Another Idea About 2015 Music's 2015-ness

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Yesterday, I wrote that Major Lazer’s “Lean On” is probably the most 2015 song of 2015: not only the most streamed track of the year, but also one that encapsulates a few recent, big trends. So it’s no surprise to see it featured in Jordan Roseman’s annual mashup of 365 days in pop. It’s worth noting, though the compilation also offers a reminder of some sonic fads I didn’t mention:

“Music has been going through a softer phase than it was a few years ago so there's that return of adult contemporary,” Roseman, a.k.a. DJ Earworm, told Billboard. “That’s maybe represented by the Ellie Goulding track, it’s very lush and soft. And then there's sort of retro, uptempo dance stuff, and that's represented by The Weeknd track."

Yeah, definitely. This was a year of soft-focus pop—perhaps best encapsulated by Drake going all croony for “Hotline Bling”—and of analogue disco sounds, as shown in “I Can’t Feel My Face,” “Uptown Funk,” “Jealous,” and “Want to Want Me” (also Kendrick Lamar’s “King Kunta” and Macklemore’s “Downtown,” neither of which made DJ Earworm’s cut). The 50 Shades of Grey soundtrack turned out to be surprisingly influential in setting that tone, offering up Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do” and The Weeknd’s “Earned It.” Even the breakout rapper of the year, Fetty Wap, was pretty lovey-dovey. Hearing all of this in one place is fun, but here’s a plea for hitmakers in 2016: Get noisy again.