The Best Songs of 2015 So Far – Part 1

I love this part. It’s that time when I countdown the best songs of the first half of the year. There have been some corkers! Bear in mind that this list only goes up to the end of June so some of your July faves might be missing. That’s for the December second half. Here goes:

55) Kodaline – The One

Kodaline the one

Yeah I know Kodaline are a bit meh. They’re the personification of white bread and most of their music has all the life of a rotting corpse (I thought Irish people were supposed to have some fight in them…) However, once every album, as with “High Hopes” from …In a Perfect World, Kodaline produce an inspirational track that warrants a second glance. It seems that “The One” will be their “special song” from their latest album Coming Up for Air, which honestly is a whole lot of bland nothingness for the most part. The album itself has received a frostier reception than the last which suggests that people are getting bored of being bored and “The One” only managed to crawl into the UK top 40 at a muted No.27. However, I actually feel that “The One” deserves a bit more than that. It takes a few listens but its simple and inspirational message does eventually hit the spot, demonstrating that, despite their overall mediocrity, Kodaline do have something special about them.

54) Clean Bandit – Stronger

clean bandit stronger

New Eyes, Clean Bandit’s debut album, is just the gift that keeps on giving. “Stronger” is the 8th single overall from the album and the 2nd from the winter 2014 reissue. This includes one massive number one in the form of the megahit “Rather Be”, three top five hits “Real Love”, “Extraordinary”, “Stronger”.  It’s a wonder it isn’t the biggest bloody album ever! “Stronger” just adds to the group’s status as one of the biggest dance bands in the UK right now. It sticks out like a sore thumb on the radio in the best possible way as it certainly doesn’t sound remotely like anything else in the charts right now, which can only be a good thing.

53) Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Riverman

Noel Gallagher's high flying birds riverman

I didn’t even bother listening to any of Noel Gallagher’s band’s first album for many reasons:

– I was still upset Oasis had broken up.

– The band’s name is utterly idiotic. I mean who calls their band “high flying birds”. What does that even mean?

– I was sick to death of his sheer douchebaggedness (I coin this word for Diary of a Pop Fan).

But now I’m actually regretting it as the few songs that I’ve heard from his latest album are actually quite good. “Riverman” is definitely a highlight for me. It’s unpretentious, timeless and full of individual character. The lyrics are given space to breathe as the relaxed guitar chords and brass wash over the listener. I’m full team Noel now!

52) Madonna – Living For Love

madonna living for love

It’s unfortunate but when I think of this song I can’t help replaying Madonna’s disastrous Brit Awards fall over and over in my head. The memes are just so funny it’s hard to resist. If you haven’t seen it, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?!! Check it out and let the mirth spiral forth:

There’s also a “This is Sparta” version which is a must see:

So now we’ve got that unfortunate incident out of the way, we can move on to other issues. The marketing was weird. Too purposely provocative. The song has nothing to with bullfighting but she inexplicably decided to dress as a matador for the song’s video as some kind of protest. Keep out of it Madge! The promo was also marred by the songs early leak which led to its low chart positions around the world. Without a big lead single, the album underperformed and Madonna chose to lower herself to cheap gimmicks such as flashing her bum at the 2015 Grammy awards. I mean really… how the Queen has fallen.

The whole thing is a massive crying shame as Rebel Heart is actually her best album in a decade. There are still a few absolute stinkers on it but the good definitely outweighs the bad in this case. Unfortunately that means that Madonna has had two flop-ish (for her standards) albums in a row now, after the atrocity that was MDNA. How many more can she afford?

51) Becky G – Can’t Stop Dancing

becky g cant stop dancing

Becky definitely released this song in the wrong season. Instead of winter, she should have timed this for summer release as it is one of those irrepressible Latino influenced tracks that you tend to hear on your holidays in Spain all summer long. She kind of missed that boat. Either way, she managed to brighten up my January and simultaneously show her diversity. By the way, doesn’t she sound (and even look) a bit like Selena Gomez in this video?

50) Ariana Grande – One Last Time

ariana grande one last time

Grande can do no wrong right now. Her album “My Everything” is proving to be a greatest hits all of its own, churning out smash after smash. Every song could be a potential single, which is reminiscent of Rihanna’s Loud or Good Girl Gone Bad albums before she got kooky and experimental. “One Last Time” is the latest in a line of top tunes which could have easily been released as the first single from My Everything. Ariana’s vocals soar to unimaginable heights and the drum beat rhythm lends the whole song a furious pace. As end of the world jams go, it’s definitely up there with Britney’s “Till the World Ends”.

49) Rihanna Feat. Kanye West and Paul McCartney – Four Five Seconds

Rihanna Feat. Kanye West and Paul McCartney – Four Five Seconds

Believe me, I was excited as anyone about Rihanna’s return to music. I was expecting a glittering, glamourous “We Found Love”-esque anthem, or at least something of “Diamonds” standard. However, when I heard she was going a bit more folksy I was ready to embrace the new direction too. But what the hell is “FourFiveSeconds”. Yelpy vocals that make your ears split. Awkward lyrics such as “I’m about to spazz” (Thanks Kanye….) and what the hell is “wildin’”. What does that even mean!? Also, the pointless feature by Paul McCartney. He adds absolutely zero, except a little bit of credibility. The whole thing is a faux attempt to seem deep and meaningful when if you actually listen to the lyrics it means nothing! I wish she would stay how she was because at least then she knew she was singing about nothing. Plus, we all know it would be better without Kanye. Everything is better without Kanye…

However, the chorus is undeniably catchy and it has been a massive hit throughout the world so I have included it on the list to keep the mobs with pitchforks at bay. Let’s hope RiRi has something better up her sleeve than this (hint: “Bitch Better Have My Money” will no do…)

48) Nicki Minaj feat. Skylar Grey – Bed of Lies

Nicki minaj skylar grey bed of lies

This song is music to my ears, both physically and metaphorically. The blend of Skylar’s sweeter than candy hook and Minaj’s gritty rap is pitch perfect and the message of the song also strikes a chord. Minaj may be a very polarising character but she is undoubtedly a force to be reckoned with when it comes to making accomplished pop songs.

47) Sigma Feat. Labrinth – Higher

sigma labrinth higher

What is love? An eternal question and one which British drum ‘n’ bass group Sigma address on their latest smash “Higher”. Starting with a tribal chanting “Higher” lives up to its name, rising into a soaring, drama-soaked chorus which leaves you thirsting for more even after it fades out.

46) The Weeknd- Earned It

The Weeknd Earned it

Some creative instrumentation affords this breakout hit by the Weeknd endless, oozing drama and sensuality. His voice sounds like melting chocolate and is ten times as sinful. Overall, the whole song gives the impression of a night out at the opera with a fabulous Bond-esque femme fatale on your arm. I think the Weeknd should be commissioned to do the next Bond soundtrack after this, if Adele’s unavailable to do it again of course.

45) Ella Eyre – Together

ella eyre together

Ella Ella Ella. How do you solve a problem like Ella? She has all the ingredients of a popstar: the diva attitude, the big voice, the big hair. She could be a global star of Beyonce proportions but has yet to produce a top ten hit on her own. Of course she has had massive hits such as “Gravity” and “Waiting All Night” with other artists. She is the go-to-girl for collabs you might say, but that’s not enough. In order to carry an album on her own she needs to produce her own big hit single. So far not so good, her debut “Deeper” crawled into the top 75 and all subsequent singles have been top 20 hits which just missed out on the top 10 and quickly dropped away. In short, she needs a big radio hit. She has the quality tunes but it seems that something isn’t clicking. It seems that her debut album Feline is coming out in August so it seems that after “Together” she will have one more big single opportunity which will undoubtedly be make or break for the album. Let’s hope she gets that hit because, in the words of Ella herself, we are more TOGETHEEEEEEEEEEERRRRRRR!

44) DJ Fresh feat. Ella Eyre – Gravity

dj fresh ella eyre gravity

This girl again! We should change her name to Ella everyw-Eyre!! (sorry…I couldn’t help it). Now this tune was a genuine No.4 smash for the London-born Beyonce usurper. How come she can’t do this on her own? I don’t get it. Anyway, on “Gravity” DJ Fresh takes full advantage of Eyre’s impressive pipes, basically getting her to holler the songs title on repeat for three minutes. Now you can’t really go wrong with that can you?

43) Florence and the Machine – What Kind of Man

Florence and the machine what kind of man

This was something of a notable departure for the flame haired songstress, “What Kind of Man” features a strong guitar line throughout. It takes a while to get going which is the only criticism but once it does…now that’s what I call intensity. Hell hath no fury like a woman scored has never been more appropriate a phrase. It just makes it seem even more ironic that Florence’s new album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful was marketed as a stripped down, more subtle effort. I can confirm that that was a whole load of rubbish. But who cares. You don’t go to Florence for a quiet chill.

42) Walk the Moon – Shut Up and Dance

walk the moon shut up and dance

Right from the first beat “Shut Up and Dance” is loud, bold and chaotic and it never really stops until the last bar. This guitar driven piece of fun-filled pop is the perfect remedy to all the dance hits which have been dominating the charts. There is nothing wrong with them at all! But it’s nice to have the variety and Walk the Moon’s debut single fits into that category rather snugly.

41) Zedd feat. Selena Gomez – I Want You to Know

zedd selena gomez i want you to know

A welcome return for Zedd and a high profile collab with one of the biggest names in pop right now. “I Want You to Know” is one of Zedd’s poppiest efforts but does feature a killer bassline hook which is ideal for fist pumping (I can confirm that from personal experience at Ultra Europe). Lots of lovely floaty imagery as well with the lyrics like “you and me bleed the same light”. Summer euphoria.

Thanks for reading and tune in for the next part! Coming soon.

Feel free to leave any comments.

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The Best Songs of 2014: 20-1

Right it’s here “can’t hold it back anymore”. The conclusion of Diary of a Pop Fan’s countdown of the best songs of 2014 is here! Let’s get straight into it:

20) Mark Ronson Feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

A late but great entry into the best of 2014 chart. “Uptown Funk” wasn’t even meant to be on sale in the UK until January but it was rush released after X Factor contestant Fleur East gave a stonking performance of the track on the UK show, sending her version soaring to the No.1 spot on iTunes. “Uptown Funk” shot straight to No.1 of course and is currently sitting at No.2 in the US. It also currently holds the title of all time most streamed song in a single week in the UK, having been streamed a total of 2.49 million times.

19) Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This

Before 2014 Paloma had been quietly getting by in the music industry, releasing two commercially and critically successful albums but had never experienced much success in the singles charts or on mainstream radio. “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” changed all of that. It quickly scaled the UK singles charts and became her breakthrough hit in Oceania, peaking at No.1 in Australia and No.3 in New Zealand. The Motown brassy production makes this a firmly throwback piece but her powerful vocal performance sets her apart from the pack.

18) Shakira – La La La (Brazil 2014) 

Shakira’s career has been linked to the World Cup since 2006 when her hip-swivelling masterpiece “Hips Don’t Lie” became the unofficial anthem of the football tournament and went on to become one of the biggest selling of the decade.  On the back of this success, Shakira was asked to write the official World Cup anthem for the World Cup 2010 in South Africa which resulted in the ludicrously catchy “Waka Waka” which even had its own dance moves. This too received critical praise and managed to become one of the most popular singles ever and the video to this day is still the 6th most viewed on YouTube having been viewed a colossal 684,000,000 times. So it was only natural that Shakira release another crowd-rousing anthem for the World Cup this time round. The single was originally released as “Dare (La La La)” and serves as the opener for her tenth self-titled studio album. This original version has already been a moderate hit in many European countries, but it wasn’t until Shakira released the reworked version “La La La (Brazil 2014)” that the song started turning heads. The secret to the success of most pop songs is simplicity and repetition.  Both “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Waka Waka” have catchy repetitive earworm choruses and “La La La (Brazil 2014)” also puts a big fat tick in that box. You don’t even have to speak a word of English to understand the repetitive shouting of la la la la la in the chorus, which is reminiscent of a football chant. This also highlights another reason why FIFA relentlessly champion the gravity-defying belly dancer with goat-like vocals: her cross-culture multilingual appeal. Whilst other singers lend themselves better to certain markets, Shakira manages to sell record in every corner of the globe. In “La La La (Brazil 2014)” Shakira’s appeal is infinitely enhanced by the up-to-date production, which plays on the electronic trends which are currently prevalent in the music charts. This tune was everywhere this summer to such an extent that it almost qualifies as aural assault.

17) Ariana Grande Feat. Iggy Azalea – Problem

“Problem” marked the start of an amazing year for the Florida-born starlet but apparently she didn’t even want to include it on her album. Grande reportedly had to be convinced by studio producers to release it but such is often the way with megahits. Their sound is so fresh that some people are unwilling to take the gamble and release them for fear of a massive flop. Luckily, Grande grew a pair and “Problem” became a massive hit for her, peaking at No.2 in the US and at No.1 in the UK. The infectious saxophone loop juxtaposes perfectly with Big Sean’s whispered “I got one less problem without you” hook. The addition of woman of the moment Iggy Azalea, who contributes a snappy rap verse, is just the icing on this popalicious cake.

16) Taylor Swift – Blank Space

Taylor Swift’s foray into electropop has been a resounding success with her first two singles hitting No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and charting top 4 in the UK. She also became the first woman to succeed herself at the top of the US charts in all its 56 year history when “Blank Space” knocked “Shake It Off” off the top spot. The genius behind Swift’s sonic rehabilitation lies in the naturalness of it all. In the hands of a less skilled musician the move from country to pop to 80’s synthpop would have sounded forced or at least been a little clunky, but Taylor is such a master of her craft that she is able to make her continuous evolution seem so natural, even inevitable. “Blank Space” is simultaneously on trend and innovative and, what’s more, lyrically it satirises Swift’s image as a man-eater. It’s really the best thing that she could have done at this point in time.

15) Kiesza – Hideaway

Riding on the wave of dance/house infused No.1’s Kiesza arrived to the UK in early 2014 with her hypnotising debut single “Hideaway” which firmly channelled 90’s deep house and dance diva records. The minimal chorus consists mostly of yelps and oohs but is offset beautifully by the chunky verses which, driven along by the addictive bassline and trance-influenced backing beat, lend a certain urgency and drama to the song. Dance perfection.

14) Sia – Chandelier

It feels like Sia has been around on the sidelines for ages, lurking in the shadows while writing mega-smash after mega-smash for some of the biggest names in pop like Katy Perry and Britney. It was quite easy to forget that Sia actually produced solo material for herself before becoming such a prolific songwriter. That is until “Chandelier”. The track itself is genius. It details the highs and lows of an alcoholic party girl and is clearly autobiographical when you take into account Sia’s past troubles. “Chandelier” was originally written by Sia for Rihanna but she decided to keep it for herself when she realised how important and personal it was. The unique sonic combo of electropop, military drums and reggae influences really helps “Chandelier” stand out from the pack and Sia’s lack of cultivated public image (she refuses to face the camera when she performs the song) adds further to the intrigue, making “Chandelier” one of the most truly fascinating pop songs of our time.

13) Pharrell – Happy 

Ok so this song should be a lot higher in the list if were talking about the songs that defined 2014 but to be honest it was hard enough for me to place it this high. Obviously there is something about “Happy” which connected with people on a very personal level. Why else would it have sold such a shedload and inspired so many parodies? But, for me, that connection is ruined when a song is played ad nauseum, which “Happy” undoubtedly was. When it came out would I have predicted that it would equal records held by the almighty Beatles? Never in this world. The idea of “Happy” being of that standard is frankly ludicrous but nevertheless it did manage to top the UK chart on three separate occasions and was literally unavoidable for the first part of the year. It is probably inevitable that people grow sick of such an omnipresent force and, really, it has nothing to do with Pharrell that I dislike it so much now. But it has reached the level of annoyance where, ironically, it makes me unhappy now.

12) George Ezra – Budapest

Sometimes simplicity is the best policy and George Ezra certainly took note of this fact when writing what has now become his signature hit “Budapest”. The obviousness of the “ooh” hook does nothing to diminish its effectiveness and the track quietly chugs along with soft guitar strumming and light instrumentation while Ezra’s bassy voice washes over you. Despite its deliciously infectious hooks, “Budapest” has an organic feel which opens up its appeal to indie kids as well as easy listening parents.

11) Robin Schulz Feat. Lilly Wood and the Prick – Prayer In C

I have no clue how Robin Schulz managed to hear the original version of “Prayer in C”, which is an innocuous little ditty by the low profile French/Israeli folk pop duo Lilly Wood and the Prick (interesting choice of name), but I’m very glad he did. While the original of the song is a slow, ponderous tune, the remix brings it to life and highlights the powerful, tragic lyrics. What a difference a light dance beat makes. The newly remixed “Prayer in C” became a massive summer smash all throughout Europe, reaching No.1 in over 25 countries.

10) Sam Smith – Stay With Me

“Money on My Mind” may have been his first solo UK No.1 single but “Stay With Me” is undoubtedly the song which raised his profile to stratospheric proportions. It was his first international hit, peaking at No.2 in the US and top ten in 12 countries. “Stay With Me” also helped cement Smith as a male soul diva who is comfortable in showing his fragility. The song is about pleading with a one night stand to stay with him which, if done by anyone else would be pretty creepy, but because its Sam Smith its ok for some reason. He’s the sensitive type don’t you know? The clincher is the soulful gospel choir crescendo which lifts the song towards the end to its dramatic conclusion. Gospel choirs can either do one of two things: make a song more epic or make it camp and corny. Smith’s sincerity ensures that it is the former.

9) Katy B – Crying for No Reason

Katy B’s “Crying for No Reason” stood out in the first quarter of 2014 as one of the strongest ballads release in years for several reasons:

a) It’s lyrically very strong – “I never faced all the pain I caused, now the pain is hitting me full force”. The lyrics sound more like poetry than those of a pop song. She really poured everything into making “Crying for No Reason” one of the most truthful and relatable songs in recent memory.

b) It’s fantastically produced – the track builds and builds into a mammoth crescendo combining stomping beats and crashing drums with slinky synths. With different production this could have been a Celine Dion-esque snoozefest but instead it sounds thoroughly contemporary and unique.

c) Katy’s vocals are amazing. I’d never actually taken that much notice of her singing before this but she really delivers the track with feeling and powerful vocals.

Basically it’s just awesome.

8) Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J – Dark Horse

After purchasing Prism last year I immediately picked out “Dark Horse” as one of my highlights from the album. There was something special about this track with its sleazy beat and trap influences. It didn’t sound like anything else in the charts, heck it didn’t even have a proper chorus. It wasn’t just something new for Perry, but something entirely progressive and different altogether. I love it when pop stars take a risk but I wasn’t sure whether Perry would be brave enough to release it as a single. But after the relative flop of “Unconditionally” she didn’t have much else to lose and decided to gamble on a “Dark Horse”. Luckily for her, the track was just that and became a massive shock hit, peaking at No.1 in the US and finishing the year as the second best seller of the year. I personally think it would have been even bigger if the video different. Quite frankly it’s just stupid and the song has nothing to do with Ancient Egypt anyway. A more witchcraft themed video would have been so much better, but who am I to question the almighty California Gurl?

7) Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

Even though she really hasn’t been country for several albums now “Shake It Off” was just so pop it was impossible to deny that Swift had abandoned her roots, so she decided to make a statement of it. Declaring 1989 as her “first documented pop album”, she launched the feisty “Shake It Off” as the lead single pre-empting the backlash from her country puritan fans and simultaneously shrugging off the haters who had been accusing her of being a maneating hoebag over the past year. What’s good about “Shake It Off” is that it is a straightforward pop song with a catchy beat and an on-trend sax line. However, on closer inspection it has several layers and the seemingly bland lyrics manage to resonate more and more with every listen. This is just a masterclass is good pop.

6) Meghan Trainor – All About that Bass

Wow this year has been varied! Here’s another genre for you: doo-wop calypso rock ‘n’ roll. Yeesh these names are just getting longer and longer. But really the success of “All About that Bass” was assured from the word go due to its positive message about body image inspired by Trainor’s own struggles with self-acceptance. Sure enough “All About that Bass” managed to spend eight straight weeks on top of the US Billboard chart and holds the joint longest stint at No.1 in 2014 in the UK at four weeks. “Every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top” wins the award for most uplifting line of 2014.

5) Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud

A fan favourite from the start “Thinking Out Loud” managed to chart in the UK top 30 well before its eventual release in November. It first entered at No.26 and stayed in the top 40 for 19 straight weeks before topping the chart which earned it the record for the slowest climb to No.1 ever. It has also since become Ed Sheeran’s highest charting single in the US to date, having peaked at No.4 so far, but I think we all know that it’s going to be a number one once it catches on with a bit more airplay. This is the type of song which lives on forever and will be played at weddings for years and years to come.

4) Enrique Iglesias Feat. Descember Bueno and Gente de Zona – Bailando

Every year usually has that one big exotic track which transcends all culture and language to become a truly global smash. “Bailando” was that hit of 2014. Obviously not even Enrique expected it to be that successful, releasing it as the sixth single from his current album SEX + LOVE. If anyone gets to a sixth single it’s usually a pretty tepid affair, but it seems that he saved the best till last and it really is his best song since “Hero”. It handily sums up all the fun and sexiness of Latin music in three and a half dynamic minutes of pure Latin pleasure. Songs that are powerful enough to overcome language barriers are definitely few and far in between but it helps that Enrique looks incredibly swoon-worthy in the sultry video which has now been viewed over 644 million times. I’m sure it doesn’t hurt that it features an all-female Flamenco and a modern street dance troupe in an epic dance off which would only happen in 2014 Spain where, incidentally, “Bailando” was No.1 for 20 straight weeks! DAAAAAAMN!

3) Ella Henderson – Ghost

On the X Factor 2012 Ella Henderson was one of the talent show’s most promising alumni but she got majorly screwed over, finishing in sixth place despite being favourite to win. Most would have written her off there and then but if pop teaches us anything it’s to expect the unexpected. Ella signed to Cowell’s record label and started writing songs with none other than Ryan Tedder from OneRepublic who was behind a lot of Adele’s last album. Perhaps for that reason the bluesy, rootsy vibe of “Ghost” echoes some of Adele’s previous singles and fills the gap left by her absence. The dark, brooding lyrics combined with elements of mysticism helped propel this fantastic single to the top of the charts and solidified it as a classic, unforgettable debut.

2) Idina Menzel – Let It Go

Sometimes you can’t predict when a simple song will turn into a phenomenon. Something about Frozen captured people’s imaginations and, ironically, warmed their hearts. “Let It Go” is the main song on the Frozen soundtrack and is sung by Queen Elsa after everyone discovers that she has mystical icy powers. The song really touches people’s hearts because of the deeper meaning within its lyrics. The message of “Let It Go” is one of liberation and self-acceptance which is very relevant in today’s society which has helped it transcend the boundaries of being on an animated film soundtrack. The universal appeal and enduring popularity of the song is also due to the fantastic voice of Idina Menzel who uses every inch of her theatrical experience and talent to squeeze every last piece of emotional depth out of the lyrics. For all these reasons it’s fitting that it won an Oscar for Best Song and became the most successful Disney song ever, selling over 3.5 million copies in the US alone. 2014 was definitely a Frozen year.

And the number one is……

1) Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne – Rather Be

It’s rare that the song of the year is released so early in the year but “Rather Be” managed to brighten up everybody’s January and get the year off to a flying start. It dominated the apex of the singles chart for four straight weeks, the joint longest stint atop the charts of 2014 and sold over 1.25 million copies in the UK alone, finishing the year as the second best seller behind “Happy”. It also became a crossover hit and cracked the top ten in the US, demonstrating the songs universal appeal. The unique fusion of classical and dance genres make “Rather Be” the defining sound of 2014, combining joyous strings and potent synths. Essentially Clean Bandit have redefined the love song in a way which doesn’t make you want to puke. The lyrics are extremely straightforward but they are brought to life by Jess Glynne’s powerful vocal performance and the impeccable production. The true revelation of 2014.

Thank you for checking out my Best Songs of 2014 list. Hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did making it. Here’s hoping for a few “Rather Bes” and “Ghosts” in 2015!!

The Best Songs of 2014: 40-21

40) Coldplay – A Sky Full of Stars

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.

Diary of a Pop Fan’s Top Twenty

20) Breach Feat. Kelis – The Key

19) Years & Years – Desire

18) Iggy Azalea – Beg For It

17) Olly Murs – Wrapped Up

16) Avicci Feat. Robbie Williams – The Days

15) Jungle – Busy Earnin’

14) The Veronicas – You Ruin Me

13) Ella Henderson – Hard Work

12) Chvrches – Dead Air

11) James Bay – Hold Back the River

10) Meghan Trainor – Lips Are Movin’

9) Kiesza – No Enemiesz

8) Ariana Grande – Santa Tell Me

7) Calvin Harris Feat. Ellie Goulding – Outside

6) McBusted – Air Guitar

5) Taylor Swift – Blank Space

4) Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne – Real Love

3) Take That – These Days

2) Lorde – Yellow Flicker Beat

1) Mark Ronson Feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

November’s Smokin’ Hot 9

1) Sia – Burn the Pages

sia-burn-the-pages-promo-300x300
Looks like someone finally scalped Sia

Now that Sia has achieved the stardom which we always knew she was capable of, it’s up to her to maintain her level of success. Her album 1,000 Forms of Fear is packed full of potential hits and, although it probably wouldn’t have picked “Burn the Pages” as the next single, hopefully it will be another big “Chandelier-sized” hit for the shrinking violet. It’s certainly interesting enough, riding on that distinctive sound that Sia has carved out for herself, and it makes the most of her incredibly powerful pipes. The verses also boast a military style snappy drum beat which lends the track a steely determination. “Burn the Pages” is undoubtedly another powerful mid-tempo power ballad from a Sia, but whether this will be another megahit for her is another question. Somehow I don’t think she’ll mind either way.

2) Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne – Real Love

Clean bandit
There’s nothing a good cup of tea can’t solve

Jess Glynne and Clean Bandit seem like a match made in heaven as everything they produce is sonic gold. “Rather Be” is already one of the biggest hits of the year and it seems that the pair have adopted an “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude, teaming up again to grace the radio with another sure fire smash. “Real Love” is the first single from the repackaged release of the group’s debut album New Eyes and serves as the seventh single overall. Odds are that this will be another massive No.1 for the dream team as I can’t get it out of my head already!

3) Lorde – Yellow Flicker Beat

Lorde
Lorde just being Lorde

Lorde’s always been a bit of a miserable cow. Even all that dollar that she’s got rollin’ in after the success of her debut hasn’t given her a reason to cheer up at all. But let’s be honest, it wouldn’t be the same if she was singing about lollipops and rainbows, would it? “Yellow Flicker Beat” marks the second time that Lorde has contributed to a Hunger Games film soundtrack, the first being her cover of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” for Catching Fire. “Yellow Flicker Beat” is every bit as atmospheric and moody as its predecessor, but it’s that little bit more artsy and focuses more on synths and electronica as opposed to the heavier sound of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World”. It doesn’t really demonstrate much artistic growth though. The sound isn’t really much of a departure from Pure Heroine and is even slightly reminiscent of “Team”. But still, there’s enough of Lorde’s trademark brooding style here to enjoy until her next album drops.

4) Jessie J – Burnin Up

Jessie-J-Burnin-Up-ft_-2-Chainz-Music-Video
Will someone accuse her of being pro-Illuminati for this?

After a sophomore slump Jessie is back and she means business. She made sure she bagged herself a global smash hit with the Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj-assisted “Bang Bang” for her first single and now she’s enlisted 2 Chainz in order to keep her winning streak going strong. “Burnin’ Up” is an explosive jam spitfire chorus helped along by a rabble rousing clapping beat which is every bit as sassy and infectious as previous hit “Do It Like a Dude”. Jessie has definitely got her mojo back and it’s great to see her in-your-face attitude back after her lacklustre second album. “Burnin’ Up” should keep the ball rolling for her third studio album Sweet Talker and will probably be burning up dance floors all over the world for years to come.

5) Maroon 5 – Animals

Maroon-5-Animals
Maroon 5 are big fans of Carrie

Although the blood-soaked video for “Animals” has already been creating controversy for its apparent glorification of stalking, there is no knocking Maroon 5 back as they continue on their winning streak and, of course, Adam Levine is as magnetic as ever. I really don’t understand the stick that the video has received, I mean come on! It doesn’t show anything worse than what we’ve already seen on films or even CSI in the past. But the claws are definitely out over this one. The mid-track howling on “Animals” may or may not have been influenced by Levine’s fellow The Voice judge Shakira and her “She Wolf phase”. Either way we think this track is a scream!

6) Take That – These Days

take-that-these-days_7870322-6775_1200x630
Lucky Jason left or they’d be needing a bigger bed

Since their glorious comeback in 2006 the release of the new Take That single has become as big an event as the Queen’s Speech and, despite the fact that they are now down to three members, this excitement has no diminished one iota. “These Days” represents a new era for the triumphant man-band and is both a sonic update and regression. On the one hand, “These Days” sounds distinctly Pharrell-esque allowing Take That to compete with the latest crop of new popstars, but, on the other hand, Take That was influenced by disco and funk well before Pharrell became popular. Think back to “Relight my Fire”. Either way, it sounds like Take that are having more fun than ever! With or without Jason Orange.

7) Avicii Feat. Robbie Williams – The Days

avicii-the-days
I hope this is a sneak preview of what Robbie will look like in the video

From “These Days” to “The Days”, Robbie Williams must have been snooping at Take That’s notes when he decided to team up with the unstoppable Swede Avicii. “ The Days” does retain country guitar vibe of Avicci’s previous work such as “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother” but the addition of Williams helps keep this track intriguing and fresh. In fact, Williams has never sounded this relevant in years and this could be the breakthrough he needs to take back his crown as the King of Pop.

8) The Vamps – Oh Cecilia

the-vamps-oh-cecilia
Honestly, it’s like they just cloned the same person three times

If my Dad hadn’t mentioned it, I would have had no clue that this is actually an adaptation of a Simon and Garfunkel song called “Cecilia” from 1970. Perhaps this explains why “Oh Cecilia” is their best release to date. The single version features Canadian vine artist Shawn Mendes who pretty much blends in as one of the members of the band to be honest in the survivor themed video. The Vamps, of course, still retain their non-threatening, impossibly-good-looking-teenage-boy-who-you-could-bring-home-to-mum-and-dad vibe which slightly puts me off but “Oh Cecilia” is catchy enough to be worth bothering with. To be honest I’d never bothered listening to a Vamps song the whole way through before this so “Oh Cecilia” must be doing something right to convert an old cynic like me.

9) Cheryl – I Don’t Care

Cheryl-I-Dont-Care-Radio-Rip
Must be laughing at one of Simon Cowell’s jokes…

Cheryl has always been a party girl but we’ve never really seen that side of her musically. We’ve seen her fighting for love, asking someone to be the last to kiss her lips and declaring how she loves to hear her own name called out, but we’ve never seen her let her hair down and sing a straight forward track about having a good time. Until now! “I Don’t Care” is a carefree, breezy ditty which would have probably suited a summer release better but I reckon she’s holding out for a big X Factor UK performance to give the single a push to become her fifth No.5. Be that as it may, it’s great to hear Cheryl sounding happy again after all the troubles that she has gone through and the catchiness of “I Don’t Care” should mean big things for Cheryl on the charts. Looks like she’s back in a big way this time.

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment

Diary of a Pop Fan’s Smokin’ Hot Top 20

Let’s check out which tunes are burning up the internet right now.

20)      Kiesza – Giant In my Heart 

Kiesza Giant In My Heart
Chilly in here

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 Come Over
“Can we wear something black and swoopy next time?”

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

Amy LaVere Big Sister
“I always play instruments in my underwear”

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

OneRepublic Love Runs Out
Bodyguard rejects

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

Becky G Shower
Is her face supposed to be a different colour to her body?

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

Charli XCX - Boom Clap
Yes…I was dragged backwards through a hedge

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

Amelia Lily California
Now that’s a strong jaw

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

The Saturdays - What Are You Waiting For?
These clothes are perfectly appropriate for painting

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

Sigma Feat. Paloma Faith - Changing
So this is why dogs hang their heads out of cars!

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

Leah McFall Home
“Luckily I do always manage to look great when I’m singing”

“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

Ed Sheeran Photograph
Hollister Model

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

La Roux Uptight Downtown
This is how I sleep

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 Eye of the Needle
I’d get that looked at if I were you…

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 Eyre Deeper
Auditioning for the part of Mufasa in the Lion King musical

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

Enrique Iglesias Bailando
Do you think she’s noticed that Enrique has his hand on her ass?

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

Jess Glynne - Right Here
They told me this was a good look!

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

Ed Sheeran Don't
Sorry Ed, colouring pen doesn’t really come off arms that easily

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 Home
Two big assets

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

Milky Chance Stolen Dance
It’s nice when bros cuddle

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 Break Free
Ariana preparing her Mars invasion

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.

Hot New Songs 2014

2014 is shaping up to be a great year for music with high-profile stars such as Shakira and Kylie Minogue making their triumphant returns, as well as the emergence of new talented artists such as Clean Bandit and Sam Smith. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In this latest blog post I will review 10 of the hottest new tracks which will be released in the coming weeks:

1) Sia – Chandelier

Sia - Chandelier
Sia – Chandelier

Australian singer Sia is hot property. After her semi-retirement in 2010 she became primarily known for her song writing abilities as well as a for lending her powerhouse vocals to few high profile tunes such as Flo Rida’s Wild Ones and David Guetta’s Titanium. However, unable to resist the lure of the spotlight Sia is back with her sixth studio album, the first single from which is the epic synth rock ballad Chandelier. While it does make an impact on the first listen, the genius of Chandelier becomes clear after you’ve listened to it a few times. Her soulful wailing of I’m gonna swing from the chandelier drills its way into your head and refuses to let go, no wonder she kept this one for herself instead of giving it to Rihanna. Whether she is able to convert this into chart success is questionable, but only time will tell. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this one to be a massive summer smash.

Verdict: 9/10

2) Kelis – Jerk Ribs

Kelis – Jerk Ribs
Kelis – Jerk Ribs

Never one to rest on her laurels, Kelis is back with a new sound after the electro experimentation of her David Guetta co-produced previous album Flesh Tone which yielded the US Hot Dance Club Songs number one and top 5 UK hit Acapella. Jerk Ribs swaps EDM synths for brassy instrumentation with a prominent trumpet line and, while it’s unlikely to result in another massive chart success for Kelis, it does gain her a lot of kudos. Kelis has really come into her own with her last two albums and this first single gives the impression that the singer is completely comfortable in her own sound.

Verdict: 8/10

3) The Black Keys – Fever

The Black Keys – Fever
The Black Keys – Fever

Believe it or not The Black Keys have been around since 2002 when they released their first album The Big Come Up. However, it was not until 2010 with the release of their sixth studio album Brothers, which peaked at number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, that they managed to attain true chart success in the US. This was then followed up by their, in my humble opinion, magnum opus: the glam rock infused El Camino which featured the fiendishly infectious single Lonely Boy and propelled the band into the mainstream. Fever, the first single from their eighth studio album Turn Blue, which will be released May 12th, is another slice of moody, radio friendly rock. The song features a killer synth line and the chorus is pretty catchy too. It’s not quite as good or immediate as Lonely Boy, but it is not a disappointment by any means.

7/10

4) Iggy Azalea Feat. Charli XCX– Fancy

Iggy Azalea – Fancy
Iggy Azalea – Fancy

Iggy’s career has just been building pace since the release of her first single Work in March of last year, which managed to peak at number 17 in the UK. She soon followed this up with two more hits, Bounce and Change Your Life, the latter managing to become her first top ten hit when it peaked at 10 in September.  Iggy has played the game pretty well, allowing the hype around her debut album The New Classic to build and build until it reaches fever pitch at which point she decides to drop Fancy, possibly her best single to date. The single is a rap diva off with Charli XCX but never does it reach the crass levels to which Nicki Minaj frequently stoops. There is nothing we haven’t seen before on this track of course, Iggy hasn’t quite come into her own yet in terms of lyrics but the genius is in the finger snapping simplicity combined with the infectious backing beat.

6/10

5) Anastacia – Stupid Little Things

Anastacia – Stupid Little Things
Anastacia – Stupid Little Things

The artist once-dubbed Little Woman with the Big Voice is back. Anastacia’s career has been in the wilderness ever since the commercial failure of her last studio album of original material 2008’s Heavy Rotation. Since then, she has released an album of covers of male songs as well as being diagnosed with cancer again and beating it for a second time. Therefore, it’s appropriate that Anastacia chose to call her sixth studio album Resurrection as it does feel like a new beginning for the singer. Her comeback single Stupid Little Things is typically bombastic and signals a return to her original sound “Sprock”, a hybrid of soul, pop, rock. The song is packed full with hooks and is aimed squarely at radio play. However, the sound has dated slightly and I wouldn’t be surprised if this manages to slip under the radar, which would be a massive shame as it’s great to hear Anastacia doing what she does best again.

7/10

6) Rita Ora – I Will Never Let You Down

Rita Ora – I Will Never Let You Down
Rita Ora – I Will Never Let You Down

British songstress Rita Ora is back with what will probably be the smash of the summer. I Will Never Let You Down, which was produced by her current boyfriend Calvin Harris, is probably her best single yet but it unfortunately serves to highlight the singer’s lack of personality and generic qualities. Oddly enough the best part of this song is the summery guitar driven beat playing over the verses which lingers in the brain much longer than generic chorus. Ora sounds like she never even breaks a sweat on the single, which keeps safely in the middle of her range (I counted only one high note in the whole song). But when all is said and done, I Will Never Let You Down is a sure fire hit and it’s great to see a young singer revelling in her youth, rather than wailing about heartbreak (Sorry Lea Michele). What’s more, the sound feels fresh and Ora’s persona is much more likeable than on her previous material.

8/10

7) Calvin Harris – Summer

Calvin Harris – Summer
Calvin Harris – Summer

What is there left to say about Calvin Harris. Along with Pharrell he is without a doubt one of the biggest producers of the moment and his cannon of number ones just keeps on growing. Summer is another almighty global smash waiting to happen, but something went wrong for me on this track. I’m usually a fan of Calvin’s vocals, such as on the anthemic Feels So Close, so I welcomed the idea of him singing on this new track. However I really don’t know what Harris was trying to pull on Summer. If it he was trying to sound coy then that’s really not the way to go about it. If he was trying to sound whiny and shrill then he did a great job of it. But I may as well resign myself to hearing this song everywhere for the next couple of months because the sad fact is that Harris could have farted, put it on a loop, given it a dance breakdown and the song would have been the summer hit of 2014.

4/10

8) Ed Sheeran – Sing

Ed Sheeran – Sing
Ed Sheeran – Sing

Instead of channelling the understated, pondering balladry displayed on his more successful singles The A Team and Lego House, Sheeran has chosen to go in the other direction for the first single from his upcoming sophomore album x.  Sing actually has a lot in common with previous single You Need Me, I Don’t Need You with Sheeran’s urgent rapping driving the verses. The falsetto present on the bridge of Sing is the big surprise here, as well as the main hook being comprised of woohs. Sheeran is back in style.

8/10

9) Justin Timberlake – Not a Bad Thing

Justin Timberlake - Not a Bad Thing
Justin Timberlake – Not a Bad Thing

Timberlake continues the 20/20 Experience Volume 2 album campaign with the third single Not a Bad Thing, which is actually the best cut from its otherwise patchy parent album. The song could be a N*Sync album track, which shows how the Tennessee-born singer has done full circle in his career, but with his effortless cool Timberlake manages to sell a song which would have sounded corny in anyone else’s hands. Overall Not a Bad Thing, whilst lacking originality, manages to be exactly what it should be: relaxing, mushy and sweet.

6/10

10) Clean Bandit – Extraordinary

Clean Bandit – Extraordinary
Clean Bandit – Extraordinary

After bursting onto the charts this January with the infectious Jess Glynne-assisted synth track Rather Be Clean Bandit have a job to do to live up to the hype. Their follow up single Extraordinary start deceptively slow with a minimalistic intro that is almost acapella. However, the song soon breaks down picking up a string infused backing beat on the way and descending into a chorus which, on repeat listening, proves to have staying power. The result is not nearly as infectious as Rather Be, but Extraordinary manages on stand on its own as a euphoric, sunny piece of intelligent dance pop, which should keep the band getting radio spins long enough to release an album.

7/10

So that’s a round up of just a few of the big, high-profile new tunes which are set to be the soundtrack of summer 2014. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed the post. If you want to follow my blog please click on the link at the top of the post. Until next time!!

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The Top 32 Songs of the First Quarter of 2014. PART 2

Hope you enjoyed the first installment of the top 32 of the first quarter of 2014. In part two join me as I count down the all important top 20 best songs of this year so far! Let’s dive straight in:

20)      Lily Allen – Air Balloon

Lily Allen - Air Balloon
Lily Allen – Air Balloon

Lily Allen’s recent lack of singles chart success has been baffling. Her ass-kicking gender equality tune Hard Out Here only managed to peak at a lowly 9 last year and Air Balloon has suffered a similar fate, with both singles dropping off the charts quickly. I could write a whole blog about this topic (and I might still, depending on the performance of Lily’s album Sheezus) but for now let your mind soar with the happy-clappy Air Balloon.

19)      Lorde – Team

Image

Lorde is beyond a shadow of a doubt the woman of the moment, having just bagged herself a Brit for Best International Female and another top 30 smash with Team. This woman can do no wrong at the minute and there’s no wonder with tunes of this calibre.

18)      Gorgon City – Ready for Your Love

Gorgon City - Ready for Your Love
Gorgon City – Ready for Your Love

This year so far has been all about house music and Gorgon City’s No.4 hit is a perfect example of this. The single features MNEK, a London born singer of Nigerian descent, who adds a touch of mystique to this suspenseful club smash.

 

17) Ellie Goulding – Goodness Gracious

Ellie Goulding - Goodness Gracious
Ellie Goulding – Goodness Gracious

This song is made a thousand times better by the psychedelic video which features Goulding with light up trainers in a dance off, which singlehandedly brightened up our January. The song isn’t half bad either.

16)      Katy B – Crying for No Reason

Katy B - Crying for No Reason
Katy B – Crying for No Reason

As mentioned in a previous post, this was the single which saved Katy B’s current album campaign and managed to become her third top 5 single. Crying for No Reason is flawlessly produced and Katy B’s brutal honesty would manage to break even the sternest of hearts. Make ‘em weep Katy.

15)      Molly – Children of the Universe

Molly Smitten-Downes - Children of the Universe
Molly Smitten-Downes – Children of the Universe

Something amazing happened this year. The BBC have actually put in a good song into Eurovision. Not a faded talent with a snoozer ballad, not a cheesy novelty act ridiculing the whole concept of Eurovision, but a young upcoming star with a powerful anthemic tune. Our betting odds haven’t been this low in years and some are even saying we’re in with a chance of winning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but trying to not get my hopes up. See what you think of the UK’s Eurovision entry this year.

14)      Disclosure Feat. Mary J Blige – F For You

Disclosure Feat. Mary J Blige – F For You
Disclosure Feat. Mary J Blige – F For You

Disclosure have managed to have a top 30 hit with F For You on two separate occasions. The original version reached No. 20 last year and was the fourth single off their platinum selling (over 300,000 copies) chart topping album Settle. However, they resurrected the track earlier in 2014 with a feature from diva Mary J Blige who has somehow managed to make a good track even better by infusing it her signature soul drenched vocals. That hook should be illegal.

13)      Sam Smith – Money On My Mind

Sam Smith – Money On My Mind
Sam Smith – Money On My Mind

After winning both the BBC Sound of 2014 poll and the 2014 Critic’s Choice award chart earlier this year chart success was not far behind for the Hertfordshire-born singer. Indeed, he soon brought these predictions to life by bagging his first solo number one single Money on My Mind in February.  This won’t be the last you hear of him.

12)      Pharrell – Happy

Pharrell - Happy
Pharrell – Happy

Although it originally topped the charts in December I felt this funky retro ditty deserved a place in my top 20 as it managed to return to the top of the charts on two separate occasions this year and has gone on to sell well over a million copies in the UK alone. It’s not quite as good as the hype and the song has been played to death on the radio, but there is something special about this infectious clappy tune. Pharrell is just on fire lately.

11)      Pitbull Feat. Ke$ha –  Timber

Pitbull Feat. Ke$ha –  Timber
Pitbull Feat. Ke$ha – Timber

One of 2014’s undeniable monster hits. Ke$ha’s career had been going a bit south recently and she was in need of a good solid hit and relentless chart botherer Pitbull was happy to oblige, being the first to jump on the bandwagon of the new country EDM fusion which Avicii took straight to the top of the charts last year with Wake Me Up. On repeat listen however, the harmonica driven Timber is simply genius and the god-awful lyrics (I’ll have ‘em like Miley Cyrus/clothes off/twerking in their bras and thongs/Timber) just add to the party. Ke$ha’s country twang is perfect on the track as well.

10)      Shakira Feat. Rihanna – Can’t Remember to Forget You

Shakira Feat. Rihanna – Can’t Remember to Forget You
Shakira Feat. Rihanna – Can’t Remember to Forget You

Everyone loves a bit of Shak. Fact. Everyone loves a bit of RiRi. Fact. Sex sells. FACT! So when the two divas teamed up earlier this year and filmed a steamy, suggestive video the result was destined to be an absolute smash. When all the blatant commercialism is stripped away however, Can’t Remember to Forget You stands on its own merits. All credit to Shakira for experimenting with new sounds and not resorting to following the EDM trends. Who knew that ska could be in for 2014? Well clearly Shakira did.

9)      Kylie Minogue – Into the Blue

Kylie Minogue – Into the Blue
Kylie Minogue – Into the Blue

Sometimes the world is a cruel place. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. This is exactly what happened to Kylie’s latest majestic offering Into the Blue when it failed to make the top ten and became her one of her lowest peaking lead singles, bowing out at an embarrassing No. 12. Goodbye cruel world. There is no explanation for this harsh treatment either. The single is very straightforward and catchy and it received loads of promotion and airplay. How could it fail? But fail it did. Still, at least it reached top ten on one chart…even if it is just mine. I have high hopes for her next single the Pharrell produced I Was Gonna Cancel though. Never give up hope.

8)      Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’

Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’
Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’

This one probably won’t be familiar but it definitely deserves its place on my chart. It should by all rights be the representative for Sweden for Eurovision this year but, as previously mentioned, the world is a cruel place and it lost out by two points to Sanna Nielsen’s snoozefest Undo.  Ace is having the last laugh though as Busy Doin’ Nothin’ is currently on its 4th consecutive week on top of the Swedish singles charts while Undo is floundering at No.8. A slight reversal of the old saying “to the victor go the spoils”.

7)      Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J – Dark Horse

Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J– Dark Horse
Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J– Dark Horse

After the commercial failure of her last single Unconditionally Katy Perry was in need of another mega hit if she wanted to keep hold of her pop queen throne. Luckily, she still had a trick left up her Prismatic sleeve in the form Dark Horse, which more than lives up to its name. The track itself is a massive curveball by the Teenage Dream singer who isn’t usually one for musical experimentation, especially not with the trap music style found on Dark Horse. The song is all about suspense and mystery as the song builds and builds into the perfect storm. Yes, it doesn’t have a proper chorus, yes Juicy J’s rap is just as laughable as his name, but there is something magical about this inventive offering from Perry and like a true dark horse the track has come out on top, having become a chart smash worldwide.

6)      Emmelie de Forest – Rainmaker

Emmelie de Forest – Rainmaker
Emmelie de Forest – Rainmaker

Again this will probably be one you’re not familiar with, although the name of the singer might ring a bell. Emmelie de Forest is a Danish singer who rose to fame last year after winning Eurovision 2013 with the haunting wind driven Only Teardrops and she’s back this year with the official Eurovision 2014 song (the song isn’t actually competing but will be performed in the final in Copenhagen). Rainmaker itself could be plucked straight from The Lion King soundtrack, using African chanting and evoking the organic feel of Emmelie’s previous music. Very in keeping with Eurovision’s theme of unity. When asked to comment on the meaning of the song, the singer commented that “it’s about a tribe joining together to call upon the rainmaker to make their land blossom again…it’s about coming together and helping each other out”. (http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=official_joinus_song_launched_penned_by_emmelie)

 

5)      Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You

Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You
Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You

One woman has been kicking serious ass this quarter with her surprisingly sassy Pharrell-produced comeback single Can’t Rely on You which peaked at number ten in February. Mainly a balladeer, it’s rare to see the London born chanteuse singing an upbeat track but boy have we been missing out. Who knew that Paloma could be the queen of vitriol, the sovereign of scorn, the empress of cattiness. Lord save the poor sod who did her wrong. And there’s even a cowbell to boot.  Here’s a video of Paloma Faith performing Can’t Rely on You in a kitchen. Someone even plays the saucepan….

4)      Beyoncé – Drunk In Love

Beyoncé – Drunk In Love
Beyoncé – Drunk In Love

Beyoncé showcased a new side to her with this trap-influenced depiction of female sexuality which served as the lead single to her self-titled fifth studio album. Queen B has certainly been on fire this year and the crowd is begging for more, with her records selling like nobody’s business. One thing is definitely true, after Drunk in Love nobody will ever look at surfboards in the same way ever again.

3)      Sophie Ellis Bextor – Young Blood

Sophie Ellis Bextor – Young Blood
Sophie Ellis Bextor – Young Blood

As mentioned earlier, the elegant Mademoiselle EB has recently been enjoying renewed success after turning her hand to beautifully crafted piano driven chamber music. It’s mostly due to this beautiful ode to her love for her husband, which serves as an antidote to the over sexualised pop songs which are currently dominating the charts. In this current climate songs like Young Blood are a breath of fresh air and Sophie EB deserves all the success she gets.

2)      Idina Menzel – Let It Go

Idina Menzel – Let It Go
Idina Menzel – Let It Go

This first quarter of 2014 one song has just been growing and growing in popularity, reaching its peak when it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It is of course the wickedly talented Adele Nazim (according to John Travolta https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3ff17im8RQ ) with her empowering anthem Let It Go. The soundtrack to this album has just spent its eighth week on top of the US album charts and has gone on to sell an impressive 1.8 million copies in that market alone. The film Frozen was a massive commercial success as well and several songs off the soundtrack have charted worldwide. There’s no denying this has been one of the runaway successes of 2014.

1)      Clean Bandit – Rather Be

Clean Bandit – Rather Be
Clean Bandit – Rather Be

However, one song has been dominating the UK charts this year spending 4 week at the top and selling an impressive 163,000 copies to become to fastest selling singles released in January since Babylon Zoo – Spaceman. The band came from nowhere with this quirky string dance number and haven’t looked back since. The song also holds the record for the most streams in one week on Spotify in the UK with 1.09 million plays, surpassing previous record holders Daft Punk with Get Lucky. It just goes to show that you can’t beat a mushy love song.

What a great first quarter it has been, so many great tunes. Here’s to the next 3 months of fantastic music. Hope you enjoyed this post and as always feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading.

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