Wednesday, 23 December 2015

The Best Of 2015 - part 1

JUMP TO: 100-81 II 80-61 II 60-41 II 40-21 II 20-1

As 2015 comes to a close, the charts seem to be full of almost exclusively Adele and Justin Bieber songs - part of the problem of allowing any old track onto the singles chart. The advantage of that rule change, though, is that it does give album cuts, promotional tracks and other bonus songs a chance they'd never otherwise have to find an audience. And, as has been the case with my personal top 100 for the past few years, there are a number of non-singles among my list of favourites in 2015. Let's get on with it, shall we?

Number 100 "Right Here, Right Now" by Giorgio Moroder featuring Kylie Minogue

To start things off, two artists that have previously - but separately - wound up at number 1 on my year-end chart . Back in 1984, Giorgio Moroder had my favourite single for the year with "Together In Electric Dreams" (featuring The Human League's Phil Oakey on vocals), while Kylie Minogue was my chart champ in 1987, 1991 and 2002. Kylie was one of nine singers the legendary Italian producer collaborated with on Déjà Vuhis first studio album in 23 years. As for Kylie, "Right Here, Right Now" (nothing to do with the Let's Get To It album track of the same name) was part of a diverse array of projects she involved herself with in 2015 - more of which we'll see as we continue the climb to this year's number 1.

Number 99 "Get Ready For It" by Take That

The ever-evolving line-up of Take That bravely soldiered on in 2015, having misplaced two of their members (Jason Orange and Robbie Williams - again) since their last studio album, 2010's Progress. Although featured on their aptly named album, III, "Get Ready For It" was not one of its four official singles (most of which I couldn't name if I tried). It was, however, included on the soundtrack to the surprisingly good spy film Kingsman: The Secret Service - and even had a promo video shot for it.

Number 98 "Trooper" by Vanbot

She had a year off from my year-end chart in 2014 (after appearing in each of the three previous years), but the Swedish singer who's not Robyn returned with this synth-ballad from her second album, Perfect Storm, in 2015.

Number 97 "Out Of Touch" by BETABLOCK3R

What would one of my year-end charts be without a new synthpop act or two? In this case, American duo BETABLOCK3R - I think their name is styled all caps - aren't actually that new, having formed in 2011. But, "Out Of Touch" (not a remake of the Hall & Oates classic) is the first I've heard from them. 

Number 96 "Can't Stop Playing (Makes Me High)" (Oliver Heldens remix) by Dr Kucho! & Gregor Salto featuring Ane Brun

You get all that? Besides being the entry with the most convoluted title and list of credits to feature in my top 100 this year, "Can't Stop Playing..." is also one of the shortest songs on this list. Clocking in at just over two-and-a-half minutes, the UK top 5 hit was originally a 2005 collaboration between Spanish DJ/producer Dr Kucho! (real name: Daniel Salazar) and Dutch DJ/producer Gregor Salto. A decade later, Dutch wunderkind Oliver Heldens - who was 10 when the original was released - remixed the track with added vocals from Norwegian folk singer Ane Brun. OK, that lengthy credit is kind of warranted.

Number 95 "Firestone" by Kygo featuring Conrad Sewell

We'll stick in Europe now for this debut single from Norwegian Kyrre Gørvell-Dahll - or Kygo to his ever-increasing legion of fans. The 24-year-old DJ/producer is also the man to credit (or blame, depending how you feel about marimbas in dance music) with the advent of tropical house. "Firestone" does had a local connection thanks to the involvement of Australian vocalist Conrad Sewell, who co-wrote the track.

Number 94 "Love Revolution" by Will Young

It's hard to believe that Will Young has now been releasing music for 13 years - but as a sign of the original Pop Idol winner's longevity, he's now shifted from being an artist who regularly scores hit singles in the UK to one who only seems to sell albums. While his sixth studio set, 85% Proof, was another British chart-topper for him, this lead single - which, like Tomcraft's "Loneliness", is based around "Share The Love" by Andrea Martin - didn't make the UK top 100.

Number 93 "Get Away" by Paperwhite

A slight improvement on their position on last year's top 100, siblings Ben and Katie Marshall returned with another slice of dreamy, well, dream pop in "Get Away", which even came with an official music video. Things are obviously looking up for Paperwhite, with the duo promising even bigger things to come in 2016. Duly noted indeed.

Number 92 "You Were Right" by RÜFÜS

Last year, I mentioned that I was a bit late to the RÜFÜS party, but I was all over the Australian dance trio in 2015. The ARIA Award-winning "You Were Right" was the lead release from still forthcoming album Bloom and it was followed by a single we'll see after a triple play of female-fronted synthpop...

Number 91 "Talking Body" by Tove Lo

One of two twenty-something Swedish synthpop singers named Tove releasing music in 2015 - that I'm aware of, anyway - Tove Lo emerged with this follow-up to her international breakthrough, "Habits (Stay High)". A UK and US top 20 hit, "Talking Body" came in two versions - one clean and one where the line "we love for life" was "we fuck for life" instead. Call me a prude, but I prefer the former. The other Tove? Tove Styrke, whose single "Ego" wound up at number 170 on this list.

Number 90 "I Think I'm Fallin'" by Dominique

Next up, "I Think I'm Fallin'" might sound like just another Scandi synthpop track to clutter up my top 100, but singer/songwriter Dominique is actually from New York. You can't say I don't mix things up.

Number 89 "Leave A Trace" by CHVRCHES

Like Will Young, Scottish band CHVRCHES do inordinately better on the UK albums chart than the singles chart - but that's where the similarities end. "Leave A Trace" was the lead single from the electronic group's second album, Every Eye Open, and maintained their club-meets-festival brand of indie-leaning synthpop.

Number 88 "Like An Animal" by RÜFÜS

And it's back to RÜFÜS with the just-as-laidback second single from Bloom, which is due for release at the end of January. The band's first album, Atlas, hit the top of the ARIA chart - and with their profile even higher now than it was in 2013, I think it's a fairly safe bet that they'll repeat that achievement this time around.

Number 87 "Wings" by Delta Goodrem

Speaking of ARIA chart number 1s, between 2002 and 2005, seven of Delta Goodrem's nine singles hit that position. Between 2006 and 2014, the singer had added just one further chart-topper to that tally - and that was way back in 2007 with "In This Life". When her first new single for 2015, "Only Human", barely dented the Australian top 50, it looked like the one-time chart dominator was starting to have more in common with all those other has-been reality show judges than when she'd first joined The Voice in 2012. But then she released "Wings" - a blistering pop/dance track that took me completely by surprise, since I'd pretty much given up hope that I'd ever enjoy one of her songs again.

Number 86 "Redemption" by Sigma & Diztortion featuring Jacob Banks

They came close to taking out my number 1 position in 2014 with the Paloma Faith-featuring "Changing", and in 2015, drum and bass duo Sigma continued to follow the Calvin Harris approach to releasing an album. In other words, they released a stack of singles before Life finally appeared a few weeks ago, by which time it was kind of like a mini greatest hits collection. Although, "Redemption" - a collaboration with Dutch producer Diztortion - wasn't exactly a very great hit, not even reaching the UK top 100. Lost in the mix between "Glitterball" (number 127 on this list) and "Coming Home" (still to come), the song featured vocals from Birmingham singer Jacob Banks, who'd previously been heard on tracks by Chase & Status and Wretch 32.

Number 85 "The Best" by Lenno featuring Dragonette

Another studio whiz kid, Finnish DJ/producer Lenno looks about 12 but is actually 20 (or might be 21 by now) and turned his attentions from remixes to releasing his own tunes over the past couple of years. The best (sorry!) of those is this collaboration with Canada's Dragonette - with Lenno creating the music to go with a set of pre-existing vocals by Martina Sorbara, who'd actually sung them to another track originally.

Number 84 "Revive (Say Something)" by LuvBug featuring Mark Asari

While Aston Merrygold's post-JLS solo career has been going surprisingly well in Australia, where "Get Stupid" reached the top 10, another of his former band-mates has been doing quite nicely for himself as one-third of dance act LuvBug. Second single "Revive...", which was written by MNEK and features Mark Asari on vocals, made the UK top 20, something Aston didn't manage with his debut single, despite JLS having had five British chart-toppers in their time.

Number 83 "Coming Home" by Sigma & Rita Ora

The second  - and final - appearance by Sigma on this list is the first time we'll see the ubiquitous Rita Ora, who kept herself incredibly busy in 2015 doing just about everything except releasing a second album. From appearing in Fifty Shades Of Grey and Southpaw to being a judge on both The Voice and The X Factor in the UK to featuring on a seemingly random assortment of singles, Rita was everywhere. If she could just focus and release something else as good as "I Will Never Let You Down", that'd be great, though.

Number 82 "Don't Look Down" by Martin Garrix featuring Usher

Another singer whose music career seems to be all over the place at the moment is Usher, whose eighth studio album is still forthcoming and who instead popped up on this single by 19-year-old Dutch DJ/producer Martin Garrix in 2015. Given the decline of the albums market, it makes sense for singers to jump from track to track - whether their own or a collaboration - instead of investing a lot of time and energy into an album that won't sell like it used to, but even a long overdue best of wouldn't go amiss. "Don't Look Down" came with two music videos, each telling its story from a different perspective. There's a link to the "Towel Boy" version in the song title above, while the "Towel Girl" version is below.

Number 81 "Someone Else" by LANY

For the final tune in this set of songs, let's slow things down with this synth ballad that always reminds me of late '80s/early '90s British acts like Breathe, Halo James and Johnny Hates Jazz. LANY, however, are an American trio comprised of Jake Goss, Paul Klein and Les Priest - they even have '80s-sounding names - and single "Someone Else" was also included on the I Loved You. EP.

In Part 2: the return of another artist who took out one of my year-end number 1 spots in the early '00s, a follow-up to one of the biggest worldwide hits of the past 12 months, two singles by a female performer who'd previously made one of the most successful international debuts of all time and one of my favourite groups were back on the comeback trail.

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