2010 was a pretty amazing year for pop music – there was so many glittering highlights in amongst the generic crossover blend of US R&B and dance that was championed by the likes of Usher, Taio Cruz, Jason Derulo, Enrique Iglesias – and even Brian McFadden.
But with the exception of one really big hit in our list of honourable mentions on the pop roll call of 2010, none of them got much love in Australia despite their amazingness – and some of them haven’t yet been released here. So before we announce our number one pop song of the year (that to come overnight tomorrow night), here (in no particular order) are 14 tunes that we thought shone throughout the year.
Why this song (and this singer) weren’t huge in Australia is completely beyond our comprehension. Effortlessly stylish, exuding a new brand of coolness that would have seduced all those who basked in its amazingness had ‘Tightrope’ been given a chance to succeed. Even a (totally unnecessary) re-worked version
featuring Ludacris and B.o.B was spurned by our reactive radio networks. According to the grapevine, we don’t think we’ve heard the last of Janelle in Australia, with a fresh push expected in the new year – and that’s a very good thing indeed.
You know the pop is going to be good when it has the words ‘Sophie Ellis Bextor’ plastered all over the front of it. You know it’s going to be something a little special when it has the names ‘Wiltshire’ and ‘Small’ in the production credits. Yes, the Freemasons once again teamed up with SEB in 2010 to amazing club-stomping perfection. And though only a minor hit here in Australia, it ticked all the boxes over in the UK and Europe, despite being leaked almost two months ahead of its retail release (when will UK record companies learn that this is just not permissible in this day and age?).
Katie Melua had painted herself into a corner with her very safe melodic balladry of days gone by. But she attempted something a little different with the lead single from her latest album ‘The House’, courtesy of some electro button pushing by none other than William Orbit. ‘The Flood’ (one of three pop singles released by the same name this year) took a left turn from middle Eastern inspired orchestration to lush beats, providing Katie with the perfect platform to showcase her diversity. That piano in the video – and that chorus. Magical stuff.
Though we might not have written too much about British rock outfit Muse throughout the course of the year, we’re massive fans of their album ‘The Resistance’. And the title track from it was altogether glorious, grand and epic. From its cantering percussion and piano beginning emerges Matthew’s smooth vocals, before an almost Queen-esque bridge leads into a stadium rock chorus that sends tingles up the spine. Though not the strongest song on ‘The Resistance’, the single highlighted the reasons why Muse is one of the hottest rock acts on the planet. No wonder then that crowds packed into arenas across the country earlier this month to catch the band rocking it live.
Ellie Goulding first appeared on our radar in October last year thanks to the eagle ears of one of our loyal readers. But in 2010, Ellie released a super little track in her second single ‘Starry Eyed’. Her voice almost folky, the production very electro, yet somehow they seemed to fuse effortlessly together to create a fresh new sound that left us completely spellbound. With one foot destined for the dancefloor and the other with its sights firmly set on radio airplay, ‘Starry Eyed’ was a delicious pop gem. Of course, as always for us Aussies it was light years ahead of its time and didn’t really get a look-in, despite it being a top 30 hit across the Tasman.
It had been fifteen long years since they had recorded together as a five piece, but in 2010 Robbie Williams re-joined the ranks of Britain’s hottest boy band, Take That. Though ‘The Flood’ didn’t hit the top spot in the UK, held out by Rihanna’s monster ‘Only Girl (In The World)’, it was track one on the fastest selling British album of the century – ‘Progress’. Produced by Stuart Price and featuring Robbie and Gary sharing the lead vocals, ‘The Flood’ was an epic piece of British pop. And where better to film the video for the track than on the most famous river in Britain – the mighty Thames. Could it be just us that gets a tingle down the spine when the shot pulls out on the London Eye?
We assume that no-one would seriously argue that ‘All The Lovers’ was the best single of Kylie Minogue’s 20 plus year career – heck, production-wise it sounded more than a little like ‘I Believe In You’. But it signalled the willingness of the pop princess to stick to where her strengths lie – in her dance/pop roots. With production dynamo Stuart Price on the case, there’s no denying the track had a strong pedigree. But a lacklustre chart position saw Kylie head home for extensive promotional duties for the first time in 13 years. It was a slow burner though – getting stronger with each listen until it clicked – but when it did, the section of the song from 2:28 onwards took us to a whole new level of love.
Here’s the one big Aussie hit in our pop honour role of 2010. There were those who wrote Katy off in the early days as a one-hit wonder with her super-hit ‘I Kissed A Girl’, but this year Katy Perry proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that she was no one trick pony. Her monster ‘California Gurls’ has already clocked over triple platinum sales since its release (it’s currently a bee’s dick off quadruple platinum). Subsequent singles ‘Teenage Dream’ and ‘Firework’ have also achieved sales success, but it was ‘California Gurls’ with its sweet-as-apple pie video clip and infectious disco-tinged chorus that had us hook, line and cream-filled brassiere guns.
We have to tip our hat to Lisa Mitchell this year. Normally we’re not big fans of her folky style of pop, but in 2010, she totally wooed us with the super ‘Oh! Hark!’ It upped the tempo, bringing in some subtle percussion – and the video was wondrous, with its stark colours somehow providing a great deal of warmth. She looked great with her cropped fringe and smoky eyes, she sounded great – and ‘Oh! Hark!’ was for us the best Lisa single since 2008’s ‘Neopolitan Dreams’.
So the whole Damien Leith ‘Remember June’ project fell flat on its arse earlier this year. So what. Both ‘To Get To You’ and ‘Forgive Forget’ were cracking pop songs, just ripe for radio play. But sadly, that’s where this project fell over, with radio on the whole stubbornly refusing to play the singles. Produced by the super Stuart Crichton, the album’s second single ‘Forgive Forget’ was a big song with a big melody and a big chorus and caught our ear big time earlier in the year. A shame that it didn’t work, because ‘Forgive Forget’ was a super pop song.
You can’t have a good look back at pop 2010 without tipping your hat to Swedish superstar Robyn. She released not one, but three albums as part of her ‘Body Talk’ series, the first of which spawned this heartfelt dancefloor stomper that spoke of someone being cast off by a love interest in favour of someone else. ‘Dancing On My Own’ was the electro follow-up to her super smash ‘With Every Heartbeat’, with a tender bridge which stripped all instrumentation for full emotional effect. Robyn proves beyond doubt that Sweden’s most certainly where pop’s at. And that it’s light years ahead.
As soon as it burst onto the scene, we knew that the lead single from Cee Lo Green’s album ‘The Lady Killer’ was going to be a monster. Let’s face it, any song that has the f bomb in the lyric is ripe for chart success. But it’s this single from the album that had our soul appetite whetted late this year. ‘Bright Lights Bigger City’ took us straight onto the streets of New York City, blending synth stabs with a bassline that could have been ripped from MJ’s ‘Billie Jean’ and that soulful vocal that would sooth and satisfy like rich toffee. We have the feeling that the story is far from over for this album – and that this single might just get a little local love in 2011.
Credit where it’s due, in an age when most artists are cast asunder if they don’t achieve instant top 20 success, Sony Music allowed Michael Paynter to spend a couple of years away to develop his style and his sound. And while we could have done without the bum fluff since his return, we were left awestruck by that staggering voice. ‘Love The Fall’ was the perfect comeback single for the Melbourne singer songwriter. It was epic pop/rock with a Veronicas cameo, plenty of grunt and it contained that incredible voice that soared to notes that no man should naturally be able to hit. No surprise then that it became the singer’s first top 20 hit.
And we couldn’t let our Honourable Mentions list go by without making mention of one of our favourite local discoveries of 2010. Sydney duo Aeons first hit the pages of auspOp in June this year, giving their single ‘Where The Sky Meets The Sea’ away as a free download. And they followed that up with the release of their ‘Beyond The Satellites’ EP (which they also gave away free – HERE). And we don’t know whether it was ‘Where The Sky Meets The Sea’ or the poppier title track of their EP that had us hooked the most. They were both amazing, both with global-standard production creating an electrifying soundbed that was then layered with an almost nu-wave vocal. Yes it’s hard to pick, but whichever way the decision falls, one pop truth remains… Aeons are totally and utterly friggin brilliant.