Every new year brings with it a slew of new drug songs, because music tends to be written about the things we love, and a lot of people really love getting high. But music also tends to be written about heartbreak, about what happens when the things we love turn into our greatest torment, and drugs are just as easily be classified as life-ruining substances. I’m setting up this binary in order to clarify something: this list was not made in order to celebrate people getting loaded. It was put together because we’ve seen quite a few songs that are blatantly, unapologetically about getting high make it to the top of charts and into the front of our collective consciousness this year.
Some of them, like the Weeknd’s “Can’t Feel My Face,” made it there because it’s quite easy to confuse a cocaine reference for a declaration of love. No, the “you” in “Can’t Feel My Face” is not about Bella Hadid, and just because Abel Tesfaye is hurtling toward pop stardom doesn’t mean he’s done being the dark, drugged-out surrogate prince of R&B. Of course, the whole “your love is my drug” trope has existed in popular music since long before Ke$ha’s single dropped back in 2010. Lou Reed referred to heroin as his wife on one of the Velvet Underground’s most seminal songs, and that tradition of confusing dependency on a substance for dependency on a lover is still with us in 2015. Lana Del Rey, Christopher Owens, A$AP Rocky, and to a certain extent, Fetty Wap, all pay homage to that legacy. And then there’s Miley Cyrus. Miley, a performer who’s fully committed to talking about how much weed she smokes at every available opportunity; an eager freshman trying her best to buddy-up to the older loadies and burnouts cutting class to hang out below the bleachers. Not all of the songs included on this list celebrate hedonism. They’re countered with the songs about quitting, which are not funny or sexy; they’re essential. We pay tribute below.
A$AP Rocky – “L$D (LOVE x $EX x DREAMS)”
Here’s what happened: Makonnen gave A$AP Rocky some LSD at SXSW, a few (three) orgies allegedly ensued, and the experience influenced Rocky’s latest full-length album, At.Long.Last.A$AP. “L$D” is the single that introduced us to Rocky’s escapades; it’s a sexy song about falling in the kind of love that makes you feel high, or higher than you already are. Plus, it rides on undulating production that sounds like liquid sunshine. (Incidentally, the Flaming Lips’ Wayne Coyne told us Rocky doesn’t like taking acid anymore.)
Christopher Owens – “Heroine (Got Nothing On You)”
“Heroine” still rhymes with “Heroin,” and that still makes for a punny double entendre.
Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”
Most if not all of us were introduced to Fetty Wap by way of “Trap Queen,” which became virtually inescapable this summer and peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100. This song is still everywhere, and it prompted one white kid to make this horrific video in which he sings “Trap Queen” and bakes pies with a bunch of girls — his pre-pubescent “Trap Queens,” if you will. (Celebrated pie baker Taylor Swift also sang the song this year, too.) But Fetty’s not chivalrously helping his boo cook pies in this song, he’s teaching her how to cook crack. Sit down, George Dalton.
FIDLAR – “Overdose”
“I liked them better when he was on drugs.” That’s how Zac Carper imagined people’s response to FIDLAR’s sophomore album in our recent interview. He followed that up with: “There’s always going to be people saying that shit. When I was a fucking teenager I was the one saying that shit. You’ve just got to roll with it. I’m not going to let that fuck me up and run my life.” A lot of Too is about Carper’s long road to recovery after dealing with drug addiction for a long time. But it’s hard to think of any fan wishing Carper would get back into the shit he talks about in this song.
Future – “Blow A Bag”
As Tom put it in our 50 Best Albums list: “You will never hear a sadder album about getting high with strippers.” In short, Future’s Dirty Sprite 2 is a fucking masterpiece. Not because it’s filled with bangers about getting loaded and, well, banging, but because it’s in part an honest reflection of how hollow your outlook on the world becomes when using stops being a party favor and starts to become a way of life. He’s not remorseful — he’s still in it.
Lana Del Rey – “High By The Beach”
An ode to escapism, Lana Del Rey details the one thing that she really wants in this world. “High By The Beach” is the equivalent of a bratty tween slamming their bedroom door and shouting: “Leave me alone!” Lana’s brand of rejection is quieter, and she lets it be known in one long, languorous exhalation of smoke.
Miley Cyrus – “Dooo it!”
Did you know that Miley Cyrus smokes pot?
Sorority Noise – “Using”
Sorority Noise’s excellent album Joy, Departed is a collection of songs that deals with addiction, depression, and the self-reckoning required to realize that you need help. “Using” is one of the most painfully honest, human songs on that album, and it’s the one that inspired Sorority Noise’s Cameron Boucher to pen an extensive note urging those in need of help to seek it out. The addiction he describes isn’t incurable, and this is the kind of song that can, and probably already has, saved someone’s life this year.
The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
Somehow, the Weeknd’s kinda-sorta-not-really subtle song about railing coke became the #1 single in the country this year. That means there are middle school students freaking to this shit on dance floors across America. It’s a love song, right? For the record, even though Abel Tesfaye took the phrase mainstream, he hardly invented it; for one thing, the title hearkens back to a song by the same name on Lil’ Wayne’s 2007 mixtape Da Drought 3.
Weezer – “Do You Wanna Get High?”
According to his annotations on Genius, Rivers Cuomo wrote this song about his “darling girlfriend in 2000/2001,” which was around the same time that he was hanging out with Fred Durst a lot. Needless to say, he doesn’t fuck with pills anymore. “Do You Wanna Get High?” isn’t moralizing, it’s nostalgic. Cuomo made it to the other side, and this song is just another fragmented memory of the powder-fueled ways he used to waste time. “Do you wanna get high? It’s like we’re falling in love/ We can listen to Bacharach, and stop at any point.” At least this one has a happy ending.