Best of 2014: The Hottest Jams of 2014

20. Nicki Minaj: “Lookin Ass” (digital single)
“Lookin Ass” isn’t so much a song as an assault. A full-on evisceration of the Paleolithic gender roles that have driven pop music (and everything else) since its inception. We all know the 32 year-old can out-rap just about anybody, but on “Lookin Ass,” she’s not content to do just that. She needs to name and shame to call out all the ain’t shit dudes of the Universe and let them (us) know just how ain’t shit they (we) are. It’s a thrilling display of total aural domination from an artist who still probably hasn’t received the recognition and respect her ridiculous talent deserves.

19. Ciara x Future: “Anytime” (digital single)
2014 may have been the year we waved goodbye to the CiCi & Future power couple, but we can wipe our tears with their glorious, cheesy swansong — a testament to the kind of undying love that changes everything (even if it doesn’t make it past the two-year mark). Most broken-up couples only leave us with awkward Facebook albums, but Ciara & Future left us with a couple of classics. Their final one is “Almost Paradise” for the selfie generation, an updated power ballad between two of pop music’s biggest voices that is tailor-made for mixtapes, first dances, and #WCW posts.

18. Inga Copeland: “Advice To Young Girls” from Because I’m Worth It
If there’s anybody we should take advice from, it’s Inga Copeland. The secretive Londoner has played by her own rules for the entirety of her career, constantly staying ahead of what everybody else is doing. Copeland comes off like the cool big sister you (probably) never had, imploring her impressionable subjects to take their rightful place as rulers of the night. It’s all done with just the right balance of sincerity and cool aloofness that makes you want to take her advice.

17. Perfume Genius: “Queen” from Too Bright
“It gets better,” right? Mike Hadreas isn’t so sure. If there’s anything that the grim news cycle of 2014 has taught us, it’s that all of those who claim our society has largely outgrown and eradicated racism, sexism, and homophobia are full of shit. Of all the artists who challenged the rampant inequality existing today, few do it with the bravery, grace, and honesty of Hadreas. Since his wonderful 2010 debut, Learning, the Seattle native has insightfully taken on myriad taboo topics, destroying the aforementioned fallacies with every stroke of his piano. However, “Queen” takes a slightly different slant, bringing a cutting sense of humor and a delightfully camp arrangement into the mix. “No family is safe when I sashay” is as funny as it is depressing, and “Queen” is sobering reminder that no matter how far we’ve come, we still have a hell of a way to go.

16. Tinashe: “2 On” (f/ Schoolboy Q) from Aquarius
DJ Mustard’s low-RPM production is tailor-made for the 21 year-old’s deliciously aqueous voice. Much more scaled back than your normal radio/club single, “2 On” typified a year where artists tended to prefer to drive slow, and few hit the heights that Tinashe did. The Angelino slithers through two and a half perfect minutes, until Schoolboy Q’s clumsy verse rains on everyone’s parade. It’s the sole flaw of a flawless pop song that is just perfect enough to make you forget the 30-second detour.

15. Tobias Jesso Jr.: “True Love” (digital single)
I remember playing Amy Winehouse for my Motown-loving mother, sure that she’d become her new favorite singer. It took her about 3.2 seconds to turn it off and ask me why she’d listen to a cheap imitation when she could just listen to the real thing. I didn’t have an answer for her then, and I wouldn’t have an answer for her now, if I played her this gorgeous piano ballad. We’ve been hearing (probably better) versions of “True Love” for years, coming out of the mouths of the all-time greats (Lennon, Elton, Nilsson, etc.), but that doesn’t mean there isn’t always room for another. It isn’t reinventing the wheel, but I’m glad that there are young singers who want to keep that trusty wheel greased and rolling.

14. Tink: “Treat Me Like Somebody” from Winter’s Diary 2 // Jeremih & Tink: “Don’t Tell Nobody” (digital single)
As one of my artists of 2014, I simply had to include both of these songs, as they beautifully highlight the duality that sets the Chicago singer apart from the rest. The former demonstrates Tink’s abilities as an affecting songwriter and vocalist, as she looks for love in a world that has showed her precious little of it back. The latter highlights her playful side and sharp edges, brushing off a trifling ex with a smile and a side-eye. Together, they demonstrate the scope of a young artist with endless potential.

13. The Hotelier: “Your Deep Rest” from Home, Like Noplace Is There
Though I am approximately 15 years too old to be listening to emo, something happened to me in 2014. It could have been leaving New York City for the ‘burbs of Los Angeles, or maybe I just realized I hate my parents (I don’t), but groups like the Dads, Beach Slang, and American Football started appearing on my earbuds and refusing to vacate. The Massachusetts group’s masterful, Home Like NoPlace Is There, dug its teeth in the most fiercely, and its centerpiece — a devastating goodbye to a friend — is the kind of song that transports you back to those tragic moments in your own life. Vocalist Christian Holden tears through his vocal chords, straining to deliver each crushing lyric with enough force and volume for his fallen friend to hear every word.

12. How to Dress Well: “Repeat Pleasure” from What is this Heart?
Tom Krell has always been an artist that has existed outside the bounds of easy characterization. His music has hints of R&B, pop, singer-songwriter, ambient, and about 12 other genres, but it doesn’t really fit into any of them. His third LP sounds a little like a lot of people, but really nothing like any of them, which is at a premium in an era where curation often trumps creation. The record’s finest moment sees him conjure up one of the most streamlined songs of his career, pairing his evocative falsetto with arpeggiated guitars, celestial keyboards, and unique percussion to insightfully investigate where our desire for lasting, monogamous love collides with our constant desire for something new.

11. Andy Stott: “Faith in Strangers” from Faith in Strangers
Alison Skidmore’s vocals have been the best thing to happen to the veteran Mancuinan’s already bulletproof career. They add a palpable humanity that balances Stott’s icy, jagged production, tethering his arrangements to a deep, reflective core. Like much of the excellent, Faith in Strangers, its title track bubbles up around Skidmore’s vocal, framing it with the kind of uncertain melodic atmosphere and dense, metallic percussion that has made Stott a living legend in modern dance music.

Posted on by TP1.COM in Best of '14, Featured

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