Continuing the theme of neglected music, which I have addressed twice previously, my next post regards artists who, in 2013, released pop gems which didn’t manage to do quite as well in the official UK charts as they should have done or worse, fell by the wayside into the eternal pop-scurity. Let’s get into it shall we:
1) Bastille – Things We Lost In the Fire
Things We Lost in the Fire is the sixth and final single taken from the non-deluxe version of Bastille’s debut album Bad Blood which peaked at number one on the UK album charts on the 10th of March 2013. Peaking at No. 28 on the 1st September, this song is currently the group’s fourth biggest hit in the UK following: Pompeii (No.2), Of the Night (No.2) and Flaws (No.21). Upon listening to Things We Lost in the Fire, it immediately becoming clear that it deserved to peak so much higher. After a slow drawn out introduction, the song burst into the first chorus which features a winning plinkety-plunkety piano line which moves the song along at a gallop and differentiates the song from anything else in the charts right now. You’ll find yourself humming along to the crazily infectious chorus before long I assure you.
(For Leeds students – lead singer Dan Smith also attended University of Leeds)
2) Agnetha Faltskog – When You Really Love Someone
2013 saw the welcome come back of a woman presumed lost to pop forever. Agnetha Faltskog first made her name as one quarter of one of the biggest bands ever ABBA and, after their disbandment, forged herself a solo career, releasing three solo albums in the 80’s. Her latest album A is the first time since 1987 that Agnetha has released original material with When You Really Loved Someone being chosen as her comeback single. A good choice as it turns out, seeing as When You Really Loved Someone is by far the most emotive, moving song on the whole studio set. The chorus is admittedly formulaic but ruthlessly effective and the production is top notch, succeeding in updating Agnetha’s sound without making it sound as if she’s trying to be down with the kids. If the world was a fairer place, it would have gone top ten. It peaked at no.115.
3) London Grammar – Strong
Ok so this one doesn’t really count as it’s not really tailored for the pop charts but still managed to do relatively well, peaking at a respectable No. 16 in September. But London Grammar as a band deserve a good old plug seeing as their minimalist debut album If You Wait is a classic in the making and Strong is the best cut from it. The band has been compared to The XX, Florence and the Machine, Lana Del Rey, but in reality they have cut out a niche all for themselves. Strong is effortlessly mainstream and timeless with its melancholy, hypnotic tones which keep the listener coming back for more every time.
4) Ke$ha – C’mon
It may seem odd to mention London Grammar and Ke$ha in the same breath as their styles are completely juxtaposed. But both acts were slightly underappreciated this year for different reasons. While Ke$ha’s sophomore album Warrior was a huge improvement in quality on her debut, she was unable to repeat the chart success which she has previously enjoyed with her Animal/Cannibal set. The first single Die Young was a bona fide hit but, despite positive reviews, the second single C’mon was a massive flop for Ke$ha peaking at a disappointing No. 70 in the UK and becoming her first non-top ten in the USA. Why could this be? The song is in a similar vein to her previous releases, incorporating high fructose beats with hedonistic party lifestyle lyrics. But perhaps this is just it. The world wanted something different from Ke$ha, having grown sick of her party girl shtick. Maybe a change of style is due for the next album? Either way, C’mon is insanely enjoyable and maybe the success of Ke$ha’s latest hit Timber, will give it the breath of life it sorely needs and deserves.
5) Tom Odell – Another Love
The only single which reached the UK top 10 in this list, peaking at No.10 the 29th of June 2013. However, closer scrutiny will reveal the genius of this song and it will become clear why it should have peaked so much higher. The song gradually builds and builds for the first 2 minutes with Odell adding and layering all the time. The song finally reaching its crescendo at the 3:14 mark with Tom’s vocals becoming devastatingly effective. The repetitive nature of the song does little to decrease its appeal with the line All my tears have been used up/On another love guaranteed to be stuck in your brain after the first listen. Another Love is without a doubt the best song on Odell’s patchy debut Long Way Down.
6) Icona Pop – Girlfriend
Although I have already mentioned this song in my first blog post, I felt it deserved further praise for its genius sampling of the line All I need in this life of sin/ Is me and my girlfriend. This is the second time Tupac Shakur’s song Me and My Girlfriend has been sampled, the first time being on Beyoncé and Jay Z’s 2003 hit ’03 Bonnie and Clyde. The hook here is more immediate however, as the Icona Pop duo have used it to create the ultimate best friend song. The song is a high energy dance track which combines one of Icona Pop’s signature shouty choruses with the best in Swedish production. The result is effortlessly current and the impact is immediate. Unfortunately the song did not chart in the UK, which I’m chalking down to lack of airplay. Sometimes Radio 1 doesn’t know what’s good for it.
7) Mariah Carey – The Art Of Letting Go
This is actually the third single and title track from Mimi’s upcoming eternally delayed album The Art of Letting Go. The first was Triumphant, which barely even featured Carey herself and flopped horrendously to her record label’s embarrassment. The second was the so-so hit #Beautiful which peaked at number 22 in the UK last summer and, whilst it did succeed in regaining some of the momentum which Mariah Carey’s career has lost lately, it didn’t turn out to be the mega hit she wanted and sorely needed. However, Carey has always been tenacious and definitely wasn’t going down without a fight coming back in early November with new single The Art of Letting Go. There are several problems with this track which are clear from the offset: Carey is refusing to follow any of the current pop trends and the song doesn’t really have a chorus. That being said, it seems that Carey doesn’t even care about the lack of commercial appeal of the single which is highly refreshing. And on closer inspection, The Art of Letting Go is the best thing she has released inn years and harks back to her early days. It’s a gorgeous, gospel inspired piano ballad which focuses on smart lyrics which ring true with Carey’s song writing at its very best (what songs have you heard lately that have the words “dominion” and “exceedingly” in). She deserves kudos even just for that. The song actually works in a similar way to Odell’s Another Love in that it builds and builds into a bombastic crescendo which feels like a massive pay-off due to Carey’s restrained vocal performance up until that point. Magical.
8) Amy Macdonald – Slow It Down
There’s something refreshingly calming about Amy Macdonald’s consistency. In a world where musicians rise and fall very quickly Macdonald has carved out her own middle of the road niche, which keeps her commercial sales at a constant level. While she may never again reach the creative level of 2007’s This Is the Life, she does keep chugging on. Slow It Down is suspiciously similar to hits such as The Spark, serving to highlight her lack of growth from album to album. However, Slow It Down is still very enjoyable and the repetition of down, down, down will have it stuck in your head for a while. The chorus is anthemic and very catchy as well, ultimately proving that Amy still has the key to a good soft rock chorus after all these years.
As always, if you have any questions about any of the artists featured, please don’t hesitate to comment by clicking the link at the bottom of the post.