The Most 2015 Lyrics Of 2015

Kanye West: Brian J Ritchie/Hotsauce/REX Shutterstock.
Justin Bieber: Michael Buckner/Variety/REX Shutterstock.
Nicki Minaj: Manuel Nauta/NurPhoto/REX Shutterstock.
Taylor Swift: REX Shutterstock.
“Pop music holds a mirror up to nature.” —William Shakespeare*

Why do we love pop music?

Sure, there’s a technical answer: the carefully curated blend of repetition, earworms, and the mind-control tactics of Max Martin and the Illuminati. But there’s another thing happening beneath the surface. Pop music represents us — specifically, who we were, as a society, at the precise moment you heard that song for the 1,000th time in a day. What we were into. What we weren’t. What mattered. The weird stuff we liked in bed. It’s all in there, and it’s the real reason some songs are hits, and others are Britney Spears-Iggy Azalea songs.

What did pop music reveal about us in 2015? Let’s take a look.


1 of 10
“Woke up an optimist/Sun was shining, I’m positive.” —Kanye West, “FourFiveSeconds”

Remember 2014? It was terrible. Michael Brown. Ebola. Robin Williams. An airplane that fucking disappeared. But at the stroke of midnight, we ushered in a new year and, against all logic, the hope for better things to come.

So who better to deliver us to redemption than Yeezus himself? Kanye’s first words on "FourFiveSeconds," released in January, captured our cautious optimism as we turned a new page and mistakenly wrote “’14” on it. Listen to the kids, bruh! 2015 had a shot.
2 of 10
“I can’t feel my face when I’m with you/But I love it.” —The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”

Then, reality hit. Bad habits die hard, and despite our New Year’s resolutions to, I dunno, maybe stop shooting each other constantly...we couldn’t quite stick to them.

The Weeknd, the only artist with two songs on this list, was oddly prescient about 2015 with his love letter to self-destructive “relationships.” Guns! Police brutality! Thinking a racist, misogynistic billionaire running for president was hilarious! The dawn of 2015 saw us quickly fall nose-first into our worst addictions once again. It was hard to love it.
3 of 10
“I ain’t never need a man to take care of me.” —Nicki Minaj, “Truffle Butter”

But it wasn’t all bad. If 2014 was the year feminism re-entered the pop-culture conversation, 2015 was the year it came to collect. Badass women ruled our screens, from Mad Max’s Imperator Furiosa to Jessica Jones to Star Wars’ Rey. And real-life superwomen, from Malala to Serena Williams to the World Cup soccer champion U.S. Women’s National Team (still feels great to say that), ruled the rest.

Starting with her verse on 2010’s “Monster,” Minaj made a habit of owning male-dominated tracks. Five years later, she’s dominating the whole genre. From the rap game to the big screen to (hopefully) the White House, ladies are running shit. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but Feminism 2016 shows no signs of slowing down.
4 of 10
“Love's a game/Wanna play?” —Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”

Speaking of powerful women, 2015 might eventually go down as Year One of Our Supreme Squad Leader, Taylor Swift. But that’s a different story. This lyric sums up another of the year’s themes: the game-ification of love.

This was the year “swipe right” went from a self-conscious joke to a viable answer to “How’d you guys meet?” Tinder begat Happn begat Bumble begat a zillion more, and they all make for pretty great bar games. Hell, some of you will probably swipe with Grandma at Christmas. What it means for the future is uncertain, but this year was a turning point for the stigma of online dating. Now it’s a game we all wanna play.
5 of 10
“I might let your boy chauffeur me/But he gotta eat the booty like groceries.” —Jhene Aiko, “Post to Be”

Speaking of love, 2015 cemented The Booty as the “it” destination for lovers everywhere. Most notably, there was Allison Williams’ analingus adventure in the first episode of HBO’s Girls that — less than two weeks into the year — locked down 2015’s crown for “Worst Thing to Happen With Your Parents in the Room” (though, if you’re watching any HBO series with your parents, you’re asking for it).

Then summer came, and with it, the undisputed Lyric of the Year in Jhene Aiko’s ode to the grocery aisle less traveled. In an interview with MTV about the brilliant line, Aiko explained, “I wanted my part to be funny and unexpected, and, ironically, ‘groceries’ rhymes with ‘post to be,’ and so it works.” Amazing.
6 of 10
“Why you always lyin’?” —Nicholas Fraser, “That Vine You Were Obsessed With”

In February 2009, Saturday Night Live uploaded a video called “I’m on a Boat,” and the world promptly exploded. Weeks later, it was topping the charts, and most surprising, being played nonironically at clubs. But though it was “a song from the internet,” it was made by a Grammy-winning producer and had the heft of T-Pain and SNL behind it. Its success shouldn’t have really been a surprise.

Then “Why you always lyin’?” happened. In six seconds, a relatively unknown Viner called @downgoes.fraser created one of the biggest hits of the year, with nothing but a ’90s sample, a disdain for shirt buttons, and a backyard toilet. The Vine itself has more than 52 million loops, and hearing a DJ drop Fraser’s ridiculous crooning is truly incredible. Plus, we can now call BS on someone’s tweet just by posting an image of Fraser’s smiling face. It makes no sense, and it makes perfect sense. We act like we know how the music business, or the internet, or the world works. Mmmmohmygod, we gotta stop fuckin’ lyin’!
7 of 10
“I don’t wanna hear about this ever again.” —Drake, “Back to Back”

Drake is soft. Drake sings too much. Drake is a front-runner. Drake isn’t cool. This wasn’t the year Drake proved these things wrong; 2015 was the year he proved these things right — and proved us wrong for thinking they were bad in the first place. There was the out-of-nowhere “If You’re Reading This…” release. There was the surprise “Fat Drake” to “Jacked Drake” transformation. There was the total evisceration of Meek Mill on wax, followed by the evisceration of his eviscerated corpse during a meme-filled performance at OVO Fest.
And then there was the “Hotline Bling” video. Ribbed turtlenecks. Pastel lighting. Dad dancing. It shouldn’t have worked for about 10 million reasons, but it not only worked — It. Was. Incredible. This was the year Drake could do no wrong. To quote an unnamed R29 writer named Vanessa Golembewski: “Before the Hotline Bling video, I was a woman. Now, I’m a WOMAN.” We all are, V.
8 of 10
“I need you the most.” —Justin Bieber, “Where Are Ü Now”

Conversely, this was the year Bieber actually had something to lose. After years of holding the pop world in his adorable, dimple-cheeked grasp, Bieber was finally taking his all-important leap into “serious artist” territory. But first he’d have to clear a barren wasteland filled with the skeletons of all the Nick Carters who came before him.
Bolstered by a few strong singles and a new haircut, and in spite of the rape culture-y “What Do You Mean?,” Bieber’s Purpose album passed the test, even winning over some cynics in the process. But 2015 was the year pop’s long-dormant tectonic plates shifted, and Bieber actually needed us (sorry, üs) the most.
9 of 10
"When I'm fucked up/That's the real me" —The Weeknd, “The Hills”

The year 2014 was all about “Flawless.” It was a hashtag. It was a T-shirt. It was a triple-asterisked Beyoncé anthem. And just like that casual selfie you posted, which was actually the 14th attempt to get the right lighting/hair/smile combination, it was kind of a lie. Those asterisks should come after the word, Bey. And in 2015, they did.

This was the year flaws became cool again. There was The Weeknd’s undeniable “hot mess” appeal. Essa O’Neill’s powerful pulling-back-the-curtain on Instagram modeling. Amy Schumer and Zendaya joining the war on Photoshop. Mindy Kaling’s zit-cream selfie. The truth is, none of us actually woke up like this — 2015 made that a little more OK.
10 of 10
“We are the new Americana/High on legal marijuana/Raised on Biggie and Nirvana/We are the new Americana.” —Halsey, "New Americana"

In many ways, 2015 was just as rough as the year that came before it. Probably worse. We couldn’t stop killing one another in new and more horrifying ways, the dream team of ignorance and irresponsibility made a massive comeback, and, seriously, Donald Trump is still a thing. But here’s the crazy part: Despite a new reason urging us every day to give up, we haven’t.

Halsey’s “New Americana” might be the most under-the-radar hit on this list, but that’s exactly where optimism lives these days. Legal marijuana represents a slow but steady rolling back of outdated, morally conservative principles, which is sorely needed. The blend of Biggie and Nirvana is two wildly different cultures coming together, which is needed even more. It’s all happening, and it can keep happening well into 2016 and beyond — as long as we keep fighting for it. One thing’s for sure: We’ll definitely have a playlist.

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