The Best Pop Songs of 2015: 80-61

Welcome to the second part of Diary of a Pop Fan’s Best Pop Songs of 2015 list. Let’s kick things off with a nice bit of soulful balladeering from Will Young shall we:

80) Will Young – Like A River

“Like A River” may not have been an official single from Will Young’s sixth studio effort 85% Proof but it was certainly the most beautifully understated track on the whole album.  I do love it when songs refuses to follow a traditional verse-chorus structure and on “Like A River” it only helps to intensify the drama on this smoldering, classy production

79) Cheryl – Only Human

Cheryl has produced some thumping good pop tunes over the years but ballads have never been her strong suit…until now. “Only Human” is the title track from Cheryl’s fourth studio album and her most personal effort to date. The Imogen Heap-esque ballad sees the Geordie songstress’ voice layered in vocoder in a not-unlike-Cher cerca 1998 fashion and, interestingly, she has never sounded more sincere.

78) Galantis – Peanut Butter Jelly 

For the fourth single from their debut full length album Pharmacy the Swedish newcomers decided to go disco. As a result, “Peanut Butter Jelly” is one of the most explosive and feel good tunes of the year and it stood out on the radio for all the right reasons.

77) DJ Snake & AlunaGeorge – You Know You Like It

DJ Snake’s remix of London duo AlunaGeorge’s debut single breathed new life into the track, making it an international hit and a radio staple all throughout the summer. Like it or not, there was no getting away from that infectious hiccuping beat in 2015.

76) Zedd Feat. Selena Gomez – I Want You to Know

“I Want You to Know” may be a little by numbers but sometimes there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. This euphoric, joyous pop delicacy comes courtesy of two stars at the top of their respective games and you’d better believe that no one was complaining this pairing.

75) Nicky Jam Feat. Enrique Iglesias – El Perdón

Following on from 2014’s hip-swivelling “Bailando”, Enrique was at it again this year, yet again producing what is undoubtedly THE Spanish language hit of 2015, . “El Perdon” was literally inescapable all summer long.

74) Sara Bareilles – She Used to Be Mine

One of 2015’s most random pop albums came from an unlikely source. Sara Bareilles’ fifth studio album What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress actually serves as the soundtrack to the stage adaption of the 2007 Adrienne Shelly film Waitress and lead single “She Used to Be Mine” perfectly encapsulates the main plot in one beautiful, vulnerable four and a half minute song.

73) Ariana Grande – One Last Time

Grande’s My Everything album was chock full of big tunes but for her fourth single she chose to take it down a notch with mid-tempo EDM ballad “One Last Time”. The production is flawless but it’s Grande’s angelic vocals which take centre stage here.

72) Robin Schulz Feat. Ilsey – Headlights

German producer Robin Schulz followed up a stellar 2014 with more entrancing deep house offerings this year. “Headlights”, the first single from his second studio album Sugar and focuses heavily on Isley’s ethereal, soaring vocals.

71) The Weeknd – The Hills

The Weeknd kept surprising us throughout 2015 and “The Hills” is a prime example of why he is one of the freshest things in pop right now. The spooky track somehow manages to combine hammer horror style screams with The Weeknd’s silky falsetto to create a something truly original and not to mention sexy.

70) Enya – Even In the Shadows

Irish songbird Enya is one of the biggest selling artists ever, having sold an estimated 80 million albums worldwide. After a lengthy 7 year absence, Enya returned this winter with her eight studio album Dark Sky Island which was met with universal praise and returned her to the top 10 across the globe. “Even In the Shadows” is shining example of Enya’s ability to transport the listener to another world and fits neatly into her already existing opus.

69) David Guetta Feat. Afrojack, Nicki Minaj & Bebe Rexha – Hey Mama

We always knew that an Afrojack and David Guetta hook up would be explosive but this four way tag team power tune far exceeded expectations. Tribal wailing never sounded this good!

68) One Direction – Drag Me Down

Among the slew of tears following One Direction’s announcement that they were going on hiatus appeared some of the boyband’s finest work. Made in the AM shakes off the faux rock shtick found  on Midnight Memories and Four in favour of full throttle pop anthems, the best of which is the irresistible lead single “Drag Me Down”.

67) Avicii – Waiting For Love

When I first heard this, I could have sworn it was Chris Martin singing on the track, but it turned out to be Simon Aldred from Cherry Ghost doing his best Martin impression. But once I got over that “Waiting for Love” turned out to be one of Avicii’s finest productions to date and features what is probably his stickiest synth line. Delectable.

66) Years and Years – Shine

This 80’s inspired piece of synthpop ensured that the London electronica trio had longevity past their Spring smash hit “King”. Once that huge chorus kicks in you soon fall under “Shine’s” spell and by the time the breakdown comes around, you’ll be begging for more.

65) OMI – Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)

Summer 2015’s most ubiquitous tune and one of the highest selling singles of the year. The insanely catchy sax loop on this track just drills into your brain and refuses to let go.

64) Mørland & Debrah Scarlett – A Monster Like Me

Norway has been knocking it out of the park the last couple of years in Eurovision but this year they surpassed themselves. “A Monster Like Me” is an intelligent, brooding classic ballad which boasts some of 2015’s most stellar harmonies. Sadly, the Eurovision 3 minute rule  does this haunting masterpiece an injustice. I could have done with another 2 minutes at least!

63) Iggy Azalea Feat. Jennifer Hudson – Trouble

This jaunty piano jam continued Iggy’s chart dominance into 2015. Her slick, punchy verses marry well with Jennifer’s sassy, soulful choruses. It’s good to hear good ol’ Hudders on the radio again after a series of recent flops.

62) Madonna – Joan of Arc

Not the best year for Madonna by any stretch of the imagination. Her comeback album Rebel Heart may have been a tad patchy but, when it was good, it was very good and “Joan of Arc” is a prime example of this. It’s one of Madonna’s most autobiographical songs and affords us a rare glimpse of vulnerability from the material girl.

61) Leona Lewis – Thunder

After breaking free from the gilded cage that was Simon Cowell’s record label, a newly liberated Leona Lewis burst free from her shackles and made a glorious comeback with this fighter anthem. She may have gone through the wringer to get to this point, but her music is all the better for it.

 

Thank you for reading and feel free to comment and share.

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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The Best Songs of 2014: 20-1

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

20) Mark Ronson Feat. Bruno Mars – Uptown Funk

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

19) Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This

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

18) Shakira – La La La (Brazil 2014) 

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

17) Ariana Grande Feat. Iggy Azalea – Problem

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

16) Taylor Swift – Blank Space

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

15) Kiesza – Hideaway

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

14) Sia – Chandelier

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

13) Pharrell – Happy 

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

12) George Ezra – Budapest

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

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

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

10) Sam Smith – Stay With Me

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

9) Katy B – Crying for No Reason

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

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

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

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

Basically it’s just awesome.

8) Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J – Dark Horse

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

7) Taylor Swift – Shake It Off

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

6) Meghan Trainor – All About that Bass

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

5) Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud

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

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

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

3) Ella Henderson – Ghost

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

2) Idina Menzel – Let It Go

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

And the number one is……

1) Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne – Rather Be

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

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

The Best Songs of 2014: 40-21

40) Coldplay – A Sky Full of Stars

Coldplay finally gave into peer pressure and surrendered to EDM, enlisting phenomenally popular Swedish DJ Avicii to provide them with a grandiose stadium-sized smash for their sixth studio album Ghost Stories. “A Sky Full of Stars” didn’t disappoint on any account and served as a rare uplifting track on the downbeat album. It also managed to peak top ten internationally and become a festival staple.

39) Milky Chance – Stolen Dance

Electronica folk or folktronica had been a pretty underground movement for several years until Milky Chance burst onto the scene this year with their beloved debut single “Stolen Dance” which combined lightly strummed guitar riffs and mumbled vocals to create an understated masterpiece of subtlety. The single’s unexpected success extends to every major music market in the world and goes to show that the cream will always rise to the top.

38) Clean Bandit Feat. Jess Glynne – Real Love

Clean Bandit finished a hugely successful year with a re-release of their debut album New Eyes repackaged with several new tracks, including the piano-driven lovefest that is “Real Love”. Upon release, the single managed to peak at No.2 in the UK (beaten only by Band Aid 30), becoming Clean Bandit’s third top 10 single in 2014 and Jess Glynne’s fourth. When it was announced that Clean Bandit and Jess Glynne were collaborating again after few could have imagined that they would be able to repeat the success and quality of previous collab “Rather Be”, well look who’s laughing now.

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

After the poor commercial performance and critical reception of her sophomore album Alive Jessie J started 2014 on the bottom. But, never one to take it lying down, she quietly squirreled away and masterminded her explosive comeback in September, roping in of-the-moment pop stars Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj to guarantee commercial euphoria. Upon release, the single charted at No.3 in the US, becoming Jessie’s biggest hit there, and at No.1 in the UK. Jessie J was back with a vengeance!

36) Faul & Wad Ad vs. Pnau – Changes

Another deep house banger which hit the big time in 2014. Australian electronic duo Pnau’s “Baby” is sampled her to great effect, combining the slightly creepy child choir vocals with lazy, chilled out saxophone riffs and house beats which helped “Changes” become a 2014 summer anthem.

35) Sam Smith – Money on My Mind

Sam Smith kicked off his 2014 in style, bagging his second UK No.1 single (after Naughty Boy’s “La La La”) and his first No.1 as a lead artist when “Money on My Mind” went straight in at No.1 in February. The track shows off Smith’s impressive vocal range, especially his higher register which forms the hook of the song.

34) Beyoncé Feat. Jay Z – Drunk In Love

The flash release of Beyoncé’s eponymous fifth album last December wasn’t the only shocking thing about the diva’s studio set: it also showcased some of her most sexually explicit work to date. “Drunk in Love” was one of the two lead single taken from the album and displays B at her dirtiest and most X rated combining trap beats and slinky basslines. The frisky track was first performed by Jay Z and Queen B on the Grammies which sent shock waves through the industry and helped the track surge to a peak position of No.2 in the US.

33) Ariana Grande Feat. Zedd – Break Free

“Break Free” was released as the second single from Grande’s second album My Everything and showcases the diminutive pop star dipping her toe into the electropop genre, hooking up with Russian-German music producer Zedd. Unlike some pop tartlets before her Ariana Grande’s doesn’t get lost in the shuffle of EDM jerky beats and instead soars high proving that she really is untouchable right now.

32) Lorde – Yellow Flicker Beat

However late in the year it may have been released, “Yellow Flicker Beat” was undoubtedly one of the highlights of 2014. The hummed intro/outro and middle sections gave the song unique appeal and Lorde’s bewitchingly dark performance brought the grungy, gothic lyrics to life. Mockingjay Part.1 may have been a whole load of nothing but don’t say it didn’t give us anything, it’s soundtrack was amazing and “Yellow Flicker Beat” stands out as the jewel in its crown.

31) MAGIC! – Rude

2014 will be remembered as the year when diversity reigned supreme over the charts with subgenres such as deep house, trap and folktronica making waves on the singles chart. One of the genres which really shone this year however was reggae fusion, a movement which was spearheaded by Canadian group Magic! whose single “Rude” was met with phenomenal success, peaking at No.1 in the UK and the US and becoming one of the highest selling singles of the year.

30) Foxes – Let Go for Tonight

After skirting around the edge of the mainstream since 2012’s Zedd-produced “Clarity” British singer Foxes chose 2014 as the year to make her big commercial breakthrough. “Let Go For Tonight” was released as the second single from her debut album Glorious and became her first top UK top ten single when it entered at No.7 in late February. The piano-driven track combines crashing drums and airy synths to create a timeless ode to letting go of your cares and just dancing the night away.

29) Pitbull Feat. Ke$ha – Timber

Who said January was a slow time for music? Pitbull and Ke$ha heated up the cold, wintery months with this spicy, country tinged club banger which peaked at No.1 in the US for three weeks and for one week in the UK.  The predominant harmonica line sampled Lee Oskar’s 1978 single “San Francisco Bay” and plays off Avicii’s previous success with country music on “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother”.

28) Ed Sheeran – Sing

Pharrell strikes again, continuing his winning streak well into 2014 with “Sing”, the lead single from Ed Sheeran’s highly successful sophomore album X. The R&B production of the song shows a new side to Sheeran’s music and the chorus demonstrates the power of his falsetto vocals.

27) The Common Linnets – Calm After the Storm

The Common Linnets are a Dutch supergroup formed for Eurovision 2014 by Waylon and Ilse DeLange who were already both popular established artists in their own right in their home country. Their entry “Calm After the Storm” is a blend of country and Americana genres which is very atypical for the glitzy, tacky Eurovision Song Contest and, despite all predictions, the song proved to be the dark horse of the competition this year. Although it was eventually beaten by a bearded lady from Austria, it did manage to secure the Netherlands their highest placing entry in the competition since they last won in 1975. However, quality eventually prevailed and “Calm After the Storm” became a global smash, well outperforming Conchita Wurst’s track in the charts.

26) John Legend – All of Me

The prize for 2014’s soppiest song definitely goes to John Legend, but despite the song’s inane insipidness, it will undoubtedly be remembered as one of 2014’s defining songs and it finished the year as the UK and US’ third best-selling singles. It also managed to knock Pharrell’s ridiculously popular “Happy” off its 10 week perch at No.1 in the US which probably deserves a medal or something.

25) Robin Schulz Feat. Mr Probz – Waves

German producer Robin Schulz has had an amazing year. Europe has fully embraced his relaxing, chill out dance remixes to the point where he is now practically unstoppable. He made waves earlier on this year by remixing Dutch singer Mr Probz’ soulful original version and sending it straight to the top of the UK charts. The emotional depth of the lyrics and Probz’ husky, soulful vocals meant that it ended the year as the fourth best-selling single of 2014 in the UK.

24) Iggy Azalea Feat. Charli XCX – Fancy

Iggy Azalea is definitely one of the artists who defined 2014. Her breakthrough single “Fancy” announced her arrival with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer in the hands of Miley Cyrus. She hailed her style as “the new classic”, suggesting that she combined throwback beats with very 2014 brashness, i.e. the 80’s squelchy synth lines on “Fancy” combined with Charli XCX’s bratty chorus. What else could we do but bow down? “Fancy” was a humungous hit all over the world but especially in the US where it topped the singles chart for 7 straight weeks during the summer and finished the year as the fourth biggest seller.

23) Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Young Blood

Sophie Ellis-Bextor deserves a lot of credit for reinventing herself so successfully this year. It takes a lot of guts to switch from something you’ve been doing for so long and do something completely different, but she did and boy did it pay off. “Young Blood” is undoubtedly her strongest song lyrically and her distinctive posh vocals lend the track a classic, timeless feel. It’s unclear which direction she’ll go in next but I can say with all confidence that if she continues producing songs of this quality and emotional significance she will be around for another 15 years to come.

22) Dolly Parton – Home

It feels weird putting Dolly Parton on my list of best songs of 2014 but she has earned it after all. This year she spearheaded a very successful comeback which included headlining Glastonbury at the ripe age of 68. The shocking thing is that Blue Smoke (her 42nd studio album!) has actually become her most successful ever in the UK, peaking at No.2 in the UK and garnering some of her best critical reviews. Similarly, in the US Blue Smoke became Parton’s first top ten album when it peaked at No.6 and her highest debuting set on the Top Country album chart. These commercial figures are shocking but well deserved as the album is a bountiful, heartfelt gift to all her fans. “Home”, the lead single, is a heart-warming ditty about wanting to go home. Simple sentiments, deep meanings and good intentions. You’d have to have a heart of stone not to smile.

21) Jess Glynne – Right Here

Although it doesn’t feel like it due to her numerous successful collaborations, “Right Here” is actually Jess Gynne’s debut solo single. The track was produced by English electronic production duo Gorgon City and sees Glynne exploring deep house with minimalistic beats and joyous trumpets. Jess’ vocals are as powerful as ever but it’s the simplistic synth hook which really takes hold of you. Best listened to with the bass turned up high.

Thanks for reading and keep your eyes peeled for the final part of our Best Songs of 2014 countdown coming very soon.

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.