The 19 “97” Songs of 2015!

20 Min Read

This year saw a diverse array of songs topping the charts and filling the airwaves. Of course, the usual stars continue to dominate not only the charts, but our hearts too. From touring partners Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas, to R&B divas like Jill Scott and Tamar Braxton, we’ve got everyone on our list! Even newcomers like Alessia Cara, Troye Sivan and Charlie Puth. Take a look and reminisce on 2015’s best singles, as we welcome 2016.

At EST. 1997, we chose the 19 “97” songs of 2015, which simply means the 19 best songs of 2015. If you’re familiar with the way we review songs/albums, then you know that “97” is our top score. We love every song on this list, ranked them according to how much, and weighed in with a few thoughts about each. Please feel free to comment with your thoughts, as well! We’d love to hear from you and engage in any discussion.


The 19 “97” Songs of 2015


19. “Confident” by Demi Lovato

With an army of horns Demi asked the question: what’s wrong with being confident? A far cry from “Don’t Forget,” “Confident” saw Demi demand a new, edgier sound, flaunting an assertive attitude and some killer vocals. A perfect fit for radio, “Confident” was exactly that: a definitive track from an artist who has never shied away from expressing herself through her music. It was also nice to see Lovato have a bit of fun of both the title track and lead single “Cool For the Summer” from her latest set. Here’s to you Demi! –Reece

18. “Style” by Taylor Swift

Add together a pulsating beat, semi-risqué relatable lyrics, a simple sweet vocal, and what do you get? Arguably one of the best singles to be released from Taylor Swift’s mega successful, five times platinum 1989 album, “Style.” In the same vein as “Dancing On My Own” (Robyn), and “Meet Me Halfway” (Black Eyed Peas), “Style” straddles the balance between dance anthem and heartfelt ballad perfectly. As a single, “Style” managed to peak at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100, while peaking at number 1 on various other charts including the Mainstream Top 40. “Style” is sure to be another Taylor Swift hit that will never go out of style for years to come. –Keenan

17. “Levels” by Nick Jonas

Nick Jonas surely shed the remnants of his “Jonas Brothers” image with the release of his eponymous album and the hit single “Jealous,” which placed on our list last year. While too soon for a new album, Nick didn’t want to stop while his name was hot and released a new single, “Levels” to promote the reissue of his 2014 set. The dance floor igniting romp is a short but fiery, and usually leaves listeners desiring a second spin… perhaps the reason for its success? There are levels to this slayage. –Vincent

16. “Circles” by Tamar Braxton

The sweet doo-wop sound of “Circles” paired with the lyrics about a relationship that doesn’t seem to be going anywhere but down, are the recipe for a classic R&B ballad. The old school sound is definitely a match for Tamar’s passionate delivery and harmonious background vocals, something that not many singers today are good at crafting. “Circles” is easily the pinnacle of a great album, a track that represents its core and had the potential to be the hit it needed to take off, had it been more than a promotional single. At least it isn’t going to go unnoticed. –Mario

15. “Closure” by Jill Scott

Jill Scott has always been a storyteller. It’s what made her famous, and stems from her background as a poet. She introduced us to her new album, Woman, with three singles: a heartbroken ballad, “You Don’t Know,” a subdued, midtempo track “Fools Gold,” and the energetic “Closure,” the standout of the three. It has all the makings of a classic Jill Scott record: it’s sassy, it’s comedic, it’s sexual, it has spoken elements, it has SANGIN’ elements, and, of course, it tells a story. If you haven’t heard it, I won’t spoil it for you by divulging the plot details… just listen and be reminded of how Ms. Scott is a poet at heart; and a badass one at that.  –Vincent

14. “All Day” by Kanye West, featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney

Kanye’s debut of “All Day” at this year’s BRIT Awards was met with as much criticism and acclaim as a Kanye West release should. From the masses of UK Grime artists featured on stage, to the live censoring, “All Day” was one of 2015’s most exciting musical events. The song saw Kanye return to a more hip-hop orientated sound, whilst still showing his experimental side. The track features Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney on guitar and guest vocals! Still, it is undeniably a banger – let’s hope that So Help Me God (or is that SWISH?) has more of the same! –Reece

13. “Lean On” by Major Lazer and D.J. Snake featuring MØ

Take some of the worlds most popular EDM producers, Major Lazer (which includes Diplo) and DJ Snake, along with Iggy Azalea’s 2014 “Beg For It” collaborator MØ, and you’ll get one of 2015’s most popular dance cuts: “Lean On.” Simple lyrics and an eclectic reggae fusion beat catapulted “Lean On” to the top of the charts. “Lean On,” went on to eventually reach a number four peak on the Billboard Hot 100. Despite not receiving a Grammy nomination, Billboard named it as their pick for “top dance/electronic song of the year.” Add a music video set in India, with more awkward dancing by MØ (see her on SNL with Azalea), and you get a YouTube video that has garnered over 960 million views to date. A must see clip, and must hear song indeed! –Keenan

12. “King” by Years & Years

From the opening spastic progression of chords, it’s clear that “King” is something special. Years & Years exist in a realm similar to Disclosure, but lead singer Olly Alexander sets them apart with his complimenting vocals and layers of vocal takes. The dance-pop/electro/house sound elevates the hauntingly lyrics and catchy “ooohhhh’s” to the point of no return. It’s a quintessential earworm that weaves a dark tale with quotables such as “I was a king under your control.” Crown them. –Andrew

11. “Hotline Bling” by Drake

When “Hotline Bling” was released as a standalone single, no one probably imagined that it would become Drake’s biggest hit to date, amid all of the success he’s had this year with not one, but two albums. The song, which was originally a re-working of D.R.A.M.’s latin-flavored “Cha Cha” was then changed to its final form. The lyrics aren’t even all that when one thinks about it, but the looped catchy beat did all the hard work. Pair that with the most viral music video of the year and you’ve got a huge smash. More proof that Drake can do no wrong. –Mario

10. “When Love Hurts” by JoJo

In every way, “When Love Hurts” leaves nothing to be desired. For JoJo to springboard her major label return (after 9 years!) with this along side two other songs (coining the irresistible term ‘Tringle’), was nothing short of brilliant. It’s catchy and pop, yet the vocals have that soul and power that made JoJo an unforgettable name when she was just 13. Today, she is indeed grown, sexy, and her voice is better than ever. Best of all, despite the time and struggles to release new music under a label, she’s never sold out. She makes the music she loves regardless of whether or not it’ll be a hit. It seems to be working out for her, too – she’s on tour selling out venues across the United States, and is venturing abroad next. –Andrew & Vincent

09. “Love Yourself” by Justin Bieber

“Love Yourself” stands as one of the most important releases from Bieber’s Purpose album. Although lead collaboration “Where Are U Now” and single “What Do You Mean?” seemed to turn everyone and their brother into Beliebers, “Love Yourself” showed lyrical and vocal growth, whilst also being a throwback to his “kidrauhl”days. Co-written by Ed Sheeran, the acoustic kiss-off is a far cry from the heavy urban production featured on Journals and ironically is one of Bieber’s most relatable songs. More power to the Biebs. –Reece

08. “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth

One of the most inescapable songs from 2015 was the product of an artist most people didn’t even know of: a singer-songwriter-producer named Charlie Puth, a young Berklee graduate. Paired with a rapper who’s already spent weeks atop the charts before and being promoted as a meaningful soundtrack tribute to deceased actor Paul Walker was all that was required for a new mega-hit collaboration… not to mention a new star was born. The song managed to top the Billboard Hot 100 for an impressive 12 weeks, a feat tied with only Eminem (“Lose Yourself”) and the Black Eyed Peas (“Boom Boom Pow”) for 12 week long Hip Hop chart leaders. Despite its somber vibe, many would consider “See You Again” the song of the summer (Billboard ranks it behind six week chart leader “Cheerleader” at number two). The song even managed a nomination for Best Original Song at the 73rd Golden Globe Awards. Not bad at all for a 24 year old newcomer and a 28 year old hip-hop artist. –Keenan

07. “Fools” by Troye Sivan

As the phenomenon of out and proud pop singers continues, up-and-coming stars emerge from all realms to tell their story. The draw of YouTube star-turned-pop star Troye Sivan’s 2015 releases is the blunt yet heartbreaking and relatable nature of his lyricism. On ‘FOOLS’ he speaks to the tragic nature of jumping the gun and moving too fast in a potential relationship. Without providing time for thought he “sees swimming pools, and living rooms, and aero planes. (He) sees a little house, on the hill and children’s names.” That sounds all well and fine in good time, but “everything is shattered and it’s (his) mistake.” While he may be a fool, he speaks for a million others like him. –Andrew

06. “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weekend

The Weeknd + Max Martin could’ve easily gone bad because their styles are so different, but their collaboration turned out to be a good compromise between Abel’s alternative R&B roots and the crossover spirit of today’s biggest Pop producer. The common denominator for “Can’t Feel My Face” is Michael Jackson, a worthy hommage to the King of Pop by 2015’s biggest male artist and revelation for the Pop world.  –Mario

05. “Here” by Alessia Cara

Subtly, sweetly and with a bit of sass, Alessia Cara arrived on the scene with the aptly-titled “Here.” With this groovy, midtempo bop she declares her own space and identity at the typical teenage party and subsequently, her place in the music industry itself. Alessia is a 19 year old Canadian Italian singer-songwriter, and a promising talent. The song, with its message of independence and interesting song structure was a refreshing addition to the airwaves and thus was everywhere this summer. No doubt, it was an anthem for those who feel the same as she does at such shallow parties. Her debut album is solid, and while the track indeed has had very long legs, hopefully her next single can have similar success. –Vincent

04. “Sandwich and a Soda” by Tamia

Slinky, sexy, understated and very necessary. Tamia’s return to music after a 3-year hiatus starts with the simple strumming of an electric bass. Her voice echoes in “Sp-sp-sp-spend the night” and from there it’s an R&B love fest that, when played in a dimly lit room after a good night out, can only end with one result. Even with lines that might otherwise be corny such as “I dig you hard like a metal shovel”, it’s hard to not find them being repeated while performing daily routines and chores.  –Andrew

03. “No Sleeep” by Janet Jackson, featuring J. Cole

When Miss Jackson announced new music in 2015, people began to wonder what kind of material she’d deliver. Re-uniting with Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Janet brought back the brand of R&B that made her a household name in the 90s after her breakthrough. “No Sleeep” is sexy without indulging in glaring detail, it’s smooth and warm and it’s catchy, so it’s no surprise that it became her biggest R&B hit in a while. It has all the elements one needs to find in a Janet Jackson song and the addition of J. Cole to the single/music video version helps bridging the gap between its throwback nature and what today’s Urban listeners expect to hear on the radio.  –Mario

02. “Hello” by Adele

Four years after the release of her blockbuster hit album 21, Adele made her formidable, much-anticipated return this fall with the perfectly-titled “Hello.” Teased with a genius commercial during an episode of U.K. X-Factor, “Hello” broke the Internet a month prior to its parent album’s release. Only Adele could have pulled off such a risky and epic single debut, and it was a huge success. The song is still #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, where it debuted, for a 9th week. It was, and still is, inescapable. It yielded dozens of priceless internet memes upon release, and still it’s almost impossible to hear the commonplace greeting of “Hello” without Adele echoing in ones mind with an “…it’s me.” If that in itself isn’t proof of not only its immense success but also the fact that it is an undeniably great song, then, well, what is? –Vincent

01. “Alright” by Kendrick Lamar

When To Pimp a Butterfly was released, it was expected that someone like Kendrick would tackle socially conscious themes in his album. “Alright” has become the Anthem for #BlackLivesMatter, the movement against violence toward black Americans that made its voice heard throughout 2015. It’s easy to see why this song would be chosen as the chant to recite during protests: its uplifting nature, the simplicity of the message it conveys, are essential to the cause the movement wants to promote. The song has become a hymn for those who believe in a better future. It’s a message of hope that violence will cease and that by sticking together the difficulties of an entire race will be overcome.

However, “Alright” is more than an anthem for equality. In the context of the album, it is a shimmer of light amongst the darkness of Kendrick’s struggle that is illustrated and eloquently orchestrated over the course of the album. While, of course, part of his struggle is rooted in racial inequalities – his struggle, his metamorphosis is an uncertain one. He questions his future, his purpose. “Alright” follows “u,” an emotional, introspective moment where he is unabashedly honest with himself – painfully. “Alright” follows as a reassurance that he will, indeed, be alright.

While he is searching for his place in this crazy, unstable world… perhaps Lamar should realize that he has already found it. His place, his purpose, is to create music like this. Not only to inspire and rejuvenate his own sense of self, but have the same effect on fans who can relate. After all, if inciting an anthem for the biggest social-cultural movement of the year, and giving a feeling of hope to your entire race isn’t finding your purpose, then what is? After this year, we need some hope that we’re gon’ be alright. Perhaps its no coincidence that both our #1 and #2 albums of this year featured songs of, essentially, the same title and message (Janet had her own “Gon’ B Alright” on Unbreakable). In short, “Alright” became an anthem for Kendrick, for black Americans, and really, for everyone–Vincent & Mario

The 19 “97” Songs of 2015 Playlist

For your listening pleasure, we’ve compiled a playlist of the songs we selected. Unfortunately, Taylor Swift chooses not to put her music on Spotify, so it is absent from this playlist. Enjoy!

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