Friday, December 26, 2014

Top 20 Musical Singles of 2014 Countdown

Last year I counted down my top thirteen of 2013, and as another year has come and gone, it is time again to count down the best singles of the year. (I don't do non-singles because I tend to prefer them and we'd be here for another year.) 2014 was an amazing time for music (especially for any fans of female-fronted metal) so I decided to expand the list size to 20 singles. Let me tell you, I changed my mind about which song to include as the final single at #20 about ten times (and I even considered making this a top 25 post), but right now I'm confident. A large range of genres is incorporated since I tend to listen to bits of everything, such as symphonic metal, alternative, indie, rock, pop, electronic, classical crossover, rap... and whatever genre Seinabo Sey is. No matter who's reading this, I imagine you'll find something you like. (Except for country fans - sorry!)

"Fancy" - Iggy Azalea ft. Charli XCX
I ABSOLUTELY HATED THIS SONG. I hated it beyond belief. But remember how Emma Stone hated "Pocket Full of Sunshine" in Easy A but kept singing it literally all weekend until she obviously felt differently? That's a perfect depiction of my relationship with this song. One minute I hated it, then I was singing Charli's chorus in the shower, then before I knew it I was blaring my car's speakers having some sort of jam sesh as I was driving to the grocery store. Furthermore, this video is adorable; I love that it throws back to Clueless and Iggy's hair is fabulous.

"I Forgive (But I Won’t Forget Your Name)" - Lacuna Coil
 "I Forgive (But I Won't Forget Your Name)" is one of the more mellow Lacuna Coil singles though it isn't a ballad. Cristina Scabbia really owns the song's chorus and pre-chorus (which, sadly, is only present before the second chorus) with her strong vocals, and of course, with the fact that the vocal lines are quite catchy in these sections. It's just a great rock track overall; most fans of the genre will be quite content with it.

"Victims of Contingency" - Epica
 Metal fans, ever hear a guitar riff and think "OMG WHAT IS THIS AMAZING THING THAT'S HAPPENING TO MY EARS?" That was my thought process as I heard the heavy intro to this song. This Epica track features Mark Jansen growling in the verses with Simone Simons (and the choir) coming in between his lines and dominating the chorus. Keep in mind that if this is your first Epica experience, try not to mind some of the awkward arm movements in the video.

"The Heart Wants What it Wants" - Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez has the ability to really impress me with her catchy music, and she did it again in a whole different way with the raw "The Heart Wants What it Wants," which deals with her complicated relationship with renowned douchebag Justin Bieber. Hence, it's an emotional track with catchy vocals and a great instrumental. Gomez is certainly not the first woman to feel as this song describes, and unfortunately she won't be the last.

"Big Bad Wolf" - In This Moment
 In This Moment is the only band I can say I have followed throughout the entirety of their career right from the start in 2007, and unfortunately I'm overall extremely disappointed in them for their latest release, Black Widow, but I did really enjoy the second single "Big Bad Wolf." The vocals in the verses are unconventional and off-putting at first, but in the grand scheme of the song, I don't care. Maria Brink sounds invincible, whether she's half-muttering "Even in these chains you can't stop me" or completely screaming "PIG!" Plus, the chorus is incredibly catchy and always has me bobbing my head along.

(The video, however, is the epitome of what I don't like about Black Widow: it's not interesting and overuses sex and horror to the point that they're trying WAY too hard. I realize I'm hating pretty hard right now but I just had to spit that out.)

"Shake it Off" - Taylor Swift
 Taylor Swift is awesome. There, I said it. I liked some of her past country singles, and I really love her new pop direction as well. "Shake it Off" is just so carefree and fun... I have spent many a time in my car having a major jam session to this single every time it came on the radio. It's utterly infectious and makes me so happy with all of its prominent brass instruments and catchy vocals!

"A Lifetime of Adventure" - Tuomas Holopainen
 "A Lifetime of Adventure" is the beautiful first single from Tuomas Holopainen's (keyboardist and primary songwriter of Nightwish) concept album The Life and Times of Scrooge. With a light, classically-oriented instrumentation and whispy female vocals, this single really could've been on a Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack. It's perfect for winter. And if you don't like too much classical instrumentation, have no fear, there's a guitar solo for the last minute and a half.

"Hard Time" - Seinabo Sey
 I discovered "Hard Time" through a promo for the current season of Mob Wives, and apparently it was on an episode of Teen Wolf (I'm so far behind on that show it's ridiculous)... I was destined to find it somehow. And honestly, with its relaxing (yet sort of dark) vibe I'm surprised it isn't more popular by now. It manages to sound both classy and badass all at the same time, and I love it!

"Drop Dead Cynical" - Amaranthe
 "Drop Dead Cynical" is one of those songs that I thought I didn't like, but at one point I thought to myself "Why is this song always in my head? Why do I enjoy it being in my head when I don't like it?" From that point on I realized that it was freaking awesome. I know a lot of metal fans like to hate on Amaranthe because they use synths, but I love the combination of elements they use. I'm so excited that this energetic single is giving them recognition.

"And We Run" - Within Temptation ft. Xzibit
If you read my review of Within Temptation's Hydra, you're probably confused right now. I didn't like "And We Run" that much when I first heard it, but it slowly grew on me with its seemingly rushing piano line, gorgeous chord progressions, Sharon's vocals, and yes, even Xzibit. I wasn't into his rap styles at first, but the more I heard the song, the more I got it and understood how he really does fit this song. Weirdly enough, what was once my least favorite part is now my favorite: "Don't blink, you'll miss it / Lift up your head / We gotta get gone / Yeah, we outta here." Plus, the music video is fantastic; it's one of my two favorites of the year.

"Nightfall" - Xandria
The symphonic metal band Xandria has been on my radar ever since Dianne van Giersbergen joined. People were ecstatic about her vocal abilities and I had to see what all the hype was about. As it turns out, her voice gets all the credit it deserves, and form what I've observed so far, so does the music. "Nightfall" is an epic single, particularly with the operatic and choral chorus: "Here it comes / The story / Of mankind's final glory / Into the nightfall."

"Centuries" - Fall Out Boy
 So one day I was listening to the radio and this magic filled my ears... It was this song. Although I don't talk about them much on this blog, I've really loved Fall Out Boy's music throughout the years, but "Centuries" definitely stands out as a highlight of their career. The piano line of the first couple choruses creates so much anticipation, and I absolutely love that they sampled Suzanne Vega's "Tom's Diner." A lot of people are really entranced by the music video as well, but I don't find it to be quite as amazing. The song itself is obviously a different story; it's wonderful.

"The Power of Love" - Various Dutch Metal Artists
The Netherlands is the home of several talented metal artists, and in order to get people to donate to the Red Cross this holiday season, they treated us with a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood's "The Power of Love." With so many amazing musicians involved, the cover turned out to be very bold. There's a choir, several vocalists of all types, from Dianne van Giersbergen's operatic high notes to George Oothsoek's growls and almost everything in between. I'm very happy with how it turned out.

"Best Friend" - Foster the People
This single helped define my summer. "Best Friend" was on repeat for a couple of solid weeks, and once in a while it gets stuck in my head. Even though it's different that a lot of what I listen to, I'm so drawn to this song, not only for the lyrics that seem so random at first ("When your best friend's all strung out...") and the weird-but-awesome video - those verses are genial and catchy.

"Nothing Stands in Our Way" - Lacuna Coil
Lead single "Nothing Stands in Our Way" is one of my favorite songs from Lacuna Coil's latest album Broken Crown Halo. The band truly does sound invincible with its powerful riffs and fierce vocals from Cristina Scabbia and Andrea Ferro. To this day, it's still hard for me to listen to this song and not bang my head a little, especially when the chorus breaks down and pulsates for the middle eight. And Scabbia's last line? Perfect.

"Unchain Utopia" - Epica
 "Unchain Utopia" is the melodic (though still heavy) second single from their masterpiece album The Quantum Enigma. The choir dominates the powerful chorus and Simone Simons' pretty voice takes control of the verses, but in the final chorus, she gets to show off and it sounds incredible: "We won't succumb to your deceiving games / Conquer the insane / Time to free ourselves once more from the ball and chain." Go figure, Epica made another amazing song.

"The Mute" - Radical Face
Radical Face is one of the most underrated artists out there, so if you haven't heard his music yet, you need to. If you haven't heard "The Mute" yet, you need to, because it's remarkable. Every time I hear it, I love it a little more. The music video is one of my two favorites this year - and it's homemade by Radical Face and his friends and family. The video truly fits the song, for they're both simple, but they're so well done and oh so indie.

"Chandelier" - Sia
 Sia has worked on some great pop songs throughout her life, whether she was just writing for other artists, singing with other artists, or producing her own solo material. I'm sure many would agree that "Chandelier" is one of the best songs of the year and one of her personal best tracks. Sia's songwriting ability and vocal ability both shine - because we all know the explosive chorus of this song is NOT easy to sing (seriously, this single should have come with a warning label: Do not try this at home). This is definitely my favorite pop song of 2014. I just let it play and let loose (though not with as much enthusiasm and talent as the girl in the video... her performance was just as amazing).

"The Rains of Castamere" - Jackie Evancho
Jackie Evancho blew the world away on America's Got Talent with her gorgeous voice, and she did it again with the Game of Thrones cover of "The Rains of Castamere." Fans of both her and the fantasy series were raving over this single when it was released, for it is an extremely impressive cover in ever way, shape, and form. The instrumentation is beautiful, her voice is beautiful... It's an incredible first single that will undoubtedly stand out as one of the best of her career. Rather than show off her higher notes, Evancho shows the world she can hit haunting low notes as her voice has matured even more since her debut.

"The Essence of Silence" - Epica
 Lo and behold my favorite single of the year, "The Essence of Silence." This powerhouse is the lead single from The Quantum Enigma and it's utterly flawless. The verses are exemplary of beauty and the beast contrasts as the two vocalists sing every other line, with Simone Simons at her operatic best and Mark Jansen on growls and screams. Heavy riffs fill the song but the band's classical element is definitely still there with strings, choir, and piano making appearances throughout (especially that piano line in the second verse - perfection). I was stunned when I first heard it and I still love it just as much - what an amazing track!

...and that's a wrap! Let me know what you think of my list and tell me what some of your favorite singles (or just songs in general) were this year - I'd love to know! As usual, I'll be posting a Best Books list and a book-related survey sometime soon.
Here are my 2013 music links, if you're interested:
(I made this Excluded post because there were a lot of fantastic songs in 2013 that I either didn't find in time or forgot about and I wanted to acknowledge them in some way... but I'm never doing this again because you know what I did? I forgot songs to put on it and remembered a month later. FAIL.)

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