Well, here it is. An end of year countdown as close to the end of the year as is feasible, I guess. I went with “single” in the strict sense to narrow this down, because otherwise the selection would have overwhelmed me and I wouldn’t have come up with anything. Before you read ahead you may as well know that I didn’t like ‘Chandelier’ and it’s not on this list, at all. Part 2 coming tomorrow!
50. MAGIC! – ‘RUDE’
I know everyone hates this, but I’m really just not the type of person who argues with a hookline like “why you gotta be so rude?” It’s catchy and silly, and it’s supremely boring when everyone starts taking the traditional element of the proposal seriously like marriage itself isn’t merely a glorified tradition equally as antiquated and absurd as a concept.
49. KIESZA – ‘HIDEAWAY’
Despite being highly undanceable for a dance song, ‘Hideaway’ blew my mind when I first heard it at the beginning of the year and I still get mildly excited when I hear it’s sparse, plodding intro now before Kiesza’s crisp voice breaks over the top of it.
48. KACEY MUSGRAVES – ‘THE TRAILER SONG’
Full disclosure, I mainly like Kacey Musgraves because she’s been Katy Perry approved, but she’s also a highly capable songwriter with crafty, amusing (and sometimes heartrending) lyrics. ‘The Trailer Song’, released as a one off earlier this year, falls into the crafty and amusing category, telling the story of a nosey neighbour who needs to mind her business.
47. JESSIE WARE – ‘SAY YOU LOVE ME’
I have good associations with Jessie Ware’s music because I spent most of her iTunes Festival gig making out with a cute boy, but this song came before that and really it’s just lush in that bone-aching desperate way. And that breakdown in the final minute! Jessie Ware is basically Sam Smith but with a more textured voice and nuanced discography. I hope she snatches his wig in the next couple of years, because she deserves it far more than he does, and this track didn’t even make the top 20. Disgusting.
46. THE TING TINGS – ‘WRONG CLUB’
The fact that this wasn’t a big hit for The Ting Tings makes me so sad, because it’s miles better than anything they charted back in their heyday. Who knew they were capable of creating such a shimmery supernova of a Sad Pop song?
45. LEIGHTON MEESTER – ‘HEARTSTRINGS’
Getting music from Leighton Meester at all was a blessing, never mind getting music like this. “I tie my heartstrings off” is such a strong metaphor. Evocative, mellow and well worth the goddamn wait.
44. TROYE SIVAN – ‘HAPPY LITTLE PILL’
99% of YouTubers are fucking dreadful and 99.9% of their output outside of vlogging (whether that be novel writing, music or tv presenting) is even more fucking dreadful so what a surprise when Troye Sivan dropped this syrupy gloop of haze-pop onto the internet. It’s a fuzzy, blue-tinted and slurry tune about loneliness, capitalism and self-medication I guess. I don’t know a single big-city dweller who couldn’t relate to this track in some way, shape or form.
43. GWEN STEFANI – ‘BABY DON’T LIE’
There was no instant Gwen magic apparent when ‘Baby Don’t Lie’ dropped, but it has definitely grown on me to the point that I think it’s better than seven other songs on this list and countless others I didn’t rank. It sounds like the halfway point between No Doubt-Gwen and Harujuku Lover-Gwen, the drums are the momentum.
42. FLORRIE – ‘LITTLE WHITE LIES’
There has been so much Florrie music released over the past four years, but ‘Little White Lies’ marked a transition point from “developing artist” to “developed artist”. Of course all good popstars are in a constant state of, if not evolution, at the very least metamorphosis, but ‘Little White Lies’ is a great underline of what Florrie’s output so far has culminated in.
41. THE VAMPS – ‘LAST NIGHT’
A straight up jam about partying all night and not remembering what the hell went down the next morning, but because The Vamps have a young audience and they play guitars it’s no more hardcore than “we swilled too many E numbers and held hands with a girl from another school”. Sugary pop done extremely well.
40. JHENE AIKO – ‘TO LOVE & DIE’ feat. COCAINE 80S
Jhene Aiko’s voice is so sweet. SO sweet. Even when her beats are almost sinister, her voice is a perfect counterpoint – really clear and melodic. It works exceptionally well on ‘To Love & Die’, there’s some serious “light and shade” going on. One of my favourite artists of the year.
39. X AMBASSADORS & JAMIE N COMMONS – ‘JUNGLE’ REMIX feat. JAY Z
Jay Z is at his most relaxed and off-hand on this celebratory World Cup track. His flow is so loose and easy it makes me feel a bit weird to listen to it – it’s like yoga for the mind. In the event that you even manage to get past Jigga’s opening to this track (I can’t, I rewind it every time), it’s all thudding beats and rasping vocals. Real “roll your neck around and get pumped” shit.
38. SLEIGH BELLS – ‘THAT DID IT’ feat. TINK
This track apparently started life as an unfinished beat called ‘Infinite Power’ before Tink came in and put her magic on it. It’s unpredictable in true Sleigh Bells style but less crashing and noisy, with Tink on an opening verse that hits Busta Rhymes speeds. Fun fact: I took my brother to see Sleigh Bells for his birthday, but did not survive the mosh pit. After the show, Alexis Krauss told me she liked my outfit. What a babe.
37. ONE DIRECTION – ‘STEAL MY GIRL’
I’ve had my 1D branded pom poms shaking ever since they were on The X Factor, but this has not been a vintage year for the band. ‘Steal My Girl’ is a fun lead single, but other than the truly outstanding falsetto from angel-on-earth Zayn Malik, it’s kinda weaksauce compared to gems like ‘Kiss You’ or ‘Best Song Ever’. Still… Zayn’s falsetto though. You’re feeling that in your swimsuit area, ain’t cha.
36. NICK JONAS – ‘JEALOUS’
I began compiling this ranking ahead of the release of the Tinashe remix of this track, or perhaps it may have earned a higher position. As it stands, this is still a really excellent little slice of R&B slow jam pop from an incredibly unlikely source. I actually prefer my Nick Jonas with The Administration, on more of a funk vibe, but he’s approached his new direction (more than a little stolen from his older brother Joe’s foray into solo territory) with full commitment and ‘Jealous’ proves that Nick Jonas is the male popstar we need right now.
35. MICHAEL JACKSON & JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE – ‘LOVE NEVER FELT SO GOOD’
As you’ll see once my album countdown gets going, I found Xscape to be a real triumph given the circumstances, though I’m unsure whether this song was the best lead single or if Justin’s vocal lends anything special to proceedings. In fact, I played this song for my brother for the first time a few months ago and as Justin came in he physically winced and commented on how weak his voice sounds next to Michael’s. Still, it was so nice to have great MJ music again and this track has a real swing to it that makes my fingers snap.
34. BRANDYN BURNETTE – ‘THANKS FOR NOTHING’
By rights, Brandyn Burnette should have been the male Carly Rae Jepsen for 2014 and ‘Thanks For Nothing’ would have seen to it that ‘All About That Bass’ never happened. A bittersweet break up song that promises you’re doing just fine now it’s over, it’s the best thing that ever happened to you, you’re actually grateful to be done with that relationship… only every single syllable uttered is dripping with wounded pride, misery and emptiness. This is a kiss off, Jesse Pinkman style. Can’t hide those feels, bro. After this song plays you’re gonna cry, drink a whole bottle of wine and then drunk text your ex. Guarantee. Bitch.
33. BUSTA RHYMES – ‘CALM DOWN’ feat. EMINEM
Tongue-twisted headfuck from start to finish. Busta crams the syllables in and Eminem is as offensive as ever, but the ‘Jump Around’ sample is my fave sample of the year that isn’t ‘Anaconda’ sampling ‘Baby Got Back’. Hmmmm, two 1992 hit hip hop tracks being sampled in one year? Is that a trend?
32. MAROON 5 – ‘MAPS’
I liked this a lot to begin with, but I liked it a lot more having seen Maroon 5 at the Roundhouse this year. It has a lot more energy in a live setting, the drums get heavier and the guitars go harder. The best lead single from Maroon 5 since ‘Makes Me Wonder’. We’ll just forget Adam’s peroxide-blond hair.
31. NICKI MINAJ – ‘ANACONDA’
From the Sir Mix-A-Lot sample to the utterly deranged outro, ‘Anaconda’ is an absolute top to bottom (badoom tish!) trip. Nicki’s silliest, most club-ready offering since ‘Starships’, my absolute favourite part is the Crazy Frog nod when she “pulls up in the Jag”. My anaconda DO.
30. JENNIFER LOPEZ – ‘FIRST LOVE’
The best chorus of the year? Quite possibly. This song is so sparkling and fizzy, champagne pop through and through. J.Lo promoted the fuck out of it (some of the live performances are fucking spectacular) but it failed to take off. And then that shit show ‘Booty’ came along. In general A.K.A. was a terrible record, but I’ll always be grateful to the era for this track.
29. BROOKE CANDY – ‘OPULENCE’
If you’re looking for a white girl rapper that can rap almost worth a damn, turn up for Brooke Candy instead. ‘Opulence’ is like a trashier ‘Fancy’, the beat goes harder and that accent is authentic, it was written by Sia and Diplo and the video was styled by former Lady Gaga henchmen Nicola Formichetti and Steven Klein. The rest of the EP that ‘Opulence’ was taken from is worth a listen too, get your ears around ‘Pop Rock’.
28. MNEK – ‘EVERY LITTLE WORD’
Of the two tracks MNEK released this year, I preferred ‘Every Little Word’ and it’s unquestionable, undeniable hookline – “do you fuck to this shit?” The throwback 90s beats sound current and fresh and the track swells from casual minimal production to a real belter by the second chorus. In a world where MNEK was still in the habit of giving away his good shit, this would have made an excellent Sam Sparro single.
27. G.R.L. – ‘UGLY HEART’
This song might have featured much higher were it not for the fact that I find it almost impossible to listen to after band member Simone Battle committed suicide in the week it was charting. I ignored that sad little twist in my stomach to refresh my mind and write this review and, really, it’s such an incredible song. Little bit hoedown, little bit club anthem, whole load of sass.
26. MIKE WILL MADE-IT – ‘23’ feat. MILEY CYRUS, WIZ KHALIFA & JUICY J
Miley has literally no flow, but it works on this track somehow. It seems like “in da club” tracks are totally out of vogue at the moment, but ’23’ is an example of how they can still work if done well. The beat kinda sounds like a siren and lends itself to the drunken shoulder shrug and gun fingers dance that hits around 12.45am or after your fifth double, whichever comes first. “In the club, high off purp with some shades on” is exactly how I imagine a night out with Miley would go, by the way.