Well, it’s time to unveil my favorite songs of the year. As has been the case for the past 2 years, there are 20 in total. I’ll be dividing them up into 2 posts once again for easy of reading and digestion. A few thoughts about this year’s songs
- Not many ballads. I guess that wasn’t how I was feeling this year.
- Females edged out males by a slim margin.
- This list fell together really quickly. I only jettisoned one song while putting it together thanks to a November official release of the song I really wanted on there.
- The iTunes play counts are included but I fell victim to the iOS8 update play count bug, so they are artificially elevated, probably by as much as 30% in most cases.
- As usual, these are in no particular order.
So here we go.
Shake It Off / Taylor Swift
iTunes play count: 68
It wasn’t my song of the year by a long shot, but I played the hell out of what you have to admit is one hell of a catchy song. Taylor Swift finally made the jump to full-on pop and the results were what we all pretty much expected – she was awesome at it. Granted she’s been flirting with pop for a while, but this song will be a dividing line in Swift’s career. I’d like to say that it’s all my teenage daughter’s fault that this song ended up as the first song on the list, but that’d be a lie because this song would be here even without her.
Restart / Sam Smith
iTunes play count: 52
The world seemed to go nuts for Sam Smith this year, especially this summer with “Stay By Me” being played ever 2 and a half minutes on the radio. Many call him the female Adele and i think the comparison is apt – both of them are a bit of a chore for me to listen to. The turgid ballads are just so much WORK. “Restart” exchanges the dirge for an uptempo beat that is reminiscent of the early 90s. And there’s falsetto. What more could we ask for?
Never Take It Away (feat. Mayer Hawthorne) / The Aston Shuffle
iTunes play count: 116
Mayer Hawthorne didn’t even release an album this year (unless you count his Jaded Incorporated album which I think only sort of counts), but his guest vocals on this track by Aussie house music duo Aston Shuffle was a good substitute for new solo material. Hawthorne’s vocals are strong and his falsetto (again) is flawless, especially in the last 30 seconds of the song – i.e. “diamonds, dark mi-inds!” It was my most played track of the year, so naturally, it was guaranteed a spot on the list.
Cannonball / Lea Michele
iTunes play count: 79
My wife despises this song. She cringes when I play it and then mocks it incessantly until it’s either over or I skip it. Thing is, when I heard it in January of this year, I had a sneaking suspicion it would end up on this list. It’s one of those over-the-top melodramatic ballads that Celine Dion always used to do so well, and it’s only natural that Glee‘s Lea Michele follow in those footsteps. Naturally, I fell hook, line, and sinker for the song. I had high hopes for the album, but she played it too safe and took very few chances. I’m not sure she has a voice for pop radio, but she wound up with an album that was mostly boring. And also, “Cannonball” should have been remixed into a stomping dance floor anthem. Missed opportunity. (EDIT: It actually was, but the remix is pretty generic. It remains a missed opportunity.)
Sexy Love / Kylie Minogue
iTunes play count: 64
I liked but didn’t love Kylie’s album Kiss Me Once. “Into The Blue” was a lackluster lead single and the album was full of album tracks with no standout singles. That doesn’t mean that I hated the songs. On the contrary, as I’ve said many times before, the album was somehow less than the sum of its parts. The album disappointed, but I have a hard time finding a song that I actively dislike. “Sexy Love” was an early favorite and one of three songs with “sex” in the title, the others being “Les Sex” and the dubiously titled “Sexercise” which ended up not being as bad as we all expected. Although it’s textbook Kylie MInogue, “Sexy Love” still sounds fresh at year’s end.
Rattle My Bones / The Secret Sisters
iTunes play count: 29
“Rattle My Bones” was a Spotify discovery, something from a playlist I subscribe to called “The Pulse of Americana.” I wrote a post about it shortly after hearing it so I won’t belabor it other than “Rattle My Bones” was one of those songs that I initially loved, then wondered what I loved about it, and then completely rediscovered. Any song that can survive that cycle is more than worthy of being included on this list. Also, Heidi thinks that it sounds like a song from a 70s kids TV show, perhaps Schoolhouse Rock? I think I know where she’s coming from, but I can’t for the life of me think of what show she’s talking about.
Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain / Suzanne Vega
iTunes play count: 45
Suzanne Vega wins the award for most-awkwardly-titled-album with Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles, and its lead single was also a mouthful. The single most awesome thing about “Don’t Uncork What You Can’t Contain” is the 50 Cent “Candy Shop” sample which I feel is quid-pro-quo for all the times that “Tom’s Diner” has been sampled in the last 25 years. It also has a great bridge and turnaround at the end, going from “don’t uncork” to “you gotta uncork.” Although the name dropping of Macklemore was a bit strange, it was a solid entry into her large catalog of songs.
There Are No Miracles / Bright Light Bright Light
iTunes play count: 70
Perennial favorite Rod Thomas aka Bright Light Bright Light makes an appearance this year with my favorite song from his new album, Life Is Easy. I was immediately drawn to it because it reminded me so much of Madonna’s “Get Together” – you can practically sing parts of the Madge track over BLx2’s song. I also really love the positive message in the song, which might seem a little bit odd for a song that claims there are no miracles. The twist is that you create your own miracles through your own hard work. It was a song that I really needed in my life this year, and I’m glad it showed up.
Home / Dolly Parton
iTunes play count: 83
Oh, Dolly. You’ve been with me for so long it’s almost like I can’t remember the time before I liked your music. No matter how much plastic surgery she has – a recent interview I saw with her had me concerned because it looked like she couldn’t move the right part of her mouth – she’s one of those artists I just accept completely and utterly. This is the first of two appearances on this list (I couldn’t bear to cut either), “Home” amazes me because of the complexity of the songwriting. The words she uses, the rhymes she gets – those are things I would never even think of in a million years. I guess that’s why she’s the songwriter and I’m just the song listener. Of note, this song was pressed on limited edition 7″ blue vinyl for Record Store Day this year and I was lucky enough to score a copy. (hint: the B-side is the song I couldn’t bear to cut from this list.)
You Don’t Know What To Do / Mariah Carey
iTunes play count: 23
I’m such a fair weather Mariah Carey fan. Actually “Mariah Carey fan” is not accurate. I was a fan of Mariah Carey’s first album and then every album after that has made me like her less and less. That said, there have been songs along the way that I’ve liked in spite of myself. Funny thing is that from her album Me. I am Mariah…The Elusive Chanteuse, I liked more songs than I didn’t. “You Don’t Know What To Do” is a standout though, even though it is yet another Mariah Carey song that would be a million times better without the stupid rapper. And now that I think about it, maybe Suzanne Vega doesn’t have the most awkwardly titled album of the year after all.
Part 2 coming soon!