Thursday, December 25, 2014

Best of 2014

As we wrap up another year, it's time to look back at my favourite songs of 2014. Only the Top 5 songs are ranked in order, the rest are just songs that I liked. Without further ado, here we go!

1. Rather Be - Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne
I first heard this song while I was driving on a road trip in Iceland and Scotland, tuned in to BBC Radio 1 and they kept playing this song. It was a breath of fresh air, with the violins and electro drums beats, combined with a super catchy chorus provided by the vocals of Jess Glynne. It's unlike anything I've heard this year. It's warrants repeat listening and I could never get tired of it. Easily my favourite song of the year.

2. Stay With Me - Sam Smith
Sam Smith is the breakout artist of 2014 and deservedly so. His debut album, In The Lonely Hour, is a solid collection of soulful ballads and tunes. It also contains several other hits that I love very much, including the current single, I'm Not The Only One. My friend VW recommended the album to me, and he told me that Sam Smith is the male version of Adele. Quite a good comparison. Thanks VW for that. Stay With Me has received Grammy nominations for Record and Song of the Year, and I sure hope he wins them.

3. All Of Me - John Legend
John Legend is no newbie in the business, having first burst onto the scene in 2004 with his breakout hit Ordinary People. Since then, he has released four albums and won nine Grammy Awards. Not a bad showing. However, with the release of All Of Me, he has scored his biggest hit in his career, and the song has been ubiquitous and inescapable. It's great that piano ballads can still receive heavy airplay and command the upper reaches of the charts (see Adele's Someone Like You and Bruno Mars' When I Was Your Man). All Of Me is a worthy addition to the list and I'm happy that an old school R&B artist like John Legend is still achieving success 10 years after his debut.

4. Ain't It Fun - Paramore
I really loved Still Into You from Paramore's 2013 self-titled album, and that was one of my favourite songs last year. Ain't It Fun didn't grab me immediately but it grew and grew and became Paramore's first Top 10 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at number 10. Following the departures of brothers Josh and Zac Farro in December 2010, Paramore regrouped and came back stronger than ever, and their self-titled fourth album sees them returning in fine form. They have retained their signature sound and Ain't It Fun is one of the highlights on the album. Great fun.

5. A Sky Full Of Stars - Coldplay
This is quite a surprising entry at #5 because I wasn't too fond of Coldplay's latest album, Ghost Stories. I shuddered when I first learned that Avicii had produced this song, and when I first heard it, I bemoaned the fact that Coldplay had sold out and gone EDM. Coldplay are one of the most commercially successful rock bands left today, and after churning out five hit albums of a similar nature, they decided to try something different for this sixth album, and the results are mixed, at best. But A Sky Full Of Stars stands out as one of the best moments on the album, and its soaring chorus is rousing and uplifting. It's a break from the mould, but overall, a successful one.

The rest of the songs that made the list are:

Slave To The Rhythm - Michael Jackson
It was a toss up between Slave To The Rhythm and Love Never Felt So Good, but ultimately, the former made the list because it makes me wanna dance. MJ's vocals are top notch here and full of energy. I think he would have been pleased with this updated version by Timbaland.

Settle Down - The 1975
This was one song that my travel buddy IJ and I really enjoyed during our road trip in Europe earlier this year and we turned it up every time it got played on BBC Radio 1. The guitar riff is simple but killer.

Hey Brother - Avicii
Another favourite from BBC Radio 1 during the road trip travels. Credit to IJ for spotting this song. Not quite Wake Me Up, but almost as good.

Shake It Off - Taylor Swift
Never been a fan of Taylor Swift but you can't deny that she's good, and this song is super catchy it reminded me of Avril Lavigne the first time I heard it.

All About That Bass - Meghan Trainor
Another breakout hit that was everywhere this year. I love the old school sound, the bassline and the "shoo wah wah" harmonies.

Thinking Out Loud - Ed Sheeran
What a year this ginger-haired lad has had! So proud of the success he has achieved. His debut album, +, is one that I listen to every time I'm on a plane or train overseas, and one of my favourite in recent years. His follow-up, x, is slightly less perfect than its predecessor, but it contained many gems. Thinking Out Loud is one of the best songs and a deserving #1 single. I especially love the music video.

Chandelier - Sia
Such an epic song, with a powerful vocal performance by Sia. Titanium was my favourite song of 2012 so I've always had a soft spot for this talented vocalist. Her voice is emotive and packs a punch. The song is a contender for Record and Song of the Year. If Sam Smith doesn't win them both, I don't mind Sia picking up one of them.

Am I Wrong - Nico & Vinz
I actually don't know anything about this Norwegian duo, but I've heard this song on heavy rotation on radio and I liked it immediately. It sounds a little like Sting, and it's a great pop song.

Say Something - A Great Big World & Christina Aguilera
This is soppy, kitschy and should fail by all accounts, but it works and tugs at your heartstrings. The addition of Christina Aguilera is a masterstroke and she delivers a restrained and vulnerable performance, keeping her powerful pipes in check.

Word Crimes - Weird Al Yankovic
2014 has been a great year for Weird Al, with his 14th studio album, Mandatory Fun, becoming his first #1 album on Billboard 200 chart. Always a master of words, he gives us a crash course on grammar in 3 minutes and 45 seconds, in this parody of Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines. He hasn't lost his touch after all these years. A must listen.

Problem - Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea
Another one of the inescapable songs this year, Problem is pop and hip-hop at its best. The sound is very 2014, but I have a feeling it won't hold up well when I listen to it again five years from now.

This Is How We Do - Katy Perry
Katy Perry's third album, Prism, didn't catch fire quite as much as Teenage Dream did. It was still successful but not as world-conquering as she would have hoped. The album did contain many hits, but they were just Top 10 hits, not #1 hits. By Katy's standards, it's considered an underachievement. Hope she bounces back with her next album. Having said that, I really like this music video very much. And the song is pretty good too.

And that's a wrap for 2014! Hope 2015 will be another smashing year for music!