If you want to get to know someone — to really know what’s going through his mind — the secret can often be found in what music he’s listening to.
That may not be true of everyone, but it’s definitely true of me.
Every year can always be summed up by a playlist of the songs I listened to — the good and the bad.
My time capsule playlist for 2015 is no exception. Yes, I listened to podcasts and other things this year (shoutout to Why I Social, Here’s the Thing, and The Sporkful), but it’s the music on my year-end playlist that fills me with more memories and that will last for a longer time to come. For example …
There are the songs I associate with TV shows and movies, like “Everlong,” which the Foo Fighters played at the end of David Letterman’s final Late Show in May. Or “Call Me,” which St. Paul & the Broken Bones performed on The Late Show in January. Or “I Put a Spell on You,” which Annie Lennox performed at the Grammy Awards in February with Hozier, and which was also featured on the Fifty Shades of Grey soundtrack, along with the Weeknd’s “Earned It” and Ellie Goulding’s “Love Me Like You Do.” (For the record: bad movie, good soundtrack.) The Wings classic “Let ’Em In” was the unofficial theme song of While We’re Young, one of my favorite movies of the year. “The Sun Is Shining Down,” by JJ Grey & Mofro, makes me think of the final episode of House of Cards season three. The documentary Amy had me listening to and appreciating Amy Winehouse’s songs, particularly “Back to Black,” as if for the first time. Naturally, Mary J. Blige’s “Don’t Nobody Bring Me No Bad News” was a highlight of NBC’s The Wiz Live in December. Sia’s overproduced cover of “California Dreamin’” was just one of the guilty pleasures associated with the movie San Andreas, and “Can’t Bring Me Down,” from Dope, always put me in a good mood.
Some songs I associate with women I dated, such as James Bay’s “Hold Back the River,” Hozier’s “Someone New,” and Hall & Oates’ “You Make My Dreams.”
There were artists I was lucky enough to see live, like Jamie Cullum, James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Zac Brown Band, Barenaked Ladies (at Content Marketing World), Foreigner and Train (both at Workday Rising), and the Lone Bellow. Also worth remembering was Grey Season, who I discovered when they were playing live on Newbury Street on July 4th.
I identified with James Morrison when he sang about his “Demons” and the fact that he “needs a little time to work ’em out,” and couldn’t help but feel the melancholy of Sara Bareilles’ “She Used to Be Mine.”
In December, around the time Bruce Springsteen released his The Ties That Bind box set, and right before he performed on Saturday Night Live, I scored a ticket to see him live in February. I’ll be meeting him in the city that night. And on a related note, Bruce and Steven van Zandt both worked on Darlene Love’s excellent new album, which was released this year. A track from that album is on my playlist.
The climax of Tori Kelly’s “Nobody Love,” when the Wall of Sound–style horns kick in, and the grand, dramatic sound of Nate Ruess’ “Nothing Without Love” both made me want to turn the volume way up. Nate, by the way, appears on the playlist three times — thanks partly to his “Saturday Night” collabo with Brian Wilson. Likewise, it felt like Demi Lovato was with me all year long, whether she was dueting with Olly Murs on “Up,” exploring her bi-curious fantasies on “Cool for the Summer,” or asking what’s wrong with being “Confident.”
On a similar note (no pun intended), there were pop songs I couldn’t resist, like Meghan Trainor’s “Lips Are Moving,” Maroon 5’s “Sugar,” Carly Rae Jepsen’s “I Really Like You,” and, yes, Charlie Puth’s “Marvin Gaye.” (Don’t hate me.) And others I just couldn’t escape — hello, “Uptown Funk,” “I Can’t Feel My Face,” “Hotline Bling,” and yes, “Hello.” (Thankfully, Taylor Swift isn’t on Spotify.)
And then there was the Hamilton cast album — the closest I got to seeing the show on Broadway — which ends with the moving “Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story,” a song about legacy and what stories people will tell about us when we’re no longer here. It definitely made me think about how I want to put myself “back in the narrative” in 2016. Suffice it to say, it’s a perfect song to end the year, and the playlist, on.
In short, 2015 was a year that contained lots of memories, many of which were set to music. And that’s why, whenever I listen to it, my time capsule playlist for the year brings me back to individual moments and good times. I’m sure it always will.
Want to know what was going through my head this year? Take a listen for yourself. (Note: Songs are unranked, but appear in largely chronological order of when I was listening to them.)
What were YOUR most listened to songs in 2015? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!