The 50 Best Soul Songs of 2015

(December 16, 2015) It is always fun at the end of each year to celebrate the best of that year.  And 2015 had a lot of great music. And so we've gathered our music critics to each pick their favorites, which we've assembled below in our list of the 50 Best Soul Songs of 2015.   

See Also
The 30 Best Albums of 2015
The Artist of the Year

(December 16, 2015) It is always fun at the end of each year to celebrate the best of that year.  And 2015 had a lot of great music. And so we've gathered our music critics to each pick their favorites, which we've assembled below in our list of the 50 Best Soul Songs of 2015.   

See Also
The 30 Best Albums of 2015
The Artist of the Year

The toughest part of this is limiting the choices, but here are the selections from Chris Rizik (CR), L. Michael Gipson (LMG), J. Matthew Cobb (JMC), Melody Charles (MC), Peggy Oliver (PO), Robb Patryk (RP), Justin Kantor (JMK), Ann Marie Collymore (AMC) and Howard Dukes (HD).  You can click on the song titles below to listen to these fantastic songs. Congratulations to the artists involved!

Our Critics' Picks - The 50 Best Songs of the Year (in artist alphabetical order)

Alabama Shakes: “Gimme All Your Love Gut-bucket Southern Soul cries howl against raging blues rock guitars and throbbing drums. It’s classic rock and classic soul all rolled up in one of the best power ballads of the year.

Alessia Cara: “HereWith a relentless flow over a track of cinematic street grit and pure suburbia lyricism, Cara delivered perhaps the most honest bit of hip hop soul to come along in a long while.

Andra Day: “Not Today – The inevitable comparisons to Amy Winehouse aside, this wall of sound retro soul ballad tells a melancholic story written in a poetry that is uniquely Day.

Conya Doss: “You Got Me – This Cleveland chanteuse has been gracing tracks with pure silk for nearly 15 years and everything about this finger-popping, smoothed out R&B reminds us why she’s still standing tall.  

Shaun Escoffery:Perfect Love Affair” – Sweeping and panoramic, dance’s soul man proves he can handle heartfelt R&B with masculine ease and a sultry grace.

Johnny Gill feat. New Edition: "This One's For Me and You" -- The full New Edition reunion album didn't come out this year, but if this tasty midtempo is a preview, then we'll be all aboard. (CR)

Terisa Griffin: "Oh Me Oh My" -- With co-producer Dedry Jones, Terisa Griffin makes an Aretha Franklin classic all her own, and shows us, yet again, why she is one of the great soul singers of our time. (CR)

Samm Henshaw: “Redemption – Before he was tomorrow’s next major label big thing, he was reminding us how fresh roots music can be, especially when this powerfully and spiritually sung.

Isma Hill: “The Line (ft. Darien Dean & Erik Truffaz) – A smoky soulful jazz ballad sincerely delivered with a hint of Stevie Wonder and more than a hint of a groove.  

Idesia: “Nu – The heartbeat of a bassline immediately captures the ear, but its the cool and smooth vocal, bright lights chords, and bumping electric bass that keeps your attention…and head bobbing. 

The Internet: “Girl (ft. Kaytranada) – There are many reasons the eclectic Ego Death was one of 2015’s most celebrated albums, but this sinewy midnight melody undressing our ears was definitely among the top five on that laundry list.

Jermaine Jackson: "Summer Time Feeling" -- In what may have been the least expected return of 2015, brother Jermaine returned with a feel good, sunny day kind of song that made us smile. (CR)

Boney James ft. Stokely Williams: “Either Way” - A man who's enjoying the emotions he's developing with a woman, but wanting to define what they are and where the union, such as it is, may be headed: Boney James' sax swirls plaintively around Stokley's vocals and swells with each stretch of emotion, taking fans of both into the uncharted, yet exhilarating territories that their seasoned skill sets provide. James and Williams both hit notes that must be heard, and experienced, to be believed. (MC)

Keith James: “Not My Day – It’s peppy energy and real world lyrics about the universal experience of a day gone wrong was easily one of the most inventive and infectious of the year.

Joe: “Hello” -- Even though it is really just a video, this cover of Adele`s recent single “Hello” blows every other cover to the wayside. Joe Thomas AKA Joe, is an artist that I sincerely believe is underrated on so many levels. His vocal ability is clearly above par to what we are exposed to on the daily, and I`ve been a bonfide fan of his since his stellar debut album Joe (who can forget “I'm in Love”!?). Soultrackers, please. I purposely didn’t post this video on the Soultracks Countdown, because  it truly deserves a space of its own. (AMC)  

Eryn Allen Kane: “Piano Song – A plaintive, pop piano ballad evolves into a soul tour de force with such an unexpected surprise that you have to play it again and again to make sure your ears haven’t deceived you.

Kenya feat. Kloud 9: "Be Here" -  Newcomer Kenya teams with songwriting/production pros Kloud 9 to debut with a beautiful ballad that has an Isley Brothers feel and great performances all around. (CR) 

Kwabs: "Fight For Love-- The toughest decision was not whether to include a song from Kwabena Adjepong, aka Kwabs, but which one. This accessible dance song is a glorious earworm, destined for repeat play after repeat play. (CR)

Katie Leone: “Prism of Light –Daniel Sembello of “Neutron Dance” and “Stir It Up” fame would have been proud of this up-tempo soul pop jam that would’ve been right at home on the action adventure soundtracks of the ‘80s, big vocals and all. 

Lianne La Havas: “Midnight – From the triumphant announcement of the opening horns, this haunting, mid-tempo jam is a runaway train, but it’s not going to Georgia; no, sir, this is the straight-up UK Soul Express. All aboard! 

Kenny Lattimore: “Back 2 Cool (ft. Kelly Price) – Coming back with an album every bit as good as his critically acclaimed debut, this duet with Kelly Price was just one of several instant R&B loverman classics of the highest order. Lattimore is back! 

Meaghan Maples: “Feet On The Ground – It begins simply and grows in lushness and in its two-step disco, all while keeping the soul sublimely humming along. 

Shaun Martin: “Love, Don’t Let Me Down (ft. Claudia Melton) – A standout in one of the most underrated jazz albums of 2015, there’s something elegant and wistful about this conversation with love.

Maysa ft. Stokley Williams: "Keep It Movin'"- Get right or get left, commit or cop out: it's an age-old dilemma that long-term modern couples still wrestle with, but who ever heard it sound so fly and funky before? Williams' tenor earnestly begs the question as Maysa's silken alto throws hidden barbs and stealthy signs of eroding patience until, by the end of the jam, she's a distant memory and he's left to pick up the pieces. One of the most memorable jams of 2015. (MC)

Tony Momrelle: "All The Things You Are- Our Editor's pick for album of the year yielded a song that would have fit in any decade of our lifetimes. It is that timeless. (CR)

Phil Perry: "A Better Man" -- Phil Perry has spent the last decade focusing mostly on cover songs, but he shines on this original composition, his biggest hit in years. (CR)

Purple Crayon: After You –They hit hard and fast early in the year, but unfortunately fell off the tastemakers’ radars much too quickly. Hopefully, this sweet, organic morsel puts this über-talented band back on there just as fast.

The Rebirth: “This Is Coming To?” – You’ll be hard pressed to find another composition like the circular percussion and layered harmonies of this funk experimentation that shouldn’t work, but not only works, you can’t turn it off repeat.

Indra Rios-Moore: "Heroes" from her album Heartland.  The cover track of the year, Indra teases out the romance, and poetry, buried in David Bowie's original.  (RP).

Carmen Rodgers: “Charge (ft. Anthony David) – This was a great year for soul duets, but the juxtaposition of David’s gritty baritone against Rodgers creamy alto was something everlasting.

Rogiérs: “I Found A Groove – Pelvis to pelvis, a firm hand at the small of your back, a gentle sway in the evening breeze—everything an old school slow jam should be.

Jill Scott: "You Don't Know" -- We all knew Jill Scott was something special, but she killed this bluesy, emotional ballad in a way that even her biggest fans may not have expected. Just chilling. (CR)

Silk: "Love 4 You 2 Like Me" -- While they may have scored big two decades ago with the lurid hit "Freak Me," Silk returned this year with a song that was just as lovingly sweet as their always on-point harmonies. (CR)

Six Minutes To Sunrise: “Let It Flow (ft. Kay the Foundation) – Sumptuous harmonies that recalls Eric Roberson, The Jazzyfatnastees, and Take 6 all at once, Tanika Keys, Ron John, and Shawn Taylor made this neo-soul flow all their own.

Antonique Smith: “Got What I Need – We’ve only a handful of tuneful belters these days, but this Grammy-nominated singer of 2014’s brilliant “Hold Up Wait A Minute (Woo-Woo)” fame followed it up with another climbing driver that’s every bit as good as her powerhouse debut.

Snoop Dogg: “California Roll (ft. Stevie Wonder & Pharrell Williams) – Who’d have thunk it? What was as unlikely a collaboration as they come churned out a golden hazed summer day rolling down the block in a low rider and just enjoying the L.A. sunshine.

Jordin Sparks & Elijah Blake: "Unhappy" from Jordan's album Right Here, Right Now.  The "contemporary" R&B duet of the year featuring sublime vocals and heartfelt performances. (RP).

Kandace Springs: “West Coast – Pulsing hip-hop soul with urbane sophistication and a pop culture sense of humor built right into a track that is ironically more NYC than L.A., title be damned.

Sid Sriram: “Moments of Weakness (Live) – It’s his intermix of various cultural influences and genress that makes Sriram one of the most adventurous young talents working today and this glorious ballad is just one in a long line we’ve loved.

Angie Stone and Dave Hollister: “Begin Again - "New clothes and cologne, I'm in the gym/I'm out with her, you're out with him." Leaving 'old and comfy' can sound exciting until one gets out and endures 'new and strange,' and that's what Angie Stone and Dave Hollister admit to one another when they find astroturf on the other side after breaking up and want to come back home in "Begin Again." Urgent pleas over a leisurely stroll of a beat combine the strengths of two of R&B's sultriest performers and bear out the message that hmmm, maybe keeping it fresh within the relatonship, rather than starting over again from scratch, is where it's at. (MC)

Jazmine Sullivan: “Mascara – On one of year’s most original songs, Sullivan took a major risk by telling the cold and calculated story of a certain kind of female hustler from the first-person POV, taking the chance that listeners might think she was speaking of herself. Instead the gambit only made us have a sad compassion for the girl who never leaves home without her mascara on. 

Tamia: “Chaise Lounge – Sultry and grown, mid-career Tamia has been delivering stunning vocal performances to intimate songs devoted to married folks love for those actually still in love with one another…and getting it in.

Tinashe: "Wrong" from her free mixtape Amethyst.  The slow jam of the year, sultry vocals atop a driving, memorable beat.  (RP).

Andreya Triana: “Gold – Foot-stomping to a Motown backbeat, a gospel call and response choir, and a gutsy alto lead all make it fiyah out that gate, but its the feel good lyrics that make it gold. 

Chris Turner feat. Jarrod Lawson – “You Got Me -- The fantastic Portland coming out album, Bespeak Me, first hit us with this classic single, a beautiful slice of Philly soul from the other side of the continent. (CR)

Tyrese feat. Jennifer Hudson: "Shame" - The first single from the biggest indie soul album of the year, "Shame" was an instant classic song and video that wrought emotions in a way few songs in 2015 still do. (CR)

Lindsey Webster: “Fool Me Once – AM radio meets singer-songwriter soul that’s familiar, and refreshingly musical.

Young Gun Silver Fox: “Long Way Back – Mama’s Gun frontman Andy Platts is as sincere and yearning as he’s ever been on Shawn Lee’s blue lights in the basement production that channels the Issac Hayes and David Porter soundscapes of old.

 

50 Honorable Mentions:

Abiah – “Sorry”
Oleta Adams – “Long and Lonely Nights”
After 7 – "I Want You"
All-4-One – “Baby Love”
ASH – “Anyway”
K. Avett – “Cant Stand” 
Maya Azucena –"Black Butterfly"
Candace Bellamy – “Try a Little Tenderness”
Regina Belle – “He’s Alright”
Black Violin feat. Melanie Fiona – "Send Me A Sign"
Jeff Bradshaw feat. Eric Roberson and Tweet – “All Time Love”
Charity - "Beautiful Moments"
Tessanne Chin - "Heaven Knows"
Walter Christopher – “Just Us Two”
Gwendolyn Collins – “I Think I Like U”
Nichelle Colvin – “Dawned on You” 
The Dangerfeel Newbies – “Love From the Sun”
Andra Day –"Mistakes"
Raheem DeVaughn – "Queen"
Will Downing – “Never Say No to You”
Melanie Durrant – “By Your Side”
R’Mone Entonio – “Without You”
guiltypleasures – "A Song With You In It"
Judith Hill – “Beautiful Life”
Jennifer Hudson – “I Run”
Janet Jackson - "Unbreakable"
José James – “Tenderly” (cover)
Indira Khan – “Bathe Me”
Emily King – “Out Of The Clouds”
Berget Lewis – “Aviator”
Lina – “Dip”
Maysa & Phil Perry –"Last Chance for Love"
Meeco – “Every Day (ft. Aaron Marcellus, Jean Baylor, & Kirk Whalum)
Meleka – “Can We Talk” (cover)
Tahira Memory – "Pride"
The Milk – “Favourite Worry” 
Teedra Moses feat. Anthony Hamilton – “That One”
Farnell Newton feat. Jarrod Lawson and Tony Ozier – "Peace + Love"
Jill Scott – “Closure”
Jordin Sparks – “They Don’t Give”
Mavis Staples – “Your Good Fortune
Angie Stone – "Dollar Bill"
Allen Stone – "Freedom"
SuCh – "Maybe I'm Amazed"
Malice & Mario Sweet – “Love and Friendship"
Rhonda Thomas - "Show Me How To Love You"
Young Gun Sllver Fox –"You Can Feel It"
Nate Williams – "D T M B"
Charlie Wilson – "Touched By An Angel" 
Jaime Woods – “Can’t Let It Go”
MNEK – “In Your Clouds”


 
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