — K.O.

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    23. Missy Elliott, "WTF"

    Missy would have had a solid 2015 if her only contribution to culture was meowing on that one Janet Jackson song. Instead, she delivered a breathless double-timed playground jam that had everybody putting their things down, flipping it, and reversing it. — K.A.

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    22. Galantis, "Runaway (U&I)"

    It's fitting that famed producers Bloodshy & Avant (the duo behind Galantis) had a big moment at Coachella 2015: this unstoppable anthem was a staple at many a late-night dance party and takes everything you love about EDM to cartoonishly brilliant new heights. — M.V.

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    21. Disclosure, "Holding On"

    The electronic duo's second album had guest spots from Miguel, the Weeknd, Sam Smith, and Lorde — but their lead single, featuring jazz singer Gregory Porter, shone brightest. Synth vamps and tight percussion provide a perfect backdrop for Porter's soulful vocals. — E.R.B.

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    20. Shamir, "On the Regular"

    The best thing about this Technicolor pixie, of course, is how far he is from regular. Over a backing track that sounds like a cowbell mating with the Mario Bros., the Las Vegas native lays out his pop-rap manifesto with a cheeky litany of safety warnings (“Don’t try me, I’m not a free sample”) and so much style. — L.G.

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    19. Florence and the Machine, "What Kind of Man"

    “I was on a heavy tip/Trying to cross a canyon with a broken limb/You were on the other side, like always/Wondering what to do with life….What kind of man loves like this?” That, ladies and gentlemen, is how Florence Welch does a diss track. And it turns out the queen of ethereal balladry is even better when she’s angry. — L.G.

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    18. Elle King, "Ex's and Oh's"

    With rockabilly influences, a bluesy growl, and a raucous backbeat, Elle King brought rock and roll edge back to the charts with this anthem to badass ladies who do what they damn well please. — M.V

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    17. Kendrick Lamar, "These Walls"

    It's got an impossibly cool groove, but beneath the ebullient G-funk-style synths and crisp beats, Lamar goes deep into the head of a man who's wrestling over his complex relationships with a lover, fame, authority, and his own conscience. — K.O.

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    16. Beck, "Dreams"

    Beck didn't stay sad for long. On "Dreams"—his one-off follow-up to 2014's Grammy-winning, bummer-folk opus "Morning Phase"—the musical chameleon transformed yet again, teaming with Adele's "Hello" co-writer Greg Kurstin for an ebullient, can't-get-it-out-of-your-head alt-rock anthem. — E.R.B.

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    15. Shura, "2Shy"

    We've all experienced it: the love interest who's right within sight, but you're too timid to go in for the approach so you chain-smoke your anxieties away. This British songwriter perfectly captures that universal longing with wispy '80s synths and her featherweight voice. — K.O.

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    14. Jeremih, "Planez"

    Have you ever read “The World Is Yours” on a blimp? Unless you’re Al Pacino, Nas, or Jeremih’s current piece, probably not. But the satin-voiced R&B star sells that line—and so many other snakes-on-a-plane metaphors—like a pro on this stripped-down, fantastically filthy sex jam. — L.G.

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    13. Sia, "Alive"

    She originally penned this track for Adele, but we can't imagine hearing it any other way: Sia's vocals explode like dynamite in this gut-wrenching song of survival. — J.G.

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    12. Major Lazer, "Lean On"

    Leave it to Diplo and Co. to take Sheryl Sandberg’s you-do-you directiv sideways with a snaking melody, ratatat backbeat and sinuous vocal from Danish songtress Mø. Blow a kiss, fire a gun, go Top 10 in a few dozen countries, done. — L.G.

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    11. Drake, "Hotline Bling"

    Drake's slinky hit about a beloved booty-caller dominated the airwaves—and the Internet's meme machine, too. Though Drake was accused of cribbing the song's riff from another tune by rising artist D.R.A.M., "Hotline Bling" also spawned numerous reimaginings of its own, by the likes of Erykah Badu, Justin Bieber, and Sam Smith. But boil away the adorably dorky dance moves and surrounding drama, and you're left with an impeccable crossover hit from the musician who tapped into the 2015 zeitgeist best. — E.R.B.

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    10. Baroness, "Shock Me"

    A 2012 tour-bus crash shattered the bones of frontman John Dyer Baizley and pushed his band to the brink of extinction. But they came back with the heaviest rock single of the year, featuring weapons-grade psychedelic fuzz and a harmony-juiced wave of a chorus that leaves nothing but awe in its wake. — K.A.

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    9. Little Big Town, "Girl Crush"

    It’s the cruelest crush, once removed: a flawless, sweet-smelling goddess who has everything you ever wanted—including your ex. Like so many of the best pop songs, "Girl Crush" (officially released at the tail end of 2014) is built on a hook strong enough to be stripped down to its most basic elements: just a whispery thump of percussion, a hip-swaying guitar line, and a vocal so gorgeous and full of longing it makes your heart turn over. — L.G.

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    8. Sam Hunt, "House Party"

    This country smash blared at countless college keggers, football tailgates, and (duh) house parties. Still, the Nash­ville breakout’s tune is more than an anthem to good times: It’s also a clever love song about staying in and throwing a rager for two. — M.V.

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    7. Fetty Wap, "Trap Queen"

    This was one of the year’s most infectious tunes. And also one of the most subversive. How many casual music fans crooned and shimmied along to the viral smash from this rapper, clueless that it was an ode to the titular heroine’s crack-cooking skills. Not since Bone Thugs-N-Harmony fooled the masses into singing a welfare carol has R&B-laced drug-hop burned so clean. — K.A.

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    6. Selena Gomez, "Good for You (feat. A$AP Rocky)"

    Where Lovato went full force with her music (see No. 5), her BFF Selena Gomez opted for mood setting—and this blush-inducing, seductive electro-ballad was the defining soundtrack for every late-night post-club comedown. — K.O.

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    5. Demi Lovato, "Cool for the Summer"

    The singer has called this her "'80s rock ballad from the future." That’s an understatement. Over a groove that struts like a supermodel in nine-inch stilettos (hat tip, Max Martin!), the former Disney star delivered an oh-no-she-didn’t anthem to bi-curious experimentation. (“Don’t be scared/Cuz I’m your body type” goes down as one of the year’s most scintillating couplets.) Best of all, with those blazing vocals, Lovato proved she had one of the year’s most unstoppable voices. — E.R.B.

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    4. Alessia Cara, "Here"

    A windows-down anthem for introverts, a party jam for people who hate parties, an old-soul lament delivered by a teenage R&B starlet with no use for wasted youth: Welcome to 2015’s best and sneakiest pop contradiction. Built on a narcotic 1971 Isaac Hayes riff last borrowed by Portishead for their 1994 mope masterpiece “Glory Box,” Cara’s song bares the beautiful misery of an “antisocial pessimist” who would rather be anywhere but Here. — L.G.

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    3. Adele, "Hello"

    It’s got a wonderfully haunting piano riff and gut-wrenching lyrics that’d make the most stone-faced human cry, but it takes a once-in-a-generation voice like Adele’s to turn this heartbreaker into an instant classic. — E.R.B.

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    2. Justin Bieber, "What Do You Mean?"

    In recent years Justin Bieber may have made headlines more for his bad-boy antics and a certain romantic fling than his music. That all changed with this stellar single from his mature album Purpose. Over a lush tropical-house groove courtesy of co-writers Poo Bear and Mason Levy, Bieber had his Justin Timberlake “SexyBack” moment. He may have said goodbye to his teen heartthrob image—but he’s just getting started. —M.V.

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    1. The Weeknd, "Can't Feel My Face"

    Forget your face; that’s way north of the place you should be feeling this delirious dance-floor rapture. Until this summer Abel Tesfaye was best known for dusky R&B anthems like “Wicked Games” and the Fifty Shades serenade “Earned It.” But “Face” is a whole different beast: Making like the prodigal son of Off the Wall-era Michael Jackson, Tesfaye moon-bounces from one rubber-band bass line to the next, skimming his silky falsetto over crisp finger snaps and walloping synths. When he coos, “And she’ll always get the best of me/The worst is yet to come,” you know he knows he’s lost his head. And he loves it. — L.G.

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