Well, here we go.
2015 has been quite a year — personally, professionally and pop culturally speaking. I lived! I loved! I laughed! Actually, I mostly cried, because like a certain Canadian songbird, I have all of these E•MO•TIONs. (FORESHADOWING.) Anyway!
We’re knee-deep in list season now, and all of the “Best Of” #content is rolling out across every space in the blogosphere. But now, it’s time for someone with an actually relevant opinion to share his list: ME.
As I say every year, this is my own personal list of favorites of the year: I don’t care which critics said what about who, I don’t care how many weeks it spent on whatever chart, and I certainly don’t care how many people bought the album.
Let me get this out of the way right now: Love Adele. Really, I do! She’s hilarious. And I’m glad she’s back in the spotlight. “Hello,” of course, is major. But I really don’t think the rest of 25 is as incredible as others do. I’ve only revisited, like, three songs ever since it came out? Somehow, I think she’ll survive without landing on my list, although I’m sure I’ll piss some people off for my preference of fellow soul singer, Hilary Duff. What can I say? I’m just out here living my truth.
Just for a little stroll through MuuMemory lane, the Best Albums of the past few years: 2014 was Tinashe‘s Aquarius, 2013 was Sky Ferreira‘s Night Time, My Time , 2012 was Lana Del Rey‘s Born To Die and 2011 was Britney‘s Femme Fatale. I wholeheartedly stand by all of them. This year, of course, is no different.
So, without further ado, here’s the list. You can also listen to the whole thing at once on Spotify. Enjoy!
Honorable Mention: Rihanna, ANTI
The wait is ova! Rihanna‘s eighth studio album, ANTI, was finally released on [DATE] and features [ARTISTS]. It is the Best Album of [INSERT YEAR] because of [SONG], which [INSERT RELEVANT DESCRIPTION OF ANTI SONG]. And who expected her to sing the words “[INSERT LYRIC]”? It was all worth it in the end. Well done, Rih.
20. Little Boots, Working Girl
19. f(x), 4 Walls
18. Ciara, Jackie
17. Say Lou Lou, Lucid Dreaming
16. Wonder Girls, Reboot
15. Justin Bieber, Purpose
14. Galantis, Pharmacy
13. Ellie Goulding, Delirium
12. Purity Ring, another eternity
11. CHVRCHES, Every Open Eye
10. Selena Gomez, Revival
Let’s keep it 100 underline underline emoji: Selena Gomez is not a dancer, nor the powerhouse vocalist of our time. After watching her perform live, it’s hard to summon a word of praise beyond “pretty.” But she’s still Selegendary Gomezmerizing, our reliable vessel of decidedly above-average pop. As America’s leading former Disney princess-turned-whisper-chanteuse, SelGo softly shined on her #Personal, ‘lower register’-utilizing record: “Good For You” is breathy aural sex, “Hands To Myself” is a Prince-lite revelation, “Me & The Rhythm” is Kylie Minogue-esque disco bliss and “Kill Em With Kindness” is a thumping ode to Twitter trolls. And “Sober”? That one hits harder than I’d like to admit.
9. Years & Years, Communion
When I was visiting London in October last year, my friend Julian invited me to a Years & Years concert. “Who?” I went, unenthusiastically, assuming they were, like…a band or something. I’m so glad I went. From that point on, I began to spread the Y&Y gospel stateside. With each song, from “Take Shelter” to “Desire” to “King” (that Pet Shop Boys-esque synth flare is perhaps the best sound of 2015), the troupe only got better over several months until the eventual release of their debut. It’s dance. It’s electro. It’s reggae. It’s pop. It’s a lil’ bit o’ everything. And they’re only just getting started. Years & Years truly feel like the future. (And you can be a king under my control any time you’d like, Olly.)
8. Marina And The Diamonds, FROOT
Out with the Electra Heart, in with the Froot: After feeling restrained by the mega-pop gloss of her last studio album, Marina stepped back and stripped it down, enlisting just one person (David Kosten) rather than a host of superstar producers to co-craft the record. Mercifully, Marina’s knack for a solid pop hook with an indie leaning remained fully in tact on Froot, navigating through disco pulsations (“Froot”), soaring tearjerkers (“I’m A Ruin”) and introspective balladry bringing us back to days of The Family Jewels. In a better world, “Blue” would be all over radio. Luckily for us, this Froot doesn’t go bad.
7. Hilary Duff, Breathe In. Breathe Out.
A Hilary Duff album in 2015 feels like the stuff of fan-fiction, and yet, here we are. In a time when pop has felt particularly moody, the sunny charm of our beloved “Why Not?” princess was sorely missed. She updated her perky early ’00s pop sound with exuberant, uptempo bops like “My Kind,” “Confetti” and the immaculate “One In A Million.” But make no mistake: This one’s just as much of a self-empowerment moment for the newly single mother, resulting in fierce Dignity-esque kiss-offs and Serenity Now introspective tunes like the Ed Sheeran co-crafted “Tattoo” and “Breathe In. Breathe Out.” I made a Top 10 list of all the things I missed…you made it, Hil.
6. Troye Sivan, Blue Neighbourhood
Don’t let the YouTube thing dissuade you, doubters: Troye’s debut is the real deal. With features by BROODS and Betty Who and co-writing from Emile Haynie, Jack Antonoff, Leland and Allie X (who released one of the year’s best EPs in CollXtion I, by the way), the burgeoning musician finally set off on his journey outside his Blue Neighbourhood in the shape of atmospheric beauties (“Ease”), tripping melancholy (“The Quiet”) and shout-along anthems (“Youth”). For a “Lost Boy,” he’s got a pretty damn solid sense of direction. It’s beyond the quality of the music, too: As an out-and-proud 20 year old explicitly singing about boys, Troye’s serving visibility in a way that doesn’t feel forced, sterile or embarrassing — for once. I genuinely believe he’s on the way to becoming a young gay icon for the new generation.
5. Lana Del Rey, Honeymoon
The storm clouds of Ultraviolence dissipated this year, allowing our beloved jazz singer to curl up for a nice, sunny afternoon nap on her Honeymoon. The Queen of Coney Island’s 2015 effort showcased a relaxed return to the cinematic sound of her debut and an indulgence of her love of jazz and poetry, as well as her preoccupation with death and intergalactic possibilities. (Y’know, the usual.) Whether getting high by the beach, singing soft grunge and watching the boys or blasting off to space with Major Tom, Lana delivered as always with her mesmerizing voice and solemn brand of sad girl storytelling. Never change, Lana.
4. Janet Jackson, Unbreakable
It’s hard to remember the Janet thirst now that she’s busy touring arenas around the world, but just a few months ago, the icon hadn’t put out new music in nearly a decade. Despite rumors that swirled for years of a comeback, we finally heard it straight from her lips this year. Unbreakable wasn’t the album many were prepared for: Aside from one full-on uptempo thumper (“Burn It Up!”), the largely introspective set saw Miss Jackson sharing her appreciation, her spirituality and her worldly wisdoms against genre-blurring production with her classic collabo team, Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis, resulting in what felt like a mature update to Rhythm Nation 1814 and The Velvet Rope. Like the icon itself, it’s timeless.
3. Madonna, Rebel Heart
Rebel Heart was royally fucked from the start, leaking months before the album was even officially announced. Every step of the way, from falling down stairs to sad Meerkat premieres, felt like another embarrassment. And yet, all that was a perfect representation of the underlying theme of Madonna’s thirteenth studio album: “I’m gonna carry on.” Rather than opting to go any one way — spiritual, sexual, dark disco — Madge threw everything against the wall with her latest studio album, resulting in a thousand flavors of self-empowerment (“Living For Love”), apocalyptic us-against-the-world anthems (“Ghosttown”), bouncy, brag-filled statements of self (“Bitch I’m Madonna”) and heartfelt moments of vulnerability (“Joan Of Arc”) we haven’t heard from her in years. (And a song about golden showers.) It’s brash, beautiful, occasionally embarrassing and often inspiring — truly the very essence of M.
2. Grimes, Art Angels
Grimes saved pop this year — just don’t call her a pop star. As a producer, singer and songwriter, she singlehandedly steered her own ship with Art Angels, an ambitious record that made almost every other pop album released this year feel uninspired and dull in comparison. It’s a wildly unhinged effort, full of genre-melting production and snappy melodies that thrill with each play to this day, from the chilling “Flesh Without Blood” to the fiercely feminist, futuristic rallying cry of “Venus Fly” with Janelle Monáe to the gender-bending bad-assery of “Kill V Maim.” Most impressively, despite being a total smorgasbord of influences, Art Angels sounds like no one else but Grimes. Please take us to your planet.
1. Carly Rae Jepsen, E•MO•TION
I’ve said all I needed to say about Carly Rae Jepsen‘s record in a hundred different ways over the year, but just to be clear: E•MO•TION is the best pop record of 2015.
Carly already made a case for greatness with 2012’s sparkling Kiss, which flew entirely under the radar thanks to the inescapable dominance of that one song-that-shall-not-be-named. But with E•MO•TION, she really, really took it there.
The album is a start-to-finish solid, ’80s-inspired collection of unabashed, unpretentious pop, from the sweet coos of “Gimmie Love,” to the devastating unrequited gay boy love of “Your Type” (LGBTQ warrior), to the vintage ’80s prom scene sheen of the Dev Hynes co-crafted “All That,” to Sia powerhouse pop standouts “Boy Problems” and “Making The Most Of The Night,” to the oddball genius of “Warm Blood” (my most played song of 2015) to “Run Away With Me,” the Song Of Summer that never was, and surely the best us-against-the-world anthem since Katy Perry‘s “Teenage Dream.” I could list every song, as every song is worthy of being called out, but I’ll stop. Actually, wait, one more: The chilly Japanese bonus track, “Never Get To Hold You”? Play that one at my funeral.
Screw sales records. Fuck a Grammy nomination. Carly Rae Jepsen won this year.