2014 in music was, without sugarcoating it, a terrible year in mainstream music. Most of the hit songs were the same as last year;s and the pop game remained stagnant in the same hole as last year. No creativity came out and when it did, horrid songs relying on Iggy Azalea’s fake black voice and songs about the bass reared their ugly heads to screw it all up. It is difficult to live up to a year dominated by Daft Punk. Those twenty songs found a way to come out of the ashes of this terrible year to deliver the best of the best. Without further ado, these are the twenty best songs of 2014.
20. “Drunk in Love” by Beyonce
Beyonce released a surprise album in December of 2013. Unfortnately, the album was filled with nothing but ‘meh,’ but “Drunk in Love” remains the highlight of it all. Queen Bey (BuzzFeed’s words, not mine) delivers with her fantastic voice work and manages to spit some verses. Her husband Jay-Z also steps in to help his queen reclaim her throne complete with a rather unfortunate Ike Turner reference that’s rather unfortunate in retrospect. Beyonce may be here to stay while on her throne, but she’s not on the top of this list this year due to “Drunk in Love” marginally getting on this list.
19. “Rude” by Magic!
With Beyonce in the spot usually reserved for a one-hit wonders, readers must be wondering “Where are they this year?” Luckily, we got two in a row this year. Kicking off the one-hit block is “Rude.” Combining the laid-back reggae sounds and ska influences, Magic! oozes that mid-90’s sound by bringing it back to the mainstream. It’s breezy and wonderfully poppy. ONly problem is the lyrics are cheesy and the premise is crap. The guy sings about wanting to marry his girlfriend, yet the dad says no, so he marries her away from him. Marty McFly could describe this kind of guy the best.
This song still reminds catchy while being quite cheesy as heck. This band is probably going to fade into obscurity, but that’s okay because sometimes you only need one song. But wait, we got another one-hit wonder coming up.
18. “Habits (Stay High)” by Tove Lo
Addiction is no laughing matter. If you have a problem, consult someone to help you deal with it or head over to rehab to deal with it because it will no only get worse. With all that said, here’s Tove Lo with classy tune about being an addict in “Habits.” Tove Lo sings with such fraility and disheartening nature against a dark beat of drums and synths. The only way she deals is by being high all the time to get through her. It’s not a light-hearted tune if those listening to it actually pay attention to the lyrics. Lo gets the point across well, but somehow the beat makes it seem like it’s encouraging keeping an addiction. Lo is a new artist on the scene, but seems this is the only song that is truly popular. Somehow it was also on a rock station last time I heard it. If anyway could explain why, that would be nice. Thanks for the tune, Lo and make sure you get help.
17. “Talk Dirty” by Jason Derulo
Jason Derulo is like that guy on a top tier baseball team that is not super popular, but when they get a hit, the crowd cheers for him in hopes they succeed to the top. Derulo certainly proved that he may be rising up this year with an Arabic-inspired “Talk Dirty.” Blending a voice of made for R&B with jazz sounds of trumpets, Derulo gives this catchy tune that sounds like a true club banger. Hell, this song also manages the difficult task of making 2 Chainz not sound like a complete idiot as he spits about he can get women. Derulo shows he can woo half the world with a infectious song that will have people on the dance floor. Sidenote: Am I the only one who thinks after the “Talk Dirty to me” part that Booker T’s theme is going to hit? Maybe that’s just me. Derulo is certainly keeping his game steady, but not over doing it.
16. “Chandelier” by Sia
Sia is an odd artist who has made fantastic underrated work in the past years. Mostly in the indie-pop scene, Sia has rose in promience in the years as a artist usually having “ft.” before her name in hit singles. “Chandelier” is Sia’s calling card proving that she can be unique against the usual pop crap of the year while taking the modern pop sounds to her advantage. Her voice goes from shrilling highs to spectacular lows. It’s odd that years ago she said she doesn’t sing publicly speaking about Flo Rida’s performance at WrestleMania 28, yet here she is in 2014 starting to break into the spotlight to sing. Sia is awesome and getting the recognition she deserves. Hopefully her just being known as “ft.” is a thing of the past.
15. “Latch” by Disclosure ft. Sam Smith
Speaking of the “ft.” credits, here’s a group with Sam Smith under that credit in “Latch.” Disclosure take Smith’s vocals that are already stunning an amplify them with a fascinating use of synths with electronic beats. Smith sings about being stuck to someone and keeping them in there. Sure, it’s a bit stalker-ish, but with a sweet voice, Smith makes it seems demanding. The little breakdown before each chorus of the synths clashing is stunning as heck leading to a triumphant chorus that is helped by a thumping parade of bass and keys. This song is a neat little diddy that helped elevate Smith to new heights in this drab year, but more on that later.
14. “All of the Stars” by Ed Sheeran
Ed Sheeran is a remarkable up-and-comer who has appeared on this list before. Lately, Sheeran has made his mark by making this year his with the excellent X album by ensuring that he is the hottest male player in the pop game at the moment. Sheeran has also been making his mark in the cinema providing songs for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and this year for the excellent film The Fault in Our Stars with “All of Our Stars.” This heartbreaking track captures the feel of the film with Sheeran delivering a somber performance accompanied by a beautiful collection of strings and simplistic drum beats. His other work on X is also a standout, but this track has been on repeat for awhile for myself due to the context. Sheeran is proving his worth with every song he decides to bring to the forefront.
13. “Story of My Life” by One Direction
Full disclosure before going into this one: I’m not a One Direction guy and never have been. One Direction is like a modern day Backstreet Boys in that they are big to younger girls, but everyone else hates them. This song would probably be their version of “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely.” Instead of giving listeners and fans the amped-up cheesy sounds of bombastic boy band pop, the boys come out to give a heartfelt ballad that actually doesn’t suck. It’s a neat step away from the sounds that always seem to plague the boy band market. The heat I’ll probably get from including them on any list is ripe, but the boys at least get a past this time around for delivering a wholesome pop ballad with acoustic rhythms. As for the rest of their songs, they are not for me.
12. “Fall in Love” by Phantogram
This group can easily be lumped in ‘one-hit wonders’ with others on the list, but Phantogram is the type of music I could listen to on a daily basis. With an innovative electronic beats, an infectious use of strings and synths that go beyond the boundaries, they kicked off the year showing that innovative groups are the rage. This is before Iggy Azalea had to shit all over that prospect, but I digress. The echos of the lead singer Sarah Barthel are breathy and fresh against the over-polished pop sounds of today. The breakdown around the third verse is a brilliant breakdown that delivers making full work of Barhel’s voice. This song was an awesome beginning to the year. Hopefully, Phantogram don’t fade into obscurity because they are changing the tide on modern electronic pop music.
11. “Somebody Loves You” by Betty Who
I’m still surprised this song didn’t get bigger after this fantastic Home Depot Proposal last year, but now officially released as a single, “Somebody Loves You” takes the sounds of the modern era and throws it back to the late-90’s. Betty Who is ver popular in the LGBT community with her signature voice that is an interesting combination of breathy and bombastic. The song is a fun dance song that fits Who’s vocals brilliantly. The main part of the song that stands out is the breakdown section after the second chorus. It dives into a new dimension with Who’s vocals carrying such lines “If I am good to you/Could you be good to me?/That’s exactly how it should be” with such power and strength in her voice. Who is getting her time in the spotlight and it is well deserved.