"Hold My Hand"
JESS GLYNNE
(Atlantic)

Piggybacking off the success of “Rather Be,” the Clean Bandit hook singer pulls off the perfect reprise with “Hold My Hand.” Its lyrics are buoyantly romantic, almost inspirational (“Break my bones but you won't see me fall/The rising tide will rise above it all.”). And Glynne's dreamy pop-soul vocals are the perfect topping on this rapturous sing-a-long.

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"Daffodils"
MARK RONSON feat.
KEVIN PARKER
(Columbia)

This sloppy, sexy piece of dub-funk slapped atop Kevin Parker's otherworldly vocals offers a galactic portal into rock fusion, ‘80's computer bleeps and rhythmic glimmers of Peter Brown's “Dance With Me.”

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"Thinking Out Loud"
ED SHEERAN
(Asylum/Atlantic)

One of the year's finest sing-a-longs, Ed Sheeran's “Thinking Out Loud” flows like Marvin Gaye's “Let's Get It On” set atop John Mayer-esque radio readiness.

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"Hello"
ADELE
(XL)

Adele's return to the music world came with the perfect introduction: “Hello, it's me.” Besides clearly being one of the instant download grabs of 2015, the UK pop-soul balladeer's triumphant ballad once again proved that America loves a good song full of painful lovelorn disappointment.

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"Uptown Funk"
MARK RONSON feat. BRUNO MARS
(RCA)

It isn't the unique, organic masterpiece that it once was enshrined as. After sources picked it apart for being so Morris Day, so Gap Band, so Lakeside (“Fantastic Voyage”), the myth of its originality fell apart and fast. But there's still no denying the enjoyable nature of this hip funk rollercoaster. Thanks to Ronson's creation, funk finally made its way to mainstream.

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"The Blacker the Berry"
KENDRICK LAMAR
(Aftermath/Interscope)

Lamar's opening lines on three of the meatiest verses brings an immediate pause: “I'm the biggest hypocrite of 2015.” From that moment on comes a sermon of hip-hop royalty. Draped with an OutKast throwback vibe and an aggressive sociopolitical rap elevated with Eminem-esque adrenaline, Lamar comes at you hard and unapologetically in a post-Ferguson rant on cowardice racism deniers (“It's evident that I'm irrelevant to society/That's what you're telling me, penitentiary would only hire me”) and some of the hypocrisy inside the “Black Lives Matters” conversation (“So why did I weep when Trayvon Martin was in the street?/When gang banging make me kill a nigga blacker than me?”).

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"Holding On"
DISCLOSURE feat.
GREGORY PORTER
(Island)

A complete stunner all around, “Holding On” is the perfect marriage of mountaintop gospel and Chicago clubland. Disclosure splices classic deep house across infectious breakbeat segments, all while vocalist Gregory Porter sounds off as if he's conducting a tent revival.

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"Can't Feel My Face"
THE WEEKND

(Republic)

PBR&B star burst out of his element when he scored this instant pop smash, one of the biggest summer jams of 2015. It's full of pop madness, despite its lyrical content being a sly ode to coke. But hey, some of the best pop and rock songs in history are full of drug worship. The Beatles, Steely Dan and Rick James got away with it. So why not The Weeknd? One listen to his MJ-resembled falsetto and the cool swagger of this and you're not even thinking about its underbelly topic matter.

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"Lean On"
MAJOR LAZER & DJ SNAKE feat. MØ
(Mad Decent/Because/Warner)

Rihanna and Nicki Minaj didn't want it, and it's totally their lost. DJ Snake's “Lean On” play like an international dance anthem. The summer jam of 2015 was truly blessed with riveting world beats, a magnetic hook and MØ's appealing girlish vocals, and is sure to become one of the great EDM tracks to land in the annals of pop music history.

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"Hotline Bling"
DRAKE
(Cash Money)

Sensual mamba sampling from the Timmy Thomas' gem “Why Can't We Live Together” makes up a big chunk of Drake's 2015 swaggerlicious slow jam. The slick hip-pop rapper once again proves he's got Marvin Gaye skill, despite not being the grandest crooner or the best dancer. The concept video exposed the Canadian rapper's silly suburban dance moves, which gave Saturday Night Live enough room to send him to parody heaven. Still, there's no denying the power and sensuality of this midtempo neo-Quiet Storm masterpiece.

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« MORE [BEST OF] FEATURES »

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