Thursday, December 17, 2015

twostepcubchart's Best of 2015: Part One - #100 to #91...

As 2015 winds down to a close, it's time to start counting down the top-100 biggest songs on my weekly personal chart for the year. It's been a year starting with everyone decrying the demise of the music business to an album that broke the record for the biggest-selling week in America. The biggest songwriter in country music is an "out" gay man, while a Beatle is nominated for a Grammy in the rap category. I tallied up all the numbers by rank each week and these are the songs that went the highest and/or stuck around the longest. And each weekday until New Years Eve (except Christmas) I'll bring out ten more until we get to the top, with an interlude sometime in the middle with some also-rans. And away we go....

#100 - "Say You Do" - Dierks Bentley
            from the album Riser (2014)
            Highest Rank: #15 (one week)
            Weeks on the Chart: 16
            Billboard Hot 100 peak: #52
            Songwriters: Shane McAnally, Matthew Ramsey, Trevor Rosen

Dierks has outlasted the assault of the "bro-neck" brigade to represent the non-posturing country singers these days. Following up his comedic "Drunk On A Plane", which "bubbled under" my list at #116 last year, this ballad took a break-up much more seriously, with a yearning for just one last go-around with a love, even if it didn't matter to the other person. That's a heartache many can relate to, and Bentley treats it with a solemn yet painful delivery, knowing how hopeless even asking the question can be. One of the songs written by Billboard's country songwriter of the year, Shane McAnally.

Killer line: "If you really don't mean it, I don't care, If you need a little buzz to get you there,
Then baby I'm buyin'"

 (Click below to see the rest of the post)

#99 - "Smoke Break" - Carrie Underwood
          from the album Storyteller (2015)
          Highest Rank: #7 (one week)
          Weeks on the chart (in 2015): 13 (still on the chart)
          Billboard Hot 100 peak: #43
          Songwriters: Carrie Underwood, Chris DeStefano, Hillary Lindsey

Rivaling McAnally's dominance in Nashville is New Jersey native Chris DeStefano, who co-wrote this rockin' rebellious tune with one of the biggest American Idols and Hillary Lindsey. Carrie had just issued her first greatest hits set the previous year, with two discs proving her career way outlasted the momentum she had from the TV show. However, her singles were getting a little bit same-samey, and "Smoke Break", with more of a rock swagger that didn't rely on a bad relationship, proved a breath of fresh air, title notwithstanding.

Killer line: "She said, I don't smoke but sometimes I need a long drag..."

#98 - "Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)" - Silentó
          from the single (2015)
          Highest Rank: #22 (two weeks)
          Weeks on the chart: 18
          Billboard Hot 100 peak: #3
          Songwriters: Ricky Hawk (aka Silentó), Timothy Mingo

The new millennium finally has its "Land Of 1000 Dances". Silentó, a teenager from Atlanta, took the phenomenon of kids "line dancing" to songs which became viral on YouTube, and crafted a checklist that was as simple as it was addictive, with a slinky backbeat giving enough cred that there's no need for cussin', and as the video shows, everybody is invited to the party. He swings through dances like brands, with the two titular jams anchoring like a rocking boat. If this is the "one-hit wonder" of 2015, I'm fine with that.

Killer line: "You already know who it is!"

#97 - "Hold Each Other" - A Great Big World featuring FUTURISTIC
          from the album When The Morning Comes (2015)
          Highest Rank: #18 (two weeks)
          Weeks on the Chart (in 2015): 17 (still charting)
          Billboard Hot 100 peak: #99
          Songwriters: Chad King, Ian Axel, Daniel Romer-Friedman

New York singing/songwriting duo A Great Big World, broke though big on the pop charts last year with the bare-bones break-up ballad "Say Something", which landed at #18 on my 2014 year-end list. Instead of trying to recreate that sound for their second album's first single, Ian Axel and Chad King went in a different direction, laying a lilting love song on a shuffling backbeat and adding a rap interlude from FUTURISTIC (aka Arizona artist Zachary Beck). But the talk was about the lyrics, which split between the pair, with Ian singing to his woman, then Chad doing the same to his man, interrupted only by FUTURISTIC rapping to his probably other-race love. With equal parts showing the symmetry of love no matter the sex or color, the song was a perfect fit for this year of marriage equality wins.

Killer Line: "Something happens when I hold him, He keeps my heart from getting broken"

#96 - "Don't Wanna Fight" - Alabama Shakes
         from the album Sound & Color (2015)
         Highest Rank: #14 (two weeks)
         Weeks on the chart: 15
         Billboard Hot 100 peak: did not chart
         Songwriters: Alabama Shakes

The blues-rock band from their name-checked state, led by vocal powerhouse Brittany Howard, are up for Album of the Year at the upcoming Grammy Awards, not doubt helped by the hurricane of a first single, "Don't Wanna Fight". Starting off like an Arctic Monkeys record into a Black Keys record into an otherworldly scream of a woman that is at the end of her rope. Records like this remind us how much a woman's perspective is needed in rock music.

Killer Line: "Attacking, defending Until there's nothing left worth winning Your pride and my pride
Don't waste my time..."

#95 - "Make You Better" - The Decemberists
          from the album What A Terrible World, What A Beautiful World (2015)
          Highest rank: #15 (two weeks)
         Weeks on the chart: 14
         Billboard Hot 100 peak: did not chart
         Songwriter: Colin Meloy

 Lead singer/multi-instrumentalist Colin Meloy gets his hipster-bear groove on with the #1 Triple-A (that's adult album alternative) rock hit. The awkwardness of the romance in the lyrics are amplified by Nick Offerman's performance in the video as a German TV host.

Killer Line: "But we're not so starry-eyed anymore like the perfect paramour you were in your letters"

#94 - "Like I Can" - Sam Smith
          from the album In The Lonely Hour (2014)
          Highest rank: #14 (two weeks)
          Weeks on the chart: 21
          Billboard Hot 100 peak: #99
          Songwriters: Sam Smith, Matt Prime

As the fifth single from Smith's stellar debut album, "Like I Can" broke the fever of anguish with a song that beats like the heart of a new lover. With an assurance that he is the one for the person he's singing to, no question, this expression of affection (complete with the most adorbs bachelor party ever, possibly) was the cathartic release In The Lonely Hour needed.

Killer Line: "Why are you looking down all the wrong roads? When mine is the heart and the salt of the soul"

#93: "Don't Be So Hard On Yourself" - Jess Glynne
         from the album I Cry When I Laugh (2015)
         Highest rank: #15 (two weeks)
         Weeks on the chart (in 2015): 18 (still charting)
         Billboard Hot 100 peak: did not chart (yet)
         Songwriters: Jess Glynne, Tom Barnes, Wayne Hector, Peter Kelleher, Ben Kohn

Last year British sophisti-house act Clean Bandit was at #3 on my year end list with their triumphant "Rather Be", featuring singer Jess Glynne. This time out, Jess goes on her own, and this self-help club banger is one of two of her songs on this year's recap. With a raspy wail that comes across as more "real" that the perfect tone of some of the vocal robots on the EDM factory these days, she deserved every bit of tying for most #1 hits from a British solo female artist with five.

Killer Line: "Let's go back to simplicity, I feel like I've been missing me, Was not who I'm supposed to be, I felt this darkness over me"

#92 -  "Lonely Eyes" - Chris Young
           from the album A.M. (2013)
           Highest rank: #18 (two weeks)
           Weeks on the chart: 18
           Billboard Hot 100 peak: #50
           Songwriters: Johnny Bulford, Jason Matthews, Laura Veltz

The third single from the winner of the forgotten singing competition Nashville Star tells the simple tale of a man finding love in the ruins at a bar, but his control of his honey-tinged voice is just mindboggling. Following his "Who I Am With You", which was my #99 song of 2014, and first single "Aw Naw", which hit my year-end chart of 2013 at #79, "Lonely Eyes" proved his fourth album had legs, as well as eyes. (His new single, "I'm Comin' Over", made my weekly top-10 just as the eligibility period closed, with not enough points to make even my "bubblin' under" list, and most likely not next year either. Timing is everything.)

Killer Line: "Right through that cloud of smoke
Catcalls and dirty jokes
Scan the room a couple times
Find a seat right next to mine"

#91 - "Waves (Robin Schulz Mix)" - Mr. Probz
          from the album Prayer (from Robin Schulz) (2014)
          Highest rank in 2015: #19 (one week) (reached #27 in 2014)
          Weeks on the chart in 2015: 14 (was on 37 weeks in 2014) 
          Billboard Hot 100 peak: #14
          Songwriters: Dennis Princewell Stehr (Mr. Probz)

There are eight songs from last year's recap that made a repeat appearance in 2015, and this is the first. Dutch singer/rapper Mr. Probz (aka Dennis Stehr) saw his top-10 hit in his home country get overhauled by German "trop-house" DJ Robin Schulz, and the result is a more brooding and emotional experience, with his sandpaper-like vocals contrasting with the metronome-perfect backbeat. Identifying with the oncoming flow of the tides to describe the heartbreak he's feeling over a lost love, and you've got a record you can either shake your ass to or eat a pint of ice cream with. (Last year it was up at #33 on my year-end chart, although it only made it to #27 then, it was on the chart for 37 weeks.)

Killer Line: "My feet can't touch the ground
                      Touch the ground, and it feels like
                      I can see the sands on the horizon everytime
                      You are not around"

Well that's it for the start of this year's list. I'll return tomorrow with a weather-dependent wish, a matrimonial missive, and some borrowed Bowie.

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