As recently as a day or two ago, I didn’t think I’d be doing this blog post. The end of the year has been full of anxiety and more bad days than good and I just couldn’t imagine finding the energy to write this post. But then a friend told me that, in the midst of the chaos of his day, he started writing blurbs about his songs and before he knew it, he had a post. I didn’t do that exactly, but tonight, after a fun dinner with an old friend, I found myself suddenly in the mood to talk about the songs that reminded me of all the best parts of this year.
It was the best year for music since 2012. Here’s the first 10 songs of my 20 favorite songs of the year. Click the link in the title to listen on YouTube. As always, in no particular order.
1 – Rebel Heart (Avicii Mix) / Madonna
Technically a 2014 release since it leaked around Thanksgiving of last year, it was the first thing we heard from Madonna’s 2015 album Rebel Heart. Instantly everything I loved about a Madonna song – including the slightly clunky lyric – “Rebel Heart” was completely revamped from this version to an acoustic strummer for the album release. This ended up being a big mistake musically as the Avicii version soars. Admittedly, the guitar-based version worked well on tour, but this will always be the definitive version of “Rebel Heart” in my book.
2 – Shut Up & Dance / Walk The Moon
No matter how many times I heard “Shut Up & Dance” on the radio at work this year, it defied becoming overplayed. Complete with 80s-esque production, it was one of my favorites as summer came to a close this year.
3 – Right Here Right Now (feat. Kylie Minogue) / Giorgio Moroder
Kylie makes two appearances on this year’s list and she didn’t even have a proper album release until November – and that was a Christmas album! Kylie has officially reached the “whatever whatever I do what I want” stage of her career and I, for one, am loving it. Better than just about everything on Kiss Me Once, “Right Here Right Now” was an early add to the short list this year and never really left.
4 – High By The Beach / Lana Del Rey
I have such a love/hate relationship with Lana Del Rey. Overall, I find her songs so same-y that I don’t feel like she can sustain a full album. That said, she still has individual tracks that can hold my interest. The humid late-summer feel that drips off “High By The Beach” made it irresistible to me. It also led my daughter to ask if she sings ANY songs that aren’t inappropriate.
5 – I Really Like You / Carly Rae Jepsen
It’s lame to say, but I really really really really really really like Carly Rae Jepsen. There is no one that is so purely and unapologetically pop as CRJ. It’s just too bad that no one is buying her stuff. It seems that she may always be the girl who sang “Call Me Maybe.” There are worse things. Nevertheless, Carly Rae Jepsen is my first concert experience of 2016, a general admission show in Minneapolis that will probably be 85% gay men and 15% 18-23 year old women. And me.
6 – King / Years & Years
“King” hit me instantly when I heard it earlier this year. Joyous and uplifting and full of synths – how could I not like it? It was one of several songs that owe a spot on this list to Mr. Steve Sears who always directs me to some of my favorite songs of the year.
7 – Can’t Deny My Love / Brandon Flowers
I loved Flowers’ solo debute Flamingo more than most did, which is strange because I’m kind of a fair-weather Killers fan. However, his second album, The Desired Effect, was a knocked-out-of-the park effort. Not a single bad song on the album, aided by the fact that it was not a bloated 23 song affair (I’m looking at you, Rebel Heart.) “Can’t Deny My Love” was the first single and was pretty much guaranteed a spot on this list all year long.
8 – Savages / Marina & The Diamonds
My nervousness about Marina’s FROOT album is well documented in even this sparsely kept blog. Me of little faith, FROOT was a solid effort that shared “strength via brevity” with The Desired Effect. “Savages,” with it’s minor key and keen lyrics was a shoo-in for this list. It also contained my favorite rhyme of the year – “underneath it all, we’re just savages/hidden behind shirts, ties and marriages.” Always a sucker for a feminine rhyme.
9 – Biscuits / Kacey Musgraves
Oh Kacey “can do no wrong” Musgraves. I actually liked her sophomore album Pageant Material more than her debut, and Same Trailer Different Park was no slouch! Musgraves is heir apparent to Dolly Parton with her clever, witty lyrics and a classic country sound. Hers is not bro-country. Utilizing a clever play on words, Musgraves reminds us that we’re best not sticking our nose in other people’s business.
10 – Do It / Tuxedo
“Uptown Funk” may have gotten all the attention, but really, it couldn’t hold a candle to Tuxedo. Made up of perennial favorite Mayer Hawthorne and hip hop record producer Jake One, they managed to make one of my favorite records of the year. Simultaneously retro and modern and full of Hawthorne’s falsetto, “Do It” was one of the first songs added to the list from which this list is made. (for the record, “Uptown Funk” was on that list but was also one of the first songs deleted from that list.)
The final 10 tomorrow night…