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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Girls Gone Wild

These red blooded women can’t keep their hands to themselves.

They say sex sells. Well sometimes you’ve just gotta give the crowd what they want which is exactly what these sexy sirens decided to do, producing some of the most eye-wateringly intimate and downright debaucherous come-hithers known to man. To celebrate the end of a cold and wet January I have whipped up this hot n’ heavy playlist which I have designed to be a non-stop sex fest. So expect some sultry hyperventilating, suggestive subtext and outright filth bound together with some of the dirtiest basslines around. It’s Britney-approved:

 

 

I’ve picked out some of the highlights from the playlist which deserve a bit of further attention. No nuns allowed:

Wynter Gordon – Dirty Talk

The perfect way to start off a steamy night in is with a cheeky bit of dirty talk. “I wanna do some dirty things to you tonight”. Ooh err! On “Dirty Talk” Wynter Gordon makes no apologies for loving sex, spending half the time naming all her favourite positions and toys. This is a song which wears it’s heart on its sleeve and celebrates everything naughty.

Further reading on How to Dirty Talk:

http://www.sexcigarsbooze.com/2010/06/how-to-talk-dirty-50-examples-that-will-make-you-blush/

Selena Gomez – Hands to Myself

No more Miss Nice Girl. The former-Disney star has lived through the drought of “A Year Without Rain” and has grown sick of waiting for her man to “Come and Get It”. On the provocative “Hands to Myself” Gomez is the wide-eyed ingenue no more, exploring the dangerous side of obsession and discovering how good it feels to be bad.

It’s feels very good apparently

Britney Spears – Gimme More

“It’s Britney Bitch”. What sexy playlist would be complete without a smidgen of Kinkney? There were so many tracks to choose from but I settled on the carnal “Gimme More” because of the way it strips sex back to its purest form. The track and video (in which the former-child star appears as a Stripney) have a raw, unfinished quality which suggests a primal, animalistic attitude towards sex. “Gimme More” also harks back to the Darkney days of 2007 when she had a trip to the barbers and came back 10 pounds lighter.

Madonna – Girl Gone Wild

“Oh, my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended Thee
And I detest all my sins
Because I dread the loss of heaven, and the pain of hell.
But most of all because I love Thee,
And I want so badly to be good”

Some say that religion and sex are natural enemies. Not Madonna. She has forged a career of disproving this theory. After a relatively quiet period for the Queen of Pop in terms of church-bashing , she returned in style with the devilish “Girl Gone Wild”, which was released in 2012 as the second single from Madonna’s twefth studio album MDMA. It remains on of Madge’s most underappreciated dance-pop tracks and the lusts of the flesh video with Ukrainian men dancing in heels one of her most striking visuals to date. I defy you not to feel a little bit naughty after listening to “Girl Gone Wild”.

Rihanna – S&M

“Feels so good being bad”. Amen to that! Rihanna’s music had always been sexually charged but the electropop kink-fest “S&M” took it to a whole new level of nasty. On the track, which was released as the third single from her fifth album Loud, Rihanna morphs into a wanton sexbot with heavily processed vocals and a high energy club beat.

Something like this….

Moreover, in the “S&M” video Rihanna manages to do humanity the big favour of putting Perez Hilton on a leash. If only she’d left him there…

Also, “S&M” is credited with uniting two of the sexiest gals in the biz for a sexy pillow fight in this outrageously showstopping performance featuring the one and only Britney bitch!

Lady GaGa Feat. R Kelly – Do What U Want

GaGa’s ARTPOP era may have been a complete shambles but die-hard fans managed to salvage this salacious collab from the wreckage. Synthpop jam “Do What U Want” boasts one of the skankiest basslines of all time and some powerhouse vocals from GaGa and R Kelly. It never did get an official video but we were treated to this White House themed performance at the AMA awards 2013:

Janet Jackson – All Nite (Don’t Stop)

We always knew that Janet liked her bass down low but “All Nite (Don’t Stop)” took it to a whole new level of delicious depravity with a combination of seductive moans and a dirty funk bass guitar line. The hot and heavy “All Nite” underperformed on the charts after it was blacklisted in the US in the wake of controversial Superbowl Halftime show incident but it never fails to get me moving.

Also, it turns out that Nipplegate was pretty important moment in history with the Guinness Book of World Records naming Nipplegate the “most searched item in Internet history.”

Also, apparently the incident inspired YouTube to be created in 2005:

“A young software programmer at PayPal named Jawed Karim is unable to find any video of the Jackson Super Bowl performance online. Frustrated in his attempts to find footage, Karim and some friends create a venue where people can easily upload and share video. Thanks to the scandal, YouTube is born in 2005. A year later, Google purchases the site for $1.65 billion”.

Further reading: http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/nipple-ripples-10-years-of-fallout-from-janet-jacksons-halftime-show-20140130#ixzz3yrI2PqLc

Sugababes – Freak Like Me

After the departure of founding member Siobhan Donaghy the Sugababes made a triumphant return in 2002 with freshly-ground vocals and a no-nonsense new attitude. Richard X-produce electrofest “Freak Like Me” shows the babes as seductive vampires ensnaring their prey and biting their way through the male population with gleeful abandon.

Disclaimer: no men were harmed in the making of the video.

Kylie Minogue – Red Blooded Woman

Coming off the back of her commercial smash album Fever Kylie decided to sex it up even more on her next record with the freaky “Red Blooded Woman”. The racy video sees the saucy siren caught in a traffic jam and dancing on a lorry. I just want to make Kylie aware that if it all goes south from now on she is more than welcome to entertain people by grinding on automobiles during gridlocks.

Kelis Feat. Nas – In Public

‘I’ll make your toes curl up and make your body scream” saved the naughtiest track on the list to last and, trust me, this one would make even the most oversexed teen raise their eyebrows. Kelis doesn’t hold back with expressing her fantasies on the almost too indecent “In Public”. The  Nas comes along and somehow manages to out-filth Kelis with his X-rated rap.

Hope that left you feeling hot under the collar and there’s plenty more to enjoy on the Girls Gone Wild Spotify Playlist. Thanks for reading and please feel free to share, like and comment. May the filth be with you.

The Best Songs of the 00s – Uptempo

The noughties were the golden era of pop. The Spice Girls, Steps and various other manufactured groups enjoyed a streak of success with loud and proud pop hits in the late nineties which helped pave the way for unabashedly fun and increasingly ridiculous pop acts who were not afraid to use everything at their disposal to bag themselves a hit. In short, pop went through a pretentiousness liberation.

Suddenly everyone loved pop and it almost exclusively dominated the charts. Today’s charts are a lot more diverse which is, of course, a very good thing. However, for the most part pop itself has severely lost its way amid a sea of singer/songwriters who are too concerned with being “a serious artist” to have any fun. The essence of pop is to entertain and I believe that this has been largely forgotten. So for that reason I will always look back to the turn of the century to experience pop in its purest form served the way god intended (with a bucketload of  cheese). So therefore I have decided to compile a list of the Best Songs of the Noughties which I have divided into two categories: Uptempo and Ballads.  Why you ask? Well because it was like picking between two of your children and since I am a mere mortal I couldn’t trim down the list any further. All the songs mentioned in both lists have ingrained themselves so deep into my subconscious that they play a role in my everyday life however sad that may seem (it will explain this later). The first part of the list contains all the uptempo tunes so get ready to party like it was 1999 a few years ago. Here’sa couple of observations I made while creating the list:

  1. There are a lot of good girls gone bad. This really became a pop phenomenon in the noughties with various pop stars going from nice to naughty.
  2. There is an unsurprisingly large amount of Spice Girls-inspired girl power going around (hangover from the nineties).
  3. Most of the top ten songs have hooks which consist of repeating a random syllables which means absolutely nothing at all. So expect a glut of las, a cacophony of ohs and a sprinkling of muh-muh-muh-mah. The conclusion that I’m drawing from this is that human beings are at heart simple creatures and, when it all boils down, we like our ear worms bitesize and easily digestible (i.e. they don’t require too much thought or indeed any  at all!)

So let’s get down to business:

 

20) Jennifer Lopez – Jenny From the Block

Back in her heyday at the turn of the century Jennifer Lopez was one of the most prolific hit makers around. But by 2003 the media has pigeonholed J-Lo as a materialistic diva who basked in the limelight while parading around in Bentleys wearing mink fur coats. “Jenny From the Block” was her less-than-subtle declaration that she was still the same down to earth girl from the Bronx in spite of her fame and fortune.

19) Liberty X – Just a Little

Back in the days when Reality TV was box fresh and even predating Pop Idol there was a little show called Popstars which documented individuals auditioning for a spot in a new pop band. When the groups were formed the series was eventually won by Hear’Say with the group who finished second, Liberty X, cruelly being labelled flopstars. No one really expected much from Liberty X and, despite scoring two top 20 hits, they never managed to shake the stigma of being losers. That is, until “Just A Little”. It was essentially their last chance and, for that reason, the band literally threw everything and the kitchen sink at the song and music video. Cue more PVC than a Catwoman convention and some spectacularly camp dancing with canes. To this day, every time I come across a cane or even stick I still do the “Just a Little” dance and I also have to follow the word sexy with “everything about you is so sexyyyyy”. This is the effect of good pop. “Just a Little” went straight to number one in the UK and finished as the 7th best selling single in the UK for 2002. What’s more, it went on to win a Brit Award for Best British Single at the 2003 ceremony. Who’s a flopstar now!?!

18) Christina Aguilera Feat. Redman- Dirrty 

The original good girl gone bad before Miley, Rihanna and Selena all jumped on the bandwagon. Having already attained massive success with her eponymous debut album Christina Aguilera decided a change of tack was in order for her second studio effort. Keen to shed her bubblegum pop image Aguilera decided to literally get down and dirty for her comeback single, dubbing herself Xtina and gyrating in a pair of ass-less chaps in what is one of the sexiest and most iconic videos of the 21st century. While Xtina did manage to bag herself a UK No.1 single and worldwide top ten with “Dirrty”, the track bombed in the more conservative US market where it charted at a lowly 48. It’s important to recognise however that, despite initial negativity towards “Dirrty” in the US, it is now considered as one of Christina’s signature songs and it undeniably set the precedent for many other popstars in the latter half of the decade who pulled off dramatic image overhauls.

17) Kelis – Milkshake

“La-la-la-la-la the boys are waiting”. In this post-Pharrell revival world, “Milkshake” shines bright as one of his best production credits to date, proving that he has always loved his cowbells. In 2004 Kelis wasn’t really on many people’s radar, despite several critically acclaimed albums, “Milkshake” is the track which put her on the map. This can be definitively measured by the fact that “Milkshake brings all the boys to the yard” has now entered pop culture as a perfectly acceptable way of describing someone’s sex appeal. It’s without a doubt one of the more creative metaphors for sex out there. One thing is certain, after Kelis the world never looked at a milkshake the same way again. “Milkshake” was released as the lead single from her third album Tasty and charted strongly across the world, becoming one of the best-selling singles of 2004.

16) Mary J Blige – Family Affair

Mary J Blige experienced something of a career renaissance in the summer of 2001 with her fifth album No More Drama. Despite maintaining a very respectable level of success in the US, interest had begun to wane internationally, that is, until she hollered “let’s get drunk cos Mary’s baaaaack!” and the world was never the same. The Dr.Dre-produced “Family Affair” helped her to finally fulfil her commercial potential, becoming her only US No.1 single and finishing the decade as the 12th best-selling single in the US . As if that weren’t enough, with “Family Affair” Mary J can be certain in the fact that she is the only person ever to write a song containing the words “percolatin”, “hateration” and “holleratin”. Mostly because only one of those is an actual word.

15) Girls Aloud – Sound of the Underground

After the success of the Popstars Reality TV show, ITV commissioned another season with added influence from the wildly successful Pop Idol formula. The result? A rebranding as Popstars: The Rivals with not just one winning group but separate boyband and girlband being crowned. So it ended up as a good old fashioned girls v. boys with the groups’ debut singles simultaneously released to compete head to head for the coveted Christmas Number One position on the UK singles chart. One band was doomed to failure and the other was destined for eternal glory. The girls definitively won this round with their surprisingly gritty “Sound of the Underground” taking poll position with 213,000 copies sold while the boys’ limp track “Sacred Trust” charted at No.2 with sales of 147,000. This kick-started Girls Aloud’s career and they went on to best-selling girlband of the 21st century in the UK.

14) Avril Lavigne – Complicated

Dude you wanna crash the mall? After being signed to the prestigious Arista Record Label sk8er girl Avril spent several years struggling to find her sound until she stumbled across “Complicated” which perfectly summed up this teenage punk rocker’s attitude towards life. This is still my go-to jam when times get rough. Talk me down Avril! Talk me down! In an expert marketing move, Avril was presented as the cooler alternative to Britney, shining like a little punk beacon among the sugary sweet pop princesses of the time. As a consequence “Complicated” got her career off to a flying start, charting top ten worldwide and helping her debut album Let Go sell shed loads.

13) MIKA – Grace Kelly

“I wanna talk to you!” Effervescent British singer MIKA’s debut single “Grace Kelly” boasts some of the best spoken word lines in any song ever interspersed throughout the track like confetti. “Humphry! We’re leaving!” Inspired by his record label telling him to be more like Craig David, MIKA wrote this ironic masterpiece as a declaration that originality is best and generously introduced us to his glass-shattering falsetto which he slips in and out of like a knife through butter. “Grace Kelly” was a sure fire hit and formed the basis of a career which is still going strong today.

12) Nelly Furtado – Maneater

“You wish you’d never ever met her at all”. Are you kidding me! The world went wild when the new and improved Nelly Furtado was revealed complete with one of the dirtiest beats known to man which is still guaranteed to have you skankin’ around like a proper good girl gone bad. Indeed, It was such a dramatic transformation for Furtado, who had previously rocked a hippie-chic vibe with earthy tunes like “Powerless” and “I’m Like a Bird”, that it attracted accusations of “selling out”. One thing is for undeniable however, the sales boost which the Canadian singer’s image overhaul provoked will keep her and her daughter in poutine for many years to come.

11) Destiny’s Child – Independent Women Pt. 1

To this day if someone says the word “question”, I immediately reply by saying “tell me what you think about me”. That’s when you know you have created pop art (or artpop as Lady GaGa would say). Written for the group’s third studio album Survivor “Independent Women” was included on the soundtrack for the 2000 film adaptation of Charlie’s Angels. The song was met with huge critical and commercial success, spending 11 consecutive weeks atop the US Billboard Charts and giving the band their first No.1 single in the UK, selling hundreds of thousands of copies in the process. This means that a whole host of people are able to smugly quote the girls themselves in saying “I bought it”, which is possibly the most capitalist message of all time. Jokes aside, “Independent Women” still remains one of the purest and most influential female empowerment jams this side of the millennium boasting girl power to rival even the Spice Girls.

10) S Club 7 – Don’t Stop Movin’

Who could dislike S Club 7? For me, they represent the height of bubblegum pop which blew up around the millennium. They were literally a phenomenon and the true successors of the Spice Girls in terms of branding and style. All 11 of their official singles peaked top 5 in the UK, including 4 number ones and 5 number twos. The disco-inspired, string-laden “Don’t Stop Movin’” became one of the band’s biggest hits upon release in 2001, reaching number one on two separate occasions in the UK. The spectacularly retro track samples “Billie Jean” in the verses which makes it immediately familiar to any listener and, probably for that reason, it remains the band’s highest selling single in their home country.

9) Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Murder on the Dancefloor

Riding off the back of her wildly successful Spiller collaboration and the top two smash Cher-cover “Take Me Home” relative pop newbie Sophie Ellis-Bextor burnt the house right down with her now signature song “Murder on the Dancefloor” at the beginning of the decade. The London-born belle took out the competition just like she did in the dance contest-themed video with this finger-snapping tune which went on to become the most played song of 2002 in Europe.

8) Britney Spears – Oops…I Did It Again!

Can any child of the nineties say to me with an honest heart that when anyone says the word “oops” you don’t immediately hear “I did it again”? Be honest…I thought not. It was never really going to happen but Britney could have potentially been a one album wonder if it weren’t for this irresistible pop gem which saw the still 18 year old Britney shedding her innocent schoolgirl label and simultaneously boosting the sales of red latex catsuits. “Aww you shouldn’t have…”

7) Lady GaGa – Poker Face

A song which boasts not only one monosyllabic repetition, but two! “Muh-muh-muh-maaah” and “puh-puh-puh poker face” had us all “bluffin’ with our muffins” back in 2009 to the sound of this bisexuality themed robopop song about cockteasing. “Poker Face” always transports me right back to when Lady Gaga was literally unstoppable and everything she touched turned to gold i.e the good old days before she went a bit far with the whole “I’m an artsy kook” schtick. Upon release “Poker Face” became GaGa’s second number one single after “Just Dance”, making her the first person to debut at No.1 with their first two singles in the US since Christina Aguilera a decade previously. Seems that GaGa played her cards just right.

6) Kylie Minogue – Can’t Get You Out of My Head

Although it’s hard to imagine anyone but Kylie Minogue singing “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”, in fact it was originally written for bubblegum pop band S Club 7 and later rejected by Sophie Ellis-Bextor for her debut album. “La-la-la” just didn’t seem to work for them. But pop adores sloppy seconds and Kylie, who after making a successful comeback with “Spinning Around” in 2000 was back on top of her game and ready to reconquer the world, saw potential in the fledgling electropop genre. Needless to say, upon release “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” became her biggest hit to date, driven by the hyper sexy video which shows Minogue sporting several risqué outfits, including one which shows some major side-boob. The innovative nature of the song and video sent it soaring to No.1 all over Europe and even helped Kylie break into the notoriously difficult-to-crack US market.

5) Shakira – Whenever Wherever

When Shakira burst out of the ocean in the now iconic “Whenever Wherever” video, the world titled on its axis a little. Pre-“Whenever Wherever” the Colombiana had already broken the Latino market, scoring a No.1 Billboard Latin album with ¿Dónde Están Los Ladrones? but she wanted to make waves in the English speaking world, despite having barely written in English before. To think, if Shakira had just decided to rest on her laurels we might never have had lines such as “lucky that my breasts are small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains”. In fact, come to think of it we DEFINITELY wouldn’t have had that line. “Whenever Wherever” boasts a universal message of love and devotion as well as the best use of panpipes ever in pop which is probably the reason why it became the biggest worldwide hit of 2001. It’s curious that Shakira had never really done much hip shaking in her previous Spanish-language work but that’s what she became known for everywhere else in the world. Well, that and “ne-lo-lo-le-lo-le-lo-le”

4) Rihanna Feat. Jay Z – Umbrella

You can’t win ‘em all (unless you’re Charlie Sheen). This is a lesson which Britney Spears and Mary J Blige had to learn the hard way when they passed on the now ubiquitous “Umbrella”. Spears’ record label outright rejected the song before the pop diva even got a look in and Mary J was too busy to record it, which meant that Rihanna got the chance to cash in on this mammoth hit. The Barbadian had already scored a Billboard number one single with “SOS” and had enjoyed various other hit singles but it was “Umbrella” which made her a household name. In a Pavolv’s dogs-esque trained reaction, this song unfailingly plays in my head every time I see an umbrella, hear or say the word “umbrella” or indeed upon use of the item in question. I’ve been trying to figure out what makes the song so compelling and I think it has something to do with the contrast between Rihanna’s disconnected, deadpan delivery and the meaningful lyrics. Either way, it sure made it rain on the UK singles chart in 2007, reigning for a massive 10 weeks during one of the wettest summers on record. We were all clamouring to stand under her umbrella “ella-ella-eh” that year. As pathetic fallacy would have it, as soon as “Umbrella” was knocked off the top spot the rain promptly stopped. The universe can be kind of creepy sometimes.

3) Beyoncé Feat. Jay Z – Crazy in Love

To think we ever questioned that Beyonce could make it on her own without her Destiny’s Child galpals! The thought seems laughable now considering her success over the last 14 years but that’s exactly what we did before this fiercely independent woman scored her first international solo number one with the bold, brash “Crazy in Love”. Beyonce had scored a few hits previously but she was in need of a big smash if she was going to forge a respectable career outside of the confines of Destiny’s Child. The retro horn-laden sound of “Crazy in Love” initially divided opinions in Queen B’s camp but it’s the diva’s confident and assertive vocal delivery which steals the show. Combine that with an “uh-oh, uh-oh, you know” hook and a killer rap from Jay Z and there was no stopping us falling in love with Beyoncé.

2) Shakira Feat. Wyclef Jean – Hips Don’t Lie

All the haters who ever questioned whether hips lie were silenced forever when Shakira made one of the most spectacular career saves in music history. Way back in 2005 things were looking pretty grim for the Colombian beauty when the lead single from her second studio album “Don’t Bother” had slightly flopped her album Oral Fixation Vol. 2 sunk like a stone (at least in comparison to her previous studio set Laundry Service). Shakira’s career outside of the Spanish speaking world was seriously under threat of extinction until she hooked up with Haitan rapper Wyclef Jean for this floor filling, showstopper of a track. Originally titled “Lips Don’t Lie”, Jean had written the song specifically for the Fugees comeback but when the song was met with disapproval by Lauryn Hill he decided to give the song to Shakira who, drawing on all her many assets to make one of the most fun and vibrant music videos ever, sent the song to the top of the charts in 55 countries.

1) Britney Spears – Toxic

This Kylie Minogue reject is one of the most shining examples of how innovative pop can be when it is done right both in terms of song quality and music video creativity. The Bollywood style strings ooze drama which, combined with the international intrigue of the video, allows Spears’ to metamorphose into the female James Bond. Released around the time of Janet Jackson’s infamous Superbowl wardrobe malfunction, MTV made the decision to only show this risqué video after the evening watershed. A bit of an overreaction perhaps but, then again, Britney does writhe around in a diamond encrusted body sock for most of the video.  In spite of everything however, critical reactions were overwhelmingly positive and “Toxic” earned Britney her first Grammy for Best Dance Recording. Some pop has a limited shelf life but now, more than 12 years later “Toxic” is just as much of a stone cold jam as it was when Spears first donned that suggestive air hostess garb (pointy shoulder pads alert!) and, to this day, every time I use a landline phone or travel on an airplane my heart is crying out to pick up the receiver and purr “Baby can’t you see I’m calling!”

Agree with my choices? Think I’ve missed something out? Whatever the case I would love to hear what you think! Please put the comment box below to good use as that’s what it’s there for! Also, please like and share and if you want to listen to any of the songs mentioned in this blog I have provided a handy Spotify playlist below. Good pop just makes me so generous 🙂

spotify:user:1151803087:playlist:2Tk3xzVxOPN4jG8lH7TNkK

The 20 Best Solo Spice Girl Singles

For a brief period of time the Spice Girls were on top of the world, No.1 singles all over the globe, meeting the Queen and Nelson Mandela, world tours. They had it all. But after the Spice Girls imploded, what happened to the band members? They all had solo music careers, but who had the most hits? Who had any hits? Who will be remembered as the best solo Spice Girl? Let’s countdown the 20 best solo Spice Girl hits. Warning: this list contains a ridiculous amount of pop goodness and cheese:

20) Melanie B Feat. Missy Elliott – I Want You Back

Scary just being scary

Let’s kick off the top 20 with the first solo Spice Girl single ever. In 1998 Mel B got the ball rolling by cheating on her bandmates with Missy Elliott, who approached the Scary member of the Spice Girls asking her to lend her swag to her tune “I Want You Back”. After checking with the other Spices, Mel B agree immediately and the rest, as we say, is history. “I Want You Back” surged straight to the top of the charts in the UK and managed to peak top 25 in the US, getting Mel B’s solo career off to a blinding start which she never really managed to live up to.

19) Melanie C – Next Best Superstar

Melanie C - Next Best Superstar
Every bit as scary as Scary

Unfortunately Mel C’s star was already starting to wane by the time “Next Best Superstar” was released, resulting in a lower chart placing than this single really deserved. Nevertheless, “Next Best Superstar” became her sixth solo top ten single and her last to date when it peaked at No.10 in 2005. The single proved to be a bold move for the Lancashire born songstress, demonstrating an edgier, guitar-driven rock vibe, a sound which she would end up carrying through with her subsequent musical releases.

18) Melanie B – Feels So Good

Melanie B Feels So Good
You know she’s fallen on hard times when she has to use a piece of rope as a belt

Mel B’s only decent solo single in my opinion. “Feels So Good” is actually surprisingly catchy and serves as proof of the bonafide pop star that Mel B could have been if she had continued in the same vein. “Feels So Good” boasts a chilled R&B vibe (not unlike that of Brandy or Ashanti) mixed with synth keyboards. The single managed to peak at No.5, selling 55,000 copies in its first week and finished 2001 as the 80th best seller of that year.

17) Emma Bunton – Free Me

Emma Bunton - Free Me
May as well get some squats in eh Emma?

The James Bond theme that never was. For her second studio effort Emma decided to take a more sultry, 60’s inspired route, a move which brought her immediate success with lead single “Free Me” peaking within the top 5 of the UK singles chart in Spring 2003. The new refined style was well received by the public and the success of the single made sure that the album of the same name charted within the top 10 of the UK album charts as its predecessor did before it. Emma looks absolutely stunning in the music video as well which I’m sure did no harm in boosting the singles sales.

16) Geri Halliwell- Bag It Up

Geri Halliwell - Bag It Up
It’s so awkward when you forget it’s fancy dress…

At this point in her career Geri was untouchable. When “Bag It Up” managed to become her third No.1 single in a row it became clear that the flame-haired Spice Girl was hotter than a scotch bonnet. This is one of the Watford lass’ sassier efforts and she clearly relishes the opportunity to air her raunchier side and pile on the trumpets.

15) Emma Bunton – I’ll Be There

Emma Bunton - I'll Be There
The cyclops look is in this season

One of the more understated solo Spice Girl singles, “I’ll Be There” was released as the third single from Emma Bunton’s second studio album Free Me and became her third top ten single in a row when it peaked at No.7 in the UK in January 2004. “I’ll Be There” manages to blend lush violins with a classic Motown feel and Emma’s irrepressible niceness.

14) Geri Halliwell – Lift Me Up

Geri Halliwell - Lift Me Up
Damn it woman! Pay attention to the road.

For her third solo single Geri decided to take things down a notch and release her first solo ballad. Despite its November release, “Lift Me Up” is as light as a feather and shone like a star in the middle of the winter. Unfortunately, Geri’s erstwhile bandmate Emma Bunton had also chosen the same week to release her debut solo single “What I Am”. At first, Halliwell wanted to back out but, upon realising that it was too late, in true Geri style she began to furiously promote “Lift Me Up” to make sure that it went to No.1. All the hard work paid off and Geri managed to thwart Bunton on her way towards bagging her second consecutive No.1, with “Lift Me Up” outselling “What I Am” by 33,000 copies.

13) Melanie C – Northern Star

Melanie C Northern Star
I wonder why no-one ever thought of sunbathing in the middle of the desert before?

This one is often overlooked as it preceded Mel C’s No.1 singles “Never Be the Same Again” and “I Turn to You”, but nevertheless “Northern Star” managed to peak at No.4 in the UK and sold over 200,000 copies. The song demonstrated a newfound maturity for Sporty Spice both lyrically and musically. In “Northern Star” Mel C speak about living without regret and being someone who will be remembered, which indicates that the song is probably autobiographical. Especially seeing as the song was recorded and released at the same time as Mel C was recording the final Spice Girls album Forever and the band was coming to an end. This remains one of the deepest solo Spice hits.

12) Matt Cardle & Melanie C – Loving You

Something to the left is hilarious…pity we can’t see it..

The most recent entry into this chart. Last year Matt Cardle decided to get together with Mel C for the first single off his third solo album Porcelain. “Loving You” is as steamy as a locomotive and its stomping beat is reminiscent of a Zulu war chant, don’t even get me started on the owl-esque woos. Now that might not be the best pop hit formula, but it all manages to come together on “Loving You” to create an urgent, pulsing jam driven by softly plucking guitars. Sadly, it only managed to reach No.14 in the chart due to a lack of radio airplay. It however did manage to spark several rumours of a relationship between Matt Cardle and Melanie C, despite the latter being 9 years his senior. Check out the video to see the pair making out furiously. Woo indeed.

11) Victoria Beckham – Not Such an Innocent Girl

It’s worth being ravaged by a wild animal to get a good album cover

It’s nice to know that the poshest of all the Spices did manage to have some solo success despite all the haters who say that she can’t sing. “Not Such an Innocent Girl” shows Beckham trying to move away from her Spice Girl image and carve out a niche for herself. Musically, the single has a futuristic synth vibe which was replicated in the video featuring a good and bad Victoria battling out for supremacy. “Not Such an Innocent Girl” managed to become Victoria’s second solo top 6 hit when it was released in September 2001 and went on to sell over 80,000 copies in the UK. Unfortunately, it didn’t manage to do much for the album which became the lowest-selling solo Spice Girl album. Guess that’s why she decided to stick to the fashion designing.

10) Tin Tin Out Featuring Emma Bunton – What I Am

Tin Tin Out & Emma Bunton - What I Am
Would it kill you to crack a smile lads?

Little Miss Nice managed to bring some Spice to this old classic when she decided to play it safe and team up with seasoned chart botherers Tin Tin Out for her debut solo single. The result is an updated and remixed version of Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians’ 1988 hippie anthem “What I Am”. Emma’s relaxing vocal stylings suit the nature of the songs boho chic lyrics to perfection. As previously mentioned, “What I Am” was beaten to No.1 by a merciless Geri Halliwell’s “Lift Me Up”, but nevertheless did manage to sell over 100,000 copies in its first week. Don’t worry Emma, you managed to beat Geri on this chart!

9) True Steppers Featuring Dane Bowers and Victoria Beckham – Out of Your Mind

true steppers and Victoria Beckham - Out of Your Mind
You just know that neither of them can see a thing with those glasses on.

Victoria Beckham may have not had the most prolific solo career, but she can boast at least one genuine smash. “Out of Your Mind” was released in the summer of 2000 and Beckham embarked upon a military style promotional campaign in order to ensure that she grabbed herself that No.1 spot. However, Sophie Ellis-Bextor had different ideas. “Out of Your Mind” was No.1 all week until Saturday when it was taken over at the last minute by Spiller featuring Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Groovejet”. Ouch! Neverthless, “Out of Your Mind” remains the solo-Spice Girl single with the biggest first week sales (over 180,000 copies). That makes it even more painful that she is the only Spice Girl to never have had a solo number one.

8) Geri Halliwell – Look At Me

geri halliwell - Look At Me
Yeah right…

After quitting the Spice Girls when they were still on top of the world, Geri took some time out to hone her oncoming solo assault on the mainstream music market before returning to the spotlight with the brash “Look At Me”. Geri’s debut solo single was fittingly wacky and just as attention-grabbing as Ginger Spice herself. In “Look At Me” the attention is fixed firmly on Geri and she is clearly loving every minute. The song became a massive success, selling over 330,000 copies in the UK alone and over 1 million copies worldwide. The monochrome video also features the funeral of Ginger Spice. Talk about burning bridges.

7) Emma Bunton – Maybe

More cyclops!

For her sophomore effort, Bunton decided to take a more Motown, 60’s influenced approach and none of her singles from that period demonstrate this new direction better than “Maybe”. The song contains lounge/bossa influences which lend the song an easy breezy flow and Emma’s cooing happy-go-lucky vocals soar over the string accompaniment to create a really playful little ditty. The highlight is undoubtedly the ba-dah / ba-da-da-da-da-da-dah hook which you’ll find yourself humming for days on end. Despite peaking one place lower than Bunton’s previous single “Free Me”, “Maybe” eventually managed to outsell it and became a hit throughout Europe to boot. In fact, the persisting popularity of “Maybe” meant that it was chosen as Emma’s solo performance on the Return of the Spice Girls tour in late 2007. This is also one of the rare cases when the video really enhances a song, mostly for the funky choreography which is inspired by Rich Man’s Frug from the musical Sweet Charity. It also goes to show that you don’t need a big budget in order to make an entertaining video.

 6) Melanie C – I Turn to You

Mel C I Turn to You
Crazy Eyes

“I Turn to You” is undoubtedly an early prototype of the dance diva smashes which have been lighting up the charts so much lately (I’m thinking “Sweet Nothing”, “Titanium”, “When Love Takes Over”…). The surging strings and urgent, driving beat are even more in vogue now than they were back in 2000. As a result, “I Turn to You” is perhaps the solo Spice Girl hit which has aged the best and, in fact, it still sounds pretty fresh even now. That’s the mark of quality pop. Of course, upon release, the single became an instant club hit and was an enormous smash, topping the US Billboard Hot Dance Club Play and reaching the top spot in no less than 7 countries throughout Europe. Also, the DJ who provided the upbeat remix for the single version, Hex Hector, won the 2000 Grammy for Remixer of the Year. If you have any doubts that at the peak of her popularity Melanie C was one of the biggest pop stars in the UK, the success of “I Turn to You” is all the proof you need.

5) Emma Bunton – What Took You So Long

Emma Bunton - What Took You So Long
Ooh a butterfly. Wouldn’t it be lovely to be so easily amused as Emma

Contrary to popular belief “What Took You So Long” was not Emma Bunton’s debut solo single, however it is by far Baby Spice’s most commercially successful and, above all, memorable hit to date. Released as the second single from her debut album A Girl Like Me, “What Took You So Long” shot straight to the top of the UK charts, selling 76,000 copies in the process. The soothing, relaxing beat may fool you, but the lyrics “What Took You So Long” prove that, despite having a reputation the gentle Spice Girl, Baby Spice does sure pack some punch when she wants to.

4) Geri Halliwell- Mi Chico Latino

Geri Halliwell - Mi Chico Latino
She may be singing about a latino boy but patriotism never dies

Believe it or not, after debut single “Look At Me” only managed to peak at No.2 in the UK behind Boyzone, there was talk about Halliwell’s solo career being over even before it had started. And so a desperate Halliwell embarked upon a fierce marketing campaign to ensure the success of her next single and boy did it work! Not only was “Mi Chico Latino” the ideal blend of corniness and catchiness, but also its release was timed to perfection in order to be able to cash in on the Latin pop explosion of summer 1999 which was spearheaded by the sultry Jennifer Lopez and the hip-swivelling Ricky Martin. Needless to say, “Mi Chico Latino” became Geri’s first solo No.1 and went on to be a huge smash in Europe.

3) Bryan Adams & Melanie C – When You’re Gone

Forgot the lyrics. Facepalm!

The Spice Girls hadn’t even broken up when Mel C managed to bag herself this surprise hit in late 1998. Probably the classiest of all the songs on this list and actually the best-selling, with sales surpassing 650,000 in the UK alone. The song was a massive smash, especially in the UK and got Sporty Spice’s solo career off to a flying start. “When You’re Gone” spent 9 weeks in the UK top ten and became a big hit throughout Oceania and Europe. “When You’re Gone” is essentially a love song but manages to channel the gritty rock edge of both performers. No-one could have predicted that Mel C’s and Bryan Adams’ voices would blend so well. Screw Lady GaGa and Tony Bennett! Mel C and Bryan Adams should make a duet album.

2) Geri Halliwell – It’s Raining Men

geri halliwell its raining men
Now is that really appropriate attire for that weather? You’ll catch your death of cold.

God bless Mother Nature! At No.2 we have an unforgettable classic by Geri Halliwell. It was a genius move really, seeing as Halliwell already had a massive gay following. Why not claim gay anthem “It’s Raining Men” for her own? And as if that weren’t enough, let’s include it on the Bridget Jones’ Diary film soundtrack so it will forever be associated with the moment when Colin Firth punched Hugh Grant’s lights out. And of course Europe immediatey fell to its knees and bowed to the Queen of Camp. The song shot straight to No.1 in the UK, selling over 150,000 copies in its first week and became the 12th best-selling single of 2001 in that market. It also meant that Halliwell had bagged herself a fourth consecutive No.1 in a row in the UK which made her the British female artist with the most No.1 singles, a record which she now shares with Rita Ora and Cheryl Cole. However, if you thought that this song was massive in the UK you have another think coming, “It’s Raining Men” sold almost double what it sold in the UK in France and was certified Diamond, yes Diamond for sales of over 800,000 copies. France sure loves its Geri Halliwell. And why not!

1) Melanie C Featuring Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes – Never Be the Same Again

Melanie C and Lisa Left Eye Lopes
Oh my god Melanie C and Lisa “Left Eye” were the original Lady GaGa!

How could this not be No.1? Mel C has undoubtedly had the longest and most well respected solo career of all of the Spice Girls and “Never Be the Same Again” is the crown jewel in her back catalogue. It’s a slow-burning, mid-tempo jam which rides on a wave of mystical intensity aided by Mel C’s reserved, understated vocals and a sassy feature rap from the late Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez from TLC, who adds a good dose of attitude. The best thing however is that “Never Be the Same Again” still sounds as fresh today as it did in 2000, which is really the hallmark of a good quality tune. Upon release, the single shot straight to the top of the UK charts (incidentally knocking Geri’s “Bag It Up” off No.1) and sold 144,000 copies in its first week. “Never Be the Same Again” ended 2000 as the 18th best seller of that year and ended up selling more than a million copies across Europe, topping the charts in no less than seven countries. The success of “Never Be the Same Again” helped her debut album Northern Star sell over 900,000 copies in the UK alone, making it the best-selling solo Spice Girl album. Case and point.

Although the purpose of this list was to demonstrate that the Spice Girls did manage to produce a whole host of great tunes separately, really one needs to address the elephant in the room. None of these songs match up to the dizzy heights of the Spice Girls singles. There’s nothing as sassy as “Spice Up Your Life”, nothing as sophisticated as “Too Much”, nothing as definitive as “Wannabe”. In fact it could be said that all of their solo material was lacking a certain zig-a-zig-ahhh (if you know what I mean). Girl power forever!

Thanks for reading and feel free to like, share and comment. I’d love to hear what you think!

 

The Top 32 Songs of the Second Quarter of 2014: PART 2

Here is the long-awaited conclusion to the Top 32 songs of April to June this year. Get ready for the big leagues. It’s 20-1!!!

20) Lily Allen – Our Time

Lily Allen Our Time
They made me stand here for so long that I started eating my finger

Lily Allen was back with a bang this year with her hit and miss third studio album Sheezus. The gobby Londoner’s new musical offerings turned out to be even more hard-hitting than before, which meant that third single “Our Time” stood out as one of the more straightforward pop songs in a sea of social criticism. But “Our Time” is much more than a simple piece of pop nonsense, it’s a glimmer of the old Allen who used her lyrical sing song style to tell stories about scenarios that everybody has experienced at one point in their lives. This Allen was instantly relatable and likeable due to her down to earth attitude. “Our Time” proves that the Allen, who we all loved and admired, is not dead. She’s alive and well on this euphoric celebration of life which serves as an instant pick-me-up after a hard day at work. The track is also infinitely enhanced by Lily’s spaced out vocals which meld together with the synth-driven backing beat to create a relaxed trippy feeling.

19) Kylie Minogue – I Was Gonna Cancel

Kylie Minogue I Was Gonna Cancel
Someone thought that a gormless, ginger Kylie was a good idea

Kylie jumped on the Pharrell-bandwagon this year with the second single from her twelfth studio album Kiss Me Once. “I Was Gonna Cancel” is a funky slice of disco inspired pop with squelchy beats to boot. However, sadly it failed to become a hit for the Australian pop veteran, peaking at a disappointing 59 in the UK charts. I have no clue why everyone seems to be hating on Kylie at the minute but it’s sad to see music of this quality go unappreciated. Don’t worry Kylie! Diary of a Pop Fan loves you

18) Lady Gaga – G.U.Y (Girl Under You)

Lady Gaga - GUY
Just your average friday night

Another example of a former all-conquering global star who has been going through a rough patch recently. “G.U.Y” was selected as the third single from Gaga’s ARTPOP with the view of rejuvenating the current album campaign after the tepid reception received by former singles “Do What U Want” and “Applause”. Unfortunately, “G.U.Y” was unable to help Gaga’s career and actually became her lowest peaking single worldwide. On paper however, “G.U.Y” seems like a sure-fire hit: the song was co-written by producer of the moment Zedd, it’s actually one of Gaga’s cleverest songs in so far as it manages to celebrate the subversion of sexual and gender norms and it features some killer synths and a grinding, dirty, dirty bass. But sadly the record buying public is often very unpredictable and  it seems that Gaga’s once Midas touch has turned to poison.

17) Iggy Azalea Feat. Charli XCX – Fancy

Iggy Azalea Fancy
Oh god I was too busy licking my lips and someone drew on me

24-year old Sydney-born rapper Iggy Azalea had been knocking on the door of utter world domination for over a year and had even managed to bag herself 3 consecutive UK top 20’s before she went stratospheric with mega-smash “Fancy”. Upon its release, the US instantly fell in love with Azalea’s swag fiercely-real sass and the song quickly soared to the top of the Billboard Chart. It’s no surprise that “Fancy” has become the all-conquering hit that it is, seeing as it’s basically Fergie’s “Glamorous” mark 2, which notably also reached No.1 in the US. However, Iggy has succeeded in updating the sound and the chemistry between her and Charli XCX only adds to the mix. But what really sells “Fancy” is the pulsing backing beat, which requires actual brain surgery to remove from your head.

16) Sky Ferreira – I Blame Myself

Sky Ferreira I Blame Myself
Wait come back! You forgot to do my hair

With the second single from her album Night Time, My Time Sky Ferreira proved that the ridiculously amazing “Everything is Embarrassing” was more than just a fluke. Fuelled by a stomping backing beat and Ferreira’s confessional, gritty lyrics, “I Blame Myself” stands out amongst the backdrop of superficiality for which the pop music industry is famous.  On the electro synth track Sky faces her demons by admitting that she alone is responsible for her less than respectable public image. Honesty is all too rare in the music business, especially if it involves self-criticism and that’s part of the reason why Sky Ferreira is such a fascinating artist. There is no Beyoncé- esque aura of invincibility or Gaga-like illusions of grandeur. Sky Ferreira is simply a real person using music as her therapy and, as long as it remains such good quality, may the healing process continue.

15) Wisin Feat. Ricky Martin & Jennifer Lopez – Adrenalina

Wisin Jennifer Lopez Ricky Martin Adrenalina
Fresh from the S&M party

This high-profile collaboration might not be familiar to English-speakers, but has so far ruled the summer in Spanish-speaking territories. Puerto Rico met America when rapper Wisin teamed up with reliable hitmakers Jennifer Lopez and Ricky Martin on this irresistible fist-pumper and the result is the undeniable soundtrack to the ultimate summer holiday. You don’t have to speak a word of Spanish in order to be caught up in the infectious energy and adrenaline of the track. I defy you not to throw shapes immediately.

14) Sia – Chandelier

Sia Chandelier
I will kill you all

After spending the past couple of years writing for other artists and collaborating on big dance tunes, Sia finally rebooted her solo career this year, kicking off with the bombastic first single “Chandelier” from her forthcoming sixth studio album 1,000 Forms of Fear. The Australian songstress made good her return with this epic electronica-reggae fused jam which is impossible to ignore. Sia sounds like a wounded wolf on “Chandelier” as she howls away the pain inside over booming synths. If party girls needed a self-destruction anthem, here it is.

13) G.R.L – Ugly Heart

GRL Ugly Heart
I’m gon’ bash you with my maraca

G.R.L are currently known for their guest appearance on the recent Pitbull single “Wild Wild Love”, but one listen to “Ugly Heart” proves that they are so much better than Pitbull’s corny lines. “Ugly Heart” was produced by Ke$ha collaborator Dr. Luke who chose to capitalise on the country EDM trend started by Avicii last year by knitting together the production with a prominent guitar line. The stomping beat lends pace to the track and the girls’ no s**t attitude turns this into a semi-feminist anthem. But what really makes this track stand out and gives me hope that G.R.L will have a bright future are the groups powerful, unique vocals which convey all the kick ass, sassy attitude of a woman who is calling out a no-good ugly hearted ex-boyfriend and reasserting the old adage that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.

12) Mei Feingold – Same Heart

Mei Feingold Same Heart
That’s not terrifying at all

Billed as the Israeli Lady Gaga, Mei Feingold, who finished third on the Israeli Pop Idol, was immediately lauded as one of the favourites to win Eurovision this year. Her soaring, power-house vocals, the slick choreography and slow-burning, lazy guitar riff won over supporters in droves and the song was predicted to finish within the top 5 at the very least. However, in a shock result “Same Heart” went crashing out of the competition way before its time, not even reaching the Final and leaving Europe flabbergasted. One can only speculate as to why such an injustice was done to such a quality song and artist. Perhaps Feingold’s intense performance was not to Europe’s tastes (and Lady Gaga is the new Norah Jones). Maybe the bitter arsenic oozing from her voice left viewers intimidated, rather than moved. Maybe they felt overpowered by the rising, dramatic climax and melodrama. Maybe Mei’s uniquely deep voice made them believe that Eurovision had one Conchita too many this year. Either way, “Same Heart” will go down as the best Eurovision song never to reach the finals.

11) Ed Sheeran – Sing

Ed Sheeran Sing
The Lipless Man

Ed Sheeran could have gone one of two ways with the first single from his much-awaited second studio album: “You Need Me, I Don’t Need You”- esque rap mixed with R &B funk or soulful balladeering in the style of past hits such as “The A Team” and “Lego House”. The form Sheeran is on at the minute suggests that either would have worked, but in the end he decided to take a bigger risk and opted for the Pharrell-assisted “Sing”, which shot straight to the top of the charts earlier this month. Luckily for Sheeran, his Pharrell collab ended up being much more successful than Kylie’s and the rowdy chorus will no doubt have you singing your lungs out before too long.

10) Enrique Iglesias Feat. Descemer Bueno and Gente de Zona – Bailando

Enrique Iglesias
How dare you spank me!

Despite falling slightly flat with his English language comeback this year, Enrique has been ruling the Spanish-language charts this summer and even managed to achieve his 26th Latin Airplay No.1 with “Bailando”, the sixth single of his tenth studio album Sex and Love. The track has also managed to find success in English-language charts as well, becoming one of the highest peaking Spanish tracks on the Billboard Hot 100 ever, having peaked at No.35 thus far. And it’s no wonder when Enrique so effortlessly channels fresh summery beats and generously spreads the warm, Latin rhythms across the globe. Also, don’t miss the sultry flamenco troupe dancing in the video. Spain’s tourist board will be sending flowers.

9) Kiesza – Hideaway

Kiesza Hideaway
Ah that’s where the Empire State Building went

Canadian new-comer Kiesza appeared out of nowhere in April 2014 and managed to grab herself a UK No.1 record when “Hideaway” shot straight to the top of the charts and became the third fastest selling single of the year. Kiesza was apparently influenced by her mother’s love for 90’s dance when she was growing up, which ultimately led to the development of the deep-house flavoured “Hideaway”. The song has already stormed the charts worldwide and catapulted the Calgary-native to instant stardom. It’s not hard to see why either. With “Hideaway” Kiesza has managed to craft something that sounds simultaneously familiar and innovative. It’s one of those rare moments when the stars align, lightning strikes and pop perfection is created.

8) Rita Ora – I Will Never Let You Down

Rita Ora I Will Never Let You Down
Why is there a creepy girl drawn on your arm?

Rita Ora made good use of her former boyfriend producer and singer Calvin Harris on the first cut from her sophomore album.  “I Will Never Let You Down” features the guitar-riff of the summer and a bouncy breakdown to boot, which helps to create a fresh smooth new sound for the Kosovo born starlet. The electro synth style suits her to a T as she purrs over the boisterous beat which is full to bursting with hooks. If there was ever a sure fire No.1, this was it.

7) Sam Smith – Stay With Me

Sam Smith Stay with me
Just do a weird face, we’ll put it in black and white and make it look classy

Sam Smith managed to capitalise on the media attention surrounding his burgeoning career by providing the world with one of the most emotive ballads of the year. Sam’s voice has never sounded so rich and soul-drenched. Lyrically and sonically “Stay with me” is definitely back to basics, but instead of being a hindrance, the simplicity only enhances the beauty and effectiveness of the track. The stripped back backing drumming and the gospel-esque chorus helps make “Stay With Me” one of the most emotional tearjerkers of the year. The man can do no wrong.

6) Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This

Paloma Faith Only Love Can Hurt Like This
Eat my finger? Sigh…the things I do to be famous.

Paloma Faith has never really been a singles artist, but people seem to buy her albums by the bucket load. However, this time something clicked and she finally managed to secure two top ten singles off one album with the sassy “Can’t Rely on You” and now “Only Love Can Hurt Like This”. In fact, the latter managed to out peak the former in a rare twist of events and became her biggest hit to date, peaking at No.6 on the UK charts. Obviously the public have taken a shine to Faith’s new Motown influenced sixties-style. After all, who could resist the combination of those power-house vocals with the stomping drumming and brassy instrumentation? Pure Bliss.

5) The Common Linnets – Calm after the Storm

The Common Linnets - Calm after the Storm
You mean to say that we lost to a drag act?

The true winner of Eurovision 2014 and the most unique song in the competition this year. The Common Linnet’s country-bluegrass ditty stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the glitz and glamour of this year’s Eurovision entries and was the indisputable dark horse of the competition. It became a shock success and the Netherlands’ highest peaking entry since 1975, picking up an astonishing 238 points and finishing second. What’s more, immediately following Eurovision, “Calm after the Storm” managed to peak at No.9 on the UK singles chart, well out-peaking the winner Conchita Wurst, who entered at No.17 with “Rise like a Phoenix”. The key to the tunes’ success lies in the singer’s sincerity and the song’s authenticity. “Calm after the Storm” sounds like a genuine country hit and not just a flashy Eurovision show tune. In fact, it’s a shock that the Common Linnets even decided to enter Eurovision when “Calm after the Storm” would have most likely become a hit in Europe even without the publicity provided by the song contest. It has a classic feel to it, enhanced by the unassuming, plodding beat, warm gritty vocals and serene simplicity that are as welcome as a big warm hug when you come home after a hard day.

4) Mr Probz – Waves

Mr Probz Waves
Señor Mega Pout

It’s shaping up to be a good year for the Netherlands, with back to back Dutch tunes assaulting the top 5 of this chart. Mr Probz burst practically out of nowhere earlier this year after his song “Waves” was remixed by German producer Robin Schulz, which propelled the single to instant success across all of Europe. “Waves” has managed to peak at No.1 in Austria, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Switzerland and the UK as well as in many others and became a club smash worldwide. However, the genius of “Waves” is that Mr. Probz somehow managed to create musical onomatopoeia in so far as the relaxing, ensnaring dance beat and his soulful vocals wash over you like waves across the shore. Get smart people, it’s clearly the way forward.

3) Coldplay – A Sky Full of Stars

Coldplay A Sky Full of Stars
The Exorcism of Coldplay. Out 1st of July

Coldplay never fail to deliver. Six albums in and they are still managing to rule the world with innovative tunes of relentlessly epic proportions which somehow succeed in appealing to every gender, age group and musical taste. “A Sky Full of Stars” shows the band at their stadium-filling best and proves that they can pull off songs that aren’t completely miserable as well.  Chris Martin’s soaring vocals and piano-riffs never get old, especially when infused with some of producer-extraordinaire Avicii’s magic dust. However, Chris’ voice is definitive enough to not get washed away amidst the heavy production and the EDM festival-ready chorus. This is what bottled euphoria sounds like.

2) Ella Henderson – Ghost

Ella Henderson Ghost
You can take the girl out of Lincolnshire, but you can take the Lincolnshire out of the girl

What do you do when you fight through the stages of the X Factor each week, constantly being championed as a favourite, only to crash out in week 7? Do you crumble under the disappointment and fade away into obscurity never to be heard of again? Oh hell no! You immediately rope in unfailing hit maker Ryan Tedder to provide you with one of the best tracks of the year and prove that you were the rightful winner. Tedder’s gothic lyricism, storming piano line and thumping percussion are rife on “Ghost”, which is no bad thing, but can overwhelm certain artists. When you’re song contains words such as “creeping, sin, pain, hell, saint, pray, wash the pain, haunting, and demons”, it’s easy to fade under the melodrama. Not Ella though. She makes her own luck with “Ghost” and the track would be nothing without her bellowing, bluesy tones and the subtle bruised tone which lends the 18-year old a conviction well beyond her years. “Ghost” is a slow burning fireball which grows into a raging inferno and I have no qualms in saying that it is the best X Factor song since “Bleeding Love”. Possibly even better. After all, she even manages to fit in a sneaky pun thinking we wouldn’t notice. Give up the ghost. You’re too much Ella! Go on lass.

1) Ariana Grande Feat. Iggy Azalea – Problem

Ariana Grande Problem
I swear it’s tomato sauce….

For those of you who haven’t heard of Ariana Grande, she is a 20 year old Florida-born singer who rose to fame in 2010 after portraying Cat Valentine on the Nickelodeon sitcom Victorious. The singer released her debut album Yours Truly in 2013 which peaked at No.1 in the US and produced several hit singles, including the easy-breezy “The Way”. The singer made a triumphal return earlier this year with her comeback single, the 90’s influenced “Problem”, which is currently sitting at No.2 in the US, just behind Iggy Azalea’s Fancy (a feat which allowed Azalea to become the first act since The Beatles to occupy the top 2 spots on the Billboard Chart with her first two releases).  “Problem” has also already been a hit in Australia, Canada and most of Europe and is indisputably the song of summer 2014. Here’s why:

1) Grande’s power-house vocals – Contrary to many TV star-turned-musicians, Grande has an amazing voice which has the ability to soar higher than the empire state and does so freely on “Problem’s” bridge section.

2) The sexy saxophone loop – It’s official. Brass is back! Grande cleverly manages to cash in on this current pop trend on “Problem”, which gives the single a slightly sleazy sexiness.

3) Iggy Azalea’s short but sweet feature rap – Despite having been around for years, Iggy has only just achieved success in the US, meaning that Grande’s “Problem” couldn’t have come at a better time. Pop is in love with the way she spits out her syllables and anything she is on is destined for success.

4) Attitude – Grande’s got bags of it. Iggy’s got bags of it (must be 2 for 1 somewhere) and they got one less problem without you. No hanger-on loser man can bring them down. It’s practically a feminist rallying cry!

Basically “Problem’s” brilliance is a combination of all of the above and then some. Move over “Blurred Lines” there a new soundtrack of the summer in town.

So that’s it for the Top 32 of the Second Quarter of 2014. As always feel free to leave any comments on facebook or on this blog and thank you very much for reading.

The (Pop)Stars are Out

As I reported in an earlier post, (https://davfarrell1.wordpress.com/2014/01/13/manic-music-monday/) the last month has been rife with epic returns from everyone’s favourite popstars including Lily Allen, Shakira and Rihanna and Paloma Faith. The last three weeks have seen the return of even more of our beloved pop Gods and Goddesses so much that I’m not even going to bother to do a summary because there’s just too many! All I can say is that the stars are definitely out this year!

1)      Kylie Minogue – Into the Blue

Kiss Me Once
Kylie Minogue – Kiss Me Once

No-one embodies the spirit of “unguilty pleasure” as much as our beloved Kylie Minogue. As reported in an earlier post, the unofficial princess of pop has made her triumphant return to pop with what will undoubtedly be one of the smashes of this year Into the Blue, the lead single off her new studio album Kiss Me Once. The track itself is definitely the kind of typically euphoric dance pop fusion which we’ve come to expect from our diminutive pop diva. However, despite its very Kylie-esque sound, Into the Blue somehow manages to straddle the line between being modern and retro allowing her to keep her current fan base, while appealing to a new generation of pop fans. The chorus is relentlessly powerful and beautifully frames those signature Kylie “oooohs” to perfection. Kylie hasn’t sounded this good in years. It’s like a combination of the piano line from her 2007 hit 2 Hearts and her 2010 siren call All the Lovers. In short, Kylie has combined the styles of her last 2 studio albums and fused it to create one massive super sound, the result of which is the timeless power pop sugar rush that is Into the Blue. Watch out for this one. It’s shaping up to be a very Kylie year.

2)      Jennifer Lopez – Same Girl

Jennifer Lopez - Same Girl
Jennifer Lopez – Same Girl

It’s official. JLO is back! And this time she’s going back to her roots. The first bars of Same Girl confirm that she has ditched the high energy club sound of recent hits such as On the Floor, Dance Again and Live It Up in favour of a more retro JLO sound circa 2002, probably a wise decision due to the relative flop of the last two of these singles. Same Girl lyrically is the ultimate rehash with JLO plugging her “realness” despite all her fame and fortune. This is a formula which has taken her to the top of the charts two times previously with the 2001 UK No.4 I’m Real  in which she sings that “what you get is what you see” and the 2002 UK No.3 Jenny From the Block, which saw her asking us not to be “fooled by the rocks that she got”. Actually, if we count the fact that I’m Real was a hit not once but twice (with the help of a Ja Rule remix) and also her 2001 smash Love Don’t Cost a Thing, in which JLO claims that she can’t be bought, then this total goes up to 4. Is that enough to claim that she has a complex?

The irony is that Jennifer Lopez is anything but grounded and this even became a running joke in the media as the materialistic Jenny from the Block clearly left “the Block” behind a long, long time ago. But I’m not here to criticise and actually Same Girl, while not as danceable as some of her recent hits, is a welcome reminder of a time when JLO was untouchable. The strings section is a particular highlight and adds undeserved gravitas to the singers spurious claims of “being the same girl”. The video also sees her wandering around her old neighbourhood “the Bronx” with her “home girls” (I believe that is the politically correct term). The hook “get off of me” and the lyrics of Same Girl itself should appeal to angsty teens who feel everybody is “upon on their grill” (Translation: in their face) and, although it doesn’t offer much new, Same Girl acts as a rallying cry for those who didn’t know or (god forbid) forgot that Jenny was from the block.

And just for old times sake. What a tune:

3)      Enrique Iglesias feat. Pitbull – I’m A Freak

Enrique Iglesias Feat. Pitbull - I'm a Freak
Enrique Iglesias Feat. Pitbull – I’m a Freak

Things haven’t been going particularly well for Enrique since 2011 after his Pitbull collaboration I Like How It Feels crept into the UK singles chart at a depressingly low No.135. Ouch! The irony is that it sounded like it was going to be another smash hit for the Madrid-born singer. The song followed all the current chart pop trends of throwing in everything and the kitchen sink into a song (as if every listener had ADHD).  But for some reason it wasn’t picked up by the radio stations and failed to make an impact. This was then followed by a string of flops Finally Found You, Turn the Night Up and Heart Attack, all of which should have been smashes but something went wrong. Perhaps the tunes were too generic, perhaps Enrique was trying to follow trends too much and ended up getting lost in the shuffle. Either way, Enrique’s back for another try with the Pitbull-assisted I’m A Freak which does tweak the formula of his latest songs, but essentially just repackages them in a more annoying way. This one seems to have been picked up by radio stations already though and looks to be dead set to be a hit for the singer. But, considering Enrique’s track record, who knows what will happen.

4)      Lady Gaga – Gypsy

Lady Gaga - Gypsy
Lady Gaga – Gypsy

The Artpop era hasn’t gone quite as smoothly as Gaga had hoped. First, Applause was trounced in both the UK and US singles charts by Katy Perry’s Roar. Secondly her album (despite being a transatlantic number one) was declared the lowest selling of her career and thirdly her second single Do What U Want peaked in the lower regions of the UK top 10 and failed to reach the US top ten. This was then followed by fans complaining about the lack of a video for Do What U Want, which Gaga chalked down to time constraints. The video has yet to appear. In short, Gaga’s in need of some serious damage control. Instead of lingering on Do What U Want and making a video, she seems to be pressing ahead with her next single which was recently announced as being Gypsy and will hopefully see her reclaim her former chart glory. Gypsy is definitely one of the strongest songs off Artpop and is definitely a good single choice as it is one of the more linear songs off an otherwise “experimental” album. The soaring chorus is wonderfully immediate but it’s the repetitive “I’m, I’m, I’m a Gypsy” which steals the show and ends up lodging itself in your brain for weeks on end. The lyrics are a bit dodgy “I don’t speak German but I try”, but actually this is the first of the Artpop singles which demonstrates how good a singer Gaga is. Those pipes definitely get a good workout on Gypsy. It’s also good to see Gaga do something a bit more autobiographical as well, with her persona becoming increasingly unrelatable for audiences (Applause has a lot to answer for). Either way, Gypsy is a welcome return to form for a popstar whose bubble had all but burst in recent months.

5)      Miley Cyrus – Adore You

Miley Cyrus - Adore You
Miley Cyrus – Adore You

First of all, I’m not even going to go into depth about the video for this song because, for me, Cyrus’ music is best enjoyed in a non-visual way. I do, however, feel obliged to say a few quick words about the video. As we all know, Cyrus really had nowhere to go but down after her now infamous Wrecking Ball video and down she went. Adore You sees the starlet writhing about in bed sheets in her underwear and simulating bad things. The fact is that the video actually ends up being quite boring so I would recommend not watching it. The song, on the other hand, is another surprisingly well crafted pop song which, like Wrecking Ball, would actually be a classy song in anybody else’s hands. Unfortunately, Cyrus cheapens her own music in order to sell records but don’t let this spoil the song for you. Lyrically, the song is sweet and is best enjoyed with a cup of tea while letting the piano driven beats wash all your cares away leaving you with a lovely fuzzy feeling deep inside. The actual song is chill pop at its finest but will probably be forgotten due to the racy video. It’s a shame really.

6)      Lorde – Team

Lorde's new single
Lorde – Team

I was kind of rooting for Tennis Court to be the next release from Lorde’s debut Pure Heroine but our cynical Queen Bee has spoken and Team has been proffered to radio stations as the second single. Lyrically, the song expresses Lorde’s distaste in common contemporary music which is brilliantly summed up in the line “I’m kinda over getting told to throw my hands up in the air. So there”. I took the liberty of finding some songs which include said lyric and then realised it wasn’t a hard job at all (slightly proving Lorde’s point):

Boom Boom Pow – “People in the place! If you wanna get down! Put your hands in the air! will.i.am. drop the beat now!” 

California Girls – “West Coast represent now put your hands up!” 

Party in the USA – “So I put my hands up, they’re playing my song, the butterflies fly away!” 

Single Ladies – “All the single ladies, now put your hands up!”

So there indeed.

Team itself heralds another sure fire transatlantic smash for the still 17 year old New Zealander. This is one of the tracks on which her Lana Del Rey influence is most evident, but Lorde takes up a notch from the minimalistic Royals, meaning that Team is not simply a rehash but instead a unique hand clapping jam with its own lyrical and sonical merits. Expect to be hearing this one for a while.

Thanks for reading. Until next time!

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.