#1. “Shake It Off” – Taylor Swift
It might be impossible to hate Taylor Swift. This year I actually heard someone earnestly say “I want to find reasons to dislike her but she has brought a lot of happiness to our family”. In 2014 pop superstar/PR genius Taylor Swift shamelessly renounced country music and opted to go straight pop for her 5th LP 1989. Her previous album Red was great at straddling the line between pop and country but with 1989 she is all in on pop. With “Shake It Off”, Swift challenges you to dislike her. It’s an assertive and confrontational track but not a aggressively domineering one. She takes ownership of the darker parts of her reputation and effortlessly shakes the haters off. Carefree and articulate, Swift reminds us that she is an actual living breathing human being with flaws and she is dead set on moving forward despite her reputation and critics. The song takes a minute or two to really get cooking and she spends the first verse explaining herself, justifying her perspective. But about halfway through, the song seems to evolve from an introspective self assessment to a cathartic rallying cry for us all to join in the release. She drops the goofy and implausibly fitting breakdown before catapulting the song into its triumphant final run of choruses. Haven’t we all spent a little too much time getting down about the liars and the dirty dirty cheats of the world when we could have been getting own to this. sick. beat? And thats really the point. Why should we waste our time fussing about the obstacles and people who try to get in our way when all we really want to do is dance? This is at the heart of why I listen to music. Any art form can deliver on the promise of escapism but pop music is engineered for this purpose. “Shake It Off” is simple enough to be immediately enjoyable but there is something bubbling below the surface that makes us a participant in the experience. There were plenty of songs that conveyed depth and meaning both musically and lyrically this year but the infinite replay value, relatable sensibilities and immutable joy make “Shake It Off” the best song of 2014.