December is probably my favorite month of be year. This is not just because Christmas has always been my favorite holiday; it is also because it is time the perfect time for reflection. It’s the right time to look back on the year that was and celebrate what made that year so great. And while 2015 has actually been a catastrophic year in the world of politics and social justice and things are only getting uglier in those fields, it’s been a whirlwind year in entertainment And that’s what I’m here to look back on. I will take up three weeks this month to look back on my favorites in entertainment this year; and since I am FearlessRiOT, it will all obviously be in countdown form. Last week, I tackled my favorites in pro wrestling, this week I’ll tackle music, and next week will see me take on acting, along with the bonus field of celebrities on social media. Hope you enjoy this week’s installment!
So if you keep up with my weekly Top 20 Countdown, you’ll notice that the large majority of acts that make the list these days are either female performers or music groups. I’ve already posted my Top 10 Female Music Artists list and the Music Group list is going to be posted shortly. But I would just like to point out that even though the males tend to get the short end of the stick from me, that doesn’t mean I haven’t been listening at all. In fact, some of them do come close to making the countdown, but end up missing the cut. And other artists I don’t realize were all that until it’s too late. Most of this list is that; thank goodness for the feeling of reflection the month of December brings on because otherwise, this list would be pretty hard to put together. But I did it, so let’s get to it!
#10. Fetty Wap
When I first heard the name of this performer, I did not want to take him seriously. I thought it was a silly name then and I still do think it’s a silly name. Then I heard the song he blew up with, “Trap Queen”. I thought it was ridiculous then and…it has since grown on me. It’s still ridiculous, but it’s a catchy song that’s fun to jam to. He followed that up with the even catchier “679”, another song called “My Way”, and a debut album. Along the way, he’s won an MTV Award and scored AMA and Grammy noms. I don’t know if Fetty will stick around, but his debut year was actually pretty good.
#9. Chris Stapleton
I had never heard of Chris Stapleton prior to the announcement of the 2015 CMA Award nominations; I had to listen to some of his material for the sole purpose of my FearlessRiOT Forecast on the show. I did not expect that his album would be that damn good. It has a pure country sound, he has an amazing voice, and he’s not cliché like most male country stars in the mainstream scene. And the whole world had to take notice when he and Justin Timberlake commanded the stage together at the CMA Awards with probably my favorite award show performance of the year.
#8. Big Sean
Big Sean charted absolutely no songs on my Top 20 Countdown this year (most rappers didn’t, actually). If I could reset the year, I’d probably change that because looking back on the music he’s dropped this year, he actually had some legitimate bangers on his album Dark Sky Paradise. I didn’t think much of “Blessings” at first, but I actually came to like it. The Grammy-nominated “One Man Can Change the World” is a powerful record, and the “Play No Games” video is inspired by the 90s sitcom Martin. That’s just genius! Maybe I’ll pay him more attention next year.
#7. Blake Shelton
Boy, has Blake Shelton been controversial in 2015. After he and Miranda Lambert split, he ended up getting with his The Voice co-judge Gwen Stefani and the tabloids have been all over that. However, the 2016 Kids Choice Awards host did in fact release music this year, or at least chart some. Aside from his recently released single “Gonna”, his beautiful Ashley Monroe duet “Lonely Tonight” was still prevalent on radio going into 2015 and I feel like I’ve heard “Sangria” some 600 times when turning to the country station on my radio this year, and that’s not a complaint.
#6. J. Cole
Once again, I apologize for how much I over looked the generalized field of mainstream rap music in 2015 based on a few songs I found to be stinkers. Because some rappers were actually doing their thing pretty well this year looking back, and J. Cole is one of them. A rapper you either love for being a skilled spitter or hate for being a bit on the boring side, the guy does have some jams to his name from his Grammy-nominated album 2014 Forest Hills Drive. Also, he was a featured artist on Janet Jackson’s comeback single “No Sleeep”, and I really did enjoy that song.
#5. Eric Church
I first heard of Eric Church when his single “Springsteen” became one of the biggest country hits of 2012. Fast forward to 2014 and one of the most rocking musicians in the country genre has released the album The Outsiders. I heard singles from that album regularly on country radio this year, whether the ode to remembering the old times, “Talladega”, or the slow and hyperbolic sex song “Like a Wrecking Ball”. And shortly after his CMA Award win this year, he dropped a surprise album the name of “Mr. Misunderstood”, with a catchy title track that is growing on me.
#4. Ed Sheeran
OK, I can admit that I didn’t listen to Ed Sheeran as much this year as I did last year. Last year, he dropped the catchy “Sing” and the Lucy Pearl-sampled “Don’t”, the latter of which is the 19th most played song on my iPod as of this writing. But he also released “Thinking Out Loud”, which was a HUGE record for both him and wedding ceremonies all across the country. He followed it up with “Photograph”, which isn’t my favorite song in the world, but it was good enough. As of now, it seems the X Era has come to an end and we can look forward to a new Ed album.
#3. The Weeknd
Wow-wee, was The Weeknd everywhere this year. I wanna say he can thank Ariana Grande and Fifth Shades of Grey for that, mainly because they both gave him his first two Top 10 hits ever. But it’s not like The Weeknd hasn’t been on his grind for years. To reference his hit song, he has kind of earned it, making songs as funky as “Can’t Feel My Face” or as mysterious as “The Hills”. And the reward is that he’s either won or performed on almost every major music award show this year and he’s now one of the most nominated artists at the Grammy Awards for his success.
I feel like Drake was the King of Memes in 2015. I feel like people were waiting for Drake to do anything meme-worthy this year. His feud with Meek Mill inspired not only a Grammy-nominated diss track (Grammy. Nominated. Diss. Track. DRAKE! WINS!) in “Back-to-Back”, but many memes at Meek’s expense. The cover of If You’re Reading This, It’s Too Late was also meme’d up and down. But nothing compares to the memes we got from the music video for his Top 10 R&B hit “Hotline Bling”. So, Drake; you got anything else back there to break the Internet with?
#1. Kendrick Lamar
I didn’t even really need Taylor Swift’s co-sign to get into Kendrick Lamar. I first came across his music when “Swimming Pools (Drank)” was on the charts (it peaked at #3 on my own weekly Top 20 Countdown) and the album it came from, Good Kid, m.A.A.d City was so beloved, the Grammys got shit for not awarding it. Well, his polarizing follow-up, To Pimp A Butterfly, containing singles like “i”, “King Kunta”, and “Alright”, as well as many other unique tracks, helped in getting him the most Grammy nominations out of anyone for 2016. And he deserves them all.
“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16” was my jam this year, but that one song alone, even I it was on my Top 20 Countdown for a lengthy amount of time, was not enough to land him a spot on the list when I look back on the entire year.
It seems like people have just moved on with their lives after Dr. Dre dropped his first album in a bajillion years, Compton, but it was a huge deal at the time since it coincided with the huge theatrical release of Straight Outta Compton. And congrats to him for the Grammy nomination.
I didn’t expect to like anything this guy ever did; but “Stitches” was catchy enough to do the trick. And he followed it up by collaborating with Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello, who he may or may not also be dating in real life.
Prince released two albums this year and “1,000 X’s and O’s” gets regular R&B radio airplay these days. The albums are now available on Tidal (which I openly do not use), or you can just buy them physically like he surely wants you to.
I will give Justin Bieber props; it may be cool to hate on the guy, but I actually did dig a few of his songs this year. “Sorry” and “Where Are Ü Now” in particular were pretty good. So yeah, his personal behavior aside, I can give his musical endeavors a bit of approval.
He probably would have made the main list if I could ever make up my mind about this guy. I like his song “Break Up in a Small Town”, but just like his biggest hit, “Take Your Time”, he does that half-talking, half-singing thing that I can decide if I genuinely hate or not.
He released what I heard was supposed to be his final album this year and his song “Shame” has been blowing up; I’d love to hear more pure R&B such as this in the mainstream again. Let’s take it back to the early-2000s, shall we!
Which male singers/rappers did you have on repeat in 2015? Hit me up on Twitter @FearlessRiOT or leave a comment below. Stick around for more Year-End Top 10s!