The Madden Brothers – We Are Done
Who knew that the founding members of Good Charlotte could actually make something that doesn’t…you know, suck? Trading watered down pop-punk for a more unique indie-country sound, the duo sings in perfect harmony about how being different is okay! With simple instrumentals, a catchy bass line, and a pleasant whistling melody, this song definitely has a distinct sound. The chorus is simply rapturous, and will have you singing along with the backing choir.
John Legend – All of Me
Few songs this year were quite as sappy as this, and few songs were quite as powerful. Sure, it suffered from radio overplay, but this romantic ballad deserved all of the chart topping success it deserved. John Legend’s intimate ode to his wife melted hearts all across the worst. Tender vocals backed by just a piano melody and some ghostly vocal effects helped this song pierce right to the heart. It stands out as a song that will be considered a classic many generations into the future.
Lupe Fiasco – Remission (ft. Jennifer Hudson & Common)
When artists band together for a cause, its a beautiful thing. This track brought two prolific rappers together with an RnB diva to help fight cancer. Lupe devotes a swiftly delivered rap verse to his mother, suffering from breast cancer, while Common dedicates the song to his father, suffering from prostate cancer. Jennifer’s powerful voice takes the song to soaring heights, making this one emotional song with a message that everyone can, unfortunately, relate to.
One Republic – Love Runs Out
You can always count on One Republic for a good song. This song took the group down the same road that Ryan paved for Adele when he wrote Rolling In The Deep. Steady marching percussion, and stirring piano melodies create a charged sound that serves as the backboard for some powerful vocals. This song was intended to lead the band’s 2013 album, but was scrapped due to the chorus not fitting the rest of the song. Good things come to those who wait, because this is easily the best song on Native to…well, not appear on Native.
How to Dress Well – Repeat Pleasure
Those smooth as silk vocals. Those warm and enveloping acoustic guitars. Repeat Pleasure simply feels like a cool breeze rushing over you on a warm day. Tom Krell croons about a relationship that will have a lasting impact on his life, regardless of the outcome. It culminates in a piercing cry of “Even broken, my heart will go on!” This is a song that sounds unlike any other, and should not be skipped over. The music video also serves as part one in a trilogy, and is definitely worth hitting the play button.
Weezer – Back to the Shack
Weezer experienced a return to form with this track. Back to the Shack was closer in sound and structure to their second album than anything they released this decade. The result? Pure 90’s inspired rock without any of today’s trendy bull shit. Even the lyrics talk about nostalgia and longing for the glory days of youth! The song even features self-depreciating lyrics that comment on the band’s sometimes less than stellar output. You’ve got to love a song that’s self aware! Even at the expense of the artist!
Ella Henderson – Ghost
Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the best debut of 2014! Ella Henderson is a British X-Factor reject that managed to score a record deal, and release one of the best pop songs of the year! Through soulful vocals, powerful lyrics, and a sound that combines classic soul and modern pop, Ghost is a trendsetting hit that guarantees a long and healthy career. I’m positive that this songstress will go on to dominate in 2015.
Alt-J – Left Hand Free
With the song’s classic southern rock influences, you’d find it hard to believe that the song was made by a British indie band. Even Alt-J claimed the song to be the “least Alt-J song released.” It was written in 20 minutes as the band was goofing around during a rehearsal, and yet, it managed to become one of the best rock songs of the year! I’d call that a win.
Azealia Banks – Ice Princess
While Azealia might be better known for her twitter feuds and frustration with the music industry, it doesn’t mean that her music should be passed over. In fact, her frustration is justified. One listen to her music proves her worth over some other female rappers that are getting more attention. Ice Princess features an ominous twinkling melody over a sparse hip-hop beat. Its a unique instrumental that provides the backbone for Azealia’s brooding rap. Azaelia is easily one of the best female rappers around, Iggy and Nikki be damned!
The Black Keys – Fever
The Black Keys dropped their highly anticipated album this year, with Fever leading the release. The song shattered expectations of what we knew about the Black Keys. Instead of the raw Blues-Rock sound we had come to know and love, Fever took a page out of classic 60’s psychedelic rock. The beat is hypnotic, and the focus is on keyboards rather than guitars. Still, the vocals of Dan Aurbasch keep that “Black Keys” sound intact.