Jul 14

Popular Crystal Ball: 2014 – The Story So Far

FT12 comments • 1,763 views

timburr SPOILERS AHEAD! A glimpse now into Popular’s gleaming but dystopian future, i.e. the first half of 2014’s number ones, ranked from best to worst based on how much I liked them when I played them just now. No marks, obviously, but consider this a hostage to future fortune. Assuming I get that far. But how could I not with so many bittersweet deep house tracks to write about?

1. DUKE DUMONT – “I Got U (Radio Edit)”: My favourite iteration of the year’s signature sound – wonderful poise in the vocal (#Justice4KelliLeigh!) and the backing is gorgeous. Why isn’t all pop like this right now OH WAIT HOLD ON

2. CLEAN BANDIT ft JESS GLYNNE – “Rather Be”: Golden bullet of a hook, takes its own sweet time getting there. But yes, this is how 2014 in pop will be remembered on current reckoning – sleek, well-tailored house pop.

3. OLIVER HELDENS X BECKY HILL – “Gecko (Overdrive)”: I wish Becky Hill had written her vocal about an actual gecko! Adore the instrumental of/on this, the vocal misses some of the mood I liked.

4. PITBULL ft KE$HA – “Timber”: Sorry not sorry for party rocking.

5. DVBBS & BORGEOUS – “Tsunami”: Jet DVBBS and Tony Borgeous get to #1 on the sole basis that a Mortal Kombat voice saying “TSUNAMI” is a good idea. It is.

6. ROUTE 94 ft JESS GLYNNE – “My Love”: High-gravity house, all about the ooze. The hook is more than decorative.

7. PHARRELL WILLIAMS – “Happy”: OK, at least the primary school summer fete didn’t play “Blurred Lines” this year. But I did hear this 6 times in 90 minutes. When not on a distorted PA it’s pretty sweet, I now remember.

8. SIGMA – “Nobody To Love”: I seem to remember this got slammed on TSJ for basically being a crass execution of a cheesy idea. Hard to argue BUT I remember when stupid records like this didn’t get to #1 regularly, and that was in general a worse outcome.

9. MR PROBZ – “Waves”: Ambassador, with these balearic house number ones you are really spoiling us.

10. ALOE BLACC – “The Man”: Pure corn, but better than a song built on an Elton swipe has any right to be.

11. SAM SMITH – “Money On My Mind”: Passes the pub imitation test better than any other track – a shame since it’s an even more self-righteous “Price Tag”. It has always been vulgar to ask the rich about money. Sam chokes up as someone asks how well-off he actually is: the sound of his reproachful, sad eyes.

12. RITA ORA – “I Will Never Let You Down”: “British Taylor Swift” isn’t a bad concept at all, this doesn’t really get there but it has a go.

13. KIESZA – “Hideaway”: Has enough to it to miss out on “most boring deep house #1 of 2014” tag i.e Kiesza’s flimsy chirp.

14. ELLA HENDERSON – “Ghost”: The main interest here is watching the adaptive cybernetic intelligence that is Syco cope with micro-changes in pop fashion. Sounds six months to a year out of date, not a judgement I’d have felt confident making a couple of years ago when pop seemed stuck in Guetta mode.

15. ED SHEERAN – “Sing”: Ain’t nobody hate him like I hate him.

16. ARIANA GRANDE ft IGGY AZALEA – “Problem”: In two minds on this, pretty exactly corresponding to whether Ariana or Iggy are on the mic. The whispered chorus guy tips the thumb downward.

17. CALVIN HARRIS – “Summer”: The rusting hulk of an EDM battleship, left behind by the tides, barnacles crusting its keyboard riffs. Begone, old man.

18. SECONDCITY – “I Wanna Feel”: OK that’s enough of this stuff. An idea whose time has gone, though not gone enough to stop it getting to #1 obviously. #NotQuiteSoMuchJustice4KelliLeigh

19. SAM SMITH – “Stay With Me”: “Going down the gospel road, with all the old frauds and bores” as Microdisney once put it. Mostly bores.

20. 5 SECONDS OF SUMMER – “She Looks So Perfect”: That’s enough out of you, you little bastards.

CONCLUSION (A BIT BORING): It’s been one of those years, like 1964 or 2010, where if you like the signature sound it’s been a good year and if you don’t you’re probably completely switched off. Unlike 2010 I do like it, I’m enjoying the variations, I think it’s been Quite A Good Year so far.


  1. 1
    Matt DC on 7 Jul 2014 #

    Totally agree on the top 2, although I like a fair few of these. I feel like the pop audience has got a taste for this stuff before the mainstream pop industry has quite caught up. So there are a lot of these faintly anonymous records filling the vacuum, records by people like Route 94 or Mr Probz that would have slipped unnoticed into the endless stream of house music two years ago and now just get thrown to the top on a wave of public enthusiasm. It doesn’t seem to be particularly *planned* at all.

    The exception being that Sigma record, that is so calculated in fusing the whole Rudimental pop-D&B thing with the end-of-the-party random snog vibe that I can’t help but admire its brazenness.

  2. 2
    Chelovek na lune on 7 Jul 2014 #

    All I’m saying is: one of the records ranked very low here sounded absolutely appalling, and unpleasant, and unnecessary to me the first time I heard it. Perhaps the first two or three times. But on further repetition it has really grown on me to the extent I think it’s a pretty good example of its genre – at least…

    Although I’m not sure that my rankings (mostly not based on hearing any of these songs many times) would overall be that similar to this list anyway…

  3. 3
    Tom on 8 Jul 2014 #

    I ought to point out that these are almost all based on very few listens – cos I’ve been listening to OLD MUSIC all year basically – I wouldn’t do this if it was likely to reflect my considered opinion in 5 years (or whatever) time!

  4. 4
    jeff w on 8 Jul 2014 #

    20 different #1s in 6 months makes me almost wish Bryan Adams had done the theme song to the new Transformers movie instead of Imagine Dragons. Then again, to my ears all these deep house cuts sound pretty interchangeable so maybe it amounts to the same thing as having Bryan in poll position for weeks on end.

  5. 5
    thefatgit on 8 Jul 2014 #

    I’ve been listening to stuff that hasn’t troubled the upper echelons of charts this year, as well as older tunes. One of the songs here has been inescapable. No prizes for guessing which one. It’ll be interesting when/if I get there to see if I can be other than an old fart about this lot.

  6. 6
    James BC on 9 Jul 2014 #

    I agree it’s been a good year in general. I could do without Sam Smith and Aloe Blacc (oh no you’re not!) but the deep house trend is very welcome. In fact this is the first year since ’98 that I’ve bought a number 1 single in its week of release, which says something about my engagement and how popular tastes have come into step with mine.

    The only thing I don’t like is the fast turnover of number ones. Weird that Ella Henderson, for me the most forgettable and redundant song on the list, is the only one that’s managed two consecutive weeks (apart from Pharrell at the start of the year).

  7. 7
    Iain Mew on 9 Jul 2014 #

    Unlike the rest of Europe, the version of “Tsunami” that got to #1 in the UK was the one with Tinie Tempah as well as Mortal Kombat. Your verdict still mostly stands.

  8. 8
    Tommy Mack on 11 Jul 2014 #

    I like the bit in the Clean Bandit video where the fish goes ‘biddly-boo’ in time with the synths. I don’t hate 5SoS as much as everyone else seems to. Maybe I just expended all my antipathy for punk-pop boybands on Busted back in the day.

  9. 9
    Another Pete on 14 Jul 2014 #

    The latest incumbent would be definitely be 21st on that list.

    The answer to Ghost sounding six months out of date is because it is, it was recorded back in January. Though that for me is not the song’s big problem, which is that its songwriter ‘haunts’ it too much.

  10. 10
    weej on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Never imagined I’d be saying this a year ago, or even a few months ago, but that late-period Calvin Harris treading water near the bottom of your barrel is easily my favourite #1 of 2014.

  11. 11
    Tom on 13 Jan 2015 #

    It has actually grown on me a lot too, though I think if I took out “Begone, old man”, my description of it would be exactly the same…

  12. 12
    weej on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Though I love it, I still sort of hate all the component parts. If I were to venture a description it would sound even less flattering than yours. TBH I have no idea why I like it at all.

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