Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Top 10 Singles Of The Year

It's getting harder and harder to tell whether a song is actually a single any more. Now that the certainty of seeing an actual CD sitting on a shelf is gone, so many songs I thought were singles turn out to have been radio only, or buzz tracks, or whatever. But I'm pretty sure all of the following records featured on some record company spreadsheet as "the single" for a particular artist's campaign.

As usual, the top 10 is compiled from iTunes play counts, weighted for release date, so that I can't cheat and suddenly pretend to have been listening to Animal Collective all along. Because I didn't.

1) Marina & The Diamonds - I Am Not A Robot

I fell in love with this the instant the digitised backing vocals kicked in. As I suspect will become a theme with Marina when we hear her full album next year, it is all about self-expression and being true to your id. And, as long as Miss Diamandis' inner demons are producing exquisite alt-pop ballads like this, I'm all for it.

2)Girls Aloud - Untouchable

Gone, but not really gone, but not forgotten, either.

3) La Roux - Bulletproof

Who'd have thunk it? Little Elly Jackson is probably the year's least likely pop star - wan, awkward, and brittle - but she turned out the biggest, killingest hook of them all. The synths envelop her delicate voice like a suit of armour as, lyrically, she builds a wall around her broken heart. That's metaphor, right there.

4) Cheryl Cole - Fight For This Love

I didn't expect this to be so high up the chart, but it turns out I quite liked it, after all. The textbook definition of a grower, it was totally unremarkable but strangely memorable ALL AT THE SAME TIME. How do they do that, etc?

5) A Camp - Stronger Than Jesus

This is a very female-heavy top 10, isn't it? Well, at least there's a change of pace with this song from Swedish misery-chops Nina Persson and her cohorts. My favourite lyrics of the year, too, dismissing love as "the poison hidden in a bon bon". Maybe she should try a different sweet shop.

6) Florence & The Machine - Drumming Song

Everyone else will surely go for Rabbit Heart as the defining Florence song of the year, but as a dyed-in-the-wool percussionist, this is the one that did it for me. I have ruined precisely 42 journeys to work for the passengers of London's E2 bus by banging out the limb-entangling drum line of this song on the railings. And I do not apologise for a single second.

7) Empire Of The Sun - Walking On A Dream

No-one ever knows what I'm talking about when I mention this track, forcing me to sing "we are always running for the thrill of it, thrill of it", at which point they say "oh, yes that song. I thought it was by MGMT". Well, it's not.

8) Jay-Z - Empire State Of Mind

To be fair, Jay-Z could have delivered a Ronnie Corbett monologue over this backing track and I'd still have bought it. Compare the syncopated, pounding piano line to the watery guff that leaks all over Alicia Keys' original and you will see why the Jiggaman (I love typing that) is still at the top of his game after 20 years. At the same time, reading out a New York tourism information leaflet and calling it lyrics is actually a step below the Ronnie Corbett thing.

9) Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Heads Will Roll

In which Karen O finds a dancefloor, puts her handbag down, and embarks upon a ir-tossing, foot-stomping, necklace shredding dances that is both utter genius and the sort of thing that would get you arrested in Gdansk.

10) The Veronicas - Untouched

This is the result of an unhealthy three-week obsession with The Veronicas album sampler in March, which evaporated like Ribena in a kiln as soon as the full album was released. There is a great (and probably unintentional) lyrical sleight of hand in this song - when Lisa and Jess sing 30 seconds of utter gibberish ("I go 'oooh oooh', you go 'aah ahh', alalala alalala") and then flip it around with "right now you're the only thing that's making any sense to me". Smashing.

PS: I'm as surprised as you by the absence of Lady GaGa from this list. She actually tied with herself for 11th place (Poker Face and Bad Romance got the same score once I'd done all the MATHS), but The Veronicas just pipped her to the post. Unless you discount them for originally releasing their single in 2007. Which I don't.

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