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Essays from 2015

Lórenzo J’s Highly Scientific Ranking of the Year’s 17 Best Songs

 Spoiler alert: They'll be toward the top of the list.

Spoiler alert: They'll be toward the top of the list.

To preface this, let me make it abundantly clear that this list is by no means my attempt to capture THE songs of the year. Billboard does that. So does Complex. So do a ton of other magazines who take themselves super seriously.

Which is not to say I don’t take my own personal list seriously. I’ve started a website, so of course I’d like to write stuff folks want to read. But I hope you all noticed the operative word here: personal. These are MY favorite songs of 2015. I’m fairly certain the songs I’ve chosen might be some of your favorite songs, too. But please don’t comment asking how I could pick a certain song or rank one song higher than the other. If you feel that passionately about it, by all means, make your own list. Actually, I highly recommend it.

I’ve been making year-end playlists for a few years now. It’s a really fun exercise. Every now and again, you’ll see a song that you downloaded in January and can’t believe that song came out in the same calendar year as a song that came out 2 weeks ago. My only general qualification for this project is that the song be on an album that came out in 2015. I picked 100 songs to start, cut that down to 40, and finished with 17 — 7 honorable mentions, and a top-10 I painstakingly ranked. Really, painstakingly. It hurt me to cut some of the songs. But, tough decisions had to be made and whatnot. So, without further ado, the honorable mentions, in no particular order:

J. Cole, “Alright (RMX) / Kendrick Lamar, “A Tale of 2 Citiez (RMX)

Lumping them together, because I think that fits. What’s that project Cole was talking about dropping in February?

Rae Sremmurd, “Throw Sum Mo (feat. Nicki Minaj & Young Thug),” SremmLife

I loved this song the first time I heard it, and then I found out Jeremih wrote the bulk of it, and I somehow found even more love for it. Did Rae Sremmurd lose in 2015?

Big Sean, “Platinum and Wood,” Dark Sky Paradise

KeY Wane sampled my favorite Blade Icewood song. Sean did it justice. It kind of had to make the list.

Snoop Dogg, “So Many Pros (feat. Charlie Wilson),” BUSH

Uncle Charlie FLOATED on this song. Absolutely floated. BUSH is definitely one of the more underrated albums of 2015, and I chose this over “California Roll,” which wasn’t easy, because Stevie bodied that one himself.

K Camp, “Comfortable,” Only Way Is Up

I don’t know when exactly I became a K Camp fan — it was probably sometime around whenever he released that “Blessing” remix with the immortal Jeremih — but this song is gorgeous. The epitome of a summer song, for sure.

Drake, “30 for 30 Freestyle,” What a Time to Be Alive

And the song that I had to cut from the top-10. I’ll probably regret this decision by the time you all read this. But I think we’re all aware that Aubrey rode this instrumental.

THE TOP TEN

10) Post Malone, “White Iverson

Shoutout Julian Turner. Somehow this song makes you want to turn up and relax at the same time. I kept hearing this song at the start of the summer, but in my eternal brilliance, I had no idea Post Malone is white until I saw the video. Hence, the name “White Iverson.” I know, I know. I have my slow moments. But watching Jay sauce to this song will make you love it infinitely more than you already do. And you do love this song. Don’t try to deny it.

9) Kendrick Lamar, “Alright,” To Pimp a Butterfly

Honestly, this song on its own merits belongs in the top-five. Folks have taken to calling it the new Black National Anthem, and I’m inclined to agree. But — fact that either went overlooked or that folks don’t know — Pharrell re-used this instrumental from a song he gave Rick Ross. So, I, being the arbiter of music that I am, couldn’t in good conscience rank it any higher than 9. Yes, I’m persnickety. SO?

8) Ty Dolla $ign, “Miracle / Wherever (feat. Big TC & D-Loc),” Free TC

Over the last 18 months, I’ve learned to appreciate whatever it is Ty does. And while I still can’t describe exactly what that “whatever” is, he’s really damn good at it. He’s brutally honest to the point of crassness, and he does it all over the lushest production this side of vintage Kanye. He has the voice of an angel, and very rarely uses it to say anything groundbreaking or super lyrical. And yet, I don’t care. He could sing the NBA 2K manual and I’d probably still be intrigued.

On its surface, “Miracle” and “Wherever” don’t fit together at all. The first half is heartwarming, serving as something of a tribute to his incarcerated brother who’s featured on the song from prison. The second half is literally about having sex in random places. And yet again, I don’t care. It works. It’s my number-eight song of 2015. Long live Ty$.

7) Missy Elliott, “WTF (Where They From) (feat. Pharrell Williams)

I wasn’t really feeling this song after the first listen. And then those damn Samsung commercials kept popping up, and no longer could I deny that this song is pretty pretty amazing. Welcome home, Misdemeanor.

Quick aside: I want to watch Pharrell make beats for like 2 weeks. This instrumental is crazy creative, but it’s a stark difference from the other stuff he’s produced this year. He’s on another level creatively man. Make music forever, Pharrell. And get back in the studio with Chad. Thanks in advance.

6) Jazmine Sullivan, “Mascara,” Reality Show

This is where it gets sticky. Songs 4–6 are interchangeable, honestly. “Mascara” gets the short end of the stick simply because it’s the oldest. But sheesh, it’s good. Ms. Sullivan’s role-playing an Instagram model is some of the more compelling musical storytelling I’ve ever heard. Plus, KeY Wane lays the perfect backdrop for her voice. “Don’t I deserve to be privileged?” always always gets me. I could write a 2,000-word thinkpiece on this song alone. There’s so much happening in the four minutes and thirteen seconds Jazmine sings, and all of it is gorgeous.

5) Travi$ Scott, “Drunk (feat. Young Thug)

I had something of a six-month period where I was occupying a seat on the Young Thug bandwagon. And while I’ve since relinquished that spot, I’ll forever argue that Thugger does a lot of things well. Partnering with La Flame is one of those things.

Travi$ re-mastered the song and put Bieber on it for his album. Unpopular opinion: the album version sucks. This version is gold. I can listen to this one on an endless loop, which I’m not ashamed to say I’ve actually done before. The second half of Travi$’s verse is the best, with Thugger providing the ad-libs ON A VERSE THAT’S NOT EVEN HIS. It’s an absurd journey, but it’s fun the entire time. Over the summer, my friend Melvin called it the perfect end-of-pregame song; wait until everyone’s showed up, let this play, and then head out. Guarantee you’ll have a good night.

4) Bryson Tiller, “Don’t,” T R A P S O U L

I was super late to the Tiller party. Apparently “Don’t” has been out for over a year, and I was totally unaware. Whatever. The song is brilliant. Once I found out he wrote the song from the perspective of a man trying to take his girlfriend, I was sold. Self-deprecating and arrogant at the same time, I’m 92% sure this is how every man feels about the lady he’s crushing on despite the fact she has a boyfriend. Of course he thinks he can treat her better. I know Aubrey wishes he’d thought of this one first.

3) The Internet, “For the World (feat. James Fauntleroy),” Ego Death

Fauntleroy sighting! Honestly, I tried to front on The Internet when I first heard Ego Death. My lady would play the album when she’d come to my apartment, and I’d pretend like I wasn’t interested while nodding along the entire time. “For the World” is an absolutely gorgeous song, a diamond on an album full of them, and one that deserves to be at the top of year-end lists. But for my year in music, it’ll have to settle for the bronze. And, I mean, in five years, I could totally look at this list and wonder how I didn’t make this #1, considering I know I’ll still be listening to this on repeat. But I’m pretty pretty sure I’ll still be listening to the next two songs, too.

2) Future, “March Madness,” 56 Nights

1) Kendrick Lamar, “How Much a Dollar Cost? (feat. James Fauntleroy & Ronald Isley),” To Pimp a Butterfly

I started conceiving this list in my head about six weeks ago, at which point I knew FOR CERTAIN “How Much a Dollar Cost?” would take the top spot.

But do you know how undeniable “March Madness” is? Like, really?

Story time: I went to a Future show during Howard Homecoming this past year. (Shoutout to the Mecca.) The entire concert was a religious experience, truth be told, but something different happened when “March Madness” came on. Esco played the intro over and over and over again; it was the best and worst tease of my life, because while I understood why he was building the anticipation, all I really wanted to do was bounce around to the greatest Future song of all-time. And yes, it’s his best song ever. I don’t really think it’s up for debate.

The beat finally drops, and everyone collectively loses it. I’ve never seen anything like it. I’ve been to a fair share of concerts — 4 Sean shows, 2 Kanye shows (Glow in the Dark AND Watch the Throne) — and have yet to see anything like that moment. I left that show convinced that would be the greatest in-concert moment I’ll ever see.

Heading home from taking the LSAT a few weeks ago, I played “March Madness” to celebrate, and I decided in that moment that song couldn’t NOT be the number-one song of 2015. Right then, I realized “March Madness” had become one of my favorite songs ever. Mind you, I thought Future was washed. Honest was very meh, and even though I enjoyed Monster, the taste of Honest hadn’t been out my mouth long enough to listen to it objectively. But after 56 Nights — also, the mixtape of 2015 — I was fully back on the bandwagon. And “March Madness” is the crown jewel of that masterpiece.

But in trying to convince myself “March Madness” deserved to be #1, I tried to take something away from “How Much a Dollar Cost?”. And I can’t. From the moment I heard that song, I was in love. Every time I hear it, I envision the scenario in my head, directing the music video in my thoughts. So much tension in the second verse, my Lord. That third verse, with Kendrick trying to justify his stance: “Selfishness is what got me here / Who the fuck I’m kidding? / So I’mma tell you like I told the last bum / Crumbs AND pennies, I need alla mines.” Another Fauntleroy sighting. Ron Isley ending the song in prayer. It’s seriously enough to bring you to tears.

For me, “How Much a Dollar Cost?” serves as the ultimate cautionary tale against selfishness. No, it doesn’t break any new ground — the story of the selfish man denying God is nothing innovative. But the song is without peer. Kendrick somehow manages to make the narrative feel new; he owns it in his own way, a way that especially continues to resonate with me.

So, as of this posting, “How Much a Dollar Cost?” is my number-one song of 2015.

Jesus, this was hard.