Each year on the site, we count down our top ten pop singles of the year, but we never get straight to the number one position without at least tipping our hat to some of the year’s other amazing pop nuggets that didn’t quite make it into the ten.
The highlights of pop year MMXIV were indeed many and varied, but here, in alphabetical order, are the picks for what we deem the best of the rest;
• ANASTACIA : Stupid Little Things
It was no accident that Anastacia decided to call her new album ‘Resurrection’. It was a return to form for the little diva with the big voice and delivered upon us the sensational lead single ‘Stupid Little Things’. Co-penned by Louis Biancaniello and Sam Watters (the same guys behind her breakout hit ‘I’m Outta Love’, it was confident, sassy and assured and reminded us all not to sweat the small stuff… AKA those stupid little things.
• BONNIE ANDERSON : Blackout
Former ‘Australia’s Got Talent’ winner Bonnie Anderson has started dipping her toes into the chart waters via her vocal on a cover of ‘Gonna Make You Sweat’ for the defunct TV show ‘Everybody Dance Now’ and her 2013 single ‘Raise The Bar’. But she blasted onto the pop scene earlier in the year sporting a sexy black catsuit and armed with the street-wise pop nugget ‘Blackout’.
• BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT FTG. ELTON JOHN : I Wish We Were Leaving
Also known as Rod Thomas, British performer Bright Light Bright Light had a pretty good year. Though his third album ‘Life Is Easy’ didn’t quite fire on the UK albums chart in quite the way it deserved to, it did contain this rather ace little collaboration with Elton John. Its soft vocals, interesting chord structure and smooth electronic production harked back to some of the classic earlier Pet Shop Boys numbers. And that’s no bad thing.
• ANDY BULL : Talk Too Much
It’s not just us that thought Sydney-sider Andy Bull was robbed at this year’s ARIA Awards, right? Andy made the move into an interesting and sexy blend of indie-pop throughout 2014 with his album ‘Sea Of Approval’ and its retro-themed single ‘Talk Too Much’. Lovely stuff. He deserves to be a superstar.
• DJ CASSIDY FTG. ROBIN THICKE & JESSIE J : Calling All Hearts
It’s baffling to us that DJ Cassidy’s ‘Calling All Hearts’ didn’t make the top ten here in Australia. Delicious disco beats, crafted by some of the biggest names from the disco era and vocalled by the extraordinary Jessie J and the pre-grovelling Robin Thicke. It was pure, hands-in-da-air pop fun and it had us tapping our toes for months after its release. PS. Hey Sony… where’s that album??
• DUKE DUMONT : Won’t Look Back
There were plenty of dance/pop tracks throughout 2014 that had us tripping back to the ’90s with their retro-inspired beats. Acts like Clean Bandit cleaned up (how good is ‘Real Love’, BTW?), but we were seriously digging this track from British DJ Duke Dumont. Fresh off the back of hits with A*M*E and Jax Jones, the identity of the vocalist for ‘Won’t Look Back’ was kept under wraps for a while, potentially in the hope rumours would circulate that he had snared the services of disco diva Loleatta Holloway. He didn’t, but take a bow Yolanda Quartey… your vocals are exceptional and are what made ‘Won’t Look Back’ a favourite.
• PALOMA FAITH : Only Love Can Hurt Like This
It may have taken her five long years, but Paloma Faith finally has a No.1 hit under her belt. But it came in the most unexpected of places… here in Australia. We’d not given her so much as the time of day on the singles chart prior to ‘Only Love Can Hurt Like This’, but aided by a promotional visit and a high profile TV sync, we were all over this like flies on your meat tray. Great song; deserved Aussie success.
• FIFTH HARMONY : Sledgehammer
A late one to the table this year was Fifth Harmony’s new single ‘Sledgehammer’. Though we’ve not really heard too much about them here in Australia at this stage (we did give away some imported copies of their ‘Better Together’ EP earlier in the year), the US ‘X Factor’ girl group will release their debut album ‘Reflection’ early in the new year and if the stars align (and they can get a better design team working on their styling/cover images), 2015 could be bright. Yes the cover was crap, but the song was fabulous and precisely the direction The Saturdays should have been chasing.
• I KNOW LEOPARD : Hold This Tight
A little left field this one, but we seriously couldn’t get Sydney outfit I Know Leopard’s single ‘Hold This Tight’ out of our heads. Summery beats, echoed vocals, soft electronica and a dreamy, floaty video washed over us and made us wish it was summer every weekend forever more. The future’s only summery for this up and coming band.
• SAMANTHA JADE : Sweet Talk
After an elongated break from the music industry, Samantha Jade returned late in the year with her new single ‘Sweet Talk’. Co-penned by Andrew Bolooki, who’s previously worked on music for Selena Gomez, the track, like the title suggested, was super-sweet and gave us a long-awaited taste of Sammy’s perfect pop vocal. Trouble was, radio wouldn’t play it and it sank without a trace. There’s only one way for Samantha Jade’s career to go in 2015 and that’s ‘Up!’.
• JULIUS : Falling On Hard Times
When New York based artist Julius first landed on our radar earlier in the year with his free-to-download debut pop single ‘Falling On Hard Times’, we said, “Julius is a performer possessing a clear understanding of what makes a truly impressive debut single”. We haven’t budged in our praise. ‘Falling On Hard Times’ was indeed incredibly special; so special that it just missed out in a place in our top ten singles of 2014. Amazing.
• KARMIN : I Want It All
Where did it all go wrong for Karmin? There they were at the top of the charts here in Australia with their breakout smash ‘Brokenhearted’ and again with ‘Acapella’, but then they dropped the disco delights of ‘I Want It All’, their debut album ‘Pulses’ and were subsequently dropped from their label deal and relegated to musical independence. ‘I Want It All’ was so much fun, resplendent with choreographed roller-skate moves, stabs of horn and a driving disco beat. Perhaps the disconnect occurs because audiences know that both Nick and Amy are unattainable objects of affection ’cause they’re knocking boots. It’s a theory.
• LADY GAGA : G.U.Y.
Though Lady Gaga’s popularity continues to wane, she proved to all doubters this year that she still knows hot to deliver a knockout single and a brilliant video clip. Sure, some may say that ‘G.U.Y.’ sounded a little… what’s the word… reductive? Perhaps a little too similar in style to some of her previous hits, but that short film/video that featured snippets of ‘Venus’ and album title track ‘Artpop’ showed that beyond the veneer lies a very canny artist.
• JENNIFER LOPEZ : First Love
And there was J-Lo lulling us into the false sense that ‘I Luh Ya Papi’ was the lead single from her album ‘A.K.A’. Oh wait… it was!? Thankfully she redeemed herself with the rather amazing Max Martin/Savan Kotecha co-penned gem ‘First Love’. Lots of lovely layered synths, a mid-tempo beat infused with trademark J-Lo sass and a chorus you almost needed a jackhammer to retrieve from your head… all colluded to create a convincing pop single. A convincing pop single that, sadly, wasn’t a hit.
• MAGIC! : Don’t Kill The Magic
Canadian outfit Magic! hit the big time in Australia via their breakout smash ‘Rude’. It was a No.2 hit here in Australia and sold in excess of 140,000 copies. So expectations were high that their all-important follow-up ‘Don’t Kill The Magic’ could do the same. Sadly, the title of the song turned out to be oddly prophetic, because ‘Don’t Kill The Magic’ kinda did kill the band’s career everywhere, it would seem, except in their home country. Which is a shame, because it was an entirely listenable radio-friendly track that sadly wasn’t embraced by radio and therefore, wasn’t listenable to the majority.
• JESSICA MAUBOY : Can I Get A Moment?
Where to start for Jessica Mauboy? She had an extraordinary 2014 and one of the highlights for us was her latest single ‘Can I Get A Moment?’. This was Jess taking it up another notch and showing us that she’s transitioning beautifully from the girl who travelled to Alice Springs for a rendition of Whitney’s ‘I Have Nothing’ all those years ago to a confident young woman who’s clearly got her eye on the prize when it comes to her music career. Her performance of the track on ‘The X Factor’ (HERE) could very well be our favourite Jess performance of all time. Cracking song.
• JESSICA MAUBOY : Never Be The Same Again
It’s been such a big year for her that we couldn’t possibly leave the Jess Mauboy love at just one… ‘Never Be The Same’ was also a cracking good pop track. A platinum-selling top ten hit, as with ‘Can I Get A Moment?’, it showed a more mature side to Jess and gave us a little glimpse into the kind of global-quality pop music she’s capable of delivering. There’s a reason the team at Sony is so behind Jess; she’s got the goods.
• JESSICA MAUBOY : Sea Of Flags
And one more for good luck, as Jess represented Australia not once, but twice on massive international stages throughout the year. And on both occasions, she performed her single ‘Sea Of Flags’. Co-penned with Ilan Kidron and Stuart Crichton and produced by the latter, the driving pop track served to introduce Ms Mauboy to a wider international audience via her appearances at the Eurovision Song Contest and the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. And on both occasions, she did us proud.
• MONT OLIVER : 19
“This is a remarkable, super-slick debut single which, guided by a bouncy hip-hop bassline, delivers listeners smooth and impressive vocal and cutting edge pop production,” we said of ’19’ by Danish three piece Mont Oliver when it landed on our desk in the middle of October. It’s still a favourite and you can still nab it free of charge HERE.
• OLLY MURS FTG. TRAVIE MCCOY : Wrapped Up
He may have borrowed his act from Robbie Williams, but who doesn’t love a little bit of Olly Murs in a pop countdown? The auspOp favourite delivered his Travie McCoy-featuring up-tempo lead single only a couple of months back. It came to us with plenty of guitar-lickin’ goodness, strings, disco beats and a smattering of cheekiness, all wrapped up in a palatable three minute pop package.
• NATHANIEL : Live Louder
After learning a valuable lesson that Australians weren’t stupid enough to buy the same song twice (albeit with different lyrics), former ‘X Factor’ star Nathaniel went back to the drawing board in 2014 and came out with the infectious ‘Live Louder’. Sure, it may have got a mammoth leg up via the myriad TV syncs it was involved in, but they worked, the public responded, it became his second top five hit and went through the platinum barrier.
• SANNA NIELSEN : Undo
The Eurovision Song Contest back in May threw up a few surprises, but there was no denying the appeal of Swedish starlet Sanna Nielsen’s entry ‘Undo’. While vocally she sounds a little like Celine Dion, the technical proficiency required to deliver a song as challenging and complex as ‘Undo’, particularly in the live arena, impressed us greatly. That and… KEY CHANGE!
• NUSSY : Dizzy
We had big things to say about spunky Melbourne starlet Nussy when she launched her debut single ‘Dizzy’ in the middle of the year. We were spinning around with pop delight, claiming she had gifted us “arguably the strongest Aussie debut single of 2014”. It was mid-tempo electronic pop laced with retro flourishes an a hella catchy chorus. Hence us giving ‘Dizzy’ a spin in our Honourable Mentions.
• RITA ORA : I Will Never Let You Down
Ms Ora stormed to the upper echelons of the UK and Australian charts with her infectious track ‘I Will Never Let You Down’, earlier in the year. The Calvin Harris-penned song was duplicitous in that it possessed both cute pop summery verses and straight out dance/pop choruses. But after her split from Calvin (they were knockin’ boots) in the middle of the year, the second album project came to a screeching halt. Thankfully not before we got the chance to hear ‘I Will Never Let You Down’.
• KATY PERRY : Dark Horse
It was a big year for Australia’s Katy-cats; Ms Perry descending on our shores for an extensive touring schedule in recent months, plus pop-up shops in Sydney and Melbourne and a couple more top 20 hits. Though ‘Dark Horse’ wasn’t officially released as a single down under, it was a reminder that Katy (and the seemingly bottomless pit of cash to draw upon for her video clips) could still deliver a super-slick pop punch.
• DIANA ROUVAS : Heart Of Goodbye
We loved what former ‘The Voice’ songstress Diana Rouvas brought to the table this year via her debut major label original ‘Heart of Goodbye’. Co-penned by Louis Schoorl, the track reminded us of some of the material on Emeli Sandé’s critically acclaimed album ‘Our Version Of Events’. As such, it was both familiar and soulful. It didn’t get much mileage at retail, but it certainly had our interest piqued. More in 2015 please, Ms Rouvas.
• RÜFÜS : Sundream
We were torn as to which of Rüfüs’ 2014 singles to pop into our ‘Honourable Mentions’ countdown. We could, of course, have chosen ‘Take Me’, which received a major leg-up thanks to its use in a high profile Qantas TV commercial, but we settled instead on the less familiar, but no less stylish ‘Sundream’. Dreamy synths melded with soft, hypnotic beats and sweet, husky vocals to keep us captivated and provide the perfect soundtrack for our next travel adventure.
• SHEPPARD : Geronimo
We can’t let the year go by without tipping our hat to Brisbane outfit Sheppard, who broke free from their indie constraints and into the mainstream with their smash ‘Geronimo’. A No.1 hit here in Australia, the track also got them noticed further afield, including in the US, where they performed on ‘Ellen’ and in parts of Europe, where it also made it to the upper reaches of the chart. It success also spurred savvy shoppers onto nabbing their debut long player ‘Bombs Away’.
• SAM SMITH : I’m Not The Only One
Yes, we’ve popped Sam’s ‘Like I Can’ in our top ten. And yes, we’ve also popped his ‘Stay With Me’ a little higher up in the same list. So there’s no way we’re not going to make mention of his other smash single in 2014; ‘I’m Not The Only One’. He’s had a cracker year; conquering planet pop with an album full of sparkling pop diamonds that speak about love and the way it has the ability to affect us all.
• TAYLOR SWIFT : Shake It Off
Hasn’t Ms Swift had a cracker of a last few months? First of all she beguiled us all with the infectious ‘Shake It Off’, which had the whole planet wobbling in one form or another, then she came back with the clip for second single ‘Blank Space’ in which we got to see bat-shit cray-cray Tay Tay and we had one of the year’s biggest albums, which continues to sell through the festive season and will do so again throughout the next 12 months in anticipation of her recently-announced national tour at the end of next year. Feeling a little low? Here’s the solution…; ‘Shake It Off’.
• THE VERONICAS : You Ruin Me
Almost two and a half years. That’s how long it took for us to hear new music from Brisbane duo The Veronicas. Seven years was the time between albums. ‘You Ruin Me’ was the perfect comeback for Lisa & Jess; classy, emotive and mature. Co-penned with the DNA chaps, the single quickly affirmed the girls as two of the most savvy performers in the pop business and soon rightfully returned them to the top of the charts.
• CONCHITA WURST : Rise Like A Phoenix
Aaah Conchita. She may have left the more conservative aspects of society more than a little befuddled and confused by her appearance, but she sure knew how to make a statement at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. Riding a wave of support that bordered on euphoria (Hi Loreen!), Ms Wurst snatched the crown from the Netherlands’ Common Linnets and their admittedly gorgeous ‘Calm Before The Storm’ to ensure that Austria will host next year’s edition, under the banner of ‘Building Bridges’. May 19, 21 and 23 are in the diary, so let the countdown begin.