100 Songs, 2015
I wasn’t sure if I was going to do this this year.
I’ve done it for every year of this decade so far, but ever since moving to Chicago in 2013 I’ve felt more and more disconnected from the internet conversations around pop music that, for many of you, was the reason you started following me in the first place. Much of the attention I had once focused on music I am now focusing on comics; and, not to be crass, on the mechanics of survival and whatever the step between that and thriving is. I could let my 2010-2014 lists stand as a memorial of a half-decade on which I could look back fondly but of which I no longer felt a part. I’ve done it before; I made mixes of new music between 2001 and 2007 that do not at all represent my current taste, but which I occasionally return to because I enjoy remembering being that person.
But something happened. What had been a minor strain in my new-music consumption over the past few years – my occasional fits and starts of seeking out new pop music from around the world, particularly from the “third world,” the “global south,” or whatever condescending phrase is currently in use to describe the nations of the world which have historically been colonized and stolen from, and which are now kept in poverty and debt as a mean of maintaining the wealth and power of the imperial powers – blossomed into a year-long deep dive into a bunch of different pop scenes from around the world, but focused largely on the Portuguese-speaking African nations and their diaspora. I’ve discussed many of the fruits of that dive in my tag 2015 music; there are many more that I’ve saved to various playlists on various platforms and may never get around to sharing. (And even more I’ve entirely forgotten.) But while in previous years it always felt a little like forcing square pegs into round holes to add the wildly disparate fruits of my global-pop scavenging expeditions into the more precisely-pitched aesthetic of my slick, mildly adventurous Anglophone pop diet, this was the first year that I felt the Afropop, the East Asian pop, and the Latin pop didn’t just belong in the mix, but improved it.
My top ten is less than 50% in English (unless you count the bilingual song, in which case it’s exactly 50%), which wasn’t deliberate but it was representative. I joked on Twitter that at this rate there will be no English-language music on my year-end list by the end of the decade, but of course I was forgetting that a great deal of Afropop is in English.
Last year I did a whole lot of last-minute Spotify-surfing to try to get my list up to 100, and had the pleasure of seeing some of my last-minute picks become hits over the course of 2015; this year I left off a couple hundred great contenders (many of which I was introduced to by participating in the Singles Jukebox), because there were too many I loved more. And, of course, I’ve only scratched the surface. Just because I listen to more global pop than most US listeners doesn’t mean I’ve listened to any global pop at all, mathematically-speaking.
No write-ups this year, because I’m less inclined than ever to spill out words for a barely-interested audience. The music speaks for itself, anyway. If you want me to tell you why I love a particular piece of music, ask.
I may not be able to say.