[Music] Top Tracks of 2014, Part Two (#30 – #16)

Part One:

#20 – #11 // #10 – #1

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Thanks in no small part to Beyoncé’s still-legendary surprise album drop last December, music lovers spent most of 2014 in anticipation for a similarly strategised blockbuster release that never really came. U2 were brave to test the novel idea of occupying your digital library pretty much by force; the reactions were mixed, with some Apple users describing the move as a violation, although we can only hope the subsequent iCloud-hacking scandal helped put things into perspective for them.

Despite the vaguest hint of a popstar working on new material sparking a raft of paranoid articles detailing an imminent midnight release, Beyoncé’s influence reaches beyond this palpitation-inducing phenomenon. The success of her self-titled record seems to have coaxed labels away from archaically prolonged release dates and woken them up to the lucrative realities of the instant gratification sought after by the internet generation. For this we are grateful, as it was such spontaneity that allowed a strong portion of our Top 30 to fall into our laps. And of course we extend our thanks to you, the music-buying public, for demonstrating the demand necessary for a competitive and stimulating industry. Happy New Year.

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30. Charli XCX – Boom Clap, Sucker

charli-xcx-bella-howard

Available to buy on iTunes

After owning the airwaves this summer with her inescapable Iggy Azalea collaboration “Fancy” – following on from her work on Icona Pop’s 2013 smash “I Love It” – Charli XCX bagged herself a well-deserved solo hit with “Boom Clap”, an old-fashioned power pop love song that’s as warm and light as cappuccino foam. Thank heavens Hilary Duff’s team turned it down; whatever heft “Boom Clap” has comes courtesy of Charli’s smoky Cambridge intonations and punk spirit.

See also:Breaking Up 

29. Mariah Carey – You Don’t Know What To Do [feat. Wale], Me. I Am Mariah… The Elusive Chanteuse

me-i-am-mariah-review

Available to buy on iTunes

Smothered within the often soporific mood of Mariah Carey’s latest album, the piano-led intro to “You Don’t Know What To Do” initially sparks fears of more mid-tempo mediocrity. Thankfully, it’s a sonic red-herring; a quick tribute to Gloria Gaynor’s infamous “At first I was afraid, I was petrified…” before launching into a sassy, disco-infused strut.

See also:#Beautiful” [feat. Miguel]

28. Game – Or Nah [feat. Too $hort, Problem, AV & Eric Bellinger], Blood Moon: Year of the Wolf

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Available to buy on iTunes

Chart-chasing pop-rap tracks don’t get any more shameless than “Or Nah”, a Frankenstein’s monster of a jam that stitches catchy but disparate parts – spoken word come-ons (“You gon’ let me hit it, or nah?”), Eric Bellinger’s Usher circa 2005-aping chorus – to the same sticky synths that made Iggy’s “Fancy” so addictive. Game turns in a fun verse (“Tell her hop in my bed, tell her hop off my roof / My baby mama trippin’, and that bitch can shoot”), and while healthy use of the B-word may be off-putting to the some, props to the boys for literally giving the modern, sexually-assured woman a voice on that hilariously blunt pre-chorus.

See also: “The Purge (Year of the Wolf)

27. Lana Del Rey – West Coast, Ultraviolence

Lana-Del-Rey-Ultraviolence

Available to buy on iTunes

The hypnotic “West Coast” reroutes Lana Del Rey’s trademark idealisation of volatile love affairs from the glamour of 1960s Hollywood to a 1990s San Francisco crack den. The scuzzy, psychedelic production fits Del Rey’s new whisky-bathed voice as well as the string-heavy, hermetically-sealed stylings of her debut, particularly whenever the chorus’s bracing shift in tempo kicks in.

See also: “Ultraviolence

26. Ergo Phizmiz – Consequences, The Peacock

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Available to buy on iTunes

Although his name may very well have been generated on a website frequented by wannabe rappers, Ergo Phizmiz is not an up-and-coming hip-hop sensation but a maddeningly prolific purveyor of eccentric chamber pop. The lively “Consequences” blends his gentleman drawl with gloriously nonsensical lyrics and a musty organ shuffle, like your favourite Divine Comedy number with a Britpop swing.

See also: Open Artery Surgery

25. Indiana – Solo Dancing, No Romeo

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Available to buy on iTunes

“Solo Dancing” marked British singer-songwriter Indiana’s first UK chart entry, and what an entrance it was. Giving Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself” a slow-burn, electropop makeover, the pulsation of its frosty synths and pious talk of “dance devotion” drive home a point too often forgotten: Dancing is not a spectator sport.

See also:Heart on Fire

24. Sam Smith – I’m Not the Only One, In the Lonely Hour

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Available to buy on iTunes

You know a popstar is worthy of their hype when a fourth single can right the wrongs of their third. “I’m Not the Only One” proved to be the ultimate palette-cleanser for those left unimpressed by the saccharine and frankly whiney number one “Stay With Me”. Compared to the overblown choral drama that its predecessor relied on, the jazz bar intimacy of “I’m Not…” feels far more genuine and affecting. But there’s also a bitter but solid belief in our ugliest instincts forever creeping on the track’s fringes, suggesting there’s more to Sam Smith’s future than the Mother’s Day market.

See also:I’m Not the Only One” [remix feat. A$AP Rocky]

23. Childish Gambino – Sweatpants, Because the Internet

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Available to buy on iTunes

“I don’t give a fuck about my family name!” Donald Glover AKA Childish Gambino declares in a cutlery-dropping outburst at the tail end of “Sweatpants”, a razor-sharp braggathon relayed over a slinky, menacing beat. Gambino’s rhymes are as cocksure as ever, but it’s when the self-proclaimed “silver-spoon c**n” holds a mouthpiece to the privileged chip on his shoulder that the track wryly challenges the dubious way in which modern artists exploit their hardship.

See also: 3005”, “Crawl

22. MAGIC! – Rude, Don’t Stop the Magic

magic

Available to buy on iTunes

Some of the best pop songs are those that can be synced with contemporary issues, regardless of the agendas with which they were produced. The reggae-lite “Rude” – which was a number one for MAGIC! in their native Canada back in 2013 before achieving the same position worldwide this summer – may very well become a choice pick for celebrating any hard-won romance, particularly same-sex marriages. In this light, “Rude” is more than a glimpse at what Michael Bublé fronting Rock Steady-era No Doubt might sound like. More importantly, it’s a lot more danceable than bloody “Same Love”.

See also: Let Your Hair Down

21. Years & Years – Take Shelter, TBA

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Available to buy on iTunes

Despite being fronted by a fresh, multi-talented young star (Skins and Enter the Void actor Olly Alexander) electro-house outfit Years & Years have so far seemed happy to let their music do the talking. On “Take Shelter”, Alexander & Co. employ ghostly harmonies, synth work that swings from aqueous to tropical, and a hopscotching drum machine to infiltrate your senses with a slightly sinister take on romantic persuasion. Having made waves on the blogosphere since their launch in January, their BBC Sound of 2015 win should cement next year as theirs for the taking.

See also: Desire

20. FKA twigs – Two Weeks, LP1638

Available to buy on iTunes

The eerie eroticism of FKA twigs’ sound hangs solely on that extraordinary voice of hers; an objectively thin trill brimming with desire, and a streak of trepidation. The baby-voiced cusses of “Two Weeks” make light of the singer’s insecurities (“You know I’d put you first / I can fuck you better than her”) but without the foil her crippled expression provides, the track’s heavenly resonance would fall flat.

See also:Give Up“, “Numbers

19. The Knocks – Classic [feat. Powers], TBAthe-knocks-2

Available to buy on iTunes

“Classic” is not a triumph in trailblazing originality but a melting pot of tried-and-tested trends, marrying smooth, “Get Lucky”-aping guitar licks to a house piano-backed chorus with a snake-charming hook.

See also:Comfortable” [feat. X Ambassadors]

18. Oliver Heldens & Becky Hill – Gecko (Overdrive), TBAmaxresdefault

Available to buy on iTunes

Dutch producer Oliver Heldens retooled his scorching house instrumental “Gecko” with singer-songwriter MNEK and The Voice UK alumnus Becky Hill, with the latter’s raspy belts scaling the punchy beat with ease. Although the original “Gecko” was never exactly broken, this ferocious, chart-topping revamp was still a more-than-welcome fix.

See also: “Gecko (Original Mix)

17. One Direction – Fireproof, Four onedirection-four-S14-2

Available to buy on iTunes

Don’t let the obvious Fleetwood Mac influences fool you; “Fireproof” isn’t a shallow demand to be taken seriously. Perhaps it’s the obvious parallels one could draw between the track’s lyrics and One Direction’s own enduring success, but Harry, Liam, Niall, Zayn and Louis have rarely sounded so carefree.

See also: Steal My Girl“, “Night Changes

16. Taylor Swift – Blank Space, 1989

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Available to buy on iTunes

The melodically weak “Shake It Off” saw Taylor Swift self-victimise herself into a corner favoured by the kind of hater-hating youths who have more emojis than words in their Instagram bios. “Blank Space” – the second single from her monstrously successful record 1989 – was far more successful in its irreverent take on Swift’s tabloid-gracing persona, simply because it finds actual pride in being a complicated human being instead of ignorantly casting naysayers aside. Even taking its brilliant video out of the equation, there’s a sociopathic beauty to how her lyrics dash through every single relationship hallmark and yet still somehow make falling in love sound like anything other than an exercise in masochism.

See also: The entire 1989 album

Click here to read our #15 – #1 instalment.

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