Best of 2014: Music
BY MESFIN FEKADU / Associated Press
Need a new playlist for the new year? Check out the Associated Press’ lists of the top songs and albums of 2014.
Heard them before? Then play them again.
Contemporary music’s top singer and songwriter — Beyonce and Sia — join forces to create a song that is heavy, deeply felt, emotional — but most important, beautiful.
“Pretty Hurts,” with its winning accompanying music video, tackles the insecurities anyone and everyone feels, and Beyonce’s rising vocals bring Sia’s words to life, including lyrics like “it’s the soul that needs surgery.” I could cry.
Being selfish is a good thing: Sia, who has written for Rihanna, Katy Perry and others, decided to keep “Chandelier” for herself, and thankfully so. The upbeat party anthem can get anyone in the right mood.
Yes, Sam Smith stole your heart with “Stay With Me,” but “I’m Not the Only One” proves he will be around for a long time. His honest delivery, lyrically and vocally, makes him so irresistible it makes you wonder who was so foolish to have broken his heart.
The year’s most viral and colorful song still sounds good months after its release. “All About That Bass” is addictive and empowering, and it showcases bright newcomer Meghan Trainor, who we think won’t fall into the trap of one-hit wonder status.
It doesn’t matter if it’s the Spanish or English version, Enrique Iglesias’ “Bailando” is the track with the year’s most swag. I wanna be contigo, and live contigo, and dance contigo!
The other song of the year full of swagger is Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell Em,” thanks to DJ Mustard’s grungy but digestible production. Call him producer of the year: He also helmed Tinashe’s “2 On,” Big Sean’s “I Don’t” and Fergie’s “L.A. Love (La La),” among other favorites.
Hozier’s humane and emotional lyrics, matched with his commanding voice, make for a bluesy, soulful, indie rock treasure with “Take Me to Church,” likely to win the Grammy Award for song of the year.
“Why don’t we do a little day drinking?” Little Big Town asks — rather sings — on their latest hit. And why not? It would feel even better doing so while listening to this summer anthem, highlighted by the foursome’s awesome harmonies and that guitar solo.
Do I really need to explain why this is so good?
Kudos to Tay Tay for writing a song about the media’s portrayal of her love life — or the multitude of them. It’s creative, smart, funny and cool.
Honorable Mentions: “Cool Kids,” Echosmith; “Rather Be,” Clean Bandit featuring Jess Glynne; “i,” Kendrick Lamar; “Boom Clap,” Charli XCX; “Waves,” Mr. Probz.
Sam Smith’s album was an emotional roller coaster — a ride you couldn’t get off of even if you tried. The songs, anchored by his piercing voice, had the power to make you cry, smile, shiver and even dance.
Tracks like the radio hit, “Stay With Me,” and “Leave Your Lover” are intense and emotional, making for an honest, beautiful album that soothes the soul.
There can only be only reply when he sings, “Oh, won’t you stay with me?” That would be a resounding, “Yes.”
The insanely talented rapper captures so much on his third album, tackling various topics from losing his virginity to growing up in Fayetteville, North Carolina to contemporary rappers, who should take note.
His rhymes are smart, and he is a powerful storyteller that, at times, echoes rap king Nas.
FKA twigs’ ethereal and eerie album is heavenly. The English singer’s soft vocals layered over weird beats make this 10-track set a must listen, thanks to addictive tracks like “Two Weeks,” “Numbers” and “Lights On.”
Let’s boom clap for Charli XCX and her top notch album, “Sucker.” The mix of rock and pop songs are confident and catchy, and prove that although Charli XCX was the side chick on songs like Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” and Icona Pop’s “I Love It,” she’s the real leading lady.
Tinashe, who is also part of the alternative R&B movement, delivered an album that moved the needle this year. Though she had a huge hit with the addictive “2 On,” the singer proves she’s much more than a one-hit wonder on “Aquarius.” Her whispery vocals glide over the songs’ beats so nicely you’ll constantly hit repeat.
“Just Like Vegas” is only one of the many standouts.
The parents of brother and sister duo Broods should be proud. The New Zealand group’s album, “Evergreen,” is a winner with instrumentalist Caleb Nott shining on the eclectic, alternative production, giving Georgia Nott a platform to showcase her calming vocals, especially on “Killing You” and “Mother & Father.”
Ariana Grande has already launched four Top 10 hits from her second album, but there’s so much more that bangs beyond “Bang Bang” on “My Everything.” The powerful vocalist nails it with a cool blend of R&B and pop songs that’s almost as good as her revering 2013 debut.
Props to singer-songwriter Sam Hunt for blending country music with elements of R&B, electronica and hip-hop. It might sound wild, but it works on his debut album, mainly thanks to Hunt’s swagger and sexy sing-talk vocal delivery.
Sam Smith isn’t the only Sam stealing hearts.
Swedish singer Robyn and Norwegian duo Royksopp 5-song dance EP is oh so good, and a tease. Full album please?
From “Chandelier” to “Elastic Heart” to “Eye of the Needle,” Sia’s latest album is just another laudable effort in her rich catalog, which is worth exploring if you’ve just discovered the gem this year.