Here Are the Best Songs of 2015 So Far

6 minute read

The music industry usually saves its biggest releases for the fall, but the first six months of 2015 could give the normally jam-packed fourth quarter a run for it’s money. From pop stars going indie to indie acts infiltrating Top 40, the year has plenty of contenders for end-of-year best-of lists that defy easy categorization.

Here, TIME contributors highlight the 14 best songs of the year—so far.

Years & Years, “King”

The British trio’s electro-pop stunner has gone to No. 1 in several countries but barely cracked U.S. Top 40. That’s America’s loss: “King” is as compulsively danceable as any ‘90s house anthem, and frontman Olly Alexander’s bewitching voice gives it plenty of heart to match.

–Nolan Feeney

Florence + the Machine, “Delilah”

There are so many things that Florence + the Machine do well: big sound, soaring vocals and lyrics that paint epic dramas. “Delilah,” from the latest album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, combines all of those elements beautifully in one exuberant track, with the added bonus of a swelling, multi-tracked call-and-response.

—Megan Gibson

St. Vincent, “Bad Believer”

It speaks to St. Vincent’s talent that a bonus track appended to a re-release of last year’s self-titled opus—TIME’s second-best album of the year—is as good as anything else that has come out in 2015. It’s also not surprising: the herky-jerky fuzz of “Bad Believer” is one more reason to worship her.

—Nolan Feeney

Major Lazer featuring MØ and DJ Snake, “Lean On”

The Danish singer who showed you new corners of your iPhone keyboard makes up for last year’s Iggy Azalea misfire “Beg For It” with this tropic thumper that leans on “Turn Down for What” mastermind DJ Snake for some extra oomph—no special characters needed.

–Nolan Feeney

Kacey Musgraves, “Biscuits”

Since shaking up the country scene with 2013’s Same Trailer Different Park, Kacey Musgraves has breathed new life into Nashville with songs that employ a pure country sound while making jabs at traditional southern values. “Biscuits” may not send up any overtly political messages, but its lazy-river, banjo-laden melody melds satisfyingly with its age-old message: live and let live.

—Eliza Berman

Tobias Jesso Jr., “How Could You Babe”

The 29-year-old didn’t take up the piano with any seriousness until he was just about ready to call his music career quits after struggling to make it as a songwriter in Los Angeles. Thank goodness he did—this ballad from his March debut album Goon time-warps back to the 1970s with flashes of McCartney.

—Nolan Feeney

Janelle Monáe featuring Jidenna, “Yoga”

Only an artist as visionary as Janelle Monáe could turn an ancient Indian tradition into a sex metaphor that redefines “downward dog” and makes a statement about not letting society police your individuality. It’s definitely not Vinyasa, but it’s got plenty of flow.

–Nolan Feeney

Galantis, “Peanut Butter Jelly”

This song’s got everything: clapping hands, bull horns and your favorite childhood sandwich (assuming you didn’t draw the short stick in the allergy game). Infused with retro vibes care of 1960s soul singer Bettye Swann, “Peanut Butter Jelly” is arguably the best song of the year to dance to, work out to or justify the transformation of your car into a rush-hour disco for one.

—Eliza Berman

Tanlines, “Pieces”

In a parallel universe, this glistening synth-pop gem was the real windows-down song of the summer. Though it set a high bar the rest of the duo’s second full-length, Highlights, couldn’t quite meet, that bassline is as potent as anything that uptown funked you up this year.

—Nolan Feeney

Kendrick Lamar, “The Blacker the Berry”

A complex track by one of the most gifted rappers working today, “The Blacker the Berry” is angry, rough and urgent — and performed with lacerating precision.

—Megan Gibson

Tink, “Ratchet Commandments”

The protege of hip-hop heavyweight Timbaland is neither the next Aaliyah nor the next Missy Elliott nor anyone other than just Tink—and that’s more than enough on this humorous call for her peers to rethink their priorities. Yes, it’s a little slut-shaming, but with five mixtapes by age 20, Tink’s earned the right to scoff at your work ethic.

—Nolan Feeney

Jamie xx, “I Know There’s Gonna Be (Good Times)”

In this strong contender for Song of the Summer, British DJ Jamie xx mixes a soul sample (The Persuasions’ “Good Times”) with synths that sound like steel drums, adding some welcome vocals from Atlanta rapper Young Thug and Jamaican dancehall artist Popcaan into a breezy, feel-good track.

—Megan Gibson

Carly Rae Jepsen, “All That”

The “Call Me Maybe” singer turned heads by working with über-hip producers Ariel Rechtshaid and Dev Hynes, but the way her syrupy-sweet vocals gently rock this would-be ‘80s prom song shows why music’s coolest names take her calls.

–Nolan Feeney

Rihanna, “FourFiveSeconds”

It’s perhaps the most delightful song ever made about being stuck at work on a Tuesday. Rihanna broke her long (for her, at least) hiatus with a country-inflected collaboration with Kanye West and Paul McCartney, all about being on the edge of a nervous breakdown after dealing with people all day. Relatable stuff: No wonder the trio’s performance at the Grammys this year was the night’s most crowdpleasing singalong.

—Dan D’Addario

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