[2014 Wrap-up] Music.

Just as with other more reputable sites, this coming week is a great, well, the only time to look back at the year and see what it has amounted to. I normally do a single post to wrap up the entire year but in the spirit of forcing myself to blogging more frequently, I’ll be doing a whole series of entries. The first in Gabriel’s Countdown to 2015 Series? Music.

I’m not very fussy nor that exploratory with music so most of the songs on heavy rotation in my Spotify/iTunes playlists are mainstream pop hits. I didn’t listen to a crazy load of new songs this year, having stuck to older favourites (and that’s when I wasn’t listening to podcasts, which I was most of the time), but the few new songs that did drift into my consciousness took hold in major ways.

These are my favourite/most played songs that were released in 2014:

1. Photograph – Ed Sheeran

To be more specific, it’s actually a cover of the Ed Sheeran ditty. I quite like the original but this version, with its more soaring, epic arrangement, was my main year jam for the second half of the year.

2. Ghost – Ella Henderson

During her time on X Factor UK, I thought Henderson was overrated. She didn’t seem that great a singer and there were many others I preferred. So, of course, she would be the one X Factor alum who came out with a song that I could not get out of my head. Ghost is infectious, engaging from start to end, and is impossible not to sing along to.

3. All of Me – John Legend

This is one of those songs that was covered a gajillion times on Youtube and for good reason. It has a beautiful melody and despite the many covers, none even come close to the original.

4. Natural Disaster – Pentatonix

The last few months have been really really good to Pentatonix and I had the fortune of getting to see them live when they popped by my sunny shores. Their vocals were ridiculous and out of this world and this song in particular (ironically one of their few originals amid a sea of excellent covers) was on extended play in my head for at least two months after. It’s rousing, catchy, and showcases Scott Hoying’s insane control from start to end.

5. Bang Bang – Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj

Collaborations between divas have always been awesome and this one, from the “new” generation of female superstars, is no different. Bang Bang starts off, appropriately, with a bang thanks to Jessie J’s immense vocal power, continues with Grande’s venti-sized range and ends off with a verse from reigning rap queen Minaj so infectious that I never fail to (try to) sing rap speak along.

6. Chandelier – Sia

I was obsessed this for a good quarter of the year. A fantastic gem from the treasure trove that is Sia’s latest album, the song starts off with an instantly memorable, slower verse before launching into a soaring, rousing chorus centred around anti-drinking. I’ve heard so many covers of this since but no one has remotely approached Sia’s insane pipes.

7. Problem – Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea

While I don’t think that Ariana Grande is the second coming of primetime Mariah and Iggy is certainly a master at portraying herself in the worst possible ways in the media, this song itself is faultless. It’s catchy, sassy and bears repeated listening.

8. Super Love – Dami Im

Another solid first single from another X Factor alum (this time the winner of X Factor Australia season 5), Im (or her production team) have eschewed the usual overly sappy winner’s single for a fast, ear-hooking dance number with the most recognizable intro this year.

9. Take Me to Church – Hozier

I had no idea who Hozier was (and still don’t, actually) and only came across this song while randomly Spotify-hopping but, just like how it apparently was with the general music-listening crowd, once I heard it, it exploded into my playlist in a major way. The song starts off slow, plods along at a measured pace, moves into a short pre-chorus before launching into what I can only describe as Florence-like cathedral pop. Good stuff.

[Edit: I just found out that apparently this one came out in late 2013 but since I don’t have any other big songs in 2014 and he only exploded in a big way this past few months, I’m totally leaving this in.]

10. 三月 – 张惠妹

The only Mandopop song on this list is appropriately from the queen of Taiwan pop herself. It’s a haunting ballad which showcases 张惠妹’s incredibly powerful but nuanced vocal chops and her ability to emote the heck out of a song. It’s not as catchy or infectious as the other entries on this list but it’s definitely as much of a great aural experience.

Album from 2014 on heavy rotation: 1989 by Taylor Swift

While singles from different singers dominated my playlist this year, the one album I did spend considerable time on was, I’m sure, the same as pretty much everyone else. With this latest effort, Taylor Swift has left behind her vanilla country roots and plopped herself smack in the middle – the throne, if you will – of the pop genre.

Just about every song here could be a hit release, from the catchy “Welcome to New York” to the current airwaves-hogging “Blank Space”, and it’s quite smart of her to throw back to 80s’ anthem pop when everyone else is trying to drive their music forward.

2014 is the year I finally became a Swiftie.

Of course, (as I mentioned) I didn’t spend the whole just listening to new music because I’m change-averse sentimental. Several of my older favourites received constant broadcast over my earphones, as did songs that weren’t released this year but that I only just discovered.

1. Soldier – Gavin DeGraw

I cannot believe that I had not heard of this song before this year since I’ve always considered DeGraw one of my favourite singers. Soldier is classic Gavin, starting off quirky before settling into his trademark nasally power pipes and a catchy rousing melody, all punctuated by a solid drumbeat.

2. I See Fire – Ed Sheeran

Other than Taylor Swift, 2014 was also the year I became an Ed SheeFan (??) and it was all thanks to this song. It starts off with a quiet, acappella intro fantastically belted by Sheeran, moves into a slightly groovy verse, and then transits into a catchy chorus that nonetheless manages to stay within the confines of its Medieval-pop feel.

3. Euphoria (live version) – Loreen

Loreen’s Eurovision winning single swept the contests’ records for good reason and this version, sung at the start of Eurovision 2013, transformed the song from infectious dancepop to full-on epic stadium-rouser and goodness knows I love my stadiums getting roused. Plus, I’m a sucker for children’s choirs in pop songs.

4. Until We Die – Gentle Bones

Gentle Bones is a local artist who I think should really get more international recognition. His songs are a surprisingly high-production mix of Ed Sheeran, Florence and Jason Mraz and this one was an instant buy on iTunes for me.

5. The entire catalog of 孙燕姿

Ok, so this one is a bit of a cheat since it’s not technically a song. Still, I couldn’t just choose one because I played all of them repeatedly in preparation for her concert. Revisiting her past hits really highlight why she’s Singapore’s reigning song queen – no one has can or has been able to surpass the combination of a unique voice, tender ballads with memorable melodies, catchy faster pieces and her indomitable cheery disposition.


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