1. Adam Lambert, “The Original High“
Adam Lambert ditches glam-rock for the dance-floor on the propulsive club-ready track, “The Original High.”
Recommended if you like: that moment of anticipation before the beat drops, powerhouse vocalists, letting loose on the middle of the dancefloor
2. Allie X, “Never Enough“
Making sense of Allie X sometimes requires thinking of her as two separate artists: an aloof, high-impact visual artist and a warm, understated pop singer. She’s good at both things, but there’s frequently a disconnect between her music and the whole Gaga-esque fashion-as-ideology thing. There’s nothing particularly weird or flashy about “Never Enough,” but there doesn’t need to be — it’s just a solid pop tune about a crumbling relationship and that’s more than enough.
Recommended if you like: Ellie Goulding, the word “aesthetic,” icy synths
3. Bibi Bourelly, “Riot“
Bibi Bourelly’s “Riot” is a ferocious girl-and-her-guitar anthem that sounds kind of like an unplugged Rihanna tune: fierce, unapologetic, and full of attitude. Which is appropriate because the 21-year-old Berlin-born songwriter helped pen the Bad Gal’s “Bitch Better Have My Money.”
Recommended if you like: smoke-filled voices, acoustic sets, clapping back
4. Black Coast, “Enough (ft. M. Maggie)“
Dating anxiety sounds downright appealing on “Enough,” a buoyant song about relationship worries from up-and-coming producer Black Coast and Brooklyn-based singer M. Maggie.
Recommended if you like: indulging your insecurities, getting up early to watch the sun rise, sugary synths
5. Carly Rae Jepsen, “Warm Blood“
“Warm Blood” is a whirlpool of a pop song; Carly Rae Jepsen’s sweet, breathy vocals bob around a sea of buzzy synths as they both pull you in deeper.
Recommended if you like: Taylor Swift’s 1989, butterflies in your stomach, throwing caution to the wind
6. Conrad Sewell, “Hold Me Up“
If you haven’t heard Conrad Sewell’s name, you’ve probably heard his voice. The Australian singer was the featured singer on Norwegian DJ Kygo’s breakthrough single, “Firestone.” While that song was a calm, cool, collected slice of tropical house, Sewell’s first solo single, “Hold Me Up,” is an ecstatic, almost hymnal love song. The highlight? The triumphant, singalong chorus.
Recommended if you like: big choruses, pseudo-religious imagery, Australian men with luscious blonde hair
7. Dev09, “You Made Me“
As low-key as it sounds, Dev09’s “You Made Me” is a straight-up fight song. Like a deadpan Kesha or a suburban Rihanna, the 18-year-old singer issues goofy but effective threats (ex: “Quit tryin’ to claim me, lately / Ya frontin’ like you made me, but baby / Your moves are too soft”) in a practiced monotone. She sounds unbothered, but you know she’s ready to throw down.
Recommended if you like: Kesha, talking shit, athleisure
8. DNCE, “Toothbrush“
DNCE — aka Joe Jonas’ new band — is like a kinder, gentler Maroon 5. The newcomers are mining the same vein of lightly funky pop-rock but without any of Adam Levine’s douche-y sleaze. Case and point: “Toothbrush,” a groovy little love song that’s as sweet as M5’s “Animals” is unsettling.
Recommended if you like: Jonas Brothers’ “First Time,” wolf sounds, man buns
10. Fleur East, “Sax“
“Sax” is exactly the type of irresistible sass’n’brass pop tune Ariana Grande has been aspiring towards her entire career. While the song blew up in the U.K. where Fleur East competed on The X Factor (twice!), neither the singer nor her song have gained much traction in the States. Hopefully that changes in 2016.
Recommended if you like: “Uptown Funk,” lyrics that narrate exactly how you should move on the dancefloor, color blocking
11. Florrie, “Too Young To Remember“
While Florrie’s has been releasing delightful, left-of-center pop music since her debut in 2010, most of it has skewed more “banger” and less “bubblegum. Not “Too Young To Remember,” which is big, bright, and unapologetically girly.
Recommended if you like: ’90s nostalgia, bubblegum pop, Yelle
12. Giorgio Moroder, “Diamonds (ft. Charli XCX)“
The sheer force of Charli XCX’s presence makes every song she’s featured on a Charli XCX song and Giorgio Moroder’s “Diamonds” is no exception. The singer does her pop-punk prom queen thing over sharply plastic synths, completely eclipsing the disco legends contributions.
Recommended if you like: EDM-infused disco, holographic fashion, clubs with lasers
13. Grimes, “Kill v. Maim“
“Kill v. Maim” is the deranged centerpiece of Grimes’ brilliant/bananas sophomore album, Art Angels. The song — which features Grimes chanting like a homicidal cheerleader over giddy, ‘00s-esque guitars — is written from the perspective of Al Pacino in The Godfather Part II. Except Pacino’s character in Grimes’ mind is a “vampire who can switch gender and travel through space.” It’s completely insane and should be played on loop.
Recommended if you like: cheerleaders, campy horror movies, ’00s guitar-pop
14. Halsey, “Gasoline“
Ashley Frangipane has only been in the pop game for a minute, but the precocious singer has already written a delicious “fuck you” to the music industry. Halsey isn’t a mindlessly corporate pop creation and the dark, sexy “Gasoline” is proof.
Recommended if you like: that sparse, post-Lorde pop sound, Miley Cyrus’ song “Robot,” wasting hours on Tumblr
15. Hilary Duff, “Belong“
Real talk: All of the best songs on Hilary Duff’s comeback album are bonus tracks. There’s 2014’s excellent “All About You,” a couple of Friday night party anthems (“Outlaw,” “Rebel Hearts”), and the singer’s best new song: “Belong,” a charming folk-pop ode to living in the moment. It’s exactly the kind of breezy, girl-next-door pop the former Disney star should be making.
Recommended if you like: pre-1989 Taylor Swift, driving with the windows down, hairbrush karaoke
16. JoJo, “Save My Soul“
It’s a shame JoJo’s return to the pop scene wasn’t met with bigger fanfare; the ‘00s teen star’s voice is stronger than ever and her comeback EP/single/triangle was full of downright Beyoncé-esque power ballads. It’s also a shame that the singer’s best new song, “Save My Soul,” didn’t get the label love it deserved. While “Say Love” and “When Love Hurts” are solid tunes, they shouldn’t have been given the video treatment before the wailing, gospel-y “Save My Soul.” All of us — fans and executives — need to do better by Joanna Levesque in 2016, OK?
Recommended if you like: overdue comebacks, singers who can really wail, mid-tempo pop anthems
17. JONES, “Hoops“
JONES’ has been quietly slaying on SoundCloud for a while now. While “Hoops” isn’t a banger by any stretch of the imagination, it definitely turns up the volume on the London-based singer’s hushed R&B-inspired sound.
Recommended if you like: cashmere sweaters, warbly synths, Janet Jackson
18. Justine Skye, “I’m Yours (ft. Vic Mensa)“
There’s no point in avoiding the obvious: Justine Skye sounds like Rihanna. This isn’t a criticism: The 20-year-old Brooklyn-based singer alternates between murky club anthems and aching bad girl ballads in the same seamless way that Rihanna does. On “I’m Yours (ft. Vic Mensa),” she follows the template set by Rihanna’s loved-up Drake collaboration, “What’s My Name?,” and ends up with a perfect little crush song of her own.
Recommended if you like: holding hands with your boo, the kissy face emoji, Loud-era Rihanna
19. Kat Graham, “1991“
There were a lot of ‘90s-inspired songs in 2015, but none of them evoked the Internet’s favorite decade quite like Kat Graham’s “1991.” Everything about the tune — from the Vampire Diaries star’s throaty vocals to the bouncy bassline — is pure ‘90s.
Recommended if you like: things only ’90s kids remember, brown lipstick, TLC
20. Kehlani, “Alive (ft. Coucheron)“
Is it any surprise that Taylor Swift loves Kehlani’s “Alive (ft. Coucheron)”? The pop star summarized her own album as the story of a girl who “lost him” but “found herself,” and you could describe “Alive” the same way: The sun-soaked tune is all about finding peace, happiness, and a renewed sense of self in the wake of a bad break-up.
Recommended if you like: Jhene Aiko’s “Bed Peace,” the feeling of closure, day drinking
23. LIZ, “When I Rule The World“
Somewhere between a ode to sadomasochism and a straight-up revenge fantasy, “When I Rule The World” is one of 2015’s most off-the-wall pop singles. The bubblegum banger features singer LIZ cooing commands/threats — weird ones like “dog collar round your neck, on your knees go scrub the deck” and “I can be your daddy and you’re gonna make me proud” — over sugary synths.
Recommended if you like: Lizzie McGuire, light S&M, Gwen Stefani’s “Bubble Pop Electric“
24. Mako, “I Won’t Let You Walk Away (ft. Madison Beer)“
Dance duo MAKO originally released “I Won’t Let You Walk Away” as an instrumental track called “Sunburst.” After the song became something of a viral hit, they decided to add a vocalist and settled on 16-year-old Bieber protégé Madison Beer. The end result is a sparkly, not-quite-breakup song that’s ideal for listening to in the car with the windows down.
Recommended if you like: Instagram-famous teens, EDM-lite, Snapchat stories
25. Marina and the Diamonds, “I’m A Ruin“
Dance out your devastation to Marina and the Diamonds’ heartbreaking “I’m A Ruin.” The disco ballad oozes with shame and despair, even as it builds to a glittery, triumphant chorus.
Recommended if you like: self-destruction, percussion-driven pop, neon lights
26. Matoma, “Love You Right (ft. Nico & Vinz)“
What is it about Norway and island-inspired pop music? Despite being surrounded by ice and snow (or maybe because of it?), Norwegians have been ruling the tropical house scene for a while now. Case and point: “Love You Right,” a flirty, resort-ready collaboration from Norwegian DJ/producer Matoma and African-Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz.
Recommended if you like: Tropical House™, two hot dudes harmonizing, endless summer
27. Melanie Martinez, “Soap“
Melanie Martinez’s “Soap” is a careful, gentle pop tune that slowly morphs into something weirder and more sinister as a bubble-pop beat threatens to drown out the singer’s angelic voice.
Recommended if you like: high-concept pop artists, popping bubblewrap, word-vomitting your feelings
28. Noonie Bao, “Pyramids“
Add Noonie Bao to the long list of Swedish pop singer-songwriters who should be a bigger deal in the States. There’s nothing fussy about “Pyramids” — the song is pop music in primary colors: straight-foward and simple — but it’s infectious and likable all the same.
Recommended if you like: La Roux, electro-bubblegum, platform sneakers
29. Phoebe Ryan, “Homie“
When was the last time you related to a love song? Happily ever afters are great, but they’re uncommon. More common? The lust and bad behavior outlined in Phoebe Ryan’s hazy ode to hook-up culture, “Homie.”
Recommended if you like: breathy vocals, finger snaps, Netflix and Chill
30. Rihanna, “Towards The Sun“
OK, so, yes: Rihanna’s eighth album, Anti, remains a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. That’s annoying. But we shouldn’t let #R8’s ridiculously drawn out promo campaign distract from the fact that Rih has released actually released a bunch of good music last year. “FourFiveSeconds,” “Bitch Better Have My Money,” and “American Oxygen” are all great. Also great? The three original songs Rihanna contributed to the Home soundtrack — especially the project’s triumphant lead single, “Towards The Sun.” It’s worth a listen even if you missed the movie.
Recommended if you like: moody pop anthems, background choirs, hard-won optimism
31. Rita Ora, “Poison“
Your “who?” jokes aren’t funny, folks. Rita Ora has been releasing great pop singles for years now and the woozy “Poison” is no exception. Seriously, just try getting the woozy “you-ooo-ooo” hook out of your head. Keep slaying, Rita. The world will come around.
Recommended if you like: Rita Ora’s “I Will Never Let You Down” and think it should’ve made her a bigger star, songs about toxic relationships, elastic vowels
33. Samsaya, “Beginning At The End“
Indian-Norwegian singer Samsaya’s relaxed, singalong-worthy “Beginning At The End” is the rare break-up song that sounds hopeful and at peace instead of mopey and/or spiteful.
Recommended if you like: Shondaland soaps, clear-eyed break-up songs, Nelly Furtado
34. Scooter Island, “#NOTYOURS (ft. Junglepussy)“
Scooter Island’s “#NOTYOURS” is the type song you’d expect to hear at an end-of-summer barbecue hosted by social justice activists: it’s breezy, upbeat, and feminist AF.
Recommended if you like: early M.I.A., Brazilian Girls, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s “Stop Telling Women To Smile” poster series
35. Sharks, “Wait“
Scandinavian electro-pop duo Sharks do their best Icona Pop impression on this spiky club banger. If you ever liked “I Love It” — even if for just a few drunken seconds on the dancefloor — you’ll definitely enjoy “Wait.”
Recommended if you like: shout-pop, bratty blondes, when a song makes everyone on the dancefloor just jump for three minutes straight
36. Tori Kelly, “Hollow“
Tori Kelly spent most of 2015 releasing the kind of big, brassy, Max Martin-supervised pop anthems that are expected of major-label stars on the rise. The songs were all catchy and likable, but a little too market-tested to be truly memorable. Enter: “Hollow,” an ethereal bit of Christian-pop. Kelly has never sounded less concerned with radio trends or more comfortable.
Recommended if you like: Hillsong, sunlit rooms, inspirational Instagrams
37. Tove Styrke, “Ego“
Last spring, we described Swedish pop singer Tove Styrke’s “Ego” as a playful, anthemic pop jam that sounded like “if Robyn was stoned” and we stand by that. “Robyn, but stoned” is still the best way to explain this bubbly, marimba-inflected tune.
Recommended if you like: marimbas, Scandinavian pop stars like Robyn and Annie, rooftop parties
38. Yellow Claw & Cesqeaux, “Wild Mustang (ft. Becky G)”
While pop mastermind Dr. Luke has supplied his protégé Becky G with plenty of low-key bangers last year, the 18-year-old singer’s best song came courtesy of Dutch DJs Yellow Claw and “rising star” Cesqeaux. Sunny, carefree, and full of joy, “Wild Mustang” has the exact thing her club-baiting solo singles have been missing: personality.
Recommended if you like: fruity cocktails, star-crossed love, “Under The Sea” from The Little Mermaid
39. ZHU, Skrillex, and They, “Working For It“
Goofy pronunciation is a staple of great pop music and goofy pronunciation is what makes “Working For It” special. There’s a lot of great reasons to love “Working For It,” but the best part of the song is, inarguably, the awkward/brilliant way the vocalist pinches the word “for.”
Recommended if you like: mysterious DJs, crunchy beats, leaving the club to go to a different club
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