First, we need to extend our sincerest apologies for being two weeks late with this post. We generally publish the top voted songs of 2015 (by our listeners) on New Years Eve. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we were unable to make this post back then but we cannot really move into 2016 without acknowledging the musical highlights of 2015. As we had mentioned earlier, we weighted votes depending on what country the votes came from. The weighting is a reflection of our website’s visitor base and listener base. So here is us counting down the top 10 tracks of 2015 (as voted for by our listeners, blog readers, and patrons).
10. One Last Night (Vaults): With a release date that coincided with Valentine’s Day, “50 shades of grey” was the year’s earliest guilty pleasure (or torture depending on the viewer’s perspective). We still cannot figure out why anyone would want to watch this movie on Valentine’s Day. The only saving grace to this movie was its soundtrack – which featured songs by pop heavyweights such as The Rolling Stones, Ellie Goulding, The Weeknd, and Beyonce. But the soundtrack’s real treasure is a relatively little known gem towards the end of the album. “One Last Night” by Vaults is that hauntingly beautiful track that captures both the twisted nature of the movie’s core theme while being softened by just enough romance. Its most exhilarating element is the repeating violin refrain. We are thrilled that our listeners liked this song as much as we did. Here is a full-length clip of the song:
9. Shine (Camouflage): Often referred to disparagingly as the German sonic clone of Depeche Mode, Camouflage is the very epitome of tenacity. Success came early in the late 80s with their hit single “Great Commandment” but the band seemed to encounter the same issues that most bands from the 80s did when the 90s began. The band was reduced to a two-piece. They were at the receiving end of several setbacks – including unsupportive record labels. Despite their struggles, the band managed to create a loyal fanbase that spanned continents. In 2007, the band start to up their game with their “Relocated” album. Songs such as “The Pleasure Remains” started to reveal that Camouflage was starting to be the band that Depeche Mode had stopped being almost 20 years ago. This is a compliment. They took the best of Depeche Mode and rooted that firmly in a strong pop sensitivity (something that has been rapidly eroding from Depeche Mode’s sonic template). “Shine“, the lead single from their album “Greyscale” continues the upward trajectory that the band set upon with “Relocated” and it was definitely one of the early highlights of 2015 – albeit from a rather unlikely source.
8. Water Under The Bridge (Adele): It goes without saying that the most anticipated return of 2015 was that of British songstress Adele. This lady has triumphed on her own terms in the few years that she has been in the music industry. More importantly, she is one of the least divisive singers when it comes to public opinion. Her appeal spans age groups making her almost the posterchild for unification of different generations of music listeners. When “Hello“, the lead single of her 3rd album “25” saw the light of day on youtube, it was quick to set records for the most streamed video in a 48-hour period. Die-hard fans have lapped up everything that “25” has to offer. We at Radio Creme Brulee tend to be a little more critical of Adele and don’t necessarily think this album builds on the previous two. All of it is pleasant but very little is even remotely close to being earthshattering. The only song that attempts (very well too) to offer that Adele-esque high is “Water under the bridge“.
7. Beautiful To Me (Olly Murs): It appears to the case that being a runner’s up in the X Factor music talent show seems to be a predictor of success as opposed to actually winning that contest. British pop star Olly Murs is yet another manifestation of this truth. Six years since his debut on the X Factor UK, it appears that Olly has not lost his appeal. He is not even remotely viewed as that “guy on X factor that briefly flirted with fame” (a fate that most contestants on such shows meet). “Beautiful to me” by Olly Murs was without a doubt the highlight of his album “Never been better“.
6. I Can Change (Brandon Flowers): It never ceases to amaze me that a rock band whose roots are in Las Vegas would have a lead singer with such a love for the 80s. No one would have ever associated the music of The Killers with anyone even remotely connected to the 80s. The first sign of the 80s connection to lead singer Brandon Flowers was his guest feature as part of a Pet Shop Boys performance at The Brit Awards in 2009. The connection started to seep into the sound of his band The Killers on their album “Day and age” and also into his solo material. “I Can Change” seems almost like an unapologetic celebration of one of the most recognizable hits of the 80s – “Smalltown boy” by Bronski Beat. While I am not a fan of sampling of older tunes, I believe credit has to be given to Brandon Flowers for doing a grand job of sampling “Smalltown boy” on “I Can Change“. He has breathed new life into that classic and brought it into 2015 in a way that no one else could have.
5. Joan Of Arc (Madonna): Madonna’s era of consistency was from 1984-1998. Since then, her work has been hit or miss although she continues to be the reigning queen of pop. That being said, she needs to be given credit for constantly wanting to prove herself even though she does not need to. There is unlikely to be another female artist of Madonna’s caliber for a very long time. Her latest album “Rebel Heart” is eclectic at best and flits from uptempo to downtempo throughout the course of the album. The uptempo tracks are incredibly modern if not timeless but it is the downtempo tracks that Madonna truly shines on. Songs such as “Ghost town“, “Hold tight“, and “Joan Of Arc” are Madonna essentials but “Joan Of Arc” is hands down the best of the lot. The song reveals a knack for melody that Madonna revealed a lot more in her early pop years. The lyrics explore the media scrutiny of her life and Madonna’s apparent seemingly infinite capacity to handle it without buckling (although in reality she does as she reveals through the lyric “Even hearts made out of steel can break down”). Needless to say, “Joan of Arc” showcases Madonna at her best in recent years.
4. Pressure Off (Duran Duran featuring Janelle Monae): Great pop singles are typically associated with younger acts – not men in their mid-50s but Duran Duran seems hellbent on changing that notion and have most definitely succeeded in their endeavor to do so with “Pressure Off“. “Pressure Off” is the sonic twin of “Notorious” – a single that brought the band’s “inner funk” to the forefront and to the ears of fans across the globe. This should not be a surprise given that maestro Nile Rodgers is at the helm of production. Janelle’s Monae’s vocals on the delectable Middle 8 are the icing on the cake. Duran Duran never ceased to be cool and this song just another reminder of that. In fact, never has the band had as much swagger as they do now. Here is a full-length video of this musical awesomeness:
3. Out of Touch (Betablock3r): It seems like that in the past decade and a half, the mainstream has been incredibly accepting of so-called “catchy” choruses that do not have a strong melodic hook and an inherent command to “sing out loud”. We are still not sure why his happened. Newer bands do not aspire for what many of us consider the essentials of a great and timeless pop song. Los Angeles based duo Betablock3r might not only aspire to showcase melodic hooks but have actually delivered on that front on their insanely addictive single “Out of touch“. It is still early days for these electro dance-funk newbies but their first impression has been a great one – and one can only hope these guys have more greatness to churn out in the coming year. Here is a full-length of the track:
2. Cast In Steel (a-ha): In 2010, Norwegian pop/rock trio a-ha had announced their disbandment after 25 glorious years in the music industry. This announcement was followed by their highly successful “Ending on a high note” tour but it looks like just a few years after the band members went their different ways, there was a desire to “end on an even higher note”. Whether or not that was a successful endeavor is a highly debatable question. We most certainly feel like the band did resurrect itself for good reason and that they did have something more to say artistically speaking. But if there ever was a single reason that justifies the band reuniting, their new album’s title track “Cast In Steel” is that reason. The song’s verses are buoyed by sonic swirls of delectable Postal Service-esque electronica and light percussion while the achingly beautiful chorus drifts in a beautiful soundscape of lush string arrangements. Lead singer Morten Harket‘s vocals brim with a youthful innocence as he poignantly sings the wistful chorus. It is impossible NOT to have a lump in your heart after listening to this exhilarating tear-jerker. Who knew melancholy could be so seductive?
1. Carry Me Home (Take That): Aren’t boybands supposed to die a natural death when the members of the band stop being “boys” in the conventional sense of the word? The formation of Take That was anything but organic. It was a band put together with a specific market demographic in mind. It was meant to be an ephemeral money-spinner but as time has revealed, the band took a life of its own and has defied the odds with every single setback that they’ve had to deal with over the years. The fact that Take That existed in 2015 is nothing short of astounding. More importantly, they have done the impossible by being the only boyband that has transcended generations. While they did not have a full-length studio release in 2015, they did release an expanded edition of their 2014 hit album “III” (a reference to the fact that the band had been reduced to a three-piece after the departures of Jason Orange and Robbie Williams). “Carry Me Home” is one of three new tracks to have surfaced. One cannot imagine why the band did NOT choose to release it as a single. With a soaring and uplifting chorus and beat, it puts a smile on the faces of listeners. Take That have always been winners and their position at the top of our best of 2015 list is just another reminder of that. Here is a full-length clip of “Carry me home“:
A HUGE “thank you” to those of you that voted via our annual poll for these songs. We value listener input and engagement. Thank you all for making 2015 an exciting year for us and we really hope we can up the ante on your listening experience in 2016!
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