By Jack Sharkey, January 13, 2017

For the next 50 weeks we’re going to offer up five songs from each of the last fifty years that tell the story of music as it existed during that year, and how that music ultimately played a role in getting us to where we are today.

Some of the 250 songs will be giant hits and some will be somewhat obscure: To make the list a song needs to be representative of the time, or the beginning or end of a particular style or movement. Was the song an important part of the year or was it a harbinger of things to come? Did other artists copy the style or feel of the song and turn that into a whole new stylistic movement? The songs are not ranked in anyway, as each one played an equal part in the year in music.

Just like music doesn’t just exist only in the past, music can never exist without a vision of what has gone before. Music evolves and changes pretty much based on what one musician takes from a musician who has gone before. Like every subjective list of art, we hope this will at times make sense and at others spark debate (and maybe even a little criticism). Take the trip with us in 2017 as we look back on the music that got us to where we are today.

 

2015

The turmoil of the transition to a completely digitally-based music industry was at it's peak in 2015. The question we are all asking is how long will this peak last? The musical style of the mid-twenty-teens was on full-on display in 2015, but surprising throw-backs to the 20th Century made a splash, so just like with every year, 2015 was a mixed bag of new and old, ground-breaking and homage. 

 

Major Lazer (featuring DJ Snake) - Lean On. With its common melodic form of low notes at the beginning of the phrase followed by higher pitches at the end of each phrase, Lean On also takes snippets from EDM and Indian pop and Bollywood rhythms to offer a fresh take on a style that by now could be getting kind of dull.

 

Mark Ronson - Uptown Funk (ft. Bruno Mars). James Brown meet Walk The Dinosaur. 1968 meet 1984. But this song couldn't have been written and produced in any other year but 2015. Years from now, old people at weddings will watch as kids not even born yet dance to this one before the bride and groom cut the space cake.

 

Coming Home - Leon Bridges. Back in the day, people in Mississippi, Alabama and southwestern Tennessee made music like Coming Home. In case you're wondering, Sam Cooke was born in Clarksdale, MS. Leon Bridges was born in Atlanta, but whether physically or spiritually, he spent a lot of time Clarksdale. Don't forget to dig on the retro-sound of the ride cymbal and the background singers. 

 

Stitches - Shawn Mendes. This one makes the list because if we needed one song to put on a space craft we were sending to aliens 50 light years away that was musically representative of 2015, this would be that song. Take the nasal affectations and tight vibrato of Mendes' voice over a repetitive lyric and hook all mixed on top of a programmed rhythm track with minimal mid-range chording and you've got pop music in 2015. The melodic style of low entrance followed by high exit from a phrase will also mark this song as being from this time period. That's not a review either way, it's a dissection of what makes popular music today.

 

Bad Blood ft. Kendrick Lamar - Taylor Swift. Is she country? Is she pop? Is she hip-hop? Is she an aspiring movie star? Is she a cultural force to be reckoned with who also knows how to work the business to her benefit? Yes. You dont' have to like Taylor Swift, but you do have to respect her (or she'll write a song about you).

Follow 50 Years - 50 Songs - 50 Weeks on Spotify

Spotify