2014 is the year of newcomers, underdogs and one-hit wonders. Many of this year’s singles will be forgotten once their 15 minutes are up, but whose hits will remain fresh a decade from now? Let’s break it down in the third annual Future Mainstream Classics (you can view the original list on this Pinterest board).
In no particular order:
OneRepublic – Counting Stars
After seven years, Ryan Tedder finally realized that nobody is here for his lazy Bleeding Love recycles anymore. So he retired those bland R&B drum beats and FINALLY ascended to greatness with the recipe of 75% pop, 10% rock, 10% folk and 5% gospel.
Pharrell Williams – Happy
Sure, this is already the most overplayed-that-it-becomes-annoying song since at least 2009’s I Gotta Feeling. But admit it, you loved this for the first 1,000 times you heard it. It’s infectious, effortless, bloody good—and you’ll joyously bop along to it again in 2020.
Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX – Fancy
Let’s put aside the debate about Iggy being a clueless white Australian chick doing the vocal equivalent of blackface. If the song is indebted to anything, it’s definitely not urban music. Those cheerleading chants, Charli’s Gwen-aping vocals and catchy synth basslines against bare arrangement show that the duo is actually recreating the magic of Hollaback Girl.
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea – Problem
It’s official, as I predicted before here, Ariana has blossomed to the top of pop echelon this year. Smartly, Ariana has toned down her Mariah Carey influence to blend it with a mix of Max Martin’s Midas touch and Amerie-style saxes. The exciting thing is… this is probably still her SOS, and her Umbrella is coming soon.
Sia – Chandelier
Songwriting chanteuse stepped out into the spotlight with eccentric indie-pop sensibility and three(!) soaring choruses in each refrain. It’s not everyday that you find a well-writen song about the dark life of a party girl obliterating the chart (no, Tove Lo doesn’t pass the grade).
Taylor Swift – Shake It Off
Congratulations for your biggest pop hit, Taylor. By the way, Avril called and she wants her Best Damn Thing back. Still good song, though.
Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne – Rather Be
Welcome back, Adele! Happy to hear that you’ve discovered happiness in your life. Don’t let those painful breakups get to you again, okay? And your comeback single is brilliant! I love how you add those flourishing violins, baroque piano and… holy moly, bubbling dance synths! Best mainstream single of the year again. Slayyy, queen! Wait… this is not Adele???
Hozier – Take Me To Church
An indie-rock song with soulful vocal, haunting piano and heavy bass near the top of the chart, with a serious video addressing controversial social issues to boot? Not even in the 1990s alternative heyday had this ever happened. Well done, Hozier. Well done.
Sam Smith – I’m Not The Only One
Is it just me or is Sam Smith better when he tones down the theatrics? Sure, there’s still melodrama in I’m Not The Only One, but it’s one that’s grounded in reality and (reluctant) acceptance—which makes it all the more convincingly painful.
Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
Ed Sheeran had always strike me as someone with talent, but not enough taste. That changed with his second album, as he inches away from the cringing James Blunt-ism into the soulful concoction of Jason-Mraz-meets-Justin-Timberlake. It’s great to hear that there’s still someone who can write a romantic ballad which doesn’t sound cheap.
Jason Derulo – Trumpets
Sometime in 2014, Jason Derulo decided that he’s done being the faceless singer behind those generic club bangers. So he bought himself a personality, eyebrow-raising double entendres and surprising improvement in his vocal (though still audibly AutoTuned sometimes). But most of all, it’s the solid R&B hooks and catchy old-school beats that prove he could give Chris Brown a run for his money.
OneRepublic – Love Runs Out
Looks like working with Adele has brought out the best in Ryan Tedder: stomping percussions, trampling piano notes, haunting whoo-hoos and top-notch vocals alternating between soulful rock belting and gorgeous falsetto. It’s a worthy male counterpart to Rumour Has It.
Beyoncé – Partition
Though she’s flirted with dance grooves a few times before, she’s always maintained a more organic sound to them. We’ve been waiting forever for her to do a full-electro track for the night clubs, and God… this dirty, pulsating, bass-heavy, electro-R&B is worth the wait.
Agree or disagree? What songs would make your 2014 list?