Tag Archives: lists

Top 11 Singles Of 2009

So I decided to save my rant on why great songs aren’t necessarily great singles for my Top 11 Singles Of 2009.

This is because Paloma Faith’s New York (a big favourite of the Teentoday audience) has been kicked off in favour of Ke$ha’s Tik Tok, and she doesn’t even make the nearly but not quites either. Whilst I still stick by my original comments that New York is ‘a ballad that just leaves all others trailing in its jewel-studded wake, with an old-fashioned sweeping majesty to it’, I don’t think it’s one of the best singles of the year. This is because its true home is not as a three minute blast of brilliance on your mp3 player, or a three minute blaze of glory sandwiched between Fearne Cotton’s squeals on the radio, yet instead cocooned in the loveliness of Faith’s whole (very good) album instead. New York is a lovely song, but it’s even lovelier surrounded by Faith’s other work – a sign of a great cohesive album and therefore nowt to be ashamed of.

This is why listing the best singles, as opposed to simply the best songs, of the year appeals (for the more mundane, practical reasoning, see here). For a song to be an amazing single, it has to stand on its own feet and sound just as brilliant in isolation as it does next to its fellow album fodder. It has to have some spark to it that makes it instantly intangibly incredible but also enough about it to do the business in the long term, when you’re casting your mind back to the year’s greatest moments. It has to blaze and burn so brightly that you want to experience it repeatedly, over and over again, preferably as soon as humanely possible.

And so that’s why, sorry Paloma love, you missed out. But don’t fear, here’s eleven other such blasts of 2009’s brilliance instead.

1.         Release Me – Agnes (3)
Right from the strings intro that signals ‘classic in the making’ through the stompy power-walk verses to the majesty of the perfectly-crafted chorus, Release Me shows every sign of being a song whose power will remain undimmed for the next few decades. Agnes’ powerhouse vocals combine with typical Scandi song-making genius for our single of the year. A diva is born.

2.         Party In The USA – Miley Cyrus (11)
This song sounds like summer distilled into three and a half minutes of head-nodding, arm-waving, grin-inducing happiness. With a chorus like that, the Dr Luke production credit is a no-brainer yet the country twang and full-throated charm of the song is all Miley’s own. Just hearing those few opening strums on a guitar is enough to make me smile… and that’s before she’s even mentioned the Britney song being on or not getting the memo that it ain’t a Nashville party. Glorious. And half of it doesn’t even bloody rhyme.

3.            Remedy – Little Boots (6)
Little Boots’ first single (and video) was a disappointment. Little Boots’ first album was a disappointment. Little Boots’ appearance on Never Mind The Buzzcocks was a disappointment. But for Remedy alone, we’re willing to forgive. Offering two choruses for the price of one, it’s a perfect marriage between RedOne’s addictive production and Boots’ electro sensibilities. Factor in the chilly charm of Boots’ vocals and you have an absolutely divine record.  Let’s just ignore the line about temptation calling like Adam to the apple, shall we…

4.         I Gotta Feeling – Black Eyed Peas (1)
If this was a list based on feelgood factor, I Gotta Feeling would be top of the pops. Not content with the basic brilliant building block of that clanging beat running through the whole track, the BEP keep chucking good thing after good thing at the song until it crescendos into dancefloor excellence. A perfectly encapsulation of the party spirit – just wait for the sing-along smiles and unhinged cries of ‘Mazel-tov!’ that sound when this comes on in a club and you really don’t need me to tell you how great it is.

5.            Battlefield – Jordin Sparks (11)
Many opted for Beyonce’s Halo as one of their songs of the year and whilst I do love the simple beauty of that song, Battlefield is like it’s more bombastic overblown underrated little sister (and once you’ve heard Glee’s mash-up of Halo with Walking On Sunshine, you’ll never hear Halo in quite the same way again). Ryan Tedder’s pulsating production? Check. Vocals set to belt? Check. Epic chorus? Check. Battlefield’s a complete blast from start to finish, with crashing percussion exploding all-around whilst Sparks bellows like a demented warrior about getting armour. An absolute beast of a song.

6.            Untouched – The Veronicas (8)
Somewhat fittingly given the current climate, this is a veritable snowstorm of a song. The haunting strings of the intro are so good they sound like they should be a sample, next comes anthemic hand-clapping, then the crash of guitars. And all that is just the introduction. Icy vocals avalanche from the Origliasso twins’ mouths at a thrill-inducing speed during the verses before segueing into a heart-stoppingly cracking chorus. All underscored by a strings motif so hypnotic that Mozart would be proud. A beautiful blizzard of a pop record.

7.         Poker Face/Bad Romance/ Paparazzi – Lady Gaga (1, 1, 4)
OK, we know this is kind of cheating but we simply couldn’t choose between Gaga’s hits. That she’s so low down the list is more a sign of her sheer ubiquity and consequent overplaying than anything. No artist has had quite as many strokes of genius as Stefani Germanotta this year so let’s hold a glass to the intoxicating ‘muh-muh-muhs’ of Poker Face, the unhinged ‘rah-rah-rahs’of Bad Romance and the dark electro throb of Paparazzi (check out the Demo Mix btw, it’s awesome). My favourite: The dark theatricality of Bad Romance. It could well be remembered as the sound of the noughties. No small feat for an artist that has only appeared in the last year.

8.         Boys & Girls – Pixie Lott (1)
Those Mark Ronson horns sound mighty familiar yet let’s face it, originality isn’t the key here. It’s bold, it’s brassy and it’s bloody catchy whilst Pixie’s pipes shine through as ever. Boys & Girls bursts with a youthful exuberance that we wish Lott would show a bit more often (she is a teenager, after all) and its pursuit of a fantastic chorus is relentless. ‘A good beat never hurt no-one’ indeed.

9.         Tik Tok – Ke$ha (4)
Tik Tok was all set to feature high on my 2010 list, before I looked it up and discovered it was actually released in November 2009. Oops. So here it is, in all its trashtastic glory – the song responsible for making an entire generation want to wake up in the morning feeling like P. Diddy. With vocals set somewhere between Amanda off Ugly Betty and vapid Valley girl, lyrics so intentionally ridiculous that you can’t help but go along with them (brushing teeth with Jack Daniels, kicking men to the curb that don’t look like Mick Jagger et al) and another hu-owge chorus from Dr Luke, Tik Tok makes the most of its (slightly grubby) charms. Unwashed, unfettered and unleashed – the party don’t start ‘til she walks in, after all!

10.       The Fear – Lily Allen (1)
Never has an artist’s tone been so completely at odds with their lyrical content. Allen has the feather-light voice of an angel but takes sharp stiletto stabs at society, with the odd swear-word thrown in for good measure. Zippy, beatific Greg Kurstin production disguises a succinct dissection of nearly everything that’s wrong with the decade, with lyrics like ‘I am a weapon of massive consumption’, ‘everything’s cool as long as I’m getting thinner’ and the naughty schoolgirl thrill of ‘But it doesn’t matter cos I’m packing plastic/and that’s what makes my life so fucking fantastic’. And let’s not forget the fact that Allen has an ear for a catchy tune as well – The Fear’s chorus is up with the best of them. Heady stuff.

11.       Beat Again – JLS (1)
Whoever thought that one of the best (nay… only) British boy bands we’d be left with at the end of the decade was courtesy of the previously-dodgy group category on X-Factor? The jury’s out on whether Beat Again is better than Everybody In Love (for my money, the latter is an amazing bridge and anthemic chorus missing memorable verses) but Beat Again must win on account of its ludicrous/brilliant dance routine. It involves JLS playing dead, for God’s sake! The song itself is a stuttery minimalist delight that ponders whether you’ll be attending their funeral (if you failed to give them ‘love CPR’, I imagine). JLS snatch the last place in the top 11, for keeping a straight face if nothing else.

Three nearly but not quites…
Good Girl Gone Bad – Cobra Starship & Leighton Meester, Bonkers – Dizzee Rascal, Bulletproof – La Roux

Top 11 Albums Of 2008

2008 leaps out as being a really poor year for albums, so much so I resorted to putting an album that wasn’t even technically released on here! Only the top five of this list really stand out; the rest are three (and a half) star albums at best that wouldn’t make the cut in any other year, with Jenny Lewis and John Legend even having better albums under their belt that didn’t make the charts in other years.

Still, enough with the cryptic clues. For better or worse, I present you with my Top 11 Albums Of 2008.

1.         Britney Spears – Circus
Not as good as Blackout, but then again, what is? Whilst Blackout was an unrelenting dance nirvana, Circus is more a collection of great songs, with a couple of stinkers thrown in for good measure. [How did the teeth-gnashingly awful My Baby, with its nauseating lyrics about smelling breath ever leave the demo stage? And Mmm Papi is so shudder-inducingly cringe-making, you’ll hang your head in shame at how annoyingly catchy it is.] The sirens of Womanizer signal that Britney is back with bells on; tracks like Kill The Lights (heralding the return of ‘Princess, now Queen of Pop, Miss Britney Spears’), the strangulated vowels of Shattered Glass and the winking thrust of If U Seek Amy may steal the limelight but the experimental stutters and squeals of Mannequin and hypnotic seduction of Unusual You reveal their lustre on later listens. Meanwhile, my two favourites are mere bonuses – the Lady Gaga-penned (listen out for her on backing vocals) jaw-droppingly lovely Quicksand, which feels like it just rains gooey gorgeousness at every listen and the retro butterscotch charms of Amnesia (I could write an essay on this song – stuttering on the word ‘stutters’, the way that ‘butterflies’ is fragmented into two lines, that the song is about how hot some guy is that Brit ‘gets amnesia’ and then he comes to her and tells her that he can’t ‘forget about her’… that’s clever pop for you, and it’s utterly blissful). Welcome back Britters!

2.         Lady Gaga – The Fame
At times, Lady Gaga really annoys me – ridiculous crotch-thrusting outfits, too much make-up, hair like straw, insisting that she’s 22 when she looks about 40. But then I remember how great her songs are. The Fame is a remarkable debut, with barely a duff track, and the seamy seedy edge added by lyrics detailing an obsession with fame or a predilection for rough sex complement the killer choruses (more than most artists manage in an entire career) perfectly. Suddenly, her ‘I’m outrageous, me!’ get-up just doesn’t matter anymore.

3.         Girls Aloud – Out Of Control
Tame by Girls Aloud’s standards, bloody brilliant by anyone else’s. Lacking the genre-pogoing bravery of Tangled Up, Out of Control still has its fair share of electrifyingly eclectic moments in Miss You Bow Wow (a seemingly endless segue of stunning choruses), Revolution In The Head and Live In The Country. The rest of the album may see the girls on more mellow mainstream form – yet on tracks as genuinely lovely as Rolling Back The Rivers, the magnificent melancholy of The Loving Kind and whirling ecstasy of Untouchable, who’s complaining?

4.         Same Difference – Pop
If you like your music to come with bigger smiles than a sales assistant on commission, then this is the album for you. This is pop in primary colours with hundreds and thousands sprinkled liberally on top, with surprisingly strong vocals from the siblings (so clean-cut that they make the Andrex puppy look a little sordid in comparison). Pop has had epic key changes thrown at it like confetti – the elongated one in Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now should be framed and hung up in a gallery, it’s that amazing. From the glorious cover art, to the perfectly-picked material, Pop practically wags its tail with pure unadulterated joy. It’s as if Steps never went away.

5.         Ladyhawke – Ladyhawke
Does the album get a bit samey after a while? Yes. Does Ladyhawke’s ‘couldn’t give a shit, might as well be singing about what I need to get from Tesco later’ vocal delivery diminish the songs’ brilliance? Yes. But is this still a pretty great, cohesive, synthy sumptuous banquet of electro-indie? Yes. And is Paris Is Burning a sleazy adrenaline rush like no other? Of course.

6.         Lemar – The Reason
I’ve said before and I’ll say it again: thank God for Lemar. The man is single-handedly keeping male British soul/r n’ b alive. His albums are always consistent, his voice is gorgeous and well, he seems a thoroughly nice chap. At ten tracks, The Reason never outstays its welcome and is a smoothly impressive record; in fact, Lemar out-sings, out-funks and out-does John Legend’s Evolver at every turn. Little Miss Heartbreaker is just crying out, in fact wailing loudly and bashing its fists against a wall, to become a massive hit and this album, like Catfights, deserves so much more success.

7.         Sugababes – Catfights And Spotlights
I can’t pretend that the Sugababes abandonment of electropop didn’t disappoint – and without the Red Dresses, Holes in The Heads and Push the Buttons of the world, Catfights does suffer. The resulting energy drought will have you clinging as desperately onto the sole stomper (Hanging On A Star) as a bunny boiler to their ex – however, nothing but nothing will compel me to look on Girls with anything other than contempt. A gaping creative trench of a song, built solely around the strength of its sample and with little consideration for including a decent anything else, it’s a nadir in the Babes’ career. But Catfights does serve as a reminder that, once upon a time, the Sugababes (in whatever previous incarnation) were just as effective at ballads and midtempos as rave-ups. A quietly good album with some great vocals; Can We Call A Truce is heartbreaking pared-down beauty and Heidi has never sounded so heart-achingly gorgeous.

8.         Annie – Don’t Stop
Not technically released [it eventually saw the light of day in late 2009, a ridiculous 18 months after the Interwebz got their first taste of Don’t Stop], but it seems churlish not to award Norwegian pop sprite Annie her place in the top 11. Don’t Stop boasts songs lighter than spun sugar, a fair smattering of wit and depth that many of her contemporaries lack and the occasional utter leftfield spark (ice cream chimes in I Know Ur Girlfriend Hates Me). Annie’s feather-light delivery perhaps lacks the appropriate punch for power-pop like My Love Is Better but juxtaposes against the rocky duet I Can’t Let Go nicely and is the perfect fit for dreamy epics like Songs Remind Me Of You and Marie Cherie.

9.         Jenny Lewis – Acid Tongue
Lewis just has a voice that makes you melt – she just seems to sing with such simplicity and feeling that it delves into parts of your soul you weren’t sure existed. Not an album that will have you raving it up until poppers o’ clock but a master-class in breathtaking beauty all the same.

1o.         John Legend – Evolver
I’ve long said that Legend could read the dictionary over a backing track and I’d still be in thrall to that honeyed voice. But Legend’s attempts to become the next Marvin Gaye are wearing a little thin because he has not yet managed to match the majesty of 2005’s wondrous Get Lifted. Green Light, propelled by Andre 3000’s cheeky chutzpah (btw where is he?! I need another Outkast album!), offers a tantalising glimpse of what could happen if Legend veered in a slightly funkier direction. Sadly, nothing on Evolver, despite the progressive sounding title, comes close to even trying. His piano-led ballads are still beautiful (This Time = Evolver’s Ordinary People), but you hear me Legend, I want more!

11.         The Saturdays – Chasing Lights
The Saturdays are being touted as the great white hope of girl bands – the last bastion if the Sugababes and Girls Aloud should disappear. On the basis of Chasing Lights, I’m worried. Yes, there are some great tunes on here (I have a huge squidgy soft spot for the monumentally cheesy Why Me, Why Now) but they would be great tunes if my wall sung them to me – in fact, they might even be better. The Saturdays are in desperate need of personality and spark in order to elevate their slick yet serviceable pop to the next level. Up is still bloody good though.

Top 11 Singles Of 2008

The Top 11 Singles Of 2008 is probably my least favourite list of them all. Despite the fact that the songs are all amazing (obviously – I chose ‘em!), something about it just doesn’t flow. And I overplayed my number one song to such an extent (something like on repeat 15 times a day for six months) that it’s only just returning from a two-year banishment, a move required for me to appreciate its majesty once more.

However, this is the list that has had the most extensive tinkering. Originally Madcon’s Beggin’ was on the list – before I went to see Jersey Boys and realised everything great about that song was the Four Seasons sample! An Alcazar single was on there (before I tightened my UK-release only rules), as was Rihanna’s Disturbia (good but generic). In their place went Alphabeat (a song I loved but which seemed so instantly familiar, I thought it was one of those tracks from aeons ago that had bypassed my radar), Miley Cyrus (excluded back in the days when I held Hannah Montana against her) and V V Brown (a limited release single I only found out about after the list was done and dusted). The three nearly but not quites are also all songs I didn’t appreciate at the time but which I couldn’t do without now, yet something about them jars with the overall list, hence them not making the cut.

But enough talking, time for listing! Here’s eleven slices of 2008’s finest…

1.         Hot N Cold – Katy Perry (4)
If you know me, you’ll know that I’m ever so slightly obsessed with Hot N Cold. The video holds a permanent place on my desktop and the song itself ain’t too shabby either. A Dr Luke/Max Martin chorus to end all others, and just when you might be getting bored of it, along comes the Jason Nevins Radio Edit, which made the impossible possible by making it even more epic on the scale of amazing than before.

2.            Spiralling – Keane (23)
Those thrilling beginning wooooos marked the return of Keane in an entirely different guise from slightly wet piano-playing cousins of Coldplay. Some mental lyrics about fashioning you from jewels and stones we can take or leave, but the hook that swirls, spirals and sucks you in is simply irresistible. Intoxicating, hypnotising, entrancing and just plain bloody brilliant.

3.         When I Grow Up – The Pussycat Dolls (3)
Dance breakdown? Check. Ridiculous lyrics? Check. Skanky outfits? Check. Nicole singing practically everything? Check. (Apparently, she even provides backing vocals… to herself). What a shame that the Pussycat Dolls follow-up album was absolute wank but at least we have this Darkchild slice of musical magnificence to remember them by.

4.         Just Dance – Lady Gaga (1)
Lady Gaga delivered a well-deserved shot up the arm to the music scene and the brilliance of Just Dance is so great that it somehow makes Akon’s presence in a song bearable. The title isn’t a suggestion, but a command and with music this marvellous, a very easy one to execute at that. And I have no idea who or what Colby O Dennis may be, but his section takes the song to a whole other level.

5.         The Promise – Girls Aloud (1)
I don’t know whether to be pleased or annoyed that it took Cheryl Cole being a judge on the X-Factor for the rest of Britain to realise that Girls Aloud are genius. The Promise, a delightful retro romp with finger-crossing dance routine and trademark nonsensical lyrics about walking primroses, may be their least exciting lead single to date – but that still makes it thousands of times better than just about anything else released in the year.

6.            Fascination – Alphabeat (6)
More cheerful than Mr Happy after popping some Es, Fascination sounds like someone let off fireworks in a factory stockpiling old 80s records. Somewhere between The B-52s, Wham and Footloose, it was a frenetic jive around everything wonderful you could possibly think of about pop music, by a group who aren’t afraid to do everything in Technicolour, even if they know their way round the skinny jean/long cardigan section of Topman too. And after being deprived of mixed-gender groups for so long, the charming boy-girl interplay of Alphabeat’s vocals sounds so utterly delicious. The word is on your lips – say the word!

7.         Run – Leona Lewis (1)
If artists insist on recording covers, could they please all be like Leona Lewis’ version of Run?! Saved from the clutches of Snow Patrol mediocrity, Run has it all. Lighters aloft, dry ice swirling, perfect vocals, choir appearing for the key change – this song is a thing of pure beauty. A future classic.

8.         See You Again – Miley Cyrus (11)
‘My best friend Lesley said, “Oh she’s just being Miley”,’ may go down in the record books as the most ridiculous/amazing cult pop lyric of all time. Oddly, its utter inanity somehow contributes to See You Again’s overall excellence. A mesmerising shimmy across the dancefloor, with sparkly accents, seductive vocals and an absolutely stellar chorus, it slams a knockout blow to Disney detractors once and for all.

9.         Crying Blood – V V Brown (-)
The insane lovechild of a Nintendo theme tune and the Monster Mash, Crying Blood is an unhinged reworking of doo-wop for the noughties. Exploding out your speakers with all the addictiveness of a batch of EU-banned E-numbers, Crying Blood has enough energy and exuberance for twenty songs, bottled down and boiled into two and a half minutes of pop lunacy at its best.

10.            Womanizer – Britney Spears (3)
Fast, frenetic, fantastic and fierce, this indicated that Britney was back and with bells on. Deserves a place for the intro alone – and yes, those are sirens.

11.       Up – The Saturdays (5)
Who cares if they’re blander than Rachel Stevens buying magnolia wallpaper and vanilla ice cream when The Saturdays deliver infectious electropop as great as this?

Three nearly but not quites…
That’s Not My Name/Shut Up & Let Me Go – The Ting Tings, Dance Wiv Me – Calvin Harris & Dizzee Rascal, So What – Pink

Top 11 Albums Of 2007

The Top 11 Albums of 2007 is another of my favourite lists, with lots of underrated (and commercially unsuccessful) classics featuring.

Strangely enough, I’ve found the albums list more difficult to compile over the years, whilst the singles list has become easier. What makes a great album track doesn’t necessarily translate into what makes a great single (something I will bang on at length about in another list) and it seems I’ve become more appreciative of these long-form works of art, as opposed to a three minute burst for single glory. It’s made for a few leftfield entries in my albums charts that wouldn’t at first appear to tally with my very commercial pop tastes, leaving me with long shortlists of contenders!

The Top 11 Albums of 2007 mark many of these artists’ creative highpoints – Girls Aloud’s best album, Britney’s best album, Rihanna’s best album – whilst others seem to have been so traumatised by their (undeserved) lack of success, that we’ve not heard anything proper from them since (Sophie Ellis-Bextor, Chungking, Siobhan Donaghy, Roisin Murphy)! So here’s my reckoning on 2007’s finest moments…. enjoy!

1.         Girls Aloud – Tangled Up
Can these stroppy sexy strumpets put a foot wrong? Whilst the tabloids plotted their break-up, Girls Aloud quietly set about making the best album of their career. Xenomania’s lyrics may remain as nonsensical as ever, but there is no faulting their knack for sniffing out a great tune. Catchy cunning and crafty hooks abound on the adrenalin rush of Close To Love, the crazed ska of Control of the Knife and the soulful ambience of Can’t Speak French and Black Jacks. What’s more, there’s not a single ballad or cover in sight. Vive la Aloud!

2.            Siobhan Donaghy – Ghosts
Was Donaghy really ever in the Sugababes? Whilst their fifth album has seen them meander ever closer to the mainstream, Donaghy’s music is wonderfully weird and unapologetically uncommercial. Her feather-light vocals on complex epics like Ghosts and Medevac have the power to float you to a different dimension (one where Kate Bush is still revered) whilst the slightly more conventional Don’t Give It Up and So You Say are just as intoxicating. Gorgeous, haunting and surprisingly addictive stuff.

3.            Chungking – Stay Up Forever
This Brighton duo’s album has been criminally overlooked; if it were by Goldfrapp or even Kylie (whose X, by the way, is a big disappointment), it would be selling by the bucket load. Instead, this creamy dreamy platter of electropop has slipped under the radar, despite Jessie Banks’ sultry vocals and the involvement of producer supremo Richard X on the two best tracks – the hip-thrusting Itch & Scratch and the sexy shimmy of Slow It Down.

4.            Britney Spears – Blackout
Whilst Spears’ continues to teeter on the brink of sanity, it looks like she used up her last few salient moments on this stomper of a record. True, anyone could be singing it (and with that vocoder, anyone could be!) and the producers are probably more deserving of an appearance on the cover than Britters herself (that hideous cover, ye Gods my eyes!), but for delicious dance tracks, you can’t find better this year. The most exhilarating of the bunch are the insanely catchy Ooh Ooh Baby and Radar, the whirling staccato madness of Toy Solider and the loosely biographical snarl of Piece Of Me.

5.            Rihanna – Good Girl Gone Bad
Thank God, a Rihanna album that doesn’t feature Pon de Replay! Whilst the Barbados beauty has little difficulty finding a killer single (and the global domination of Umbrella is no exception), she never quite managed a whole album to the same standard. With the fierce Breakin’ Dishes and Lemme Get That, the effortless disco pulsations of Please Don’t Stop The Music and Push Up On Me, the full-throttle Shut Up And Drive and even a few decent mellow moments, Rihanna finally nailed it. Third time lucky and all that.

6.         Bat For Lashes – Fur and Gold
Gloriously bizarre, atmospheric and chilling in equal measure, Natasha Khan’s album was one of the more deserving nominees for this year’s Mercury Music Prize. This is more a piece of high drama than a pop record with lush orchestration, an almost epic feel and moody brooding lyrics – and somehow, you get swept along on the mystical but mesmerising journey. I defy you not to fall in love with tracks as complex but beautiful as What’s A Girl To Do or Horse and I, whilst the stark simplicity of Sad Eyes is just as powerful. Khan is clearly unafraid to take risks and, if these are the results, I hope such bravery continues.

7.         Sophie Ellis-Bextor – Trip The Light Fantastic
Best album title of the year and a disco-delicious comeback from Ellis-Bextor. Whilst perhaps lacking the depth and variety of her earlier efforts, Xenomania’s delectable pop confection If You Go is possibly the best thing she’s ever recorded, perfectly suiting that much-derided crystal-cut delivery. Other highlights include the more-summery-than-strawberries-and-ice-cream Me and My Imagination and Love Is Here, the poignant drama of Today The Sun’s On Us and the hypnotic beats of Only One and If I Can’t Dance, plus bonus track and biggest guilty pleasure ever, Supersonic.

8.         Roisin Murphy – Overpowered
The main problem with this album is that almost every song is about a minute too long. Murphy’s cat-like vocals remain as appetising as ever and there’s a certain lush ambience to affairs but the hint of over-indulgence stops things from becoming truly brilliant. That being said, the irresistible groove of Checkin’ On Me, the grown-up disco of Let Me Know and the ghostly funk of the title track mean Murphy is still a force to be reckoned with.

9.         The Bird and The Bee – The Bird and The Bee
At just over half an hour, this exquisite little album is the perfect party guest, never outstaying her welcome but bringing bags of sunshine in tow. A true breath of fresh air, Inara George’s butter-wouldn’t-melt vocals (especially hilarious when teamed with occasional bouts of swearing) and Greg Kurstin’s immaculate production are an unbeatable team. Subtle, simple and sweet, this was a perfect summer album.

10.            Dragonette – Galore
An album built to save pop and consequently, almost totally ignored by the general public. Filed in the pop injustices of the year category along with Chungking, Galore boasts songs that even Girls Aloud would be happy to have in their repertoire. Each synth-tastic track manages to be simultaneously smooth and spunky, with the silky purr of exotically-named Martina Sorbara carrying proceedings effortlessly, especially on the superlative Take It Like A Man and the luscious True Believer.

11.            Sugababes – Change
Lots of people were disappointed with this but if you ignore the fact that once, the Sugababes had perfect harmonies and vocal blending plus an edgy production and image, then it’s not so bad. About You Now is simply the most radio-friendly song ever recorded whilst My Love Is Pink shows the trio haven’t completely lost their ear for an energetic pop romp. There are far too many slow numbers but the really good Never Gonna Dance Again (no, not a cover of Guilty Whisper), Denial and Change make up for the more average offerings, equalling a solid, if not brilliant, little album.

Top 11 Singles Of 2007

The Top 11 Singles of 2007 was the list that, for some reason, was missing from my collection. Compiling it retrospectively was actually pretty easy – there were lots of big, highly memorable number ones that year, plus a few personal favourites that have held a place in my head/heart/mp3 player ever since. Even more amazing – it includes the only time that Jessica Simpson has seemed even vaguely a decent proposition as a pop star.

So without any further ado, let’s count this mother down!

1.            Bleeding Love – Leona (1)
The song that sparked a thousand imitators (many by its own writer/producer, Ryan Tedder) but has yet to be bettered, Bleeding Love showed the world just what Lewis was capable of – namely, the best lovelorn warbling seen since Whitney Houston reckoned she would always love you. Rippling beats, throbbing rhythms and undulating vocals combine to create a true colossus in the temple of pop balladry. Is it too early to declare it timeless?!

2.            Potential Break-Up Song – Aly & AJ (22)
Dismiss the conveyor-belt of Disney dollies at your peril; Potential Break-Up Song shows just what sort of brilliance the Mouseketeers are capable of producing when your back’s turned for too long. Aly & AJ, previous minor gems in the Disney firmament, created this skittish electro blizzard, capturing the exact moment where lousy boyfriend is set to because lousy ex. The venomous lyrics (‘Now all I want is just my stuff back/Do you get that?/Let me repeat that/I want my stuff back!) are spun to the listener in feather-light form whilst staccato stutters run riot over a tango-infused sonic snowstorm. Pure perfect electropop.

3.         Sexy! No No No – Girls Aloud (5)
First listen? A mess. Second listen? A mess… with potential. Third listen? Xenomania are geniuses. A crashing, thrashing dancefloor opera, complete with overblown vocoder-ed intro, a snappy strident call and response section, deliciously d-d-dirty stutters and euphoric wailing, it’s a club-tinged experiment that saw Xenomania continue their bid to get the strangest song structures ever into the upper echelons of the UK Charts. Sexy! No No No announced that Girls Aloud were here to rave. Loudly. There may even be glowsticks involved. Inventive, ambitious, awesome.

4.         A Public Affair – Jessica Simpson (20)
If you’re going to rip off not one but two songs, you couldn’t choose much better than two Teflon-coated classics – Madonna’s Holiday and Marvin Gaye’s Ain’t No Mountain High Enough. A gloriously infectious summer smash in waiting, A Public Affair dared you to listen without breaking into a big grin and having a surreptitious boogie on the side.

5.            Umbrella – Rihanna (1)
If Bleeding Love was 2007’s contribution to making ballad history, than Umbrella was its lightning-bolt strike at an accessible highly-successful pop/R n B crossover. Turning an innocuous household object into a symbol of undying devotion and the most memorable hook in history, Umbrella takes towering clanging percussion, inescapable beats, a rap including the word ‘precipitation’ (aren’t you glad you took your Biology GCSE now?!) and Rihanna’s robotic tones to create a zeitgeist moment of the highest order. ELLA-ELLA-ELLA-EH-EH-EH.

6.         The Sweet Escape – Gwen Stefani (2)
Any song that turns professional irritant Akon into a first-class attribute is a winner in my book. A doo-wop saunter capitalising on Stefani’s poppier inclinations, The Sweet Escape has more bounce than a Jack-in-the-box on a pogo stick with springs in his heels. A shiny sun-kissed jaunt with a typically brilliant video to boot that sees a glossy Gwen let down her Rapunzel hair and escape from jail (Harajuku Girls in tow), The Sweet Escape wriggled its way into your head with ease, making it clear it had absolutely no intention of ever leaving again. Akon bits included.

7.         About You Now – Sugababes (1)
A sterling pop song designed to survive world wars, zombie infestations or, even worse, indie takeovers, About You Now couldn’t have been more radio-friendly had it tried. Perfectly-constructed by some of pop’s finest engineers (Cathy Dennis, Dr Luke), About You Now explodes into a chorus like no other – instantly catchy, forever unforgettable. Resistance is futile; the sooner you get sucked into this veritable pop hurricane better. The acoustic version is rather lovely too.

8.         Rule The World – Take That (1)
In any other year, Rule The World would be talked-up as being a future classic. However, it had the misfortune of being released in the same year as Bleeding Love, making its star-studded majesty shine just a little dimmer in its wake. That doesn’t stop Rule The World from a being a heart-stoppingly beautiful love song, which will rightfully provide the soundtrack to first kisses and last dances across the universe.

9.         Grace Kelly – Mika (1)
Grace Kelly marked the moment when we honestly thought Mika could be a big-haired, falsetto-swooping Freddie Mercury for the noughties. In the end, it all went a bit pear-shaped but nothing can take away from the blast of fresh air he initially provided with this invigoratingly different tune. A sparkling glass of pink champagne fizzing over with pure unadulterated pleasure.

10.            Standing In The Way Of Control – Gossip (7)
The rave-up to end all rave-ups, Standing In The Way Of Control became the anthem for hedonists across the country when its thumping beats and strident synths scored the wild wasted house party advert for the first series of Skins. But I’m not going to hold that against it. Standing In The Way Of Control is a chunky beefed-up sweaty slice of party central and everyone’s invited.

11.       The Way I Are – Timbaland & Keri Hilson (1)
It’s only so low because of the glaring grammatical error in the title. A track guaranteed to make me get my funk on (not as naff as it sounds, promise), featuring a pulsating bassline set against souped-up electro beats, it’s a clean and cool three minute adrenaline ride. Timbaland’s grunting never sounded so good.

Three nearly but not quites…
Tony The Beat – The Sounds, Chelsea – Stefy, Back To Black – Amy Winehouse

Top 11 Albums Of 2006

Whilst my rules on the top singles of the year have got stricter, my album lists have become freer. Most significantly, I’ve allowed international releases in with open arms.

My justification is a little woolly but makes sense in my head. Singles are inextricably bound up with charts (it’s almost their reason for being) and so it makes sense to take one country’s chart and stick with it. Obviously, living in the UK, I had an innate understanding of how the charts worked (with lots of easily accessible online data) and whilst I’d love to include my favourite Alcazar singles, I could never get a native-like grip over Sweden’s charts – and if I lived there, there’d probably be all sorts of obscure Swedish gems I’d know about, not just the few that I manage to pick up and unfairly focus on. And I’ve not even got started on the US charts, some including airplay or club-play, all with separate genres that manage to include songs apparently not even properly released! I could open up the lists to songs in general, but the idea of that is too huge to contemplate and leads to all kinds of questions about what year a song belongs to (when it leaks on the Internet? when it first appears on an album? when it’s released as a single?).

However, albums are an internationally-recognised format, a self-contained body of work. There’s no worries about it being a single, a buzz track, an album track that randomly charted or a single released only in certain places but not others. And thanks to the wonders of the Internet (or even a particularly well-stocked branch of HMV), I can buy that album anywhere, listen to it anywhere and it will be exactly the same album in England as it is in Outer Mongolia (probably).

…Oh well, it makes sense to me. And it’s essentially a long-winded way of saying, albums you might not be familiar with (and not originally included) are on this list, which is incidentally another of my favourites – deal with it! So sit back, relax and enjoy the Top 11 Albums Of 2006!

1.            Margaret Berger – Pretty Scary Silver Fairy
Leave it to those pesky Swedes to produce an electropop record so catchy, so creative and so cohesive that everyone else might as well give up. Ten tracks of shimmery sparkly synthy goodness, delivered in Berger’s silvery tingly coo, mean it’s near impossible to pick a favourite. Oh well, if you’re gonna push me… it has to be Will You Remember Me Tomorrow. A twinkly treat set to swirl you straight to electro-disco heaven. Pretty Scary Silver Fairy is an utter joy from beginning to end, and all over again when you inevitably hit the replay button.

2.         Gwen Stefani – The Sweet Escape
The Stefani is back – and who else would have the chutzpah and indeed, sheer craziness to sample yodelling from The Sound of Music on a comeback single?! Wind It Up might have initially sounded like a car crash but repeated listens showed it to be an infectious stomper enhanced by a quite brilliant video (Gwen is a nun! Gwen makes curtains! Gwen sings to harajuku girls dressed as children from Sound of Music who do demented clockwork dance!). Her second album trades the excited random energy of L.A.M.B for a more mature lush Cool-esque sound but it’s quietly just as good as her debut. And that title track is the best thing I’ve heard this year.

3.         The Feeling – Twelve Stops and Home
Was there a more lovely, life-affirming album this year? (In case you’re wondering, the answer’s no). The equivalent of a ray of sunshine into even the most jaded record-buyer’s heart, The Feeling have produced an album of unadulterated, unpretentious joy. Ranging from the bubbly to the beautiful, it’s certain to put a smile bigger than Christmas on your face.

4.         Lily Allen – Alright Still
If Lily Allen’s music wasn’t as good as it is, the gobby shtick of pop’s very own Vicky Pollard would have worn thin long ago. Instead, this album of delightfully light ditties was a breath of fresh air. Witty, original and most importantly, catchy as hell, Alright Still proved not just to be the soundtrack to the summer, but to life itself.

5.         Justin Timberlake – FutureSex/LoveSounds
If there was ever a man chosen to bring sexy back, aren’t you pleased it was Justin Timberlake? Shaking off the last vestiges of boy-band blandness (and all memories of that corkscrew perm he once sported), this album screams ‘SEX!’ very loudly. Trademark Timberlake delivery and the dirtiest basslines this side of a red-light district make for a superior Prince-esque album.

6.         Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
Whilst those of us in the know have long realised that Amy Winehouse was an amazing and talented artist, this was the year that everyone else actually sat up and took notice too. Back To Black may have marked a slightly new direction, veering from the witty jazz of debut Frank to more Motown influences, but she still has spadefuls of soul and an absolutely stunning voice. This has every chance of becoming a classic, if only she can stay sober long enough.

7.         Nerina Pallot – Fires
Underrated and overlooked in favour of blander and faker female singer-songwriters, Nerina Pallot’s album is a series of extraordinarily lovely songs. It might not make break any boundaries, but it does middle-of-the-road extremely well, with far more depth and conviction than her counterparts. With songs this radio-friendly, and, in some cases, hauntingly beautiful, it’s a wonder and a real shame this album isn’t doing better.

8.         Marie Serneholt – Enjoy The Ride
A perfect ten tracks of pure pop bliss. The blonde one from A*Teens strides out on her own – and how! From the ‘dum-di-dum’ deliciousness of Turkish Delight-flavoured That’s The Way My Heart Goes to the feelgood summer sunshine of I Love Making Love, the dreamy criminal metaphors of Calling All Detectives to the breathy sumptuous last dance of Oxygen, it’s all superb stuff. Did we enjoy the ride? No… we bloody flipping well loved it!

9.            Jamelia – Walk With Me
Jamelia finally abandoned any pretence at R n’ B and embraced pure pop – only to be rewarded with absolutely no sales (I blame the awful album sleeve). C’est la vie, I suppose but totally undeserved since Walk With Me is one of the most solid and consistent albums of the year.

10.       The Fratellis – Costello Music
More energy than a seven-year old stuffed with blue Smarties, this is one of the debuts of year. Ridiculously catchy, lively tracks like Creeping Up The Backstairs and Chelsea Dagger (destined to become a nights out sing-along classic) combine with the charming acoustic highlight Whistle For The Choir to create a frenetic, frantic and fun album, with guitar riffs and catchy hooks by the busload. Frankly, it’s almost impossible to dislike anything about such an upbeat album.

11.       The Kooks – Inside In/Inside Out
This album has the advantage of having been out for practically the whole of 2006, hence allowing practically every song on it to seep gradually into the public consciousness. Yet the reason it has done this was not just due to the inescapable tv ads but because it’s a collection of charmingly fresh tunes. And sorry to all you Luke Pritchard haters out there, but that’s just the way it is.

21 Best Singles Of 2006

You’ll be pleased to know that this is the last year of twenty-one best singles. Whether this is because the charts have got less good since 2006 or simply because I’ve learnt to say no to songs knocking on my top eleven’s door, I’m not certain. For what it’s worth, this is probably my favourite singles list of the lot, right down to the ‘nearly but not-quites’, and number two is one of my favourite tracks of all time.

You may notice there is an infringement of my not featuring an artist more than once rule. This is because the particular “artist” in question (and trust me, those quotation marks have never been more deserved!) probably had about as much to do with the songs as I did! Such is the brilliance of the songs on their own that they’d probably make the list if a robot sang them… and I can’t be certain that isn’t the case anyway!

The most noticeable omission that had to be rectified was the absence of Take That. Patience is such an all-time fave (yes, that phrase will be much overused in the next few days) that the only explanation I can find for it not making the list first-time round was that it hadn’t been released when the bulk of the list was being formed (charting in late November/December… yes, I begin thinking about my lists that early!).

So here’s my 21 Best Singles of 2006… and number one has had a whole new lease of life for me since I busted it out on Xbox Kinect’s Dance Central!

1.            Maneater – Nelly Furtado (1)
R.I.P Folksy Furtado, love live Naughty Nelly. Sexy synths, booming basslines and armfuls of attitude make this the best song of the year, in the sluttiest of ways. Everybody look at me, indeed.

2.         Pull Shapes – The Pipettes (26)
Few of you are probably aware that this even exists. Rectify this situation now! A shiny sparkly spangly song brimming over with joyousness, it’s an unforgettable 60s-tinged call to the dancefloor that proves impossible to resist. One of those life-affirming tracks that makes you feel glad to be alive and kicking (preferably in dancing shoes).

3.            Beware Of The Dog – Jamelia (10)
Via the theft of a great 80s riff and the presence of some quite thrilling drum action, Jamelia’s undeservedly unsuccessful single is another of the year’s greatest pop masterpieces. Electrifying punchy.

4.            Patience – Take That (1)
Everyone’s favourite boy band marked their triumphant return as men, with stubble, long coats and everything, with this epic slowie. But Patience is just too good to be dismissed as a mere boy b(l)and ballad; it scales great heights of amazingess with every Barlow top note. Utterly gorgeous.

5.            Nothing In This World – Paris Hilton (55)
If Paris Hilton must make music, let it be this – feel-good fluff that would sound fab no matter who sang it. Gratuitous ‘da da da’s are always a winner. A really great pop record.

6.            Something Kinda Ooooh – Girls Aloud (3)
Surely one of the best song titles of the year, if nothing else? Girls Aloud returned with this riotous rave-up that, in the manner of all the greatest Aloud tunes, sounds like a complete mess before revealing itself to be a beautiful pop revelation.

7.         Rehab – Amy Winehouse (7)
This jangling old-school ditty sounded like Motown at its best; in reality, it’s a gobby intoxicated banshee from the East End but that just makes Rehab all the more amazing. Possibly the best thing Amy Winehouse has ever done, horns and all; her forty-a-day voice has never sounded better.

8.         Crazy – Gnarls Barkley (1)
The definition of effortless cool.

9.         My Love – Justin Timberlake (2)
SexyBack, with its dirty lyrics and even dirtier beat, might have garnered the headlines but this, in reality, is the better song. A series of swirling strings and the swooping Timberlake falsetto take glorious centre-stage, building up to a series of progressive complex climaxes. An unexpected pleasure.

10.       Rock Steady – All Saints (3)
Pop’s sulkiest madams return with this fresh and breezy slice of reggae-lite. Harmonies par none with the second verse, featuring those underrated Appleton vocals and layers of breathy echoes, proving simply sublime.

11.            Supermassive Black Hole – Muse (4)
Epic rock for the noughties, with this exhilarating roller-coaster of strange noises and strange voices. Best described as Muse by way of the Scissor Sisters, yet with a result aeons better than you’d think that could sound.

12.            Irreplaceable – Beyonce (4)
Girlfriend doesn’t just do fierce! A luscious mid-tempo ballad, enhanced by Beyonce’s dipped in honey, melted chocolate and various other yummy edible things voice.

13.       LDN – Lily Allen (6)
If this lovely ode to London (which did the impossible by making the capital actually seem appealing) did not make you feel summery and happy, I suggest you check for a pulse. Will anyone ever dare rhyme ‘al fresco’ again?

14.       No Tomorrow – Orson (1)
The guiltiest pleasure of the year, courtesy of hat-wearing geriatrics Orson, and the fact it gets right up the noses of so-called ‘real rockers’ just makes it even better. Two minutes fifty four seconds of faux moshing bliss that is bound to have you salivating for more.

15.            Voodoo Child – Rogue Traders (3)
Energetic dance-rock certain to have you throwing demented shapes all over the dancefloor. Izzy off Neighbours demonstrates a rock star snarl of a voice that she sadly never utilised on the show – although we’d like to have seen Dr Karl’s face if she had!

16.       Stars Are Blind – Paris Hilton (5)
A track most aptly described as ‘accidentally brilliant’. Hilton’s drowsy “singing” blends almost impossibly perfectly with a lazy reggae beat stolen almost entirely from UB40’s entire output. A near perfect summer record.

17.       S.O.S. – Rihanna (2)
Mid-way through the year and this heady blend of electro, R n’ B and obligatory 80s sample would have been a shoo-in for record of the year. But then a load of people came and did it better. Oh well.

18.            Checkin’ It Out – Lil’ Chris (3)
‘Ch-ch-ch-checkin’ it out!!!!!’ a nation cried, whilst also attempting to emulate the little one’s command of Crazy Frog like noises. An immense record by the tiniest singer pop has known since Geri Halliwell’s freakish yoga days. Second single, Gettin’ Enough, is also very good too.

19.       Naïve – The Kooks (5)
In the words of a panel member (a panel consisting of two), this song ‘never gets old’. Deceptively simple melodies produce a song with yes, a naïve charm all of its own. The angelic Lily Allen cover is possibly even better.

20.       Red Dress – Sugababes (4)
The fact this was released so long ago that I’d almost forgotten about it is the only reason it’s all the way down here, for this is a truly wicked record. That crescendo of a chorus (or is it the bridge… or the middle 8… that’s the genius of producers Xenomania) is one of my favourite pop moments.

21.       Faster Kill Pussycat – Paul Oakenfold ft. Brittany Murphy (7)
I generally despise dance music, but this chunk of invigorating energising and exhilarating electronica on speed will do very nicely, thanks.

Three nearly but not quites…
I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’ – Scissor Sisters, Move Along – All American Rejects, All Time Love – Will Young