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!!

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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 Best Songs of 2014: 60-41

60) Nico & Vinz – Am I Wrong?

A bonafide summer smash curtesy of Norwegian duo Nico & Vinz “Am I Wrong?” found international chart success in almost every country in the world due to its layed-back relaxing nature. Upon reaching No.4 in the US it also became the highest charting single there by a Norwegian act since a-ha’s “Take On Me” in 1985!

59) Indiana – Solo Dancing

British singer songwriter Indiana finally secured her first top 15 UK single with debut release “Solo Dancing”, a slow-burning feast of intensity. The track is a masterpiece of sparse production and minimalism in a not-too-unlike-Lorde way

58) OneRepublic – If I Lose Myself (Alesso Remix)

If you went to a festival this summer you’ll recognise Tedder’s euphoria-inducing vocals soaring over EDM beats which crash like waves on the shore. Alesso’s dancefloor-ready remix of this track brought it to life and helped open OneRepublic to a whole new audience. One of the best remixes of the year without a doubt.

57) Sam Smith – I’m Not the Only One

A chillingly honest story of devastation. A broken-hearted Diana Agron (Quinn from Glee) plays the scorned bride in the video which illustrates her emotional turmoil after finding out about her husband’s indiscretions. One of the most poignant and heart-wrenching songs of the year which secured Sam Smith another international top 5 hit.

56) Route 94 Feat. Jess Glynne – My Love

Jess Glynne’s second chart topper of the year came almost immediately after her first with Clean Bandit. “My Love” is credited as one of the songs which brought deep house to the forefront of British music and kicked off a series of dance/house singles which appeared as if by magic this year to take the UK by storm. “My Love” also comes with a steamy infrared video which is well worth a gander.

55) Tove Lo – Stay High

Much like Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” in 2012, Tove Lo’s debut single “Stay High” has been the sleeper hit of 2014, slowly building momentum until  reaching fever pitch with the release of the Hippie Sabotage remix.  In the song Swedish songstress Tove Lo tries to forget a past lover by engaging in hedonistic, self-destructive activities.

54) Rita Ora – I Will Never Let You Down

Forget all the Calvin Harris drama that has been splashed across the front pages of the tabloids this year, “I Will Never Let You Down” is an absolute bubblegum beast of a pop track brought alive by harris’ peppy beats and Ora’s enigmatic performance. It also helped her match Geri Halliwell’s record of the British female solo artist with the most UK No.1’s, a record which was later equalled and then broken by Cheryl Fernandez- Versini.

53) Sigma Feat. Paloma Faith – Changing

After quietly selling albums for years, in 2014 Paloma was ready to ascend to her full glory in becoming the UK’s premier soul diva in the wake of Adele’s absence. But she didn’t stop there. She had her eyes on the dance floors as well! Her collaboration with Sigma on “Changing” confirmed her position as one of the UK’s most popular female artists in opening her up to a wider, younger audience. It also helped her to bag her first No.1 single!

52) Calvin Harris Feat. John Newman – Blame

Released as the third single from the producer/DJ’s album Motion “Blame” became Harris’ third consecutive No.1 single when it debuted straight at No.1 in September 2014. It also heralded a welcome return for the retro soul vocal of John Newman who had been enjoying a rather quiet year up till that point. But “Blame” proved that there is indeed no rest for the wicked with Harris’ signature relentless jerky beats keeping us raving until 2015.

51) Jessie Ware – Say You Love Me

After a stellar, critically acclaimed debut album Jessie Ware returned with new determination in 2014 with the marvellous “Tough Love”. We thought it couldn’t get better than that until she revealed the second single “Say You Love Me” which was co-penned by man-of-the-moment Ed Sheeran. The track harks back to old school diva power ballads but presents a revised, updated format. The key change and rise and fall are still present, but with better production.

50) Ed Sheeran – Photograph

Speak of the devil. Ed Sheeran has undoubtedly been the man of 2014, having bagged himself two UK No.1 singles and the highest selling album of the year, as well as the Christmas No.1 album. “Photograph” is an often overlooked album track on the magnificent X which shows the crooner at his most understated and heartfelt.

49) Royksopp & Robyn – Do It Again

Robyn is a long-time favourite of mine and so, when she announced her duet CD with Royksopp, hopes were very high. Luckily, Robyn always delivers the goods and the Do It Again EP turned out to be some of her most inspired work. Lead single “Do It Again” is flawlessly produced and plays on Robyn’s theatrical side, utilising her strong pipes to their fullest.

48) Vance Joy – Riptide

One of the least likely hits of 2014 came from Vance Joy who brought his signature upbeat indie folk rock to the mainstream this year. “Riptide” has a gorgeous organic feel about it despite its obvious commercial appeal which managed to propel it into the Australian and UK top tens.

47) Sia – Eye of the Needle

Sia made her triumphant return to pop this year with the bombastic “Chandelier” but her US No.1 album 1000 Forms of Fear wasn’t just about the one track. “Eye of the Needle” was released as a promotional track from the album and is a firm fan favourite. Sia’s trademark wailing vocals are given free rein on this track to produce this heart-shatteringly relatable tale of sorrow.

46) A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera – Say Something

Following a performance on the American version of the Voice this track blew up in early 2014 and eventually peaked at No.4 in the US and the UK and at No.1 in Australia and Canada. The addition of Christina Aguilera to create a ghostly echoing effect was really a stroke of genius which ensured the Disney-esque power ballad’s success.

45) Lorde – Team

After achieving mid-blowing success with her international debut single “Royals” Lorde chose “Team” as the second single from her debut album Pure Heroine which combined a snare drum beat and hand claps to make it her most explosive single to date. It became her second consecutive top ten single in the US, peaking at No.6 and finished the year as the 18th best seller.  

44) Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely On You

Having enlisted producer-extraordinaire Pharrell to sprinkle some of his pop gold dust on the lead single from her third album A Perfect Contradiction Paloma was back with a bang in February this year. The result was a sizzling combination of sassy Paloma’s theatrical performance and delivery and Pharrell funktastic beats

43) Gorgon City – Ready for Your Love

Deep house came out in force this year and Gorgon City planted themselves firmly at the forefront of this movement early on with the slow-burning, understated “Ready for Your Love”. Upcoming artists MNEK’s soulful vocals combined with the minimal beat and smooth synths created an irresistible, club-ready banger which was damn near impossible to avoid this year.

42) Sigma – Nobody to Love

British drum and bass duo Sigma broke through to the mainstream this year with their stunning, euphoric debut single “Nobody to Love” which started out as a bootleg remix of Kanye West’s “Bound 2”. The group were smart enough to take the hideous Kanye rap out of the song, leaving them with the catchy soulful chorus which was sung by non-other than former Popstars: the Rivals contestant Daniel Pearce who had won as part of the boyband One True Voice but later faded in the wake of the more popular Girls Aloud.

41) Ed Sheeran – Don’t

Originally planned to be the lead single from Sheeran’s sophomore album X “Don’t” was later passed over in favour of “Sing”. Nevertheless, it was chosen as the second release from the studio set and managed to peak top ten both sides of the Atlantic and to propel the singer’s album to greater success. Although he initially kept the identity of the subject of “Don’t” secret, he later admitted that it was written about his ex-girlfriend Ellie Goulding who cheated on him with One Directioner Niall Horan. Ouch!

Thanks for reading and don’t miss the next installment. Coming very soon!

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

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

20) Lily Allen – Our Time

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

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

19) Kylie Minogue – I Was Gonna Cancel

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

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

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

Lady Gaga - GUY
Just your average friday night

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

17) Iggy Azalea Feat. Charli XCX – Fancy

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

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

16) Sky Ferreira – I Blame Myself

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

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

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

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

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

14) Sia – Chandelier

Sia Chandelier
I will kill you all

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

13) G.R.L – Ugly Heart

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

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

12) Mei Feingold – Same Heart

Mei Feingold Same Heart
That’s not terrifying at all

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

11) Ed Sheeran – Sing

Ed Sheeran Sing
The Lipless Man

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

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

Enrique Iglesias
How dare you spank me!

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

9) Kiesza – Hideaway

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

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

8) Rita Ora – I Will Never Let You Down

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

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

7) Sam Smith – Stay With Me

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

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

6) Paloma Faith – Only Love Can Hurt Like This

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

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

5) The Common Linnets – Calm after the Storm

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

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

4) Mr Probz – Waves

Mr Probz Waves
Señor Mega Pout

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

3) Coldplay – A Sky Full of Stars

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

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

2) Ella Henderson – Ghost

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

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

1) Ariana Grande Feat. Iggy Azalea – Problem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Pop Fortune Teller’s Predictions 05/05/2014

David: Another week has passed and that means it’s time for Diary of a Pop Fan’s resident Fortune Teller to give us some more predictions of which songs will be burning up the charts in the coming weeks. Take it away Oda Mae.

Pop Fortune Teller
Pop Fortune Teller

Fortune Teller: Hello again dearies. Thank you for joining me once again for another round of pop-tastic predictions that you won’t want to miss. Gather around my crystal ball of wonders as I guide you on a mystical journey of pop fabulousness.

 

1)    Beyonce – Pretty Hurts

Beyonce Pretty Hurts
Pretty Hurts

My first prediction for this week is another sure fire smash for the reigning queen of pop. It is of course the fabulous Beyoncé with “Pretty Hurts”. Taken from an album which is chock full of potential hits, “Pretty Hurts” manages to stand out on the strength of the moral message which will shine as a beacon, above all, to teenage girls suffering from self-esteem issues. Of course, this is well-trodden territory, but Beyoncé manages to make the message sound fresh with the honesty and rawness of the production and vocals. The Pop Fortune Teller appreciates the positive message, but finds it ironic that Beyoncé preaches the danger of vanity whilst looking absolutely fabulous. However, criticisms aside, “Pretty Hurts” is a built around a slow-burning atmospheric bass-line which subtly lodges itself somewhere in the part of your cranium reserved for pop delicacies such as this. Beyoncé’s soulful wailing adds to the epic-ness of the track as well and pushes this slow-roasted ham of a track into the stratosphere.

The mists of time predict a strong top ten for “Pretty Hurts”.

2)    Kylie Minogue – I Was Gonna Cancel

Kylie Minogue I Was Gonna Cancel
I Was Gonna Cancel

Kylie’s career has become more unpredictable than my box of enchanted shrunken heads lately after the relative flop of her last single “Into the Blue”, which seemed to be a shoe-in to become another number one for the diminutive pop diva. Luckily, nothing gets past me, the Pop Fortune Teller, and I predict big things for the second single taken from her twelfth album Kiss Me Once “I Was Gonna Cancel”. For starters, the song plays on funk-fuelled current pop trends due to its being produced by man-of-the-moment Pharrell, who has put his Midas touch to good use on this track. Secondly, the song features several sections, each one more infectious than the last, I count three in total: the “go go go” section, the “I was gonna cancel” section and the “just hop out of the bed” section. That’s a lot of Kylie to love. Interestingly, the glitchy electro-pop fiesta was inspired by real life when Kylie almost cancelled on a recording session with Pharrell due to having the blues. But luckily he convinced her otherwise and, frankly, the world should be extremely glad that Kylie decided not to cancel.

After reading Kylie’s palm, I predict that this will become her 33rd top ten single.

3)    Sam Smith – Stay with Me

Sam Smith Stay With Me Artwork
Stay With Me

Sam Smith’s debut single “Money on my Mind” has already become one of the biggest singles of 2014 and his debut album is set to sell a shedload. So it makes sense that his second single, the soulful “Stay with Me” will be another smash for the Peterborough-born singer. Another strong indicator the extremely Emeli Sandé-esque nature of “Stay with Me”. We all know what commercial dynamite Sandé is (her debut album sold over 2 million copies in the UK alone) and her stamp is all over “Stay with Me”, right down to the gospel choir and the quiet reflective tone. The Pop Fortune Teller appreciates pensiveness. So it stands to reason that Sam Smith will have another hit on his hands and, actually, it’s quite deserved as the singer pours his heart and soul into “Stay with Me” and almost brings a tear to this old fortune teller’s glass eye.

My crystal ball informs me that “Stay with Me” will be a big top 5.

4)    Cher Lloyd – Sirens

Cher Lloyd
Sirens

The Pop Fortune Teller has always had an affinity with Cher Lloyd, maybe it’s her frank honesty, maybe it’s her penchant for unadulterated fun, or maybe it’s the gypsy roots we both share. Either way, I got my skirts in a ruffle upon hearing young Miss Lloyd’s latest pop gem “Sirens”, which is appropriately titled as it announces a dramatic change of direction for the diva. Those who disapprove of the 20 year old’s crass, in-your-face nature will be shocked by the maturity of “Sirens”, which showcases the vulnerable side hidden beneath the attitude. This is also a rare opportunity when Cher is really allowed to show off her impressive pipes, which are the centrepiece of the track. Cher is at a crossroads in her career however, after a successful debut, the first single of her second album “I Wish” failed to chart, meaning that “Sirens” is make-or-break for her. I’m hoping it’s the former.

If the stars align properly, this should be another top 40 hit for Cher.

5)    Kelis – Forever Be

Kelis
“Food”

My last choice is more a recommendation than a prediction as it would probably take a miracle for Kelis to manage to get a hit off her new album “Food” after her first two singles “Jerk Ribs” and “Rumble” failed to chart at all. However, I believe that this song deserves its place on my list as it is a stellar example of pop-done-right. There is hope though as “Forever Be” is built around a plinkety-plonkety piano line which descends into a sing-along-chorus which is as catchy as a cold. What’s more, “Forever Be” has more current commercial appeal that Kelis’ recent singles as the mind-destroyingly amazing chorus is built around a driving synth bass-line and Kelis’ breathless vocals add a furious urgency to the track. It’s probably the best song Kelis has ever done, nay the best song of the year so far!

I’m seeing a conflicting fortune for “Forever Be”, but if you readers join me in summoning the mighty cosmic forces of Pisces, this might just be a hit.

Unfortunately this song is so undercover that there is no official video for “Forever Be” but you can listen to on spotify or listen to it live here:

So that’s it for my pop predications this week. Thanks for reading. Now I’m off to go buy some tail of newt from Tesco’s before they run out.

The Top 32 Songs of the First Quarter of 2014. PART 2

Hope you enjoyed the first installment of the top 32 of the first quarter of 2014. In part two join me as I count down the all important top 20 best songs of this year so far! Let’s dive straight in:

20)      Lily Allen – Air Balloon

Lily Allen - Air Balloon
Lily Allen – Air Balloon

Lily Allen’s recent lack of singles chart success has been baffling. Her ass-kicking gender equality tune Hard Out Here only managed to peak at a lowly 9 last year and Air Balloon has suffered a similar fate, with both singles dropping off the charts quickly. I could write a whole blog about this topic (and I might still, depending on the performance of Lily’s album Sheezus) but for now let your mind soar with the happy-clappy Air Balloon.

19)      Lorde – Team

Image

Lorde is beyond a shadow of a doubt the woman of the moment, having just bagged herself a Brit for Best International Female and another top 30 smash with Team. This woman can do no wrong at the minute and there’s no wonder with tunes of this calibre.

18)      Gorgon City – Ready for Your Love

Gorgon City - Ready for Your Love
Gorgon City – Ready for Your Love

This year so far has been all about house music and Gorgon City’s No.4 hit is a perfect example of this. The single features MNEK, a London born singer of Nigerian descent, who adds a touch of mystique to this suspenseful club smash.

 

17) Ellie Goulding – Goodness Gracious

Ellie Goulding - Goodness Gracious
Ellie Goulding – Goodness Gracious

This song is made a thousand times better by the psychedelic video which features Goulding with light up trainers in a dance off, which singlehandedly brightened up our January. The song isn’t half bad either.

16)      Katy B – Crying for No Reason

Katy B - Crying for No Reason
Katy B – Crying for No Reason

As mentioned in a previous post, this was the single which saved Katy B’s current album campaign and managed to become her third top 5 single. Crying for No Reason is flawlessly produced and Katy B’s brutal honesty would manage to break even the sternest of hearts. Make ‘em weep Katy.

15)      Molly – Children of the Universe

Molly Smitten-Downes - Children of the Universe
Molly Smitten-Downes – Children of the Universe

Something amazing happened this year. The BBC have actually put in a good song into Eurovision. Not a faded talent with a snoozer ballad, not a cheesy novelty act ridiculing the whole concept of Eurovision, but a young upcoming star with a powerful anthemic tune. Our betting odds haven’t been this low in years and some are even saying we’re in with a chance of winning. I’m keeping my fingers crossed but trying to not get my hopes up. See what you think of the UK’s Eurovision entry this year.

14)      Disclosure Feat. Mary J Blige – F For You

Disclosure Feat. Mary J Blige – F For You
Disclosure Feat. Mary J Blige – F For You

Disclosure have managed to have a top 30 hit with F For You on two separate occasions. The original version reached No. 20 last year and was the fourth single off their platinum selling (over 300,000 copies) chart topping album Settle. However, they resurrected the track earlier in 2014 with a feature from diva Mary J Blige who has somehow managed to make a good track even better by infusing it her signature soul drenched vocals. That hook should be illegal.

13)      Sam Smith – Money On My Mind

Sam Smith – Money On My Mind
Sam Smith – Money On My Mind

After winning both the BBC Sound of 2014 poll and the 2014 Critic’s Choice award chart earlier this year chart success was not far behind for the Hertfordshire-born singer. Indeed, he soon brought these predictions to life by bagging his first solo number one single Money on My Mind in February.  This won’t be the last you hear of him.

12)      Pharrell – Happy

Pharrell - Happy
Pharrell – Happy

Although it originally topped the charts in December I felt this funky retro ditty deserved a place in my top 20 as it managed to return to the top of the charts on two separate occasions this year and has gone on to sell well over a million copies in the UK alone. It’s not quite as good as the hype and the song has been played to death on the radio, but there is something special about this infectious clappy tune. Pharrell is just on fire lately.

11)      Pitbull Feat. Ke$ha –  Timber

Pitbull Feat. Ke$ha –  Timber
Pitbull Feat. Ke$ha – Timber

One of 2014’s undeniable monster hits. Ke$ha’s career had been going a bit south recently and she was in need of a good solid hit and relentless chart botherer Pitbull was happy to oblige, being the first to jump on the bandwagon of the new country EDM fusion which Avicii took straight to the top of the charts last year with Wake Me Up. On repeat listen however, the harmonica driven Timber is simply genius and the god-awful lyrics (I’ll have ‘em like Miley Cyrus/clothes off/twerking in their bras and thongs/Timber) just add to the party. Ke$ha’s country twang is perfect on the track as well.

10)      Shakira Feat. Rihanna – Can’t Remember to Forget You

Shakira Feat. Rihanna – Can’t Remember to Forget You
Shakira Feat. Rihanna – Can’t Remember to Forget You

Everyone loves a bit of Shak. Fact. Everyone loves a bit of RiRi. Fact. Sex sells. FACT! So when the two divas teamed up earlier this year and filmed a steamy, suggestive video the result was destined to be an absolute smash. When all the blatant commercialism is stripped away however, Can’t Remember to Forget You stands on its own merits. All credit to Shakira for experimenting with new sounds and not resorting to following the EDM trends. Who knew that ska could be in for 2014? Well clearly Shakira did.

9)      Kylie Minogue – Into the Blue

Kylie Minogue – Into the Blue
Kylie Minogue – Into the Blue

Sometimes the world is a cruel place. Sometimes bad things happen to good people. This is exactly what happened to Kylie’s latest majestic offering Into the Blue when it failed to make the top ten and became her one of her lowest peaking lead singles, bowing out at an embarrassing No. 12. Goodbye cruel world. There is no explanation for this harsh treatment either. The single is very straightforward and catchy and it received loads of promotion and airplay. How could it fail? But fail it did. Still, at least it reached top ten on one chart…even if it is just mine. I have high hopes for her next single the Pharrell produced I Was Gonna Cancel though. Never give up hope.

8)      Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’

Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’
Ace Wilder – Busy Doin’ Nothin’

This one probably won’t be familiar but it definitely deserves its place on my chart. It should by all rights be the representative for Sweden for Eurovision this year but, as previously mentioned, the world is a cruel place and it lost out by two points to Sanna Nielsen’s snoozefest Undo.  Ace is having the last laugh though as Busy Doin’ Nothin’ is currently on its 4th consecutive week on top of the Swedish singles charts while Undo is floundering at No.8. A slight reversal of the old saying “to the victor go the spoils”.

7)      Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J – Dark Horse

Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J– Dark Horse
Katy Perry Feat. Juicy J– Dark Horse

After the commercial failure of her last single Unconditionally Katy Perry was in need of another mega hit if she wanted to keep hold of her pop queen throne. Luckily, she still had a trick left up her Prismatic sleeve in the form Dark Horse, which more than lives up to its name. The track itself is a massive curveball by the Teenage Dream singer who isn’t usually one for musical experimentation, especially not with the trap music style found on Dark Horse. The song is all about suspense and mystery as the song builds and builds into the perfect storm. Yes, it doesn’t have a proper chorus, yes Juicy J’s rap is just as laughable as his name, but there is something magical about this inventive offering from Perry and like a true dark horse the track has come out on top, having become a chart smash worldwide.

6)      Emmelie de Forest – Rainmaker

Emmelie de Forest – Rainmaker
Emmelie de Forest – Rainmaker

Again this will probably be one you’re not familiar with, although the name of the singer might ring a bell. Emmelie de Forest is a Danish singer who rose to fame last year after winning Eurovision 2013 with the haunting wind driven Only Teardrops and she’s back this year with the official Eurovision 2014 song (the song isn’t actually competing but will be performed in the final in Copenhagen). Rainmaker itself could be plucked straight from The Lion King soundtrack, using African chanting and evoking the organic feel of Emmelie’s previous music. Very in keeping with Eurovision’s theme of unity. When asked to comment on the meaning of the song, the singer commented that “it’s about a tribe joining together to call upon the rainmaker to make their land blossom again…it’s about coming together and helping each other out”. (http://www.eurovision.tv/page/news?id=official_joinus_song_launched_penned_by_emmelie)

 

5)      Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You

Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You
Paloma Faith – Can’t Rely on You

One woman has been kicking serious ass this quarter with her surprisingly sassy Pharrell-produced comeback single Can’t Rely on You which peaked at number ten in February. Mainly a balladeer, it’s rare to see the London born chanteuse singing an upbeat track but boy have we been missing out. Who knew that Paloma could be the queen of vitriol, the sovereign of scorn, the empress of cattiness. Lord save the poor sod who did her wrong. And there’s even a cowbell to boot.  Here’s a video of Paloma Faith performing Can’t Rely on You in a kitchen. Someone even plays the saucepan….

4)      Beyoncé – Drunk In Love

Beyoncé – Drunk In Love
Beyoncé – Drunk In Love

Beyoncé showcased a new side to her with this trap-influenced depiction of female sexuality which served as the lead single to her self-titled fifth studio album. Queen B has certainly been on fire this year and the crowd is begging for more, with her records selling like nobody’s business. One thing is definitely true, after Drunk in Love nobody will ever look at surfboards in the same way ever again.

3)      Sophie Ellis Bextor – Young Blood

Sophie Ellis Bextor – Young Blood
Sophie Ellis Bextor – Young Blood

As mentioned earlier, the elegant Mademoiselle EB has recently been enjoying renewed success after turning her hand to beautifully crafted piano driven chamber music. It’s mostly due to this beautiful ode to her love for her husband, which serves as an antidote to the over sexualised pop songs which are currently dominating the charts. In this current climate songs like Young Blood are a breath of fresh air and Sophie EB deserves all the success she gets.

2)      Idina Menzel – Let It Go

Idina Menzel – Let It Go
Idina Menzel – Let It Go

This first quarter of 2014 one song has just been growing and growing in popularity, reaching its peak when it won an Academy Award for Best Original Song. It is of course the wickedly talented Adele Nazim (according to John Travolta https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3ff17im8RQ ) with her empowering anthem Let It Go. The soundtrack to this album has just spent its eighth week on top of the US album charts and has gone on to sell an impressive 1.8 million copies in that market alone. The film Frozen was a massive commercial success as well and several songs off the soundtrack have charted worldwide. There’s no denying this has been one of the runaway successes of 2014.

1)      Clean Bandit – Rather Be

Clean Bandit – Rather Be
Clean Bandit – Rather Be

However, one song has been dominating the UK charts this year spending 4 week at the top and selling an impressive 163,000 copies to become to fastest selling singles released in January since Babylon Zoo – Spaceman. The band came from nowhere with this quirky string dance number and haven’t looked back since. The song also holds the record for the most streams in one week on Spotify in the UK with 1.09 million plays, surpassing previous record holders Daft Punk with Get Lucky. It just goes to show that you can’t beat a mushy love song.

What a great first quarter it has been, so many great tunes. Here’s to the next 3 months of fantastic music. Hope you enjoyed this post and as always feel free to leave a comment. Thanks for reading.

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