Hard to believe that this is the sixth year already. As usual, I will be counting down my top 10 songs of the 2014. Beginning December 26, I’ll reveal my number 10 song of the year. Then two songs a day, followed by my favorite song of the year to be revealed on New Year’s Eve. There are rules, because, well, it’s my countdown. The only songs that are eligible are those that hit the Billboard Top 10 on the Hot 100 at any time during 2014. I just think it’s more fun to discuss songs that most people have heard of. In 2014, 59 songs hit the top 10. Rule #2: I eliminate any song that was in my 2013 Top 10, even if it spilled over into 2014. “Royals,” “Wake Me Up!” and “Say Something” are therefore not eligible for this year’s list.
Taylor Swift has never made my year-end top 10. Will this be the year? Or will she occupy a “Blank Space” on my list yet again? Will Iggy Azalea be “Fancy” enough to make my list? Would it be “Rude” to leave out MAGIC!? Is it really “All About That Bass?” And will you be “Happy” with my choice for number one song of the year?
As always, comments are welcomed. I will make an attempt to post good comments from other social media sites—this countdown is now on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Diaspora. And what are your top songs (top 10 or not)? Feel free to congratulate, criticize or tell me I’m out of my mind (as if I didn’t know).
1. All Of Me, John Legend, G.O.O.D./Columbia
“All Of Me” replaced “Happy” as the number one song in the country in mid-May after six weeks at number two. John Legend’s piano ballad, inspired by his now-wife Chrissy Teigen, became his first number one single. It spent three weeks at the top and topped the charts in eight countries. Released in August 2013, it took some time to catch on. A remix was released early in 2014, but the remix is dreadful and should never have been done to this fine song. The video features Legend and Teigen and well, it’s more than a little bit steamy. Legend had performed the song several times in 2013 on television, but his January 2014 performance at the Grammys really boosted the track’s popularity. By early March, it was in the top five and was the number three song of the year according to Billboard. Legend’s voice carries a well-written song with some memorable lines. Two gems include: “You’re my end and my beginning/Even when I lose I’m winning” and “Love your curves and all your edges/All your perfect imperfections.” Because the original recording of “All Of Me” was released too early for consideration at the upcoming Grammys, the song is only up for two, one for a live version and the other for that wretched remix.
Official video: Vevo link
Live on The Late Show with David Letterman: Vevo link
Legend with violinist Lindsey Stirling, live at the Kennedy Center: YouTube link
Grammy performance, January 2014: YouTube link
Glee version: YouTube link
Josh Kaufman version, season 6, The Voice: YouTube link
2. Happy, Pharrell Williams, Back Lot Music/Columbia
Pharrell Williams was a featured artist on two of the biggest hits of 2013. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” was the number two song of the year, Billboard‘s Song of the Summer and the year’s longest-running number one single with 12 weeks at the top. Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” was the Grammy Record of the Year and topped my year-end list a year ago. As a solo artist, Williams continued his run of success with the biggest hit of 2014, “Happy,” which spent 10 weeks at number one, was Oscar-nominated and was the number one song of the year. The song from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack was a bit slow out of the gate, but once it caught on, it became a worldwide phenomenon, going to number one in 24 countries. The catchy dance tune spawned many parodies and tribute videos, including one called “Tacky” from “Weird Al” Yankovic. Shortly after Pharrell Williams appeared at the Grammys wearing an unusual brown Vivienne Westwood hat, Pharrell’s Hat had its own Twitter account. He wore a similar hat to perform “Happy” at the Oscars, where he danced with Amy Adams and other actors in the front row. He lost on the Best Original Song category to Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go.” Hard not to sing and dance along to this one.
3. I’m Not The Only One, Sam Smith, Capitol
Sam Smith had a huge breakthrough year in 2014. His first big solo hit, “Stay With Me” peaked at number two and barely missed my top 10. His followup is still on the charts, at number five to close the year. “I’m Not The Only One” covers the heartbreak of knowing that one’s partner was unfaithful. The vocals soar. It was a top 10 hit in many countries, but so far has only hit number one in South Africa. His performance of this song on many awards and music competition shows cemented Smith’s status as major vocal talent, compared frequently to Adele. Smith is nominated for six Grammys, including four major ones–Record of the Year, Song of the Year (both for “Stay With Me”), Album of the Year and Best New Artist. Sorry Iggy, I have to think 22-year-old Sam Smith is the overwhelming favorite to take the Best New Artist trophy.
4. All About That Bass, Meghan Trainor, Epic
Safe to say that one year ago, not many people had heard of Meghan Trainor, who turned 21 recently. Trainor co-wrote the song with singer-songwriter Kevin Kadish in 2013. Trainor was a songwriter at the time, and the song was offered to Beyonce and other record executives who all turned it down. Because the is about body image and suggests a “not skinny” protagonist, many singers signed to record deals were too thin to be taking on that subject matter. Kadish suggested Trainor record it and when L.A. Reid heard it, he signed Trainor as a singer in February 2014. In the United States, it hit number one in September and spent eight weeks there. It has now hit number one in 58 countries and has become one of the biggest worldwide hits of all time. While the vocals are odd, in some cases perhaps intentionally childlike, Trainor does sing the chorus well. I have to give credit for the “silicone stick-figure Barbie doll” line. To work that in without losing the catchiness is not easy. The musical sound is outstanding–this song sounds both fresh and retro. It’s clearly the most parodied song of the year and that’s saying something in a year when Pharrell’s “Happy” was also a big hit. It’s up for two Grammys and they are the big ones: Song of the Year and Record of the Year.
Official video: Vevo link
Trainor with Miranda Lambert at the CMAs: YouTube link
Avi Kaplan (Pentatonix bass guy) cover: YouTube link
Trainor’s ukelele performance on Entertainment Tonight: YouTube link
5. Thinking Out Loud, Ed Sheeran, Atlantic
Ed Sheeran’s biggest American hit to date spent only one week in the top 10 in 2014. That was the final week of 2014; “Thinking Out Loud” is still climbing headed into 2015. It’s likely to be a big hit in 2015, but I thought this song was too good to leave out of this year’s countdown. It has already been to number one in four countries, including the United Kingdom. It is apparently available is a 7-inch vinyl single, which makes it a must-buy for me. “Thinking Out Loud” is destined to become a wedding classic. There’s not much to say about the song itself. There is a very light acoustic guitar melody and the lyrics are pretty basic love song stuff. What carries the song is Sheeran’s vocal delivery.
6. Turn Down For What, DJ Snake & Lil Jon, Columbia
The song has 12 words total, but mostly the repeated title punctuating an infectious groove. It became a sports anthem and party classic. It entered the Billboard top 10 in April 2014 and spent 15 weeks there, topping out at number four. “Turn Down For What” came in at number 15 on the Billboard year-end chart. I think the impact of this song goes beyond its chart performance. It will be one of the most, if not the most, remembered track of the year. Its appeal to hip-hop, dance and rock audiences and use at sporting events made it ubiquitous–it’s hard to imagine anyone in the nation not hearing this song at some point. In a year dominated by dance pop, Australian rap, sappy ballads and Taylor Swift, this song stood out and didn’t fit that mold. Its video is up for a Best Music Video Grammy.
7. Rude, Magic!, Latium/RCA
If ever a song quietly spent six weeks at number one it might be “Rude.” The debut hit from the Canadian band Magic! dominated the charts at the end of the summer of 2014 and prevented Sam Smith’s smash, “Stay With Me” from hitting number one. Its run at the top came between two more talked about number one singles, Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” Perhaps it’s the simplistic nature of the song. “Rude” is a very laid back reggae song that’s quite catchy, although the song’s understated vibe led some critics to dismiss the song quickly. It didn’t catch on right away. Released on October 10, 2013, “Rude” cracked the top 10 in June 2014 and hit number one at the end of July. It ranked at number seven on Billboard’s year-end chart. Seems people either loved or hated this one. Outside of the USA, “Rude” hit number one in the U.K,. Poland, Slovakia and Colombia. A New York Post feature suggested that Rude may be the worst number one single of all time. I liked it enough to make my top 10.
8. Story Of My Life, One Direction, Syco/Columbia
One Direction spent seven non-consecutive weeks in the top 10 spanning 2013 and 2014. It peaked at number six in its first week on the chart in November 2013, It bounced in and out of the top 10 for months and lingered until April 2014. It marked a different turn for the popular boy band, who had been relying on uptempo pop songs and sappy ballads. “Story Of My Life” is a more mature song with modern folk influences. It reached number one in six very different countries: Bulgaria, Denmark, Ireland, Spain, Lebanon and New Zealand. It was considered for my 2013 top 10, but not selected and therefore qualifies for this year’s countdown. All five members of the group are given songwriter credit, along with Jamie Scott and John Ryan. Scott is a frequent collaborator on One Direction songs and fronts his own band, James Scott and the Town.
9. Love Never Felt So Good, Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake, MJJ/Epic
Paul Anka co-wrote “Love Never Felt So Good” with Michael Jackson in 1983 and Jackson recorded a demo version. It would up on a 1984 album from Johnny Mathis. The Mathis album, A Special Part Of Me, spawned two adult contemporary hits in 1984, but Love Never Felt So Good was never released as a single. In 2013 as part of the Xscape project, the demo was remixed from a simple unplugged version with Anka on piano into a modern dance song. There were two versions: a solo version and a duet version that added vocals by Justin Timberlake. The duet version was released in May 2014 and peaked at number nine later that month. It hit number one in Croatia, Israel and Denmark. Two videos were released featuring classic Michael Jackson footage. There was a “live performance” on May 1 at a music awards show that featured Usher and others performing classic Jackson dance moves. Perhaps nostalgia helped put this into my top 10, but it sounds like a classic Michael Jackson song that could have fit well on the Off The Wall album.
Johnny Mathis version from 1984: YouTube link
Michael Jackson solo version video: Vevo link
Video of the duet version with Justin Timberlake: Vevo link
“Live performance” by Usher and others: YouTube link
10. Pompeii, Bastille, Virgin/Capitol
The first major hit from the British band Bastille peaked at number five in March. Actually it plateaued, spending four weeks at number five followed by five more weeks at number six. It topped the Billboard rock and alternative charts in America and peaked at number two in the U.K. Oddly enough, the song’s release coincided with the release of an unrelated movie called “Pompeii.” Both the song and the movie refer to the volcanic disaster from the first century that destroyed the Roman city. Perhaps even more strangely is that “Pompeii” (the song) was being used as a promo in movie ads, but not for the movie “Pompeii,” but for a different movie also in theaters at that time, “Mr. Peabody and Sherman.” Between the movie and the song, it’s likely that a new generation of school kids are very familiar with Mount Vesuvius and its famous eruption.