My Favorite Songs of 2014

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Feature Image Via SoundIsStyle

When you live in a big city and spend an absurd amount of time on public transit, your iPod is your best friend–My iPod is actually my longest-lasting relationship. And as you may know, my musical tastes could use some Adderall, but these are the 50 songs that kept me most sane this year.

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I’m so glad Sam Smith took up where Adele left off in 2014. This song just sucks you in the minute it starts with that booming drum. And who doesn’t know all the words to this one? Radio didn’t really give us a choice. It was like, “You will listen to this song 20 times a day and you will like it.” We did.

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I don’t really have a long list of ex-lovers to really relate, but according to a Buzzfeed quiz, I’m capable of smashing a guy’s car with a golf club. I see it. Is anyone else really happy T-Swift finally switched over to pop? It’s also refreshing that the whole truck bed and fireflies era is over. I like psycho Swift. Good work.

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Happiness. This was my official morning song for a month straight this past spring. I’d wake up on the weekend, turn on this song and just take in the morning light. That’s all it took for me to be happy. Imagine being Jessica Beal and actually having that same morning, except JT is actually next to you.

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Heeeey-ey-ey! One Direction wasn’t the only boy band stirring up 9-year-old girls’ tears this year. 5SOS and their ode to American Apparel underwear (which sadly passed without any A.A. sponsorship–their loss) had me jamming like a fool. I also learned to be super careful with my Snapchat from these guys. Thanks for the song and the help, guys!

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Oh, John Legend. This song gives me so many feels. I JUST WANT TO BE CHRISSY TEIGEN. If any of you saw his performance at the Billboard Music Awards, you’d maybe understand the aura I feel: a beautiful man, a polished, black piano and dimly-lit retro light bulbs. It is magical.

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So, from sweet and loving to hard and dirty. An ode to R. Kelly’s hit debut album, this song features two of our most suave R&B fellas joining forces to take our pants off for us. I ain’t mad. If you want a good slow jam with a killer hook, this is it.

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Last year I didn’t bat an eye at this song from Prism. Then when it became an official single this year, it stuck, and then I couldn’t get enough. I was humming it. It was my ringtone. I craved tacos like crazy. Katy Perry is capable of creating audible cocaine and I don’t know how she does it. An ode to besties and all of the shenanigans you got into (orand still do, hopefully), this song has a catchy swag you can’t shake.

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It wasn’t even intentional for TWO 5SOS songs to end up in my top ten, but, damn, it happened. I don’t know what it is about this song, but it’s perfect. Part throwback to the days of Good Charlotte, Bowling For Soup and All-Time Low, part chill production, “Never Be” was a perfect gem off of their debut album.

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There was no better hook in music in 2014 than the first ten seconds of this summer jam: Dun, Dun-Dun. Buh-duh Dun Dun-Dun. Buh-duh Dun Dun-Dun, Buh-duh Dun–“First thing’s first, I’m the realest.” BOOM. Iggy Iggz was all up in our face outta nowhere. And then the hilarious Jimmy Kimmel skit happened. To me, this was the most iconic song of 2014 and one of those tracks that you will always remember for the rest of your life–love it or hate it.

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First of all, the album art is perfection. Look at those fine ass headlights and taillights. That alone accounts for 10% of a great single. This song is so euphoric to me and makes me feel alive. It came at a time when I was away with some close friends on a weekend trip to Palm Springs and would play every time we were in the car. From there it just developed this whole piece of nostalgia itself which carried me through the rest of the year. EVERYBODY FIST PUMP.

Top 10: Albums of 2014

Another end of year, another chance to make best-of lists. I don’t even care if anyone reads them, it’s more of a personal hobby that goes nowhere–hey, if it makes me feel like a hot shot music critic (far from), what the hell? This is also not a statement as to “these are the absolute best of the year”–they’re my favorite albums. If I want to put One Direction ahead of some obscure indie pop standout, guess what? I will. It’s all about what kept me coming back for more. I think the Mona Lisa is great, but would I want that creepy woman lingering in my house? Hell to the no.

10. In the Lonely Hour / Sam Smith

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I can relate to this album in more ways than one, which should actually make me rather depressed and bitter…but thankfully emotional eating exists. His voice is just too good to not be on any list.

9. LP1 / FKA Twigs

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I don’t know where she came from, but Tahliah Barnett is the shit. My ears are forever grateful for these angelic-hypnotic- futuristic, slow night jams. Unlike Meghan Trainor, FKA Twigs is actually from England. (I went around for 4 months under the assumption Meghan Trainor was English.)

8. Queen of the Clouds / Tove Lo

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I’ll admit it: I do not like “Habits (Stay High).” But I will tell you: there are plenty more gems to be unearthed on this post-breakup album. Brooding, high-energy pop will keep you danc-y and, um, frisky. The best part about the set is her candid and millennial-appropriate lyrics: “I’m not the prettiest you’ve ever seen, but I have my moments.”

7. Where It All Began / Dan + Shay

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First, Dan + Shay are just über adorable. This whole album is like a ray of morning sunshine and it fills me with happiness. I’ve never been prone to country music but somewhere in the past 6 months I fell in some moonshine and I can’t get out. I just want to cuddle with them on some beach and eat gummy worms.

6. My Everything / Ariana Grande

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2014 was all about Ms. Ariana Grande. Who knew that pink-haired weirdo I used to watch on Nickelodeon with my younger sister would sneak her way on to my iPod as a sultry tigress. I’ve never thoroughly enjoyed singing along to unrecognizable lyrics more until this came into my life. It’s retro, it’s sexy, it’s cool, it’s EVERYTHING. Ha…Ha…get it? I digress.

5. 1989 / Taylor Swift

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For anyone who knows me well, they know how significant this is: a Taylor Swift album in any kind of association with my name. Yes, while I was not the biggest T-Swift fan for years, I have always been fair to say, “Good music is good music.” Well, Starbucks lovers (don’t argue with me on this one), James Dean eyes and rabbit holes made for some pretty killer jams. I love this new approach to music. I think it suits her well and I hope she sticks to it. Now I will never feel alone when sitting in my bed with tear-stained cheeks holding a butcher’s knife.

4. Four / One Direction

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You knew it was coming. One Direction will forever give me life and I don’t care what musical merits you care about, they make me happy and act a fool and I’m completely okay with that. Their musicianship has matured though, to be fair. Four is not as folky as Midnight Memories, or as pop-y as Take Me Home…it’s…weird, but still good. If another “Tarzan” movie ever happens, “Ready to Run” HAS to be the theme song.

3. x / Ed Sheeran

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Lawd, help me. This guy kills me. So simple, so unadorned, yet full of feels and life. I rarely like to be in a rainy day kinda mood, but I will for this album. I could do without the more urban tracks like “Sing,” but the other offerings are pure gold. If anyone can find the words like Ed Sheeran can, we would all be married and living happily ever after. A man, his guitar and a splash of insane musical wizardry makes this a must-have.

2. Aquarius / Tinashe

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Just turn the lights out, throw this album on and cruise through the night–you won’t regret it. Tin-ash/Tin-ash-ay/Whatever gave us such a refreshing debut effort, opting to show her airy, raspy vocal prowess over ratchet bangers. At times I get these vague Aaliyah vibes, which is probably why I’m so drawn to her style.

1. Montevallo / Sam Hunt

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If this is the future of country music, I. AM. DOWN. Sam Hunt is like the Drake of country, if that makes any sense. It’s a completely unique sound that had me hooked from the first time I heard “Break Up In A Small Town,” where Sam semi-raps his way into a booming chorus. His voice is also pure sex, not going to lie, especially on “Speakers,” which feels like “our” song for me and my non-existent lover. There are also some pop country tracks which are just as infectious. Bravo. Bravo, Sam. Marry me, please?

WATCH: Usher’s Getting Lippy In “Good Kisser” Video

Time to put your lips to the test. Ursher, baby is turning up the swag in his new music video. The track is the lead single from his upcoming eighth studio album, which is still untitled–or is it? The video opens with a dark room lit only by a neon “XY.” Could that be the name for the new set? Since biology 101 has been a hot minute for most: “XY” are the chromosomes that make up a male human. It’s a pretty dope album title if you ask me. But back to the song, check it out below:

After the “Voice” coach went EDM on his 2012 album, Looking 4 Myself, it appears he is returning to his smooth R&B vibes that we all fell in love with way-back-when. “Good Kisser” features lots of funk, lots of the cool moves and lots of that sweet falsetto that could charm a rattlesnake right out of its pot–not euphemistic at all. Parts of the flick are also reminiscent of D’Angelo’s “How Does It Feel” video–you know, the one where he’s just naked under a shower head the whole time?

What do you guys think? Are we happy he’s getting sensual again?

The answer is: Yes.

Top 10: My favorite albums

 I have found the process of ranking albums particularly difficult because, you know, my life is so hard and this is the apex of my concerns at the moment. There are two ways of looking at an album: it produced a lot of songs I like vs it’s a coherent, focused piece of work. I eventually put emphasis more on albums which were more focused around a certain sound rather than a clusterfuck of catchy tunes. So without further ado, here are my top ten albums (not that you care, but I like lists so I’m going to post it anyway):

10. Teenage Dream / Katy Perry / 2010

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This little bundle of sugary pop confectionary damn near gave me diabetes in the fall of 2010. A “dream” is an apt title for this album because it’s so all over the place that no other title would rationalize the A.D.D. on display: peacocks, melting popsicles, aliens, break-ups, fireworks, sad faces, happy faces, etc. But for a diverse album, it sure did give us some solid hits.

Pick three: “Teenage Dream” / “Hummingbird Heartbeat” / “Part of Me”

9. Closer / Josh Groban / 2003

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Can classical music be mainstream? Yes. Josh Groban made us all a little classier and worldly with this 5x-platinum sophomore release. Italian, French, Spanish, English–You name it, it’s sung. “Closer” is just such a beautiful album and Groban’s voice is like super dope and can make the hairs on your neck do the Harlem Shake. It’s a great publicity tool for Rosetta Stone too.

Pick three: “All’improvviso Amore” / “Si Volvieras A Mi” / “Remember When It Rained”

8. Confessions / Usher / 2004

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One word: YEAH! Not only was THE song of the first decade of the millennium on this album, but it was also the birth of Ur-sher, baby. Soulful R&B and Usher’s falsetto just play so well together. From dancing on table tops to dropping panties in a blink of an eye: that is the magic of “Confessions,” along with some relationship faux-pas. If only everyone could sound so sexy and amazing for being a lowly, cheating douchebag.

Pick three: “Yeah” / “Can U Handle It” / “Burn”

7. Own the Night / Lady Antebellum / 2011

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I can just smell the cornfields already. Lady Antebellum does such an amazing job at making country music that has cross-market appeal. This album in particular is so soothing and easy-going. It makes me want to bust out a flannel shirt and sit on a porch swing from dusk to dawn in the middle of October. My descriptions are very specific. So weird to think I saw them open for Carrie Underwood once and was like “Another song? Can they just get off–like, now?” How times have changed.

Pick three: “We Owned the Night” / “Dancin’ Away With My Heart” / “Wanted You More”

6. 4 / Beyonce / 2011

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This is perhaps the funniest selection on this list. I vividly remember throwing an epic tantrum after sampling this originally. I. Was. Piiiiissed. “This album is horrible. Who does she think she is now? This ain’t 1960. Who killed Sasha Fierce? Where she at?” And then time passed and mended all of my Beyonce wounds. I can now appreciate the restraint and artistic direction she went with this, it just took some time. I like to go hard to Bey and this was not affording me the chance. “4” is just so unique and a breath of fresh air amid the dance-music revolution that was happening all around it.

Pick three: “Run the World (Girls)” / “End of Time” / “Love on Top”

5. Aaliyah / Aaliyah / 2001

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Too many thoughts to write down. I think it’s a known fact–my feelings toward Aaliyah. One of the best ever. The production on this album in conjunction with her smooth chops just slays everything. She pushed the boundaries of soul into the future on this album and it makes for such a cool vibe. Mad swag alert.

Pick three: “Rock the Boat” / “I Care 4 U” / “We Need A Resolution”

4. Hybrid Theory / Linkin Park / 2000

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Whodathunk that hip-hop and rock would sound good together for the duration of an entire LP? Linkin Park burst onto the scene in 2000 with this epic debut, pushing the boundaries of musical labels. The sound was different from anything I had heard before and I remember my dad (rock lover) playing this all summer long until the point that I even put my Spice Girls on hold to listen to it instead. It also reminds me of the time when 11-year-old me would listen to “In the End” with a heavy heart because I thought I had AIDS and was going to die. Medical hypochondria set in very early for me, clearly.

Pick three: “In the End” / “Papercut” / “With You”

3. Heal / Loreen / 2013

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I have always stood by my claim that no one does pop music better than the Swedes. This album confirms that. But it’s more than just pop; there are shades of R&B and dance interwoven throughout. I have a “thing” for chill, night songs that have dance/trance elements incorporated and this album gave me a big, fat American-restaurant serving of that. It’s just so freaking cool. I also just happen to be obsessed with Loreen, which you can read all about in my #Addicted post dedicated to her. It’s dark, brooding and magical–like Harry Potter, sexed up with a strobe light.

Pick three: “Euphoria” / “Do We Even Matter” / “Crying Out Your Name”

2. Goodbye Lullaby / Avril Lavigne / 2011

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I adore this album. Like “We Own the Night,” it’s just an effortless album to listen to. The tracks are all coherent and incredibly cute. And like “4,”this was not one of Avril’s best-selling albums by a long shot. All of the angst and screaming was stripped away and there she was, introspective and sad–I enjoyed it. It’s like Adele, I like you being miserable, because you make good music for my ears. Just a tad selfish?

Pick three: “I Love You” / “Stop Standing There” / “What the Hell”

1. Daydream / Mariah Carey / 1995

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Nothing can ever or will ever top this album. I don’t know what it is about it–it’s just an untouchable. I mean, there is the fact that this album produced three MONSTER hits–“Always Be My Baby” being my favorite song of all-time. Mariah’s voice on this album though is just in a class of its own. I also feel like this album was the perfect blending of her pop beginnings and eventual R&B persuasion, which helped push it seven-times platinum in the US (her second best, after her eponymous debut album). I have always longed for her to abandon her routine, Jermaine Dupri R&B productions and revert back to this spirited and lively period in her music, but apparently she likes the declining trend in her record sales. This album is best for sitting out on a summer’s night atop the cool grass gazing up at the stars. Try it. I can’t anymore in L.A. because a) there is no more grass and b) air pollution has killed stargazing abilities.

Pick three: “Always Be My Baby” / “Fantasy” / “One Sweet Day”

One in a million: Remembering Aaliyah.

aaliyah4Aaliyah Haughton, the eternal princess of R&B, would have been 36 today–still so young. 14 years after the fatal plane crash in the Bahamas that claimed her life and eight others, her legacy lives on in the sweetest of rhythms and harmonies with which she blessed the world’s heart and ears.

I have my mother to thank for exposing me to Aaliyah. She was always my mom’s favorite, therefore mine too. I was only six when her sophomore album “One in a Million” was released, but her second single from that album, of the same name, remains one of my earliest memories of music, and one of the closest to my heart.

It was effortless: her beauty, her flow, her angelic chords, her moves and her charm. She was one of those voices that captivated you not by its strength or octaves, but by its subtle power. You don’t hear Aaliyah’s music through your ears, you hear it through the heart. You can’t listen to any one of her songs without subconsciously closing your eyes and getting lost in her creation. It’s that very essence that to me defined her artistry and set her apart from any other singer.

Like any tragedy, I will forever remember where I was when the news of her sudden passing aired. Ironically enough, I was with my mother in her old, white Mazda 626 in the parking lot of the West Manchester Mall in my hometown. She was flipping through the stations when she got excited at the sound of Aaliyah on this one particular station. We listened. After the song, the radio DJ reiterated the news of that day: the passing of Aaliyah Haughton. I don’t remember if we pulled over or just stopped where we were, I just remember the paralyzing effect of the announcer’s words.

I often find myself imagining what her future would have been. At the time of her death, she was on top of the music world with her third album, “Aaliyah.” She had reinvented herself. From her teenage years, she had grown into womanhood and her sound, with the assistance of dear friend Timabaland, was cutting edge–the future of soul and R&B.

But it’s futile to contemplate the “What-ifs” in life. Instead, we should treasure what we have. In celebration of her birthday, I want to countdown my five favorite songs:

5. Enough Said Ft. Drake (although I have the non-Drake version. He kills her vibe, in my opinion)

4. If Your Girl Only Knew

3. Rock the Boat

2. One in a Million

1. I Care 4 U

Love you baby girl. XOXO

Body Party? More like a baby party for Ciara

This morning on “The View,” R&B darling Ciara confirmed that she and rapper fiancé Future are expecting their first child!

Prompted by Barbara Walters, “Do you want to confirm [the pregnancy rumors]?” Ciara replied, “Of course, I would love to!” and stood up and gave her tummy a little rub, smiling ear to ear.

The news comes shortly after the late-2013 engagement to 30-year-old Future.

Ciara also revealed that she is in the studio working on her sixth studio album which is to be released this year. Last year’s release, “Ciara” received mass critical acclaim and peaked at No.2 on the Billboard 200. The album’s lead single, “Body Party” was one of the top-selling songs of the year and Pitchfork magazine ranked it their fifth best song for 2013.

It seems 2014 is going to be full of goodies for this Atlanta gal.

Best of 2013: Top 50 Songs

First up on the Best of 2013 series, all of the songs that had me happy, sappy, poppin’ and droppin’ low.

50. You and I / One Direction

49. Drive / Miley Cyrus

48. Gypsy / Lady Gaga

47. Power Trip / J. Cole Ft. Miguel

46. Tomorrow / Wynter Gordon

45. Glitter and Gold / Little Daylight

44. Best Song Ever / One Direction

43. Treasure / Bruno Mars

42. Take A Picture / Carly Rae Jepsen

41. Disco Love / The Saturdays

40. Wake Me Up / Avicii Ft. Aloe Blacc

39. Walking On Air / Katy Perry

38. Bitchin’ Summer / Avril Lavigne

37. Where You Go / Ciara Ft. Future

36. Pop A Bottle (Fill Me Up) / Jessica Mauboy

35. Does He Know? / One Direction

34. What About Us? / The Saturdays

33. Heartbreak Party / Jessica Mauboy

32. Wildest Dreams / Brandy

31. Latch / Disclosure

30. Kiss Me / Ed Sheeran

29. Sweater Weather / The Neighbourhood

28. Hold On / Nervo

27. I Love It / Icona Pop

26. Summertime Sadness (Cedric Gervais Remix) / Lana Del Rey

25. Little White Lies / One Direction

24. Through the Dark / One Direction

23. Still Into You / Paramore

22. Roller Coaster / Justin Bieber

21. Birthday / Katy Perry

20. American Girl / Bonnie McKee

19. I’ll Be There / Jessica Mauboy

18. Beautiful / Mariah Carey Ft. Miguel

17. Standing On the Sun / Beyoncé

16. I’m Out / Ciara Ft. Nicki Minaj

15. Glowing / Nikki Williams

14. 22 / Taylor Swift

13. Rock N’ Roll / Avril Lavigne

12. Partition / Beyoncé

11. Euphoria / Loreen

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10. Ho Hey/ The Lumineers

This song is the epitome of “adorable.” It makes you feel warm and fuzzy on the inside. Who knew banjos, tambourines, alligators in the bayou, and scrawny white guys could be so charming? It also helps that the video meshes well with the song–I’m a big stickler with that. My only complaint is that it has to be,possibly, the shortest song in my entire iTunes library. Sad face.

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9. Can’t Stop / One Republic

Oh, Ryan Tedder, how you make me swoon. When not being a REAL creative genius for others, he is bestowing his musical gifts on his own band. I have an affinity for “night songs,” and Tedder seems to have a knack for that too. The brooding percussion and falsetto combo just makes my figurative panties come off. See, off.

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8. Into the Night / MDNGHT

Let the hot night songs continue! I found this UK band earlier this year from another one of their songs, “I Will Lead You On,” which is a great, chill track. This particular song is part of my 3-song falling-asleep playlist that is played on loop with a 30-minute timer every night. It’s so relaxing and the vocals are fan-freaking-tastic. I hope they continue to put forth music like this because I am definitely a fan.

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7. Body Party / Ciara

As a part-time body roller, this song keeps me very busy. It’s so dark and sexy. Thank God Ciara finally is back in our lives and better than ever, in my opinion. This song will always just put you in the mood without fail. The melody in the chorus starting with: “You can’t keep your hands off me” will get stuck in your head forever.

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6. Love Me / Katy Perry

My girl, my girl. I was so ecstatic for new Katy music that I leapt into “PRISM” like a starved hyena and judged far too quickly. After the monumental success of “Teenage Dream,” I found myself thinking, “But where are all of the hits?” And then I realized it wasn’t about the hits, it was about her healing and what she needed to create for herself, not us. Silly, selfish me. But then once I let the album slowly sink in, there were a couple sneaky dark horses (ha…ha…) that became favorites. I love the simplicity of this song. It’s kind of Indie, and reminds me of Tegan and Sara, but for some reason I am addicted. I guess you can tell by now that I like heavy bass and percussion mixed with delicate falsettos.

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5. Stay the Night / Zedd Ft. Hayley Williams

I fell in love with Zedd at last year’s KISS 102.7 Jingle Ball. He performed “Clarity” (before it went big) and “Spectrum,” and I remember thinking that this guy was going great places. I already love Hayley Williams, her voice and style, so the pairing of these two is just a match made in heaven. The song is one of those transporting songs that just takes you places, if you close your eyes and listen. I don’t know how to describe it that well but “Teenage Dream” is one like that too; it makes you feel the youthful energy and summer fling senses. Anyway, I love the restraint of Zedd on this song not to overproduce and add all of the clapping/dubstep madness.

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4. Underneath the Tree / Kelly Clarkson

I would not have ever guessed a Christmas song would be making my top 5–ever, unless Mariah Carey channeled her 1994-1997 beast years, but here came Kelly Clarkson dropping her first holiday LP with a KILLER debut track. Like the dismemberment of the Spice Girls, I remember where and what I was doing when I first heard this song. I was sitting outside of the Coffee Bean on 3rd & Hauser,  peering down 3rd towards the Grove at dusk. It was chilly and I had my usual vanilla ceylon tea latte in hand. I clicked on play and then Christmas perfection unleashed itself in between my ears. There were tiny little elves running and banging candy canes on all of my nerves and I’m pretty sure my eyes glazed over to any concerned bystander. It is basically the 21st century “All I Want For Christmas Is You.” Instant Christmas classic.

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3. Work Bitch / Britney Spears

What. A. Banger. I think I initially passed it up the first time I listened to it, but when I heard it full-blast on the car stereo after the Carly Rae Jepsen concert, I was like “Oh, damn. It’s Britney, bitch.” I wasn’t sure how thrilled I would be after finding out that will.i.am was executive producing her new album, Britney Jean. Unfortunately, this track is really the only thing worth listening to off of the album, so bravo Will. Bravo. And even better than the song, which finds Britney in her newfound love for the British accent  once again, is the music video! It was like 2001 Britney climbed out of the TRL archive and lit up my screen.

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2. Roar / Katy Perry

The joy I felt when this song dropped…it was that of a new parent welcoming their firstborn into the world. Katy had me in such a crazed addiction mode after she kept previewing these little videos teasing #roar. On the final teaser, a snippet of the chorus was added and I damn near pissed myself. And then finally the song, in its entirety, was released and I was instantly hooked. It just had number-one smash written all over it, and eventually did achieve just that. It’s an anthem that is easy to relate to and belt out because it’s just oodles of fun. It was the soundtrack to the beginning of the school year. The chorus though, the final one, where everything is amped up and louder, gives me chills every time.

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1. Hold On, We’re Going Home / Drake

Hands down the BEST song of the year. Not only was it just the best song of the year, this is going straight onto my “all-time” list. In just a few months, it flew all the way up my iTunes play counts to knock off “Teenage Dream” as my most-played song of all-time. It’s my ringtone, I fall asleep to it every night, I hum it all the time. Props, Drizzy, props. It’s just a cool ass song that just makes you feel good. And the beats hit so hard and crisply. Just get outta here. Too good.

Stop everything! Beyonce just dropped an album

beyonceWhen you wake up tomorrow, and your kids are still awake, Beyonce is to blame. When you get to class/work and your teacher/boss is not in, Beyonce is to blame. When December 13th is declared a new federal holiday, Beyonce is to blame.

While most everyone was falling asleep last night, sleep-deprived college kids cramming for finals, night owls, third-shift workers, and west coasters were hyperventilating while dancing to the tunes of Beyonce’s latest album–um, “Beyonce.” It is called a “visual album,” and although I’m not exactly sure what that means, other than the fact there are music videos included, I just do what Beyonce tells me to do. If she says it’s a visual album, it’s a visual album. No questions asked.

The pop and r&b diva announced the release across her social media platforms at the strike of twelve this morning. “Beyonce,” includes 14 new songs and 17 videos. And let me just forewarn you: Hot. Hot. Hot. The style of the set is apart from anything Bey has done in the past. It’s not commercial. It’s not traditional. And it surely isn’t real. Equipped with empowering anthems (“Pretty Hurts,” “Partition,” and “***Flawless”), steamy jams (“Drunk In Love,” “Blow,” and “Rocket”), and softer touches (“Blue,” and “Heaven”), Queen Bey is taking her musicality to the next level. My personal faves are “Haunted,” “XO,” and “Mine” Ft. Drake.

One would think producing top-notch, progressive music would be a feat fit for any superstar, but it wasn’t enough for the Houston native. All tracks are paired with stunning videos, which collectively reflect her vision and insane creativity. Her fans call her the Queen, and I’m beginning to wonder if we just all should. Would anyone object?

And to think that she produced all of this while being a mother and a wife during a world tour is certifiably insane. I will never complain in my humble existence that I am ever too busy to do anything ever again. Thanks, Bey.

You can check out “Beyonce” on iTunes. Individual track sales will begin on Dec. 20th, but the entire album is up for grabs right now. What are you waiting for?! GO!

Here is some of the buzz:

‘X Factor’ contestant goes H.A.M. on 80’s night

Straight up, this kid is going to be a star.

Josh Levi, 15, brought down the house on last night’s “X Factor.” The Houston native put a fresh R&B spin on Paula Abdul’s 80’s hit, “Straight Up.” After being cut from the competition in week one by the boys’ mentor, Paulina Rubio, Levi validated the judges’ decision to give him a second shot last night. Get ready to be blown away:

“Can I just say it now,” judge Kelly Rowland exclaimed, holding her finger in the air, “I’m going to go on record saying this: I think you, young man, have just arrived.”

And just to confirm it was a good performance all around, Mr. Sunshine himself, Simon Cowell, chimed in with good words:

“This is proving the point where one minute we’re watching and listening to karaoke singers, and then we’re watching and listening to a future star.”

The performance bears much resemblance to Arin Ray’s take on Estelle’s “American Boy” last year. The problem for Ray was continuing to find that sweet spot each week and eventually bowed out in tenth place. Hopefully mentor Rubio will help keep Levi’s momentum pumping.

Side note: Every time a reality singing show does “Straight Up,” it turns to gold. Anyone remember the adorable Andrew Garcia and his acoustic masterpiece from the “American Idol” Hollywood-week round?

Ready. Set. Music madness: 2013 holiday rush

elf_santaChristmas is coming.

How do I know this? No, it’s not the christmas décor popping up in retail stores. No, it’s not even new Christmas music releases by Mary J. Blige and Kelly Clarkson. It is, however, the absolutely chaotic album release schedule for the remainder of 2013.

It appears all of the music industry heavyweights were in on the same game plan: album releases appropriately timed for the holiday season. This late surge will hopefully be redeeming for the music industry: According to Billboard, album sales for this past week (ending Oct. 27), are down 28% from the same week in 2012. For the year, at this point, album sales are down 7%.

Here is just a snapshot of what’s to come:

November 5

  • Avril Lavigne, “Avril Lavigne”
  • Celine Dion, “Loved Me Back to Life”
  • Eminem, “The Marshall Mathers LP 2”
  • James Blunt, “Moon Landing”
  • M.I.A., “Matangi”

November 11

  • Kellie Pickler, “Woman I Am”
  • Lady Gaga, “ARTPOP”

November 19

  • Daughtry, “Baptized”

November 25

  • Norah Jones & Billie Joe Armstrong, “Foreverly”
  • One Direction, “Midnight Memories”

December 3

  • Britney Spears, “Britney Jean”
  • Chris Brown, “X”

December 10

  • R. Kelly, “Black Panties”

Get ready people! There’s a lot of good music heading our way. And will Beyoncé sneak her next LP in before the 2013 curtain falls? For the full list of 2013 album releases, click here.