Here we are then, the 25 songs I thought were the best songs of 2014. Or not even that I thought they were the best, I just liked them the most. I don’t think there’s really any surprises, except obviously there’s no Sia still. Or Ella Henderson. Soz.
25. KENDRICK LAMAR – ‘i’
It took me a hot minute to get used to Kendrick like this, but ultimately if your hook is “I LOVE MYSELF” it’s not gonna be all that long before I get on board. It’s been quiet since, so who knows what ‘i’ indicates about Kendrick’s upcoming album, but if this self-esteem blueprint Kanye vibe is what he’s going for, I’m not opposed.
24. PRINCE & 3RDEYEGIRL – ‘PRETZELBODYLOGIC’
This year was a difficult year for me, but the opportunity to a) see Prince b) wear a raspberry beret to see Prince and c) have him sing ‘Raspberry Beret’ while I was there wearing one will always be a little pool of light in what was mostly a dark, dark abyss of shit. I also experienced the full force of Prince & 3RDEYEGIRL in the flesh and seriously, they’re like a roided up Haim. They outplay every single male artist I can think of, including Prince. ‘PRETZELBODYLOGIC’ is a sexy, funky rock number that makes for excellent strutting-on-the-commute music.
23. RIXTON – ‘WAIT ON ME’
As I have mentioned on this blog before, there was always something mental that kept me from enjoying Rixton, but freed from those constraints I felt super relaxed about playing this song a lot. Like, a lot a lot. I much prefer this to ‘Me And My Broken Heart’ which aside from the obvious plagiarism that would have made even Lady Gaga blush, doesn’t dip and roll the way ‘Wait On Me’ does. You can dance to this.
22. YOUNG MONEY / NICKI MINAJ – ‘LOOKIN’ ASS’
Goddamn, Nicki, goddamn. Showcasing the type of genius she first put down on tracks like ‘Itty Bitty Piggy’, ‘ or her wigsnatching turn on ‘Monster’, Nicki emasculates the entire world in under 3 minutes. ‘Lookin’ Ass’ is brutal, the way Nicki hasn’t been for a long time since she commercialised, but it is so comfortably her lane that she should drive in it more often.
21. PAOLO NUTINI – ‘FUNK MY LIFE UP’
How was I to know Paolo would come around and funk my life up? I mean, I literally could not have predicted this. I found his last album a weird, uncomfortable listen (seriously, what was that accent!?!) and I don’t fancy him all the much which as we all know is pretty integral to my enjoyment of a popstar, so the rapidity with which I became obsessed with this track was a shock to my system. It’s great though, like a mild appetiser before that other big funk song of the year…
20. NEON JUNGLE – ‘BRAVEHEART’
Neon Jungle are a real dud of a girlband – no personalities, don’t dance, flop album – but this song was a real flash of brilliance if you ignore the bad rapping towards the end. The pre-chorus (for this is one of those tracks with an annoying instrumental chorus) is big and epic and the drop is far from disappointing. The best part, of course, is Asami (the only member of the band I can name) and her spoken word “ichi, ni, san… kaesu!” which apparently means “1, 2, 3… bring it back!” in Japanese. Adorable.
19. LABRINTH – ‘LET IT BE’
A strong, organic comeback song from Labrinth that didn’t have the mental production of ‘Earthquake’ but the blueprints were still all there.
18. CODY SIMPSON – ‘SURFBOARD’
Look, all I’m gonna say about this is that it’s 3 different songs spliced together and all 3 of those songs are great. The surfy bit of the verses (obviously), the smooth pop sweetness of the bridge and the hip hop vibes of the hook. Cody Simpson saw a meme and he ran with it. Ran with it all the way into the ocean and came back on this wave of awesome melody. Not even a little bit sorry for loving this.
17. FERRAS – ‘LEGENDS NEVER DIE’ feat. KATY PERRY
This song is better than almost everything on the Prism album, and begs the question: “why wasn’t it released with Katy as the lead artist and Ferras as the feature?” The first signing to Katy’s Metamorphosis record label, Ferras is an old friend of hers and this is not the first time they’ve collaborated (check out 2008’s ‘Rush’). With time and experience comes magic and this is a really sweeping piano ballad that’s melancholy but uplifting all at the same time.
16. YEARS & YEARS – ‘DESIRE’
Eagle-eying other end of year lists and most people rated ‘Take Shelter’ which is of course, fabulous, but for me was completely overshadowed by the devastatingly amazing cover of Blu Cantrell & Sean Paul’s 2003 hit ‘Breathe’ which served as the b-side. ‘Desire’ stands in its own right as a gorgeous synthy, sexy song, and Years & Years are so poised to be my everything of 2015.
15. USHER – ‘SHE CAME TO GIVE IT TO YOU’ feat. NICKI MINAJ
Remember when this kinda average ‘Express Yourself’/’Dub Be Good To Me’ hybrid Usher track completely infiltrated my brain due entirely to Nicki’s outstanding feature? There were a couple of weeks back in September where between this and ‘Touchin, Lovin’ by Trey Songz, the only music I listened to was just over a minute total of Nicki rapping. How did this song rank so highly when I just described it as “kinda average”? The power of Nicki, my friends.
14. 5 SECONDS OF SUMMER – ‘SHE LOOKS SO PERFECT’
In much the same way as ‘Rude’ by MAGIC! I was enamoured with this song mainly for its visceral hookline and also the line about making a mixtape straight out of ’94. As moon-eyed boyband love songs go, it’s actually kinda fantastic. All the cliches seem new, those recycled Blink-182 chords sound fresh, and I know now that I’m so down.
13. MICHELLE WILLIAMS – ‘SAY YES’ feat. BEYONCÉ & KELLY ROWLAND
This technical Destiny’s Child reunion is all the proof you will ever need that if He exists, God truly is good. Not since Mary Mary has worship sounded so rapturous. The beat says drop it low but the melody says raise your hands to the heavens. I also love the subtle “fuck you” to every other world religion out there. “When Jesus say yes, nobody can say no…” “What about, Allah?” “Who?”
12. MARK RONSON – ‘UPTOWN FUNK’ feat. BRUNO MARS
This was 100% a top 10 for me until Queen Fleur East’s X Factor rendition made me realise it is 100% improved when sung by a woman. It’s still a 10/10 song though, like the souls of James Brown and Michael Jackson channeled through Prince and then performed by his best impersonator. I don’t have much of a grudge against Bruno “Basic” Mars anymore, but good lord he’s got no style of his own, has he? A woman would never get away with this. Right, Gaga?
11. DANITY KANE – ‘LEMONADE’ feat. TYGA
Oh, Danity Kane, we barely knew ye the second or third or however many times around, before you got all trashy and started beating on each other and now we’ll never have what we deserve… Sigh. Still, for a little while, the future was bright for fans of decent girlbands (as opposed to fans of any old fucking girlband, it doesn’t matter, as long as it’s a girlband) because Danity Kane were together again and raining down excellence. ‘Lemonade’ was the first official release and it’s such a solid gold jam, like 4 genres rolled into one song, incredible vocals… Just pop perfection.
10. JENNIFER LOPEZ – ‘I LUH YA PAPI’ feat. FRENCH MONTANA
The only artist on this list to feature more than once in their own right and not as a feature, ‘I Luh Ya Papi’ was the summer anthem that never was. Perhaps it was released too early. Either way, it’s a bop from beginning to end, as “J-J.Lo from th-th-the Block” gets elastic with her syllables and drops consonants here and there like an exceptionally clumsy Carol Vorderman. Can’t dance to the chorus without tapping your weave, can’t dance to the verses without pulling stank-faces. French Montana puts in a verse on the middle 8 and is not as good as Pitbull, how about that.
9. ICONA POP – ‘GET LOST’
I overdosed on Icona Pop this year with the number of times I saw them on the Katy Perry tour, but it was like a good overdose, you know? They’re just so incredibly fun and ‘Get Lost’ is another exceptional continuation of their personal brand of YOLO. ‘Get Lost’ makes me want to drive all night, leave the fucked up world behind, crash my car into a bridge… okay I’m confusing the songs now but you get the picture. Mostly, it makes me wanna pogo until I vomit. It’s so bouncy.
8. BECKY HILL – ‘LOSING’
Who even is Becky Hill? Where did she come from? Well, ostensibly, The Voice but I don’t watch this show so to me she’s like brand new and awesome. This song was released to the sound of zero people giving a flying fuck but it’s Amazing. Capital “A”, Amazing. Oh yeah, that’s that MNEK magic.
7. RITA ORA – ‘I WILL NEVER LET YOU DOWN’
For one month of this year, Rita Ora, the popstar everyone loves to hate because she’s averagely talented and fucks around (hmm, sounds like someone else I know that y’all worship…), was in large part if not worshipped at the very least appreciated by everyone en masse. A rare feat. The thing is that ‘I Will Never Let You Down’ is such a euphoric pop banger that it’s kind of impossible to hold anything against her. Calvin Harris is so tried and tested nowadays and I’ve not enjoyed anything he’s been behind in a long time, but he smacked it out of the park with this one. Shame about all the shit that went down afterwards…
6. ALLIE X – ‘CATCH’
Oh my god, what don’t I love about this song? Nothing. There is nothing I don’t love. It’s so exactly my vibe – electropop, female artist, got a bit of poison in the aftertaste to it… What I love most about ‘Catch’ is the literally breathless way the chorus is delivered. “Wait until I catch my breath…” Allie threatens. And she’s actually breathless. I see what she did there. This song got so under my skin. I love it.
5. JESSIE J, ARIANA GRANDE & NICKI MINAJ – ‘BANG BANG’
From the second this collaboration was announced everyone was pretty assured that it would be excellent and Jessie, Ariana and Nicki did not disappoint. A forceful, brassy slut-bop taken as high as possible by objectively the three most talented women to hit pop music this side of 2005. Jessie just manages to outshine Ariana – despite restraint being neither of their forte, Jessie at least knows how to enunciate her words – but Nicki, of course, shuts them both down, spitting rapid fire on the middle 8 before signing off with a coquettish “hey…” At this quality, more female collaborations for 2015 please, pop gods.
4. SIGMA – ‘CHANGING’ feat. PALOMA FAITH
I was in love with this song, no hesitation, from the first play. It’s kinda biblical, or, I don’t know, it feels a lot like going to church anyway. Might be the choral “ooohs” that it opens with. I’m not usually one for faceless dance tunes, even when the face is Paloma Faith’s very recognisable one, because I just feel no connect, but ‘Changing’ is electrifying.
3. ELLA EYRE – ‘COMEBACK’
More injustice for UK female artists, as this failed to make the UK Top 10 due to the new streaming rules, even though by rights it should have been a #1. It’s totally savage, totally bitter but weirdly triumphant. I love the drum crashes in the chorus and the way it all builds back up after the middle 8. If it wasn’t for the next two songs, it would totally have been my song of the year.
2. NICOLE SCHERZINGER – ‘YOUR LOVE’
My most played song of all time since I reset all my playcounts two years ago, ‘Your Love’ kind of took over my life when it was first released, and for months afterwards. I don’t know if it’s the guitar, or the pacey drums or the “dooooo roo-doo-doo-doo-doo doooooo” or what it is about it that I’m so obsessed with but I just think it’s a flawless earworm. The final 40 seconds where it all drops out and then comes back in and goes mental again is my favourite part, probably. After all the other things I’ve mentioned. I just love it all.
1. TINASHE – ‘2 ON’ feat. SCHOOLBOY Q
Mustard on the beat, yo. Tinashe gives all that she’s got for just shy of 4 minutes on this, the track I have declared to be the song of the year. The fact that this was released at the top end of January and endured to be as exciting and new on each play right down to the very tail of December is a testament to its quality. I got a bit misty eyed about ‘2 On’ when I was listening to it the other day, so here are those tweets reproduced as opposed to me writing out a whole new review.
sometimes 2 On is 2 Much, like in this year of fucking shitty music I feel oppressed and overwhelmed by its greatness — pineApplehead (@oneofthosefaces) December 19, 2014
I listen to it and I’m suffocated to tears by inability to comprehend or vocalise how much I like it. — pineApplehead (@oneofthosefaces) December 19, 2014
like the beat and the hook and everything is fire then ScHoolboy Q drops that dirt nasty verse then the Sean Paul interpolation and I choke — pineApplehead (@oneofthosefaces) December 19, 2014
2 “Much” On. — pineApplehead (@oneofthosefaces) December 19, 2014
As a bonus, here is an interview with Queen Tinashe from earlier in the year with questions by yours truly.