Here are more songs I enjoyed this year.
Here are more songs I enjoyed this year.
Here are some of my favourite songs of 2014.
The spritely boys of Union J are back with their second LP You Got It All – The Album but will this be the one to move the X Factor alumni ahead in the pop pack?
You have to feel slightly sorry for the guys. As lovely as they are, in a typical natter of key X Factor acts, Union J rarely gets name-checked in the same breath as One Direction, Olly Murs, JLS, Little Mix or Leona Lewis. But yet they have a good enough grasp of the teen pop market to nab themselves four Top 10 singles – including their latest hit ‘You Got It All’, which debuted at #2 this week and became their highest charting release yet. Even though it was the biggest single in the UK in terms of actual sales, it didn’t make the overall #1 on the main Official Singles Chart because of streaming (they’re yet to put the new single and album on Spotify).
If this isn’t a sign that Union J is upping their pop game then let’s consider the new album. Compared to their 2013 self-titled debut, You Got It All – The Album is a first-class affair boasting studio sessions with top songwriters and producers in the US and UK who have made their names on One Direction, Jessie J and The Vamps‘ records. Hell, even the legendary songsmith Diane Warren has contributed a track.
Lorde is probably one of the most in-demand and untouchable young talents in the music industry right now. The 18-year old alternative-pop savant from New Zealand has been given the honour of curating the new Hunger Games soundtrack and boy, did she turn it the hell out.
Mockingjay Part 1 is the third soundtrack of the popular anthology and is, quite rightly so, the most hyped one yet. Just like the movie, you get a sense that each artist selected for the soundtrack needs to breathe some level of cool, youthful rebellion. Lorde herself would fit the bill quite well but this isn’t a Lorde album in disguise, per se.
Sonically, the album is a cohesive and magnetic mix of hip hop and alternative electro pop. The album opener ‘Meltdown’ is probably the best summary of the different influences at play here. Belgian producer Stromae cuts a mean, strutting electro beat while Q-Tip and Pusha T throw punchy rap verses and Lorde owns the hook with HAIM on backing vocals.
As well as securing in-demand figures in the industry like Kanye West, Charli XCX and others for the project, Lorde has also submitted a new track ‘Yellow Flicker Beat’, produced by Paul Epworth who was behind Adele‘s monumental album 21, and a spine-tingling cover of Bright Eyes‘ ‘Ladder Song’.
Iggy Azalea, one of the world’s most in-demand rappers right now, is on a winning streak. Her debut The New Classic has spawned five UK Top 20 hits, including the ubiquitous summer anthem ‘Fancy’ (featuring Charli XCX) and current flame ‘Black Widow’ (featuring Rita Ora), but could she squeeze a few more in with this repackaged edition?
It seems like only yesterday that the Australian rapper was venting her frustration on Twitter about The New Classic‘s repeatedly delayed release but now she is finding herself in quite the opposite situation. What a difference a string of global hits makes.
Instead of slowing down to record a full second album, Iggy is reupholstering her debut with five new songs just seven months after it hit stores. All in time for Christmas, of course.
The new body of work is appropriately christened Reclassified and is led by a bossy single ‘Beg For It’ featuring Danish indie-electropop singer MØ. The song builds on the new-generation female brat pack vibe Iggy has fostered with the aforementioned collaborators Charli and Rita with dominant choruses like: “I know you like the way I turn it on. I’m out here with my friends. I’mma make you beg, I’mma make you beg for it! If you don’t do this right, you’re going home alone. I guess you’ll have to beg.” It’s a proven hit formula and not just for Iggy. Just ask Jessie J, Ariana Grande, Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor. Rhythmic female-led songs with empowering lyrics are what platinum-gilded hits are made of in 2014 – haven’t you heard?
Alternative electro pop trio Kate Boy brought their stamp of underground cool to London’s XOYO on their UK tour and were amazed to find fans all the way from Brazil and Belgium in the front. Such is the magnitude of their reach, all before this Sweden-based band has even released an album.
Kate Boy, made up of Australian singer Kate Akhurst and Swedish synth and drumming masters Marcus Dextegen and Hampus Nordgren Hemlin, made waves on the blogosphere with their debut single ‘Self Control‘ a few months ago. At first play, this lot sounds like an edgier and darker version of Icona Pop, but it’s not until you see them perform that you realise this trio is an active live band on stage. Even Kate puts down the mic from time to time to join her band brothers for a stint of passionate drumming.
Can we have a fair assessment of Cheryl Fernandez-Versini‘s new album?
Only Human is the ex-Girls Aloud siren’s fourth solo offering, another piece of the ever-expanding Cheryl brand which includes a high-profile role as a judge on the X Factor, a signature fragrance and autobiography. While she is unquestionably one of Britain’s hottest celebrities, Cheryl is quick to remind folks that she’s got all the makings of a proper popstar. This has been her bread and butter for the past 12 years after all. Naturally, Only Human is predicted to debut somewhere in the Top 3 as Cheryl has never had problems getting decent first-week sales. But beyond that, what will this album reveal and add to the Geordie entertainer’s oeuvre?
First thing’s first, as a body of work, this is Cheryl’s most cohesive album since her 2010 debut 3 Words. The vocals on the album are some of her most consistent yet and sonically it keeps her in the safe equilibrium of pop with electronic and R&B leanings. Only Human‘s main shortcoming is being a tad heavy on mid-tempos, even though most of which are pleasant enough and carry some form of life-affirming message. On one hand it borders on being too prosaic, especially since we know Cheryl is capable of dishing proper bangers like ‘Call My Name’, but at the same time it is quite a pleasant switch after her last album’s peppery break up themes.
The first single ‘Crazy Stupid Love’ (featuring Tinie Tempah) is surprisingly the album’s most rhythmic and addictive tune. The blaring horns, handclaps and merry ‘la-la-la-la, la-la-la-la!’ bits seem to light up the album in ways unmatched by any other track. The song is produced by Wayne Wilkins, who was behind Cheryl’s first #1 hit ‘Fight For This Love’, and is his only involvement in the project. It’s a pity there isn’t nearly enough of this energy pulsating through Only Human.
The only other moment we get this burst of vitality is in ‘Firecracker’, a track co-written by Sia and produced by Greg Kurstin, who has done huge records for Lily Allen and Kylie. The track is a wig-snatching and semi comical index-finger waving alert to women eyeing up Cheryl’s man. She warns in about 100 words per minute: “He love a girl who can dance, not a girl with implants and a fake tan, wham bam thank you ma’am! Now I’m lit up like a firecracker. Don’t do well with a man highjacker. My man’s so cool, you know he just flattered. But you better run girl before I catch ya, catch ya!”