What’s most memorable about your favorite music of 2014? Jog your memory by diving into one of Pandora’s many End Of Year stations. If you like the mainstream music across pop, rock, country, Christian, dance and regional Mex – then this blog is for you.
Ever wonder what the number one songs are based on your thumbs? Here’s a review of the top songs of the year on Pandora. Let’s start with some of the highlights of 2014 Top Pop:
OneRepublic’s “Counting Stars” kicked off 2014 in the number one spot, but five-and-a-half months later Katy Perry’s “Dark Horse” bumped it by a nose. She held that position for two months before two new artists that own a big piece of pop music in 2014 made their mark. Ariana Grande’s “Problem” and Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” stayed at number one for three weeks. But don’t get too comfy Iggy, because here comes Sam the man! The week of July 24, the uplifting gospel-infused “Stay with Me” from Sam Smith settled in at number one…that is until October 22, when Meghan Trainor, a Nashville newcomer gave us arguably the most infectious song of the year with “All About That Bass.” But Jeremih’s “Don’t Tell Em,” which still holds the first place spot, quickly displaced that three weeks later. R&B influenced ballads ruled in 2014 with huge hits from John Legend, Sam Smith, Hozier and now George Ezra coming on strong. Sam Smith is an amazing solo story this year along with the mainstream success of “Latch” and “La La La” but the male singer-songwriter with unbelievable worldwide appeal is Ed Sheeran. Also, Sia is Wonder Woman! She writes great songs – “Diamonds,” “Titanium,” “Wild Ones” and man, what a voice! “Chandelier” and now the new Annie soundtrack? And of course, Taylor Swift said goodbye to country and Spotify, entering the pop realm with “Shake It Up.” Now it looks like “Blank Space” will be even bigger.
Song of the summer? Kind of tough to argue with “Summer” from Calvin Harris. The newcomers in pop provided some stiff summer song competition, all being played on 2014 Top Adult. How about the “Cool Kids” from Cali named Echosmith? Or the songwriter from Nashville that’s “All About That Bass?” Thank you Kongos, for what might be the coolest rock song on pop radio this year.
Now how about the song with exceptional staying power this year? There was British electro-pop quartet Clean Bandit’s “Rather Be.” Then Norwegians Nico and Vinz delivered “Am I Wrong” and Tove Lo dropped the infectious “Habits (Stay High)” – and a bigger sounding remix from producers Hippie Sabotage. And then there’s the Canadian band Magic! with the first reggae flavored hit since Matisyahu’s 2004 gem “King Without A Crown” (or perhaps No Doubt’s “Underneath it All” in 2002). Finally, it feels like there’s an interesting acoustic dance sound making its way to 2014 Top Pop with Mr. Probz’s “Waves” (“Prayer in C” from Lilly Wood is next) and of course the genre-bending Avicii with “Hey Brother.”
Check out 2014 Top Rap and Hip Hop and witness how fast the genre moved in 2014. Singles blew up instantly and albums dropped all over the map from artists like Migos, Run the Jewels, Ghostface Killah, T.I. and Souls of Mischief. Lil Boosie went straight from prison to the studio so he could bring us “Life After Death Row.” Drake snuck in a few pre-releases from his next album with 0-100 and OVO went up on a Tuesday with I LOVE MAKONNEN’s smash hit. A favorite at Pandora, DJ Mustard dominated the charts in 2014 producing hits for YG, Kid Ink, Ty Dolla Sign, Iggy Azalea and Wiz Khalifa. Busta Rhymes new signing, O.T. Genasis is in love with the “Coco” and Rich Gang brought together Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug for that “Lifestyle.” Top Dawg continued developing the new sound of the LA underground, unearthing hot singles from Ab-Soul and Schoolboy Q.
With 2014 Top R&B you can hear the smooth and silky voices of new R&B artists melting into the knocking bass of hip-hop drums in 2014, creating a futuristic sound that’s leaned back for the club. Adrian Marcel took it till “2AM” and TeeFlii gave it to us for “24” hours. With “Often,” The Weekend returned with a peek into their next album and newcomers Tinashe, Sevyn Streeter and Jhené Aiko all had breakout hits. Trey Songz called out the ladies with “Nah Nah,” August Alsina went “Numb” and Eric Bellinger told us what he does to Pandora.
2014 Top Country highlights how country music continued to capture mainstream attention. The genre lost Taylor Swift but gained new artists such as star football quarterback, Sam Hunt with hits number one hit “Leave the Night On” and teen sensation Maddie & Tae. They’re only the second female duo to hit number one since The Wreckers in 2006. More strong newcomers include Cole Swindell who hit it big with “Chillin’ It” and former The Swon Brothers – former winners of The Voice. Cassadee Pope also had a great year with a few chart hits. 2014 Top Country also features music from Eric Church, Dierks Bentley, Kenny Chesney and Tim McGraw. They all released stellar full-lengths this year, while Jason Aldean may have dropped the record of his career. There were also significant comeback releases in 2014 including Dolly Parton, Reba McEntire and of course Garth Brooks. Miranda Lambert, Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood and FGL continued to follow their big name status but artists such as Brett Eldredge, Justin Moore, Thomas Rhett and Cole Swindell made a huge impact. Oh, and a guy named Sturgill Simpson paved the way for retro outlaw country with his unique lyrical content.
As Pandora’s 2014 Top Americana/Singer-Songwriter station can attest to, Simpson helped country music experience a return to form in 2014. With a warm baritone voice that garnered almost too many comparisons to the late, great Waylon Jennings – Simpson’s sophomore album was a welcome surprise. Metamodern Sounds in Country Music was self-produced and self-released. It received very little love from terrestrial radio. And yet Simpson and band were so successful, they played every late night talk show within mere months of the album’s release. The fact that this album took second place on Rolling Stone’s “40 Best Country Albums Of 2014” is a testament not only to the possibilities of the DIY ethos, but also to the fact that there is a growing population of country music fans out there who prefer classic twang to Nashvegas pop. You’ll also find some timeless tunes in Rosanne Cash’s 13th studio album, The River & The Thread as well as heavenly harmonies from First Aid Kit’s Stay Gold and some incredible recordings from Lost On The River, the debut album from the Dylan & Band worshipping supergroup, The New Basement Tapes. The Singer-Songwriter realm got similarly rootsy in 2014. With ample help from his father Jeff Tweedy of Wilco fame, 18-year-old Spencer Tweedy enjoyed some much deserved critical acclaim from Sukierae, the debut album from the father-and-son duo, Tweedy. Matt Nathanson continued to mix some innovative production into his boy-next-door love songs with 2014’s Last Of The Great Pretenders.
2014 Top Alternative is loaded with songs exemplifying how alternative rock continued to supply pop with many of the biggest hits and mainstreaming adventurous directions from acts such as Alt-J, Hozier, Banks and Broods. The Foo Fighters continue to carry the rock flag with the release of Sonic Highways and a brilliant HBO companion series (you’ve got to hand to Dave Grohl). And of course Jack White tore it up with Lazerreto; partly inspired by lyrics he wrote when he was 19, back in Detroit. Fall Out Boy made a comeback in 2014 Top Alternative with two big hits. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers put out their 13th studio album (their first to hit number one on Billboard) and U2 released Songs of Innocence in a controversial manner, replete with a tribute to Joey Ramone as their first single.
The combination of rising new reggae artists with returning veteran singers and players created an eclectic island sound for 2014 Top Reggae. This mix of EDM influences, classic one drop roots, non Jamaican bands and a vintage resurgence made reggae much more fun to listen to all year. 2014 belonged to Popcaan, with his smash “Everything Nice” bringing a chilled out electronic vibe to JA. Bunji Garlin and Jah Vinci picked it up with high energy Soca vibes mixed with EDM producers like Major Lazer. Roots were real conscious this year with Maxi Priest, Gappy Ranks, Tarrus Riley and Chronixx all releasing massive tunes.
Speaking of EDM, that genre continued to dominate the dance charts in 2014 Top Dance. Established electro house acts like Avicii and Calvin Harris rode success with emotional dance-pop anthems, while several newer artists like The Chainsmokers stood out with a potent combination of catchy beats and social media furor. There were notable trap hits by Yellow Claw and DJ Snake, but the strongest current was deep house. Artists like Sam Smith and Mr. Probz provided an entry point into the sound. Which in turn drove hits like “Faded” by Zhu and “Hideaway” by Kiesza, who also linked up with Diplo and Skrillex for a very talked about single “Take U There.” And that’s not to mention Dillon Francis, Tove Lo and Porter Robinson who all released compelling and clever hits in 2014.
As evidenced by 2014 Top Electronic, the genre found unique and interesting ways to incorporate R&B in 2014. From the trap-influenced beats of Hippie Sabotage or Kaytranada, to crooners like Chet Faker and FKA Twigs, to the underground house of Caribou and SBTRKT, soul, samples and synths stood on even keel. Shoot, even Machinedrum produced an album for Jesse Boykins III! Chillstep and aural wave must be mentioned, as there were beautiful and evocative releases by Seven Lions, ODESZA, Tycho, Com Truise and others. Aphex Twin released his first album in years, Oneohtrix Point Never continued to create dreamy yet spooky soundscapes and you could only buy Thom Yorke‘s Tomorrow’s Modern Boxes via BitTorrent. In the electronic music world, 2014 was overflowing with creativity!
The 2014 Top Christian leading releases and spins on Pandora were driven by Francesca Battiselli, For King & Country and Mercyme. Favorite artists included Casting Crowns, Hillsong and Crowder – who maintained their dominance with spins and sales for the majority of 2014. San Diego’s Switchfoot continues as the most popular Christian rock crossover band.
Enrique Iglesias and Romeo Santos dominated 2014 Top Latin and Tropical so hard, it almost sounds redundant to even acknowledge that. They were omnipresent in 2014 – on stage receiving awards, selling out venues and permeating our subconscious with their dulcet voices. And when Enrique wasn’t infiltrating popular culture with the super éxito Bailando (recorded in Spanish, Spanglish and Portuguese), he was collaborating with Romeo on another one of the most requested songs of the year, “Loco.” After teasing us in 2013 with the single Propuesta Indecente, Romeo dropped Odio in early January – his bi-lingual collaboration with fellow omnipresent superstar Drake. Basically, everything released by these two dudes is crushing it on Pandora. 2014 also saw the ascension of two young Reggaetón artists who are pushing the genre out of its comfort zone. Colombia’s J Balvin and Puerto Rico’s Farruko both scored huge successes with 6 AM and Passion Whine, respectively.
2014 Top Regional Mexican music was punctuated by anthemic singles that continue to reverberate as the New Year approaches. Alfredo Ríos, aka El Komander, cemented his place as one of the most beloved and relatable artists performing today. His single, Soy De Rancho, a dual-toned ode to the simplicity of rural life in Mexico and the allure of modern amenities, was by far one of the most successful releases of the year. In terms of shear anticipation, it was hard to match the buzz surrounding newcomer Javier Rosas y Su Artillería Pesada. “En La Sierra Y En La Ciudad (La China),” which recounts the exploits of a woman commanding respect in a male-dominated world, received widespread requests. And Rosas’ full-length effort, Llegué Para Quedarme, was only just being released at the end of November. 2014 wouldn’t have been complete without a huge party anthem, and this year it was provided in the form of “Hasta Que Salga El Sol,” by Banda Los Recoditos, celebrating all things drinking and the weekend.
From listening to 2014 Top Hard Rock and Metal, it’s obvious that today’s rockers have nothing to complain about regarding the epic yield of 2014 – especially those partial to Orange amps turned all the way up. That’s right, this was the year that doom metal found a wider fanbase. Atlanta sludge lords Mastodon delivered their sixth studio album Once More ‘Round the Sun to critical acclaim while Venice Beach, California power-trio The Shrine toured the world in support of their sophomore album Bless Off. Despite some health and legal complications, AC/DC’s Rock Or Bust came out sounding as unstoppable as ever. Speaking of unstoppable – guitar cosmonaut Ace Frehley made a strong return with Space Invader, the sixth solo album by the founding/former KISS guitarist. This year’s most surprising comeback has to be Body Count’s Manslaughter. Ice-T and band delivered a crazy cover with “Institutionalized 2014,” an update on the old Suicidal Tendencies skate-rock anthem. Oh, and if you’ve ever wondered what it would sound like if GG Allin fronted Mahogany Rush, we’ve also added some songs off Zeta Reticuli Blues – the heavily lauded sophomore album by Lecherous Gaze.
So, whatever your flavor was in 2014, you can come back to these end of year stations to take you back. And here’s wishing you a happy 2015 filled with even more of the sounds you love!