Music

UPROXX Music’s Best Singles Of 2015

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The year in singles has so many stories to tell, that we don’t even have the time to address all the mini-plotlines. There was the Bieber-ssaince to redeem him back to glory, after years of such shame. (SHAME.) Adele had us weep openly and embarrass ourselves among certain friends who don’t text back anymore. And Fetty Wap had a streak only rivaled by a select few, all while having millions of people gleefully singing a four-digit number (you know the one).

Considering all of the unforgettable singles that dropped this year, we somehow had to determine the 40 that were head and shoulders above the rest. Here is Uproxx Music’s Best Singles of 2015.

40. The Dead Weather – “I Feel Love”

It’s pretty hard to deny how much this sounds like a Led Zeppelin song, but hey, that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. What this song may lack in originality, it makes up for in sheer badassery, as Jack White’s Page-esque riff combines Alison Mosshart’s sultry vocals to create one of the coolest sounding songs of the year.
-John Hugar (@john_hugar)

39. Carly Rae Jepsen – “I Really Like You”

If we’re being honest, most of us probably wrote Carly Rae Jepsen off as a one-hit wonder after “Call Me Maybe” a few years back — but then she kicked this year off with America’s Sweetheart, Tom Hanks, and we were totally into it.

When your friends want to judge you and question why you like her so much, like mine have on countless occasions, send them this video – my adoration for this album has been questioned so many times, and when I send them this video, they get it. It’s absolutely impossible to deny this song and Tom Hanks’ charm when paired together. With that said, I’d like to send a sincere thank you to Tom for helping me ease all my friends into Carly (and for shaking my hand earlier this year, that was pretty great).
– Spencer Hansen (@_andampers)

38. A$AP Rocky – “Everyday”

The thought of A$AP Rocky, Miguel, and Rod Stewart on a track sounds like the result of a weird mad lib that was completed by your grandma and your stoner cousin, yet “Everyday” somehow combines the three artists in the best way possible. A Rod Stewart sample handles the chorus with assistance from Miguel, and A$AP’s verses are top notch. The highlight of the song is Miguel’s bridge which really flaunts his vocal range and flexibility.

Most rappers might find a Rod Stewart sample as wack or a hindrance while someone like A$AP Rocky uses it to his advantage to create one of the best songs of the year.
-Spencer Linstead (@spencerlinstead)

37. Jason Derulo – “Want to Want Me”

Jason Derulo has a knack for writing super catchy songs, dating back to his beginnings as a songwriter for the likes of Lil Wayne, Pitbull, and Cassie. But 11 platinum singles into his solo career, the Miami native somehow produced his most infectious hit yet with “Want to Want Me.”

Moving away from the raunchiness of “Talk Dirty” and “Wiggle,” Derulo returned to form with an addictive chorus and equally contagious beat. It’s the R&B singer doing what he does best — releasing guilt-free earworms. -Eddie Fu (@eddiefu)

36. Florence + The Machine – “Ship to Wreck”

We really only know AM radio as the home of baseball and talk radio, but once upon a time, AM radio was where rock ‘n roll lived. I have to imagine “Ship to Wreck” would sound amazing coming across the AM dial, in between The Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac. It’s perfect classic rock, not because of its date, but because of its sound. Those soaring vocals, the reel-to-reel feel of the production, the dense and layered instrumentation — it all sounds like it’s from some other time period. There’s no one out there like this band, and that’s not empty praise — it’s the truth.
-Ryan O’Connell (@rynofrommaine)

35. Travi$ Scott – “Antidote”

“Antidote” was not originally intended to be on Travi$ Scott’s debut album, Rodeo, but after the popularity the song had, Scott knew he had to include it. The beat slaps too hard as it comes out of your speakers, essentially leaving you no choice but to bounce along with it. The hook demands that you continue to revel in the party atmosphere as long as Travi$ does, and it’s pretty hard not to oblige.

The shining moment of the track is the third verse, when Scott abandons the call and response style of the first two verses in favor of a faster flow, in which he proclaims to everyone that he will not stop partying as long as he continues to get money. Travi$ Scott is emphatically here to say that he likes to do what he likes to do, and he doesn’t give a damn if you agree. Just don’t open up the window and let out the “Antidote.”
-Spencer Linstead (@spencerlinstead)

34. Sports – “Reality TV”

Sports gaveth, and they tooketh away in 2015. They released the excellent album All of Something, and then they broke up, but at least they went out on a high note. “Reality TV,” one of the many gems from the album, is a rollicking couple minutes of something approaching country music, but keeping the lo-fi indie rock vibes intact. If you squint, “Reality TV” is reminiscent of a love song, but, befitting an album featuring a song called “Get Bummed Out,” it’s decidedly dour. But still wonderful, of course. It really makes you wish there was more Sports to come. Maybe someday we will see them on reality TV.
-Chris Morgan (@chrisxmorgan)

33. Fetty Wap – “679”

“Trap Queen” may have been playing in every club and radio station since 2014, but Fetty Wap needed to prove he was more than a one-hit wonder to be taken as a serious artist. Peaking at No. 4 on Billboard’s Top 100, “679” was evidence that the Paterson, New Jersey native had a knack for making hits with his reggae-flavored sing-rapping that was as recognizable as it was un-categorizable.

With “679,” Fetty was no longer the “Trap Queen” guy — he was the guy who could make massive hits at will. Fetty’s momentum snowballed into a studio album release just three months after “679” dropped, evidence of just how meteoric his rise to the top of pop-rap was in 2015.
-Ryan Alfieri (@ryan_alfieri)

32. Mountain Goats – “The Legend of Chavo Guerrero”

Artists like to write about life or the things they love and hold near and dear. For some musicians, like John Darnielle, that thing they love might just be professional wrestling. This song tells the tale of growing up and idolizing one very specific figure in professional wrestling: Chavo Guerrero (it was Rey Mysterio for me!).

This song is an anthem to sports fans in general, wishing for our team (or wrestler) to win night after night and employing every last tactic we can think of to make sure our enemies fall, from wearing our lucky socks, to praying for our enemy’s death (yeah, he went there).
– Spencer Hansen (@_andampers)

31. Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment – “Sunday Candy”

No more weird questions about turtles on their backs. No more eye cameras and oddly lit rooms. In “Sunday Candy,” Donnie Trumpet & The Social Experiment have crafted an efficient and cost-effective replacement for the Voight-Kampff test.

If you can listen to Chance The Rapper flow about his love for his grandma — a love so deep that he equates his weekly visit to her house with a holy ritual — and not smile, then I hate to break it to you, but you’re a replicant. Just give the one-take, high school theater music video a downvote and a Blade Runner will be dispatched to deal with you shortly.
-Alex Galbraith

30. Drake – “Know Yourself”

Drake had a big 2015, but look, that’s true of most years. He’s the biggest star in all of hip-hop. So, in a year that’s boasted two albums and countless great singles, it probably means something when one, above all the others, inspires the loudest singalong and cheers. “Know Yourself” does just this. If you’ve ever been in a public setting, and the coda of “I was running through the 6 with my woes” is playing, and you feel nothing, I can’t really say anything to you. Just quit reading, and get your pulse checked.

-Michael Depland (@mdepland)

29. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – “Downtown”

Okay, I’m well aware that Macklemore has become the internet’s go-to punchline — we all could Mackleless a little sometimes — but come on, this song is awesome! It’s one of the most vibrant, creative singles of the year. The mopeds, the praise for old-school hip-hop, Ken Griffey, Jr.! The way it dares to go so many places musically in just five minutes! This was such a purely fun song, that if you let your disdain for Macklemore prevent you from enjoying it, you’re missing out. This song proudly brings ’80s rap and Foxy Shazam together, and for that, it deserves our love and respect.
-John Hugar (@john_hugar)

28. Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats – “S.O.B.”

Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats came out swinging with this song. The accompanying music video for the track stages the band at a local prison where they rightfully incited a… dance party; not a fight, ye of little faith. This foot-stomper pieces together some elements of the blues with modern-day country and rock & roll — in fact, the whole album does that (also: blue eyed soul!). “S.O.B.” sucks you right in, and you’ll soon find yourself yelling along to the chorus (and at your local bartender).
-Spencer Hansen (@_andampers)

27. Kurt Vile – “Pretty Pimpin'”

The anthemic, tongue-in-cheek “Pretty Pimpin'” acknowledges bad decisions and blurred weeknights that culminate in a casual Saturday morning existential crisis. But instead of depressing or shaming us (because, let’s be real: we have much bigger fish to fry as a whole), the shaggy-haired founder of indie rock band The War on Drugs, Kurt Vile, delivers a disarming, relatable hit that reflects our dance with the millennial man in the mirror.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

26. Future – “March Madness”

“March Madness” is the Trap Rap anthem of the year. Future takes this beat by 808 Mafia and fires off rhymes about fast cars, diamonds, and, of course, the dirty sprite he’s named two of his mixtapes for. In short, it has everything rap fans could ask for. Whether that be the interstellar beat, Future’s triplet rapid-fire flow, or fast life lyrics. Future Hendrix touches all the bases, hitting a home run on this track, showing why he is one of the biggest names in rap at the moment. If it makes LeBron James rap along to the words in public on more than one occasion, “March Madness” reached the zenith of the genre in 2015.

25. Shamir – “Call It Off”

Shamir Bailey came with the sort of hook that tastemakers just love: A genderfluid and inconceivably young person gets turned away from making country music for being too strange, tries to be a punk for a few years and finally opts to make a postmodern dance record instead.

But all the cool points and interesting bios in the world wouldn’t mean jack if Shamir didn’t have songs to back it up. The bubbly and infectious kiss-off “Call It Off” found Bailey reaching for Donna Summers’ crown right out of the gate, and very nearly snatching it. Yeah, he’s got a very cool backstory, but, most importantly, he makes unbelievable music.
-Alex Galbraith

24. Vince Staples – “Señorita”

On first listen, “Senorita” plays as a vivid depiction of life in the streets of Long Beach, California, characterized by tight flows, a chilling piano instrumental, and a catchy hook from a sampled Future verse. After dropping the video to his first single off Summertime ’06, however, Staples’ message runs much further.

The video shows strangers — mostly people of color — dropping dead all over the streets. A twist at the end shows a picturesque white family watching behind glass as if it was some kind of movie, before fading out to a chilling string ensemble, as to show that this violence and death is nothing but some elaborate screenplay to outsiders. This type of artistry is what separated Staples from other young members of the L.A. underground scene, a strength he flexed throughout his debut album.
-Ryan Alfieri (@ryan_alfieri)

23. CHVRCHES – “Never Ending Circles”

The first thing you notice about this song is just how big it is — easily the grandest song CHVRCHES has ever recorded. It starts their second album, Every Open Eye, on the right note, grabbing the listener’s attention right away.

If the big synths are what first draws you in, Lauren Mayberry’s vocals are what keep you enthralled, as she delivers each line with the same authority as when she shot down that poor sap who yelled “marry me!” at her back in October. You’d think after hearing this song, that dude would’ve known she doesn’t play that.
-John Hugar (@john_hugar)

22. Rihanna – “Bitch Better Have My Money”

When girl RiRi released “FourFiveSeconds” earlier in 2015, I thought to myself: “Oh, cool, a new direction for Rihanna.” Fast forward barely two months and “Bitch Better Have My Money” comes out. I’m wondering what happened to that “FourFiveSeconds” RiRi? She was gone, just a flicker, possibly even murdered.

In her place was the doomsday, pulsating bounce of “Bitch Better Have My Money,” probably one of the least commercial-sounding successes of 2015. It’s a threatening, marauding song about getting yours that everyone can relate with. And that video? NSFW, NSFS…not safe for sunlight. It’s dark, dude. You know, the exact opposite of the last song Rihanna released.
-Ryan O’Connell (@rynofrommaine)

21. Grimes – “California”

“California” is the second song off of Grimes’ pop music madhouse Art Angels, but it was the first sign that all was not what it seemed with Claire Boucher. Here was an honest-to-God country song with Dixie Chicks levels of crossover appeal from the reigning queen of cold, minimal bleep-bloopery.

Of course, underneath all those acoustic guitars and studio sheen was a giant “eff you” to the music press for painting her as an unreasonable and angry woman. And there were the drums which couldn’t have possibly come from a Nashville studio. “California” let fans rest easy knowing that Grimes will be just as singular a pop star as she was an indie darling.
– Alex Galbraith

20. Florence + The Machine – “What Kind of Man”

Florence Welch has written plenty of great songs, but this is likely her most immediate and present. After the gentle intro, we’re bombarded with the killer main riff, then the background vocal, then Welch gives us possibly the most impassioned performance of her career. Finally, the chorus lands perfectly as every ounce of rage in the world is conjured up in the chant of “what kind of man loves like this/ what kind of man?” As much as I enjoy Florence’s artier songs, this one rocks out unabashedly, and it might be the best song she’s ever written.
-John Hugar (@john_hugar)

19. Beck – “Dreams”

After winning an Album of the Year Grammy for his mellow and folk-heavy Morning Phase, Beck proved again – as he has for the past 20-plus years – that he’s a master of reinvention. In June, the multi-instrumentalist released “Dreams,” an infectious pop anthem with a heavy dose of disco guitar, funk, and soul, all of which he’s proven to be more than capable of. You’d be hard-pressed to not dance to this one, or at least crank it up to full volume while stuck in traffic.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

18. Taylor Swift – “Style”

Of course, I liked “Shake It Off.” I’m a human being. However, I wasn’t as cool with “Blank Space.” But “Style,” now that’s the song that made me stop and agree that Taylor Swift 2.0 is a Taylor Swift I can get behind.

The song’s chorus is easily my favorite chorus of the year. It’s a great driving song, and I can always appreciate a good driving song. Hands down, “Style” is the most re-listenable song on 1989, due in large part to its layers, whether it’s that guitar part or the motion of the beat or the high quality sing-a-longness of the chorus. We all want to be invited to the stage, right?
-Ryan O’Connell (@rynofrommaine)

17. Justin Bieber – “Sorry”

Justin Bieber couldn’t have picked a better title for his strongest example as to why we need to take him seriously than “Sorry.” It works on so many levels.

Sorry, Selena, for the ways that I’ve wronged you. Sorry for being an insufferable little pop tyrant for so many years. Sorry for making you question whether it’s okay to like a Justin Bieber song as an adult.

But by far my favorite way to see it is a mea culpa to all the folks who have been unfortunate enough to be my passengers when this track comes on the radio. “Sorry, y’all. This new Bieber is ???.”
-Alex Galbraith

16. Adele – “Hello”

There’s a hint of reticence as Adele reintroduces herself to the world and wonders “if after all these years you’d like to meet,” but the thought is kind of silly. Of course there was an appetite for new material — just check the Soundscan.

Taken literally, the song’s about a failed relationship, but Adele has claimed to be expressing how relationships with loved ones change when growing older. Super producer Greg Kurstin adds modern sheen to the ballad by giving it extra punch and sets the stage for her signature soaring vocals, which build toward a bombastic chorus. Adele’s back, and yes, not much has changed.
-Eddie Fu (@eddiefu)

15. Alessia Cara – “Here”

Cara wrote this song based on a real-life experience at a friend’s party, during which her main thought was: “If I don’t feel like doing any of these things, why am I even here?” The appropriately-titled song was recorded the next day. It became an introvert anthem, featuring the “anti-social pessimist” recounting her night over a soulful beat sampling “Ike’s Rap II” by Isaac Hayes. “Here” eventually climbed into the Billboard Hot 100’s Top 10, earning the 19-year-old singer a place in Taylor Swift’s squad and and my personal stamp of approval.
-Eddie Fu (@eddiefu

14. Carly Rae Jepsen – “Run Away with Me”

Kicking off her newest record, E-MO-TION, “Run Away with Me” hooks you with a sexy sax-intro and features one of the many earworm hooks you’ll be sure to be singing or humming along to after you’ve listened through this spectacular album (on repeat, surely). If you missed it, the video is a bit of a choose-your-own-adventure event, as Carly takes you all across the globe — singing along in different international tourist hotspots.

I’ve probably spent more time with her album this year than any other. If you haven’t yet given this record a chance, please change that immediately.
-Spencer Hansen (@_andampers)

13. Disclosure – “Magnets”

In a year filled with unlikely musical pairings, English electro-pop duo Disclosure teamed up with Lorde for one of the most easily danceable songs of 2015. While Disclosure created a beat with a similar feel to Major Lazer’s “Lean On,” the difference is that “Magnets” has Lorde perform in her soft, smoky voice, giving the song a darker, more sultry feel.

With lines like “pretty girls don’t know the things that I know/ walk my way, I’ll share the things that she won’t,” it’s pretty clear that moodiness was exactly what they were going for and they nailed it. While their partnership may seem strange being so different, Disclosure and Lorde’s unusual chemistry made for an incredibly powerful creation, not too different from their title of their track.
-Spencer Linstead (@spencerlinstead)

12. Rihanna – “FourFiveSeconds”

Rihanna, perhaps more than any other artist today, knows exactly who her fans are and how to reach them. She knows how to invoke their vengeful side, she knows how to stroke their inner-freak, and she knows how to extend a sympathizing, often much-needed “Hey, I hear you” when the world is trying to test you to no end. The latter of those is “FourFiveSeconds.”

Ironically, with names like Kanye West and Paul McCartney on the bill, you would expect bombast, swells, and all sorts of huge production. But this song is a sweet-with-a-stinger ditty that’s stripped down and presents Rih as the ultimate in control. “FourFiveSeconds” sweetly warns by saying: “Yes, I can go nuclear on you, but I choose not to right now… But don’t try me”
-Michael Depland

11. The Weeknd – “The Hills”

Of the two biggest singles to drop for The Weeknd’s debut album, Beauty Behind the Madness, “The Hills” is much more true to the original, raw, unapologetic style that made his mixtapes so successful. The booming, relentless bass doesn’t quite fit the club as easily as “Can’t Feel My Face,” and it doesn’t try to mask the vices of Abel Tesfaye through cute metaphors, either. He doesn’t mince words when he belts “When I’m f*cked up, that’s the real me.” The Weeknd was one of the true originators of the new wave of self-loathing, painfully realistic, somewhat depressed generation of R&B singers to hit the mainstream. No song represents this movement more than “The Hills.”
-Ryan Alfieri (@ryan_alfieri)

10. Justin Bieber – “What Do You Mean”

2015 was undoubtedly a coming out party for Justin Bieber; long gone are the days of “Baby, baby, baby/ ohhhhhhhh.” This track was Justin’s lead single from his latest record, Purpose, and it was tasked with introducing his new sound — something which was rightfully embraced by just about everyone during his apology tour across America.

Bieber is now said to be following the model that fellow Justin (Timberlake) laid out before him, and I can only hope that he can continue to evolve and mature in a similar manner as he’s got plenty of growing up left to do, and I’m excited to see what he does next.

We forgive you, Justin – your newest work is absolutely killer.
-Spencer Hansen (@_andampers)

9. Courtney Barnett – “Pedestrian at Best”

“Depreston” is more indicative of the sound Courtney Barnett is more aligned with. However, with “Pedestrian at Best,” Barnett decided, like the MC5 before her, that it was time to kick out the jams, motherf*ckers.

The song puts the pedal to the metal and keeps it there, revving its engine to the very end. Despite this added intensity, Barnett keeps her sardonic humor and wordplay intact, and despite her warnings, it feels unlikely that Barnett will ever disappoint us. Not with songs like this at her disposal.
-Chris Morgan (@chrisxmorgan)

8. Jamie xx – “I Know (There’s Gonna Be Good Times)”

For the folks who only know Jamie xx from his work with his band The xx, they absolutely underestimated that he could write a song like this. But anyone even casually familiar with his solo work or DJ sets knows that Jamie can absolutely bring heaters to your stereo. Young Thug, someone who has also had an incredible 2015, teams up with the English producer and dancehall artist Popcaan and brings more memorable, geeked-up bars to bright and sunny fray.

From Jamie’s catalog, it doesn’t seem like he would ever have a song of the summer in him, he even admitted so to us. But judging from everywhere this song was playing over the past year, there was no denying that the good times were all around.

-Michael Depland (@mdepland)

7. Fetty Wap – “My Way”

“Trap Queen” was disqualified from this list because it was released in 2014, but “My Way” was a huge hit in its own right. Among the four singles that Fetty had in the Top 10 of the Billboard Hot Rap Songs at the same damn time, the track also received the highly sought after Drake remix.

It’s really another love song, Fetty style, as the Remy Boy tells his romantic interest that he won’t let anyone keep him from showing her what he’s got to offer. And of course, the beat knocks, on car speakers and headphones alike. Say it all together now: 1738!
-Eddie Fu (@eddiefu)

6. Jack Ü – “Where Are Ü Now” (Feat. Justin Bieber)

2015 is the year I begrudgingly became a fan* of Justin Bieber. “What Do You Mean” may have sealed the deal, but “Where Are Ü Now” is what got the ball rolling. I’m still not 100 percent okay with my casual fandom of the Biebs, but I’ll make do. Among all of the kudos going to the young Canadian prince, equal props have to go to Skrillex and Diplo, as they are not just top notch DJs and producers, but also undeniably fantastic career revivalists.

The Bieber Redemption Tour started right here with this track, and if he somehow is able to convince the world that he’s a changed man, the first thank you card should go to the Jack U dudes.
-Ryan O’Connell (@rynofrommaine)

5. Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta”

“King Kunta” is Kendrick Lamar’s middle finger to his detractors. This G-funk track is a rapid-fire, sharp-tongued jab at anyone who did not believe that he could become one of the best rappers alive. Lamar’s lyrics, delivery, and flow on this missive absolutely proves it to be true. K.Dot tells everyone who wasn’t a fan before, “B*tch, where you when I was walking?/ now I run the game, got the whole world talking.” While some may have questioned it before, after “King Kunta,” it’s very clear that Kendrick has the confidence necessary to be the “King” of Rap.
-Spencer Linstead (@spencerlinstead)

4. Drake – “Hotline Bling”

As calculated as the 6 God is, I don’t even think Drake himself ever imagined this standalone single would get so massive. A side release in the shadow of the Meek Mill-backbreaking diss track “Back to Back,” “Hotline Bling” became an avalanche of popularity, picking up steam week after week while climbing the charts.

Its vintage instrumental and simplified-yet-relatable love tale fits everywhere between singing in the shower to the middle of the dance floor. To cap it off, Drake tailored the instantly viral music video as a blank slate for the internet’s most creative meme-ers to vault its popularity to unmatchable heights.
-Ryan Alfieri (@ryan_alfieri)

3. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”

I honestly can’t remember the last time I loved a smash pop single this much. The pre-chorus of “she told me don’t worry about it/ she told me don’t worry no more” is enough to stick with you for life after just one listen, and that’s before we get to the “ooohhh” leading into the chorus.

The cocaine-as-sex metaphor that this song is based on is clever enough, but what will really stick with me about this one is that it’s one of the most perfectly put-together pop songs in recent memory.
-John Hugar (@john_hugar)

2. Major Lazer – “Lean On” Feat. DJ Snake & Mø

Peace Is the Mission, the third studio album from Major Lazer, featured seemingly surefire singles with mega pop stars like Ellie Goulding and Ariana Grande, but it was “Lean On” — written with French producer DJ Snake and the lesser-known Danish pop singer/songwriter MØ — that quickly climbed the charts and became an international hit.

Impressively, Spotify just announced it’s the No. 1 most-streamed song on the site… ever, and with good reason. “Lean On” is incredibly infectious, as it seductively blends reggae, hip-hop, house music with captivating vocals and a dash of Bollywood flamboyance. The track has been stuck in our heads since its debut last March, and we can only hope it will continue to influence global alliances between musicians. Peace, indeed.
-Sarah Ravits (@ravlove)

1. Kendrick Lamar – “Alright”

The funny thing about To Pimp a Butterfly is that in any other year, “King Kunta” is the lead single and most talked about track from the album. It’s a coronation of Kendrick Lamar as the greatest emcee on the planet and no one can touch him. It’s the “Control” verse times 10. But, sometimes, a song takes on another meaning — a special purpose that strikes something in the hearts of its listeners.

“Alright” is the thesis statement for 2015. For those of us who love music and accept it for the art that it is, we see that art is a reflection and reaction to our world. To Pimp a Butterfly was recorded as a reaction to the pain that many Americans have endured and, in turn, he flipped that into perseverance with this song. The message it sends is universal: The strife that someone like Kendrick, me, you, all of us endure with injustice or hate, it can all be wrapped up in a simple refrain:

“We gon’ be alright.”

-Michael Depland (@mdepland)

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