NOBODY PANIC. WE’RE BACK.
Just like Taylor Swift, we’ve swooped in at the last minute to save you from your post-Christmas boredom with an official list of the best songs released in 2014.
These are actually the best of the best so everyone have a little respect, please. Some of these songs will make you cringe, laugh, cry and dance with joy. But isn’t that what pop music – and all music really in general – is supposed to do?
20. Chandelier – Sia
Sia, the perennial writer of amazing pop hits such as ‘Diamonds’ and ‘Titanium’, released her first solo album in years this year, but coupled it with a bizarre manifesto where she decreed she didn’t want to be famous after all and tackled life as a pop star by wearing a brown paper bag on her head and singing to a wall live. It was all a bit hypocritical to be perfectly honest with you, but her big breakout this year came with ‘Chandelier’ – a hypnotic and harrowing pop banger. A party song for the desolate and the depressed.
19. Bang Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj
This year, there was no popstar as omnipresent, annoying or self-indulgent than Jessie J, who on her quest for international superstardom and acclaim teamed up with the year’s biggest breakout popstar and best rapper in the game (sorry Iggy Iggz) for a veritable Lady Marmalade for modern times, which may have brought her momentary stardom but that album still under-performed even in the UK. As usual, J’s overbearing, over-singing influence set the OTT-tone from the off, but this is the kind of camp, pop blitzkrieg we can’t resist. Notice also, how Nicki manages to outshine both a desperate to impress Jessie J and an effortless Ariana with a quickfire, all guns blazing iconic rap.
18. Baby Don’t Lie – Gwen Stefani
OK, maybe our hopes were set quite high for a Gwen Stefani comeback. Back in the last decade, Stefani’s quick-burst solo career managed to be about as forward thinking as you can get with genuinely iconic tracks such as ‘What You Waiting For’, ‘Hollaback Girl’ and the criminally underrated ‘Cool’ and ‘Early Winter’. When Stefani signed up for a gig on the Voice USA, things were obviously going to happen. And then this appeared – a hypnotic burst of Rihanna-esque beats teamed with a genuinely horrible video. But still; 30% Gwen, 70% Rihanna, 100% amazing.
17. Out of the Woods – Taylor Swift
Moody. Pensive. Many words can be used to describe this tune – amazing is also one of them. Swift followed ‘Shake it Off’ (more to come on that later) with this decidedly new take on a sort-of love song in another display that she is, actually, the best popstar breathing.
16. Sledgehammer – Fifth Harmony
To be perfectly honest with you, we didn’t really ‘get’ Fifth Harmony, a girlband who were created by The X Factor USA, much like in the way One Direction were crafted here in UK. ‘Bo was ok but a little bit too, uh, ‘urban’ for the fresh-faced sirens to pull off convincingly. HOWEVER. This track then appeared, and we now get the point of Fifth Harmony – that they’re amazing. This is pure pop and a classic girl band banger. It was written by Meghan Trainor as well, but we won’t let that count against it.
15. Comeback – Ella Eyre
Despite having what probably is the best hair in pop right now, Ella Eyre has never really taken off in the way that her feature on Rudimental’s ‘Waiting All Night’ would have suggested. This seductive swear-fest, however, pushed her closer to her first Top 10 solo effort. But the swagger behind this track is immense. What a chorus.
14. First Love – Jennifer Lopez
JLO has ventured towards the dumper many times in her career, and the last time she very nearly got binned, she came bursting out of practically nowhere with ‘On The Floor’ i.e. her biggest hit in a decade. When the first – several – singles from her eighth (EIGHTH!) album, AKA, were ignored by mostly everyone, Jenny From The Block was swiftly sent to Swedish Pop God, Max Martin, and stormed back with this glorious creation. The very fact that it wasn’t very successful makes us want to cry a bit but not to worry.
13. Disappointed – Chloe Howl
Chloe Howl impressed last year with her brand of smart, spunky electro-pop, like a bright, ginger androgynous Lily Allen who wasn’t afraid to hang out her dirty laundry for all to see. For all her brilliance, however, this hasn’t quite transformed into the commercial success she’s probably hoping for. Howl’s fortunes were probably supposed to change with the release of this deliriously biting jam aiming straight for the commercial jugular but the success never materialised and the single was mysteriously pulled from pre-order a couple of weeks before its release. Baffling and sad, yes but still one of the best songs nearly released this year.
12. 2 On – Tinashe feat. Schoolboy Q
Former girl-band member Tinashe hit the mainstream this year after a few tastemaker-y mixtapes and her big breakout came with this delirious ode to getting absolutely cream crackered – the anti-‘Chandelier’, if you will. With a DJ Mustard beat and the most seductive pop voice we’ve heard in years, Tinashe crafts a tune that doesn’t just celebrate its excess, it revels in it.
11. Problem – Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea
Human cupcake Ariana Grande’s metamorphosis from minor Nickelodeon actress, to throwback R&B crooner and then to chart-conquering pop princess has taken just about 12 months to un-fold. Grande did the real leg-work at the start of this year, however, turning out this alarmingly brilliant bonkers pop triumph – courtesy of Max Martin, who has been involved in practically 85% of good pop songs this year – complete with wailing verses, saxophone sample and a Big Sean whisper instead of a proper chorus. Pack in Iggy’s star-making verse and you have yourself the literal song of the summer.
10. On My Way – Lea Michele
Lea Michele’s first pop album was supposed to be a big deal. Making her move when Glee is winding down to a painful end was a smart move, but the release of the Sia-penned ‘Cannonball’ wasn’t; coming off as a cheap shot of cashing in on Cory Monteith’s tragic death. However, this – the second single from her album Louder – is a complete masterpiece, with one of the best choruses of the year and more energy than you could run a small town off. It deserved to conquer charts all over the world and make Lea a proper popstar (for once she doesn’t sound like a Broadway singer on it) but it wasn’t mean to be. So now you can enjoy this song, knowing that you’re one of the few to know of its existence.
9. Little White Lies – Florrie
Florrie is quite literally amazing. First making her name as a drummer for Girls Aloud’s main producers, pop behemoths Xenomania, Florrie quickly branched out into pop herself and released several brilliant indie-EPs, before signing a major label deal with Warner Brothers. Her quirky experimental Sirens EP started the year off (‘Seashells’ was amazing) but it was this banger that quickly placed Florrie up in the ranks of the most promising pop artist for next year. This is a wistfully melancholic dance number that brings you down only to bring you straight back up again. PS. Florrie, you have a literally perfect song banging about on the internet called ‘Looking For Love’.You may recognise that name. This song is amazing and should be release immediately or as soon as humanely possible. Thank you.
8. OctaHate – Ryn Weaver
This pulsating, hypnotic gem was popped up on Soundcloud in the summer and racked up a million plays in a week. No-one was really sure who Ryn Weaver was, but former Dr. Luke protege Benny Blanco produced it, and Charli XCX had a hand in writing it. It all turned out that Ryn Weaver was basically a friend of Blanco’s and he helped her become a popstar quite easily. This is a deeply odd and insanely addictive ode to a rotten relationship and we love it. Top points for the way Ryn says ‘shot me down’ as well.
7. Beloved – Say Lou Lou
This is an absolute dream of a song from Say Lou Lou. Technically it was released late in 2013 but we’ve let it in because it is a truly remarkable piece of pop and really, what other reason do you need.
6. All About You – Hilary Duff
Hilary Duff’s pop comeback stalled majorly with the release of dorky and clunky ‘Chasing The Sun’, and everyone kind of lost interest pretty quickly from there. If she had released this as the first single, however, everyone would have gone nuts. If Taylor had, in an alternate universe, recorded this, it would have been number one for a month.
5. I Will Never Let You Down – Rita Ora
This was the promising start to what should have been Rita Ora’s world-mauling second album, but after briefly returning in a blaze of glory (get that fourth number one single gurl), Ora split from Calvin Harris – who it was rumoured produced several tracks from her album – and it all went a bit messy from there. No matter what though, this is a triumph of monumental proportions and proves that Rita really can be a sensational pop-star when she wants to be.
4. Break Free – Ariana Grande feat. Zedd
This is, to put it quite simply, one of the most accomplished dance-pop tracks of the entire decade. Taking what innovators like Lady Gaga and Ke$ha did and running with it to another galaxy. This should have been Grande’s chart-topping single both here and in the US, but as always people were stupid and bought ‘All About That Bass’ instead.
3. Boom Clap – Charli XCX
Charli XCX has been around for years as a goth-pop alternative figure, a popstar for the cool kids. Some accuse her of selling out for a quick commercial smash by turning her sound way more pop, but the true mark of a cool kid is making pop music cool once more and making it look so bloody easy it’s enviable.
2. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift
For some reason, people keep banging on about ‘Blank Space’ being the best song on Taylor’s new album but they are wrong. ‘Style’ is actually the best song but that hasn’t been released as a single yet (YET) so for now this will have to do. ‘Shake it Off’ laid the groundwork for Taylor to become the biggest popstar in the world and it’s an effortless shift from the country-pop songs of Taylor’s past.
The chorus is noticeably vapid and repetitive, but that’s exactly the point. That’s what the haters are. This what we like to call an Instant Hit – from the first listen we were so intently hooked we didn’t do anything for days other than listen to this song, even though we were actually on holiday at the time. The amazingness of this song will still stand when the Earth is essentially dust and will forever be entered into the halls of Proper Timeless Classics. This was Taylor making her mark as a pop tour de force to be reckoned with, and she shook off the competition with ease. Magical stuff.
1. Ghost – Ella Henderson
When she was on the X Factor, Ella Henderson had an obvious and stellar talent – especially for one so young – but she didn’t really scream ‘popstar’, and we really feared then when she did return, it would basically be as an Adele tribute act. Not to worry, though. With a little help from Ryan Tedder, the best chorus and music video of the year, as well as an iconic red dress in said music video, Ella Henderson exploded onto the pop scene with ‘Ghost’, a euphoric, haunting banger set to Ryan Tedder’s signature Americana beats.
It’s not just the best single released this year; it’s genuinely one of the greatest pop debut of the last millennium or so.
There were a lot of things we liked about ‘Ghost’ instantly upon listening to it – the way it defied your expectation by being 200% more of a banger than you were thinking, the True Detective-esque video with iconic ‘strut down the street in a red dress’ scene, as well as the best chorus of the year.
Actually, you know what, not just the best chorus of the year but one of the best choruses we’ve come across in the new millennium.
It’s completely euphoric, bonkers, addictive and instantly iconic. ‘Ghost’ left every other single eating its dust when it was released and they’ll still be playing catch-up for a very long time.
Related Article: 2014: The 40 Singles of the Year: 40 – 21