Friday, January 4, 2019

Top 10 Singles of 2019

Apparently I can still add content to this blog. Who'd have thought?

So here, a full year after the last update, are the 10 singles I listened to most often in the past 12 months (ordered by the play count in my iTunes library). They're not a bad bunch, and you'll find a handy YouTube playlist at the bottom of the post.

10) George Ezra - Shotgun
Shotgun was a last-minute addition to George Ezra's second album, after label boss Ferdy Unger-Hamilton told him the album "wasn't finished".

"It was one of those awful, 'I think you need to write another song even though I don't know you very well' conversations," Unger-Hamilton told a recent edition of Music Week. "He came back with Shotgun within about 10 days and I was like, 'this is fucking amazing'."

He wasn't wrong. This echoed round our kids' school playground all summer, albeit with the slightly altered lyrics: "I'll be riding shotgun / underneath the hot sun / you look like a dumb-dumb."

Legendary.


9) Theophilus London - Bebey
The bassline of the year was written at a McDonald's in Brooklyn at 3 in the morning while Theophilus waited for a bus. True story.


8) Mark Ronson ft Miley Cyrus - Nothing Breaks Like A Heart
This place was reserved for Kacey Musgraves' country-disco crossover High Horse until Miley swooped in during the closing seconds of 2018 with a country-disco crossover of her own. A shimmering, splintered break-up anthem that's so convincing I was momentarily surprised when Miley got married Liam Hemsworth.


7) Calvin Harris ft Dua Lipa - One Kiss
I hated this at first, which just goes to show what I know. The UK's biggest-selling single of the year, fact fans.


6) Jade Bird - Uh-huh
Jade Bird appears to be bitching about her ex's new girlfriend... but wait for the middle eight and there's a delicious twist:"She's got you where it hurts / But you don’t seem to see / That while she's out at work / She's doing what you did to me". Yeowch.

A relentless rock song with a shout-your-throat-raw chorus, it marked Jade's coming of age as a songwriter. If she isn't a massive star by the end of 2019 the world is an unjust and deplorable place.

*Checks the news*

Oh shit.


5) Tove Styrke - Sway
"Sway to me, is one of the most romantic songs on the album," said Tove Styrke, the day she released Sway - the latest in a long procession of perfectly-crafted pop songs.

"The album is like a collection of little love stories, and some of them are like not romantic at all because life's like that, you know? And some of them are really like, pink and like, everything is good. This is one of those songs, I love it so much."

Me too. *swoons*


4) Rosalía - Malamente
Spanish star Rosalía made quite a few "best of 2018" lists with her subversive and brilliant album El Mal Querer, which blends traditional Andulasian flamenco music with trap drums and suitcase-rattling basslines.

The record tells the story of a woman who's imprisoned by a jealous lover, and this is the opening chapter - subtitled "Augurio" (Omen) in Spanish. A moodier, more compelling piece of R&B is hard to find, while the video is crammed full of the slick choreography and loaded imagery you'd normally expect from Beyonce.



3) Let's Eat Grandma - It's Not Just Me
Interviewing Let’s Eat Grandma earlier this year, I told them how much I loved the lyric “you left a dent in my home screen” and the way it captured that state of obsessively stabbing at your messages app, in the hope of a new message from your obsession.

They looked at me like I was deranged and said, “but it’s about someone dropping my phone”.

Ah well, this is still a towering achievement. Five minutes of restlessly inventive, shape-shifting pop that sucks you in, shakes you up and spits you out.



2) Ariana Grande - Thank U, Next
No-one navigates the choppy waters of modern pop stardom better than Ariana Grande, whose music this year tussled with her own personal dramas, acknowledging a tough transition to adulthood, while remaining wryly self-aware about her image.

Nothing said this better than Thank U, Next. Supposedly released to overshadow with her ex-fiancé's return to Saturday Night Live, it was actually a gracious and thoughtful reflection on the end of their relationship. The video, which riffed on teen comedies like Mean Girls and Legally Blonde, made deliberate comparisons between high school gossip and social media fixation on her personal life - the message being, "I'll take care of myself, if that's alright with you".

But the best bit is when she (metaphorically) turns to the camera and winks: "At least this song is a smash". In the future, they'll write textbooks about this.



1) Janelle Monae - Make Me Feel
I could never shake the feeling that Janelle Monae was too slick to be funky. Her first two albums, great though they were, felt sanitised and fussy, unable to get down in the dirt and really scuff things up.

The Dirty Computer album gave us the context - Janelle's music was buttoned-up because she felt her sexuality and her identity were being stigmatised. Make Me Feel was the moment she broke out of the shackles, with a filthy slinky chorus, a bassline like a trampoline, and a sticky, celebratory "sexual bender".

As she puts it herself: There's nothing better.

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