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“Woke up an optimist/Sun was shining, I’m positive.” —Kanye West, “FourFiveSeconds”
Remember 2014? It was terrible. Michael Brown. Ebola. Robin Williams. An airplane that fucking disappeared. But at the stroke of midnight, we ushered in a new year and, against all logic, the hope for better things to come.
So who better to deliver us to redemption than Yeezus himself? Kanye’s first words on "FourFiveSeconds," released in January, captured our cautious optimism as we turned a new page and mistakenly wrote “’14” on it. Listen to the kids, bruh! 2015 had a shot.
“I can’t feel my face when I’m with you/But I love it.” —The Weeknd, “Can’t Feel My Face”
Then, reality hit. Bad habits die hard, and despite our New Year’s resolutions to, I dunno, maybe stop shooting each other constantly...we couldn’t quite stick to them.
The Weeknd, the only artist with two songs on this list, was oddly prescient about 2015 with his love letter to self-destructive “relationships.” Guns! Police brutality! Thinking a racist, misogynistic billionaire running for president was hilarious! The dawn of 2015 saw us quickly fall nose-first into our worst addictions once again. It was hard to love it.
“I ain’t never need a man to take care of me.” —Nicki Minaj, “Truffle Butter”
But it wasn’t all bad. If 2014 was the year feminism re-entered the pop-culture conversation, 2015 was the year it came to collect. Badass women ruled our screens, from Mad Max’s Imperator Furiosa to Jessica Jones to Star Wars’ Rey. And real-life superwomen, from Malala to Serena Williams to the World Cup soccer champion U.S. Women’s National Team (still feels great to say that), ruled the rest.
Starting with her verse on 2010’s “Monster,” Minaj made a habit of owning male-dominated tracks. Five years later, she’s dominating the whole genre. From the rap game to the big screen to (hopefully) the White House, ladies are running shit. There’s still a lot of work to be done, but Feminism 2016 shows no signs of slowing down.
“Love's a game/Wanna play?” —Taylor Swift, “Blank Space”
Speaking of powerful women, 2015 might eventually go down as Year One of Our Supreme Squad Leader, Taylor Swift. But that’s a different story. This lyric sums up another of the year’s themes: the game-ification of love.
This was the year “swipe right” went from a self-conscious joke to a viable answer to “How’d you guys meet?” Tinder begat Happn begat Bumble begat a zillion more, and they all make for pretty great bar games. Hell, some of you will probably swipe with Grandma at Christmas. What it means for the future is uncertain, but this year was a turning point for the stigma of online dating. Now it’s a game we all wanna play.
“I might let your boy chauffeur me/But he gotta eat the booty like groceries.” —Jhene Aiko, “Post to Be”
Speaking of love, 2015 cemented The Booty as the “it” destination for lovers everywhere. Most notably, there was Allison Williams’ analingus adventure in the first episode of HBO’s Girls that — less than two weeks into the year — locked down 2015’s crown for “Worst Thing to Happen With Your Parents in the Room” (though, if you’re watching any HBO series with your parents, you’re asking for it).
Then summer came, and with it, the undisputed Lyric of the Year in Jhene Aiko’s ode to the grocery aisle less traveled. In an interview with MTV about the brilliant line, Aiko explained, “I wanted my part to be funny and unexpected, and, ironically, ‘groceries’ rhymes with ‘post to be,’ and so it works.” Amazing.