Apologies for the delay in releasing this list…life just continues to get away from me and distract me from the few things I want to complete for myself. This list has been formed for a month, but it evolved at least five times over two weeks, and then it sat for another three weeks. I made one last change about three minutes ago, and now it’s unleashed. Let’s be honest…my list or really anyone’s individual list doesn’t change anyone’s opinion who already has an opinion. If nothing else, this list for me is a chronicle of the songs that resonated in one form or another at some point in the past twelve months. A few points of housekeeping:
- I only feature one song per artist per year, although features don’t count. That was important this year, as at least one artist would have had three songs charted (you’ll find him at the bottom of this post).
- Chart positions are for the Billboard Hot 100 except where noted.
- If you haven’t noticed already, PMN is about more than just pop, but this is a personal, partial list and is not meant to be definitive.
Here we go…
50. Golden (feat. Stevie Nicks)/Lady Antebellum (#50 US Country)
49. I Was Gonna Cancel/Kylie Minogue (#5 US Dance)
48. Me and My Broken Heart/Rixton (#14 US)
47. Sleeping With a Friend/Neon Trees (#51 US)
46. The Way I’m Livin’/Lee Ann Womack (Not charted in US)
45. Shut Up and Dance/WALK THE MOON (#71 US to date)
44. Sissy That Walk/RuPaul (#14 US Dance)
43. Love Me Harder/Ariana Grande & The Weeknd (#7 US)
42. Sick of Me/Tim McGraw (#50 US Country to date)
41. Try/Colbie Caillat (#55 US)
40. Take Your Time/Sam Hunt (#71 US to date)
39. Bang Bang/Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj (#3 US)
38. Stockholm Syndrome/One Direction (#99 US to date)
37. Boom Clap/Charli XCX (#8 US)
36. Outside (feat. Ellie Goulding)/Calvin Harris (#58 US to date)
35. Of The Night/Bastille (#35 US Rock)
34. Hello, I Love You/Adore Delano (Not charted in US)
33. Hideaway/Kiesza (#51 US)
32. Go All Night (feat. Jennifer Hudson)/Gorgon City (#1 US Dance)
31. Coming of Age/Foster the People (#14 US Rock)
30. Do It Again/Röyksopp & Robyn (#1 US Dance)
29. Don’t Wait/Mapei (#27 US Dance)
28. An Open Heart/Bright Light Bright Light (Not charted in US)
27. Perfect Storm/Brad Paisley (#52 US)
26. Make Me Wanna/Thomas Rhett (#59 US to date)
25. Girl In a Country Song/Maddie & Tae (#54 US)
24. Right Now/Mary J Blige (Not charted in US)
23. Pompeii/Bastille (#5 US)
22. Ghost/Ella Henderson (#22 US to date)
21. You/Lucas Miré(Not charted in US)
20. Wrapped Up/Olly Murs (Not charted in US…yet)
19. I Choose You/Sara Bareilles (#88 US)
18. Rather Be (feat. Jess Glynne)/Clean Bandit (#10 US)
17. Only Love Can Hurt Like This/Paloma Faith (Not charted in US)
16. Uptown Funk/Fleur East (Not charted in US)
15. Crying for No Reason/Katy B (Not charted in US)
14. Kiss You Tonight/David Nail (#25 US Country to date)
13. Dark Horse/Katy Perry (#1 US)
12. Stay With Me/Sam Smith (#2 US)
11. Calling All Hearts (feat Robin Thicke & Jessie J)/DJ Cassidy (Not charted in US)
10. 2 On (feat. ScHoolboy Q)/Tinashe (#13 US)
We can mob all in the whip
Make the money make a grip
I be stuntin’ with my clique
Getting faded ’till we trip
2014 marked my return to actually caring about R&B on more than a superficial level. Part of that came from the revitalization of disco and house and acceptable and legitimate influences for contemporary music (see Disclosure, Clean Bandit, MNEK, and on and on). However part of it also came from a new wave of artists who were able to take their classic influences and apply them to more contemporary productions like Jhene Aiko and August Alsina. The biggest crossover of the rookies went to Tinashe, whose Aquarius disc was one of my favorites of the year. If you haven’t heard the Janet-sampling “How Many Times,” do it now.
9. Happy/Pharrell Williams (#1 US)
It might seem crazy what I’m ’bout to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break
I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space
With the air, like I don’t care, baby, by the way
I resisted…I admit it. I heard that Pharrell’s single from “Despicable Me 2” was starting to gain traction at radio and was already a hit in the UK and I still resisted. Why? Stubbornness? Old Man get-off-my-lawn Syndrome? Who knows, but that was dumb. Even a year later this song instantly puts a smile on my face and transports me mentally away from whatever is stressing me out that day. I was also really feeling “Marilyn Monroe” and “Gust of Wind” at different points, but it’s safe to say that “Happy” will go down as Pharrell’s career song.
8. Take Me To Church/Hozier (#2 US to date)
My lover’s got humour
She’s the giggle at a funeral
Knows everybody’s disapproval
I should’ve worshipped her sooner
A friend of mine in Oklahoma recently commented that this song is huge in Oklahoma for all the wrong reasons. I love that…I picture God-fearing churchgoers embracing this song, not really listening to the message of religious intolerance. Or maybe they are and they accept the fact that the guy in the song is an unrepentant heathen. Either way, Hozier’s album is a solid debut that trades in folk, blues, rock and pop to great effect.
7. Blank Space/Taylor Swift (#1 US)
“Oh my God, who is she?”
I get drunk on jealousy
But you’ll come back each time you leave
‘Cause darling I’m a nightmare dressed like a daydream
In 2014, Taylor Swift sealed the deal. Two years ago, “Begin Again” made my top 50, and I freely admitted that Swift had crafted a strong pop album, even as her label still tried to position her as Country. With 1989, Swift’s conversion to pop diva was complete, and she racked up the two biggest pop singles of her career with “Blank Space” and “Shake It Off.” The album is chock full of hits, with “Style,” “Welcome to New York,” and “Out of the Woods” all potentials hits in waiting.
6. Chandelier/Sia (#8 US)
But I’m holding on for dear life
Won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light
Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Anyone who has followed Sia’s career wasn’t surprised by her releasing a song that was so passionate and moving. What they WERE surprised by is that the song became a Top Ten hit. The video sure didn’t hurt, but at the end of the day, Sia took a song she easily could have given to Rhianna or some other pop glamazon and picked up a worldwide hit for herself instead.
5. Secrets/Mary Lambert (#66 US)
And I’m passive aggressive
I’m scared of the dark and the dentist
I love my butt and won’t shut up
And never really grew up
After having teamed up with Macklemore and Ryan Lewis in 2012 on “Same Love,” Mary Lambert was able to parlay that attention into a recording contract of her own which lead to her debut major label release Heart On My Sleeve. In a year where girls were being encouraged to be “All About That Bass” (a song I never could get behind), they should have been praising this ode to “owning your baggage” and embracing the quirks that make you unique.
4. Thinking Out Loud/Ed Sheeran (#2 US to date)
When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades
And the crowds don’t remember my name
When my hands don’t play the strings the same way
I know you will still love me the same
Ed Sheeran has described “Thinking Out Loud” as probably the happiest song he’s ever written, or at least the happiest he’s able to write. To my ear, it’s the love song for a long-term couple who know each other and have recognized that they are in it for the long haul. This song hit home for me on a number of levels, but at the end of the day Sheeran proves he has both the writing skills and the vocal delivery to ensure longevity in the business. Fellow singles “Don’t” and “Sing” were also highlights in 2014.
3. Jealous/Nick Jonas (#7 US to date)
I turn my cheek, music up
And I’m puffing my chest
I’m getting ready to face you
Can call me obsessed
Reinvention is the name of the game in the music business. How many times can you take someone or something that has been popular before and repurpose it in a way that extends the shelf life and maximizes the return on investment? Sounds cold and calculated, but it’s true. Fortunately, there was plenty of untapped potential in the lead singer of the Jonas Brothers to warrant Nick coming back as Justin Timberlake 2.0. Teaser track “Chains” introduced a more mature, independent and sexy Nick Jonas to the world, and official first single “Jealous” sealed the deal even before the full album was released. For a change, check out the remix with Tinashe that adds an extra layer of sexy to the track.
2. Love Never Felt So Good (feat Justin Timberlake)/Michael Jackson (#9 US)
And the night through the thick and thin
Gotta fly, gotta see, can’t believe
I can’t take it
How many times has a song been released from someone who passed away that was worth listening to? I’m hard pressed to think of more than two: the Beatles’ “Free as a Bird” is a GREAT song, and reminded the world just how great John Lennon was that a song like that would be cast off; and MJ’s “Love Never Felt So Good,” which thankfully saw the light of day in 2014 in both its original intended form and in a “remixed” version with Justin Timberlake along for the ride. A lot of my contemporaries have stated their preference for the non-JT version, but there is a magical quality to the update that I just love. “Dance…let me see you move…” If you haven’t already, also pick up “Place with No Name” from Xscape.
1. Wrote a Song About You/MNEK (not charted in US)
Every time I look around, I sit and wonder
Where did you disappear?
My thoughts are no longer a capella but it doesn’t seem to matter
Cause I feel you here, I feel you here
Nineteen…for some reason, I can’t get past the fact that MNEK is only 19 but still able to put out some of the freshest retro-modern tracks that any pop chart wished it could see in 2014. He’s producing and performing on other artists’ hits (see Gorgon City, Duke Dumont, Little Mix and new Madonna), but he hasn’t broken through in his own right yet. Yet. Here’s to 2015 bringing MNEK’s debut album that slays all that dare cross its path. In the meantime, check out one of the most cleverly written songs of the past twelve months, but don’t stop there. “The Rhythm” and “Every Little Word” were also stellar tracks that should help make his disc a must-have in 2015.