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!!

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The Best Modern Christmas Songs

Sick of Slade? Has enough of Shakin’ Stevens’ wiggling hips? Wish “I Wish It Could Be Christmas Everyday” would just bloody go away? There’s nothing wrong with taking a little break from the tried and tested Christmas classics and why not start by exploring some modern Yuletide treats. I have compiled a list of some of the best festive tunes since 2000 for you lovely readers. You never know, you might find a few hidden classics among them:

1) Ariana Grande – Santa Tell Me

Ariana Grande christmas
That’s how you rock the Christmas jumper look

2014 has really been a fantastic year for the 21 year old. With her second studio album My Everything peaking at No.1 in the US she became the first female artists to have two consecutive her first two albums top the charts since Susan Boyle. My Everything also peaked top 5 in basically every country in the world and solidified her as a premium pop princess to be reckoned with. Lead single “Problem” managed to peak at No.1 in the UK and became a massive worldwide smash. Subsequent singles “Break Free” and “Love Me Harder” also managed to peak top 10 in the US and chart worldwide. Grande has also managed to spend 26 straight weeks in the top ten of the US Billboard Charts with “Problem”, “Break Free” and “Bang Bang”. This girl is on fire! “Santa Tell Me” is the icing on the cake of an incredible year for the diva-in-the-making. Though it’s far from her first festive offering. In fact, she released a whole EP of holiday tunes entitled Christmas Wishes last year, featuring cover versions of “Last Christmas” and several new tracks. However, “Santa Tell Me” is by far her best Christmas release to date. It’s really everything you’d want from a future holiday classic: jingly bells; warm vocals; lyrics about snow and Santa. Of course, she’s not managed to record the next “All I Want For Christmas Is You” for the moment, but a few more smart, well-intentioned tries and she just might!

2) Leona Lewis – One More Sleep

Leona Lewis One More Sleep
A festive Christmas Cyclops

After the weak commercial performance of Leona’s third studio album Glassheart the ex-X Factor starlet decided to go down the well-trodden Christmas album route to try and remind us why we fell in love with her in the first place. Luckily, she really did throw everything and the kitchen sink at this project and the result is one of the best Christmas albums in recent memory. Lead single “One More Sleep” sees Lewis counting down the days until her lover comes home on Christmas day. It’s not the most original of concepts, but the holidays are not a time for originality and the Phil Spector wall of sound Motown vibe more than makes up for it. When “One More Sleep” climbed to No.3 in the UK last Christmas Lewis became the British female artist with the most top 5 singles in chart history with a total of 8. Not a bad Christmas present for the Hackney lass.

3) Kelly Clarkson – Underneath the Tree

Kelly Clarkson Underneath the Tree
It wasn’t just the logs on the fire that were smouldering that year.

Up till last year it was generally accepted that if and when Kelly Clarkson decided to release a Christmas album that it would be an absolute corker, and boy did she not disappoint. Wrapped in Red boasted Wall of Sound throwback vibe which was perfectly offset by Kelly’s powerhouse vocals. The album went on to become the highest selling 2013 Christmas release, despite facing strong competition from Mary J Blige and Duck Dynasty. Lead single “Underneath the Tree” became a worldwide top 40 smash and received extremely positive critical praise, with critics comparing it to Mariah Carey’s seminal classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You”. Sleigh bells, chimes and saxophone solos all come together on “Underneath the Tree” to create the perfect festive feel filled to the brim with unbridled optimism. You can’t help but like this one!

4) Gabriella Cilmi – Warm this Winter

Gabriella Cilmi Warm this Winter
That is not how you’re gonna keep warm this winter Gabriella

She may have faded into obscurity since her platinum selling debut album Lessons to Be Learned and all-conquering single “Sweet About Me” but when she was still at the peak of her fame in 2008 Gabriella Cilmi was approached to record an updated version of Connie Francis’ classic “I’m Gonna Be Warm this Winter” for the Co-op’s holiday advert. The advert became an instant favourite and the single rose and rose up the ranks of the UK singles chart. Cilmi’s hearty vocals form the core of this bubbly, festive offering which features copious amounts of brass. It also helped to open up Francis’ version to a whole new market. Finger snappin’ fun!

5) Britney Spears – My Only Wish (This Year)

Britney Spears My Only Wish This Year
If only she’d wished not to go friggin’ mental

Although in 2000 Britney had already declared that she wasn’t “that innocent” (“Oops I Did It Again”) and that her loneliness wasn’t killing her no more” (“Stronger”), this era is still a throwback to when Britney’s image was whiter than white and her head was still full of luscious blonde locks. “My Only Wish (This Year)” is a bubblegum pop tune that could have come direct from her …Baby One More Time album. It’s a throwback to a simpler time that is just as potent now as it was back then. It was recorded by Britters for Platinum Christmas, a compilation CD put together with festive recording made by famous pop singers at the turn of the century (such as Dido and S Club 7!). Typically, Spears sings about wanting her love to be returned to her underneath her Christmas tree (prickly) by jolly old Saint Nick. Although it is revered as a modern Christmas classic to this day it didn’t really chart anywhere, except in South Korea where it did spectacularly well, selling over 600,000 copies…

6) The Darkness – Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End)

The Darkness Christmas Time Dont Let the Bells End
You don’t see that kind of Christmas passion often enough nowadays

An oft forgotten yuletide gem which was engaged in one of the most epic chart battles ever in 2003 against Gary Jules and Michael Andrews’ gloomy cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World”. “Christmas Time (Don’t Let the Bells End”) was released at The Darkness’ peak of popularity, coming off their most popular single “I Believe in a Thing Called Love” which had just peaked at No.2. At this point they were one of the biggest bands in the UK and everyone believed that they would bag the Christmas No.1. That is, until the relatively unknown Gary Jules and Michael Andrews emerged as challengers at the last minute. The glam rockers were No.1 with “Christmas Time” all throughout the week until Saturday when they were pipped to the post by the newcomers. Nevertheless, The Darkness’ seasonal offering still crops up every December and keeps us wondering how they managed to get away with saying the word “bellend” in a Christmas song.

7) Michael Bublé & Thalía – Mis Deseos/Feliz Navidad

Michael Buble ft Thalia - Mis Deseos / Feliz Navidad
Hael Uble is my favourite artist

Michael Bublé´s Christmas has been a phenomenon. Even in markets where holiday albums done usually sell well such as the UK it managed to break records. As of last year it has sold over 2 million copies in the UK alone and has charted in the top 10 of the album charts every December since release. It also peaked at No.1 in 14 other major markets, including the US, and has sold an impressive 8.5 million copies worldwide. Personally, the highlight of the album is the heartfelt cover of “Mis Deseos/Feliz Navidad” with Mexican singer Thalía. Even the detractors can’t deny the magic of their cover of Puerta Rican singer José Feliciano’s 1970 classic which is tucked away at the end of the Canadian smooth talker’s 2011 Christmas album. It brings an exotic Latin feel to the holiday period which is always welcome.

8) Idina Menzel & Michael Buble – Baby It’s Cold Outside

Indina Menzel Holiday Wishes
Wait a minute! Isn’t she Jewish?

More Bublé you say! Well he is the king of the cheesy festive tune after all. This one comes fresh off the pipeline from Idina Menzel, the singer who “let it go” this year, who has just released a new Christmas album entitled Holiday Wishes. The album of classic covers is her first in 6 years and follows her commercial success as the voice of Queen Elsa in the tremendously popular Frozen. The album has also become her highest charting and first top ten US album, having peaked so far at No.10. The lea single “Baby It’s Cold Outside” has become her second charting single in the US, after “Let It Go”. Idina’s voice blends perfectly with Michael’s and the little ad-lib quips that they make throughout add colour and personality to this cover. Sure sometimes Bublés accent is really corny and irritating on this track but I’ll let it go because it’s a great cover in all other areas.

9) Natasha Bedingfield – Shake Up Christmas

Natasha Bedingfield Shake Up Christmas
Is Natasha’s dismembered head wrapped in a bow really an appropriate Christmas present?

You don’t hear much about Natasha Bedingfield anymore do you? She kind of disappeared off the face of the earth after the flop of her last album Strip Me which peaked at an embarrassing No.103 in the US. She hasn’t even bothered releasing anything in the UK for years anyway! I still have blind faith that she will come back and smash it up again, but that hope is diminishing with every year that passes. The last bone she threw us Bedingfield fans was “Shake Up Christmas” which she recorded for the Coca-Cola Christmas advert. It’s the last piece of evidence that there is left of Bedingfield’s signature cheery peppiness which suits the festive period to perfection. It’s not quite your typical Christmas song, in fact the verse is half rapped. But the chorus is immediate and catchy as hell. You’ll find yourself singing along before too long.

10) Kylie Minogue – Santa Baby

Kylie Minogue Santa Baby
“Don’t you dare look up my skirt!”

In 2010 Kylie decided to throw us a season treat in the form of her 5th EP A Kylie Christmas which featured a cover of “Santa Baby” and “Let It Snow”. Kylie’s cover of “Santa Baby” serves as a good reminder of all the things we love about the diminutive princess of pop. Kylie dishes out just the right amount of sugar and spice to make this cover the ideal blend of naughty and nice. I’m sure Santa was very happy that year. Kylie also manages to preserve the original tongue-in-cheek vibe but also enhances it tenfold to make it one of the best “Santa Baby” covers out there. Only Kylie would have the audacity to flirt with Santa that much!

Thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment. Oh and Merry Christmas Everyone!!!!!

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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Recent single releases: Which single is the best?

After trawling through the list of singles which have been or are going to be released soon, I decided that there are several standouts. So I have picked 9 of the best and now I am pitching them head to head to decide which of them is the best in an epic battle brutally contested by some of the top artists of the moment. A fair warning: there will be blood.

Lea Michele – Cannonball

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After having so much success with Glee, when the show’s breakout star Lea Michele eventually made her foray into the charts there were a lot of expectations weighing on her shoulders. Especially since her similarly talented, just as likeable co-star Naya Rivera’s debut single Sorry failed to make an impact when it was released this year, effectively putting one nail in the coffin of her burgeoning career. Luckily, Michele has struck gold with the power ballad Cannonball co-penned by pop’s woman of the moment Sia Furler. The song contains just enough autobiographical elements alluding to her immediate reaction to her boyfriend Cory Monteith’s untimely death, which will please die-hard gleeks. However, the song isn’t the depressing ode to lost love that it could have been as Michele has wisely waited to release the single until she managed to gain a bit of perspective “I think I found the light at the end of the tunnel”. In fact, the song is a positive survival anthem with plenty of references to new beginnings while Michele’s powerhouse vocals soar elegantly over a thumping backing beat. The piano gives the song a classy edge while still feeling thoroughly contemporary.

Positives: Uplifting and sensitive with great vocals

Negatives: Slightly repetitive

Idina Menzel – Let It Go

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A classic Disney ballad taken from Frozen: one of the best Disney films since the renaissance era in the early 90’s. The reason that, for me, Idina’s version wins out over Demi’s more commercialised version is nothing to do with having favourites, but rather the raw emotion and tangible feeling that the talented Menzel injects into the power ballad. The years spent on Broadway definitely give Menzel a leg up as she is able to emote effortlessly to the point where you believe every word she sings. The lyrics of her version are also better: more personal and simple building into a crashing crescendo. Sure it’s not the most original song ever, but nonetheless it is ruthlessly effective in achieving its goal. For example: when I went to see Frozen the cinema was filled with toddlers crying, but as soon as the first opening bars of Let It Go sounded out the cinema fell silent. Certain songs strike a chord with everyone and this is definitely one of them. There’s something about a timeless ballad that can still enchant an audience. Classy but never dated.

Positives: Powerful, emotive and the building crescendo.

Negatives: Might annoy some people for being too theatrical.

Pitbull ft. Ke$ha – Timber

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Aviccii’s Wake Me Up signalled the arrival of a new fusion of EDM and country music last year and typically Pitbull is hot on his heels to cash in on this new trend. Timber is essentially a tacky version of Wake Me Up but does that make it any less enjoyable? Of course, not! Apparently Pitbull originally wanted Rihanna to appear on this track but when turned out to be “busy”, her turned to Ke$ha who, in my opinion, is a far more appropriate choice with her country inflected vocals.  The genius touch is the accordion which runs throughout the whole song. So what if it sounds if it was written in ten minutes (which it probably was) and features lines such as “face down booty up. TIMBER!” Coupled with a kick ass video featuring a swimming pig, a hoedown and Pitbull mincing around on a beach with a random woman, how could this song fail? It’s chart euphoria for god sakes.

Postives: Accordion line throughout, Ke$ha’s triumphant return, God awful lyrics.

Negatives: God awful lyrics. Tackiness

Celine Dion – Breakaway

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Six years after her last English language release Taking Chances Celine Dion makes a triumphant return to the music scene. At first glance Breakaway is a little middle of the road, it offers nothing new and seems to re-tread ground that has been covered by Dion in more than 30 year old career. However, like many great songs Breakaway only grows in charm with each listen. It soon becomes apparent that Breakaway is far superior to the stuttering repetitive Loved Me Back to Life, which clearly saw Dion trying to appeal to a new audience. Breakaway, however, shows that Dion has no need to pander to anybody, as her style and voice are timeless and neither has sounded better for a long time. The song builds and builds with Celine’s powerful vocals commanding the song where others voices would be swamped by the overpowering production.

Positives: Classy, timeless and heartfelt.

Negatives: Not much personality (a constant problem for Dion).

Beyoncé – Drunk in Love

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Few artists manage to return from an extended hiatus with as much success as Our B. As I have already mentioned in my previous post, Beyoncé’s new album sees her experimenting more than ever and, although Drunk in Love is probably the most commercial of her new material, it still contains lots of original elements combined with a soaring hooky chorus. Jay Z’s guest appearance seems almost second nature now as he fits effortlessly into this slinky jam. His verse is a genius stroke as keeps the song from slipping into Rihanna’s signature hyper sexualised territory by focusing on a married couple’s sexual relationship. It’s quite inspiring that Beyoncé and Jay Z who have been an item for some time now still feel that kind of passion for each other. This gives the song its unique selling point and lyrics such as the breakdown around the word “surfboard, are delightfully random.

Positives:  Moany atmospheric chorus.

Negatives: some dodgy lyrics “your breasts are my breakfast”.

Sophie Ellis Bextor – Young Blood

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Although a demo of this song as actually released on 26 March 2013 I’m fairly confident that all but die-hard Sophie fans have yet to hear Young Blood, which hopefully will be getting a full release soon ahead of the release of Sophie’s fifth studio set Wanderlust in January. There is hope for Young Blood however as Sophie has recently received a lot of media attention, finishing fourth in the final of Strictly Come Dancing, which will hopefully give her career a much needed boost. After the commercial disappointment of 2011’s Make a Scene, this new album sees Sophie taking a dramatic change of career direction. Young Blood highlights Sophie’s new album’s focus on gorgeous piano ballads rather than the dance music of her previous releases. This is a very smart move as Bextor has never sounded better and her voice is magical on this emotional ode to her love for her husband. The only problem is that it might not set the charts alight due to the reserved nature of the single, maybe Sophie has something else up her sleeve earmarked for the first single from Wanderlust but in the meantime we can enjoy her dulcet tones on Young Blood. It’s almost too good for the charts anyway.

Positives: Simplicity, shock change of direction, good song writing.

Negatives: lack of commercial appeal

James Blunt – Miss America

James-Blunt1

James Blunt made a triumphant return to the music scene this year with his first UK top 10 in 6 years Bonfire Heart and a number 2 album Moon Landing. Despite the fact his record label seems to have chosen Heart to Heart as the follow up single to be released on 20 January, I have decided to skip this one out in favour of my pick off his album Miss America, which sees the marmite singer doing what he does best: an emotive piano ballad the subject of which is the recently deceased Whitney Houston. It definitely comes with a side of cheesiness but it highlights Blunt’s strength of showing emotion better than Heart to Heart. The lyrics are powerful and some play-on-words are rather gratifying “did the make-up, never make up for the pain behind your eyes”. Despite its subject, it never feels like an attempt to cash in on Houston’s death but rather an exploration of the negative side of fame, which affects all successful musicians. The outro where Blunt sings over a simple piano is the best part of the song and leaves a haunting resonance in the back of the listener’s mind.

Positives: Catchy chorus, haunting lyrics.

Negatives: slightly corny

Sara Bareilles – I Choose You

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Sara Bareilles has proved a lot of people wrong. After her smash hit Love Song, many predicted her to be the next Michelle Branch, sinking into obscurity after a sudden surge in popularity. However, she has managed to keep her career well and truly alive with hits such as King of Anything and Brave reaching the upper end of the Billboard singles chart in America and her album Kaleidoscope Heart reaching the summit of the album chart. The second single from her third album The Blessed Unrest I Choose You is a charming mid tempo love song which is driven by a plunkety string line. The lyrics are both simple and classic and Bareilles’ voice does a lovely whiny thing after the first chorus which is surprisingly effective. Future wedding classic? Definitely!

Positives: Strings, plenty of “oohs”.

Negatives: Corny

Little Mix – Little Me

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Build along a sample of Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane, which was also sampled in S Club 7’s single Natural, Little Me is instantly familiar but never feels derivative. The song feels like an updated, less cheesy version of the S Club 7 hit with the hook hummed rather than instrumental. The song itself is a simple motivational power ballad, with a message not dissimilar to that of Katy Perry’s Roar. Little Mix’s harmonies are again on point and the song is effortlessly uplifting but not in a corny Simon Cowell way.

Positives: Smart choice of sample, harmonies, powerful message

Negatives: Erm…..

9 artists at the top of their game. But which winter offering is a cut above the rest?

Will Lea Michele knock down her competition with her cannonball?

Will Pitbull mince his way to number one?

Will Idina Menzel weather the storm with her wintery hit Let It Go?

Will Celine Dion break away from the rest of the field?

Have Beyoncé and Jay Z drunk enough to reach chart glory?

Will a dose of Young Blood galvanise Sophie Ellis Bextor enough to beat out the rest?

Will Houston´s star power get Blunt to the top?

She chooses you, but will we choose Sara Bareilles?

Are the mini Little Mixs inspiring enough to be the winners?

And the winner is…..

 

 

 

 

 

Let It Go by Idina Menzel!!!!!!!!

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Some songs just have something special and this definitely fits the bill. With powerful vocals, this classic sounding song is given even more emotion by the talented Menzel who uses every drop of her theatrical experience to bring this song to life. An instant classic.

Thank you for reading my blog post and stay tuned for many more!!!