14 Favourite Songs from 2014
This is my favourite time of year. Lists are being published every day, ranking and judging media and people and events of our past year, giving us a chance to reflect. I do not pretend I have heard every song, or even every great song released this year. And if I were to provide you a list of music that became the soundtrack to my year, I would simply post Beyoncé's Beyoncé. Since I gave her my top album spot in 2013, and spent nearly all of my 2014 blogging time in my Beyoncé themed March Madness, I've decided to give time to some other artists. That's right, other people made music in 2014! So, here are my 14 other favourite songs from this past year. (All of the titles have links if you want to listen).
I feel no guilt about the pleasure this song brings me. When I first heard Ariana sing ("The Way"), I thought that somehow I had missed a classic 90's pop song. This was obviously impossible. Yet, Grande again with Problem brings us back to the 90's with her Mariah-like vocal control, a classic R&B attitude, and a sax riff that could be straight off of a J.Lo B Side. Add a verse from our favourite controversial white female rapper, and we've got a 3 minute long party.
Clean Bandit attempts to bring classic(al) symphonic together with electronic dance beats, and though they may be strange bedfellows, "Rather Be" is the ideal love-child. The strings give it a regality, while the synth/xylo give it a video game feel, somehow making perfect sense as the foundation for a straightforward love song. It has easily become one of my feel-good songs of 2014.
J. Cole jumped into my peripheral with this deeply felt response to Michael Brown's death in Ferguson. For many of us, this year will be marked by the stories of grand juries failing to indict, in the cases of both Brown and Eric Garner. This song will be a reminder of the ways societal and structural racism found their way back into the spotlight, and a continuation of the important protest for black lives to matter. Here's his performance on Letterman that includes a stellar extra verse.
I heard this song while I was working in retail. An email popped up with the soundcloud link, and I happened to be at my computer at the back of the store. I played it once quietly, and then once more a little louder, hoping no one would notice. When she played on SNL, I was completely mesmerized by the guitar solos. St. Vincent has grown into a monster of musical, dramatic and lyrical genius, and I think this song is the best example.
I still have yet to listen to anything else by this guy. At first I thought I was only impressed by the clever music video until I realized that I kept returning to youtube, but not always to watch the screen. My addiction extended to the song itself, and especially for that one moment I look forward to the most: "F*** that, get down!"
Another song and artist that got my attention via a great video. This is probably simultaneously one of the sweetest, creepiest and sexiest songs I've ever heard. FKA Twigs can say the dirtiest things with the softest tone and get away with absolutely anything.
So, I can include one Beyoncé track because this was released this past fall with the platinum edition of Beyoncé, and although I've only had a month to listen to it (by no coincidence, she released it on my birthday, btw) I've played it more than any of the songs I've mentioned so far on this list. So it would lack integrity for me not to include it, right?
Another fantastic feel-good track from an absolute classic collaboration that was my song of the spring and summer of 2014. At my wedding in May, I will never forget my older brother running up to me on the dance floor yelling, "I don't even know who this is but I've got to move to it!" Yep.
This was an apparently popular song title this year. I like the Hozier song too, but this song is far more personal. Since moving to Toronto, I've started playing music for a monthly gathering called "Church on Tap", where we do a church service and drink beer. Last month we covered this song, and I feel like my experience in listening and playing this song while also returning to church for the first time in over a year could be the content of a whole blog post on its own.
Thanks to the boss young punk I worked with in retail, "Fall In Love" was one of the few songs earlier in 2014 that regularly broke up my Beyoncé-heavy playlists. Phantogram is able to bring together the vitality of live band with the creativity and polished sound of electronic music like few seem to do well.
Some of you will curse me, and others will love me forever for including this at the #4 spot, but regardless of whether or not you're a fan, you simply cannot deny that Fancy was everywhere in 2014. I'll admit some nostalgic bias, since the video takes me back to my not-quite-13-year-old self, trying to convince my friend's mom that we should be able to see PG13-rated Clueless in theatres. Memories aside, most of us are hooked by the time we hear that four-note bassline.
I spent a lot of my year in anticipation of a possible new Kendrick Lamar album. He did release "I", which would probably be my first runner up if I allowed that kind of thing, but unfortunately we'll have to wait for 2015 to hear a complete LP. Anyway, Lamar's guest appearances kept me going... but don't mistake "Never Catch Me" as simply a Kendrick fix. It is a great example of the relationship that exists between rap and jazz, and it comes with hands down my favourite music video of the year.
It's so simple, and that little 5 note synth line grabs me by the aorta in a good way. I love everything about this song, but I think what makes it my second favourite song of the year is the honest sentiment. "I want to touch you but there's history". A break up song that is neither full of hopeless depression nor angered vendettas - who would've thought?
There are so many reasons that this is my song of 2014. It is yet another song that gained traction with a stunning music video, not to mention a host of unique talk show performances like the one below. (I mean, is Sia just shyly showing off her vocal abilities while lying down, or is she making a comment about her experience as an often invisible writer behind songs performed by other pop stars?) The song itself is easily one of the most memorable radio-played pop songs of the year, and ironically it's a party song that admits the party is a shallow cover-up. The soundscape consistently grows and builds, and although the track returns to a similar, more relaxed volume as it began with, the sense of desperation, urgency, and melodrama is never lost. It is rare to find a song that so well exemplifies two opposing worlds, and one that can equally motivate me to melancholically feel my feelings and to get up and dance all over my kitchen.
Check back next week for my favourite albums of the year, and feel free to add your favourite songs that I missed in the comments!