Saturday, 31 December 2016

The Best Of 2016 - part 5

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

As we prepare to put 2016 behind us, what better way to do so than by celebrating some of the good things to have come out of the past 12 months? Such as these 20 pop tunes that made even a mediocre year for music pretty enjoyable.  

Do you know what was missing from 2016? More songs like this. Big chorus, big production, big voice. "Wasn't My Fault" is the latest collaboration between Swedish producer Anders Hansson and singer Christie, who previously featured in my top 10 for 2012 with "Love Stuck". Back then, Christie was a member of girl group The Face, but this year she took centre stage to belt out "Wasn't My Fault" like the Kelly Clarkson-esque anthem it is.

OK, there were more songs like "Wasn't My Fault" in 2016, but you can never have too many tracks with an understated guitar-based verse and a pop explosion of a chorus, right? "Go Again" is the second appearance by Swedish singer Ida LaFontaine on this list - and if she keeps this kind of thing up, I expect we'll be seeing more of her.

Brand New Moves is a pretty appropriate name for Hey Violet's latest EP since it marks a slight change in direction for the band signed to 5 Seconds Of Summer's Hi Or Hey Records. Instead of the thrashy pop/rock found on their first EP, I Can Feel It, songs like "Pure" have a sleeker synth sheen.


Did someone say synthpop? It doesn't get sleeker and more sophisticated than this Richard X-produced track for German-born, London-based singer Nina. The brooding "Beyond Memory" has elements that remind me of Pet Shop Boys' "Love Comes Quickly", but it's a way better song. Let's hope Nina and Richard do some more work together soon.

We saw them at the other end of the top 100 with "Be Someone" and, as promised, here's the debut single by British duo Born Stranger, who were previously a trio called Strangers. The type of song I would've loved Hurts to have included on their second or third album, "Fire And The Flame" is equal parts ominous and uplifting - one of my favourite combinations in a synth-based act.

The Naked And Famous also featured in Part 1 with "Higher" - and while that would've been enough of a return to form for one year, they upped the ante again with this anthemic track on Simple Forms. The only thing I can't work out is why "Last Forever" hasn't been released as one of the album's official singles when it's clearly the best thing they've ever recorded.

Speaking of the best thing an artist has recorded, that's certainly the case with "Sound Of Silence", Australia's entry in the 2016 Eurovision Song Contest performed by former X Factor winner Dami Im. Having given up watching The X Factor years ago, my only exposure to Dami had been her post-show singles, none of which really excited me. That's also true of many of the tracks from songwriters/producers DNA Songs, who have been behind hits for The Veronicas, Delta Goodrem and more ex-reality show contestants than you can poke a stick at. With odd exceptions - like Delta's "Wings" - I've found their work fairly generic. But they were clearly out to impress with "Sound Of Silence" - and they did. A dramatic Sia-like ballad that was easily the best thing at this year's Eurovision, "Sound Of Silence" played to all of Dami's strengths as a vocalist and is exactly the type of song she should be making. 

Whenever they've featured on my year-end charts before - including at number 1 for 2014 - it's been with regular collaborator Robyn. But in 2016, Röyksopp appear with fellow Norwegian act Susanne Sundfør, who sang on two tracks on the duo's final albumThe Inevitable End, and has registered on my year-end charts before both as a solo performer and with M83. "Never Ever" is Röyksopp's first single after they decided to do away with releasing full albums for good - and if this is type of thing we'll get instead, then that's absolutely fine with me.

Is it just me or is the six-month gap between the release dates of "Can't Stop The Feeling!" and the movie it's taken from, Trolls, an inordinate amount of time? Lengthy pre-promotion aside, the first new Justin Timberlake track since The 20/20 Experience was a much-needed dose of pure pop joyousness. Naturally, Max Martin had a hand in it, together with frequent co-producer Shellback (real name: Karl Schuster). One of those songs with cross-generational appeal - in my house, both my three-year-old daughter and I love it - "Can't Stop The Feeling!" sold millions of copies around the world in 2016, proving there's still a huge market for pure pop if only a bit more of it would be produced.

Pet Shop Boys' 12th studio album, 2013's Electric, was their best in 20 years and so I had high hopes for this year's Super, especially since Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe were working once again with producer Stuart Price. But while Electric singles "Vocal" and "Thursday" wound up in my top 20 for 2013 and rank alongside some of their classic tunes, none of the four singles from Super make my top 100. Thank goodness, then, for party-starting album track "Burn" - an oversight for official single release if ever there was one.

When I first heard this single, I assumed it was sung by a man performing in a Jimmy Somerville-style falsetto - it had that tone to it. Then I discovered British band Nimmo is actually fronted by two women: Sarah Nimmo and Reva Gauntlett, who can both be heard singing on the track. The pair met at school before forming the group, which was at one point called Nimmo And The Gauntletts. With the buzz generated by "Dancing Makes Us Brave" in recent months, all signs point to a big 2017 for Nimmo.

It's certainly been a busy year for Tove Lo. Besides all the other projects I mentioned back in Part 1, she also released her highly anticipated second album, Lady Wood. Something of a concept album, Lady Wood is split into two halves: "Fairy Dust" and "Fire Fade". Second single "True Disaster", which is easily the catchiest thing Tove has released, falls into the former and its music video forms part of the "Fairy Dust" short film. Expect a companion album with another two themes in 2017.

2016 was quite a year of change for Scottish singer Nina Nesbitt, who we saw in Part 3 guesting on Feed Me's "What It Feels Like". As well as lopping off her hair and discovering synthpop on her Modern Love EP (from which "Chewing Gum" is taken), she left major label Universal Records after five years and is going indie from now on. Wonder what she has in store for 2017...

Back to Scandinavia now and, like "Too Young" from Part 2, "Fools Gold" is another track included on Dagny's Ultraviolet EP. On this buoyant burst of pop goodness, the 26-year-old Norwegian singer is joined by BØRNS, who, despite the slashed O in his stage name, isn't from Dagny's part of the world but is actually American singer Garrett Borns.

"Be The One", which we saw in Part 2, was the song which broke her in Australia, but follow-up "Hotter Than Hell" did the trick in the UK, becoming Dua Lipa's first hit in her home country (and second locally). Besides its killer chorus, one of the things I like about "Hotter Than Hell" is that it doesn't beat you over the head with its tropical house elements, making them just another element of the song instead of its defining feature. In a year when cheesy, hastily thrown together tropical house covers seemed to multiply exponentially, this track proved the genre wasn't all bad.

There's a lot to be said for quality over quantity - and while Swedish singer LNKAY might only put out one song a year, they're certainly good ones. "Overload" follows her debut single, "Hurricane", from last year - and if she keeps improving at this rate, she might just have my number 1 single for 2017.

I mentioned in Part 4 that Shura's debut album pulled together singles from the past couple of years. German singer Roosevelt (real name: Marius Lauber) delved back even further for his self-titled debut album this year, incorporating songs released as far back as 2012. "Belong" is one of the album's newer tracks and his current single - a blast of melancholic '80s-influenced synthpop.

One of 2016's biggest musical mysteries is why this single flopped. Taken from the soundtrack to Bridget Jones's Baby, "Meteorite" had everything going for it - it was a brand new song by one of 2015's breakthrough acts that came with a fun formation dancing music video. Upbeat and euphoric, it's everything I love about pop. Shame more people didn't share my enthusiasm for it.

Here's another single bursting with energy and excitement. "Physical" was the second track released ahead of St Lucia's Matter album at the very end of 2015 and has been in contention for my number 1 song all year. Possibly the only thing that worked against it was the overuse of the "whoop" noise in the chorus, which I find a little distracting. That aside, it's a brilliant song - and now I've seen this performance, I can't wait to hear it live next time St Lucia is in town.

You surely know the formula by now. Swedish female singer + huge chorus = pop perfection. Pretty much my definition of the ideal pop song in 2016, "Hardcore Heartbreak" is the latest release by Cilia, a singer who's undergone a couple of rebrands over the years. Previously performing as both See See and her real name, Cecilia Nilsson, she's now found her identity - both literally and musically. Well done on making 2016 a lot better, Cilia.

My top 175 for 2016 in full:

2           PHYSICAL St Lucia
3           METEORITE Years & Years
4           BELONG Roosevelt
5           OVERLOAD LNKAY
6           HOTTER THAN HELL Dua Lipa
7           FOOL’S GOLD Dagny featuring BØRNS
8           CHEWING GUM Nina Nesbitt
9           TRUE DISASTER Tove Lo
11         BURN Pet Shop Boys
12         CAN’T STOP THE FEELING! Justin Timberlake
13         NEVER EVER Röyksopp featuring Susanne Sundfør
15         LAST FOREVER The Naked And Famous
16         FIRE & THE FLAME Born Stranger
17         BEYOND MEMORY Nina
18         PURE Hey Violet
19         GO AGAIN Ida LaFontaine
20         WASN’T MY FAULT Christie & The Dream Beats
21         STAY Sigma
22         UNSTOPPABLE Paperwhite
23         HELP ME RUN AWAY St Lucia
24         ONE STRIKE All Saints
25         COME WITH US Sophie Ellis-Bextor
26         ALL FOUR WALLS Gorgon City featuring Vaults
27         WILD Monogem
29         DREAMER Coco Morier
31         THE TURNAROUND Gemini
32         ONE IN A MILLION Midnight To Monaco
33         BODY 2 BODY Dragonette
34         TEARS Clean Bandit featuring Louisa Johnson
35         SKYLINES Glades
36         YOU DON’T KNOW LOVE Olly Murs
37         I FEEL IT COMING The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk
38         WHAT’S IT GONNA BE? Shura
39         GOLD Years & Years
40         GONE MISSING Shift K3y featuring BB Diamond
41         BURY IT CHVRCHES featuring Hayley Williams
42         SWEET POISON Dragonette featuring Dada
43         BE THERE Generik featuring A*M*E
44         FIND ME Sigma featuring Birdy
45         STARING AT THE SUN Little Boots
46         PIECE OF ME MK featuring Becky Hill
47         BULLET Chelsea Lankes
49         MAGIC HOUR RAC featuring Little Boots
50         STRANGE WORLD Fallulah
51         NEVER ENOUGH Scavenger Hunt
52         COULDN’T BELIEVE Broods
53         SINGULARITY New Order
54         WHAT IT FEELS LIKE Feed Me featuring Nina Nesbitt
55         MAKE ME LIKE YOU Gwen Stefani
56         THICK AS THIEVES The Temper Trap
57         PEOPLE ON THE HIGH LINE New Order
59         EXPLODE Charli XCX
60         THIS AIN’T OVER Alex Newell
61         EYE FOR AN EYE The Strike
62         INTO YOU Ariana Grande
63         CLOUDS Amanda Winberg
64         I’M NOT RIGHT XY&O
65         FALLING FOR YOU Teenage Mutants featuring Laura Welsh
66         ELECTRIFY Oliver featuring Scott Mellis
67         TOO YOUNG Dagny
68         CHAMELEON XY&O
69         YOU JUST WALKED AWAY Ekkoes
70         ON MY OWN Paperwhite
71         ALL THE RAGE Allie X
72         BE THE ONE Dua Lipa
73         MISSING YOU Norde featuring Lucas Nord
74         GHOST Sleeping Wolf
75         DOUBTS Gorgon City
76         FEELING BB Diamond
77         COLD Ida LaFontaine
79         SAVE A LITTLE LOVE Laura Nox
80         GIVE ME YOUR LOVE Sigala featuring John Newman & Nile Rodgers
81         AMAZING Foxes
82         100 DEGREES KOLAJ featuring Quinn XCII
83         ROAD BLASTER M83
84         WORSHIP Years & Years
85         HIGHER The Naked And Famous
87         BODY SAY Demi Lovato
88         SCARS Tove Lo
89         TELL ME LIES Firefox AK
91         IF YOUR MAN ONLY KNEW Erik Hassle
92         MY TRIGGER (OLIN BATISTA MIX) Miike Snow
93         THAT’S MY GIRL Fifth Harmony
94         WHAT YOU DO Tigertown
95         RITUAL Marshmello featuring Wrabel
96         BE SOMEONE Born Stranger
97         REAL LOVE Florrie
98         ALWAYS Samantha Jade
99         HEAVEN Ekkoes
100        HANGIN’ ON Rozes
101        U-TURN Tegan & Sara
102        MY LOVE 4 U MK featuring A*M*E
103        I NEED YOU TONIGHT James Morrison
104        POSSIBILITY Autoheart
105        ANYWHERE Dillon Francis featuring Will Heard
106        SOMEBODY ELSE The 1975
107        WASTE MY TIME Girl Friend
108        SWEET TALK Scavenger Hunt
109        SHELTER Porter Robinson & Madeon
110        OLD HABITS DIE HARD Allie X
111        FREE Broods
112        WAITING FOR THE STARS Vitalic featuring David Shaw
113        GOOD GRIEF Bastille
114        BURN WILD Rozes
115        WANDERLUST Paperwhite
116        SWEET LIES Wilkinson featuring Karen Harding
117        NOTHING LIKE THIS Blonde & Craig David
118        THIS GIRL Kungs vs Cookin’ On 3 Burners
119        TOUCH Little Mix
120        GO! M83 featuring Mai Lan
121        BOYFRIEND Tegan & Sara
122        MORE & MORE Fleur East
123        THE POP KIDS Pet Shop Boys
124        SAPPHIRE Sophia Somajo
125        THIS IS WHAT YOU CAME FOR Calvin Harris & Rihanna
126        UNDER YOU Nick Jonas
127        WORLD OF OUR LOVE Client Liaison
128        A LOVE SONG Ladyhawke
129        HEADING UP HIGH Armin van Buuren featuring Kensington
130        COLD TO THE TOUCH Ralph
134        STARBOY The Weeknd featuring Daft Punk
136        HEARTBREAK HI Avec Sans
137        RUSH Amanda Mair
138        PERTH Avec Sans
139        TROUBLE RIVRS
140        LOST Tender
141        NEVER ENOUGH Allie X
142        IN COMMON Alicia Keys
143        NEVER BE LIKE YOU Flume featuring Kai
145        I CAN ONLY STARE Sleigh Bells
146        TALK FAST NotNo
147        LOST (AS I AM) Superwalkers
148        ALREADY LOVE Great Good Fine OK
149        ALL NIGHT SG Lewis featuring Dornik
150        SECRETS X&Y
151        INNER SANCTUM Pet Shop Boys
152        BWU Tegan & Sara
153        GET AWAY Great Good Fine OK
154        STOP DESIRE / MONSIEUR ADI MIX Tegan & Sara
155        RAGING Kygo featuring Kodaline
156        VIOLENCE Tender
157        JUST A LOVER Hayden James
158        THE GREATEST Sia featuring Kendrick Lemar
159        SAY IT TO ME Pet Shop Boys
160        BREATHE Eric Prydz featuring Rob Swire
161        STILL FALLING FOR YOU Ellie Goulding
162        BE WITH YOU RÜFÜS
163        DESIRE Years & Years featuring Tove Lo
164        MY WAY Calvin Harris
165        NEVER GIVE UP Sia
166        CHANGE MY LOVE Craig David
168        SECRET LOVE SONG Little Mix featuring Jason Derulo
169        WORKING FOR IT ZHU x Skrillex x They.
170        CRASH Usher
171        SAY YOU DO Sigala featuring Imani & DJ Fresh
172        SHOUT OUT TO MY EX Little Mix
173        BLOW YOUR MIND (MWAH) Dua Lipa
174        PERFECT ILLUSION Lady Gaga
175        IN MY BLOOD The Veronicas
176        WORK FROM HOME Fifth Harmony featuring Ty Dolla $ign

Hopefully, I'll be back to the full complement of 200 songs in 2017. My regular ARIA chart flashbacks return from January 12, and before then I'll sneak in another special post or two. Until then, Happy New Year!

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1 comment:

  1. I don't go out of my way to discover new (as in the current year) music, liking old stuff much more than new stuff. Hearing something by chance I like and then googling some of the lyrics (if I don't know the artist) is the main way I find new *new* music these days. But I thought I'd give your #1 song of the year a play, and it's not bad - the chorus hook is very good.