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 "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 99 "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 98 "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 97 "Here For You" by Maraaya

It was a pretty good year for Eurovision in 2015, and although Australia's entry by Guy Sebastian just missed out on a place in my top 100, this cute ditty from Slovenian duo Maraaya sneak in. It wasn't a big hit in the final, placing 14th, but it was my second favourite song of the night. We'll see my favourite, which happened to also be this year's winner, much later on.

Number 96 "Your Type" by Carly Rae Jepsen

"Call Me Maybe" was always going to cast a long shadow - it's the kind of song that causes some artists to buckle under the pressure of trying to match it. And, although it's unlikely Canada's Carly Rae Jepsen will ever manage a hit that massive again, she at least equalled that pop gem in terms of quality in 2015. Her third album, EMOTION, is packed with radio-friendly synthpop tunes like this third single and a couple more tracks we'll see on the way to number 1.

Number 95 "Firestone" by Kygo featuring Conrad Sewell

Back to 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 "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 93 "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 92 "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 91 "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 90 "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 89 "The Best" by Lenno featuring Dragonette

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 88 "Don't Look Down" by Martin Garrix featuring Usher

A 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 87 "Body Talk" by Foxes

One of those singers who is popular enough but just doesn't seem to be able to have massive success, Britain's Foxes (real name: Louisa Allen) released this first taste of her upcoming second album in 2015. True to (under-appreciated) form, it only did OK in the UK, reaching number 25. 

Number 86 "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 169 on this list.

Number 85 "One Last Time" by Ariana Grande

The final single lifted from Ariana Grande's My Everything album, "One Last Time" had some heavyweight writers and producers behind it, including David Guetta, Carl Falk and Rami Yacoub, who between them have been responsible for some of the biggest hits of the past decade. The song had at one point been considered for the album's lead single, but ended up being sidelined until four other tracks had been released.

Number 84 "Wings" by Delta Goodrem

Between 2002 and 2005, seven of Delta Goodrem's nine singles hit number 1 on the ARIA chart. 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 83 "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 117 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 82 "Someone Else" by LANY

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.

Number 81 "State Of War" by Paul Mac featuring Kira Puru & Goodwill

Back in 2001, paulmac (as his name was then styled) released the excellent "Just The Thing" from his debut solo album, 3000 Feet High, but he first appeared on one of my year-end charts in 1994 as part of Itch-e & Scratch-e. After a decade's gap between albums, Paul finally followed up 2005's Panic Room with the under-rated and under-the-radar release, Holiday From Me. Lead single "State Of War" features Australian singer Kira Puru and local DJ Goodwill.

In Part 2: a follow-up to one of the biggest worldwide hits of the past 12 months and one of my favourite groups of all time were back on the comeback trail.

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