10 Songs of 2015 With an Emoji Spirit Animal

Emoji are the most expressive form of communication. You can wince at that if you want, but it’s true. A singular emoji can express to a trained eye a particular mood, a current activity, or a political stance. Now if you believe that emoji are the latest example of the devolvement of language by teenagers, or that grown men shouldn’t use them, this is not the post for you.

Music is much like emoji, in that they can be emotionally expressive as the agents that create and consume them choose to, they can sum up an era, a philosophy, a present or past status in life. I found these similarities fascinating, selecting ten of my most frequently played tracks on Spotify from this year that perfectly expressed a message communicated through an emoji.

  1. 👀- ‘Where Are Ü Now’ — Jack Ü ft. Justin Bieber
Now I’m all alone and my joys turned to moping/Tell me, where are you now that I need you?

There’s a funky Diplo beat, a dolphin- like vocal reverberation courtesy of Skrillex, and the divisiveness of Justin Bieber’s public persona indelibly attached to this song. While those elements all add to one of the best pop songs this year, they are nothing more than smokescreens.This song is about one thing: the search. Bieber is looking for someone to rid him of his moping, that he can entrust his faith with, to reciprocate the “ attention when no one else was paying. Who or what is he looking for , exactly? An ex-girlfriend? The love of his fans? God? All are plausible, but it is clear that he has his wide eyes open, searching.

2. 😜 — I Know There’s Gonna Be(Good Times) -Jamie xx ft. Young Thug & Popcaan[Explicit]

Good times, there’s gon’ be some good times/Remember we used to pull up and let ’em fight? That’s that hood time

Remember when rappers were fun? It is difficult to hear fun come through on a hip-hop track in 2015, given their massive commercial ubiquity, profit potential, and subsequent saturation and sameness. Jamie xx manages to craft a fresh dancehall riddim, splice it with a sample of a soul a-capella song from the 70’s, and allows Young Thug the room to be Young Thug. As one of the most effervescent rappers of this decade, his shriek tone and fantastical rhymes mesh well with the floaty production. The addition of Popcaan increases its dancehall credibility and summer fun danceability.

3. 😏 — ‘Drip Drop’ -Empire Cast ft. Yazz and Serayah McNeill

You hella pretty, are you from the city?/Let me put you in a viddy, maybe later on say Hello Kitty

One of the main factors of Empire’s astounding success in its first season is the accurate depiction of hip-hop culture. Most of the songs were not mind-blowing, but you could believe that they’d be played in heavy rotation on your local urban radio stations and clubs. Yazz, a Philadelphia native( He plays Jamal) oozes the youthful bravado, playful ambition, and unabashed announcement of presence that the [insert emoji] typifies. Lyrics don’t matter here, it is the way he spits said lyrics that make all the difference in mood.

4. ✊🏿 — ‘I’- Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar’i
“ I done been through a whole lot/Trial, tribulation, but I know God”

The first line speaks volumes for the message that Kendrick conveys in this song: Yeah, he’s faced adversity in his life, but he’s damn sure thankful that,due to his faith, he’s still around to talk about it. In under four minutes, Lamar touches on self-doubt, depression, and urban decay, yet it never feels cynical or morose; the lyrics aspire for progress and better days over the funky Isley Brothers’ sample. The refrain of ‘i love myself’ is simple, yet politically potent and in a year where one group of Americans asked why their existence and humanity are not valued ,and another didn’t understand why they were asking the question.

5. 👊 – ‘Alive’- Sia

You took it all, but I’m still breathing

Over the course of her career, Sia has mastered the formula for writing an anthemic pop song( “ Titanium”, “Chandelier”, “Diamonds”), yet her delivery of ‘ Alive’ elevates it to another stratosphere. The emoji most commonly used for mastering a challenging workout, acing a test, or killing a work project is fitting, as Sia sounds as if she is triumphantly gasping for air by the end of the track, but she’s “ still breathing”.

6. 😘 — ‘Cool for the Summer’- Demi Lovato [Explicit]

What’s my prize?/I just wanna play with you, too

Every summer, a song in this vein is released: Girl meets boy. Girl flirts with boy. Girl makes short-term, seasonal commitment to boy’s presence. It is formulaic, but that is not always a criticism. After all, we wouldn’t use formulas if they didn’t garner positive results, right? Lovato acheives the breezy, sultry, and confident stance that the kissy-face emoji signifies, using the same formula that breathy female pop singers have utilized in the past, but does it right.

7. 👴🏿- ‘Smooth Sailin’’- Leon Bridges

She’s smooth sailin’/These concrete seas
Now she’s headed/East down the boule — the vard

If you told someone that this song came out in 1964, it wouldn’t be completely unbelievable. You might have to convince them that it was remastered since high fidelity audio did not exist fifty years ago, though. ‘Smooth Sailin’’ perfectly captures the charm and earnesty that made the Sam Cooke sound so infectious, yet none of it sounds dated. Your mood should improve by at least 25% after hearing this song for the first time. If you’ve been told that you have an old soul all of your life, it is perfect for the elderly man emoji.

8. 😎 — ‘Daffodils’- Mark Ronson ft. Kevin Parker

Drop another daffodil/ sail right off the map until morning

Think of the coolest person that you know. You know exactly who I’m talking about. They’re the one who always attune to the newest music, the latest fashion trends, the best restaurants and food trucks. When you wear Aviators, you look pretentious, but when they wear Aviators, they reach the pinnacle of cool. Now if you knew Mark Ronson personally, he’d be that person, and if no one in your social circle comes to mind, then, congrats, you are that person! If you’re not lucky enough to be the cool one, don’t fret, because Ronson’s ‘ Daffodils’ emulates a ‘driving a Tesla through Williamsburg’ with laid-back percussion, looping bass, and echoing laser sounds.

9. 💁🏼 — ‘She’s Not Me’ - Jenny Lewis

But she’s not me, she’s easy

Full disclosure, I did not know of Jenny Lewis until last year and was absconded by my friends who put me in indie credibility purgatory until I learned of and loved her. I enjoyed the Rilo Kiley deep cuts and found The Voyager album pleasant enough, but I was completely blown away by this song. Above all else, it’s an R&B song, whether you know it or not. The “ I’m better than your current girlfriend” is a common trope in female R&B songs, so it is refreshing to hear an alt-rock veteran utilizing the same elements, with a carefree attitude and a rocking guitar solo to back it.

10. 👌🏿 — ‘I Feel Good’ — Thomas Rhett

My team won in overtime/I’m three sheets on Bud Light Lime
Don’t taste good but that’s alright now

If you’ve got an extra pep in your step, just got paid, or had the best carnitas burrito with extra guacamole, this is the song for you. If you don’t like country music, don’t be afraid, this is simply a pop-rap song with a slight twang. Rhett exudes a casual and upbeat demeanor that is so fortified, that he’s not even phased by the sub-par taste of Bud Light Lime. You could say that the featured rapper, Lunchmoney Lewis, is the Bud Light Lime of this song, as his lackluster rhymes thankfully don’t detract from the lighthearted track. As Rhett says, “ that’s alright now”.

Here’s a full playlist of 10 songs of 2015 With An Emoji Spirit Animal:

What are your favorite songs from with an emoji spirit animal? Let me know in the comments, and follow me on Spotify, Twitter, and Facebook for more.