Saturday, January 3, 2015

Top 14: Singles of 2014

2014 was more about singles than albums. Much as it makes me cringe to think about, it's entirely true. That's not to say there weren't any good albums, but there was nothing that measured up to the top 10 albums of 2013.

So, the year was about singles. In addition to that though, it was about women. Women dominated the charts and the airwaves. We're talking Taylor Swift being the first woman to knock her own #1 single to #2 so she could occupy the two positions simultaneously. We're talking about the sheer variety of female acts topping charts, from the aforementioned Swift to Meghan TrainorAriana GrandeNicki Minaj, Iggy AzaleaSelena Gomez, Tove Lo, and Jessie J, just to name a few! Chrissie Hynde released her first official solo album, Lily Allen and Ingrid Michaelson each put out new albums, and, once again, Taylor Swift broke tons of records with 1989.

While I'm a little sad that there weren't more standout albums, I wasn't entirely displeased with some of the singles. And also, girl power. Anyway, below are fourteen of my favorite singles of 2014.

14. "Earth is the Loneliest Planet" by Morrissey
It was nice of Morrissey to release this track as a single on my birthday. It's also pretty cool to see that he's still got that Morrissey musical sadness. This might even be the best track he's done since the mid-nineties (in my opinion).

13. "Where No Eagles Fly" by Julian Casablancas + the Voidz
From Tyranny comes this gem of a track. The rest of the album was impressive as well, particularly the overall production. I love how perfect all of the visuals are for this Julian Casablancas + the Voidz project, from the videos to this exaggerated retro single cover. If you missed it, you should really check it out.

12. "Foil" by "Weird Al" Yankovic
"Weird Al" Yankovic had his first #1 album with Mandatory Fun this year, and it's no surprise that the album did so well (although it is a surprise that none before have). The original songs and parodies are all spot-on, and even this parody of "Royals," which begins like a run-of-the-mill Weird Al food song, but takes a darker and funnier turn.

11. "I Won't Let You Down" by OK Go
The band that's known for their videos makes some awesome music too. That said, the video for this one is a Busby Berkeley musical number on Honda personal mobility units. I love the inventive way they're always coming up with new things for videos and not just recycling the treadmill gimmick over and over. I also love the touches of the 70s, which remind me of "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5.

10. "Air Balloon" by Lily Allen
Lily Allen's Sheezus was a lot more hip-hop influenced than I had expected (the title failed to clue me in), but at the same time, the album had a great deal of variety. Take this worldbeat-infused pop tune for example. It's been compared to "Paper Planes" by M.I.A., and you can hear the similarities, but it's also got its own thing going on in an infectious earworm way.
9. "All About That Bass" by Meghan Trainor
While I can't help but agree with opponents of this song, that it isn't as much about body positivity as it seems on the surface, "All About That Bass" is still a winner in my book. Originally offered to BeyoncĂ©, this track became a viral hit for young Meghan Trainor (who is 21). The bold use of colors in the marketing of this song and "Lips Are Moving" (also a hit) give her singles a uniform look, along with the fact that "Lips" references the previous single, saying "tell me that you're not just about this bass." Trainor is a singer-songwriter, and has written singles for several other acts, so she should have no trouble writing for herself.

8. "Be Reasonable, Diane" by SPEAK
You don't need a gimmick to sell a song, but I won't deny that it helps. SPEAK released a game to go along with "Be Reasonable, Diane." I'm sure it's not the first time it's been done, but it definitely works. Meanwhile, I'm perplexed by the recent surge in the name "Diane" in songs. I only know one Diane, and she's my aunt, yet Vampire Weekend also released "Diane Young" (a pun, I know) last year.
7. "Blank Space" by Taylor Swift
The biggest album by a female artist since Carole King's Tapestry, 1989 has been shattering records like no one's business. But this one is more than just a record-breaker in my opinion. "Blank Space" is a playful and mature look at both Taylor Swift's heartbreaks and the way the press treats them. She takes the blame herself as in "I Knew You Were Trouble," but also professes the "we all hurt each other" sentiment as in Ingrid Michaelson's "Girls Chase Boys," and the whole thing has that sort of fairytale feel of her earlier songs ("Love Story"). I just wish the producers had gone for a cleaner sound right before "and I'll write your name."

6. "Tell the World" by Eric Hutchinson
Constantly teetering on the edge of the mainstream, Eric Hutchinson released Pure Fiction this year and, while the tracks weren't as strong as some of his previous ones, songs like this one really stood out. The first single off of Pure Fiction was this feel-good tune, empowering in both sound and lyric.

5. "Girls Chase Boys" by Ingrid Michaelson
Ingrid Michaelson's most successful single since "The Way I Am," "Girls Chase Boys" is both a breakup song and a statement that "no matter who or how we love, we are all the same." She tackled gender inequality and the universal nature of heartbreak in the video for this catchy tune. It serves as both a tribute to Robert Palmer and a fun political statement.

4. "All I Need Is You" by Rob Cantor
Rob Cantor may not have broken the internet, but he sure used some fun new techniques to sell the great songs on Not a Trampoline. With his viral video of celebrity impressions set to "Perfect," and this video made up of gifs, he's like the OK Go of internet memes. And the song is pretty great too!

3. "Uptown Funk" by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
While I'm disappointed that it's not another Mark Ronson and the Business International record, I certainly can't complain about the quality of this #2 hit. Watch out Taylor Swift, this fast-rising funk and soul track might just de-throne you.
2. "Swimming Pool Blues" by Miniature Tigers
Another great summer-soundtrack tune from Miniature Tigers. The rest of Cruel Runnings is sparse competition for "Swimming Pool Blues," which was definitely one of my favorite songs released all year. I even love the cheesy "underwater" sound editing bridge.

1. "Dark Sunglasses" by Chrissie Hynde
If there's one track I played on repeat this year, it was this one from Chrissie Hynde's very first solo album. I know, it's a fine line, "Chrissie Hynde solo album vs. any other album she's worked on," but man, did this single get it right. You can sing along with the backing vocals, and that cowbell...Totally my favorite track this year.

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