It’s that time of year again! Forget the Grammys! The Brit Awards is the biggest event of the British music calendar. It’s always full of drama, mishaps and general celebrity craziness. There have been so many blunders in The Brits’ long and colourful history that it has rightfully earned a notorious reputation among music fans. Get it right and it can make your career. Get it wrong and it will ruin even the most beloved of celebs’ reputations. Adele’s majestic performance of“Someone Like You”at the Brits 2011 may have shot her to global stardom but you don’t hear much about Joss Stone after herfaux-American accent Brits debacle, do you?
So all eyes will turn to the Brit Awards 2016 tonight the 24th February at 8pm to see who will provide the highlights but, more importantly, the lowlights of the chaotic ceremony. Ever reliable comedy duo Ant & Dec are presenting and they are usually good at reigning in the madness so it shouldn’t go far wrong with them at the helm. Here’s a list of all the performers who we can look forward to seeing tonight:
BRIT Awards 2016 Performers
Rihanna – I wouldn’t be so confident about this one because she did drop out of the Grammys due to to illness so I wouldn’t put it past her to do the same with the Brits. But if she does end up performing we could see a collab like when she hooked up with the Klaxons in 2008. If she performs something from Anti, it’s probably going to be “Kiss It Better” because she was due to perform that at the Grammys and it seems like a potential second single. Popstars love a good promo opportunity.
Little Mix – Reliable, fun and beloved by teenage girls everywhere. Expect a bit of “Black Magic” from these lovely lasses.
James Bay – This one has had a big ol’ year so he’s more than earned his place performing at the Brits. Ever the straight-laced, good boy, I wouldn’t expect any shenanigans from him, just a straightforward performance of either “Hold Back the River” or “Let It Go”.
Jess Glynne – God I wouldn’t even know which of her 5 chart toppers Jess is going to perform. She could bring Tinie Tempah out and give us a bit of summer magic with “No Letting Go” but it’s more likely that well get a bit of “Hold My Hand” or “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself”.
Adele – Everyone knows every track on 25 so she could literally perform anything. My bet is on current single “When We Were Young”. It’s pretty emotional so this could be another “Someone Like You” moment.
The Weeknd – Got to be a bit of “Can’t Feel my Face” please. It’s just so funky.
Justin Bieber – Spoilt for choice. “What Do You Mean”, “Sorry”, “Where R U Now?” or “Love Yourself” whichever he chooses, we’re happy.
Coldplay – Fresh from their performance at the SuperBowl, could we see a bit of Beyonce assistance for a performance of “Hymn for the Weekend”?
Adele, James Bay and Years and Years are all currently leading the pack in terms of nominations with 4 each and Calvin Harris and Jess Glynne have each racked up an impressive three nods. Here’s a rundown of all the nominations:
British Breakthrough Act Catfish & the Bottlemen James Bay Jess Glynne Wolf Alice Years & Years
So the Brits have thrown us a bone this year and we can actually vote for this category. They like to make us feel like we have some power. The illusion of democracy. Catfish & the Bottlemen is a bit of a random choice since their album came out in September 2014 and they haven’t had any singles chart within the UK top 190. They’ve definitely been chucked in there for a bit of credibility. I would be happy with Years & Years, James Bay or Jess Glynne. They’re all pretty worthy but probably Jess Glynne deserves it the most for smashing records last year.
British Male Solo Artist Aphex Twin Calvin Harris James Bay Jamie XX Mark Ronson
Calvin only really released one big single last year so he’s probably not going to win and Mark Ronson seems like ages ago now. After all, Uptown Funk” came out over a year ago and won Best British Single last year so it has been recognised for being the chart dominating smash it is, leaving James Bay to take this one quite comfortably.
British Female Solo Artist Adele Amy Winehouse Florence & the Machine Jess Glynne Laura Marling
Jess Glynne did so well in 2015 but Adele just came along and blew her out of the water at the end of the year, especially in terms of international success so I reckon she will nab this one from the hapless Glynne.
British Group Blur Coldplay Foals One Direction Years & Years
I really would love Years and Years to win this one because they really did have an amazing 2015, racking up a UK No.1 single with “King” and a chart topping album with Communion. I have to hand it to 1D who really upped their game for their latest album Made in the AM so I couldn’t rule them out. Coldplay also had their SuperBowl moment but that was probably too recent to be counted.
Critics’ Choice Jack Garratt Izzy Bizu Frances
We know this one already. Jack Garratt is pretty much guaranteed to be the next big thing for 2016 and his win should provide a boost for his album Phase which came out this week.
British Single Adele, “Hello” Calvin Harris & Disciples, “How Deep Is Your Love” Ed Sheeran & Rudimental, “Bloodstream” Ellie Goulding, “Love Me Like You Do” James Bay, “Hold Back the River” Jess Glynne, “Hold My Hand” Little Mix, “Black Magic Olly Murs ft. Demi Lovato, “Up” Philip George, “Wish You Were Mine” Years & Years, “King”
I’m predicting a bit of a clean sweep for Adele this year and British Single could definitely be one of the big ones she nabs. Mostly because it’s a timeless tune with an ultra-classy vocal performance from the biggest person in pop right now. But actually “Hello” is not the highest selling of all the nominated singles. That accolade goes to “Love Me Like You Do”, so Ellie could take the crown just as easily in the name of diversity.
MasterCard British Album of the Year Adele, 25 Coldplay, A Head Full of Dreams Florence & the Machine, How Big How Blue How Beautiful James Bay, Chaos & the Calm Jamie XX, In Colour
Has to be Adele doesn’t it? After a lengthy absence she returned in style in the Winter of 2015 with the appropriately-titled “Hello”. Her album sold a ridiculous 800,000 copies in its first week in the UK and immediately outsold everything ever! So in terms of sales she definitely deserves the accolade.
British Producer of the Year Charlie Andrew Mark Ronson Mike Crossey Tom Dalgety
For services to music and for being awesome, I give you Mark Ronson.
British Artist Video of the Year Adele, “Hello” Jessie J, “Flashlight” Little Mix, “Black Magic” One Direction, “Drag Me Down” Ed Sheeran – “Photograph”
It should be “Black Magic” but One Direction’s legions of fans will ensure that the boys take home the Best Video accolade. This is pretty much a foregone conclusion.
International Male Solo Artist Drake Father John Misty Justin Bieber Kendrick Lamar The Weeknd
Serious competition from The Weeknd but Justin Bieber was just so dominant in the second half of 2015 to the point where he made history repeatedly so he really does deserve it.
International Female Solo Artist Ariana Grande Bjork Courtney Barnett Lana Del Rey Meghan Trainor
This one will probably go to Meghan Trainor and very deservedly I must say but I wouldn’t mind Lana Del Rey or Ariana Grande winning. They both had stellar years in 2015.
International Group Alabama Shakes Eagles of Death Metal Major Lazer Tame Impala U2
Major Lazer. Just for “Lean On”. Tame Impala are awesome but they aren’t as high profile as the Lazers.
So there you have it. I predict Adele will be the big winner of the night with 3 trophies for Best Single, Album and British Female Solo Artist. We’ll just have to wait to see how accurate I was. I will see you on the other side. Drama et al.
A song as chaotic and dramatic as the crashing waves which inspired it, “Ship to Wreck” managed to conclusively prove that Florence is best when she just let’s it rip. Apparently, when making her third studio album How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful Florence was told off for making too many songs about water. Guess this one slipped the net then…
Will 1989 ever stop producing hits I ask you? “Wildest Dreams” is the fifth single from her unfathomably popular album and represents a departure from the upbeat 80’s pop which we had previously heard. Taking her cue from the lazy, dreampop of Lana Del Rey, Swift transforms into a smokey eyed temptress cooing seductively over smoother-than-chocolate beats. Irresistible.
After their stellar debut, Chvrches must have been very acutely aware that the stakes were high for their comeback but, instead of trying to pander to anyone, lead single “Leave a Trace” sees Lauren Mayberry and the boys adopting a no-nonsense, “if ain’t broke don’t fix it” attitude. Too many bands now make music for their audience and not for themselves which limits their creativity. But thankfully not Chvrches. They always sounded like they don’t give a f**k and “Leave a Trace” reaffirms this with tremendous shade being thrown in every direction. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.
“Uptown Funk” reintroduced the fun genre in a big way at the beginning of the year and several artists rode the wave in 2015 but none more successfully than The Weeknd with this delicious drug-fueled jam.
Someone sprinkled fairy dust all over Jess Glynne’s luscious fiery locks this year. The Hampstead-born popstar racked up 3 number one singles in 2015 alone which added to her total of 2 in 2014, tying her with Cheryl Fernandez-Versini for the most number ones by a British Female Solo Artist. “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” is a raucous, uptempo slice of pop with lyrics taken directly from a self-help book and Glynne’s powerhouse vocals soar over everything to create the ultimate empowerment anthem.
Nothing could have prepared us for this dramatic switch in direction in Bieber’s style of music when he launched gamechanger “Where R U Now?”. The track gave haters (including myself I should add) a serious case of whiplash and truly opened him up to an audience beyond the tween market. His vocals carry some lethal emotional weight and the Diplo/Skrillex production is relentlessly catchy. Leftfield is sometimes the best field.
Who would have predicted that Marina Diamandis was capable of such lyrical depth and vocal nuance. Songs like “I’m a Ruin” only come along once in a blue moon as it takes extraordinary self-awareness to create such a devastating song of self-loathing and, come to think of it, bravery to share it with the public. Marina has finally come of age and revealed herself as the true heir to Kate Bush’s introspective, dream pop throne. Hope she doesn’t listen to “Don’t Be So Hard on Yourself” or we might be tragically deprived of future “I’m a Ruins”.
This was the moment we knew Jess Glynne could make the switch from beloved feature singer to solo super diva. From the opening bouncy piano to Glynne’s acapella style vocals, everything rings true about this joyful piece of soulful, discopop.
Rudimental’s sophomore effort We the Generation may have not caused the splash created by their first studio effort Home, but it’s still guilty of serving up some of 2015’s most potent tunes with the crisp deep dish house track “Rumour Mill” leading the pack. It’s quite a wordy song as songs go but, despite the lyrical abundance, the singers sound like they’re not making an ounce of effort at all. This “too cool for school”attitude could have been alienating if it weren’t for the simplistic noir video which sees singers Will and Anne-Marie throwing some mean shapes in the back of a car. We’ve all been there…don’t deny it.
Years and Years had already established themselves as one of the bands to watch at the end of 2014 with hits such as “Desire” and “Sunlight” but it wasn’t until “King” that they definitively burst into the mainstream. But if you’re going to take you’re time you may as well do it in style which is exactly what Years and Years did. “King” immediately arrests the listener with it’s whirling, arabic-influenced synth hook and lead singer Olly Alexander’s soulful vocals finish the job up nicely officially rendering us kings under his control.
Until now Little Mix had been criminally underrated but thankfully they weaved some potent “Black Magic” this summer leaving us all at the mercy of the Mixers’ spell. We’re sure not complaining. Those handclaps, “heys” and sassy lyrics make this literally the perfect pop song.
This song may not have been released in the UK yet but it’s been dominating the airwaves in Europe, becoming the most played song of the summer in Sweden this year. “Lush Life” is “Rude Boy” mark two, paired with a similarly colourful video and a handful of hooks for good measure. Seriously, there’s like a million of them. Once it’s got you, you’ll be living the lush life forever.
If anyone doubted that Adele is still firmly in possession of that “Someone Like You”magic I present to you “When We Were Young”. Only Adele could manage to get nostalgic about experiences she hasn’t had yet. In this soulful, ballad she imagines herself at a party in the far future surrounded by her friends and remembering all the good and bad times they shared. It’s like the prologue to “Wings” by Birdy.
“Style”, Swift’s ode to being young and beautiful forever, is directly opposed to Adele’s “When We Were Young”. While the British singer willingly accepts her mortality and looks forward to her latter days, Swift’s foot is firmly planted in the present and her heyday. But she is self-aware enough to know that the love story between her and Harry Styles’ (about whom the song was supposedly written) was one which has been repeated throughout history. Good girls and bad boys will never go out of style.
Only a truly amazing song could have saved Bieber’s floundering career at this point but sadly/luckily that’s exactly what he managed to produce. Such is the brilliance of the tropical house influenced “What Do You Mean?” that it even managed to convert true non-Beliebers like me. I surrender.
The perfect comeback single with the perfect title. Adele gave us a little hello this autumn and the world went into meltdown. “Hello” instantly went to number one all over the globe smashing records in its wake, fueling the astronomical success of its parent album 25. All we can do is exalt.
2015 was the year of grey. Fifty shades of it to be precise and “Love Me Like You Do” was as much part of the success of that mother-of-all-unguilty-pleasures film as Jamie Dornan’s chiseled face. It’s essentially a modern take on a traditional power ballad – the 2010s equivalent of a Celine Dion ballad if you will. All the ingredients come together beautifully to create a true pop masterpiece with Ellie’s celestial vocals being the ideal instrument to lend the song the mystique it needed to reach the rafters.
A little bit of cultural appropriation can go a long way as it did in 2015 with Major Lazer’s breakthrough single “Lean On”. The Indian themed dancing in the video created an internet frenzy and had millions of people around the globe changing their lightbulbs and feeling their inner Bollywood. Funnily enough, the chance to record vocals for the song was first offered to Rihanna and Nicki Minaj, who both turned it down, before eventually Danish singer MØ landed the gig. Guess their loss is her gain. All I can say is that RiRi’s Anti better be bloomin’ fantastic if this is the type of material she’s turning down.
Anyone who went to a festival this summer will know the power of “Firestone”. Having already found mainstream success with remixes such as “Sexual Healing” and “I See Fire” previously underground DJ Kygo finally decided to unleash original music on the world in 2015 and the world went mad. I went to Ultra Festival, Croatia this summer with a massive group of friends and “Firestone” epitomized those epic, hands-in-the-air moments when everyone loved each other and world peace was achievable. Please let me live in those moments forever
You can also listen to The Best Pop Songs of 2015 playlist on Spotify:
It’s that time of the year already! My favourite part of the year when I get to countdown the best songs of 2015. Let’s not lie…these countdowns are completely subjective and obviously depend on personal taste. For example, if you came here looking for grunge you will most likely be very disappointed. But the purpose of this list is just to celebrate some of the best (in my opinion) pop songs of the year. Giving kudos where kudos is due. So please feel free to disagree, comment and post your own lists. Full disclosure “Uptown Funk” does not…I repeat…not feature in the list. Before you bite my head off, please note that it came out in the UK last November and featured in my Best Songs of 2014. Ok now that’s out of the way, if you don’t mind, I’d like to kick off this years top 100 on a slightly sombre note:
After the revived success of her 2013 track “Wings” in the UK this year on the back of that Lloyds horse story advert, Birdy teamed up with Hertfordshire newcomer Rhodes to pen this haunting ballad. If you’re feeling like you want to feel some feels, I’d recommend watching this live version of “Let It All Go“. It literally is spellbinding!
When Miley dropped her Miley Cyrus and Her Dead Petz album at the end of August reactions varied from horrified stupification to dumb fascination. While the album could have done with some judicious slicing, this confessional mid tempo ballad is one of the moments that really works. The spoken verses sound like a conscious stream of thought which allows Miley to air exactly what she thinks of her overbearing lover (N.B. if it’s written about Liam Hemsworth, he could never be too overbearing!)
This stellar piano ballad starts subdued and eventually evolves into a powerhouse tearjerker. Not only does it show lead singer Olly Alexander’s vocals at their very best but it also caps off a stupendous year for the Years and Years boys.
Late in 2015 Cee-Lo decided to drop this uplifting tribute to New Orleans which celebrates life and sends a universal message about finding light in darkness. From anyone else it may have come across as cheesy, from Cee-Lo it’s gold.
The former Oasis frontman returned this year to remind us all why he is still the best. A classy and classic example of Noel Gallagher’s supreme songwriting “Riverman” stands tall among Oasis’ back catalogue.
Rudimental decamped to Jamaica to record most of their current album We the Generation and nowhere does it show more than on brotherhood anthem “Lay It All On Me”. It may not have been released in time to become a summer smash but its steel drums and keyboard synths have served to remind us all of those hot, lazy days all throughout quarter four.
Never since Alicia Keys has the world been more excited by a new R&B artist and it’s no wonder when the effortlessly smooth 19-year old Canadian dropped the slow-burning, introvert anthem of the 2015 as her first single. “Here” serves as the perfect antidote to all those Katy Perry and Rihanna party jams and has managed to make staying at home alone cool again (if it ever was before…)
As it turned out, Selena Gomez’ second solo studio album Revival was very aptly titled. Truth be told, she has never sounded more engaged with her music, especially after the samey Stars Dance. “Same Old Love” sees her experimenting with styles different to her typical EDM, incorporating a wonky-piano loop and finger click beat. It almost sounds like she’s talking about being sick of her old EDM style rather than an old flame.
18-year old Swedish pop star and former winner of Sweden’s Got Talent, Zara Larsson, has slowly but surely been positioning herself for world domination over the past couple of years, having already conquered Scandinavia and most of Europe. “Never Forget You” was a great introduction to the star-in-the-making and Larsson is my top tip to be massive in 2015. Expect big things.
Despite being cool for the summer, Demi Lovato brought on a heatwave with the first single from her fifth studio album Confident. She ensured we all had a hot, hot summer with this saucy comeback single, possibly the cheekiest, bi-curious jam since “I Kissed a Girl”.
As soon as I heard “Glitterball” I was instantly reminded of my summer holiday Croatia. Blue skies, crystal waters and beautiful, tanned people. “Glitterball” picks up right from where “Changing” finished in that it’s a colossal, drum and bass fueled holiday anthem with some hella powerhouse vocals from Henderson.
After the disappointingly generic “Body Talk”, Foxes made a proper comeback with the wistful “Better Love”. Her soaring, ethereal vocals make this one of her most effective and heartbreaking tracks to date.
Little Mix have gone from strength to strength since winning the UK X Factor and “Love Me Like You” is one of their poppiest and funniest efforts to date. This time round they went all retro with some ace syncronised dancing and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. It’s like a flashback to the good old days of Spice Girls. In fact you could say that it’s Little Mix’s “Stop”.
As already stated, Miley’s latest studio effort was a psychedelic, messy effort but it did feature one relatively sane track which stood out among all the madness. Oh and it’s apparently about Ariana Grande. Ain’t that sweet.
Simon Cowell’s Syco record label heralded the start of summer with this its first foray into Calypso tropical house. “When the Beat Drops Out” is as smooth as a margarita and features what seems like the vast majority of all the steel drums in Trinidad and Tobago.
Meghan Trainor proved she was onto a winner with her doo-wop stylings by continuing her winning streak all throughout 2015. “Dear Future Husband” may have come under fire for its “aggresively heteronnormative message” (good god…) but if you don’t take life too seriously like me, you’ll appreciate the catchiness of it all.
Can you believe we’re already three months into 2014! It’s gone amazingly quickly and the great God of Pop in the sky has definitely been good to us so far. Join me on a magical journey as I count down my top 32 songs (couldn’t get it any lower than 32) of 2014 so far. In this first post I’ll run down numbers 32-21:
32) John Legend – All of Me
John Legend has found chart euphoria this year with his worldwide smash All of Me. The song has been as surprise hit so far peaking at number 2 on both the US and UK singles charts and transforming the singer into a household name. This song is set to be couples’ mushy love anthem for years to come.
31) Little Mix – Little Me
Like S Club 7 before them, Little Mix saw the pop potential in Gabriel Faure’s orchestral masterpiece Pavane and included a sample in their hit Little Me which became the group’s 7th consecutive top 20 hit. Lyrically, the song is a self-help anthem directed at the younger versions of themselves. Watch out for the group’s trademark killer harmonies.
30) Faul & Wad Ad vs Pnau – Changes
In March the French electronic duo Faul and Wad Ad managed to achieve a massive European hit with a remix of Australian singer Pnau’s song Baby. The song peaked at No.1 in Belgium and Germany and managed to reach No.3 in the UK. Everyone loves a good children’s choir.
29) Chainsmokers – #Selfie
American DJ duo The Chainsmokers just managed to miss out on a top ten in the UK when this electro parody zeitgeist peaked at No.11 in February. The song itself has been a massive worldwide hit, managing to chart in various countries and gaining lots of club airplay along the way.
28) Duke Dumont – I Got U
Duke Dumont managed to equal his chart success last year with Need U (100%) with yet another No.1. I Got U topped the charts in March and has been proclaimed by many as the first summer anthem of 2014. The song contains a sample of Whitney Houston’s My Love Is Your Love.
27) Lea Michele – Cannonball
It was fitting that Glee star Lea Michele chose the tenacious survival anthem Cannonball as her debut single and there is something incredibly pertinent about the song, especially in the wake of long term boyfriend Cory Monteith’s death last year. Lea Michele might have to start taking her own survival advice however, as the single bombed worldwide, bowing at a lowly 75 in the US and 56 in the UK. Chin up Lea. What would Rachel Berry do?
26) A Great Big World – Say Something
When New York-based duo A Great Big World teamed up with serial collaborator Christina Aguilera earlier this year the result was pure gold. Its Aguilera’s most restrained vocal for years and she sounds all the better for it. Say Something is a heartfelt ballad of epic proportions and will no doubt become a Goodbye My Lover-esque funeral staple.
25) Sophie Ellis Bextor – Runaway Daydreamer
Sophie Ellis Bextor has been experiencing something of a career renaissance lately with the release of her fifth studio album Wanderlust and her successful stint on Strictly Come Dancing. This is the second single off her top five album, which shows a dramatic change of direction for the singer. Runaway Daydreamer is a gorgeous string driven track which brings to mind lazy, dreamy days and forgotten grandeur.
24) Ruth Lorenzo – Dancing in the Rain
Former UK X Factor contestant shocked everyone when she announced that she would be the representative for Spain in this year’s Eurovision contest. She was selected for the show on the 22nd of February and ever since I haven’t been able to get her song Dancing in the Rain out of my head. Check out those pipes!
23) Route 94 – My Love
The first quarter of 2014 has undoubtedly belonged to Jess Glynne who managed to achieve the feat of having 2 number ones in 2 months when her collaboration with Clean Bandit Rather Be and this piano driven house track both managed to top the charts. My Love landed at No.1 in spot on the 9th March selling an impressive 120,000 copies in its first week.
22) Foxes – Let Go for Tonight
One of 2014 bright young talents and the voice behind Zedd’s smash hit Clarity managed to bag her first top ten single when Let Go for Tonight peaked at No. 7 in early March. The anthemic sing-a-long chorus and crashing drums made sure that Foxes got a place in my top 30 as well.
21) HAIM – If I Could Change Your Mind
Believe it or not this is the fifth single of HAIM’s number one debut album Days Are Gone and the singles seem to be getting better and better. The video shows the band throwing some serious shapes like never seen before and the song is a wonderful 60’s throwback jam. What’s not to love?
Join me next time for the top 20 songs of 2014! Thanks for reading.
After trawling through the list of singles which have been or are going to be released soon, I decided that there are several standouts. So I have picked 9 of the best and now I am pitching them head to head to decide which of them is the best in an epic battle brutally contested by some of the top artists of the moment. A fair warning: there will be blood.
Lea Michele – Cannonball
After having so much success with Glee, when the show’s breakout star Lea Michele eventually made her foray into the charts there were a lot of expectations weighing on her shoulders. Especially since her similarly talented, just as likeable co-star Naya Rivera’s debut single Sorry failed to make an impact when it was released this year, effectively putting one nail in the coffin of her burgeoning career. Luckily, Michele has struck gold with the power ballad Cannonball co-penned by pop’s woman of the moment Sia Furler. The song contains just enough autobiographical elements alluding to her immediate reaction to her boyfriend Cory Monteith’s untimely death, which will please die-hard gleeks. However, the song isn’t the depressing ode to lost love that it could have been as Michele has wisely waited to release the single until she managed to gain a bit of perspective “I think I found the light at the end of the tunnel”. In fact, the song is a positive survival anthem with plenty of references to new beginnings while Michele’s powerhouse vocals soar elegantly over a thumping backing beat. The piano gives the song a classy edge while still feeling thoroughly contemporary.
Positives: Uplifting and sensitive with great vocals
Negatives: Slightly repetitive
Idina Menzel – Let It Go
A classic Disney ballad taken from Frozen: one of the best Disney films since the renaissance era in the early 90’s. The reason that, for me, Idina’s version wins out over Demi’s more commercialised version is nothing to do with having favourites, but rather the raw emotion and tangible feeling that the talented Menzel injects into the power ballad. The years spent on Broadway definitely give Menzel a leg up as she is able to emote effortlessly to the point where you believe every word she sings. The lyrics of her version are also better: more personal and simple building into a crashing crescendo. Sure it’s not the most original song ever, but nonetheless it is ruthlessly effective in achieving its goal. For example: when I went to see Frozen the cinema was filled with toddlers crying, but as soon as the first opening bars of Let It Go sounded out the cinema fell silent. Certain songs strike a chord with everyone and this is definitely one of them. There’s something about a timeless ballad that can still enchant an audience. Classy but never dated.
Positives: Powerful, emotive and the building crescendo.
Negatives: Might annoy some people for being too theatrical.
Pitbull ft. Ke$ha – Timber
Aviccii’s Wake Me Up signalled the arrival of a new fusion of EDM and country music last year and typically Pitbull is hot on his heels to cash in on this new trend. Timber is essentially a tacky version of Wake Me Up but does that make it any less enjoyable? Of course, not! Apparently Pitbull originally wanted Rihanna to appear on this track but when turned out to be “busy”, her turned to Ke$ha who, in my opinion, is a far more appropriate choice with her country inflected vocals. The genius touch is the accordion which runs throughout the whole song. So what if it sounds if it was written in ten minutes (which it probably was) and features lines such as “face down booty up. TIMBER!” Coupled with a kick ass video featuring a swimming pig, a hoedown and Pitbull mincing around on a beach with a random woman, how could this song fail? It’s chart euphoria for god sakes.
Postives: Accordion line throughout, Ke$ha’s triumphant return, God awful lyrics.
Negatives: God awful lyrics. Tackiness
Celine Dion – Breakaway
Six years after her last English language release Taking Chances Celine Dion makes a triumphant return to the music scene. At first glance Breakaway is a little middle of the road, it offers nothing new and seems to re-tread ground that has been covered by Dion in more than 30 year old career. However, like many great songs Breakaway only grows in charm with each listen. It soon becomes apparent that Breakaway is far superior to the stuttering repetitive Loved Me Back to Life, which clearly saw Dion trying to appeal to a new audience. Breakaway, however, shows that Dion has no need to pander to anybody, as her style and voice are timeless and neither has sounded better for a long time. The song builds and builds with Celine’s powerful vocals commanding the song where others voices would be swamped by the overpowering production.
Positives: Classy, timeless and heartfelt.
Negatives: Not much personality (a constant problem for Dion).
Beyoncé – Drunk in Love
Few artists manage to return from an extended hiatus with as much success as Our B. As I have already mentioned in my previous post, Beyoncé’s new album sees her experimenting more than ever and, although Drunk in Love is probably the most commercial of her new material, it still contains lots of original elements combined with a soaring hooky chorus. Jay Z’s guest appearance seems almost second nature now as he fits effortlessly into this slinky jam. His verse is a genius stroke as keeps the song from slipping into Rihanna’s signature hyper sexualised territory by focusing on a married couple’s sexual relationship. It’s quite inspiring that Beyoncé and Jay Z who have been an item for some time now still feel that kind of passion for each other. This gives the song its unique selling point and lyrics such as the breakdown around the word “surfboard, are delightfully random.
Positives: Moany atmospheric chorus.
Negatives: some dodgy lyrics “your breasts are my breakfast”.
Sophie Ellis Bextor – Young Blood
Although a demo of this song as actually released on 26 March 2013 I’m fairly confident that all but die-hard Sophie fans have yet to hear Young Blood, which hopefully will be getting a full release soon ahead of the release of Sophie’s fifth studio set Wanderlust in January. There is hope for Young Blood however as Sophie has recently received a lot of media attention, finishing fourth in the final of Strictly Come Dancing, which will hopefully give her career a much needed boost. After the commercial disappointment of 2011’s Make a Scene, this new album sees Sophie taking a dramatic change of career direction. Young Blood highlights Sophie’s new album’s focus on gorgeous piano ballads rather than the dance music of her previous releases. This is a very smart move as Bextor has never sounded better and her voice is magical on this emotional ode to her love for her husband. The only problem is that it might not set the charts alight due to the reserved nature of the single, maybe Sophie has something else up her sleeve earmarked for the first single from Wanderlust but in the meantime we can enjoy her dulcet tones on Young Blood. It’s almost too good for the charts anyway.
Positives: Simplicity, shock change of direction, good song writing.
Negatives: lack of commercial appeal
James Blunt – Miss America
James Blunt made a triumphant return to the music scene this year with his first UK top 10 in 6 years Bonfire Heart and a number 2 album Moon Landing. Despite the fact his record label seems to have chosen Heart to Heart as the follow up single to be released on 20 January, I have decided to skip this one out in favour of my pick off his album Miss America, which sees the marmite singer doing what he does best: an emotive piano ballad the subject of which is the recently deceased Whitney Houston. It definitely comes with a side of cheesiness but it highlights Blunt’s strength of showing emotion better than Heart to Heart. The lyrics are powerful and some play-on-words are rather gratifying “did the make-up, never make up for the pain behind your eyes”. Despite its subject, it never feels like an attempt to cash in on Houston’s death but rather an exploration of the negative side of fame, which affects all successful musicians. The outro where Blunt sings over a simple piano is the best part of the song and leaves a haunting resonance in the back of the listener’s mind.
Positives: Catchy chorus, haunting lyrics.
Negatives: slightly corny
Sara Bareilles – I Choose You
Sara Bareilles has proved a lot of people wrong. After her smash hit Love Song, many predicted her to be the next Michelle Branch, sinking into obscurity after a sudden surge in popularity. However, she has managed to keep her career well and truly alive with hits such as King of Anything and Brave reaching the upper end of the Billboard singles chart in America and her album Kaleidoscope Heart reaching the summit of the album chart. The second single from her third album The Blessed Unrest I Choose You is a charming mid tempo love song which is driven by a plunkety string line. The lyrics are both simple and classic and Bareilles’ voice does a lovely whiny thing after the first chorus which is surprisingly effective. Future wedding classic? Definitely!
Positives: Strings, plenty of “oohs”.
Little Mix – Little Me
Build along a sample of Gabriel Fauré’s Pavane, which was also sampled in S Club 7’s single Natural, Little Me is instantly familiar but never feels derivative. The song feels like an updated, less cheesy version of the S Club 7 hit with the hook hummed rather than instrumental. The song itself is a simple motivational power ballad, with a message not dissimilar to that of Katy Perry’s Roar. Little Mix’s harmonies are again on point and the song is effortlessly uplifting but not in a corny Simon Cowell way.
Positives: Smart choice of sample, harmonies, powerful message
9 artists at the top of their game. But which winter offering is a cut above the rest?
Will Lea Michele knock down her competition with her cannonball?
Will Pitbull mince his way to number one?
Will Idina Menzel weather the storm with her wintery hit Let It Go?
Will Celine Dion break away from the rest of the field?
Have Beyoncé and Jay Z drunk enough to reach chart glory?
Will a dose of Young Blood galvanise Sophie Ellis Bextor enough to beat out the rest?
Will Houston´s star power get Blunt to the top?
She chooses you, but will we choose Sara Bareilles?
Are the mini Little Mixs inspiring enough to be the winners?
And the winner is…..
Let It Go by Idina Menzel!!!!!!!!
Some songs just have something special and this definitely fits the bill. With powerful vocals, this classic sounding song is given even more emotion by the talented Menzel who uses every drop of her theatrical experience to bring this song to life. An instant classic.
Thank you for reading my blog post and stay tuned for many more!!!
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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
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.
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
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
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 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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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.