By Josh Schonfeld
Best Song – “Love Me Like You Do” – Ellie Goulding
Honorable Mention – “Bad Blood (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” – Taylor Swift
It was a bitterly cold day in early January. I had a job interview and a fever: the perfect combination. After thinking I nailed the interview and spending the day with my boyfriend at the time, I made my way home to find this song waiting for me. I begrudgingly turned it on, knowing the hands of E. L. James had tainted it forever. The calm, soothing verses paired with a constant drum machine beat into a monotone chorus that failed to warm me. It wasn’t until the second chorus that the song explodes into a euphoria never heard before since Heart’s “Alone.” I cried, I danced, I sang along at the top of my lungs as Ellie and I poured our hearts out. As if that wasn’t enough, the pause at the third chorus leaves you with nothing more than your beating heart and the anticipation of what’s to come. As the song continues and the “chorus of Ellies” is ushered in, the tears streaming down my face rival the emotion of my limbs as I perform an odd tribal dance to the beating drum. One could say that it was because I had a boyfriend at the time, or that I felt relieved after a stressful interview and was excited for the future with a new company, or just that I was high on DayQuil that I had such a cathartic display of emotion over this song. Well, my boyfriend and I broke up, I didn’t get the job, I’m not high on DayQuil, and yet it’s still one of my favorite songs of all-time.
Best Album – Miley Cyrus – Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz
Honorable Mention – Ellie Goulding – Delirium
As soon as Miley Cyrus’s latest album was released for free, I knew it would either be a complete mess or Album of the Year. Turns out, it was both. From psychedelic rock to lovesick piano ballads, this album is crammed with more genres than you can think of. While there are certainly tracks that lose focus and end up just being a jumbled mess of glitter and pot, the ones that shine are some of Cyrus’s best of her career. “Lighter,” “I Get So Scared,” and “Pablo the Blowfish” show Cyrus at her most vulnerable and strips her to her core in a way other artists struggle to do (I’m looking at you, Meghan Trainor). Whether it’s your style or not, you have to give credit to Cyrus for taking a risk and putting out a free album that shows us the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Best Comeback – Justin Bieber
Honorable Mention – Missy Elliott
If you would have told me back in 2012 that I would become not just a casual fan, but a full-blown “Belieber” in 2015, I would have called you crazy and shown you Bieber’s mugshot as proof. The year started off with a surprise collaboration with Skrillex and Diplo on “Where Are Ü Now,” (also winner of Best Dance Song) an intense dance ballad that mixes a melancholic piano with a screeching up-pitch of Bieber’s vocals. Bieber then followed this up with his first album in three years, Purpose, which includes the trifecta of singles: “What Do You Mean,” “Sorry,” and “Love Yourself.” Bieber’s path to redemption is now complete, as he shows a vulnerable, subdued side his public image sorely needed.
Best Collaboration – “Bad Blood (feat. Kendrick Lamar)” – Taylor Swift
Honorable Mention – “You Don’t Own Me (feat. G-Eazy)” – Grace
Who would have thought we’d not only have a collaboration between Taylor Swift and Kendrick Lamar, but a good one that actually aids both careers? This is not your typical rent-a-rapper situation. Lamar adds a new dimension the original track sorely needed, while Swift is able to explore another new genre. It doesn’t hurt that the music video has cameos from some of the biggest names in Hollywood.
Best UK Single – “Hold My Hand” – Jess Glynne
Honorable Mention – “Sax” – Fleur East
If you can listen to “Hold My Hand” and not smile uncontrollably, then there may be something wrong with you. Once the trumpets start blaring and Glynne belts out the chorus, it’s impossible not to feel like the world is your oyster. While “Hold My Hand” was a multi-week #1 in its native UK, it never really got off the ground here in the US, stalling at #86, a travesty to both Glynne and the American people.
Worst Song – “Focus” – Ariana Grande
Honorable Mention – “Pretty Girls” – Britney Spears & Iggy Azalea
2015 was not kind to Ariana Grande. There was doughnut-gate, a weak cameo on the TV series Scream Queens, and the worst single of the year. “Focus” is essentially “Problem” Part 2 with its saxophone and creepy man in the chorus. Unfortunately, lightning doesn’t strike twice, as the verses fall flat and the chorus grates on your every nerve with its annoying “Focus on me! Fo-fo-focus on me!” Let’s hope Grande can turn things around and make a comeback in 2016.
Worst Lyrics – “Truffle Butter (feat. Drake & Lil Wayne)” – Nicki Minaj
Honorable Mention – “Hey Mama (feat. Nicki MInaj, Bebe Rexha & Afrojack)” – David Guetta
“Truffle Butter” is one of those great songs where the worse the lyrics are, the better the song becomes. There’s Nicki Minaj, who rhymes the same words over and over; Lil Wayne, who talks about a bathroom stall sex position becoming a new dance move as well as snorting cocaine off the male genitalia; and finally the odd man voice in the background that’s just muttering nonsensical words at the listener. The only one with “good” lyrics is Drake, who sounds quite eloquent when stating, “I’m talkin’ filets with your truffle butter.” The song also gives us this gem of a line from Lil Wayne: “I ain’t nothin’ like your last dude. What’s his name? Not important!”