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The State Hornet

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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

Into the Groove: Revisiting 2015, the best year of music in the last decade

Chris Woodard
“Into the Groove” will explore current, past and developing trends in music each week. For the column’s first edition, we will revisit 2015 and its significance on music today. (Graphic created in Canva by Chris Woodard)

Music critics and media nerds often reminisce about the best years of music like 1971, 1975 or 1994, but what is the best year of music in the last 10 years?

The answer? 2015.

Throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s, the music industry and artists were forced to find new ways to build income as pirating and illegal downloads became the norm. The streaming era began the final form of that evolution, which we still exist in today, started in 2015.

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Miss Americana & The Corporate Fruit

In the summer of 2015, renowned tech company Apple launched its streaming platform Apple Music. A competing service with the growing streaming platform, Spotify.

Apple Music’s launch offered every iPhone user a three-month free trial, iPhones accounted for about 43% of the world’s smartphones in 2015, according to Statista.

The word “free” in this case, is literally music to the audience’s ears, but are artists, bands, producers, writers, etc. fans of giving away their product for free? Enter Taylor Alison Swift.

Days before Apple Music launched, Swift penned an open letter to Apple condemning the company for asking artists to give their music away for free for up to three months. Additionally, she announced that her Apple Music catalog would have a blank space, as she pulled her most recent album “1989” from the platform.

“We don’t ask you for free iPhones,” Swift said in her open letter. “Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

A day later, Apple changed its policy during the trial period. However, the bad blood was far from over, the streaming era and streaming wars officially began.

Zone 6 vs. The World

Atlanta, Georgia is no stranger to establishing music trends with Grammy-winning artists like Outkast, Usher and TLC, but the city’s rap influence reached new heights in 2015 atop the shoulders of two rappers: Young Thug and Future.

Months before the term “SoundCloud rappers” was established and mostly decried, Young Thug and Future were setting a new standard for alternative rap. Thug’s 2015 release “Barter 6” and Future’s “DS2” are more straightforward, introspective and jovial than the average trap album from the American South.

The general rap audience of 2015 favored the more digestible work of J. Cole, Vince Staples or Kendrick Lamar and dismissed much of Thug and Future’s catalogs and the copycats that they spawned, as “mumble rap.”

Peer at these albums through the lens of 2023 and it is clear their influence has been glued to rap for almost a decade. For the Marvel nerds imagine it like this: Future and Thug are the Venom symbiote, which spawned Lil Baby as Carnage, Gunna as Riot, Playboi Carti as Anti-Venom and so forth.

Popline Bling

The early 2010s can be easily remembered by the EDM bubble that inflated and eventually burst. The effects of the bubble spread across multiple genres, but namely pop music.

2015’s top pop classics pushed the genre back to a contemporary landscape, thanks in large part to the return of Adele, Rihanna and the continued success of constant-hitmaker Drake.

In addition, The Weeknd rebounded after a disappointing flop with thrillers like “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills.” Alternative pop singer and producer Grimes released her magnum opus “Art Angels,” and Carly Rae Jepsen continued to surpass expectations with “Emotion” after her infectious hit “Call Me Maybe” flooded radios a few years prior.

Finally, those hoping to relive the force of the many hits of 2015 should revisit these songs:
“Them Changes” by Thundercat
“Inhale Exhale” by NAO
“Cha Cha” by DRAM
“Coffee” by Miguel

Current Classics

A year in music is not only defined by its history but the strength of its releases, and damn 2015 was strong.

Before 2015, artists like Kendrick Lamar and Tame Impala were already making a name for themselves across music blogs and genre purists, but they had not yet found their spot in the cultural zeitgeist.

Tame Impala’s 2015 release “Currents” morphed the band’s psychedelic sounds into pop bliss. Entirely mixed, recorded and produced by frontman Kevin Parker, “Currents” brought a new kind of indie rock into the mainstream. As the streaming wars began, Parker curated a genre-bending masterpiece whose production style is often mimicked today.

Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” became a call-to-action to the growing civil rights and progressive movements that continue today. Standout track “Alright” echoed through protests and the album’s cinematic feel and self-analyzing lyrics provided a critical reflection of Black America and America as a whole.

“To Pimp a Butterfly” stands as the best album of 2015, and the best album of the 2010s.

To hear more about this trend tune into the radio show “Into the Groove” this Wednesday at 5 p.m. hosted by KSSU.

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About the Contributor
Chris Woodard, Managing Editor
Chris Woodard joined The State Hornet in 2022 as a third-year transfer student. He previously worked as the editor-in-chief of Cosumnes River College’s publication, The Connection. He is a Sacramento native and hopes to cover arts & entertainment after graduating in the spring of 2024.
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