Jan 15

Popular Crystal Ball: 2014 – The Arse End

FT38 comments • 2,112 views

brunomars Back in July I had a quick listen and rate of the first half of 2014’s number ones. Here’s the sequel, picking up where that left off. As before, this is based on very few listens, and you can confidently expect my opinions and order to change should I ever get as far as this in Popular. Off we go.

1. MARK RONSON ft BRUNO MARS – “Uptown Funk”: Enormously believable aesthetic cosplay, as heartwarming and enthusiastic as the best cosplay is, too. Never did I imagine I’d be so happy to hear Bruno Mars.

2. DAVID GUETTA ft SAM MARTIN – “Lovers On The Sun”: Infectious splicing of the early 60s and 00s – cowboy exotica, Roy Orbison chorus, genteel strings, barely interlaced bloops and bangs.

3. SIGMA ft PALOMA FAITH – “Changing”: I have a drum’n’bass free version of this by accident which is some heinous Jools Holland bullshit, the risks of using Paloma Faith vividly illustrated. The proper single mix is as corny but irresistible as their other single, maybe even more so.

4. JESSIE J, ARIANA GRANDE, NICKI MINAJ – “Bang Bang”: The welcome return of the diva posse cut, doing what sounds like a Little Mix outtake. Truth be told I spend most of the song waiting impatiently for the Nicki verse, though.

5. LILLY WOOD AND THE PRICK – “Prayer In C (Robin Schulz Edit)”: The deep house wave of 2014 ends not with a bang but with the heat death of the universe. A sullen croak from a beach at the end of the world, cocktails till late.

6. NICO & VINZ – “Am I Wrong”: Probably the most 2014 of all 2014’s number ones – drowsy sun-swept beatscape meets hollowed-out soul vox has been such a sound, and brass has been big too. Goes on a bit, mind.

7. CHERYL AND TINIE TEMPAH – “Crazy Stupid Love”: There’s more to this than I’d expect from a Cheryl single – the bits of decoration (sax, flute, Tinie) are in intriguing conversation – but she weighs it down.

8. TAKE THAT – “These Days”: Unashamed, yet still rather desperate, Dad Disco. More awkward than awful.

9. WILL.I.AM ft CODY WISE – “It’s My Birthday”: Ever the businessman, Will.I.Am embraces the fashionable doctrine of the “minimum viable product”. Everyone has birthdays, right? This is most likely the only RnBass number one we’ll ever get, mind.

10. CALVIN HARRIS ft JOHN NEWMAN – “Blame”: Waste of one of the better current singers. Harris works mechanically through his repertoire of builds like a cruise ship magician.

11. CHERYL – “I Don’t Care”: When your selling point in 2014 is your singer swearing something’s gone wrong. The keyboards on this really could not sound any uglier, too.

12. MEGHAN TRAINOR – “All About That Bass”: Inhabits and owns its aesthetic as much as “Uptown Funk” but way more airless and finger-wagging, even before you get to the main reason for loving your body being the admiration of dudes.

13. RIXTON – “Me And My Broken Heart”: Why don’t the good One Direction songs ever get to Number One? “Best Song Ever”, that’s a cracker. “Steal My Girl” was decent too. Meanwhile, this existed.

14. BEN HAENOW – “Something I Need”: Cowell is now firmly, finally, in the don’t-you-think-he-looks-tired phase of his reign. As such the X-Factor winners can no longer afford to be distinctively awful – this is just a rather incompetent version of Ryan Tedder anthem pop. But not actively infuriating, despite its origin. Unlike…

15. MAGIC! – “Rude”: Tough luck my friend but the answer is no.

16. ED SHEERAN – “Thinking Out Loud”: Simply Ed more like. Naive voices argued around the time of “Sing” that Sheeran had changed, but I maintained a zero tolerance policy and I’m glad I did.

17. GARETH MALONE’S ALL STAR CHOIR – “Wake Me Up”: The song choice works, but the best bit of this is the spoken word bit at the end – “BUY THIS RECORD. BUY THIS RECORD – ECORD – ECORD”. My God. Maybe Bake-Off could do the Children In Need job next year and give us a wacky singing flan instead.

18. BAND AID 30 – “Do They Know It’s Christmas”: Worse than I could have imagined. Bob Geldof as Captain Metropolis in Watchmen – “Don’t you see? Somebody has to do it! Somebody has to save the world!”

Conclusions? A year with a distinctive sound broke down in late summer and partly went off a cliff – it doesn’t help that there’s a blank space (DO YOU SEE) where the biggest pop star in the world should be, and it also doesn’t help that the other much-pushed big international hits were Magic! and Meghan. And the year-end in the UK charts is always a minefield thanks to charity records and Uncle Si. But, despite some of the horrors above, I do think 2014 was a low-key strong year for number ones – not as varied in its excitements as 2013, and with a worrisome drop-off, but not a disappointment either.


  1. 1
    lonepilgrim on 13 Jan 2015 #

    as someone who is very detached from the charts due to decrepitude and personal circumstances I recognise some of the names but can’t recall any of the tunes apart from Uptown Funk and Meghan Trainor, who along with Paloma Faith reminds me of a Amy Whitehouse tribute act aimed at an audience of under 5s.
    ‘like a cruise ship magician’ is going to be my go-to phrase from now on

    like a cruise ship magician

  2. 2
    flahr on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Disappointingly The Prick seems to have capitulated to a STALINIST REWRITING OF HISTORY and it mostly seems to be credited to Lilly Wood & Robin Schulz now.

    Lilly Wood, Meghan Trainor: 2014 the year of people with one too many letters in their first name, apparently.

  3. 3
    Tom on 13 Jan 2015 #

    If Popular is about anything it’s about giving due credit to The Pricks.

  4. 4
    Tommy Mack on 13 Jan 2015 #

    I think I’m with you on the top 5. Who’d have thought Mars + Ronson = fun? Glad to see you sticking to your guns on Sheeran. I was sickened to catch myself whistling Sing the other day though I did quite like his silly Led Zep pastiche from the last Hobbit film.

  5. 5
    tonya on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Huh, we only had 10 #1s total in the Hot 100 in America, and two of them are by Taylor.

  6. 6
    Mark M on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Zero tolerance on Sheeran is the only way to go as far I’m concerned (but people do really seem to love him).

  7. 7
    Champiness on 13 Jan 2015 #

    “Blame” was one of my favorite songs of the past year so I’m a bit disappointed with your feelings on it, but glad that we generally agree about MAGIC! and Meghan. I have a feeling I’m going to enjoy your “Prayer In C” entry.

  8. 8
    Mark M on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Magic just further confirmation that limp cod-reggae is the vilest of all pop flavours.

  9. 9
    Ophir Zemer on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Is Lilly Wood the first (sort of) Israeli presence on Popular since Esther & Abi?

  10. 10
    chelovek na lune on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Probably with you on your top 1, and bottom 2, but in every other regard I differ greatly. Especially re “Lovers on the Sun”, which seemed to me like an Avicii cast-off (and way below what Guetta is capable of). And, erm, yeah, I regard “Thinking Out Loud” as a classic in the making, so I suppose we were never going agree entirely…

  11. 11
    punctum on 13 Jan 2015 #

    Avicii was co-producer of “LOTS.”

  12. 12
    Alan not logged in on 13 Jan 2015 #

    I am down with your 1-6. But not the Cheryl/Tinie. Though TBH Cheryl “I Don’t Care” is the first of ALL of her solo efforts I have cared about

  13. 13
    Tommy Mack on 13 Jan 2015 #

    #10 – LOTS seems a lot more compelling and dramatic – melodramatic even – than anything I’ve heard from Avicii.

  14. 14
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Am very unenthused with ‘Uptown Funk’. To me, it’s busy without being catchy or fun (first gen. pseudo-funksters like Wham! never made this mistake), and, frankly, I’d rather stick to the catchier and funkier stuff it’s aping (Bruno Mars often seems to have this problem, e.g., his ‘Treasure’ while good for the odd listen just made you want to put on some EWF or Commodores or…). UF may be the best of this dire lot however….

    If ‘Lovers on The Sun’ is infectious then clearly I have immunity. Horrible slapped together nonsense.

    ‘Changing’ is OK until it gets to the aggravatingly generic, Oh-Oh-Oh bit.

    ‘Prayer in C’ sounds like a million others things on Soundcloud. Just… unremarkable. Why did *it* jump out to become a pop hit?

    And so on.

  15. 15
    swanstep on 14 Jan 2015 #

    BTW, in case someone hasn’t come across them, I’d like to recommend the old-school mixes/extended versions of (mainly dance) classics on youtube called ‘Disco Purrfection’. They’re done by user DJDiscoCatV2 whose channel is here.

    The most recent mix is a nearly 11 minute version of Kool and The Gang’s ‘Jungle Boogie: http://youtu.be/f7kpI-OCLxg and it’s tremendous.

    In many cases the mixer seems to have had access to a stem or master, so that there’re often features of familiar tracks you get to hear properly for the first time. E.g., on the D.Purrfection mix of “Heart Of Glass’ you get to hear the triggered/sequencer part solo for the first time.

  16. 16
    GleP on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Uptown Funk = Really Wild Show theme tune

  17. 17
    flahr on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Uptown Funk played a trick on me that Budapest and (to a lesser extent) Thinking Out Loud did, i.e. they were so obviously laughable and ridiculous on first listen that I felt compelled to listen out for them again so I could laugh at and ridicule them (“doh, doh doh doh, doh doh doh, doh”/”ah divvy doh, OOOOOO, OOOOO, ah divvy doh”/”WILL YOUR MOUTH STILL REMEMBER THE TASTE OF MY LOVE”) until I’d listened to them enough times that I actually started liking them, the buggers.

  18. 18
    MBI on 14 Jan 2015 #

    Rixton need to get more hate than they do

  19. 19
    lockedintheattic on 16 Jan 2015 #

    Peter Robinson on the charts in 2015:

    Includes a review of every single in the Top 40 at present (my favourite part is his description of George Ezra as ‘a Harry Enfield approximation of a skiffle act’)

  20. 20
    Tom on 16 Jan 2015 #

    Good point about TSwift’s non-streaming: I wonder if “Blank Space” would have got to #1 otherwise? (This is probably checkable)

  21. 21
    lockedintheattic on 16 Jan 2015 #

    Just had a look. Blank Space peaked at number 4 on 7th December. Would have been number 2 on sales alone (but still beaten by Union J that week). Streams from Ed Sheeran & Take That pushed her down to number 4.

    Meanwhile Shake it Off peaked at number 2 before she pulled her music from Spotify so that didn’t make a difference either.

  22. 22
    Inanimate Carbon God on 17 Jan 2015 #

    Not a vintage batch of number ones – cod-reggae and cod-R&B luxury bottled farts, boybands old and new sorely lacking in punctum, and Kermit-voiced cod-sentient stubble-house for people who’ve had more cheeky Nando’s than times they said they loved someone and genuinely meant it.

    Having said that, I think by summer we’ll be due another 2013/Get Lucky-esque run of six or seven classics. 2014 was just one of those years, where several potentially interesting genres were run into the ground with nowhere left to go.

    However, I’ve a perverse love for Meghan Trainor – I somewhat cringe at AATB, but the follow up, Lips are Movin, is fast becoming my favourite single this decade, what with her shameless attempts to throw every possible Spectoresque/60s girl group reference into a murky contemporary pop broth. I don’t know, it’s just me.
    Bear in mind this is coming from someone who thinks the greatest cover version of all time, hands down, is Martika’s take on Carole King’s I Feel The Earth Move.

  23. 23
    Matt on 18 Jan 2015 #

    #21 Remarkable thing about that week is that “Blank Space” was #1 on digital sales (thanks to Union J’s physical sales pushing them ahead on the chart), meaning there was a different #1 on the digital, sales & overall charts! If I’m not mistaken, the only week thus far that streaming has changed the #1 spot too.

  24. 24
    Inanimate Carbon God on 25 Jan 2015 #

    Maybe I might warm to some of these in time. Uptown Funk, for one, has a barmy Was (Not Was) quality.

    However, I can usually tell it’s a poor year for the charts when so many best-selling singles sound JUST like past ubiquitous hits. For example, Wake Me Up Before You Bang Bang, the aforementioned Taylor Swift’s “The one that was better than Boombastik”, and Keisza not realising stealing from Steve Winwood to top the charts was almost as bad an idea 10 years ago as it is now.

    And Rixton, don’t you think you’re taking this too far? ;)

  25. 25
    James Silkstone on 25 Jan 2015 #

    Is it bad that the fact Rixton’s lead singer is the son of Shane Richie only makes me hate them even more. Their second single, Wait On Me, wasn’t as painful – though that’s likely only because it dropped like a stone.

  26. 26
    Alan on 25 Jan 2015 #

    Shane Richie and Coleen “From the Nolans” Nolan. A fact more memorable than this single

  27. 27
    Mark M on 25 Jan 2015 #

    Re25/6: When I was at my old job, where we had headlines like ‘Coleen terrified for Jake’ (because who knows what might happen to the poor poppet touring the US), I managed to work up quite a hate for Rixton. But now I find them fairly easy to ignore, and thus not worth my ire.

  28. 28
    Tommy Mack on 26 Jan 2015 #

    Re: 25. I felt the same way about Lily Allen when I found out from whose fetid loins she sprang. I’ll save most of my thoughts till she appears in Popular proper but it’s hard to find someone’s cockiness charming any more once you know her dad’s a bona fide arse.

  29. 29
    Tommy Mack on 27 Jan 2015 #

    I like Meghan Trainor*, so help me God… (*after listening for the first time, yesterday). The bubblegum frothiness is a lot more fun than most of the earnest retro-soul we’ve had over the last ten years and it feels like it’s done with enough verve to transcend its sillier elements (those knowingly mangled vowels etc). But, yeah, the gender politics are a bit queasy, aren’t they? There’s a lot of ‘Be a strong independent woman…so then guys will respect you more and you’ll end up with a good one who’ll treat you right’, ‘Love your own body on your own terms…most guys secretly prefer curvy gals anyway’. Maybe she’s trying to square post-feminist ideals with the boy-girl tropes of the 60s bubblegum and soul she references but it does feel like she’s selling her gals a bit short, taking the same tack as the otherwise excellent stand-up Wil Hodgson when he brags about being into voluptuous women as though that makes him a feminist crusader, rather than just a bloke who’s into a different beauty ideal. I guess being objectified as desirable is better than being objectified as ugly or comical but I can’t imagine it’s the outcome most people would hope for.

  30. 30
    Tom on 29 Jan 2015 #

    It seems like the public have, in a considerate piece of scheduling, made sure my month off writing Popular coincides with a month off anyone who isn’t Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars having number one records.

  31. 31
    weej on 30 Jan 2015 #

    Every time a track sticks around at #1 I breathe a sigh of relief, but the charts always seem to recover and speed up again. Maybe this is a sign of vitality, and when songs start sticking around a bit longer it will just be a sign that the charts have finally entered their moribund phase.
    It makes me think of this David Devant lyric:

    This morning a fan letter
    Came through his door
    It said oh last pop star
    Please play once more
    And so he took the final curtain
    And knew his job was done
    Because the last ever love song
    Was the last number one

  32. 32
    Tom on 30 Jan 2015 #

    “Happy” stuck around for ages this time last year – and “Rather Be” had a good run too – and then it was back to massive turnover. The effect of streaming will be to gum things up more*, so I’m expecting fewer number ones this year – but it feels like record companies have worked out how to game the charts again, so we might just get 2014 redux. Looking at the Top 100 of 2014, though, it looks like the list of #1s is still a decent proxy for actual popularity, imperfect but no more imperfect than it’s ever been.

    *of the Top 100 streaming songs this week, a sizeable 44 have been in the charts for 30 weeks, i.e. they were in the very first streaming chart and have been there ever since. I may keep an eye on this figure.

  33. 33
    weej on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Just to note, we’re in the tail-end of April now, with only four new #1s so far this year – compared to nine at the same point in 2013 (and a similar number for the previous few years.) Of course this may still be a fluke, but this is what today’s popbitch has to say – “How streaming changes the charts: Nick Jonas had the biggest selling single of the week last week; but Jess Glynne was number one.”

  34. 34
    Tom on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Some of it’s the double whammy of a full-on massive hit and then a blockbuster theme song in January/February, which isn’t when you expect either of those. But there is a change going on – for the first time since I started bothering to look at the midweeks, it’s been wrong a few times.

  35. 35
    Tommy Mack on 16 Apr 2015 #

    I’m genuinely at a loss to think what the blockbuster theme song is. I was quite hip to the 2014 charts but now I am a dad I am becoming suitably out of touch. Are The Dire Straits still making LPs? I liked them…

    (actually I am listening to Sky Ferrera who I rediscovered on my Spotify after downloading on your recommendation!)

  36. 36
    Tom on 16 Apr 2015 #

    If I’d said bonkbuster it might have been more of a clue.

  37. 37
    Tommy Mack on 16 Apr 2015 #

    Oh, that bag of literal and figurative bag of wank! I actually heard the song on the trailer. It sounded deece though I’ve heard the movie’s terrible which I can well imagine and pontificated about at length on another Popular thread.

  38. 38
    Tommy Mack on 16 Apr 2015 #

    One bag too many…

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