Monday, January 3, 2011

Top 10 singles of 2010

Happy New Year!! As the rest of the world looks forwards to 12 months of peace, prosperity and guilt-free, random sex (subs - please check), I thought I'd cast my eye back over the music of 2010.

As usual, the Discopop Directory top 10 is compiled from obsessively compiled iTunes play counts, weighted for release date using MATHS, so that I can't cheat and suddenly pretend to have been listening to The Foals all year long. Because I wasn't.

1) Robyn - Hang With Me

Hang With Me doesn't throw out pop's rule book or mess with your expectations, it is just a simple, brilliant piece of writing. Initially, it sounds a little sparse - unfinished, even - but that just gives Robyn's wounded vocals the space to breathe and flourish. It's a clever tease that keeps you coming back for more - much like the man who's the subject of the song. He's getting the old "let's just be friends" speech from Robyn, until she coyly lets slip "I know what's on your mind, and there'll be time for that, too." I believe this is called "treat 'em mean and keep 'em keen".

2) Cee-Lo - F**k You

All the cussing and blinding may have grabbed your attention, but it was the melody that made you stick around. A frisky facsimilie of the Motown sound, with a voice as pure and expressive as Marvin Gaye. Listen to the way Cee-Lo cracks in the middle 8, as if he's about to burst into big baby tears. Now that's how you sell a song.

3) Lissie - When I'm Alone

Lissie is on the opposite side of the relationship tracks to Robyn, being strung along by a fickle lover who never quite keeps his promises. In the verses, she's an innocent child, leaping to answer the phone "like a kid who just got out of school" and "throwing a tantrum" when Darcy (I imagine all pop songs to be about characters from Pride and Prejudice) is not on the other end of the line. Once she's got him in her grasp, though, Lissie grows right up. The choruses are so hot and steamy you could cook vegetables with them. An overlooked classic.

4) Kelis - A Capella

The metaphor may have been totally confused (you can't sing a symphony) but the song was a scorcher. Kelis was eulogising about her baby boy, Knight, and how his arrival changed her outlook on life. Neatly, the bassline mirrored the lyrics, sticking to one pounding note throughout the verses, then modulating in the chorus as the harmonies blossomed around it. This nimble compositional dexterity was not as important, however, as the fact you could dance to the Moroder-esque groove until your shoes caught fire. The track was subsequently banned in the clog-wearing regions of Holland.

5) Mark Ronson - Bang Bang Bang

A song of two distinct parts. On the one hand, we have Q-Tip rapping about how he is successful and therefore better than you. On the other, you have MNDR playing cowboys and indians: "Bang, bang you're dead! Here's your silhouette!" I think it is somehow supposed to be about toppling capitalism.

6) Lady Gaga feat Beyoncé - Telephone

It's interesting - I think Lady Gaga is a pop genius but both this year and last, she hasn't figured as highly in my Top 10 lists as I'd have expected. Maybe that's because she's so all-pervasive I don't actually need to listen to her music in my own time. Anyway, this song is about telephones and how annoying they are when you're trying to dance. The video, which you may have seen, was about killing people with maple syrup. Artists, eh?

7) Marina and the Diamonds - Shampain

A lot of people found Marina annoying, didn't they? I can see why: Morbid self-obsession, rampant egomania, hiccuping instead of singing - not exactly traits to endear you to the mainstream. But stuff the mainstream, Marina is brilliant and this song is the proof. Equal parts Abba and Girls Aloud, it's a hymn to drinking away the pain. And the shift to minor key in the last chorus gets me every time.

8) Janelle Monae - Tightrope

The video for Tightrope is set in a world where dancing has been outlawed "for its tendency to lead to illegal magical practices" (??) Janelle is in an asylum for the criminally choreographed, where lawbreakers are forced to strut their sentences. It's the sort of place you'd expect to find Lionel Blair, but he is sadly absent. Nonetheless, Tightrope proves to be so infectious that the entire prison breaks into a rhumba riot. But why did they allow speakers into the prison in the first place? People will have to be held accountable.

9) Ciara - Ride

Utter filth from beginning to end. I love it.

10) Ellie Goulding - Starry Eyed

I've said several times that Ellie has a knack for capturing universal feelings in neat, succinct couplets. This song, about the euphoria of falling in love for the first time, is no exception: "Next thing, we're touching. You look at me, it's like you hit me with lightning." Who hasn't experienced that? It's beautifully evocative without overstating its case. A number one back in January, Starry Eyed probably wouldn't have made this list without the beatific Russ Chimes remix, which adds a chunky 1990s house piano riff and a huge, whooshing crescendo. Excellent work all round.

Honorable mentions: Tinie Tempah - Pass Out / Vampire Weekend - Cousins / Kanye West - Power / Biffy Clyro - Many Of Horror / Stornoway - Zorbing / Marina and the Diamonds - Hollywood / Arcade Fire - We Used To Wait / Magnetic Man - I Need Air / Robyn - Dancing On My Own / New Young Pony Club - Chaos / Bruno Mars - Just The Way You Are / Goldfrapp - Alive / Yeasayer - Ambling Alp / Katy B - Katy On A Mission / Big Boi - Shutterbugg / Josephine - A Freak A / Gorillaz - Doncamatic / Lykke Li - Get Some

So that's it for this year... I've put together a Spotify playlist of all the above songs at the end of this link. I'll try to do the albums - which promise to be a little less popomatic - before the end of the week.

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