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