PopWatch: Why 2016 will be the Year of the Diva

We have already had a full album and single release from everyone’s favourite Barbadian-who-doesn’t-give-a-f**k, Rihanna. ANTI‘s shock release this past January sent fans into a spin with the set recently debuting at the top of the US Billboard Charts, despite previously being released as a free download. Lead single “Work” is currently ruling the charts worldwide.

Then we had a surprise gift from the ultimate noughties diva Queen Bey (a.k.a Beyonce). “Formation” was released last Sunday before her performance at the Super Bowl and received rave reviews for its strong political messages which has whet the public’s appetite even more for a new full album.

Noughties favourite Gwen Stefani has announced her first solo album in 10 years This Is What the Truth Feels Like is to be released this March with lead single “Make Me Like You” available to listen to from today!

So a strong diva showing already this year from RiRi, Queen Bey and Gwennie and we could possibly see new material from the following pop divas:

Lady GaGa

Mother Monster has been relatively quiet lately. For her, at least. She released ARTPOP way back in November 2013 and then Cheek to Cheek, her duet album with Tony Bennett in 2014. Although both sets topped the US Billboard Charts their sales were well below par for the chart conquering diva, which means she has a lot to prove on album number 5. Since then, she has recorded a song for The Hunting Ground soundtrack “Til’ It Happens to You”, which is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song, and she randomly popped up in season five of American Horror Story: Hotel. Here’s the good news, she says that her time on the gory show has influenced her latest studio album which can only be a good thing as GaGa is best when she is at her most theatrical. Let’s hope for another “Bad Romance” or “Monster”.

Anticipation Rating: 8/10

Christina Aguilera

Everybody’s rooting for Christina, but she hasn’t given us much to work with lately. In fact, since 2007 her success has been mostly limited to guest feature singles such as “Moves Like Jagger”, “Feel this Moment” and “Say Something” and she hasn’t released any singles since 2013 with her last full album Lotus coming out in 2012. That’s a long time in the world of pop! But the ever-competitive Xtina will be eager to prove that she can still hobnob with the current crop of popstar royalty (young whippersnappers!), so it’s guaranteed that she’ll be pulling out all the stops for album number eight. Its confirmed that that she will be returning for The Voice USA: Season 10, which should air in March or April, so it would be a smart move to coincide this return with some new music and a cheeky performance to get the ball rolling. Apparently she’s been doing a lot of yoga lately so perhaps we can expect some chilled house from the blonde bombshell.

Anticipation Rating:6/10

Taylor Swift

Swifty had a big 2014 and 2015 with a tirade of smash singles from her latest studio album 1989 but, according to the rules of the universe, Taylor Swift’s album releases must follow a 2 year cycle. She has released one every even year since 2006’s eponymous Taylor Swift. We got Fearless in 2008. Speak Now in 2010. Red in 2012 and 1989 in 2014. So if my calculations are correct 2016 should be another Swift year. However, I wouldn’t hold my breath as Swift has reportedly said that she is ready to take some well deserved time off. because she is afraid of people getting sick of her! Seriously no danger of that Taylor…

Anticipation Rating:3/10

Katy Perry 

The California Gurl’s album releases are a bit more erratic than Swift’s. One of the Boys was released in 2008, Teenage Dream in 2010 and Prism in 2013. Those stats make me feel a bit awkward as it seems like she’s taking longer and longer between albums…Couple that with the fact that she recently said that she might not release anything until 2018 and I’m in tears ripping up my Prismatic World Tour t-shirt on my bedroom floor.

Let’s not leave it that long Katy eh? Whenever it comes out, we might get a reply to Taylor’s “Bad Blood” which is secretly/not so secretly written about Perry and we could do with some “Left Shark” action. Perhaps a heartfelt ballad or ode to shark.

Anticipation Rating:4/10

 

Fergie

Eager to get all Fergalicious again, our favourite Black Eyed Pea has been readying a new album for a while now. She dropped “L.A Love” back in September 2014 which got us all excited but then promptly disappeared again when it didn’t perform as well as expected on the charts. Mega sad face. She then popped up again in summer 2015 claiming the album was almost finished which suggested a quarter 4 release but then silence on the Fergie front. She really can’t drag this out any longer so I would expect a new beat-heavy single before the start of May in hope of bagging a summer smash. Fergie’s been working with an interesting array of people, including Charlie Puth, Jean Baptiste Kouame, DJ Mustard, Rock City, Mike WiLL Made-It and RoccStar, so the album should be quite eclectic, which definitely worked on The Dutchess.

Anticipation Rating:5/10

Britney Spears

Sure Britney has a devoted fanbase and enjoys a god-like status in the world pop, but there is only so much fans can take before we lose our faith in the divine. Between balancing her energies on her Las Vegas Residency Show and being a Soccer Mom to two young boys, she admits that new music hasn’t been her top priority recently. But seeing as her last studio set Britney Jean was such a bomb, containing only one noteworthy single “Work Bitch” we are really in need of some new Britney material to reaffirm our love for Godney. Luckily, she has been posting and dropping hints recently on social media so the outlook is good for a summer release. Let’s hope she does a double Beyonce by dropping two full albums without warning. We can dream can’t we?

Anticipation Rating:9/10

 

If we get new music from all these wonderful divas in 2016 I will probably have a meltdown and my brain will explode. So STAGGER people! Thanks for reading and please feel free to comment, share and like.

 

 

 

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The Best Songs of 2014: 20-1

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

20) Mark Ronson Feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

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

19) Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This

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

18) Shakira – La La La (Brazil 2014) 

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

17) Ariana Grande Feat. Iggy Azalea – Problem

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

16) Taylor Swift – Blank Space

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

15) Kiesza – Hideaway

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

14) Sia – Chandelier

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

13) Pharrell – Happy 

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

12) George Ezra – Budapest

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

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

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

10) Sam Smith – Stay With Me

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

9) Katy B – Crying for No Reason

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

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

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

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

Basically it’s just awesome.

8) Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J – Dark Horse

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

7) Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

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

6) Meghan Trainor – All About that Bass

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

5) Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud

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

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

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

3) Ella Henderson – Ghost

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

2) Idina Menzel – Let It Go

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

And the number one is……

1) Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne – Rather Be

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

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

The 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.

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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Pop Week Roundup

Yeehah! (Sorry) It’s time for this week’s pop roundup featuring all the pop news from the past week (and a few cheeky pop discoveries made by yours truly). If you love hearing about all the latest pop releases and triumphant (or not so triumphant) returns of pop artists, you’ve come to the right place.

Paloma Faith back with new album
Paloma Faith

1)      First up, Paloma Faith’s back! Or should be very soon. A steamy teaser video in Italian was uploaded to her official website this week, which to be honest doesn’t really tell us anything but implies a sexier new image revamp (hope you haven’t gone over to the dark side Paloma). The 32-year old is looking amazing as always and apparently we can expect a bit more of an upbeat style from her new album which is scheduled to be released in the first quarter of 2014. Meanwhile, enjoy the teaser.

http://www.palomafaith.com/

Ellie Goulding -  Goodness Gracious
Goodness Gracious Album Cover

2)      Ellie Goulding released the video to her new single Goodness Gracious this week. The playful video shows her frolicking with friends and having what appears to be loads of fun, but it’s the use of colour that really makes this video worth watching. Plus there’s a great dance off between Ellie and some random guy at the 1:36 mark. Ellie won (but I would say that). Oh yeah and the tunes good too. Either way you may as well get used to it as it’s a dead cert to do the rounds around the clubs. Plus she looks lovely on the artwork. I want to go to that Masquerade Ball!

Elsewhere in Ellie world, her sophomore album Halcyon Days finally got to number one last Sunday on its 65th week on the chart. Screw the hare, tortoise all the way!

Christina Perri back with new single Human
Christina Perri – Human

3) Christina Perri (a.k.a the queen of the depressing heartfelt ballad) released her come back single Human taken from her new album Head or Heart last Saturday. It’s pretty much in the same vein as previous hits like Thousand Years and Jar of Hearts and it comes with a minimalistic video which I guess represents her naked emotions or is that reading too much into it…? Might be a grower this one.

The Fray - Love Don't Die
Love Don’t Die

4) In other news, similarly depressing band The Fray are back who you might remember from the bleak hits How to Save a Life and the You Found Me. However, the band’s new tune Love Don’t Die (despite the name) is a bit of a change of tact as it’s actually quite upbeat and is quite reminiscent of One Republic’s Counting Stars. While it’s not quite as catchy as that hit, this is quite a good comeback for The Fray. The singer is trying and failing to rock the bald look though, which could be a deal breaker.

5)      Anyone remember Alphabeat? It has been a while since their No.6 2008 smash Fascination and, let’s be honest, the Danish group’s fortunes haven’t been great after their 2013 album Express Non-Stop failed to enter the UK charts. Perhaps, because of this Stine Bramsen (the girl from the band) has decided to record some solo material and to get the ball rolling has uploaded a live performance of her first single Prototypical on to YouTube. The song itself is surprisingly good and its stomping bass line is reminiscent of Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. Let’s hope all her solo stuff is like this.

Stine Bramsen - Prototypical
Stine Bramsen – Prototypical
Kylie Minogue new album
Kylie Minogue

6)      Kylie is well and truly back! The diminutive pop princess has finally returned after a long absence from the pop scene. In a week filled with Kylie news first we were told that Kylie will be a new judge on the panel of The Voice (I might even bother to watch it this season) and then she announced that her new single is called Into the Blue and will be released March 16. Let’s hope it’s another smash for the Australian diva.  As the music is not yet available, why not enjoy some vintage Kylie to get us excited:

7)

Shakira and Rihanna - Can't Remember to Forget You
Shakira and Rihanna – Can’t Remember to Forget You

 If this doesn’t start the year off in a big way, nothing will. Shakira is back! And what’s more, she’s teamed up with none other than monster hit maker Rihanna on a track called Can’t Remember to Forget You. This might just be the single of the year already (if it’s not I will be sorely disappointed). Either way it’s bound to be a massive diva off of insane proportions. The track debuts on Monday but for those of us who don’t like waiting, why not enjoy the last time Shak dueted with a global super songstress.

8)      Aloe Blacc is back! Of course, he technically hasn’t been away for very long as he was featured on Aviccii’s 2013 global smash Wake Me Up, but this is his first solo single in ages taken from his Wake Me Up EP which features 5 new songs including an acoustic version of the Aviccii hit and his new single The Man. On first listen the song it becomes clear that the single samples the line “You can tell everybody” from the Elton John classic to great effect, freshening up the 44 year old lyrics (bloomin’ eck that’s an old song). Blacc is clearly aiming for epic on this single with a soul choir joining in two thirds of the way through and to be honest he pulls it off, mostly….

Aloe Blacc - The Man
Aloe Blacc – The Man

9)      While this next song will definitely not seem like news to American readers, I have a duty to inform my fellow Brits that Christina Aguilera has teamed up with new band called A Great Big World to create the beautiful, heartfelt ballad Say Something. Aguilera hasn’t sounded this restrained and classy on a track in ages and it’s reminiscent of the good old days or Beautiful and The Voice Within. Say Something has already been a smash across the pond but has yet to reach the UK. I predict big things though as it seems that lately whenever Christina hooks up with another artists, the product is nailed on to be a massive smash hit (Moves Like Jagger, Feel this Moment), pity about her solo career though….

A Great Big World Feat. Christina Aguilera - Say Something
A Great Big World Feat. Christina Aguilera – Say Something

10)   While Unconditionally proved to be one of Katy Perry’s lowest charting singles in a long time, her follow up single Dark Horse is already making waves in the USA, having reached a peak of number 6 this week (well outstripping Unconditionally already). This has been one of my faves of Prism since I first heard it and I’m very happy about the reaction that it’s receiving in America. Let’s hope it’ll be a similar sized smash in the UK as well!

Katy Perry - Dark Horse
Katy Perry – Dark Horse

 

That’s it for this weeks pop chart roundup. Thanks for reading and as always if you have any thoughts feel free to leave a comment below.

Brit Awards 2014

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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.