Spotify closed up 2015—an incredible year in music by most accounts—with an immersive and beautiful interactive website called Year In Music that allows you to unlock your personal music recap of the year. After sharing some interesting personalized data—guess what, my first song of 2015 was Shamir’s “On the Regular”—Year In Music pays homage to the year’s biggest music/cultural stories.
Spotify Puts Your Music-Listening Habits in Perspective
The real take-away here though is your own personal music story of 2015. Some of what you learn may be obvious: D’Angelo’s Black Messiah and Kendrick Lamar’s To Pimp a Butterfly were my two most-played albums of 2015. Some of it may be surprising: Kanye West’s “All Day” and Rihanna’s “FourFiveSeconds” were my two most-played songs of the year. And some of it may even be a bit embarrassing: I listened to The Smiths how many times?! (Turns out I wasn’t the only one—apparently Spotify users listened to an unfathomable six hundred and sixty years worth of Morrissey & Co. in 2015)
It got me thinking of the other music stories defined 2015 for me. We’ve already gone deep on our favorite albums and songs of the year (and some of our least favorite), so I won’t talk about those stories, but there were several other music moments that made the last twelve months memorable. Like...
That Time MØ Fronted the Biggest Single in the World
We love MØ, the spark-plug alter ego of Danish chanteuse Karen Marie Ørsted. We love her so much we put her in our SXSW showcase before her resplendent debut album, No Mythologies to Follow, came out. So you can imagine how stoked we were to find out that Ørsted’s single with Diplo and DJ Snake, the inescapable Balearic anthem “Lean On”, was named the most-streamed song of all time. It’s remarkable and more than a little nuts, but we can’t wait for what Karen has in store of us in 2016. She’s already shared a third collaboration with Diplo called “Kamikaze”—expect to see it on a new album just in time for MØ to rule the summer.
That Time Kanye West, Radiohead, Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, and Rihanna Teased Albums That Never Came
Kanye West kicked off 2015 with a soulful little ditty he made with the greatest living musician on the planet. A few weeks later he followed up with a smash hit with one of the biggest pop stars in the business. (The Beatle showed up for that too.) Then he released a fire-breathing single that rivaled many of the songs on his last classic LP, Sir Paul McCartney still in tow. Exciting stuff from today’s most singular pop artist, right?
Yet all of these power moves amounted to a great big nothing in 2015.
And, infuriatingly, Kanye’s wasn’t a unique story last year. Radiohead, Frank Ocean, Beyoncé, and Rihanna all teased albums at some point in the last twelve months with no concrete release dates to show for it. 2014 may have been the year of the Surprise Release, but, as PMA writer Peter Tabakis put it in a text to me, 2015 was the year of the Big Tease. It’s not all bad though. Just think of the potential for music in 2016!
That Time the Best Pop Albums Were Products of Creative Freedom
Carly Rae Jepsen’s Emotion; Grimes’ Art Angels; Tame Impala’s Currents—these were my favorite pop albums of 2015. Other than some thematic overlap here and there, these three LPs really only have one thing in common: they were the product of complete creative freedom
While nothing new for Grimes and Tame Impala, having an unmitigated vision, and the space and resources to fully realize it, helped Jepsen deliver her first great record. It launched her career, artistically, into the stratosphere—all while entrenched in the major label system.
Grimes’ Claire Boucher and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker have been in full control of their work all along and they’ve certainly produced great albums before. But with an embrace of pop music—albeit characteristically weird strains of it—these two have never pushed their craft as far as they did in 2015. “Who needs Max Martin, when I can write a hook like ‘Flesh Without Blood’,” I imagine Grimes asking herself while she writes and produces Art Angels completely solo, like she’s Brian Wilson... if Brian Wilson dropped Earth-rattling jams like “Venus Fly”.
Tame Impala, another strong candidate for his generation’s Brian Wilson, for the most part stopped recording covers of “Tomorrow Never Knows” and “Rain” to embrace Kraftwerk and Duran Duran and create his best album. Currents is an album about a man rebuilding himself after devastating romantic fallout, and with it Kevin Parker rebuilt himself in pop’s image. Or was it the other way around?
Those three really stick out, but there are plenty of other moments in 2015 that could easily make the list: the pop (and meme) deification of Drake; the supermassive and ultimately broken promise of Adele’s “Hello”; the unlikely rise of The Weeknd; the streaming debut of The Beatles; the glorious return of D’Angelo, Björk, and Sleater-Kinney; Donnie Trumpet and Chance the Rapper’s group hug as protest in Surf. 2015 was one for the books and digesting it all is a tall order, but your personal Year in Music is a good place as any place to start.
Check out Spotify’s Year in Music here and share your own personal Year in Music card with us @pmablog on Twitter to enter for a chance to win a 1-year subscription to Spotify Premium, a pair of Bose in-ear headphones, a Soundwave Canvas, and a $50 Ticketmaster gift card. You must be 18 years or older and reside in the U.S. A winner will be contacted via Twitter on January 15.
Disclosure: This post was made possible through my partnership with Spotify. The prize was sponsored by Spotify, but Spotify and its agents and representatives are not a sponsor, administrator, or involved in any other way with this giveaway. All opinions expressed in this post are my own and not those of Spotify or its agents and representatives.