My Top 10 Songs of 2014

Back at the end of 1983, whatever radio station (80s pop music) I listened to at the time had its annual year-end countdown. A song I didn’t particularly care for topped the list, so I decided to make my own list. As a dorky new teenager, I did a weekly Top 10 list, and at the end of the year, I took the average weekly position for every song ranked and put them in order. Then I had a final list and made a mix tape of my top songs of the year.

And I kept doing that, all the way up through college. Yeah, I was a dork. But I stopped doing it weekly and just kept track to make a year-end mix tape. Then I stopped making mix tapes because…well, because people stopped using cassette tapes. I still compile a year-end Top 10 list, and now that I have a blog, I see no reason not to share it annually.

End of 2015 edit: Now that I do a monthly Top 10 list, I should call it that. Here are My Top 10 Songs of 2014…


#10 – Girls Chase Boys, by Ingrid Michaelson

Ingrid Michaelson reminds me a lot of Lisa Loeb—the female singer/songwriter, kinda folksy, with the smart glasses. This isn’t her debut song, and a single from a couple years ago called Maybe is a beautiful song about hoping a lover will return. Here, she sings about how we’re all looking for love and how it should be easier. As for the video, she’s not the first to parody Robert Palmer’s Addicted to Love—Shania Twain did that with Man! I Feel Like a Woman—but it works perfectly for the song.


#9 – Prayer in C, by Lilly Wood & The Prick and Robin Schulz

Lilly Wood and the Prick originally released this song in 2010, but then German DJ/producer Robin Schulz remixed it. I’m not usually a fan of electronic dance music, but the remix has a somber tone that I can’t help but feel. The lyrics are also deep, whether she’s lamenting a past lover she can’t forgive or tragic situations in the world. I’ve heard the original song and it’s too soft and slow. Again, I usually don’t like remixes, but Schulz added new dimension to the song.


#8 – I Wanna Get Better, by Bleachers

After winning the Grammy for Best New Artists on the strength of songs like We Are Young and Some Nights, the guys from the group fun. went on to separate side projects. While lead singer Nate Reuss recorded a duet with Pink and a solo album, guitarist Jack Antonoff formed this band. This kick-ass song is a juxtaposition between a self-help session and a primal scream, yet it has an underlying optimism to it. Don’t we all just want to get better, no matter the personal demons chasing us? Watch the video for some cool guest appearances.


#7 – Tennis Court, by Lorde

Lorde came on the scene with the wonderful song Royals. She has a distinct voice and packs much symbolism in her lyrics. Though her follow-up song Team got far more airplay than Tennis Court, I’ve got to side with the latter song. It’s got a great rhyme scheme and a distinct beat that sounds like a tennis ball being hit back and forth. There’s a confrontational tone to the song, and it’s open to interpretation about what she’s fighting. Is it an argument, her future, or the record industry? Who knows? The video keeps it ambiguous, focusing only on Lorde while lights around her change and she lip-syncs only the occasional deep-voiced Yeahs.


#6 – Boom Clap, by Charli XCX

This song could be dismissed as teen-pop fluff, but it’s just so catchy. Charli XCX did some other writing and featured singing during the year, but this solo song—used in the film The Fault in Our Stars—is the high point of her year. So what makes this so good? Maybe it’s the infectious techno beat. Maybe it’s the imagery in the lyrics—“sunbathing on the moon”? Or maybe it’s the quotable lyrics: “The beat goes on and on and on and on.” I want the song to go on and on and on and on. I applaud this song with as many booming claps as possible.


#5 – Blank Space, by Taylor Swift

Everything Taylor Swift touches turns gold. She’s managed to transcend the boundary between country and pop music, often times releasing two different versions of her songs for her two audiences. This year, she released a full pop album, and the two singles released from it have been amazing. Where the first single Shake It Off is a high-energy anthem about ignoring the haters and players, Blank Space is a hysterical display of self-deprecation. When she sings about ex-lovers telling you she’s insane, you know it’s tongue-in-cheek. And then the video, where she plays a lovesick wacko? Awesome!


#4 – The Walker, by Fitz and the Tantrums

There’s something so refreshingly soulful about the group Fitz and the Tantrums. They have such a great sound to them, particularly the great harmonies between singers Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs. Ever since their first hit, Moneygrabber, I’ve had them on my radar, but this is my favorite of theirs so far. I love the message, shown by the video, about not just being a mindless lemming or drone. Every now and then, you need to follow your own rhythm and just walk away.


#3 – Human, by Christina Perri

Christina Perri can belt out a gut-wrenching ballad like she’s not human. Her previous hits Jar of Hearts and A Thousand Years are chilling, haunting, and beautiful, but she goes for much deeper introspection here. Hurt someone with words or actions, and as much as we think we can turn on and off our emotions, we can’t always. After all, we’re only human. Elevating this message further is a brilliant video where Perri is shown alone, juxtaposed with imagery of machinery. Every now and then, a part of her body is shown like an X-ray would, but it’s not always bones that are revealed; sometimes it’s robotic parts. The song builds to its breaking point—a heartfelt scream—and the video reveals Perri’s multiple tattoos that have been hidden, showing the viewer the creative expression of her humanity.


#2 – Pompeii, by Bastille

Who’d have guessed that a song thematically inspired by a city destroyed by volcanic eruption would become such a big hit? It definitely was one of the catchiest songs of the year, starting with the opening chant and racing through the rushed question of being an optimist about the situation. There are so many thought-provoking lines in the song, but I’m going to quote this one: “Oh, where do we begin? The rubble or our sins?” When faced with any devastation—whether it be a natural or personal disaster—that’s a deep question. Do you start fixing the external mess (the “rubble”) or do you look internally and try to fix yourself, to hold yourself accountable. Whether or not the people of Pompeii in some way deserved their fate, we deserved a song of this earth-shaking magnitude.


Before I get to MY FAVORITE SONG OF 2014, here are five Honorable Mention songs that just missed the Top 10:

Happy, by Pharrell Williams – A wonderful anthem, although I doubt I’d be happy if my room lacked a roof.

Counting Stars, by OneRepublic – This very well could be their best song since the phenomenal Stop and Stare.

Say Something, by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera – Heartbreaking duet about a lack of communication in a relationship.

Chandelier, by Sia – The video dance is iconic, and Sia’s vocals are a cross between vulnerable and fierce.

Ain’t It Fun, by Paramore – They set out to break records in the video, but I love the subversion of the song, as it’s about overcoming adversity on your own.


And finally, MY FAVORITE SONG OF 2014…

#1 – HABITS (STAY HIGH), by Tove Lo

Forget the literal lyrics for a moment. I don’t believe for one second that Swedish singer Tove Lo is advocating drug use. This is a song—and therefore can be considered like fiction or poetry—that packs a wallop of relatable emotions in a few minutes. We’ve all loved and lost and later felt devastated by it. We probably wanted some way to eliminate the pain. Tove Lo uses staying high as a metaphor to relieve that pain, and when she sings the chorus, you FEEL her sadness, desperation, self-doubt, and everything else that goes with an unexpected and unwanted breakup. I caught wind of this song on the VH-1 Top 20 Video Countdown months before it started getting consistent radio play here in America, and I loved it then. I obviously still love it enough to give it the top spot of the year.

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