[Music] Top Tracks of 2014, Part Two (#15 – #1)

Part One:

#20 – #11 // #10 – #1

Part Two:

#30 – #16

***

15. Beyoncé – ***Flawless [Remix feat. Nicki Minaj], Beyoncé (Platinum Edition)

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 Available to buy on iTunes

After two solid minutes of unfettered bravado, Beyoncé says she wants “everyone to feel like this”, which is a fairly petrifying request depending on how receptive you are to the brand of masturbatory ego-tripping she co-opts from a guesting Nicki Minaj for the remix of one of the sprightlier joints from her self-titled fifth album. Granted, the shameless arrogance they display is probably healthier than the self-effacing greeting card sentiments we as music listeners have grown accustomed to, but as we’ve come to expect from Minaj, for every moderately witty remark (“This watch here done phase blizzards”) there’s always a landslide of misogyny (“These bitches washed up, and ain’t no fuckin’ soap involved”) and birdbrained materialism just around the corner.

The power of the original “***Flawless” – in which cocky verses (“Bow down, bitches!”) and the song’s more universal “Flawless” hook bookended an excerpt from Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s speech “We should all be feminists” – wasn’t  lost in the rendering of this redux, hence its place on our list, but neither was it capitalised upon. A remix featuring the world’s leading female rapper should have provided a chance to streamline the track’s messy structure into something easier to canonise as a dance-floor staple; Bey’s failure to do so is either emblematic of a lack of confidence in the original song’s commercial appeal, or an over-confidence in her imperial stature in the music industry.

See also: Drunk In Love” [feat. Jay Z], “7/11

14. Rixton – Me and My Broken Heart, Let the RoadRixton-Main

Available to buy on iTunes

The combined talents of British soap star and housewife heartthrob Shane Richie and singer Colleen Nolan can be seen manifested within their cherub-faced son, Rixton frontman (or should that be frontboy?) Jake Roche. The electropop-rock charm of breakout single “Me and My Broken Heart” is indebted to Rob Thomas’ 2005 hit “Lonely No More”, with producers Benny Blanco (Maroon 5, Katy Perry) and Steve Mac (One Direction) adding just a pinch of lilting Fisher Price ska to the verses for flavour, and Roche emoting like a young Adam Levine whose been miraculously shorn of all shrillness.

And despite primarily being a plea for a one night stand,“Me and My Broken Heart” is still a whole lot more subtle than songs of a similar ilk purveyed by their peers; there’s no “Tonight lets get some / and live while were young!”-sized clunkers to be found here.

See also:Wait On Me

13. Hozier – Jackie And Wilson, Hozier

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Available to buy on iTunes

It’s impossible to deny the funereal force of the Grammy-nominated “Take Me to Church”, and if there were an award for Song Most Suited to a Crucifixion (Cinematic or Otherwise) then we’re sure Hozier’s breakthrough would sweep it. But to define the reach of his talents by a single whose release and subsequent notoriety was well-timed with the continued religious emancipation of Hozier’s (née Andrew Hozier-Byrne) native Ireland – with a little help from a highly provocative music video depicting small-town homophobia – would be disrespectful to his talent, especially with a self-titled debut packed full of tuneful exercises in fervent indie rock to explore.

“Jackie and Wilson” works with a noticeably more colourful palette than the majority of its parent album, sauntering into existence with tight garage-rock swipes that graduate into a sky-high, love-struck chorus.

See also:Take Me to Church”, “Someone New

12. La Roux – Kiss and Not Tell, Trouble In Paradise

La-Roux

Available to buy on iTunes

For Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid, the five-year gestation of their sophomore album yielded an almost filler-free collection of tracks drenched in new wave’s delicate, pleasure-seeking suavity, but apparently at the expense of their professional relationship. Langmaid abandoned the production in 2011, taking to Twitter this summer to denounce Jackson’s credibility by reducing their collaborations to an artist-muse scenario:

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This implicit bitterness looms large over Trouble In Paradise, with even the curling synth lines of second single “Kiss and Not Tell” buckling under the pressure. But with Jackson’s once chrome-plated falsetto now tamed into a smooth purr, the conscious-battling discourse on infidelity is given a cheeky lift that her altogether colder work on 2009’s hit-filled La Roux could only dream of. Spread the word.

See also: Uptight Downtown”, “Let Me Down Gently”, “Silent Partner

11. Iggy Azalea / Charli XCX – Fancy, The New Classic 

2014 mtvU Woodie Awards And Festival - Performance

Available to buy on iTunes

From its first few bars of gummed synth, “Fancy” is instantly recognisable as the song that ruled the summer of 2014. As far as we’re concerned, Australian rapper Iggy Azalea’s adopted Southern American accent is more of a tribute to a culture she grew up admiring than an offensive parody, but the upheaval that continues in the wake of her success makes us all the more grateful for the distraction that Charli XCX’s earworm of a topline provides to this very day.

See also:Iggy Szn”, “Beg For It” [feat. MØ], “Work

10. Jessie Ware – Tough Love, Tough Love

Jessie-Ware

Available to buy on iTunes

As impressive as Jessie Ware’s 2012 debut Devotion may have been, the collection’s porcelain-stiff nature could often give the impression of the London-born songstress approaching love in an almost hypothetical sense. Conversely, the oilier, more fluid synth-led production of “Tough Love” plants us right in the middle of the temperamental placidity of a modern relationship. The song benefits from feeling organically derived from a specific situation, with a lyric like “So you want to be a man about it, do you?” falling somewhere between sheer relief and patronisation.

See also:Tough Love” [Cyril Hahn remix], “Say You Love Me”, “Kind Of… Sometimes… Maybe

9.  Tove Lo – Habits, Queen of the Clouds

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Available to buy on iTunes

Sweden rarely disappoints with its musical exports, and we would be tempted to suggest Tove Lo’s battle cry melodies and cotton-coated productions may be better off exploited by a bigger worldwide sensation if the twenty-seven year old didn’t tackle songs like “Habits” and “Not On Drugs” with such heart-on-sleeve aplomb. Commercially complimented by a chipmunked Hippie Sabotage remix that misses out on the original’s caustically funny images (“I eat my dinner in the bathtub / then I go to sex clubs”), “Habits” never tries too hard in its depiction of the emotional atrophy that heartbreak can provoke.

See also:Not On Drugs”, “Thousand Miles”, “Stay High” [Habits Remix feat. Hippie Sabotage], “Scream My Name

8. Tinashe – 2 On [feat. Schoolboy Q], Aquarius

Tinashe-hot-2013

Available to buy on iTunes

For her first official single, Tinashe swapped the gloomy hipster R&B of her much-buzzed about mixtapes for this polished and hypnotic mid-tempo – but “2 On” isn’t the sound of a sell-out. The Los Angeles-born singer-songwriter-producer bends the wants of radio to her will, with her candied voice dropping into a low seductive drone that practically forces the listener to engage. The result is a hit as sexy and invigorating as Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell ‘Em”, but one that doesn’t rely on an obnoxious “Rhythm Is A Dancer” sample to turn heads. A welcome but ultimately superfluous interpolation of Sean Paul’s “We Be Burnin” arrives before the final chorus, as if to the prove the point.

See also: The Black Water mixtape, “The Leap”, “Pretend

7. Stromae – Meltdown [feat. Lorde, Pusha T, Q-Tip & HAIM], The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)

BRUXELLES: Stromae en rendez-vous

Available to buy on iTunes

As the opener for the official Lorde-curated Mockingjay soundtrack, “Meltdown” packs more drama and action into its four-minute runtime than its film counterpart could muster over the course of two hours. Pusha T and Q-Tip skillfully interpolate the film’s warfare theme into their raps, while the clipped, neon beat from French producer Stromae is complimented by a portentous choir and harmonies from the Haim sisters, lifting Lorde’s blazing chorus to a new level of spectacle.

See also: “Yellow Flicker Beat”, “Original Beast

6. Vic Mensa – Down On My Luck, TBA 

vic_mensa

Available to buy on iTunes

Even if robbed of its inexplicably lush production, the real magic behind “Down On My Luck” lies in Chicago rapper Vic Mensa’s mercurial delivery, a lackadaisical flow  brimming with what are apparently quotes from the most aggressive fortune cookie ever. The deep house trance these verses amble towards are perfectly punctuated by a growl of “Fuck that, get down”, although the wisdom that charges his aphorism “Do you think about the things you say you don’t? I know you do” could pretty much define a generation whose insecurities propel them to a state of impenetrable obnoxiousness, and shouldn’t be so quickly discounted.

See also: Feel That

5. Madonna – Unapologetic Bitch, Rebel Heart

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Available to buy on iTunes

While the success of Madonna’s MDNA tour may have ostensibly offset the middling performance of her musically anaemic 2012 album of the same name, her worldwide absence from mainstream charts seemed to edge her closer and closer towards heritage act status. Obviously, a pop music landscape that isn’t ruled by Madonna is a very sad place indeed, so it’s a joy to see everything about “Unapologetic Bitch” – from its combative title to the presence of the acclaimed but as-yet commercially untapped producer Diplo – suggests the Queen of Pop isn’t going to go down without a fight. The track’s lilting reggae textures prove to be a surprisingly comfortable fit for her, with the confrontational chorus’ (“You never really knew how much your selfish bullshit cost me”) managing to account for both the emotional and the fiscally-minded sides of her public persona.

See also:Ghosttown”, “Bitch I’m Madonna” [feat. Nicki Minaj], “Devil Pray

4Azealia Banks – Miss Amor, Broke With Expensive Taste

Azealia-Banks

Available to buy on iTunes

While “Chasing Time”, the de facto lead single from Azealia Banks’ famously delayed debut album, tried just a little too hard to coat the experimental Chicago house elements of her 2012 Fantasea mixtape in a trendy and radio-friendly gloss, album cut “Miss Amor” wraps up everything great about the rapper-singer in one accessible package.

Her serpentine flow crackles against the track’s ice-cold house clang, with Banks working in a c-word based slogan (“cunt-diddy-cunt-de-cunt-cunt”) to rival that of her breakout hit “212”, as well as a smooth-as-Belvedere-vodka chorus that offers sweet relief from the breathless, club-ready bounce.

See also: Gimme A Chance”, “Soda”, “Luxury

3. Sky Ferreira – I Blame Myself, Night Time, My Time

sky-ferreira-i-blame-myself

Available to buy on iTunes 

On “I Blame Myself”, the third single to be lifted from Sky Ferreira’s brilliant debut record, the singer-cum-model makes the all-too human error of believing no one else can hurt quite as much as she does. This sub-genre of selfishness, coupled with nods to the perils of fame (“Is it because you know my name / Or it because you saw my face on the cover?”) should have made for a whiny and infantile emo-ballad, but “I Blame Myself” is in fact a plucky admission of guilt with a heart of pure steel. Crisp synths and an almost militaristic drum machine play supporting roles to Ferreira’s immediately commanding voice.

See also: You’re Not the One“, “Nobody Asked Me (If I Was Okay)“, “Boys

2. Nick Jonas – Jealous, Nick Jonas

Nick Jonas Flaunt Magazine 2014 (3)

Available to buy on iTunes

Nick Jonas’ play for the gay market via risqué photo shoots and bulge-identifying interviews may have been cynical, but “Jealous” is a genuinely sweet and unselfconscious sonic sibling of Miguel’s “Adorn”. Considering the dismal state of male-fronted pop, a comeback single that landed somewhere in between Justin Timberlake’s strained authenticity and Jason DeRulo’s lowest common denominator pop would have been a nice compromise, but Jonas’ instincts have proven to be surprisingly eclectic.

A warm, airy confessional about the downsides of having a drop dead gorgeous lover, “Jealous” enchants with its dorky lyrics (“I turn my cheek, music up, and I’m puffin’ my chest”) and a swoon-worthy performance from Jonas, but the care it takes to never incriminate the girl in question for the attention she attracts is almost as impressive.

See also: Chains“, “Push

1. Mark Ronson – Uptown Fuck [feat. Bruno Mars], Uptown Special 

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Available to buy on iTunes

For a sizeable chunk of its four-and-a-half minute duration, “Uptown Funk” seems perfectly content to coast on Mark Ronson’s impeccable production – all glittery stuttered horn sections underscored by trippy baritone doo-wops – and Bruno Mars’ unprecedented showmanship, all while trying to map out the zenith of the trumpet-breakdown trend that haunted such 2014 hits as Ariana Grande’s “Problem” and Jason DeRulo’s “Talk Dirty”. And even before the “Uptown Funk you up!” hook rears its head in the track’s final stretch to reveal Ronson’s true world-conquering ambitions, it’s an irresistible experience, buoyed by inclusive lyrics that rather adorably fall over themselves in an attempt to appeal to every potential customer scrolling the iTunes homepage.

See also: Daffodils” [feat. Kevin Parker], “Feel Right” [feat. Mystikal]

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