It was a great year for singles, a way to escape the world’s problems for three or four minutes at a time.
Only nine different songs (and seven artists) reached No. 1 in 2015, a year dominated by long-running hits like Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth’s “See You Again,” as well as hits from Taylor Swift, The Weeknd and — hello! — Adele.
But with those major hits hogging so much attention, a lot of inventiveness and ambition may have gone unnoticed.
Here’s a look at the best songs of 2015:
1. Kendrick Lamar, “Alright” (Top Dawg/Interscope) Lamar compresses all the ambitions of his “To Pimp a Butterfly” into one dizzying three-minute-plus package — the rage giving way to inspiration over soothing jazz and clattering beats.
2. Rihanna, “Bitch Better Have My Money” (Roc Nation) It’s both feminist commentary and a heist story rich enough to be a film plot. Oh, and it sounds damn good in the club.
3. Post Malone, “White Iverson” (Republic) Post’s debut single is backed with a smooth flow and deep basketball-as-life metaphors that stick with you from the first listen.
4. Miguel, “Coffee” (RCA) A seduction in four elegant lines: “Wordplay turns into gunplay / And gunplay turns into pillow talk / And pillow talk turns into sweet dreams / Sweet dreams turns into coffee in the morning.”
5. The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face” (XO/Republic) Musically, it’s Michael Jackson-catchy, but lyrically it’s incredibly bleak. The groove wins out, but it makes it that much sadder.
6. Diet Cig, “Scene Sick” (Father/Daughter) The most adorable indie-rock dance song in years.
7. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, “S.O.B.” (Stax) Part honky-tonk, part raunchy gospel revival, “S.O.B.” makes desperation sound oh-so-hand-clapping-sweet.
8. Shamir, “On the Regular” (XL) Synthy dance pop injected with hip-hop swagger and humor from the Las Vegas newcomer.
9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee and Grandmaster Caz, “Downtown” (Macklemore) Yes, it’s a song about a moped, but between the Springsteenian chorus and the guest verses from hip-hop royalty, it’s still a helluva ride.
10. James Taylor, “Montana” (Concord) A simple, gorgeous lament about wanting what you can’t have that morphs into a meditation about perspective. Then Taylor brilliantly brings it back to where it started — all in less than four minutes.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Madonna, “Joan of Arc” (Boy Toy/Interscope); Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)” (Young Turks); Carly Rae Jepsen, “Run Away With Me” (Schoolboy/Interscope); Adele, “Hello” (XL/Columbia); Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment, “Sunday Candy” (Donnie Trumpet); Kacey Musgraves, “Biscuits” (Mercury Nashville); Missy Elliott, “WTF (Where They From)” (Atlantic); James Davis, “Can’t Love Me” (Motown); LunchMoney Lewis, “Bills” (Columbia); Maddie & Tae, “Shut Up and Fish” (Dot)