Top 25 Pop Songs of 2015 So Far

The biggest surprise of 2015 so far is the engagement of mainstream pop audiences and now radio with country music. The genre periodically rises in pop influence, and early 2015 marks the latest emergence. It is also a good year so far for hip hop and alternative pop. Check out the 25 best pop songs of the year as we hit the halfway mark.

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twenty one pilots - "Tear In My Hear"

Twenty One Pilots Blurryface
Twenty One Pilots - Blurryface. Courtesy Fueled By Ramen

With this single from their fourth album Blurryface, the band twenty one pilots made their biggest bid yet for a breakthrough pop hit. "Tear In My Heart" carries an extremely catchy, driving chorus and enough variations in tempo to make the song ultimately sound like a mini epic. It reached #2 at alternative radio.

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Fall Out Boy - "Uma Thurman"

Fall Out Boy American Beauty American Psycho
Fall Out Boy - American Beauty / American Psycho. Courtesy Island

Following the grandiose production of their top 10 hit "Centuries," Fall Out Boy move back into uptempo pop-rock that is reminiscent of their earlier hits. The use of a sample from the theme song to 60s TV hit The Munsters adds a pleasing touch of the quirky. 

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Jason Derulo - "Want To Want Me"

Jason Derulo - Want To Want Me
Jason Derulo - "Want To Want Me". Courtesy Warner Bros.

Jason Derulo turns away from the overtly sexual content of "Talk Dirty" and "Wiggle" to deliver an 80s soul inspired groove that focuses on his pleasing falsetto. There is a hint of Justin Timberlake's recent R&B focus here, and it sounds great on Jason Derulo. "Want To Want Me" turned into a worldwide pop smash and peaked at #5 in the US.

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Sheppard - "Geronimo"

Sheppard - Geronimo
Sheppard - "Geronimo". Courtesy Universal

This is the single that introduced us to Australian band Sheppard. Most listeners would not really know what the song is about, and with the catchiness of shouts of "Say Geronimo!" and "Bombs Away!" it didn't matter. The driving uptempo melody made the song appealing across rock, adult contemporary, and mainstream pop radio, but It's hard to not feel the song deserved to be more of a hit here in the US.

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Adam Lambert - "Ghost Town"

Adam Lambert Ghost Town
Adam Lambert - "Ghost Town". Courtesy Warner Bros.

Adam Lambert abandoned his contract RCA after they tried to force him to record an album of 80s covers. "Ghost Town" indicates it was a good decision. Working again with pop master Max Martin, the song presents a confident artist who fully embraces a contemporary dance sound that borrows liberally from classic house music. The spooky, echoing mix matches the song's title perfectly.

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Taylor Swift - "Bad Blood" featuring Kendrick Lamar

Taylor Swift Bad Blood
Taylor Swift - "Bad Blood" featuring Kendrick Lamar. Courtesy Big Machine

If you needed to be convinced yet again that Taylor Swift remains one of the most talented lyricists in popular music, try on "band-aids don't fix bullet holes." Reportedly born out of a personal feud with Katy Perry, "Bad Blood" sounds much better than most anyone else's fourth single from an album. Kendrick Lamar's pasted on rap is somewhat superfluous, but the booming production here makes "Bad Blood" a great summer anthem.

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Kanye West - "Only One" featuring Paul McCartney

Kanye West Only One
Kanye West - "Only One" featuring Paul McCartney. Courtesy Roc-a-Fella

Kanye West pays tribute to both is late mother Donda West and his daughter North on this moving ballad. There is also praise for often maligned wife Kim Kardashian when he sings that God sent him two angels when he only asked for one. The simple organ accompaniment is as beautiful as the lyrical sentiment.

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Sam Hunt - "Take Your Time"

Sam Hunt Take Your Time
Sam Hunt - "Take Your Time". Courtesy Capitol

In the spring of 2015, Sam Hunt's "Take Your Time" became a rare country hit that received promotion to mainstream pop radio. The song is a clever depiction of a man hoping for a no strings attached tryst with a woman who catches his eye. Sam Hunt elegantly mixes spoken word sections with smooth, ingratiating singing. The production borrows heavily from contemporary pop. It all adds up to a sophisticated crossover hit.

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Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney - "FourFiveSeconds"

Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney - FourFiveSeconds
Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney - "FourFiveSeconds". Courtesy Roc Nation

It is likely if anyone had thought what a collaboration among the superstars Rihanna, Kanye West, and Paul McCartney would sound like, they would never come up with this. With influences from folk and country music, "FourFiveSeconds" is a stripped down production that sounds like three very talented musicians jamming together in the studio. Rihanna's vocals in particular have a pleasing raw edge. It was an unexpected midwinter pop smash.

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Carly Rae Jepsen - "I Really Like You"

Carly Rae Jepsen - I Really Like You
Carly Rae Jepsen - "I Really Like You". Courtesy Interscope

Carly Rae Jepsen gave us the massive #1 pop smash "Call Me Maybe," and then raised fears that she would never be able to truly follow it up. "I Really Like You" is just as effervescent, and, unfortunately, it did not turn into the big hit it should have been. This record is effortless, melodic pop fun.

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Andy Grammer - "Honey, I'm Good"

Andy Grammer - Magazines Or Novels
Andy Grammer - Magazines Or Novels. Courtesy S-Curve

Back in 2011, singer-songwriter Andy Grammer broke into adult pop radio with the top 5 debut single "Keep Your Head Up." His ingratiating upbeat approach gained him a consistent place on the genre's playlists. However, it was looking increasingly unlikely that he would crossover to the mainstream pop world. However, "Honey, I'm Good," with its clap along chorus, changed all of that. This is one of the most unexpected top 10 pop smash hits of the year.

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Fifth Harmony - "Worth It" featuring Kid Ink

Fifth Harmony - Reflection
Fifth Harmony - Reflection. Courtesy Epic

The girl group Fifth Harmony was formed on the short-lived US version of the competition show . They have became the most successful of any contestants who appeared on the show, and, arguably, the most successful veterans of any of the music competition shows that have competed with American Idol in recent years. Their first three singles all had mainstream pop radio success, but "Worth It," with slinky attitude, is their first real smash with the group climbing inside the top 15 on the Billboard Hot 100 for the first time.

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Maroon 5 - "This Summer's Gonna Hurt Like a MotherF****r"

Maroon 5 This Summer's Gonna Hurt
Maroon 5 - "This Summer's Gonna Hurt Like a Motherf**er". Courtesy Interscope

Maroon 5 made a bid for a big summer hit with this first single from the re-release of the album V, and it is a refreshing change of pace. With Shellback, long-time collaborator with Max Martin, producing, they embrace electronic dance music and provide a cheeky shout along chorus. It's all about the pain when that woman you want is not the one you should have.

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Selena Gomez - "Good For You" featuring A$AP Rocky

Selena Gomez Good for You featuring A$AP Rocky
Selena Gomez - "Good For You" featuring A$AP Rocky. Courtesy Interscope

A top 10 chart debut for "Good For You" proved that Selena Gomez has emerged as one of the biggest current pop female soloists. The song's lyrics raise a few eyebrows as the artist sings about being obsessed with looking good for her partner, but the bump and grind production grabs your attention.

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OMI - "Cheerleader"

OMI Cheerleader
OMI - "Cheerleader". Courtesy Ultra Music

Without the beautiful tropical remix from German DJ Felix Jaehn, it is unlikely OMI's "Cheerleader" would have been a hit anywhere but at home in Jamaica. However, the mix is understated enough to focus our attention on OMI's vocals and the charming lyrics. This is one of the biggest international pop hits of the year.

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Wiz Khalifa - "See You Again" featuring Charlie Puth

Wiz Khalifa - See You Again featuring Charlie Puth
Wiz Khalifa - "See You Again" featuring Charlie Puth. Courtesy Atlantic

Wiz Khalifa deserves accolades for earning his first #1 hit since his debut, but it is the songwriting and voice of collaborator Charlie Puth that is most distinctive here on his first hit. The song was originally conceived in memory of one of Charlie Puth's friends, but it was chosen for the soundtrack to the hit film Furious 7 and became an elegy for the late actor Paul Walker. The entire production pulls on the heartstrings without becoming maudlin.

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Kacey Musgraves - "Biscuits"

Kacey Musgraves Biscuits
Kacey Musgraves - "Biscuits". Courtesy Mercury Nashville

The first single from Kacey Musgraves' sophomore album Pageant Material is clearly steeped in traditional country sounds. However, any pop music fan can get caught up in the simple, but wise, lyrics and the sing along melody. Kacey Musgraves won two Grammy Awards with her debut album and she is the subject of much talk to add to that collection.

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Kendrick Lamar - "King Kunta"

Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick Lamar - To Pimp a Butterfly. Courtesy Interscope

Rapper Kendrick Lamar's album To Pimp a Butterfly was an event record. It sprawls across R&B and hip hop music sometimes rambling but rewarding close listening. It is also fueled by powerful anger at the shooting of Black men by police in the US. If there is any song that encapsulates the approach of the whole album, it's "King Kunta." The song also has a catchy, memorable melody.

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Tove Lo - "Talking Body"

Tove Lo - Talking Body
Tove Lo - "Talking Body". Courtesy Republic

If anyone feared that Swedish singer-songwriter Tove Lo might turn into a one-hit wonder, they only need listen to "Talking Body" a time or two. Once again she takes us fearlessly into a discussion of sex and relationships hooking it up to a killer, danceable chorus. 

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Little Big Town - "Girl Crush"

Little Big Town Girl Crush
Little Big Town - "Girl Crush". Courtesy Capitol Nashville

"Girl Crush" by country group Little Big Town initially drew attention for all the wrong reasons. Some observers were concerned that the song had lesbian intent. Instead, it is a powerful, moving, honest song about obsession when an object of your desire is spending his time with someone else. It is a gorgeous ballad in a time when there are far too few hit ballads around. "Girl Crush" crossed over from country to receive promotion on mainstream pop radio stations.

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The Weeknd - "Can't Feel My Face"

The Weeknd Can't Feel My Face
The Weeknd - "Can't Feel My Face". Courtesy Republic

Critically acclaimed Canadian artist The Weeknd made his way into the pop top 5 for the first time with his somewhat derivative hit "Earned It" from the soundtrack to the film 50 Shades of Grey. However, he followed it with this irresistible groove that shows his talents in full force. There is an echo of Michael Jackson here which helps make "Can't Feel My Face" sound timeless.


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Courtney Barnett - "Pedestrian At Best"

Courtney Barnett Pedestrian At Best
Courtney Barnett - "Pedestrian At Best". Courtesy Mom and Pop

Australian singer-songwriter Courtney Barnett is one of the most exciting new artists of 2015. With catchy, punk inspired backing, she spits out a stream of consciousness description of her thoughts in a confusing relationship. It's smart and has a kind of bittersweet humor. Courtney Barnett makes it all sound deceptively easy.

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Fetty Wap - "Trap Queen"

Fetty Wap - Trap Queen
Fetty Wap - "Trap Queen". Courtesy RGF

25-year old Willie Maxwell, aka Fetty Wap, uncorked one of the most distinctive sounds in R&B and hip hop of recent years with his debut hit "Trap Queen." The song is unabashedly romantic with an instantly ingratiating, slightly edgy, melody. It went all the way to #2 on the US pop chart.

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Walk the Moon - "Shut Up and Dance"

Walk the Moon Shut Up and Dance
Walk the Moon - "Shut Up and Dance". Courtesy RCA

Few songs sound like they deserve to be an instant smash hit in the first few bars, but Walk the Moon's mainstream pop breakthrough "Shut Up and Dance" is one of those. It is a celebration of the wisdom of that special woman and brings 80s power pop into the present with a flourish of clever lyrics and irresistible melody.

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Prince - "Baltimore" featuring Eryn Allen Kane

Prince Baltimore
Prince - "Baltimore". Courtesy Warner Bros.

This song never reached the charts, but that was never the intent. "Baltimore" is a beautiful, loving response to the unrest in the US over the shooting deaths of young Black men by police. Prince encourages reconciliation while also powerfully acknowledging the anger and frustration. The moving song echoes the sound of Prince's work on his double album Sign O' the Times. "Peace is more than the absence of war."