The Top 20 Songs of 2015 So Far – The Conclusion

The final part of my 2015 countdown of the best songs from January until June:

20) Skrillex Feat. Diplo and Justin Bieber – Where are U Now

“Where Are U Now” is without a doubt one of the least likely collaborations ever but just serves to show that anyone is redeemable, even the notoriously annoying Bieber. It’s is definitely one of the most interesting songs released this year and for that we have to give some kudos to the Canadian popstar, even though I suspect it has more to do with Diplo…

19) Olly Murs Feat. Demi Lovato – Up

olly murs demi lovato up

I really don’t know how Olly Murs does it. By all rights he should be washed up by now like so many X Factor contestants who got a bit of success after the show and then realised it wasn’t a lifetime gig (Shayne Ward, Alexandra Burke, JLS, Cher Lloyd….poor things). But somehow he has managed to keep plugging away producing chart topping albums and quality singles. His story has been one of quiet success, rather than the furore surrounding One Direction right now or Leona Lewis when she first came out. And that, my friends, is the secret to longevity. “Up” is the second single from Murs fourth (already??!!!) album Never Been Better and, seeing as the hits keep coming, it does really seem that the only way is up.

18) Madonna – Ghosttown

ghosttown madonna

Another quality Madonna single doomed to fade into obscurity due to the disaster that has been the Rebel Heart era. Madonna’s vocals have never sounded better or more emotive than on “Ghosttown”. It has even drawn comparisons with the legendary vocalist Karen Carpenter. It’s just a shame that it failed to make an impact on the UK or US singles charts. A lot of crap does. The video for “Ghosttown” had the right idea but Madge definitely went a bit too far with the melodrama, rendering it practically unwatchable. Sigh…

17) Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth – See You Again

wiz khalifa charlie puth see you again

It’s songs like this and Pharrell’s “Happy” that make me wish that radio didn’t exist. Every time I hear this song on the radio now I have to switch it off which is a massive shame because, actually, I remember hearing this song for the first time and liking it a lot. It’s just radio has used and abused this single which has made it impossible for me to place it higher on my list. It’s also a wee bit overrated. It’s a good song but not good enough to be No.1 for weeks and weeks and weeks. “Uptown Funk” was that good. Still, it remains a lovely blend of soulful vocal matched perfectly with gritty rap lyrics. Gotta take the rough with the smooth.

16) Taylor Swift Feat. Kendrick Lamar – Bad Blood

taylor swift kendrick lamar bad blood

Swift’s star-studded video for “Bad Blood” not only proved her celeb pulling power, but also ensured her another smash single off her already classic fifth album 1989. The remixed version featuring Kendrick Lamar improves the original’s production and adds some killer rap sections. The result is a brutal, stadium-ready war cry which features some of Swfit’s best lyrics to date. “Band aids don’t fix bullet holes”. Indeed.

15) Tove Lo – Talking Body

tove lo talking body queen of the clouds

This is just one of those songs that makes you feel all dirty and sexy. Tove had already established as a force to be reckoned with, producing the global smash “Stay High (Habits)” last year and lending vocals to Alesso’s “Heroes”, but “Talking Body” was her make or break single. And boy did it make. It’s reminiscent of Rihanna at her best in that both singers surround themselves with a dark, brooding persona of party girl gone wild. Tove’s ascendance to the clouds has already begun.

14) Echosmith – Cool Kids

cool kids echosmith

Sorry Americans, you may be wondering why this song is included in a best of list from 2015 and not 2014, well it’s because this song hit the UK a bit late I’m afraid. We only just got it at the start of this year but we love it a lot too so I had to include it on this list. For me, the magic of “Cool Kids” special quality lies in the fact that it takes you back to high school (unless you’re still there) where you were insecure and just wishing to be someone else. It taps into those old feelings which is a powerful feat for a little ditty about being cool. The melody is also tremendously catchy with some interesting instrumental choices. Does the lead singer’s voice sound a bit like Katy Perry to anyone else or is it just me? And she looks a bit like Anna Kendrick.

13) Calvin Harris Feat. HAIM – Pray to God

haim calvin harris pray to god

No-one seems to love this song as much as I do so I compromised and put it further down the list than I would have it. Please guys tell me why this was not a worldwide smash? The HAIM sisters are devilishly delicious as satanic enchantresses in the striking video. This is without a doubt one of Harris’ most satisfying drops and the sister’s to-die-for harmonies are reminiscent of Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac fame. What’s not to like? Maybe I’m just partial to a good bit of witchiness.

12) James Bay – Hold Back the River

james bay hold back the river

James Bay has timed his ascendance to pop stardom to perfection. Just as last year’s golden boys Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and George Ezra were winding up their album campaigns he decided to launch into the pop-o-sphere. Flooding the radio waves “Hold Back the River” is a masterclass in understated, contemplative pop. From the quiet, restrained beginning “River” builds and builds with the drama of a Celine Dion power ballad (but with much more attitude) until it becomes a powerful maelstrom of emotional turmoil. James Bay conveys such emotion with his voice that you cannot help but be moved.

11) Taylor Swift – Style

taylor swift style song

Taylor Swift is just a goddess. She has cemented her place as the top female in music right now with her current album 1989 which is full to the brim with genius hooks and playful lyrics. “Style” is one of the more superior cuts of this already superior album. It may have failed to match the success of the Billboard number ones “Shake It Off”, “Blank Space” and “Bad Blood”, only peaking at No.6 in the US, but it is just as good as any of them. It’s more subtle and less in your face, which means that it takes longer to grow on you but, when it does, it never goes out of your head.

10) Sia – Elastic Heart

elastic heart sia shia le boeuf

I had all but given up on Sia releasing another single from 1000 Forms of Fear. It seemed that she forgotten about the album after the release of “Chandelier”, despite the single’s overwhelming success. But lo and behold the unpredictable, fame-shy Sia dropped a bomb of a video on us early in 2015!

Sia is the whole package, even if she doesn’t know it. She’s got the knack for writing intelligent, sensitive lyrics and to inspire without being cheesy. It’s the vulnerability, combined with the powerful vocal that really . It seems at points that her voice is cracking, but then it soars. She is truly one of the great vocalists of our time and when the production quality matches the quality of her songwriting and voice, she is unstoppable. And Shia LeBeuf…What was that all about?

9) Galantis – Runaway (U & I)

galantis runaway u and I

Galantis are one of those bands that have been hanging around on the periphery for a while on the cusp of stardom, searching for that big breakthrough hit. Well, they sure found that. “Runaway” is bold, brash and in your face. It’s no wonder it’s been making massive waves in the UK, where it has already peaked in the top 5. Released just in time for festival season, this is definitely one you’ll be hearing all summer.

8) Kygo Feat. Parson James – Stole the Show

kygo parson james stole the show

Kygo is fast becoming one of the premier DJs in the world and a lot of the praise should be heaped upon this stellar collab between the Norwegian and singer Parson James. Anything with panpipes is just guaranteed to win me over but when it also has a drop like this and passionate lyrics there is literally no escape. There is something ethereal and even sad about the track. It’s another big hit for the unstoppable Norwegian.

7) Years and Years – King

years and years king

Dance floor ready and box fresh Years and Years are one of the biggest revelations of 2015. Despite achieving chart success with previous single “Desire”, it was “King” which proved to be their big breakthrough, peaking at No.1 in the UK in its debut week and selling over 100,000 copies. The effortless, soaring vocals are definitely enough to capture your attention but it’s the nuanced production that really makes “King” a winner.

6) Jess Glynne – Hold My Hand

hold my hand jess glynne i cry when i laugh

Not satisfied with her two previous number one singles with Route 94 and Clean Bandit, Jess Glynne concocted a formula to invade our brains all by herself this time. Just as Meghan Trainor is all about the bass, Glynne’s “Hold My Hand” is all about the voice which she uses to great effect on the track. Each line of the verses starts goes from low to high which Glynne navigates deftly and with joyous aplomb. This is her vocal tour de force and her muscled voice is the star of the show. Anticipation could not be higher for her debut album coming out in August I Cry When I Laugh.

5) Omi – Cheerleader

omi felix jaehn cheerleader

Here’s a piece of advice for every wannabe popstar out there. If you ever want to have a sure fire hit in 2015 just add a bit of trumpet or sax to your track on a loop and bobs your uncle. You have a hit on your hands. I’ve seen it time and time again with Cheryl’s “Crazy Stupid Love” and Faul’s “Changes” to name but a few! Poised to one of the biggest tunes of the year, the bright and breezy “Cheerleader” is a breath of fresh air and one to be turned up to the max while riding in a drop top down an endless road with your friends.

4) Alesso Feat. Tove Lo – Heroes

tove lo alesso heroes

Alesso’s remake of David Bowie’s now classic “Heroes” may have stripped the original of all its pithy irony, but it more than makes up for it with its uplifting message pushed to infinity by Tove Lo’s soaring vocals. The song emanates a pure and beautifully exuberant naivety together with an youthful innocence. This is one for the festivals and I can see 100,000 “heroes” bouncing up and down in harmony all summer long.

3) Major Lazer Feat. DJ Snake and MO – Lean On

major lazer dj snake mo lean on

This has already been one of the biggest songs of the summer, nay of the year. It has taken over the UK completely and mercilessly, monopolising radio play and peaking at No.2. It is also fast scaling the US charts, nestling nicely into the top 10 already. Why you ask? Well it’s because by fusing reggae and dance music Major Lazer has created a completely unique sound which has struck a chord all around the world and has turned into a formidable epidemic. It was played about 500 times at Ultra Europe festival this year.

2) Ellie Goulding – Love Me Like You Do

 

Ellie Goulding has gone from strength to strength ever since her debut single “Starry Eyed” introduced us to her ethereal, magical voice. Time and time again she has proved herself to be capable of musical greatness, even managing to conquer the American market, which is no mean feat for British artists. Unlike some of her contemporaries, Goulding deftly avoids pandering to the sex crazed teen market who above all else crave flesh shows (Rihanna, Shakira, Tove Lo etc.). Let me just say that there is nothing wrong with this. Everyone loves a bit of Shakira. But it’s just not Ellie’s style that’s all. On the whole, it’s probably a smart move. Goulding clearly has her sights set on career longevity and she is definitely going the right way about it. Her brand of mystical, vulnerable pop falls somewhere manages to appeal to everyone which is exactly what makes her one of the biggest popstars on the planet right now. “Love Me Like You Do” came out of the blue at the beginning of this year and immediately shot to the top of the UK single charts, retaining this positions for a massive 4 weeks and becoming a constant fixture on mainstream radio. Of course, the song’s place in the 50 Shades of Grey film soundtrack did nothing to harm its commercial appeal, but it definitely would have been a big hit either way. Ellie is a force of nature.

1) Kygo Feat. Conrad – Firestone

kygo conrad firestone

I remember there was a time when dance music did nothing for me. Good for a quick sweaty dance but it left me feeling cold afterwards (literally and physically!). The sentiments just weren’t there like in a good emotional pop song (Whitney and Mariah come to mind). But over the past five years dance music has had an injection of life. Somewhere along the line dance music got its soul back and nowhere is this more present than on Kygo’s recent smash “Firestone”. I had liked Kygo for a while before “Firestone”, which is, to all intents and purposes, his debut single, but by far from his first production. He has a chilled out style which stands out amongst the David Guettas and Afrojacks. “Firestone” was the moment when Kygo went from an underground artist to the next biggest thing. There’s something magical about the feather-light piano line and breezy vocals provided by Australian singer Conrad Sewell. Everything is just effortlessly comes together to create a truly inspirational, beautiful song.

Thank you for reading and feel free to leave any comments or suggestions. I love hearing from you!

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The Best Songs of 2015 So Far – Part 2

Et voila! Le long awaited second part to my Best Songs of 2015 So far!

40) Hozier – Someone New

Hozier Someone New

How do you follow up a super hit like “Take Me to Church”? Most people would pull out all the stops with a big eye-catching spectacle of a single. Not Hozier. “Someone New” shows him at his most sensitive and subtle. There is nothing big or bold about this single, just the same nuanced beautiful songwriting and spellbinding, commanding vocals. No complaints here.

39) Meghan Trainor – Lips Are Moving

lips are moving meghan trainor

After “All About that Bass” Trainor’s career could have sunk like a stone. The single was so overwhelmingly popular and borderline novelty that it was always going to be a mammoth challenge to follow it up. It really could have all ended there. But Trainor was sneaky and, by basically recreating “Bass” for her second single and electing to release it in January (a traditionally slow time for music) she managed to both bag herself a higher chart position. At the same time she also managed to provide ready consumable fodder for the public’s seemingly insatiable appetite for her calypso style doo wop stylings without taking any risks which could have potentially alienated her pre-existing audience. Still, “Lips Are Moving” is terrifically fun and chock full of personality and it seems that mouthy old Madame Trainor’s lips will be moving for a long time to come.

38) Meghan Trainor – Dear Future Husband

Meghan Trainor Dear Future Husband

Oh it’s her again! Yes Meghan added another smash to her belt earlier with this sassy and brassy jam. The feisty track proved actually that Trainor has outgrown her first smash “All About that Bass” and has completed her ascendance to the position of one of pop’s current it-girls. She’s not just bringing booty back. She’s also putting men in their place all over the shop and, at least for now, no one seems to mind all that much. And when the music’s this good, who cares?

37) Maroon 5 – Sugar

maroon 5 sugar

Does anyone else remember that time when Maroon 5 were literally pretty much kaput? Well, take a good hard look at them now why don’t you. This just proves that Mick Jagger’s moves really can work magic. They all but brought this group back from the dead. Recent release “Sugar” continues the group’s winning streak, becoming the biggest hit off their current album V. The song also shows frontman Adam Levine using his ability to communicate with bats through sounds so sonically high pitched that they are almost inaudible for human ears.

36) Carly Rae Jepsen – I Really Like You

Carly rae jepsen i really like you

I was so pleased when I heard that Carly Rae Jepsen was coming back. I always had faith that she was more than just “Call Me Maybe” and finally my patience paid off. “I Really Like You” shows Jepsen at the top of her game. She never claimed to be a master lyricist or to produce deep and meaningful songs, she is quite simply put, a fun popstar like in the good old days of Britney cerca 2000. When it comes to sophomore albums, the artist’s whole future hangs in the balance. If not done right, they may never sell a record again (Duffy…) or at the very least just fade into obscurity. With a hit like “I Really Like You” under her belt, Carly stands a good chance of not falling into that sad, depressing category.

35) Britney Spears Feat. Iggy Azalea – Pretty Girls

Britney Spears Feat. Iggy Azalea – Pretty Girls

People have been throwing shade all over this song. Even writers Little Mix appeared on radio saying that they didn’t think the track was good enough for their new album and so they scrapped it, only for Britney to pick it up later. Contrary to popular option, I think that any Britney comeback single “Pretty Girls” is a cause for celebration, especially because it’s just the type of track that Britney should be doing: a fun, bubbly track full of personality and catchy hooks. Also, more to the point, I don’t know how many more flop singles Britney can take before she shaves her head again and I don’t want to find out…

I have to admit that this parody is pretty funny:

34) Marlon Roudette – When the Beat Drops Out

marlon roudette when the beat drops out

Marlon Roudette has produced more than just another run of the mill throwaway dance hit with “When the Beat Drops Out”. First of all, the use of the steel drum is genius as it immediately transports the listener to a tropical Jamaican island (with air con) and the absolute ruthless effectiveness of the hook “Bassline I will always make time” is undeniable. If, like me, you are incapable of getting it out of your head, the only thing I can suggest is a full lobotomy.

33) Ed Sheeran & Rudimental – Bloodstream (Remix)

ed sheeran rudimental bloodstream

“Bloodstream” was never actually one of my favourites off X. I never really got into it for some reason and I was actually a bit pissed off when I heard that it was going to be a single before “Photograph”. But Rudimental’s single remix was a complete game changer for me. It brought the song to life and even made me like the original more. However, I do believe the remix is superior as it builds and builds like a quiet storm ranging under the surface which reflects the emotions that Ed is trying to get across with this song. It’s smart moves like this that have led to his being the biggest male singer in the world right now.

32) Jason Derulo – Want to Want Me

jason derulo want to want me

Derulo is actually racking up quite the stash of chart smashes. Who could have predicted that he would actually still be around so long after his debut? But as long as he remains this inventive it seems he is going nowhere.  “Want You to Want Me” enjoyed a month’s reign as the highest selling single in the UK, no mean feat by any stretch of the imagination. As one of the premier pulsating, throbbing synth pop jams of 2015, “Want You to Want Me” is every bit what pop should sound like in 2015 and Derulo’s ball shattering falsetto is always welcome.

31) Karen Harding – Say Something

karen harding say something

This one was pretty out of left field I must say. Who would have expected a track this current and fresh sounding from a girl who once auditioned for the X Factor but was eliminated at the Boot Camp stage. She didn’t even make it to the final 12! Neither did she manage to represent the UK in Eurovision when she had a pop at that. How she managed to go from that to having a top ten UK debut single is beyond me. It’s probably best that she didn’t get through to the X Factor auditions, “Say Something” is about as anti-Simon Cowell as you can get which probably has something to do with the fact that it was produced by MNEK, one of the go-to producers of the moment (he was behind Gorgon City’s smash last year “Ready for Your Love”). “Say Something” is unashamedly 90’s and features a killer bassline that just begs to be turned up loud. It’s also pretty good to hear that a fellow northerner is kicking some ass in the UK. Hailing from Consett, County Durham, she is about as northern as it gets. Respect!

30) David Guetta Feat. Afrojack, Nicki Minaj and Bebe Rexha – Hey Mama

David Guetta Feat. Afrojack, Nicki Minaj and Bebe Rexha – Hey Mama

A mammoth collaboration between two DJ heavyweights, the leading lady of rap and an up and coming star in the making. It’s a powerful and, most importantly, interesting track. Everyone is on top form here and the combo of Guetta’s pop sensibilities and Afrojack’s harder sound makes for a truly exhilarating collab.

29) Florence and the Machine – Ship to Wreck

Florence and the Machine - Ship to Wreck

It’s been way too long since we had a new Florence album. I literally adored her first two LPs and expectations were high for her to make it a trio of successes. When she did drop How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful at first I was a little underwhelmed but the album has slowly grown and grown on me since I bought it. It is true what the critics say, Florence’s new sound does have a whiff of Americanisation which has stifled some of her creative prowess, but luckily for us it takes a bit more than some crashing drums to dampen that effervescent personality. “Ship to Wreck” is my personal favourite from the album as it shows Florence at her wildest and most waily. I’m a fan of the wailing. To WREEEEEEEEEEEEECK!

28) Charli XCX Feat. Rita Ora – Doing It

charli xcx rita ora doing it

After bratty, fun-loving Charli XCX’s second single “Break the Rules” only scraped into the top 35 and failed to replicate the success of “Boom Clap” I was quite worried as to her music industry future, but one listen to “Doing It” and my fears melted away. “Doing It” is a loud and proud pure pop confection which is aimed squarely at the jugular of the singles chart. It’s infinitely playable and catchy as a cold. Of course, Rita Ora’s feature adds nothing here but starpower. Either way I mostly just listen to the original Rita-less album version anyway.

27) Morland and Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me

Morland and Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me

Norwegian singer Morland’s choice to enter “A Monster Like Me” for Eurovision 2015 troubles me. In some ways I really wish he hadn’t entered it because the song is clearly of a different ilk to the usual Eurovision fare. Dare I say, it’s a lot better quality than most Eurovision entries. The pesky 3 minute length rule for all Eurovision songs has clearly sold “A Monster Like Me” short as well. The track could do with another minute or so as it is so sparse and brooding that it needs the extra time to breathe and build to a crescendo. Nevertheless, they have done a good job in creating as much atmosphere and tension as is possible to fit into 3 minutes and the harmonies are hauntingly beautiful. However, I always feel like I want a bit more after it finishes. The fact that it only finished 8th in the competition is quite insulting as well. Embarrassing for both Eurovision and for the singers. However, on the flipside, if it hadn’t been entered into Eurovision, we would have probably never heard it. Quite the dilemma that one…

26) Martin Garrix Feat. Usher – Don’t Look Down

Martin Garrix Feat. Usher – Don’t Look Down

Not a massive Usher fan but Garrix really managed to get the best out of him with this track. His voice is perfectly suited to this type of euphoric track and it just makes me wonder why he doesn’t do songs like this all the time. Garrix has been unstoppable recently and “Don’t Look Down” the cream of the crop. It’s a pure festival tune which is destined to be chanted by thousands of sweaty 20-something year olds all summer.

25) Adam Lambert – Ghost Town

ghost town adam lambert

I had all but given up on Adam Lambert after his so-so sophomore effort Trespassing but boy was I proved wrong. “Ghost Town” is a powerful statement. A triumphal return for a quality popstar. The fulfilment of so much potential that was going to waste on mediocre material, which is a beautiful thing. Adam on “Ghost Town” is just pure fabulousness and it warms the heart to know that he has finally found a way to channel his diva-ish tendencies into creating quality 90’s inspired witch house anthems.

24) DJ Snake Feat. AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It

Dj Snake AlunaGeorge You Know you like it

DJ Snake is everywhere at the minute. And this reworking of AlunaGeorge’s original single is among some of his best work. On “You Know You Like It” Snake transforms the original into a dance floor filler which has sent it surging up into the US top 20. The whole affair is just pure chart euphoria all round and who could resist when those ethereal, child-like vocals morph into squelchy, androgynous stuttering to make a truly irresistible chorus.

23) Marina & the Diamonds – I’m a Ruin

marina and the diamond im a ruin froot

“I’m a Ruin” is such a pleasant surprise from Marina and the Diamonds. I didn’t believe that she had this much depth if I’m honest but “I’m a Ruin” somehow manages to be truly heart-breaking in a way that lots of pop songs just aren’t capable of. On the track Marina shows her vulnerability and she is honest to a fault, which is something that very few popstars actually are nowadays. It’s clear that she gives us everything on “I’m a Ruin” and, in doing so, she create something truly special that deserves to be lauded as one of the best ballads in recent times. A triumph for mid-tempo pop.

22) Blonde Feat. Melissa Steel – I Loved You

blonde i loved you

The arrival of “I Loved You” introduced us to a brand new dance production group Blonde who have now turned into one of Britain’s foremost talents. The rushing, surging backing drum beat on “I Loved You” gives a sense of urgency and Melissa Steel’s impassioned vocals blend the whole production together. Club ready and epic.

21) Iggy Azalea Feat. Jennifer Hudson – Trouble

jennifer hudson iggy azalea trouble

Jennifer Hudson is US Billboard chart poison. Everything she does lately just bombs, even when she is coupled with one of raps biggest stars at the minute. “Trouble” managed to go top ten in Australia, UK and many other markets, but it barely made an impact in the US. Is there something we’re missing? Even if it had come out that she was a massive bitch (highly unlikely), WHO CARES? Chris Brown still sells shedloads despite his “Rihanna incident” (the less we speak about that the better), so I just don’t get it why JHud can’t seem to bag a US hit. “Trouble” is witty, catchy and as inventive as you like. It sounds like nothing else on the radio at the minute with its retro vibe and plonkety piano line. The video itself was great too. You really just can’t win with some people. Nevermind, the rest of the world will keep it all to themselves.

Thank you for ready and feel free to leave any comments or suggestions