#10. “Sanctified” – Rick Ross ft. Kanye West & Big Sean
Not even Big Sean can ruin a track this dope. The hook is legendary. The sample is straight up life affirming. Kanye’s verse is clever, self-aware, and saucy. Rick Ross is a champion of bravado fueled sex-money-drugs rap but when paired with this incredible beat produced by Kanye, Mike Dean and DJ Mustard “Sanctified” makes for a glorious spectacle of excess.
#9. “Turn Down For What” – DJ Snake & Lil Jon
2014 had many exquisite, bone rattling, party anthem bangers but “Turn Down For What” was the king of them all.
#8. “Queen” – Perfume Genius
Perfume Genius (aka Mike Hadreas) has a refined but irreverent sense of swagger. “Queen” makes me want to walk around in slow motion and make direct eye contact with strangers. It’s an empowering, sexually charged rhapsody that produced one the best lyrics of the year: “No family is safe when I sashay”. On his third album Too Bright, Perfume Genius gracefully navigates a variety of genres and moods but “Queen” is the anchor that holds it all together.
#7. “Rhythm of Devotion” – Sisyphus
While their debut self titled album has some unfortunate misfires, this song is a beautiful 6 minute genre defying science experiment. Constantly in motion and full of twists and turns, “Rhythm of Devotion” ends a million miles from where it starts. The boundless creativity of it’s three diverse creators (indie folk genius Sufjan Stevens, rapper Serengeti, and producer Son Lux) is palpable as the song moves through its different moods. From the minimalist hip-hop opening to the sky high synth stabs and choral climax, “Rhythm of Devotion” is one of the years most awe inspiring tracks.
#6. “Love Never Felt So Good” – Michael Jackson
I was just flipping channels one evening and I tuned into the iHeartRadio Awards just seconds before they premiered this posthumous release from the greatest pop artist there ever was. It was effortless and fun and nostalgic and it was all the things that I want to remember most about what made Michael Jackson the defining pop talent of the 20th century. “Love Never Felt So Good” feels so fresh and joyous and it feels like its been a top 40 classic for decades. I found myself teary eyed and heartbroken at his passing all over again but at the same time I couldn’t stop smiling because “Love Never Felt So Good” is as good as anything he ever released while alive.
#5. “Chandelier” – Sia
She’s written songs for Katy Perry, Rihanna, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera but 2014 saw pop music’s reclusive genius step out of the shadows. With “Chandelier”, Sia proves she’s got the goods to stand toe to toe with any contemporary pop diva. Suffering from extreme stage fright, Sia usually performs with her back to the audience but on “Chandelier” she hides nothing. The vocals are raw and unpolished and her desperation is bared for all to see. “Chandelier” is savagely powerful and totally captivating.
#4. “Archie, Marry Me” – Alvvays
On their stellar self titled debut, this little Canadian indie rock band quietly released the best love song of the year. I got married this year and through all of the coordinating and stress that surrounds planning a Wedding, I kept coming back to this song. Anyone who has ever been a part of this process can probably relate to the following lyric: “honey take me by the hand and lets sign some papers, forget the invitations, floral arrangements and bread makers”. Its such a simple and beautiful sentiment that resonates so deeply with me. Love, commitment and marriage are filled obstacles and distractions but on “Archie, Marry Me” lead singer Molly Rankin is ready to side-step the pageantry and get right into what really matters and the result is a clear headed indie love anthem.
#3. “Uptown Funk” – Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars
“Uptown Funk” is pop funk perfection and the best imitation of Prince since Dave Chappell. Bruno Mars is the most underrated artist in pop music. Despite headlining the 2014 Super Bowl halftime show, I still feel like the general public hasn’t truly caught on to just how good this dude is. He stole the show at the 2013 VMA’s but I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who noticed. “Uptown Funk” might just be the tipping point. It’s an irresistible, intelligent piece of pop song craft that should deservedly dominate the airwaves for months.
#2. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” – Future Islands
Future Islands desperately want to be heard. They captured America’s attention during their first ever televised performance on David Letterman and though it might have seemed like a gimmick, these guys are the real deal. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” is unapologetically nostalgic and honest and romantic and a million other things that are utterly uncool. This is a band that has spent years recording in their living roo on a shoestring budget only to see their moment present itself in 2014 with the release of their 4th LP Singles. Few indie bands are given the opportunity to make the leap into the public eye and even fewer are able to capitalize with such unabashed gusto. “Seasons (Waiting On You)” is as much about seizing the moment as it is about waiting for the exact right moment to do so. It’s not a complex song but it’s able to capture the infinitely complicated sensation of growing up and watching everyone around you do the same. It may have taken Future Islands years to reach this point but “Seasons” proves it was worth the wait. Read my full review of Future Islands’ Singles right here.