It’s that time of the year already! My favourite part of the year when I get to countdown the best songs of 2015. Let’s not lie…these countdowns are completely subjective and obviously depend on personal taste. For example, if you came here looking for grunge you will most likely be very disappointed. But the purpose of this list is just to celebrate some of the best (in my opinion) pop songs of the year. Giving kudos where kudos is due. So please feel free to disagree, comment and post your own lists. Full disclosure “Uptown Funk” does not…I repeat…not feature in the list. Before you bite my head off, please note that it came out in the UK last November and featured in my Best Songs of 2014. Ok now that’s out of the way, if you don’t mind, I’d like to kick off this years top 100 on a slightly sombre note:
After the revived success of her 2013 track “Wings” in the UK this year on the back of that Lloyds horse story advert, Birdy teamed up with Hertfordshire newcomer Rhodes to pen this haunting ballad. If you’re feeling like you want to feel some feels, I’d recommend watching this live version of “Let It All Go“. It literally is spellbinding!
When Miley dropped her Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz album at the end of August reactions varied from horrified stupification to dumb fascination. While the album could have done with some judicious slicing, this confessional mid tempo ballad is one of the moments that really works. The spoken verses sound like a conscious stream of thought which allows Miley to air exactly what she thinks of her overbearing lover (N.B. if it’s written about Liam Hemsworth, he could never be too overbearing!)
This stellar piano ballad starts subdued and eventually evolves into a powerhouse tearjerker. Not only does it show lead singer Olly Alexander’s vocals at their very best but it also caps off a stupendous year for the Years and Years boys.
Late in 2015 Cee-Lo decided to drop this uplifting tribute to New Orleans which celebrates life and sends a universal message about finding light in darkness. From anyone else it may have come across as cheesy, from Cee-Lo it’s gold.
The former Oasis frontman returned this year to remind us all why he is still the best. A classy and classic example of Noel Gallagher’s supreme songwriting “Riverman” stands tall among Oasis’ back catalogue.
Rudimental decamped to Jamaica to record most of their current album We the Generation and nowhere does it show more than on brotherhood anthem “Lay It All On Me”. It may not have been released in time to become a summer smash but its steel drums and keyboard synths have served to remind us all of those hot, lazy days all throughout quarter four.
Never since Alicia Keys has the world been more excited by a new R&B artist and it’s no wonder when the effortlessly smooth 19-year old Canadian dropped the slow-burning, introvert anthem of the 2015 as her first single. “Here” serves as the perfect antidote to all those Katy Perry and Rihanna party jams and has managed to make staying at home alone cool again (if it ever was before…)
As it turned out, Selena Gomez’ second solo studio album Revival was very aptly titled. Truth be told, she has never sounded more engaged with her music, especially after the samey Stars Dance. “Same Old Love” sees her experimenting with styles different to her typical EDM, incorporating a wonky-piano loop and finger click beat. It almost sounds like she’s talking about being sick of her old EDM style rather than an old flame.
18-year old Swedish pop star and former winner of Sweden’s Got Talent, Zara Larsson, has slowly but surely been positioning herself for world domination over the past couple of years, having already conquered Scandinavia and most of Europe. “Never Forget You” was a great introduction to the star-in-the-making and Larsson is my top tip to be massive in 2015. Expect big things.
Despite being cool for the summer, Demi Lovato brought on a heatwave with the first single from her fifth studio album Confident. She ensured we all had a hot, hot summer with this saucy comeback single, possibly the cheekiest, bi-curious jam since “I Kissed a Girl”.
As soon as I heard “Glitterball” I was instantly reminded of my summer holiday Croatia. Blue skies, crystal waters and beautiful, tanned people. “Glitterball” picks up right from where “Changing” finished in that it’s a colossal, drum and bass fueled holiday anthem with some hella powerhouse vocals from Henderson.
After the disappointingly generic “Body Talk”, Foxes made a proper comeback with the wistful “Better Love”. Her soaring, ethereal vocals make this one of her most effective and heartbreaking tracks to date.
Little Mix have gone from strength to strength since winning the UK X Factor and “Love Me Like You” is one of their poppiest and funniest efforts to date. This time round they went all retro with some ace syncronised dancing and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. It’s like a flashback to the good old days of Spice Girls. In fact you could say that it’s Little Mix’s “Stop”.
As already stated, Miley’s latest studio effort was a psychedelic, messy effort but it did feature one relatively sane track which stood out among all the madness. Oh and it’s apparently about Ariana Grande. Ain’t that sweet.
Simon Cowell’s Syco record label heralded the start of summer with this its first foray into Calypso tropical house. “When the Beat Drops Out” is as smooth as a margarita and features what seems like the vast majority of all the steel drums in Trinidad and Tobago.
Meghan Trainor proved she was onto a winner with her doo-wop stylings by continuing her winning streak all throughout 2015. “Dear Future Husband” may have come under fire for its “aggresively heteronnormative message” (good god…) but if you don’t take life too seriously like me, you’ll appreciate the catchiness of it all.
Et voila! Le long awaited second part to my Best Songs of 2015 So far!
40) 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
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
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
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
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.
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 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)
“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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
“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
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 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
Coldplay finally gave into peer pressure and surrendered to EDM, enlisting phenomenally popular Swedish DJ Avicii to provide them with a grandiose stadium-sized smash for their sixth studio album Ghost Stories. “A Sky Full of Stars” didn’t disappoint on any account and served as a rare uplifting track on the downbeat album. It also managed to peak top ten internationally and become a festival staple.
39) Milky Chance – Stolen Dance
Electronica folk or folktronica had been a pretty underground movement for several years until Milky Chance burst onto the scene this year with their beloved debut single “Stolen Dance” which combined lightly strummed guitar riffs and mumbled vocals to create an understated masterpiece of subtlety. The single’s unexpected success extends to every major music market in the world and goes to show that the cream will always rise to the top.
38) Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne – Real Love
Clean Bandit finished a hugely successful year with a re-release of their debut album New Eyes repackaged with several new tracks, including the piano-driven lovefest that is “Real Love”. Upon release, the single managed to peak at No.2 in the UK (beaten only by Band Aid 30), becoming Clean Bandit’s third top 10 single in 2014 and Jess Glynne’s fourth. When it was announced that Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne were collaborating again after few could have imagined that they would be able to repeat the success and quality of previous collab “Rather Be”, well look who’s laughing now.
37) Jessie J Feat. Nicki Minaj & Ariana Grande – Bang Bang
After the poor commercial performance and critical reception of her sophomore album Alive Jessie J started 2014 on the bottom. But, never one to take it lying down, she quietly squirreled away and masterminded her explosive comeback in September, roping in of-the-moment pop stars Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj to guarantee commercial euphoria. Upon release, the single charted at No.3 in the US, becoming Jessie’s biggest hit there, and at No.1 in the UK. Jessie J was back with a vengeance!
36) Faul & Wad Ad vs. Pnau – Changes
Another deep house banger which hit the big time in 2014. Australian electronic duo Pnau’s “Baby” is sampled her to great effect, combining the slightly creepy child choir vocals with lazy, chilled out saxophone riffs and house beats which helped “Changes” become a 2014 summer anthem.
35) Sam Smith – Money on My Mind
Sam Smith kicked off his 2014 in style, bagging his second UK No.1 single (after Naughty Boy’s “La La La”) and his first No.1 as a lead artist when “Money on My Mind” went straight in at No.1 in February. The track shows off Smith’s impressive vocal range, especially his higher register which forms the hook of the song.
34) Beyoncé Feat. Jay Z – Drunk In Love
The flash release of Beyoncé’s eponymous fifth album last December wasn’t the only shocking thing about the diva’s studio set: it also showcased some of her most sexually explicit work to date. “Drunk in Love” was one of the two lead single taken from the album and displays B at her dirtiest and most X rated combining trap beats and slinky basslines. The frisky track was first performed by Jay Z and Queen B on the Grammies which sent shock waves through the industry and helped the track surge to a peak position of No.2 in the US.
33) Ariana Grande Feat. Zedd – Break Free
“Break Free” was released as the second single from Grande’s second album My Everything and showcases the diminutive pop star dipping her toe into the electropop genre, hooking up with Russian-German music producer Zedd. Unlike some pop tartlets before her Ariana Grande’s doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of EDM jerky beats and instead soars high proving that she really is untouchable right now.
32) Lorde – Yellow Flicker Beat
However late in the year it may have been released, “Yellow Flicker Beat” was undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2014. The hummed intro/outro and middle sections gave the song unique appeal and Lorde’s bewitchingly dark performance brought the grungy, gothic lyrics to life. Mockingjay Part.1 may have been a whole load of nothing but don’t say it didn’t give us anything, it’s soundtrack was amazing and “Yellow Flicker Beat” stands out as the jewel in its crown.
31) MAGIC! – Rude
2014 will be remembered as the year when diversity reigned supreme over the charts with subgenres such as deep house, trap and folktronica making waves on the singles chart. One of the genres which really shone this year however was reggae fusion, a movement which was spearheaded by Canadian group Magic! whose single “Rude” was met with phenomenal success, peaking at No.1 in the UK and the US and becoming one of the highest selling singles of the year.
30) Foxes – Let Go for Tonight
After skirting around the edge of the mainstream since 2012’s Zedd-produced “Clarity” British singer Foxes chose 2014 as the year to make her big commercial breakthrough. “Let Go For Tonight” was released as the second single from her debut album Glorious and became her first top UK top ten single when it entered at No.7 in late February. The piano-driven track combines crashing drums and airy synths to create a timeless ode to letting go of your cares and just dancing the night away.
29) Pitbull Feat. Ke$ha – Timber
Who said January was a slow time for music? Pitbull and Ke$ha heated up the cold, wintery months with this spicy, country tinged club banger which peaked at No.1 in the US for three weeks and for one week in the UK. The predominant harmonica line sampled Lee Oskar’s 1978 single “San Francisco Bay” and plays off Avicii’s previous success with country music on “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother”.
28) Ed Sheeran – Sing
Pharrell strikes again, continuing his winning streak well into 2014 with “Sing”, the lead single from Ed Sheeran’s highly successful sophomore album X. The R&B production of the song shows a new side to Sheeran’s music and the chorus demonstrates the power of his falsetto vocals.
27) The Common Linnets – Calm After the Storm
The Common Linnets are a Dutch supergroup formed for Eurovision 2014 by Waylon and Ilse DeLange who were already both popular established artists in their own right in their home country. Their entry “Calm After the Storm” is a blend of country and Americana genres which is very atypical for the glitzy, tacky Eurovision Song Contest and, despite all predictions, the song proved to be the dark horse of the competition this year. Although it was eventually beaten by a bearded lady from Austria, it did manage to secure the Netherlands their highest placing entry in the competition since they last won in 1975. However, quality eventually prevailed and “Calm After the Storm” became a global smash, well outperforming Conchita Wurst’s track in the charts.
26) John Legend – All of Me
The prize for 2014’s soppiest song definitely goes to John Legend, but despite the song’s inane insipidness, it will undoubtedly be remembered as one of 2014’s defining songs and it finished the year as the UK and US’ third best-selling singles. It also managed to knock Pharrell’s ridiculously popular “Happy” off its 10 week perch at No.1 in the US which probably deserves a medal or something.
25) Robin Schulz Feat. Mr Probz – Waves
German producer Robin Schulz has had an amazing year. Europe has fully embraced his relaxing, chill out dance remixes to the point where he is now practically unstoppable. He made waves earlier on this year by remixing Dutch singer Mr Probz’ soulful original version and sending it straight to the top of the UK charts. The emotional depth of the lyrics and Probz’ husky, soulful vocals meant that it ended the year as the fourth best-selling single of 2014 in the UK.
24) Iggy Azalea Feat. Charli XCX – Fancy
Iggy Azalea is definitely one of the artists who defined 2014. Her breakthrough single “Fancy” announced her arrival with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer in the hands of Miley Cyrus. She hailed her style as “the new classic”, suggesting that she combined throwback beats with very 2014 brashness, i.e. the 80’s squelchy synth lines on “Fancy” combined with Charli XCX’s bratty chorus. What else could we do but bow down? “Fancy” was a humungous hit all over the world but especially in the US where it topped the singles chart for 7 straight weeks during the summer and finished the year as the fourth biggest seller.
23) Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Young Blood
Sophie Ellis-Bextor deserves a lot of credit for reinventing herself so successfully this year. It takes a lot of guts to switch from something you’ve been doing for so long and do something completely different, but she did and boy did it pay off. “Young Blood” is undoubtedly her strongest song lyrically and her distinctive posh vocals lend the track a classic, timeless feel. It’s unclear which direction she’ll go in next but I can say with all confidence that if she continues producing songs of this quality and emotional significance she will be around for another 15 years to come.
22) Dolly Parton – Home
It feels weird putting Dolly Parton on my list of best songs of 2014 but she has earned it after all. This year she spearheaded a very successful comeback which included headlining Glastonbury at the ripe age of 68. The shocking thing is that Blue Smoke (her 42nd studio album!) has actually become her most successful ever in the UK, peaking at No.2 in the UK and garnering some of her best critical reviews. Similarly, in the US Blue Smoke became Parton’s first top ten album when it peaked at No.6 and her highest debuting set on the Top Country album chart. These commercial figures are shocking but well deserved as the album is a bountiful, heartfelt gift to all her fans. “Home”, the lead single, is a heart-warming ditty about wanting to go home. Simple sentiments, deep meanings and good intentions. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to smile.
21) Jess Glynne – Right Here
Although it doesn’t feel like it due to her numerous successful collaborations, “Right Here” is actually Jess Gynne’s debut solo single. The track was produced by English electronic production duo Gorgon City and sees Glynne exploring deep house with minimalistic beats and joyous trumpets. Jess’ vocals are as powerful as ever but it’s the simplistic synth hook which really takes hold of you. Best listened to with the bass turned up high.
Thanks for reading and keep your eyes peeled for the final part of our Best Songs of 2014 countdown coming very soon.
“Summer” definitely managed to do what it said on the tin. Despite Harris’ whiney, slightly irritating vocals, it became a massive summer smash for the unstoppable DJ and his 6th UK chart topper. I’m sure the enormous EDM drop had a little something to do with that. Peaking at No.7, “Summer” also became Harris’ highest peaking single in the US, outstripping the previous effort of “Sweet Nothing” which reached No.10 in 2012.
79) Jungle – Busy Earnin’
Modern soul band Jungle are one of the revelations of 2014. They have managed to maintain their anonymity and mystique while becoming one of the biggest crossover bands of this year. Their self-titled debut album went straight into the UK top ten and was also nominated for the Mercury Prize. “Busy Earnin’”, a funk-infused jam about concentrating on the more important things in life, is undoubtedly a highlight from the album and plays off 2014’s love affair with brass.
78) OneRepublic – Love Runs Out
Riding off the success of their 2013 mega-smash “Counting Stars”, OneRepublic have managed to continue their winning streak throughout 2014. “Love Runs Out” was released as the lead single from the 2014 reissue of their third album Native and became a transatlantic smash hit, peaking top 15 in the US and top 3 in the UK. The stomping, piano-led beat was undoubtedly one of the most infectious and invigorating of 2014.
77) La Roux – Kiss and Not Tell
Released as the second single from the group’s second album Trouble in Paradise “Kiss and Not Tell” is a peppy, synth-pop jam about ignoring the problems in a relationship. The light and breezy feel of the track is offset by the darker lyrical themes resulting in the perfect contrast.
76) Iggy Azalea Feat. Rita Ora – Black Widow
“Black Widow” is essentially “Dark Horse” part 2. Both were written by Katy Perry and boast a trap-influenced sound. However, “Black Widow” opts for ominous steel drums to give the track a more relaxed, even exotic feel. Released as the follow up to the enormously successful “Fancy” and “Problem”, “Black Widow” became Iggy’s third consecutive top 3 US single and gave Rita Ora her first top ten Billboard single.
75) Kelis – Jerk Ribs
For those with a taste for soul food, “Jerk Ribs” was 2014’s ultimate tasty dish served up by a very underrated star at the peak of her creativity with a side of smokey vocals and brass. After pioneering the EDM revolution with her relentlessly sweaty Flesh Tone album in 2010, Kelis decided to take some time off in between projects to take a cooking course. Now as a certified Cordon Bleu chef Kelis channels her love for food into her music, even naming her songs after her favourite dishes. “Jerk Ribs” has a peppery freshness that makes it stand out as one of the star platters of the year.
74) DJ Snake Feat. Lil’ John – Turn Down for What
Few songs can claim that they coined a brand new phrase but “Turn Down for What” certainly did that and more in 2014. The squeaky, trap influenced hook was practically inescapable for the first part of the year and soon became the soundtrack for the dissident youth who gleefully break the rules and defy all those around them. It’s hard not to get pulled in by the craziness of it all and you’d have to have a heart of stone not to bop your head just a little.
73) Charli XCX – Boom Clap
Including one of your songs on a film soundtrack has become one of the most reliable ways of opening your music up to new audiences in recent years. Of course, when compared to other film love themes such as “A Thousand Years” or “Evergreen”, Charli XCX’s more raucous offering seems very out of place, but therein lies its genius. “Boom Clap” managed to rewrite everything about the romantic soundtrack genre and turned the Cambridge-born English rose into a celebrity almost overnight.
72) G.R.L – Ugly Heart
The Pussycat Dolls 2.0 launched their assault on the world with the Dr. Luke-produced “Ugly Heart” which is a snarky kiss off to those infuriatingly hot wankers who we’ve all met. The prominent ukulele line gives the track a country vibe in the vein of “Timber” and results in a sassy, empowering self-liberation anthem.
71) Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Runaway Daydreamer
Sophie Ellis-Bextor has made a stellar comeback this year. “Runaway Daydreamer” is a floaty, delicate piece which channels nursery rhymes and themes of escapism and self-discovery. The intriguing instrumental choices add to the mystique and dreamy melody and her lighter-than-a-feather vocals float lazily over the sweeping piano chorus. Irresistibly classy.
70) Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’
For a song that’s not just a Eurovision reject but a Melodifestivalen reject (for those who don’t know, Melodifestivalen is a song contest that the Swedish use to choose who will represent them at Eurovision), “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” is shockingly contemporary and even respectable. Perhaps it is for these reasons that “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” was doomed to fail at the antiquated Melodifestivalen and the insipid “Undo” nailed on to succeed. Still, Ace Wilder had the last laugh after “Busy Doin’ Nothin’” shot straight to No.1 in Sweden, leaving its vanquisher floundering.
69) Disclosure Feat. Mary J Blige – F For You
Sometimes it just takes a little extra spice to bring a track to life. Disclosure’s original solo version of “F For You” had already managed to peak top 20 in the UK when they decided to revamp it for a 2014 rerelease. And what a difference a year made. Mary’s soulful vocals helped bring some personality to the track and even inspired the diva enough for her to write her own dance-influenced single “Right Now” released later in the year.
68) HAIM – If I Could Change Your Mind
After establishing themselves as one of the breakout acts of 2013 and notching up a UK top 20 single and a No.1 album HAIM continued their success in 2014, bagging themselves another UK top 30 with “If I Could Change Your Mind” early in the year. The thumping bass and 80’s inspired synths ensured the singles radio success and commercial appeal, but it was HAIM’s signature snappy delivery that won us over.
67) Inna Feat. J Balvin – Cola Song
Ok I have never said that this list was completely based on quality and sometimes you just need to give in to the infectious beats. Although her success has plateaued outside of certain European markets, she is still extremely popular in Spain where she is the queen of the song of the summer. “Cola Song” was this year’s effort from the Romanian and, while possibly being one of the worst songs of the year, “Cola Song” is also one of the catchiest and most fun. The on-trend saxophone instrumental serves as the hook and the steamy video seals the deal with zest.
66) Paolo Nutini – Better Man
It may be easy to overlook Paolo among the tirade of male solo artists who have found international success this year but that would be a crying shame as his album Caustic Love is a masterpiece of spacious production and truly soulful vocals. Released in April the album shot straight to No.1 and was at the time the fastest selling album in the UK. The promotional single “Better Man” managed to creep into the top 40 but its quality far outsides its commercial performance. This is a lesson in letting music breathe and speak on its own merits. “Better Man” is the crowning piece of Caustic Love, nestled right in the middle of the album and serving as a heart-breakingly honest ode to self-improvement.
65) Kylie Minogue – Into the Blue
She may not have achieved the commercial success that her albums usually enjoy with her latest offering Kiss Me Once but nevertheless it undoubtedly remains one of the most fun albums of 2014. “Into the Blue” served as the lead single from the album and is the perfect zingy pick-me-up for anyone who is having a bad day. It’s easy to claim that euphoric tunes like this are ten to the dozen nowadays but it’s the lyrical connection that Kylie makes “Into the Blue” truly uplifting (“When I got my back up against the wall, don’t need no one to rescue me/’Cause I ain’t waiting up for no miracle, yeah tonight I’m running free!
64) Shakira Feat. Rihanna – Can’t Remember to Forget You
Reggae/ska inspired beats have been all over the charts this year (“Rude”, “Am I Wrong?”) but lest we forget that Shakira and Rihanna started it all in January of this year. “Can’t Remember to Forget You” may have become more famous for its raunchy video featuring some steamy sexual tension between the two singers but sonically the track is probably one of the most interesting of 2014.
63) Paolo Nutini – Scream (Funk My Life Up)
Paolo again. “Scream” is one of the few upbeat songs from Caustic Love and served as the lead single, becoming his biggest hit in the UK since his debut single “Last Request”. Taboo, naughty and just a bit sexy “Scream” is 2014’s perfect dedication to a girl so fine she makes you want to scream. Ooh err.
62) Cheryl Feat. Tinie Tempah – Crazy Stupid Love
Kylie must be kicking herself for rejecting “Crazy Stupid Love” after Cheryl took it straight to the top of the UK charts in the summer. Thumping percussion, fingersnaps and handclaps, a raw saxophone hook, a sneaky guest rap from Tinie Tempah. “Crazy Stupid Love” has all the ingredients of a massive smash and, upon debuting at No.1 in July it helped Cheryl equal Geri Halliwell’s long standing record of being the only UK female with 4 No.1 singles. A record that Cheryl has since broken with her latest single “I Don’t Care”. Go on Chezza!
61) Wisin Feat. Ricky Martin & Jennifer Lopez – Adrenalina
“Adrenalina” was the perfect soundtrack to this year’s long, hot summer. Puerto Rican singer Wisin roped in some old friends and collaborators in the form of international latin popstars Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin in order to help him rule the radio waves. The result was a sticky, sexy hot mess with a bit of leather thrown in for good measure. As Shakira would say “así es perfecto”.
Join me as I progressively count down the top 100 songs of 2014. It’s been a very varied and interesting year in the world of pop. I don’t know about you but I can’t wait to see who has been kicking major ass this year! Let’s get into it:
100) Oliver Heldens x Becky Hill – Gecko (Overdrive)
The Voice must have breathed a sigh of relief when the first of its alumni Becky Hill managed to bag a UK no.1 single when futuristic house track “Gecko (Overdrive)” soared to the top spot in June. You could barely step into a club in 2014 without hearing her power vocals layered with these blotchy deep house beats.
99) The Script – Superheroes
It’s actually hard not to be inspired by “Superheroes”, the lead single from the Scripts latest studio album No Sound Without Silence. It has all the hallmarks of another epic Script classic.
98) Rixton – Me and My Broken Heart
New kids on the block British boy band Rixton notched up their first UK No.1 single when “Me and My Broken Heart” soared to the top of the charts in the summer. They also managed to infiltrate the notoriously difficult US charts with this incessantly catchy number.
97) MKTO – Classic
Californian duo MKTO bagged their first international top 30 smash this year with the irrepressibly sunny “Classic”. It effortlessly channels the Jackson Five and old school soul.
96) Charli XCX – Break the Rules
What a year Charli XCX has had! After the success of “Boom Clap” came the trashy, raucous “Break the Rules” which took pop back to school. It may have not managed to match her previous singles success but it certainly caused an impression with its rebellious electropunk style.
95) CHVRCHES – Recover
Scottish synthpop band CHVRCHES are another act who have had an incredible year. Their debut album The Bones of What You Believe has been a slow-burning transatlantic smash, churning out distinctive electropop tunes left, right and centre. The 2014 re-release of “Recover” may not have set the charts alight but it did manage to reinfect us with its sheer catchiness all over again. Just when we were about to recover….
94) Ellie Goulding – Goodness Gracious
Ellie somehow managed to reach new realms of amazingness in 2014 and part of that is due to the high-pitched, hyper energetic “Goodness Gracious” which was released as the second single from the repackaged version of Halcyon Days and managed to push the studio set back to No.1 in January. Beats don’t get much bouncier than this.
93) Tiesto Feat. Matthew Koma – Wasted
2014 has proved to be a big commercial comeback year for Dutch DJ Tiesto who has managed to notch up not 1 but 2 global smashes with “Red Lights” and “Wasted”. The shout along chorus of “Wasted” was practically inescapable all summer and served as the soundtrack to many a summer festival.
92) Duke Dumont Feat. Jax Jones – I Got U
Capitalising on Whitney nostalgia, Duke Dumont managed to secure himself a consecutive No.1 single when he released the first song of the summer “I Got U” in March. Steel drums, chilled vocals, layed-back synths. What’s not to like?
91) Becky G – Shower
Having been knocking on the door of global success for a while, Becky G finally crossed over in 2014 with the Dr. Luke (Ke$ha, GRL) produced “Shower” which became her first charting solo single. “Shower” managed to go top 20 in the US and chart throughout Europe. I’m sure someone’s singing it in the shower right now.
90) Fuse ODG Feat. Sean Paul – Dangerous Love
British-Ghanaian singer-rapper Fuse ODG was no stranger to commercial success, having bagged himself two UK top ten singles in 2013 alone. But upon release “Dangerous Love” became his biggest hit to date and successfully brought African beats back in a big way, securing its place on the radio waves all summer long.
89) Calvin Harris Feat. Ellie Goulding – Outside
This probably deserves to be higher on the list but seeing as its fairly new I think it still needs a bit of time to mature. It’s essentially “I Need Your Love” part two but probably better or, if not, just as good. Ellie’s ethereal, almost spooky vocals bring this tune to a new level and Calvin’s beats are typically euphoric. One for the gym playlist for years to come.
88) George Ezra – Blame it on Me
George Ezra kind of just crept up on us didn’t he? Soon after the runaway smash “Budapest” came “Blame It On Me” which also cracked the UK top 10. His bellowing, bassy tones are used to even greater effect on “Blame it On Me” which retains the organic feel of his previous hits without sacrificing one iota of catchiness.
87) Jessie Ware – Tough Love
After a highly critically acclaimed debut album Jessie Ware managed to get her first top 40 single with “Tough Love” this summer which stood out among the glut of EDM bangers for its spacious, unhurried nature. Jessie’s hallmark breathless yet soothing vocals were also back in force to make this one of her best songs to date.
86) Lily Allen – Air Balloon
Lily may have not had the comeback she wanted this year, with her third studio effort Sheezus falling well short of her previous albums in terms of sales. But, while the album may have been hit and miss, the singles were pure genius. “Air Balloon” is just pure pop at its best. It may not boast the snappy, satirical lyrics that were used to from Allen but its MIA-esque kookiness and synth-hooks were more than enough to keep us listening in 2014.
85) Azaelia Banks – Chasing Time
Let’s face it. We had all written off Azaelia Banks as the foul mouthed, aggressive bitch that she comes across as on Twitter. But the flash release of “Chasing Time” and its parent album Broke with Expensive Taste a few weeks ago managed to redeem the singer’s ailing career by reminding us why we fell in love with the 212 rapper in the first place.
84) Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Love Is A Camera
After a star turn on last year’s Strictly Come Dancing Sophie Ellis-Bextor decided to switch up the game in 2014 by taking a completely new musical direction. Her fifth studio album Wanderlust was released in January and has proved to be her most successful in years. The third single “Love is a Camera” is a masterpiece of chamber music, featuring a baroque tango vibe and a killer breakdown at the end.
83) Hozier – Take me to Church
Irish singer Hozier burst out of nowhere to take us to church and back with his debut single. Arguably capitalising on the popularity of Imagine Dragons’ sound in 2013 he emerged as their immediate successors late this year and grabbed himself a shock worldwide smash with the epic, stomping “Take Me to Church”.
82) Sky Ferreira – I Blame Myself
“I Blame Myself” is probably one of the more poppier moments on Sky’s debut studi album Night Time, My Time, which is by the way one of the best albums I have heard ever. “I Blame Myself” was taken as the second single in summer 2014 and shows the singer accepting her negative public image and even blaming herself for it. Refreshingly honest.
81) La Roux – Uptight Downtown
It was a hell of a long wait for La Roux’s sophomore album but it was definitely worth it. Trouble in Paradise may be on the light side with only 9 tracks but there’s not a dud on it. “Uptight Downtown” was the lead single and kicks off the album in style with a 70’s disco beat.
Join me next time for the next installment of this years top 100 best songs!
September has been kind to us and here’s 11 of the hottest tracks at the moment:
11) One Direction – Fireproof
Sorry for the rant but One Direction are one of those annoying boy bands whose careers are primarily fuelled by hysterical teenagers who are in love with at least one of the members of the band. I didn’t like them on the X Factor and I like them just as much in real life. Of all the acts which have emerged from the X Factor in 2010 (let alone from all the other series) One Direction are one of my least favourite. However…..despite my frank disdain for all things One Direction I do believe that they have been very well managed. This is one of the times when Simon Cowell has managed to tune into the public psyche very well. The world was missing a soulful boy band à la Take That and One Direction fit the bill perfectly. Songs like “Story of my Life” did actually manage to give the band a shred of credibility and even made hardened haters like me begin to take notice. So for their fourth album, which is imaginatively titled Four, One Direction have decided to pursue the “Story of my Life” avenue further with the first promotional single “Fireproof”. Although essentially it has only been released to whet the public’s appetite before the release of the lead single proper “Steal My Girl”, I’m betting “Fireproof” turns out to be much better quality. For one thing the group’s harmonies on “Fireproof” are the best they have ever been and the chorus is immediately catchy. The whole piece has a chilled out ghostly feel to it It has made me slightly rethink my attitude towards One Direction. Might have a sneaky snoop at the album when it comes out and decide whether 1D are worth bothering with after all.
10) Meghan Trainor – Dear Future Husband
I did want to put this one higher in the list because it is undeniably a stonking jam of epic proportions. However, I’ve been slightly put off because of the backing beat’s creeping similarity to Olly Murs’ UK No.1 single “Dance with Me Tonight”. It’s such a shame because the lyrics are witty and well written, but the similarity is too clear to overlook. If no-one picks up on this one I’ll be very shocked as its much more obvious than, say, the similarity between “Blurred Lines” and “Got to Give It Up” or “Brave” and “Roar”. This is literally the same beat. I’d be willing to give Meghan the benefit of the doubt as she may not have ever heard of Olly Murs, he has only had the one hit with “Troublemaker” in the US after all. Plus she clearly doesn’t need to copy other people as demonstrated by the success of “All About that Bass”. I’ll let you decide whether she should be condemned and cast asunder.
9) Jennifer Lopez Feat. Iggy Azalea – Booty
What do you do when your album takes a massive belly flop and disappears from the charts only a few weeks after release? What do you do when your last couple of singles failed to garner any radio airplay or chart success? You pull out the big guns, that’s what! And we all know what JLO has got some pretty big ones that she ain’t shy about showing off. Oh yes and you ditch Pitbull because, well been there done that three times (“On the Floor”, “Dance Again”, “Live It Up”), and rope in popstar of the minute, the generously proportioned Iggy Azalea, to add some extra jelly for shakin’. As if JLO didn’t already have enough. The thing is that JLO didn’t even want to include “Booty” on her album in the first place. She thought that the title was too crass and was only persuaded to include it by her children after playing it to them in the car. But really she should be very glad she did record it because it’s the only single on the album that is capable of reviving the flagging sales. “Booty” is, of course, lyrically on trend and acts as the successor to Miley Cyrus’ twerking-inspired hits of last year while she is busy preparing another horrifyingly fascinating LP for us all to enjoy. It also follows on from Jason Derulo’s middle-eastern inspired sound, particularly “Talk Dirty”. Basically, should you choose to look beyond the tacky glitz of “Booty”, you will undoubtedly see that it is nothing more than a cold and calculated career move, but with both JLO’s and Azalea’s booties in the way now, who is going to bother looking past when the view is so good.
8) Jessie Ware – Say You Love Me
Jessie Ware is one of those artists who might have slipped under your radar if you haven’t been paying close attention to the British music scene over the past couple of years. Her debut album Devotion managed to peak top 5 in 2012 despite failing to yield a top 40 single and was heralded by critics as one of the best releases of the year. Now Jessie is back and has been slowly teasing the release of her latest soon-to-be masterpiece Tough Love throughout 2014. The campaign started with the release of the fantastic lead single “Tough Love” which managed to peak at No.34, becoming Ware’s first top 40 single, and now she has released the video for the ethereal “Say You Love Me”. The sparse styling of the single lets Jessie’s measured song writing breathe like a fine wine and the Ed Sheeran-assisted epic choral line around the 3:15 mark gives me some hope as to the single’s commercial appeal. This could be the breakthrough Jessie’s been looking for.
7) La Roux – Kiss and Not Tell
“Kiss and Not Tell” is the second single from La Roux’s already underappreciated sophomore effort Trouble in Paradise and probably the only song on the album which is capable of reviving the album’s flagging sales. “Kiss and Not Tell” boasts a warmer and sunnier disposition in comparison with, say, “Bulletproof” or “In for the Kill”, but manages to retain La Roux’s quirky signature style. In fact, “Kiss and Not Tell” is an indisputable pop gem which is more than capable of standing on its own two feet. The perky 80’s synth line froths and bubbles throughout the track resulting in a peppy, uplifting bounciness which should provide for perfect radio fodder. After all, in a music world dominated by crashing beats, drops and overproduction, La Roux stands out for their uncomplicated hooks. Sometimes the simplest tracks are the best.
6) Chris Brown Feat. Ariana Grande – Don’t Be Gone Too Long
I did swear that I’d never listen to another Chris Brown song after “the Rihanna incident”, but seeing as pop-starlet of the moment Ariana Grande has a prominent part on this one I can just ignore Brown and gorge on the Grande goodness. “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” grabs you from the very beginning with that throbbing 808 and Grande and Brown’s perfectly blended voices. Hold that thought, bloody hell their voices blend so well. That’s disturbing. It’s as if they were the male and female counterparts of the same person. Erm…tangent alert. Sorry. Anyway, “Don’t Be Gone Too Long” confirms my belief that anything that Grande is on currently is going to be ridiculously good. Plus, the Game of Thrones-inspired video is pretty exciting. “Don’t Be Gone too Long” is a moody, pensive affair which manages to stay the right side of epic without straying into emo territory. Good for them.
5) Mary Lambert – Secrets
Best known as the female singer in hip-hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ same-sex marriage themed hit single “Same Love”, Mary Lambert is now on the verge of releasing her first major label album Heart on My Sleeve. On lead single “Secrets”, you can’t fail to notice Lambert’s barely-concealed glee in revealing all her deepest darkest secrets in her Lily Allen-esque sing-song voice. This refreshingly candid attitude is reminiscent of Meghan Trainor’s recent booty-themed “All About that Bass” which could be a good move for Lambert as it seems like self-acceptance tracks of this ilk are the order of the day for late 2014. I don’t know what’s so wrong about using an analogue clock though. Still the cheerful trumpeting and good dose of comic relief will surely help this become a breakthrough smash for Lambert. Diary of a Pop Fan likes a popstar with humility and as long as her tracks stay this smart and catchy, Lambert could become a permanent fixture in pop, especially with a video that features her dressed as a Nordic opera singer reaching notes that only bats can appreciate.
4) Nicole Scherzinger – On the Rocks
First things first, the title of Nicole’s new album has been announced as being Big Fat Lie, which is possibly one of the most ridiculous album titles I’ve ever heard and suggests that man-celebrating lead single “Your Love” was pretty misleading as to the lyrical direction of the album. Sounds like it’s a bit more heartbreak-centric than “Your Love” would have us believe. And, if second single “On the Rocks” is anything to go by, our Scherzy has been having a pretty rough time of it. “On the Rocks” is a mid-tempo ballad with a prominent, thumping drum line which lyrically relies on the repeated use of the line “serving a break-up on the rocks”. Now correct me if I’m wrong but is our Scherzy trying to make a pun here? A relationship can be “on the rocks”, meaning going through a rough patch, and a drink can also be “on the rocks”, meaning with ice. Oh Scherzy you’re such a wit! Joking aside, “On the Rocks” is a solid piece of R&B pop which will hopefully give Nicole’s career some badly needed street cred. I’m slightly doubtful of its ability to light up the charts though as I don’t think it’s showy or annoying enough, which is a very good thing in terms of quality but not so good in terms of chart position.
3) Mary J. Blige Feat. Disclosure – Right Now
This much is clear. Someone obviously sat up and took notice of Mary J’s collaboration with Disclosure on the exhilarating club smash “F for You”. And thank god they did! That’s why Mary has decided to collaborate with Disclosure again to produce the lead single from her upcoming 13th studio album The London Sessions. However, “Right Now” isn’t the “F for You” rehash that it could have been. For one thing it’s heavier on the lyrics (Mary certainly had something to do with that) and there’s much more personality, something which can easily get diluted amidst the overpowering Disclosure-y synths and effectively convert the singer into a robot. Luckily, if anyone has enough personality to withstand such an onslaught, it’s Mary J. “Right Now” is the most exciting lead single she has released since “Family Affair” and proves that Blige is still as relevant today as she was in 1992 which makes us very excited for The London Sessions.
2) Charli XCX – Break the Rules
Having already had a hand in two of the biggest hits of the year “Fancy” and “Boom Clap”, as well as on Icona Pop’s smash hit “I Love It”, anything Charli XCX releases now is sure to be a massive hit. Luckily, “Break the Rules” is pretty awesome so I can definitely make my peace with hearing this on repeat for the whole winter. I think “Break the Rules is much more representative of who Charli XCX is than “Boom Clap” as well. She has a very British rough-around-the-edges attitude going on which has obviously translated well into record sales across the pond as well as on her home turf. “Break the Rules” is also infinitely more fun than “Boom Clap” and plays on the classic bad girl rebel at school persona which has become almost a stock character in pop culture. This has all the hallmarks of a huge global smash and that sick, throbbing backing beat would make even a nun feel like grinding up and down on a pole. Fact!
1) Ella Henderson – Glow
The past couple of months have seen X Factor finalist Ella Henderson transcended her roots and become a bonafide popstar in her own right which is all down to her dedication, songwriting skills and admirable pipes. Now, as she is looking to solidify her position as the new Leona Lewis, she sneaks into epic ballad territory with latest single “Glow” which will almost certainly keep her from descending into one-hit-wonder territory. This one is more of a grower than “Ghost” and features a weird sighing sound playing during the verses which is slightly reminiscent of a pedophile deep breathing at the other end of the phone. Despite all that however, it works. And very well at that. After a few listens the crashing, bombastic chorus will get lodged in your cranium. In fact, you can even see her performing it in a long flowing dress with moody, spectral lighting (in reference to the name “Glow”) on the X Factor in a few weeks. It’s also kind of Halloween-y in so far as it’s got a spooky vibe going on. Basically, it’s a great song and its release has been time to perfection. All hail the new X Factor queen (sorry Cheryl).
And, seeing as it’s No.1 on Diary of a Pop Fan’s list, here’s a bonus acoustic version:
Let’s check out which tunes are burning up the internet right now.
20) Kiesza – Giant In my Heart
Kiesza capitalises on the success of breakaway hit “Hideaway” by using a similar style on her latest single. However, “Giant in my Heart” manages to stand on its own two feet and surely will have many people getting up on theirs in the clubs. Looks like this one’s here to stay.
19) Clean Bandit – Come Over
Clean Bandit’s previous single “Extraordinary” may have been sadly overshadowed by the behemoth that is mega-hit “Rather Be”, but I have a sneaking feeling that Clean Bandit might bag themselves another smash with “Come Over”. The track has a distinctive Caribbean feel, blending violins with steel drums mixed together with the reggae tones of rapper Stylo G. This is the perfect soundtrack of the summer.
18) Amy Lavere – Big Sister
Taken from her latest album Runaway’s Diary, “Big Sister” is the highlight from its parent album. The song is an ode to being overshadowed by your elder sibling which might ring slightly too true for some listeners. LaVere’s vocals effortlessly weave the tale over a plodding throwback sixties backing beat, but the result is far from hackneyed.
17) One Republic – Love Runs Out
The last few singles that One Republic have released have been pure gold and “Love Runs Out” continues their winning streak. The track is another stomping piano driven ballad featuring the gothic lyricism of Ryan Tedder and is sure to be another massive hit for the band.
16) Becky G – Shower
17 year old California-born starlet Becky G has been knocking on the door of fame since 2011 and her latest single “Shower” is definitely the hit she needed to propel her to stardom. “Shower” has already been scaling the US Billboard charts, peaking within the top 20, and is set to be one of the break out hits of the summer.
15) Charli XCX – Boom Clap
This track has already sold over 500,000 copies in the US alone, peaking at No.14 on the Billboard Chart and is set to be a big top 3 debut in the UK this Sunday. It not hard to see why “Boom Clap” has been lighting up the charts, it sounds like nothing else out there at the minute and manages to catchy almost to the point of nausea. It good to see Charli XCX bagging herself a massive solo hit.
14) Amelia Lily – California
Another potential summer smash here from former X Factor contestant Amelia Lily. After the cancellation of her debut studio album last year it looks like Lily is back with a vengeance with pop-rock gem “California”. I can see this one burning up the radio waves all summer long.
13) The Saturdays – What Are You Waiting For
Despite only having been around since 2008, The Saturdays announced the release of their first Greatest Hits earlier this year and this is the first single taken from that collection. “What Are You Waiting For” demonstrates a more mature sound for the group and is more reminiscent of their previous hit “All Fired Up”, which went on to be a big smash for the Saturdays. I would bet my bottom dollar that this will be the group’s 14th top ten hit.
12) Sigma Feat. Paloma Faith – Changing
After producing one of the biggest smashes of the year, Sigma have decided to team up with seasoned crooner Paloma Faith (who herself is having a great year!) and the result is pure chart bliss. “Changing” is a hollering, soulful, dance tune with a massive stadium filling chorus. Paloma is undoubtedly the star of the show and it just makes you wonder why she hasn’t done a dance collaboration before.
11) Leah McFall Feat.will.i.am – Home
“Home” is the first single taken from McFall’s hotly anticipated debut album Weird to Wonderful. The former runner-up on the Voice has wisely chosen to highlight her voice on the track, a move which definitely plays to the singer’s strengths. A little bit of over singing on the chorus surely won’t hinder this in becoming a deserved chart smash for Leah.
10) Ed Sheeran – Photograph
A beautiful, heartfelt highlight from Ed Sheeran’s latest album X, which is on course to spend a fifth week at No.1 in the UK album charts this Sunday. “Photograph” sounds like an extract from an 16 year old emo’s diary and undoubtedly will receive the single treatment later on in the album campaign, but for now we can just enjoy the lyrical genius and soft vocals of one of the biggest stars on the planet right now.
9) La Roux – Uptight Downtown
It was a long 5 year wait for La Roux’s sophomore album but boy was it worth the wait. The smart, catchy hooks, the unique vocals and that trademark La Roux style are back in style. “Uptight Downtown” is a fierce piece of slinky disco pop which is driven by a smooth bass and irresistible synth riffs.
8) Sia – Eye of the Needle
Sia managed to bag herself a US No.1 album earlier this month with 1,000 Forms of Fear and “Eye of the Needle” is one of the highlights from the album. The track is a synth power ballad built around a wailing hook, much like that of a wounded wolf. Sia’s lyrics are on point as always and when she hollers /need-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-uh-le/ just before the 3 minute mark you feel her bleeding heart.
7) Ella Eyre – Deeper
Ella’s stock has been on the rise ever since she finished second to Sam Smith in both the BRIT Critics’ Choice Award and the BBC’s Sound of 2014 Award. Ouch! But either way, it’s meant that there’s been a lot more attention on the London-born 20 year old. She managed to take her debut single “If I Go” to the top twenty of the UK singles chart last week, but smart money is on “Deeper” to be her biggest hit to date. The track is a stomping, clapping, stuttering jam which plays on current pop trends without ever sounding generic and the spooky choir in the background adds atmospheric woos to the mix. Watch out for this one.
6) Enrique Iglesias – Bailando
Coupled with its sexy video featuring a troupe of flamenco dancers, Enrique’s sexy latin offering “Bailando” was always assured commercial success. The song has so far peaked at No.17 on the Billboard charts, becoming the highest peaking Spanish-language single on that chart. It not hard to see why “Bailando” has been so popular either. It’s an irresistibly summery tune which channels that latino magic effortlessly. I could do with a bucket of that here in old England.
5) Jess Glynne – Right Here
After grabbing herself two successive No.1’s with Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be” and Route 94’s “My Love” in early 2014, Glynne decided that the time was right to launch her solo career, choosing “Right Here” as her debut. The track has already peaked at No.6 in the UK and has become a club favourite. Be prepared to hear a lot more of this slinky piece of deep house.
4) Ed Sheeran – Don’t
Here’s something we haven’t really heard much of. Nice boy Ed Sheeran pissed off. The subject of the song has been rife with rumours, from Taylor Swift to Ellie Goulding, but Taylor Swift reportedly said upon hearing the song that she would never want to piss Sheeran off that much. “Don’t” is a R&B style plinkety plunkety piano tune which has already been chosen as the second single from X. This one’s set to be massive.
3) Dolly Parton – Home
Dolly Parton has been enjoying an epic career renaissance lately with her 42nd studio album Blue Smoke peaking at No.3 in the UK and becoming her most commercially successful album to date. Not bad for a 68 year old. “Home” shows off two of Parton’s best assets – her instantly relatable storytelling lyrics and massive heart. It’s impossible not to smile when you hear Parton’ talking about how happy she is when she’s home. She’s still got it!
2) Milky Chance – Stolen Dance
German folk/rock band Milky Chance seemed to have burst out of nowhere this year and their smash hit single “Stolen Dance” has already reached No.1 in 7 countries. It’s had a slow start in the UK but did manage to chart at No.24, despite not having a release date yet. The unusual vocals and catchy chorus play a large part in the song’s infectiousness and will make sure that this becomes one of the biggest hits in the whole of Europe this year.
1) Ariana Grande – Break Free
Ariana Grande is on fire at the minute, having just bagged her first UK No.1 with “Problem” and collaborating with Jessie J and Nicki Minaj on sure-fire smash “Bang Bang”. You can see German/Russian producer Zedd’s stamp on her latest single from her sophomore studio album My Everything, whose golden touch has led to one smash hit already this year with “Stay the Night”. “Break Free” is a liberation anthem which arrives just in time for festival season and is sure to be another smash to add to Ariana’s rapidly growing cannon.
Here is the long-awaited conclusion to the Top 32 songs of April to June this year. Get ready for the big leagues. It’s 20-1!!!
20) Lily Allen – Our Time
Lily Allen was back with a bang this year with her hit and miss third studio album Sheezus. The gobby Londoner’s new musical offerings turned out to be even more hard-hitting than before, which meant that third single “Our Time” stood out as one of the more straightforward pop songs in a sea of social criticism. But “Our Time” is much more than a simple piece of pop nonsense, it’s a glimmer of the old Allen who used her lyrical sing song style to tell stories about scenarios that everybody has experienced at one point in their lives. This Allen was instantly relatable and likeable due to her down to earth attitude. “Our Time” proves that the Allen, who we all loved and admired, is not dead. She’s alive and well on this euphoric celebration of life which serves as an instant pick-me-up after a hard day at work. The track is also infinitely enhanced by Lily’s spaced out vocals which meld together with the synth-driven backing beat to create a relaxed trippy feeling.
19) Kylie Minogue – I Was Gonna Cancel
Kylie jumped on the Pharrell-bandwagon this year with the second single from her twelfth studio album Kiss Me Once. “I Was Gonna Cancel” is a funky slice of disco inspired pop with squelchy beats to boot. However, sadly it failed to become a hit for the Australian pop veteran, peaking at a disappointing 59 in the UK charts. I have no clue why everyone seems to be hating on Kylie at the minute but it’s sad to see music of this quality go unappreciated. Don’t worry Kylie! Diary of a Pop Fan loves you
18) Lady Gaga – G.U.Y (Girl Under You)
Another example of a former all-conquering global star who has been going through a rough patch recently. “G.U.Y” was selected as the third single from Gaga’s ARTPOP with the view of rejuvenating the current album campaign after the tepid reception received by former singles “Do What U Want” and “Applause”. Unfortunately, “G.U.Y” was unable to help Gaga’s career and actually became her lowest peaking single worldwide. On paper however, “G.U.Y” seems like a sure-fire hit: the song was co-written by producer of the moment Zedd, it’s actually one of Gaga’s cleverest songs in so far as it manages to celebrate the subversion of sexual and gender norms and it features some killer synths and a grinding, dirty, dirty bass. But sadly the record buying public is often very unpredictable and it seems that Gaga’s once Midas touch has turned to poison.
17) Iggy Azalea Feat. Charli XCX – Fancy
24-year old Sydney-born rapper Iggy Azalea had been knocking on the door of utter world domination for over a year and had even managed to bag herself 3 consecutive UK top 20’s before she went stratospheric with mega-smash “Fancy”. Upon its release, the US instantly fell in love with Azalea’s swag fiercely-real sass and the song quickly soared to the top of the Billboard Chart. It’s no surprise that “Fancy” has become the all-conquering hit that it is, seeing as it’s basically Fergie’s “Glamorous” mark 2, which notably also reached No.1 in the US. However, Iggy has succeeded in updating the sound and the chemistry between her and Charli XCX only adds to the mix. But what really sells “Fancy” is the pulsing backing beat, which requires actual brain surgery to remove from your head.
16) Sky Ferreira – I Blame Myself
With the second single from her album Night Time, My Time Sky Ferreira proved that the ridiculously amazing “Everything is Embarrassing” was more than just a fluke. Fuelled by a stomping backing beat and Ferreira’s confessional, gritty lyrics, “I Blame Myself” stands out amongst the backdrop of superficiality for which the pop music industry is famous. On the electro synth track Sky faces her demons by admitting that she alone is responsible for her less than respectable public image. Honesty is all too rare in the music business, especially if it involves self-criticism and that’s part of the reason why Sky Ferreira is such a fascinating artist. There is no Beyoncé- esque aura of invincibility or Gaga-like illusions of grandeur. Sky Ferreira is simply a real person using music as her therapy and, as long as it remains such good quality, may the healing process continue.
15) Wisin Feat. Ricky Martin & Jennifer Lopez – Adrenalina
This high-profile collaboration might not be familiar to English-speakers, but has so far ruled the summer in Spanish-speaking territories. Puerto Rico met America when rapper Wisin teamed up with reliable hitmakers Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin on this irresistible fist-pumper and the result is the undeniable soundtrack to the ultimate summer holiday. You don’t have to speak a word of Spanish in order to be caught up in the infectious energy and adrenaline of the track. I defy you not to throw shapes immediately.
14) Sia – Chandelier
After spending the past couple of years writing for other artists and collaborating on big dance tunes, Sia finally rebooted her solo career this year, kicking off with the bombastic first single “Chandelier” from her forthcoming sixth studio album 1,000 Forms of Fear. The Australian songstress made good her return with this epic electronica-reggae fused jam which is impossible to ignore. Sia sounds like a wounded wolf on “Chandelier” as she howls away the pain inside over booming synths. If party girls needed a self-destruction anthem, here it is.
13) G.R.L – Ugly Heart
G.R.L are currently known for their guest appearance on the recent Pitbull single “Wild Wild Love”, but one listen to “Ugly Heart” proves that they are so much better than Pitbull’s corny lines. “Ugly Heart” was produced by Ke$ha collaborator Dr. Luke who chose to capitalise on the country EDM trend started by Avicii last year by knitting together the production with a prominent guitar line. The stomping beat lends pace to the track and the girls’ no s**t attitude turns this into a semi-feminist anthem. But what really makes this track stand out and gives me hope that G.R.L will have a bright future are the groups powerful, unique vocals which convey all the kick ass, sassy attitude of a woman who is calling out a no-good ugly hearted ex-boyfriend and reasserting the old adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
12) Mei Feingold – Same Heart
Billed as the Israeli Lady Gaga, Mei Feingold, who finished third on the Israeli Pop Idol, was immediately lauded as one of the favourites to win Eurovision this year. Her soaring, power-house vocals, the slick choreography and slow-burning, lazy guitar riff won over supporters in droves and the song was predicted to finish within the top 5 at the very least. However, in a shock result “Same Heart” went crashing out of the competition way before its time, not even reaching the Final and leaving Europe flabbergasted. One can only speculate as to why such an injustice was done to such a quality song and artist. Perhaps Feingold’s intense performance was not to Europe’s tastes (and Lady Gaga is the new Norah Jones). Maybe the bitter arsenic oozing from her voice left viewers intimidated, rather than moved. Maybe they felt overpowered by the rising, dramatic climax and melodrama. Maybe Mei’s uniquely deep voice made them believe that Eurovision had one Conchita too many this year. Either way, “Same Heart” will go down as the best Eurovision song never to reach the finals.
11) Ed Sheeran – Sing
Ed Sheeran could have gone one of two ways with the first single from his much-awaited second studio album: “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”- esque rap mixed with R &B funk or soulful balladeering in the style of past hits such as “The A Team” and “Lego House”. The form Sheeran is on at the minute suggests that either would have worked, but in the end he decided to take a bigger risk and opted for the Pharrell-assisted “Sing”, which shot straight to the top of the charts earlier this month. Luckily for Sheeran, his Pharrell collab ended up being much more successful than Kylie’s and the rowdy chorus will no doubt have you singing your lungs out before too long.
10) Enrique Iglesias Feat. Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona – Bailando
Despite falling slightly flat with his English language comeback this year, Enrique has been ruling the Spanish-language charts this summer and even managed to achieve his 26th Latin Airplay No.1 with “Bailando”, the sixth single of his tenth studio album Sex and Love. The track has also managed to find success in English-language charts as well, becoming one of the highest peaking Spanish tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 ever, having peaked at No.35 thus far. And it’s no wonder when Enrique so effortlessly channels fresh summery beats and generously spreads the warm, Latin rhythms across the globe. Also, don’t miss the sultry flamenco troupe dancing in the video. Spain’s tourist board will be sending flowers.
9) Kiesza – Hideaway
Canadian new-comer Kiesza appeared out of nowhere in April 2014 and managed to grab herself a UK No.1 record when “Hideaway” shot straight to the top of the charts and became the third fastest selling single of the year. Kiesza was apparently influenced by her mother’s love for 90’s dance when she was growing up, which ultimately led to the development of the deep-house flavoured “Hideaway”. The song has already stormed the charts worldwide and catapulted the Calgary-native to instant stardom. It’s not hard to see why either. With “Hideaway” Kiesza has managed to craft something that sounds simultaneously familiar and innovative. It’s one of those rare moments when the stars align, lightning strikes and pop perfection is created.
8) Rita Ora – I Will Never Let You Down
Rita Ora made good use of her former boyfriend producer and singer Calvin Harris on the first cut from her sophomore album. “I Will Never Let You Down” features the guitar-riff of the summer and a bouncy breakdown to boot, which helps to create a fresh smooth new sound for the Kosovo born starlet. The electro synth style suits her to a T as she purrs over the boisterous beat which is full to bursting with hooks. If there was ever a sure fire No.1, this was it.
7) Sam Smith – Stay With Me
Sam Smith managed to capitalise on the media attention surrounding his burgeoning career by providing the world with one of the most emotive ballads of the year. Sam’s voice has never sounded so rich and soul-drenched. Lyrically and sonically “Stay with me” is definitely back to basics, but instead of being a hindrance, the simplicity only enhances the beauty and effectiveness of the track. The stripped back backing drumming and the gospel-esque chorus helps make “Stay With Me” one of the most emotional tearjerkers of the year. The man can do no wrong.
6) Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This
Paloma Faith has never really been a singles artist, but people seem to buy her albums by the bucket load. However, this time something clicked and she finally managed to secure two top ten singles off one album with the sassy “Can’t Rely on You” and now “Only Love Can Hurt Like This”. In fact, the latter managed to out peak the former in a rare twist of events and became her biggest hit to date, peaking at No.6 on the UK charts. Obviously the public have taken a shine to Faith’s new Motown influenced sixties-style. After all, who could resist the combination of those power-house vocals with the stomping drumming and brassy instrumentation? Pure Bliss.
5) The Common Linnets – Calm after the Storm
The true winner of Eurovision 2014 and the most unique song in the competition this year. The Common Linnet’s country-bluegrass ditty stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the glitz and glamour of this year’s Eurovision entries and was the indisputable dark horse of the competition. It became a shock success and the Netherlands’ highest peaking entry since 1975, picking up an astonishing 238 points and finishing second. What’s more, immediately following Eurovision, “Calm after the Storm” managed to peak at No.9 on the UK singles chart, well out-peaking the winner Conchita Wurst, who entered at No.17 with “Rise like a Phoenix”. The key to the tunes’ success lies in the singer’s sincerity and the song’s authenticity. “Calm after the Storm” sounds like a genuine country hit and not just a flashy Eurovision show tune. In fact, it’s a shock that the Common Linnets even decided to enter Eurovision when “Calm after the Storm” would have most likely become a hit in Europe even without the publicity provided by the song contest. It has a classic feel to it, enhanced by the unassuming, plodding beat, warm gritty vocals and serene simplicity that are as welcome as a big warm hug when you come home after a hard day.
4) Mr Probz – Waves
It’s shaping up to be a good year for the Netherlands, with back to back Dutch tunes assaulting the top 5 of this chart. Mr Probz burst practically out of nowhere earlier this year after his song “Waves” was remixed by German producer Robin Schulz, which propelled the single to instant success across all of Europe. “Waves” has managed to peak at No.1 in Austria, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland and the UK as well as in many others and became a club smash worldwide. However, the genius of “Waves” is that Mr. Probz somehow managed to create musical onomatopoeia in so far as the relaxing, ensnaring dance beat and his soulful vocals wash over you like waves across the shore. Get smart people, it’s clearly the way forward.
3) Coldplay – A Sky Full of Stars
Coldplay never fail to deliver. Six albums in and they are still managing to rule the world with innovative tunes of relentlessly epic proportions which somehow succeed in appealing to every gender, age group and musical taste. “A Sky Full of Stars” shows the band at their stadium-filling best and proves that they can pull off songs that aren’t completely miserable as well. Chris Martin’s soaring vocals and piano-riffs never get old, especially when infused with some of producer-extraordinaire Avicii’s magic dust. However, Chris’ voice is definitive enough to not get washed away amidst the heavy production and the EDM festival-ready chorus. This is what bottled euphoria sounds like.
2) Ella Henderson – Ghost
What do you do when you fight through the stages of the X Factor each week, constantly being championed as a favourite, only to crash out in week 7? Do you crumble under the disappointment and fade away into obscurity never to be heard of again? Oh hell no! You immediately rope in unfailing hit maker Ryan Tedder to provide you with one of the best tracks of the year and prove that you were the rightful winner. Tedder’s gothic lyricism, storming piano line and thumping percussion are rife on “Ghost”, which is no bad thing, but can overwhelm certain artists. When you’re song contains words such as “creeping, sin, pain, hell, saint, pray, wash the pain, haunting, and demons”, it’s easy to fade under the melodrama. Not Ella though. She makes her own luck with “Ghost” and the track would be nothing without her bellowing, bluesy tones and the subtle bruised tone which lends the 18-year old a conviction well beyond her years. “Ghost” is a slow burning fireball which grows into a raging inferno and I have no qualms in saying that it is the best X Factor song since “Bleeding Love”. Possibly even better. After all, she even manages to fit in a sneaky pun thinking we wouldn’t notice. Give up the ghost. You’re too much Ella! Go on lass.
1) Ariana Grande Feat. Iggy Azalea – Problem
For those of you who haven’t heard of Ariana Grande, she is a 20 year old Florida-born singer who rose to fame in 2010 after portraying Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious. The singer released her debut album Yours Truly in 2013 which peaked at No.1 in the US and produced several hit singles, including the easy-breezy “The Way”. The singer made a triumphal return earlier this year with her comeback single, the 90’s influenced “Problem”, which is currently sitting at No.2 in the US, just behind Iggy Azalea’s Fancy (a feat which allowed Azalea to become the first act since The Beatles to occupy the top 2 spots on the Billboard Chart with her first two releases). “Problem” has also already been a hit in Australia, Canada and most of Europe and is indisputably the song of summer 2014. Here’s why:
1) Grande’s power-house vocals – Contrary to many TV star-turned-musicians, Grande has an amazing voice which has the ability to soar higher than the empire state and does so freely on “Problem’s” bridge section.
2) The sexy saxophone loop – It’s official. Brass is back! Grande cleverly manages to cash in on this current pop trend on “Problem”, which gives the single a slightly sleazy sexiness.
3) Iggy Azalea’s short but sweet feature rap – Despite having been around for years, Iggy has only just achieved success in the US, meaning that Grande’s “Problem” couldn’t have come at a better time. Pop is in love with the way she spits out her syllables and anything she is on is destined for success.
4) Attitude – Grande’s got bags of it. Iggy’s got bags of it (must be 2 for 1 somewhere) and they got one less problem without you. No hanger-on loser man can bring them down. It’s practically a feminist rallying cry!
Basically “Problem’s” brilliance is a combination of all of the above and then some. Move over “Blurred Lines” there a new soundtrack of the summer in town.
So that’s it for the Top 32 of the Second Quarter of 2014. As always feel free to leave any comments on facebook or on this blog and thank you very much for reading.