In Hear This, The A.V. Club writers sing the praises of songs they know well. This week, in honor of The Grammys, we’re stumping for songs we think should have been nominated for “Song Of The Year.”
2015 was a hell of a year for great pop songs. But it may have been even better as a showcase for pop music specifically crafted to get people on the dance floor. Demi Lovato, Major Lazer, Justin Bieber, and a host of others all made big contributions to the noble pursuit of shaking your ass. Still, Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars are almost certainly the grand champions of the year, with “Uptown Funk” being the inescapable juggernaut that steamrolled all other tunes in its path. The song was massive, the kind of track that will likely take its place alongside “Hey Ya!” as a new staple of weddings and bar mitzvahs for years to come. As such, the massive commercial hit will overshadow most competitors in the long run—and unfortunately, that includes an under-appreciated gem which, in a just universe, would shove Mars off the throne and claim the top dance jam of the year award for itself.
The Go! Team’s “The Art Of Getting By (Song For Heaven’s Gate)” is the perfect distillation of a scrappy underdog musical vibe paired with everything that makes a dance-floor rave-up joyous. Forgoing the more overt hip-hop and sample-driven sounds of previous albums, band Svengali Ian Parton went back to pop roots, drawing on the tradition of melody-based songwriting to craft The Scene Between, the album that houses this celebratory confection. And all the elements that make the album great—the charming and ramshackly lo-fi vibe, the potent hooks, the slinky rhythms—reach their zenith in this, the penultimate track and high point of not just this record, but of dance-pop for the year.
Also, take a look at that title, because the parenthetical addendum makes it so much cooler. Suddenly, a song that sounds like an inspirational call to live your life the only way you know how gets a deliciously anarchic twist. The Heaven’s Gate cult, whose members killed themselves while wearing identical sweatpants and brand-new Nikes, believed it was their destiny to have their spirits board an alien space craft supposedly hidden behind the Hale-Bopp comet. Parton’s track makes their insanity sound downright delightful: “Taking the only way we know / Taking the only thing that matters,” goes the refrain, turning mass suicide into a peppy rallying cry. The percussion pops and grooves, the rhythm pulls you in, and just like that, a song about a UFO-worshipping cult becomes the feel-good jam of the year. Take that, funk, and bring your uptown neighborhood with you.