Connect with us

Music

100 songs of the decade: Underneath The Tree – Kelly Clarkson

‘This year I will fall, with no worries at all’

Published

on

Written by: Kelly Clarkson and Greg Kurstin
Produced by: Greg Kurstin
Album: Wrapped In Red
UK release: November 2013
UK chart peak: 30

And why CAN’T a Christmas song be one of the best of the decade, huh?! Kelly Clarkson‘s Wrapped In Red has become one of the Gay Standards at this time of year: of course it’ll never be as iconic as All I Want For Christmas Is You (will anything?!) but – along with Santa Tell Me and One More Sleep – it’s come pretty fucking close.

Giving you precisely four seconds of twinkly sweetness before erupting in an explosion of C!A!M!P!, Underneath The Tree is – and we can’t say this about Kelly Clarkson songs often – so fucking joyful. Everything is executed perfectly: the backing vocals, the huge chorus, the insane ad-libs towards the end, the SAX…!! Literally its only flaw is the fact it ends with a fade-out. No Christmas playlist is anywhere near complete without it.

  • I’ll be writing about my favourite 100 pop songs of the decade; one a day for the last 100 days of 2019. They’re in no particular order, except the Top 10 – which will (obviously) come in late December.
  • See the full list so far here.
  • You can follow the rolling, daily-updated playlist below, or here.

Music

LIVE TODAY: Top 40 Talent Show Superstars

Published

on

Poll season is back! Our first survey of 2022 is TOP 40 TALENT SHOW SUPERSTARS – the pop titans who found fame on the telly.

After a huge week of voting, join Shaun Kitchener (hiya) from 9am today (Sunday 27th November) for the Top 40 countdown, running up to midday-ish.

This year’s polls are fundraising for homelessness and housing charity Shelter – please consider a donation here if you feel able.

Use the below player to listen live, and tweet along @_ElectricAngels if you’re on the bird app.

If you can’t see the player, or you’re having trouble with it, or the website’s being a little slow, you can access a direct stream here.

You can also use the Amazon Alexa command OR even better, use the Simple Radio app from the App Store or Google Play (and search for Electric Angels).

We’ve previously done these polls for Taylor Swift, Little Mix, Britney, Kylie, Solo Spice Girls and Girlband Hits; as well as the big end-of-year polls in 2020 and 2021. Catch up here.

Follow Electric Angels on: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook

EVERY SONG!: All the songs we played on #BreakfastBops during the 10-week run in Lockdown 1.0 2020 that are available on streaming services can be heard on the Spotify playlist here. There’s also an Apple Music version here thanks to the very kind Martin.

Continue Reading

Music

Top 25 albums of 2021

Published

on

2021 has been written-off by many in terms of music-related thrills; but I’d argue that even though we were lacking in big A-list blockbusters compared to last year (Dua! Kylie! Gaga! Taylor x2! Rina!), we did still get lots of good stuff – and actually I think that’s more apparent with albums than it was with singles.

Aaaaand so, to that end here are my 25 favourite records of yet another cursèd year.

As ever, I’ve ranked them using a balance of ‘what is actually very good’ and ‘what has brought me lots of joy’; which might explain why some patchy / fairly basique efforts rank a little higher than some of the more universally lauded critical darlings. But I love ’em all, and this year more than any other, ranking them felt kind of perfunctory. What can I tell ya, I’m a Ranking Gay!

I would also like to shout-out some wonderful EPs, mixtapes and “mini-albums” that don’t feel long enough to be included here: To Hell With It by PinkPantheress, I Wonder If You Wonder by Grace Davies, One Foot In Front of The Other by Griff, Prelude by Lauren Jauregui, and L Devine’s two-part Near Life Experience. I’ve also left out deluxe repackages, Greatest Hits, and Taylor Swift’s re-recordings.

Here, for context, have been my previous end-of-year No1s:

2010: Lights – Ellie Goulding
2011: 21 – Adele
2012: Electra Heart – Marina and the Diamonds
2013: Salute – Little Mix
2014: 1989 – Taylor Swift
2015: Breathe In Breathe Out – Hilary Duff [blog]
2016: Lemonade – Beyonce [blog]
2017: About U – Muna [blog]
2018: Golden Hour – Kacey Musgraves [blog]
2019: thank u, next – Ariana Grande [blog]
2020: Sawayama – Rina Sawayama [blog]

You can see my Top 50 Singles of 2021 here, and Top 10 Movies here. TV to follow!


25. If I Could Make It Go Quiet – Girl In Red

Release date: April 30
UK chart peak: 7
Metacritic score: 77
Stream: Spotify

As debut albums go, not many come as promising as this; a brilliant collection of indie-pop tracks that – despite the record’s title – sound ready to rip the roof off at crowded gigs. Serotonin provides the brightest burst of Big Hit Energy, and bigger things from this Norwegian queer-icon-in-the-making feel inevitable.


24. Ancient Dreams In A Modern Land – Marina

Release date: June 11
UK chart peak: 17
Metacritic score: 77
Stream: Spotify

Marina was back to her playful, thoughtful, biting best on this; a characterful record that reminded me quite a lot of the Family Jewels era. The energy is turned firmly up throughout, but actually it’s heartfelt, ethereal closer Goodbye that’s a real favourite for me.


23. Lately I Feel Everything – Willow

Release date: July 16
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: 79
Stream: Spotify

Blink and you miss it (it’s not even half an hour long, and only two songs clock in at over 3 minutes), BUT what a mighty return to the big leagues for Willow!! The one-time hair-whipper brings high-energy pop-punk !ANGST! on this; a firework of an album that comes complete with input from Travis Barker and Queen Of The Genre Avril Lavigne.


22. Troubled Paradise – Slayyyter

Release date: June 11
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score:
Stream: Spotify

The more hyperpop-y elements of Slayyyter’s work don’t always reel me in, but she’s a fucking master at what she does: Troubled Paradise is dripping with personality, gay-club-ready beats and colourful choruses. This is only her debut full-length album – she already feels like a pop mainstay.


21. Heaux Tales – Jazmine Sullivan

Release date: January 8
UK chart peak: 79
Metacritic score: 83
Stream: Spotify

A deserving Album of the Year winner at the BET Awards, Heaux Tales already feels like a classic – I can’t believe it only came out this year. Jazmine has always been a superstar (Bust Your Windows, anyone?) but on this, her first album in six years, she sounds better than ever. The VOCALS!


20. Grown-ish – LOVA

Release date: January 22
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score:
Stream: Spotify

I discovered LOVA on a flick through Sweden’s New Music Friday playlist, and Grown-ish is a wonderful little album; packed with fizzy, uplifting, occasionally guitar-driven pop: Dance For The Hell Of It was the song that first caught my eye (ear?), and wouldn’t sound of out of place on an early-2000s Ashlee Simpson album.


19. Blue Weekend – Wolf Alice

Release date: June 4
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 91
Stream: Spotify

Honestly, I’ve only really burrowed in to this album over the last couple of weeks. Would it have been higher if I discovered it sooner? Perhaps!! But it’s a stunning collection, and one hell of a way to follow something that won the Mercury Prize. No Hard Feelings is the track I’ve gone back to the most; but Smile also sounds amazing with the volume up, and Play The Greatest Hits is such a great song title.


18. Star-Crossed – Kacey Musgraves

Release date: September 10
UK chart peak: 10
Metacritic score: 78
Stream: Spotify

Addressing her divorce, there’s a sense of ‘well, it is what it is’ on this album: not much anger, not much devastation, just a level-headed, thoughtful, intermittently sorrowful collection of songs that showcase Kacey’s ability to tug at the heartstrings without much pomp and ceremony. She sounds GORGEOUS as ever (Angel is a particular highlight for me), and even though this didn’t feel as much of a ~moment as Golden Hour, it still more than hit the mark.


17. Voyage – ABBA

Release date: November 5
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 72
Stream: Spotify

It’s a new ABBA album! A whole ALBUM!!!! In 2021! Voyage is such a welcome record; and so quintessentially ABBA. A song about preserving the bees? A bop about keeping an eye on Dan? Sure!! No Doubt About It is the biggest banger, but Don’t Shut Me Down is – as I’m sure we’re all aware – simply one of the best songs of the year. Masters!


16. Still Over It – Summer Walker

Release date: November 5
UK chart peak: 5
Metacritic score: 85
Stream: Spotify

Perhaps my favourite outright R&B record of the year, Still Over It is a star-studded, hour-long winner that tours a variety of emotions and moods without once sounding anything less than cohesive. Picking a favourite is extremely tough, but I’d go with Constant Bullshit.


15. 30 – Adele

Release date: November 19
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 88
Stream: Spotify

The world’s biggest singer-songwriter took some relatively bold swings on 30, and I think it totally pays off. If I were to liken it to any of her past records, it’d probably be 19 – at least musically. Lyrically and vocally, she’s at her wisest and most mature; and whilst she doesn’t sound particularly bothered about churning out !HITS!, 30 is still an emotional tour-de-force and a total class act.


14. Sometimes I Might Be Introvert – Little Simz

Release date: September 3
UK chart peak: 4
Metacritic score: 88
Stream: Spotify

I have half an eye on this for Album of the Year at the BRITs, you know; and it must be a frontrunner for the Mercury Prize next autumn as well. SIMBI is cinematic, intricate and – despite a 65-minute running time – totally, consistently riveting. The production is excellent (shout-out Protect My Energy for the mid-album bop) but Little Simz herself is the star: she leaves you hanging on her every word.


13. A Touch Of The Beat Gets You Up On Your Feet Gets You Out And Then Into The Sun – Aly & AJ

Release date: May 7
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score:
Stream: Spotify

A mellowed-out, sun-drenched guitar-pop album that feels warmer and warmer the more it’s listened to, A Touch Of The Beat… is the duo’s first independently-made project, and what a body of work it is!! A Symptom Of Your Touch is the standout for me, but I’m still – even now – finding new things to love about it.


12. Screen Violence – CHVRCHES

Release date: August 27
UK chart peak: 4
Metacritic score: 81
Stream: Spotify

I wasn’t as excited by the lead-in singles for this era as I was for CHVRCHES’ previous albums, but actually Screen Violence is up there with their very best. The gigantic synthy production and biting lyrics are sharp as a knife; Lauren Mayberry speaking sagely about an array of heavy subjects without losing the band’s knack for a big fuck-off chorus.


11. 333 – Tinashe

Release date: August 6
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score: 34
Stream: Spotify

Independence continues to sound exceptionally good on Tinashe, and 333 is another delight of an album. The arena-sized, Stargate-produced The Chase is my favourite, but the whole thing is a luscious listen; the sound of an artist who fully knows who she is and what she wants to make. What can’t she do?!


10. The Yearbook – Baby Queen

Release date: September 3
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score:
Stream: Spotify

I’ve seen this technically classed as a mixtape, but at ten tracks long, I’m bunging it in anyway. Following Baby Queen’s excellent arrival in 2020, The Yearbook really firmed her up as a big-time One To Watch: Dover Beach is one of my absolute favourite songs of the year, and stuff like Raw Thoughts and American Dream also masterfully couple buoyant production with wry storytelling.


09. Poster Girl – Zara Larsson

Release date: March 5
UK chart peak: 12
Metacritic score: 72
Stream: Spotify

Look, firstly any album that houses Ruin My Life is pretty much guaranteed a Top 10 end-of-year placement. Secondly, although there remains the distinct sense that Zara is capable of something more cohesive and more boundary-pushing than this, Poster Girl – finally released after what felt like a century of delays – is still a really strong collection of pop songs; from the slick title track to the gorgey piano-driven boppery of Need Someone. Having Talk About Love as the only single around the time of its release was certainly A Choice, but I hope its struggle to find its footing commercially won’t derail a follow-up.


08. Who Am I? – Pale Waves

Release date: February 12
UK chart peak: 3
Metacritic score: 62
Stream: Spotify

Pop-rock made its mainstream global comeback via artists like Olivia Rodrigo, Willow and of course Avril Lavigne herself; but here in the UK, Pale Waves were delivering peppy guitar-driven goodness right back in January. Who Am I sounds like high school corridor scenes in teen movies from the 2000s; and lead singer Heather Baron-Gracie’s songwriting deserves much wider recognition.


07. Sour – Olivia Rodrigo

Release date: May 21
UK chart peak: 1
Metacritic score: 83
Stream: Spotify

As ancient as it makes me feel to know that pop’s newest megastar was born in TWO THOUSAND AND THREE, there’s absolutely no denying the blockbuster quality of Sour. Label Geffen threw the kitchen sink at this campaign and it was worth it; the relatable and unpretentious teen angst of songs like Traitor, Good 4 U and 1 Step Forward 3 Steps Back giving the whole thing endless replay value. Every few years, a new popstar appears as if from nowhere and takes over the world (it happened four years before Olivia was born with one Britney Jean Spears!!) – and now, it’s all eyes on what she does next.


06. Dancing With The Devil… The Art of Starting Over – Demi Lovato

Release date: April 2
UK chart peak: 2
Metacritic score: 73
Stream: Spotify

Even as a long-term Demi stan, I wasn’t expecting much from this – maybe just because none of the lead singles caught fire in the way they have in the past. But Demi has rarely been on better form than they’re on here: sure, the album has a couple of skips, but the sheer length of the thing means there’s plenty of great work to make up for it. The vocals are brilliant, the songwriting is honest and sharp, some of the melodies are ridiculously catchy (good luck getting My Girlfriends Are My Boyfriend out of your head!!) and on songs like 15 Minutes, Butterfly and Carefully, they find beauty in subtlety. I was pleased this charted so highly, but it was still far too underrated for my liking!


05. Prioritise Pleasure – Self Esteem

Release date: October 22
UK chart peak: 11
Metacritic score: 92
Stream: Spotify

Deservedly named Album of the Year by Christ-knows-how-many critics, Prioritise Pleasure is pop at its most affecting, thoughtful and witty. The semi-spoken-word-y I Do This All The Time is the headline event but the album is peppered with works of genius; from the infectious You Forever to the epic Still Reigning. And is there a better opening lyric than Moody’s “sexting you at the mental health talk feels counter-productive”? I think not!


04. Montero – Lil Nas X

Release date: September 17
UK chart peak: 2
Metacritic score: 85
Stream: Spotify

As I said on my singles rundown, I feel like Montero was such a surprisingly affecting listen because it was not only boldly horny, but also pretty vulnerable. The title track is obviously the main attraction, but there’s so much good stuff; the look-to-camera cheek of Industry Baby, the brilliant Megan Thee Stallion feature on Dolla Sign Slime, the unexpected broken-hearted sadness of Lost In The Citadel and the existential crisis of Void… and this is only his debut album! Imagine what new heights he’ll go on to scale from here!!


03. Collapsed in Sunbeams – Arlo Parks

Release date: January 29
UK chart peak: 3
Metacritic score: 83
Stream: Spotify

This year’s Mercury Music Prize-winning album was… one I’d actually heard! After turning heads in 2020 with singles like Black Dog and Hurt, Arlo’s full-length album is a total treat; a beautifully written collection of songs that know when to charm you with poetic verses and when to get an irresistible topline lodged in your head. Seeing this performed live was a real music highlight of my year.


02. Pink Noise – Laura Mvula

Release date: July 2
UK chart peak: 21
Metacritic score: 89
Stream: Spotify

When Safe Passage dropped back in Q1, the pop world sat up and listened… and when Church Girl and Got Me followed, I was all-in on what had the potential to be one of the most exciting album eras of the year. For me, Pink Noise absolutely followed through on that promise. Laura’s usual knack for gorgeous lyrics is married brilliantly with big melodies and danceable production; ticking off everything from lust to hurt to social commentary to hope. The extremely powerful Remedy is an easy highlight, as is the glorious closer, reminding us to “remember the night comes before the dawn”.


01. Magic Still Exists – Agnes

Release date: October 22
UK chart peak:
Metacritic score:
Stream: Spotify

This is Agnes’ first full album in nine years, and what a fucking triumph it is!! On Magic Still Exists she reintroduces herself as a totally assured disco goddess; backing up the sensational singles Fingers Crossed, 24 Hours and Here Comes The Night with more slam-dunks that don’t just meet that high bar, but in some cases (Selfmade, Love And Appreciation) actually soar even higher. It’s not a long album (of its 11 tracks, four are brief sort-of-interludes) but it feels completely whole – watertight, filler-free, late-night perfection. It’s an artistic masterclass that still feels totally accessible, totally danceable, and so much FUN! It’s just pop at its best. Tour when??


A playlist containing some of my favourite tracks from each album is here:

Continue Reading

Music

Top 50 singles of 2021

Published

on

Last week saw the second annual Electric Angels Singles of the Year survey, in which I was THRRRRILLED to see what everyone else has been loving this year. Now, it’s time for my own choices!

This is my 14th annual year-end Top 50 (Christ), and I actually found it quite hard to compile this year, especially versus 2020. There was plenty of good pop to pick from, but not as much really, really amazing pop. Still, I adore these 50 songs – and you can find the obligatory Spotify playlist here or at the bottom of the post.

My year-end playlists from 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 and 2008 are also all on Spotify (for various reasons, some of the older ones are incomplete).

This year’s best albums to follow!


50. Build It Better – Natalie Imbruglia

I can’t say I was waiting with bated breath for Natalie’s first album since 2015 (her first of original material since 2009), but when this single dropped, WHEW! I remembered how much I used to love her. Her voice, the gentle Radio 2 instrumentation, the lyrics about letting things go to shit so they can be duly reborn… it’s like a lovely cuddle.


49. Anyone – Justin Bieber

Released on New Year’s Day, Anyone was the First Good Song of 2021, and another excellent track from a popstar I keep forgetting is capable of brilliance.


48. Come Through – Priyanka feat. Lemon

The usual mid-and-post-Drag-Race-song lyrics about “slaying all day” etcetera are elevated in this case by the sheer star quality of Priyanka; not to mention the turbo-charged guest rap from Lemon that probably deserves some sort of Grammy.


47. Je me casse – Destiny

Whispers about alleged funny business at Eurovision totally passed me by, so I was free to fully buy into the hype on this. Destiny is a star, the bilingual hook is a neat touch, and really I just had it in my head for fucking WEEKS.


46. Dancing With The Devil – Demi Lovato

The title track from a massively under-rated album, Dancing With The Devil might not be Demi’s most memorable lead single but the brutal honesty of the lyrics and the !!EMOTION!! of the vocals give it one hell of a bite. And that BRIDGE, good Lord. Demi’s voice feels like it’s ready to break as the instrumentation swells around “I thought I knew my limit, yeah, thought that I could quit it, yeah…”, but by the time the final chorus kicks in, they’re back to their defiant, glass-shattering best. It may have become cool to dunk on them over the last couple of years but they’re still highly capable of being excellent.


45. Hope – Arlo Parks

WHAT a YEAR for Ms Parks!!!! Collapsed In Sunbeams is a gorgey album, and this song – serviced as a single around the time of its release – is one of its most glorious moments. It delivers what its title promises; mixing beautifully written and intricate verses with a chorus that simply reminds us, over and over, “you’re not alone like you think you are”.


44. Heartbreak In This City – Steps feat. Michelle Visage

One of the stronger moments on 2020’s What The Future Holds got a bit of a glow-up for its single release here; including slightly glossier production and a guest appearance from – who else? – Michelle Visage. It’s catchy, it’s danceable, it’s got a tinge of sadness running underneath the boppery… it’s classic Steps.


43. Overdrive – Conan Gray

Only one lone person gave this song some love in the Singles of the Year poll, which tells me y’all have been massively missing out and need to get this injected into your veins FAST.


42. On The Ground – Rosé

Jesy Nelson’s launch prompted a lot of chat about the best and worst solo debuts from girlband members over the years, and to be frank I did not see enough love given to this! Rosé’s first non-Blackpink release is an electropop stomper packed with great vocals, addictive melodies and ground-shaking production. A moment!


41. Have Mercy – Chloe

This chorus will NEVER! LEAVE! MY! HEAD!


40. Sacrifice – Bebe Rexha

Bebe went back to the 90s for this surprising Greg Kurstin-produced megabop from the Better Mistakes album; all big thudding hooks and attention-hungry lyrics. 2021 may not have been… shall we say commercially satisfying for Bebe or her label, but at least it spawned a song this great.


39. Life’s A Bitch (LAB) – Nina Nesbitt

“Life’s like a bitch, I hate her but I love her”. A 10/10 central lyric from a 10/10 best-of-times-worst-of-times bop.


38. Message In A Bottle (Taylor’s Version) (From The Vault) – Taylor Swift

I can see why this was left out of the original release of Red: even though it pulls Taylor in a poppier direction than her first three albums, it lyrically feels a little…… juvenile compared to her other stuff? It’s as if, back in 2012, this was her testing the Max Martin-y waters, and the material that did make the album (22, WANEGBT, IKYWT) was her fully diving in. Still, there’s something about her wheeling it out nine years later, dusting off that dangerously addictive sugar rush of a chorus, that just feels so good. A time machine back to when we were all younger, more innocent and more easily swept up in the romance of it all.


37. John Hughes Movie – Maisie Peters

Essentially a trip back to every naive crush and petty heartbreak that once upon a time felt like the end of the world, John Hughes Movie perfectly captures the crush-related angst and hurt we all felt before we knew better. You would think Maisie’s delicate voice would be totally swallowed by production this big, but actually it all just adds wonderfully to the drama. A triumph!


36. Toothbrush – Grace Davies

The highlight of Grace’s 2020 Friends With The Tragic EP was the almost Robyn-esque Addicted To Blue, so it’s been amazing to hear her leaning into more of that electroballadry throughout 2021. Toothbrush is a right stunner; a midtempo feelings-fest that culminates in an explosive finale that begs to be howled along-to in full voice.


35. All Your Exes – Julia Michaels

There’s been a lot of adoration for the way Billie Eillish’s Happier Than Ever morphs from subtle acoustic number to full-blown ragebanger, but I actually think Julia Michaels gifted us with a fine example of that too. Irrational jealously has rarely been this fun.


34. Altar – Kehlani

A beautiful reflection on those who’ve been lost, Altar is emotional but never mopey; it’s gripped by grief but packed with love. A really, really lovely song.


33. Mirror – Sigrid

Sigrid said a firm NO to self-doubt on this slick pick-me-up; complete with an impossibly catchy “ah-ah-ah” chant in the bridge that lingers in the brain for weeks.


32. That’s What I Want – Lil Nas X

Lil Nas X’s near-flawless year was such a triumph because not only was he so unapologetic horny, but he was also unafraid to show a bit of heart and vulnerability. This impossible-to-dislike bop sees him yearning for something more than a quick dicking, and it’s also catchy as hell.


31. Bouncin – Tinashe

Remember those terrible years when we had to wait ENDLESSLY for a Tinashe album? Nowadays she simply will not let us breathe! Bouncin is an irresistible little song, and the video? Art!


30. No – Little Mix

The annual resurgence of Christmas songs in mid-November meant that No spent only two – TWO!!! – weeks in the UK Top 100; an abominable way to round out the current chapter of the Little Mix story. No is a natural successor to Sweet Melody; punchy, confident, catchy as Omicron… it’s Little Mix doing what they do best.


29. Wild Side – Normani feat. Cardi B

The wait for Wild Side was borderline barbaric, but what a display of excellence! An assured single from a woman who remains one of music’s most promising talents, and the video was – in a surprise to nobody – a total blockbuster. Let’s keep the momentum up!!


28. Shade of Yellow – Griff

Black Hole gave this megastar-in-waiting a well deserved hit in 2021, but it’s Shade of Yellow that stands out for me; a lyrically rich, understated track with writing and production by Griff and Griff alone. Consider me PUMPED to see her go from strength to strength in 2022.


27. Crave – Years & Years

It doesn’t sound like a hit (and sure enough, it wasn’t) but Crave does sound like the kind of darkly brooding pop song that Years & Years do best. I enjoyed Starstruck, but this was what properly got me excited for the Night Call era.


26. I Want Love – Jessie J

A serve? From Jessie J? In 2021? These really are unprecedented times!!


25. Sister Ray – Foxes

Her Friends In The Corner EP was a brilliant reintroduction, but the first three singles from upcoming album The Kick have been total slam-dunks; this one in particular. Foxes = the British Carly Rae? Perhaps!


24. Here Comes The Night – Agnes

It’s so obvious from the opening bars of Here Comes The Night that Agnes is going to fully punch you in the face with a balls-to-the-wall discobanger, and OH MERCY, punch you she does. The title lyric is not so much a warning or a premonition as a call-to-arms.


23. Hot Hot – Bree Runway

Bree Runway No1 for 12 weeks when?? After her excellent 2000and4eva mixtape last year, Hot Hot was another check-mate from this potential titan of British music; a summer-ready jam that soars with or without all the Busta Rhymes sample drama.


22. Transparent Soul – Willow feat. Travis Barker

Olivia Rodrigo deservedly got a lot of hype for her pop-punk sound; a subgenre that was as prominent in 2021 as it was in the early 2000s. But Willow was also serving guitar-crunching angst this year, and Transparent Soul – which returned her to the UK and US charts for the first time in a decade – kicked off her whole new era perfectly.


21. Easy on Me – Adele

She just sounds so GOOD, doesn’t she?! The vocals are as crystal clear as… well, crystal on Easy On Me; a quintessential Adele ballad and one that makes the most of her ability to deliver both technical perfection and an emotional sucker-punch. May we all drink wine and cry to this for years to come.


20. Good Ones – Charli XCX

Honestly I come and go with Charli XCX; flitting sporadically between ‘gosh what a clever artiste’ and ‘gosh what kind of RACKET is this?!’. On Good Ones she’s squarely in unpretentious pop belter territory, and I just cannot help myself. What a riot.


19. Priorities – L Devine

With not one but two EPs out over the course of the summer, L Devine really planted herself firmly on my Ones To Watch radar, and with Priorities – in which she sings about a new squeeze who’s not putting in the hours – she’s on perfect form; giving big hooks, moody synth-laden production and a vocal that nails the perfect balance of hurt and pissed-off.


18. Heartbreak Anthem – Galantis, David Guetta and Little Mix

As a dance banger, this may not re-invent the wheel, but Christ I was mainlining it from the second I first heard it. With buoyant production, great vocal work from all of Little Mix and lyrics about refusing to dwell on troubled times, it was easily top of my Spotify Wrapped – and hey, you lot voted it your favourite track of the year too.


17. Call on Me – Raye

Given all the fuckery Raye spoke about around the time of this song’s release, I hope it doesn’t go on to represent a bad time for her – because LORD, what a great single. The Song of the Summer contender that (like much of Raye’s work) deserved better.


16. Save Your Tears (Remix) – The Weeknd and Ariana Grande

Ariana has rarely sounded better than she does on this; a song that enables her to play around at the bottom of her range as well as at the very top of it. Save Your Tears was an exceptional song in its original form. This remix kicks it up even further.


15. Church Girl – Laura Mvula

Pink Noise was S!U!C!H! a great era for Laura, and each pre-release single was better than the last. Church Girl is simply impossible to sit still to; it’s an immaculately written, performed and produced song for which everyone involved deserves some sort of plaque.


14. Glam! – Allie X

A song so massive it can probably be seen from space, Glam! is a fist-in-the-air scream-a-long anthem made for stadiums; and the fact Allie originally scrapped it from her debut EP back in 2015 is a crime for which she should absolutely stand trial.


13. Let Them Know – Mabel

All you need to know about Let Them Know is the fact it was put together by Mabel, Raye, MNEK and SG Lewis. If that doesn’t immediately tell you how much it slaps, really nothing will. (Also – bouquet of flowers for whichever of them came up with “up here the haters look teeny tiny”).


12. Used To You – Grace Davies

Grace has developed quite a knack for heartbreak-laden torch songs and Used To You is, for me, her best yet. Beginning with a low vocal over synthy chords so quiet you can barely hear them, the song builds and builds like an unstoppable panic attack; reaching a devastating crescendo in its beautifully raw bridge – the sort of gutteral outpouring that comes when you can only keep a restrained lid on your emotions for so long.


11. Good 4 U – Olivia Rodrigo

Drivers’ License was a great lead single but it was on Good 4 U that Olivia’s MO really became clear. It’s a modern pop-punk classic that wears its anger on its sleeve – and though Olivia may cite Taylor Swift as a major influence, here she brilliantly shuns any Swiftian poetic imagery and sticks to songwriting that’s brutally straightforward, to-the-point and… yes, teenage. ‘Good for you, you look happy and healthy, not me, if you ever cared to ask.’ A star is born!


10. Big – Rita Ora, Imanbek and David Guetta feat. Gunna

Releasing a song about lavish partying at a time when her fondness for a party was all over the papers… Bold! But when the material’s this irresistible, why the hell not?! The highlight of a very good EP, Big is a taut, expensive-sounding banger made for strutting down the travelator at Waterloo; and I was fucking addicted to it back in February.


09. I Do This All The Time – Self Esteem

The whole Prioritise Pleasure era was clearly a total success for the ingenious Rebecca Taylor, and on I Do This All The Time, her ability to make you really stop in your tracks is on full display. Spoken-word verses that revisit an array of micro-aggressions and life lessons are delivered almost exasperatedly over a simple beat; interspersed with choral reminders to “look up, lean back, be strong”. The final act, when the orchestra swells and the chant-friendly vocals burst into cries of “I’ll take care, I’ll read again, I’ll sing again” is nothing short of euphoric.


08. 24 Hours – Agnes

Agnes confidently struts away from the remnants of a shattered relationship on this almighty stomper; allowing herself very briefly to look back at the darkness she’s leaving behind before declaring on the bridge “here and now, I choose my future”. God help anyone or anything that stands in her way.


07. Confetti – Little Mix feat. Saweetie

Confetti sounds so good in this slightly remixed, Saweetie-fied, Jesy-less form that it’s so incredibly jarring now to listen back to the 2020 original. The girls sound poised, assured and whole; switching between cool, unphased harmonies and powerful ad-libs with the ease of pros who’ve been nailing this popstar thing for a whole-ass decade. And the video? Oscars!!


06. Dover Beach – Baby Queen

Bella Latham appeared in 2020 with a highly promising string of singles, and in 2021 she unleashed her superb The Yearbook – led by this eardrum-bursting bop about having someone on the brain 24/7. The bridge (“it’s deep! Red! My broken dream!”) is a proper hands-aloft moment, and the clearest sign yet that the Baby Queen bandwagon is one we should all want to be on.


05. No Words Needed – Rebecca Ferguson feat. Nile Rodgers

Ten years on from Album Of The Century contender Heaven, R-Fergz returned with this shimmering, undeniable song that finds her in her most playful territory yet. No Words Needed is a lusty-eyed dream of a track with a gorgeous vocal and sparkling production; and if – as Rebecca has indicated – her next album will indeed be her last, it certainly seems like she’ll be leaving us wanting more.


04. Got Me – Laura Mvula

Got Me invites – nay DEMANDS – dancing; anything from a subtle shimmy to full-on hip-swinging. It’s the jewel in the Pink Noise era’s glistening crown; a sexy, joyful, neon-lit confection that pairs breathless, almost spoken-word verses with one hell of a satisfying chorus. I believe in a Mvula supremacy!!


03. Silk Chiffon – Muna feat. Phoebe Bridgers

Is there a better hook this year than “SIIIIIIILK!!!!!!… Chiffon”? Perhaps not! Over their first two albums Muna perfected heartbreak (Crying On The Bathroom Floor), community strength (I Know A Place) and a wry twist on the empowerment anthem (Number One Fan); but on Silk Chiffon it’s all about the pure, unfiltered joy of connecting so perfectly with another human being. It’s a queer love song that shuns angst entirely and just revels in happiness; a lighter-than-air thrill that’s as gentle as… well, silk chiffon. “It feels good to me… oh, why wouldn’t it be?”


02. Don’t Shut Me Down – ABBA

I Still Have Faith In You was the emotional reintroduction, but Don’t Shut Me Down was the song that fully reminded listeners the world over that nobody – NOBODY!!! – does pop music quite like ABBA. Emotional vocals, intricate instrumentation, exquisite storytelling (is it about a former couple coming back together, or a world-conquering pop group coming back together? Why not both!)… this is an act still at the height of their powers after almost four decades apart, and how lucky we all are to have had them back in these miserable times!


01. Montero (Call Me By Your Name) – Lil Nas X

Every now and then a song comes along that not only slaps, that not only is hugely successful, that not only lifts its performer to a new level of stardom; but also feels like it properly shakes-up the pop cultural landscape. The fact a mainstream gay artist – let alone a mainstream gay artist with roots in hip-hop – was this explicitly horny, on such a global stage, playing with the kind of religious imagery that could only infuriate those already out to get him… it was brave, bold, iconic, and – lest we forget – also a shitload of fun. Montero (Call Me By Your Name) is a brilliant song even without all that it represents, but it’s also an unforgettable ~moment; a megastar-making ace that will be referenced and talked about for generations to come.


And here’s the playlist:

Continue Reading

Trending