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.

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

The Smokin’ Hot 11 of August

Here’s 11 sizzling hot tunes that are set to be massive in the coming weeks. Bon appetit!

11) Alexa Goddard – So There

Alexa Goddard - So There
OMG my name can fly!

For those of you who haven’t heard of Alexa Goddard, she is an English Youtuber who started off her career doing covers, the most famous of which is her version of Soulja Boy’s “Turn My Swag On” which managed to reach the UK top 20. Now, newly signed to Jay Z’s label Roc Nation, Alexa has turned her hand to crafting little pieces of original pop perfection for our degustation and turns out that they slip down a treat. “So There” is a summery , Katy Perry-sized confection which should manage to get Goddard’s career off to a flying start.

10) Pharrell Feat. Miley Cyrus – Come Get It Bae

Pharrell and Miley Cyrus Come Get it Bae
That innocent face doesn’t fool anyone Miley, we’ve seen “Wrecking Ball”

Subsequent singles from Pharrell’s album GIRL may not have managed to live up to the success of “Happy” (nothing really can to be honest), but now that the ridiculously enormous gravitational pull of that track is finally starting to wane, it seems like the time is right for Pharrell to have another smash. And if it’s going to happen, “Come Get it Bae” is definitely the track to do it. It’s another slice of catchy, funkalicious R&B with a side of Miley Cyrus for a bit of extra spice. I feel weird saying this, it has been a bit quiet on the twerking front as of late and we were starting to miss the stench of Miley’s corrupted innocence in the pop charts, which is why we should welcome her return, even in the form of a guest appearance while talking about riding someone’s motorcycle… Despite the dodgy lyric content, “Come Get It Bae” does manage to recapture some of the joyous, clappy fun of “happy” and Cyrus’ “heys” will go down as either the most infectious or annoying hook of the summer, or maybe both.

9) The Script – Superheroes

The Script Superheroes
Stop trying to inspire us for god sake

The Script are getting quite reliable at chucking out inspiring, semi-epic pop anthems every couple of years. You might think we’d start getting a bit bored of their budget-Coldplay ways, but for some reason they keep bouncing back with inoffensive, radio-friendly tunes which we lap up without fail. “Superheroes” never manages to go anywhere that the band hasn’t been before but it manages to be extremely enjoyable at the same time. It’s pure power pop and it sounds as if it’s made up exclusively of encouraging catchphrases, but you can’t really stay mad at The Script because you can tell that there’s not an ounce of insincerity in their music. And that, my friends, makes them superheroes in our book.

 

8) Paloma Faith – Trouble with my Baby

paloma faith trouble with my baby
Not OTT at all

Paloma Faith is unstoppable. Her third album has been selling like hot cakes all over the world and she even managed to bag herself an Australian No.1 single with “Only Love Can Hurt Like This” a few weeks ago. “Trouble With My Baby” however, is a completely different kettle of fish: it’s an upbeat, angry rallying cry for scorned women which makes you wonder which poor fool ever dared mess with our Paloma. Either way, he certainly won’t be doing that again.

7) Katy Perry – This Is How We Do

Katy perry this is how we do
Katy does a great impression of a hat stand

After a brief foray into dance-pop with the slightly insipid “Birthday”, Katy has chosen to showcase her fun side again with this the sassiest cut from Prism. Half sung, half rapped “This Is How We Do” is chock with shout outs and even a gratuitous /bring the beat back moment/. It’s a bouncy, uplifting jam which takes us right back to “Last Friday Night” and is destined to become a party classic for years to come. Moreover, it’s the perfect anthem for cruising down the west side in a Maserati, which pop stars seem to be obsessed with nowadays. /Suckin’ at Mariah Carey-oke and getting’ her nails did/ all Japanese-y. Oh Katy you’ve still got it.

6) Ella Eyre – Comeback

Ella Eyre Comeback
Ella is officially 40% hair

Yes Ella! This is the Ella Eyre smash we have been waiting for. Her debut single “If I Go” didn’t quite manage to fulfil all that potential which we knew she was had all long, but “Comeback” is a thumping, tell-off which can definitely go the distance. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned is the moral of the song and video, which sees Ella and her friends wrecking her no-good cheating ex-boyfriend’s apartment. Looks like she had fun making it too and we always find that a bond is created when you see someone smash in a flat screen TV with a guitar and burn out a car with a photograph. Now let that mother**ker burn indeed. Plus, she has such bouncy locks, how could she not be the next big thing?

5) Iggy Azalea Feat. Rita Ora – Black Widow

Iggy Azalea and Rita ora Black Widow
Ok girls so do the weirdest pose you can think of. Ok GO!

One of the most anticipated videos of the year has finally landed and it was well worth the wait. The summer has so far belonged to Iggy and “Black Widow” has given her a good chance of dominating the autumn as well. It’s kind of like “Dark Horse” part two (which makes sense as Katy Perry also wrote “Black Widow”) as it channels the same femme fatale vibe and contains similar trap influences. But “Black Widow” ain’t no sad copy, no sir. Iggy makes this track all her own with her sassy lyrics which are on point as ever and the addition of Rita Ora makes the track soar. Who knew that steel drums could sound so ominous and disturbing?

4) Meghan Trainor – All About that Bass

Meghan Trainor All About that Bass
5 Year old girls have less pink at their tea parties…

The 20-year old Nantucket-born overnight sensation has quickly been taking the world by storm this summer with her Caribbean-inflected hoedown “All About that Bass”. The song is heavily influenced by 50’s style doo-wop jams and Soca (soul calypso), a musical style which originates in Trinidad and Tobago. However, it’s Trainor’s refreshing attitude which stands out more than anything on this track. Of course it’s not new to praise plus-size girls, but when it’s wrapped up in such an enthusiastic and infectious package the message diffuses all the more rapidly. And with lines like “every inch of you is perfect from the bottom to the top” who could resist?

3) Nicki Minaj- Anaconda

Nicki Minaj Anaconda
It looks like she has two boiled eggs for an ass

After lead single from Nicki’s upcoming album The Pinkprint, “Pills and Potions” failed to light the world on fire, Nicki was in need of a hit of “Starships” proportions if she had any hope of shifting as many copies of this album as she did of her previous albums. Luckily, Nicki has an ace up her sleeve in the form of this Missy Elliott cast off “Anaconda” which manages to cram everything that we love about Minaj into a handy three and a half minutes. How thoughtful of her. It was definitely good to see a different, more serious side to our favourite human Barbie with previous singles from this new album “Pills N Potions” and “Lookin’ Ass”, but it’s infinitely better to know that zany, fun Nicki is back in da hood. The first time you listen to “Anaconda” your mind blows a little (she uses a friggin’ sample of “Baby Got Back” for god’s sake! But once your brain gets accustomed to the new pink world order you realise that this snake charming jam is a massive coup for the zany pop star and, best of all, its unmistakeably Minaj. Oh and the video is simply outrageous. Who gets away with bikini bottoms that small! I mean really! And to top it off she laughs like an insane person and gives Drake a random lap dance for god sakes. Insanity overload.

2) Jessie J Feat. Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj – Bang Bang

Jessie J Nicki Minaj ariana grande bang bang
Now this would be a girl group and a half

After an embarrassing sophomore slump, Jessie J has spent the last few months rallying her forces in order to mount another aural assault on the world and her explosive new single “Bang Bang” is the perfect mission statement. She even managed to rope in the world’s hottest new star of the moment Ariana Grande and self-confessed “bad-ass little bitch” Nicki Minaj to turn “Bang Bang” into the best girl-power jam since the Spice Girls’ “Wannabe”. As if Jessie J wasn’t sassy enough on her own. If the repetition of the line “you need a bad girl to blow your mind” teaches us anything, it’s that Rihanna can move aside, there’s a new good girl gone bad in town and we’d all better buckle up. Needless to say, “Bang Bang” already managed to peak at No.6 in the US in its debut week and has become a radio fixture since its release. Get used to this one. J-J-J-J Jessie J is back!

1) Lilly Wood and the Prick – Prayer in C

Prayer in C Robin Schulz Lilly Wood and the prick
Someone’s gonna say that she’s doing an Illuminati sign aren’t they? Sigh…

This song will probably be familiar to most readers as it’s already managed to peak at No.1 in 10 countries and has been a summer hit throughout Europe.  After taking his remix of Mr Probz’ “Waves” to the top of the charts, Robin Schulz continues his winning streak with another sure-fire smash hit. His stamp is all over this mid-tempo piece of chilled-out pop, the original version of which featured on Lilly Wood and the Prick’s 2010 album Invisible Friends. In case you’ve never heard of them, Lilly Wood and the Prick (interesting choice of name) are a folk pop French-Israeli group featuring singer Nili Hadida and guitarist Benjamin Cotto. They’ve been around for quite a few years and have managed to shift a few records in France while never really hitting the big time, until now. “Prayer in C” is a cool slice of ethereal ghost pop whose hypnotising beats float over the listener like waves washing over the shore and before you know it you’ll be hooked. Irresistible.

That’s all the delicious poptastic delicacies we have for you lovely readers for now. Thanks for reading and tune in again for more pop pleasure.

Brit Awards 2014

download

It’s that time of year again! Time to look back on the best of the best in the world of pop last year and hand out rewards for good behaviour. Brit Awards nominees were announced yesterday with One Direction leading with 4 nominations (why god why), followed by Bastille and Ellie Goulding with 3. Let’s have a look at the categories:

British Male Solo Artist

David Bowie

Jake Bugg

James Blake

John Newman

Tom Odell

No-one really stands out here. Of course, Bowie’s return at the beginning of last years was a big shock for many and his album opened to both rave reviews and critical acclaim. However, I would bet on John Newman cleaning up here as he’s the most commercial of the five and his single Love Me Again really did kick some serious ass.

British Female Solo Artist

Birdy

Ellie Goulding

Jessie J

Laura Marling

Laura Mvula

Although I do have a special place in my heart for Birdy I have to say that Ellie Goulding really deserves this one. She’s been a chart mainstay throughout the year and has released three exceptional singles Explosions, Burn and How Long Will I Love You? Case and point. Ellie FTW.

British Group

Arctic Monkeys

Bastille

Disclosure

One Direction

Rudimental

I don’t know if I want to live in a world where One Direction wins over Bastille. For the sake of my sanity, please.

British Breakthrough Act

London Grammar

Bastille

Disclosure

Laura Mvula

Tom Odell

Bastille again are probably the most deserving of this award but I’d like to see London Grammar take this one as their album If You Wait was filled with amazing melodies and is undoubtedly one of the best debuts of the year.

British Single of the Year

Bastille – Pompeii

Calvin Harris and Ellie Goulding – I need your love

Disclosure – White Noise

Ellie Goulding – Burn

John Newman – Love me again

Naughty Boy – La, La, La

Olly Murs – Dear Darlin’

One Direction – One Way or Another

Passenger – Let Her Go

Rudimental – Waiting All Night

This is always the hardest category to decide and honestly I would be happy with either Burn, Love Me Again, La La La, Let Her Go or Pompeii winning but it should be Let Her Go if we’re really taking this seriously.

MasterCard British Album of the Year

Arctic Monkeys – AM

Bastille – Bad Blood

David Bowie – The Next Day

Disclosure – Settle

Rudimental – Home

All good albums. Would be happy with any of them winning but I do have a soft spot for Bastille.

International Male Solo Artist

Bruno Mars

Drake

Eminem

John Grant

Justin Timberlake

JT without a doubt. It’s as simple as that. From the very start of the year he’s been an all dominating force in the world of pop and his 20/20 Experience album is head and shoulders above the rest. I haven’t even heard of John Grant (I’m sure he’s lovely).

International Female Solo Artist

Janelle Monae

Katy Perry

Lady Gaga

Lorde

Pink

A very open category this year. Both P!nk and Katy Perry have had great singles this year (who could forget Just Give Me A Reason and Roar) but Lorde was the surprise of the year, springing out of nowhere with her dour, minimalistic style. Still I do love a bit of GaGa and seeing as everyone seems to hate her now I’d like her to take this one.

International Group

Arcade Fire

Daft Punk

Haim

Kings of Leon

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Daft Punk or HAIM. Probably HAIM because I thought Daft Punk’s album was god awful apart from Get Lucky and Lose Yourself to Dance.

So we’ll just have to keep our fingers crossed that our favourites come out on top. The ceremony is scheduled to be held on the 19th of February.

If you disagree with any of my predictions or want to express your own, please feel free to comment below.

Best Pop Album of 2013

These are very difficult times for the once mighty album. Sales have dropped dramatically in recent years and show signs of continuing this downward trend in future years. A wide array of reasons have been suggested for this, such as the economic crisis reducing the amount of money people are willing to spend on music, meaning they focus more on singles, which incidentally have shown positive growth in recent years with an unprecedented amount of singles selling more than 100,000 copies in their first sales week this year. Some people attribute the drop in album sales to YouTube, which allows people to listen to a full album and select their favourite songs, making the full album redundant. There is evidence for this theory as certain tracks from albums released this year have charted alongside the lead singles, for example, several albums promotional singles taken from one Directions new album Midnight Memories reached number one on the iTunes download chart (and then subsequently quickly dropped down the chart). However, there are still some who consider the album an invaluable part of the music experience. Beyoncé herself, upon releasing her new album this year, claimed that she missed “the immersive experience” that albums provide for the music fan. Indeed, this is the main attraction of an album, to allow the listener a window into the singer’s consciousness and feelings. Music, after all, is a very personal experience (despite will.i.am reducing it to mindless electronic beats). Therefore, I have compiled my favourite albums of the year in order to help the undiscerning pop fan decide what is still worth listening to.

20) Leona Lewis – Christmas, with Love

Leona Lewis - Christmas, With Love
Leona Lewis – Christmas, With Love

This deserves its place on the list purely in the interest of encouraging good behaviour. The Christmas album is a genre which has been widely abused by music artists wanting to cash in on a holiday smash and, therefore, is often written off as a novelty genre. But this is a rare thing: a well sung, well produced, classy affair clearly inspired by the classic Christmas albums of times gone by (cue Phil Spector). As well as the obligatory reinterpretations of Christmas classics Christmas, with Love contains several new songs. It also helps that lead single One More Sleep is quite possibly one of the best contemporary Christmas singles in recent memory.

Listen to: One More Sleep, Ave Maria

19) Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain 

Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain
Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain

Despite being a slightly bleak listen, from the offset it is clear that Aplin is a talented singer and writer with a pleasingly folksy warmth to her voice. Singles Please Don’t Say You Love Me and Panic Cord, believe it or not, are some of the most upbeat but don’t let this detract from what is a beautifully crafted album. It would definitely be your loss.

Listen to: Home, Please Don’t Say You Love Me.

18) Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne 

Avril Lavigne - Avril Lavigne
Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne

Album number 5 and Avril is still plugging the brattish rebellious teenager shtick which made hits such as Sk8er Boi and Complicated so successful. Sure, progression is not her forte but there is something pleasantly refreshing about an artist who knows exactly who they are and remains the same through thick and thin. Even blatant copies of current trends such as the Katy Perry-inspired Sippin’ On Sunshine are stamped with Avril’s vivacious personality. Simon Cowell would definitely declare her to have the X Factor. The irony lies in the fact that this collection of songs is actually one of her best and most coherent, yet it is one that most of the public are not likely to listen to, taking into account Lavigne’s decreasing popularity which is visible album by album. All the more Avril for us then.

Listen to: Give You What You Like, Here’s to Never Growing Up

17) Jessie J – Alive    

Jessie J – Alive
Jessie J – Alive

The curse of the sophomore album strikes! We’ve seen it time and time again. An artist has great success with their debut album but fails to replicate it with their second. There are many reasons for this: pressure to grow musically, time constraints from record labels, the constantly evolving music scene. After the whirlwind success of Who You Are, Jessie J was always going to find it difficult to follow it up, but having said that, Who You Are was a very bumpy ride indeed. It experimented with several different styles and in the end, it felt as if she never really settled. This album demonstrates that Jessie J, at the very least, is on her way to finding herself at last. It’s a more coherent album and in that way it is more satisfying that the collection of random singles that was Who You Are. And while the first half is much better than the second, there is much less filler in general.

Listen to: Breathe, Thunder.

16) Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience 

Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience
Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

2013 signalled Justin Timberlake’s triumphant return to the music scene after his foray into the acting world over the past few years. He has been rewarded with not one, but two global smash albums this year, with the other half of his 20/20 Experience album also being a big commercial success. But here were concerned with the first part of Justin’s 20/20 Experience, which is better crafted and catchier than the second instalment. Of course, Justin does have a tendency for indulgence, with several songs bloating to over 8 minutes long and the songs themselves aren’t nearly epic enough to warrant that length. But the progression from his previous albums is tangible and the album is infinitely listenable.

Listen to: Mirrors, Tunnel Vision.

15) Rebecca Ferguson – Freedom

Rebecca Ferguson – Freedom
Rebecca Ferguson – Freedom

Rebecca Ferguson is arguably one of the main reasons why the X Factor still deserves to exist. Her last album was a huge success, selling 600,000 copies in the UK alone; despite producing only one hit single Nothing’s Real But Love (which only reached number 10). This set the foundation for a long and successful career and here’s round two. The stomping kiss off to a past love I Hope opens the album, which is appropriate as the whole album is about a messy break up anyway. There are several other highlights off the album that show that, in the time that she has been away, heartache  has made her developed an attitude…in the best possible way. The differences from her first album Heaven are what make this album exciting, namely that her personality is allowed to show through more (always a good thing). So, while there is more filler here than on her previous album, there are a lot of killer tracks here to enjoy.

Listen to: All that I’ve Got, Fake Smile

14) Alison Moyet – The Minutes 

Alison Moyet – The Minutes
Alison Moyet – The Minutes

Often when a musician has been in the game for so long they show signs of career fatigue and lack of creativity, after all, the music industry can be a lonely place (fig.1 Britney Spears – “my loneliness is killing me”). However, Alison Moyet shows no sign of a lack of new ideas and even managed to sound a lot fresher than some of the 20-somethings on the music scene nowadays. The Minutes presents us with some of her best work to date: the crashing crescendo of When I was Your Girl and the electro squelch of Apple Kisses make this album a joy to listen to from start to finish. And most importantly, no filler.

Listen to: When I was Your Girl/Apple Kisses

13) Katy Perry – Prism 

Katy Perry new album
Katy Perry – Prism

This year marked the return of one of the most successful pop stars of the minute, Katy Perry. Immediately the media set about creating rivalry between her and Lady Gaga, who released her comeback single Applause at the same time. Fortunately for Perry, her single Roar trounced Gaga’s in most charts all over the world and set the scene for her massive comeback. Teenage Dream, was always going to be a hard act to follow but Prism manages to keep the fun of her previous albums, while avoiding re-treading old ground. There are several standout tracks such as Dark Horse and Walking on Air which show Perry experimenting with her music. But the second half is overcome by ballads and songs such as International Smile and This Moment demonstrate how Perry’s song writing abilities can come off as cheesy. Nevertheless, this is a fun album and, if you consider it independently of Teenage Dream, it’s is a great album in its own right.

Listen to: Dark Horse

12) Goldfrapp – Tales of Us

Goldfrapp new album
Goldfrapp – Tales of Us

Perhaps one of the most pleasing things about Goldfrapp’s new album is how they are clearly not making music in order to be commercially successful. Especially nowadays, it seems that artists don’t care about the music itself and just want to make money, but not Goldfrapp. This album is a lovely blend of sonic textures with Alison’s voice cooing delicately over gorgeous piano driven tracks. Gone is the electro influence of Supernature, and while this was successful in its own right, it has now given away to a more delicate beauty. Every track blends into the next, making the album as a whole a hugely relaxing and gratifying listen.

Listen to:  the whole thing!

11) Icona Pop – This is…Icona Pop.

Icona Pop's album
Icona Pop – This is…Icona Pop.

Few people would have suspected that Icona Pop would be more than a flash in the pan when theyre catchy hit I love It shot straight to the top of the charts in June. But their debut album shows that they are much more than a one trick pony. In fact, it is filled to the brim with catchy hits which will keep the listener dancing all night and, crucially, never bored.

Listen to: Girlfriend, In the Stars.

10) Diana Vickers – Music to Make Boys Cry 

Diana Vicker's second album
Diana Vickers – Music to Make Boys Cry

There once was a time when Diana Vickers seemed to be on top of the world. After her debut single Once shot straight to number one, her debut album Songs From the Tainted Cherry Tree also went straight to the top of the charts. 3 years on, it was always going to be a struggle to regain such success and unfortunately it seems she has been struck by the sophomore curse again with Music to Make Boys Cry limping in at a low 37 in the UK album charts and her lead single Cinderella only reaching number 76. Another album doomed to obscurity. It’s a huge shame actually seeing as it’s a huge improvement on her debut. The album has been criticised for being vapid and the lyrics uninspiring but this album contains something that many artists have lost nowadays – fun. Lead single Cinderella, while admittedly not too inspiring, is a slice of electro-pop perfection and Boy in Paris shows Diana exploring new musical territory. Let’s hope next time round she gets the recognition she deserves. Heck she even show side boob on the album cover!

Listen to: Music to Make Boys Cry, Cinderella

9) Lorde – Pure Heroine

Lorde's debut album
Lorde – Pure Heroine

2013 saw the rise of 16 year old Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor, otherwise known as Lorde. Her debut single Royals peaked at the top of the charts internationally and her album Pure Heroine offers plenty more to enjoy. There is something refreshing about the teenager, who reportedly was sonically inspired by Lana Del Rey but found it difficult to relate to the messages about opulence and wealth that were prevalent in Del Rey’s music. Her distinctive voice and minimalistic style coupled with the contemporary references present in her songs are what makes this record so captivating.  Simply, she is one of the most exciting acts to appear in a while and her debut shows a lot of promise for future records to come.

Listen to: Tennis Court, Team, Royals.

8) Birdy – Fire Within

Birdy's second album
Birdy – Fire Within

Birdy’s eponymous debut, while not a runaway success, did establish the then 15 year old as a respectable artist. Her second album sees her singing original material and the result is pleasantly surprising with the quality of the new material matching that of the covers on her debut. Interestingly, this time round someone in her team has clearly identified her tendency to lean on slow ballads, the result of which is inevitably depressing. This has led to the inclusion of several more upbeat tracks such as Light Me Up and Maybe. These work quite well on the album and make it a more uplifting listen than her debut (which isn’t really saying much).

Listen to: Light Me Up, Standing in the Way of the Light

7) Lady GaGa – Artpop 

Lady Gaga's new album
Lady GaGa – Artpop

The controversial pop diva returned this year with her long anticipated third album Artpop. Unfortunately, despite debuting at number one on both sides of the Atlantic, it has failed to replicate the massive success of her previous two albums and has drawn a huge amount of criticism. The marketing campaign for the album was spearheaded by GaGa herself, but unfortunately rather ended up backfiring. It seemed as if the album was around for ages before it was eventually released and the lofty statements that came with it didn’t create any more sympathy for the once all conquering chanteuse. However, upon closer inspection the album, although admittedly patchy, is a very enjoyable listen. Several tracks such as Aura and Swine are messy and sound unfinished. But for all the misfires, the album contains a larger amount of hits such as the heartfelt Dope, the sultry R Kelly assisted single Do What You Want and the soaring Gypsy. It doesn’t help that most of this good material is on the second half of the album, making it seem as if the latter half is a reward for listening to all the experimental tracks earlier on the album. But Artpop is not nearly as bad as people say and GaGa shouldn’t take it too personally, after all, success inevitably attracts criticism and “her ArtPop could mean anything”.

Listen to: Dope, Gypsy, GUY

6) Little Mix – Salute 

Little Mix second album
Little Mix – Salute

One of the biggest shocks of 2013 came from an unlikely source. The X Factor winners Little Mix released their debut album DNA to reasonable success, including a number one single and the album was, as a whole, enjoyable. However, few would have predicted that the group would grow so much in less than a year and end up releasing one of the most spunky and interesting albums of the year. Several tracks stand out after the first listen such as Little Me and Move but the repeat listener will note that, strangely it is the ballads here that stand out such as the beautiful These Four Walls and powerful Towers. The same attitude which drove All Saints to the top of the charts is present in the Little Mix girls and the group’s sublime harmonies are the glue that keeps it all together.

Listen to: Towers, Little Me

5) HAIM – Days Are Gone 

HAIM's debut album
HAIM – Days Are Gone

Big things were predicted for the 4 piece band from California after they won the BBC’s Sound of 2013 poll which meant that expectations were high for their debut album. Luckily, Days Are Gone does not disappoint and provides the listener with one of the most coherent, fresh albums of the year. The songs conjure up breezy images and transport the listener to an endless summer, especially If I Could Change Your Mind, which is simultaneously reminiscent of a bygone era, while remaining astonishingly contemporary.

Listen to: If I Could Change Your Mind, The Wire.

4) Beyoncé – Beyoncé

Beyonce's new album
Beyonce – Beyonce

Years later, after scores of copycats with varying degrees of success have tried to emulate the flash release that Beyoncé’s eponymous album received this December, we will always remember that Beyoncé did it first. And in some style. Critics had been commenting on the lack of new music from Queen B for a long time with the disappointing Grown Woman and the crass Bow Down failing to hit the mark. But Beyoncé managed to stay one step ahead of the game and surprised us all with this her most diverse work to date. Upon listening to the album however, the bigger surprise is the experimental nature of Beyoncé. The album has no standout single and it actually benefits from this, as the listener has to listen to the whole album to decide on their favourite tracks. Ultimately, this is how Beyoncé achieves her goal of listener immersion, though defying music industry norms and doing things her way. The lyrical content is surprising as well, with Beyoncé declaring herself to be bored with the music industry and, if this is the result, may she remain bored for a very long time.

Listen to: Drunk in Love, Haunted

3) Passenger – All the Little Lights 

Passenger's solo album
Passenger – All the Little Lights

Passenger has had a great year with his single Let Her Go becoming one of the bestselling singles of the year and his album finishing as the 15th best seller. His debut solo album is definitely worthy of such success, with folksy, ethereal musical textures grounded by his witty, relatable lyrics. The album itself is a very calming listen, never boring, always charming, like a male Lily Allen with folk roots. Either way he definitely deserves praise for delivering the gutsiest line of 2013 “Who needs love when you’ve got silicon and strap-ons”.

Listen to: Staring at the Stars, Holes

2) Imagine Dragons –Night Visions

Imagine Dragons album
Imagine Dragons – Night Visions

The musical diversity is what gives Night Visions its unique charm: from the mandolin on It’s Time to the dub step influenced Radioactive. However, the album works as a whole as well and is a very joyous experience with sing-along chorus after sing-along chorus. The clapping and drum driven It’s Time is a particularly uplifting but the less bombastic tracks such as Every Night also are thoroughly enjoyable as well. The band can really do no wrong on this debut and really they could have really picked anything as a single. It seems that Imagine Dragons really are On Top of the World.

Listen to: On Top of the World, Radioactive.

1) KT Tunstall – Invisible Empire/Crescent Moon 

KT Tunstall new album
KT Tunstall – Invisible Empire//Crescent Moon

Yet another album where I could recommend any song, but that does not always translate to commercial sales as seen with this country folk inspired offering from KT Tunstall. Upon its release in June it reached number 14 in the UK and failed to produce a hit single. Though something tells me that KT doesn’t mind, as her fourth album is intensely personal (several songs are written about her father’s death) and she reported the experience of making the album as cathartic for her. It shows when an artist offers us everything and here it yields beautiful consequences. There is nothing of her flashy predecessor Tiger Suit here, it’s all about giving yourself up to the music and letting it wash over you.

Listen to: Invisible Empire, Made of Glass

So that’s it! Thank you for reading about my favourite albums of the year. I hope you enjoyed it and here’s hoping for big things for 2014.