The Best Pop Songs of 2015: 100-81

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:

100) Birdy & Rhodes – Let It All Go

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!

99) Miley Cyrus – BB Talk

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!)

98) Years and Years – Eyes Shut 

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.

97) Cee-Lo Green – Music to My Soul

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.

96) Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Riverman 

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.

95) Rudimental Feat. Ed Sheeran – Lay It All On Me

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.

94) Urban Cone Feat. Tove Lo – Come Back to Me

Swedish five piece Urban Cone established themselves as one of the most potent forces in electronica when they enlisted fellow countrywoman Tove to assist them on this towering synthfest.

93) Alessia Cara – Here

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…)

92) Selena Gomez – Same Old Love 

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.

91) Zara Larsson & MNEK – Never Forget You

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.

90) Demi Lovato – Cool For the Summer

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”.

89) Sigma Feat. Ella Henderson – Glitterball 

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.

88) Foxes – Better Love

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.

87) Little Mix – Love Me Like You

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”.

86) Miley Cyrus – Lighter 

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.

85) Marlon Roudette – When the Beat Drops Out 

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.

84) Meghan Trainor – Dear Future Husband 

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.

83) Nero – Two Minds

Nero came back with an updated future house sound this summer but the chunky, brash synths and bass are still all present and accounted for, and that is no bad thing at all.

82) Nicki Minaj Feat. Skylar Grey – Bed of Lies

Grey’s soft, heartfelt vocals combined with Minaj’s confessional rapping creates the perfect blend of sticky ‘n’ sweet. A true highlight from The Pinkprint.

81) Charli XCX Feat. Rita Ora – Doing It

This sassy hookup is every bit the party anthem as “Party in the USA” or “Last Friday Night (TGIF)”. A joyous celebration of youth, fun and living life to the dirtiest.

 

Hope you enjoyed 100-81 on my list of the best songs of 2015. Please feel free to comment, like, share, express your disdain/approval. All is appreciated.

You can also listen to all the tracks on The Best Pop Songs of 2015 playlist:

spotify:user:1151803087:playlist:7fcwgDNbrmE4WWjkoRYAo1

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Unguilty Pleasure No. 16

After a lengthy break the Unguilty Pleasure is back with a vengeance and ready to spread the word about some pop treasures which no one will admit to liking but everyone secretly loves. This week’s pleasure is an irresistible popalicious gem released by a woman who is now considered pop royalty and an indispensable part of music history. The song represents the beginning of a period of transition in the singer’s life and can be considered as the blueprint for all sonic emancipations of the more sexual nature which came after. Yep that’s right, you guessed it. IT’S BRITNEY BITCH!

Britney Spears – I’m A Slave 4 U

“All you people look at me like I’m a little girl, well did you ever think it would be ok for me to step into this world”.  

Hindsight is a beautiful thing but sometimes it serves to diminish the effect of certain important moments in history. It’s vital not to underestimate the effect of “Slave 4 U”, which not only acted as Spears’ liberation anthem but also still acts as a template for all female vocalists who get into the game young and are forced to go through the transition from child star to adult while being in the public eye. Think Ariana Grande’s “Problem” or “Break Free”. While not as dramatic, they certainly demonstrated a more sexualised version of Grande in contrast to her previously squeaky clean image. A better example might be Miley Cyrus’ “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball” which both drastically altered the public perception of the once wholesome country star. Lest we forget that Britney did it all and more 12 years before.

Britney Spears Miley Cyrus dancing

Not only did “Slave 4 U” mark a radical image change for Spears’ but it also signalled the start of her less than stable relationship with the media. The singer’s performance of “Slave” at the 2001 MTV Music Video Awards stirred up controversy amongst animal rights organisations such as PETA due to the use of a white tiger and an albino Burmese Python, which Spears’ balanced on her shoulders. The image has since become iconic and was voted the most memorable moment in VMA history at a 2008 poll.

Britney VMAs snake
Snake “at least I’m not the only one without clothes on…”

Upon release “Slave” charted in the top ten of most major markets, including peaking at No.4 in the UK and selling over 150,000 copies. However, its performance was slightly lacklustre in the more traditionally conservative US where it stalled at No.27 and became her first lead single not to chart top ten there. “Slave” also failed to match the global commercial success of previous lead singles “…Baby One More Time” and “Oops! I Did It Again”, both of which topped the UK charts. Like many great pieces of art it seems that “Slave” was unappreciated in its own time as it was a little too ahead of the game. In the post-GaGa world we would think nothing of bare midriffs, sweaty saunas and suggestive dance moves but 2001 was a different world and perhaps not sexually liberated enough to embrace Spears’ new image fully. Or perhaps it was the shock seeing the sweet girl next door definitively leaving behind the pigtails forever.

Britney pigtails baby one more time

What’s more, the “Slave 4 U” video has arguably become an iconic music video for the younger generations who grew up watching Spears’ evolve musically from innocent tween to a sexy vamp to electropop Britney-bot. This video represents the start of the second phase of Britney and the not-so-subtle signposting of her natural maturation and move into adulthood. Whatever the case may be, it probably takes the award for the sweatiest video ever made. Set in a sauna, its loose plot centres on Britney and her bunch of veritable hotties dancing to the infectious music so uncontrollably that they are bordering on serious dehydration (talk about dehydration, didn’t that explanation just suck the fun out of everything? Sorry!) In fact, the video could be used as some kind of warning again dehydration if you ended it with black screen and the simple message “Britneys die in hot saunas”.

Britney Spears Im a Slave 4 U video
It’s bed rest and fluids 4 U

Moving on swiftly, the “Slave” video also demonstrates what can be considered as some of Britney’s best dancing ever. The shapes that she throws are borderline offensively provocative and nothing she has done before or since has looked so natural or effortlessly sexy. This, coupled with the moaning and cooing that is coming from Britney’s mouth in the song, makes the video reminiscent of the steamiest sex tape ever. Move over Paris! Of course, some of the video’s genius can be attributed to the choreographer Brian Friedman who does all the choreography for the UK X Factor and has countless other music videos under his belt, including Britters own “Toxic” video.

As if that weren’t enough, “Slave” is produced by none other than the Neptunes a.k.a Pharrell Williams and his collaborator Chad Hugo. It’s the old school urban funk sound of “Slave” that made me pick it as this week’s Unguilty Pleasure. This kind of minimal bassline is hot right now and if Britney returned to this sound and to Pharrell’s production I believe she could come out on top again like in the glory days of “…Baby One More Time”. She had the foresight to see Pharrell’s talent before anyone else did and she deserves to reap some of the benefits.

Pharrell Williams Britney Spears P Diddy
She doesn’t look so good. Maybe this was post-head shaving…

But the true reason for the success of “Slave” lies in the fact that Britney willingly took a gamble. She refused to continue pedaling the good girl shtick which she had been lumbered with since her early days and, like a true artist, took a risk in search for further growth and personal reward. Of course, she had declared earlier in “Oops! I Did It Again” that she “was not that innocent”, but who really believed her then? No, “Slave” doesn’t just mark the moment when Britney moved into more sexual territory, it marks the moment when Britters stopped just claiming that she “was not that innocent” and started acting like it.

Thank you for reading!! If you have any comments feel free to leave them below. Please follow and share!

The Smokin’ Hot 11 of August

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

11) Alexa Goddard – So There

Alexa Goddard - So There
OMG my name can fly!

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

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

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

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

9) The Script – Superheroes

The Script Superheroes
Stop trying to inspire us for god sake

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

 

8) Paloma Faith – Trouble with my Baby

paloma faith trouble with my baby
Not OTT at all

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

7) Katy Perry – This Is How We Do

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

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

6) Ella Eyre – Comeback

Ella Eyre Comeback
Ella is officially 40% hair

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

5) Iggy Azalea Feat. Rita Ora – Black Widow

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

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

4) Meghan Trainor – All About that Bass

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

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

3) Nicki Minaj- Anaconda

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

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

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

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

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

1) Lilly Wood and the Prick – Prayer in C

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

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

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

Should Conchita Wurst have won Eurovision 2014?

The Eurovision Song Contest is always one of the craziest events of the year, with weird and wonderful acts turning up from all over Europe year after year to join together and put on a show. But this year Eurovision somehow found a way to top itself. If you had told me in January that a bearded drag act was going to win Eurovision this year, I would have laughed in your face. Nevertheless, many have championed 25 year old Conchita Wurst from Austria as a Jesus-like figure representing all marginalised groups in Europe, which is all well and good, but was she really a worthy winner of Eurovision?

Conchita Wurst
Conchita Wurst

The early favourites to win Eurovision this year were Armenia and Sweden, both classy dub-step influenced ballads. However, after having seen most of the songs performed in the semi-final, two entries surged up the bookie’s lists, Austria and the Netherlands. The two songs couldn’t be more different from each other. Austria’s Conchita Wurst elected for a dramatic, James Bond-esque power ballad drenched in soaring strings, which stretched the singer’s vocal chords to the limit. The Dutch however, opted for the understated Nashville-inspired country ballad “Calm after the Storm”, which was very simply staged using a monochrome motif and featuring just the two singers doing what they do best. Due to the simplicity of the performance, this entry managed to slip under the radar until the very last minute and it wasn’t until we saw it performed that we realised what a lovely, heartfelt song it really was. Conchita’s song, in contrast, was at first overshadowed by her less-than-usual image, which put many people off. However, the epic staging and her powerful vocal performance in the semi-final quelled many haters and established her as the favourite going into Saturday’s final, ultimately proving that Eurovision’s priorities have shifted to focusing more on performance than music in recent years.

Of course, when Conchita was announced as the winner (and by a considerable margin might I add) the victory was pronounced to be in the name of tolerance and acceptance. It was at this point also that it became clear that Conchita’s song, “Rise like a Phoenix”, in actual fact had been ruthlessly manufactured, not to make a political statement, but instead for the sole reason of getting attention and winning the competition. That was when I realised that Europe had essentially voted for Miley Cyrus’ twerking to win Eurovision. Conchita’s beard is no more than a thinly disguised gimmick used in order to scandalise and therefore, grab headlines. Using a gimmick is a common tactic which many public figures, from politicians to Miley Cyrus, employ in order to attract attention to their cause. Does this mean that we should accept it though? Hell No!

Miley Cyrus twerking
Miley Cyrus twerking

The sad truth is that Conchita is extremely vocally talented and I listened to “Rise like a Phoenix” without the visual performance several times before the competition and, while I liked the tune, it definitely didn’t stand out as one of the best. The bookie’s clearly thought the same, initially placing it low in the rankings to win the competition. It was only after she performed it that her stock rose dramatically. Therefore, there is no doubt that the Austrian’s image was the only factor which allowed her to secure her Eurovision victory. It’s a shame that a cheap trick cheated better songs out of getting the attention that they were due. After Conchita’s victory was announced social media was immediately flooded with complaints that she would not have won if she didn’t have a beard. Several people shared a picture of the Little Mermaid with a beard on Twitter and some Russian Eurovision fans even photo-shopped beards onto their own entry, the 17-year old Tolmachevy Sisters, claiming that if they had been sporting bushy beards like Conchita that they would have taken home the Eurovision crown instead. And, to be honest, it’s hard to argue with that logic.

The Little Bearded Mermaid
The Little Bearded Mermaid surely would have won Eurovision?
The Tolmachevy Sisters with beards
Translation: Russia would have definitely won like this

While it is true that “Rise like a Phoenix” is a good song and that Conchita performed it well, the same is also true of X Factor veteran Ruth Lorenzo’s performance for Spain of the epic ballad “Dancing in the Rain” or the Russian Tolmachevy Sisters who sung about sending out a message up above/telling all the world to show some love. I defy anyone to say that Conchita wouldn’t have won if she had sung this song, which actually has an even stronger message of unity than her own. Even the UK’s own entry 27 year old Molly from Leicester, who has just as good as voice as Conchita, made a similar statement with the anthemic tune “Children of the Universe”, but that ended up finishing in 17th place, despite positive predictions. All these songs suffered because they didn’t have a gimmick as strong as a bearded woman. For many years now people have been comparing Eurovision to a circus, but Eurovision was able to withstand these accusations due to the strength of recent winners such as Loreen’s “Euphoria” and Emmelie De Forest’s “Only Teardrops”. But without a respectable winner to back it up this year, Eurovision’s name is being dragged further through the mud.

However, it looks like the real winner of Eurovision 2014 is yet to be decided. The Dutch band The Common Linnets, who placed second on Saturday, are experiencing great success with their song “Calm after the Storm”, which is currently outselling Conchita’s “Phoenix” in almost every market worldwide. “Calm after the Storm” is currently sitting at No.4 on the UK download charts, whilst the two versions of the Conchita’s single occupy the 19 and 25 positions, which would probably place it in the lower regions of the top ten. In fact, this was the case before the competition even began as Conchita’s “Rise like a Phoenix” actually only managed to peak at No.51 in her native Austria before the competition, while the Dutch track peaked at No.1 in the Netherlands. This just goes to prove that the Austrian’s song wasn’t popular at all before the visual performance came into play, whereas the Dutch track was a bonafide hit, which begs the question as to whether Eurovision has its priorities in order. If the Netherlands had won this year, Eurovision would have at least managed to save the little face it had left. Too late now.

Whether you agree or disagree with my opinions I’d love to hear from you. Take a look at the videos of both the Netherlands “Calm after the Storm” and Austria’s “Rise like a Phoenix” and make up your mind. Thanks 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!