RCVR (featuring Debbie Gibson) / Big Black Delta
I know next to nothing about Big Black Delta, but boy do I know plenty about the featured vocalist, Debbie Gibson. I met her this summer at Des Moines Pride and she signed my Out of the Blue vinyl (which, admittedly, I only acquired a couple years ago, but I had the tape back in the day!) She seemed genuinely happy when I told her I liked this song. Perhaps the best (and only) use of the word “incommunicado” in a song this year.
Cheap Thrills / Sia
The second of two songs on this list that I really should be sick of by now, but for some reason, I’m not. I think it’s the rhyme of “bills” and “thrills” along with the smooth and lyrically clever verses that keep me coming back for more even though I should have hit saturation with this in August.
U-Turn / Tegan & Sara
Far and away my favorite song off of Tegan & Sara’s Love You To Death album, it grabbed me from the get go. Actually, I liked the album more than I did their previous effort, Heartthrob, which was definitely a minority opinion amongst my musically obsessed friends. Still, I really loved it and “U-Turn” is hands down my favorite song on the album.
Used To Love You / Gwen Stefani
If Stefani’s album This Is What The Truth Feels Like is the ultimate divorce album, “Used To Love You” is the ultimate divorce song. Having never been through a divorce, I can only imagine that the sentiments expressed in the song are exactly what many divorced couples feel.
I’ve Been Everywhere (Live at the Grand Old Opry) / Kacey Musgraves
This is technically a cheat because Musgraves performed this at the Grand Old Opry in 2015, but she also did an impromptu performance of it when I saw her live in May of this year. I made an mp3 rip of the YouTube audio and it has been in heavy rotation all year, so it seemed wrong to leave this ode to everyplace in America off the list because of a technicality.
What’s It Gonna Be / Shura
Shura’s “What’s It Gonna Be” is probably my favorite song of the year, if not, it was definitely my favorite song of the summer. She’s also the only artist with two songs on this year’s top 20. It was accompanied by a perfect music video that was straight out of 80s John Hughes films with a modern day twist at the end. It left me with all the feels. Oh what the hell, let’s just watch it.
We Of Me / Suzanne Vega
I wasn’t really expecting a new Suzanne Vega album this year, and it was a bit off her beaten track. Over the years, I have really grown to love Vega’s music and she remains one of the few people left on my “must-see-live” bucket list. “We Of Me” is probably the most Suzanne Vega song on the album and I can’t help but think it’s about a polyamorous relationship. (Full disclosure: it might be, because I have no idea what she’s referring to in the song.)
Girl Next Door / Brandy Clark
Brandy Clark writes smart country music which means she barely gets played on the radio. The album that “Girl Next Door” comes from is up for a Grammy though, so all is not lost. Clark sings about how she is not a Barbie doll frying up her man’s bacon, nor is she Marcia Brady. As the bad girl that the guys seem to want but never want to marry, she weaves a believable narrative set to a driving country beat.
Faint Of Heart / The Strike
I know nothing about The Strike, other than “Faint Of Heart” could have been popular 30 years ago when I was in high school. I think Heidi sent this song to me, or it might have been on my Spotify Discover Weekly playlist, but regardless, it was a late summer/early fall favorite that beat out some other better known artists for a spot on this list (see: Dolly Parton who had a full album of tracks that could have made this list.)
Where Is The Heartache / Bright Light Bright Light
Perrenial favorite Bright Light Bright Light (aka Rod Thomas) rounds out this year’s list with a track from his fantastic Choreography album – an album whose cover was a not-so-subtle nod to bi-pride. Chock full of guest stars like Elton John, Jake Shears and Ana Matronic, it was this simple and straightforward melancholy dance track that grabbed my attention. Because after all, as Diane Birch says, what’s a disco song but a sad song set to a dance beat?
Here’s a Spotify playlist that contains all the tracks except for “I’ve Been Everywhere.” If you’d like a CD copy, hit me up.