If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll already know about NME’s top 50 albums of the year, but what about the best songs? The bangers? Here’s our top 20 – and you can listen to them here, via our Spotify playlist.
220. Stormzy – ‘Know Me From’
20. Stormzy – ‘Know Me From’
“If grime’s dead then how am I here?” asked Stormzy quite reasonably on this charming, romping crossover banger, following Meridian Dan’s ‘German Whip’ in taking the genre back to the sweet spot between crossover and sellout with an infectiously chantable chorus, a playfully witty tone and a loose, bouncing rhythm.
319. Coldplay – ‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’
19. Coldplay – ‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’
If the rumours are true and ‘Adventure Of A Lifetime’ really is about Chris Martin’s post-Gwyneth fling with Jennifer Lawrence – then perhaps we all owe the actress a debt of gratitude for jolting Martin to write songs like this one. This is latter-day Coldplay at their best, full of optimism, exuberance and wonder.
418. Foals – ‘Mountain At My Gates’
18. Foals – ‘Mountain At My Gates’
The second single from ‘What Went Down’, this was a perfect crystallisation of Foals’ freakishly varied craft. Its epic chorus drew on the heavy rock of 2013’s huge-sounding ‘Holy Fire’, while the intricate, melancholy verse wouldn’t have sounded out of place in the math-rock days.
517. Unknown Mortal Orchestra- ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’
17. Unknown Mortal Orchestra- ‘Can’t Keep Checking My Phone’
The breakbeats are reminiscent 2011’s self-titled debut, but as guitars wriggled atop a deliciously podgy bassline and crashing cymbals, this was a sure sign that mastermind Ruban Nielson had souped up his bedroom studio since then. The ass-shaking song of the year.
616. Jamie xx – Loud Places
16. Jamie xx – Loud Places
Jamie xx’s ‘In Colour’ was a homage to UK club culture, but its emotional core was provided by this slow-burning beauty, sung with typically graceful economy by Jamie’s regular bandmate Romy. The rapture evoked by the chorus’s gospel swell was all in the past tense, creating a euphoric atmosphere that proves that The xx should go to loud places more often.
715. Sheer Mag- ‘Fan The Flames’
15. Sheer Mag- ‘Fan The Flames’
Riff of the year. Rock vocal of the year. In an alternate universe where Sheer Mag are topping charts and headlining stadiums, this is their ‘Back In Black’, their ‘Sweet Child Of Mine’. The key to it lies in its simplicity: while there’s undoubtedly a lot going on under singer Tina Halladay’s razor sharp screams, it all sounds so easy.
814. Kanye West – All Day
14. Kanye West – All Day
The second glimpse of what might lurk inside Kanye’s forthcoming seventh album ‘SWISH’ wiped away any suspicions that he’d mellowed out. Dark, heavy and low-slung, its rapid-fire braggadocio was a reminder that he’s still bolshy-and-bratty Kanye as well as political-and-righteous Kanye. Weird, unsettling, hilarious: classic Kanye.
913. Jack Ü – Where Are Ü Now
13. Jack Ü – Where Are Ü Now
The song that sparked Justin Bieber’s renaissance was an old piano ballad transformed into a club banger by Skrillex and Diplo. Once the punchline of the EDM joke, Skrillex has established himself as one of pop’s most powerful producers having added restraint and emotion to his arsenal. Here, he chopped up Bieber’s vocals to create the year’s best drop.
1012. The Maccabees – ‘Marks To Prove It’
12. The Maccabees – ‘Marks To Prove It’
From the whitewater froth of their fourth album’s title track, – it felt like the brakes had been cut, but just when you thought it was about to crash in a ball of steely, distorted guitars, the frenetic drums slowed, reining everything in and proving the Elephant & Castle lads now dealt in a disciplined kind of furore.
1111. Taylor Swift – ‘Bad Blood’
11. Taylor Swift – ‘Bad Blood’
The star-studded video featuring Cara Delevingne and Ellie Goulding has now racked up more than 640 million YouTube views, but let’s not forget the actual song was pretty spectacular too. A thinly-veiled dig at a female pop rival everyone presumed is Katy Perry, ‘Bad Blood’ was equal parts scathing and catchy.
1210. Swim Deep – ‘Fueiho Boogie’
10. Swim Deep – ‘Fueiho Boogie’
From the absurd lyrics (“Oh cauliflower, don’t hold me down”) to the mind-melting synth work, ‘Fueiho Boogie’’s eight minutes made you feel like you were about to take off. It also marked Birmingham band’s first foray into the political – it was written about the 1948 Fueiho law that, until recently, restricted dancing in Japan.
139. Kendrick Lamar – ‘King Kunta’
9. Kendrick Lamar – ‘King Kunta’
G-funk, James Brown, Michael Jackson, Alex Haley’s Roots and more besides – Kendrick’s ‘King Kunta’ was a proudly, purposely referential track that walked tall in some seriously esteemed company. Yet for all the weighty cultural and historical references it threw out there, it was the song’s sense of swaggering, militant defiance that set it apart.
148. Drake – ‘Hotline Bling’
8. Drake – ‘Hotline Bling’
The video inspired a trillion memes of Drake’s dad dancing, but they couldn’t overshadow the brilliance of ‘Hotline Bling’. After hit-or-miss album ‘If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late’, it was proof that Drake still had the goods – in this case, a pitter-pattering beat, a smooth, melancholy vibe and lyrics lamenting the state of his lovelife.
157. Jamie xx – ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’
7. Jamie xx – ‘I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)’
This indisputable banger was the poppiest moment on Jamie xx’s brilliant solo debut album, ‘In Colour’. Over a deliciously mellow old school groove, Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan and Atlanta rapper Young Thug’s distinctive vocals playfully bounced off each other, uniting London, Kingston and Atlanta in a sweaty, summery embrace.
166. Grimes – ‘Kill V. Maim’
6. Grimes – ‘Kill V. Maim’
This was Canadian electro wizard Claire Boucher’s favourite track on her masterful fourth album, ‘Art Angels’. The lyrics were reliably batsh*t. It told The Godfather Part II’s story, but here mob boss Michael Corleone was a genderqueer space vampire, and the song’s inescapable chorus dripped anger like blood.
175. The 1975 – ‘Love Me’
5. The 1975 – ‘Love Me’
Matt Healy’s chart-humping titans returned with something to say on this strutting first taste of their forthcoming second album. Having a pop at the superficiality and shallowness of selfie culture, Healy used wordplay to ram his point home (“Karcrashian panache”), while his bandmates mined ‘Fame’-era Bowie, Talking Heads and INXS.
184. Foals – ‘What Went Down’
4. Foals – ‘What Went Down’
“When I see a man I see a liar” – the lyrics chosen by Yannis Philippakis to vent his inner rage on Foals’ heaviest moment to date. Guitars circled their prey before pouncing on the listener in the chorus, with the drums matching each riff pound-for-pound. ‘What Went Down’ is the Oxford band at their most savage.
193. Justin Bieber – ‘What Do You Mean?’
3. Justin Bieber – ‘What Do You Mean?’
This was the moment when we all became Beliebers. Time is a great healer but a quality tune is even better, and ‘What Do You Mean?’ was the perfect pop confection: light as air and catchy as hell, allowing us to glimpse the vulnerability behind the megastar façade as Biebs grappled endearingly with the mysteries of womankind.
202. The Weeknd – ‘Can’t Feel My Face’
2. The Weeknd – ‘Can’t Feel My Face’
‘Can’t Feel My Face’ was The Weeknd’s unabashed tilt at Michael Jackson-style pop superstardom. We’re pretty sure that Jacko never sang about having a terrible racket habit though. Comparing drug addiction to the love of a good woman isn’t new, but Abel Tesfaye’s smooth take on narcotic R&B added a fresh feel to a shady subject.
211. Skepta – ‘Shutdown’
1. Skepta – ‘Shutdown’
2015’s mightiest track was an instant self-fulfilling prophesy: Skepta opens on that exhilarating chorus (“That’s not me and it’s shutdown/Ring ring pussy, it’s shutdown”) and thereafter never misses an opportunity to press his point home. This track was more than enough to reaffirm Joseph Junior Adenuga’s place as the reigning King of Grime.