Sunday, 31 December 2017

The Best Of 2017 - part 5

JUMP TO: 100-81 II 80-61 II 60-41 II 40-21 II 20-1

Even in a year that hasn't been the best for new music, the top 20 songs on my annual chart are a pretty solid list. Let's start counting down to the inevitable (and no, I don't mean Ed Sheeran)... 

It'd been a few years since we'd heard music from (as opposed to remixes by) Monsieur Adi, the French DJ/producer who featured in my year-end top 100s for 2013 and 2014. Then, at the tail end of 2016, he returned with "Bad Habits", but it was this year's "Stay Up Late", featuring a thrilling vocal by Red (aka former The X Factor contestant Nicole Simpson), that proved he was back on form. 

I have to admit, I wasn't thrilled when I discovered "Neon Blue" was picked as the third single from Steps's comeback album, Tears On The Dancefloor - I would've chosen a song we'll see in a little while. To me, it felt like it could've been released in 1999, while many of the songs on the new album sound more current. But as its placement here suggests, I came around in the end. It's classic Steps - on a par with, say, "Better Best Forgotten" or "Here And Now" - although one thing that does distinguish it from their previous hits is that Lee gets a decent solo.

Here's another song that sounds like it could've come out years ago. The second single from Automaton, "Cloud 9" has a similar vibe to 2005's "Seven Days In Sunny June" - a breezy disco ballad with a killer melody.

Up until a month or so ago, this UK chart-topper and ARIA chart number 2 hit didn't make my top 100. I understood the appeal of the song and its music video, but I just found the melody a bit underwhelming, especially after "Hotter Than Hell". But it's amazing what a bit of '80s production can do for my interest in a song. Inspired by Stacey Q's "Two Of Hearts"Japanese producer Initial Talk created an unofficial remix of "New Rules" that made it the aerobics soundtrack it never was - and then, to her credit, Dua gave an official release the green light. 

One good '80s remix deserves another - and there are few remixers who can capture that moment in time better than Pete Hammond, the former PWL staffer responsible for countless mixes in the late '80s, and more recent throwback remixes for Kylie Minogue, Mini Viva, Alphabeat and Parralox. This year, he teamed up with the latter again to transform this single from the Subculture album into a glorious burst of nostalgic synthpop.

Three years after "Hideaway" and its one-shot music video, Kiesza returned at the very start of 2017 with brand new track "Dearly Beloved". The seemingly buoyant song was actually inspired by the death of her friend, musician Alicia Lemke, whose white guitar the Canadian singer plays in the music video.

Unlike the track we saw from them in Part 1, this most recent single from Chase & Status is very much what I would expect from the duo behind "Lost And Not Found" and "Count On Me". It's also not a million miles away from Emeli Sandé's "Heaven", making me think the collaboration would've been massive five years ago. In 2017, unfortunately, it wasn't the hit it deserved to be.

Here's the Tears On The Dancefloor track I would've released as third single - Steps' version of Lara Fabian's English-language debut from 2000. A minor hit in Australia and a flop in the UK for the Belgian singer, "I Will Love Again" was a great choice for a remake.

Just when it looked like Rita Ora was going to pull a Samantha Mumba and abandon her music career in favour of exploring opportunities in Hollywood, the singer/actress/reality TV host returned in 2017 with a pair of pop hits (and a feature on the Avicii track we saw in Part 1. "Your Song" was good (and just missed by top 100), but "Anywhere" put her back in "I Will Never Let You Down" territory. 

Proof that even the biggest artists in the world can hit a speed bump in their career, Katy Perry's fifth album, Witness, faced mixed reviews, singles under-performing and sales well below what she'd come to expect. And yet, it contained the best song she's ever released as far as I'm concerned.

The original was one of the biggest singles of En Vogue's career and 21 years later, the moody R&B track was transformed into a veritable banger courtesy of British DJ/producer James Hype and singer Kelli-Leigh Henry-Davilla, who actually received a credit for her work, unlike on previous hits she'd performed on by Duke Dumont and Secondcity

After appearing on one of the biggest singles in ARIA chart history (The Chainsmokers' "Closer") in 2016, Halsey's second album, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom, was one of the most anticipated of 2017. And one of its most buzzed about tracks was "Strangers", the promotional single featuring Fifth Harmony member Lauren Jauregui that delved into a relationship between two women that's gone sour.

Solidifying his status as the best Jonas brother, Nick Jonas released his best single yet in "Find You". The acoustic guitar-meets-dance track was co-written and produced by Swedes Svante Halldin and Jakob Hazell (aka Jack & Coke), who were behind my 2012 number 1, "Euphoria" by Loreen

While Nick Jonas traipses around the desert in the video for "Find You", Dutch DJ/producer Julian Jordan shot his clip in - and got inspiration for "Say Love" from - the freezing landscape of Iceland. The tender electronic track is a departure from Julian's normally harder club-oriented sound.

The second appearance on this list by the electro-rock trio comprised of singer Lynn Gunn, guitarist Alex Babinski and bass player Brian MacDonald, "What's Wrong" is big on energy, emotion and hooks.

Twenty-year-old American singer Grace Mitchell has been busy in 2017, releasing upwards of half a dozen singles that span a variety of genres. Naturally, since it appears here, "Now" is the poppiest of those songs - a hand-clapping, big chorused celebration of being in the now.

Just when I'd given up hope that 2017 had anything else brilliant to offer, this Scandipop gem from Swedish singer Anni Bernhard (who goes by Full Of Keys professionally) sneaked out at the end of November. With one of the biggest choruses of the year, "Don't Look Back" was her first new song in over a year-and-a-half.  

Thank goodness for Carly Rae Jepsen and her dedication to big pop moments. While many of her contemporaries do their downright best to avoid anything remotely approaching a melody, the Canadian singer continues to release uplifting, exuberant music, like "Cut To The Feeling", which was recorded during the sessions for the Emotion album but only ended up seeing the light of day after it was used in animated film Ballerina.

Separately, they've been incredibly consistent performers the past few years, with a combined tally of nine singles in my year-end top 100s between 2013 and 2016. Clearly more powerful together than they've ever been apart, dance acts Duke Dumont and Gorgon City both achieve their highest rank in 2017 with "Real Life", a '90s piano house-influenced track with vocals handled by NAATIONS (the Australian duo comprised of Nat Dunn and Van She's Nicholas Routledge).

If you've flicked through my year-end charts from 1998 to 2001, this should really come as no surprise. Steps took out my number 1 spot in the first three of those years (and were at number 4 in 2001), and given "Scared Of The Dark" didn't venture too far away from their brand of perky pop, it was always going to be odds-on favourite to end up as my favourite song for 2017. And so here it is, with all the elements you'd expect - a slow-to-fast intro, a soaring chorus, nods to ABBA, a key change and the obligatory join-in-at-home dance routine. The best of turn-of-the-millennium pop wrapped in 2017 pop/dance production. Welcome back, Steps.

My top 170 for 2017 in full:

1           SCARED OF THE DARK Steps
2           REAL LIFE Duke Dumont x Gorgon City featuring NAATIONS
3           CUT TO THE FEELING Carly Rae Jepsen
4           DON’T LOOK BACK Full Of Keys
5           NOW Grace Mitchell
6           WHAT’S WRONG PVRIS
7           SAY LOVE Julian Jordan x SJ
8           FIND YOU Nick Jonas
9           STRANGERS Halsey featuring Lauren Jauregui
10         MORE THAN FRIENDS James Hype featuring Kelli-Leigh
11         ROULETTE Katy Perry
12         ANYWHERE Rita Ora
13         I WILL LOVE AGAIN Steps
14         LOVE ME MORE Chase & Status featuring Emeli Sandé
15         DEARLY BELOVED Kiesza
18         CLOUD 9 Jamiroquai
19         NEON BLUE / ADAM TURNER MIX Steps
20         STAY UP LATE Monsieur Adi featuring Red
21         I FEEL ALIVE IMRI
22         MOVE SLOW Magdalena Bay
24         SET ME OFF Magdalena Bay
25         1UL Danny L Harle
26         BREAKING KIND Steve Angello featuring Paul Meany
27         HAIDE Helena Paparizou
28         GALAXY Dannii Minogue
29         DISCONNECT Clean Bandit and Marina & The Diamonds
30         MY CONSEQUENCE Hey Violet
31         SUN COMES UP Rudimental featuring James Arthur
32         FEEL THE NIGHT Luxxury
33         STRANGERS Sigrid
34         SKELETONS MY
35         THIS SUMMER Sigrid Bernson
36         AUTOMATON Jamiroquai
37         HOME Joe Goddard
38         DON’T TAKE THE MONEY Bleachers
39         FAKE FRIENDS Sigrid
40         DO IT Rae Morris
41         SUPERFRESH Jamiroquai
42         WINTER PVRIS
43         BAD THINGS Noella Nix
44         LADY POWERS Vera Blue
45         NO MORE SAD SONGS Little Mix
46         DARK LOVE Miami Horror featuring Danny Pratt
47         NOBODY Niia
48         WON’T SAY TOO MUCH Liv Lovelle
49         BEAUTIFUL LIFE The Sound Of Arrows
50         BURNING ECHOES Storme
51         OVERNIGHT Parcels
52         MAN IN THE MOON LCAW featuring Dagny
53         NEVER STOP FM-84 featuring Ollie Wride
54         WHITE WING DOVE Priest
56         ONE OF US Nina
57         STORY OF A HEART / 7TH HEAVEN MIX Steps
58         ANYMORE Goldfrapp
59         DON’T WORRY The Sound Of Arrows
60         SUNROOF courtship.
61         MOVING ON Roosevelt
62         HOT2TOUCH Felix Jaehn, Hight & Alex Aiono
63         BACK FOR ME Electric Guest
64         SOUNDING THE ALARM The Pigeon Detectives
65         SUPERNATURAL Bright Sparks
66         DIVE IN KYKO
67         READY TO GO Hurts
68         LOS AGELESS St Vincent
69         CLAP YOUR HANDS Le Youth featuring Ava Max
70         FEELS Calvin Harris featuring Pharrell Williams, Katy Perry & Big Sean
71         BEAUTIFUL ONES Hurts
72         CELEBRATE Sigrid Bernson
73         THE CURE Lady Gaga
74         EYES WIDE OPEN Scavenger Hunt
75         LOVERS StéLouse featuring Brave
77         SOMEONE Anna Of The North
78         LOVE IN RUINS Gryffin featuring Sinead Harnett
79         UNPREDICTABLE Olly Murs / Louisa Johnson
80         IN THE WATER Nakita
81         HEAVY Powers
82         TAKE ME ON joan
83         CALL ON ME / RYAN RIBACK REMIX Starley
84         HOPELESS DREAMS Stockholm Noir
85         IS YOUR LOVE ENOUGH? Little Mix
86         BOY LIKE A GIRL Stockholm Noir featuring Ofelia
87         UNCONDITIONAL Sinead Harnett
88         RIVER Adrees
89         CROSS MY MIND A R I Z O N A featuring Kiiara
90         GONE ionnalee
91         WATERSLIDES Pixx
92         MOVE YOUR BODY Sia
93         CRUEL SUMMER Daniella Mason
94         MAKE YOUR MOVE Ronika
95         POWER Little Mix featuring Stormzy
96         LONELY TOGETHER Avicii featuring Rita Ora
97         ISLAND Stockholm Noir
98         SAY IT TO MY FACE Maty Noyes
99         THIS MOMENT Chase & Status and Blossoms
101        UNUSUAL RAC featuring MNDR
102        DANGEROUS Glades
103        GAIA Sacre
104        EMPTY BLOCKINGS Amanda Mair
105        I KNOW Aly & AJ
106        YOUR SONG Rita Ora
107        I NEED YOU Luxxury
108        HEARTLINE Craig David
109        WARRIORS Tigertown
110        WALK AWAY Le Youth
111        LOVER LIKE YOU Rudie Edwards
112        WOULD YOU MIND PrettyMuch
114        TECHNO PARTIES Lustgas
115        OUT OF MY HEAD Loote
116        ON MY MIND Disciples
117        ATLETICO (THE ONLY ONE) Rae Morris
118        DON’T YOU FEEL IT Sub Focus featuring ALMA
119        JEALOUSY Disciples
120        CASTLE ON THE HILL Ed Sheeran
121        RUNNING BACK TO YOU Bright Light Bright Light with Elton John
122        THERE FOR YOU Eves Karydas
123        GOOD TIMES KLP
124        SOS LKA
125        TOKYO joan
126        THE CALL Sacre
127        HUMAN NATURE Paperwhite
128        YOURS Now, Now
129        DON’T CALL Lost Kings
130        I WANNA DANCE WITH YOU AGAIN Band Of Gold
131        HOLD ON Flor
132        I CAN’T GO ON Robin Bengtsson
133        THERE’S NOTHING HOLDIN’ ME BACK Shawn Mendes
134        TEASE Ralph
135        SYMPHONY Clean Bandit featuring Zara Larsson
136        YOU DON’T KNOW ME Jax Jones featuring RAYE
137        LOVE YOU LIKE THAT Dagny
138        LOVE SO SOFT Kelly Clarkson
140        PHYSICAL The Aces
141        CRYBABY Paloma Faith
142        HIGH ON ME Guy Sebastian
143        WHAT ABOUT US Pink
144        CHAINED TO THE RHYTHM Katy Perry featuring Skip Marley
145        PLOT TWIST Sigrid
146        ALPHABET BLOCK Marnie
147        SHAPE OF YOU Ed Sheeran
148        A MILLION SONGS Sophia Somajo
150        IMPOSSIBLE Steve Lipson featuring Avec Sans
151        GLOW IN THE DARK Force Major
153        WE ARE Avec Sans
154        OSLO Anna Of The North
155        HIGHER GROUND Roland Tings featuring Nylo
156        FAKE MAGIC Peking Duk and AlunaGeorge
157        DYING TO KNOW Tegan & Sara
158        LIONS IN THE NIGHT Julia Bergwall
159        GREEN LIGHT Lorde
160        THE MAN The Killers
161        GO TO WORK Nadine
162        17 MK
163        GIANTS Take That
164        BEAUTIFUL TRAUMA Pink
165        SILENCE Marshmello featuring Khalid
166        LOST IN YOUR LIGHT Dua Lipa featuring Miguel
167        FRIENDS Justin Bieber and BloodPop®
168        ISSUES Julia Michaels
169        WANT YOU BACK Haim
170        FIRST TIME Kygo featuring Ellie Goulding

Yep, only 170 songs on the full list this year - let's hope 2018 has more to offer. And you can listen to them all here:

My 25 Years Ago... recaps return on January 10, with the first chart of 1993. If I have time, I'll sneak something else in before then.

1979 II 1980 II 1981 II 1982 II 1983 II 1984 II 1985 II 1986 II 1987 II 1988 II 1989
1990 II 1991 II 1992 II 1993 II 1994 II 1995 II 1996 II 1997 II 1998 II 1999
2000 II 2001 II 2002 II 2003 II 2004 II 2005 II 2006 II 2007 II 2008 II 2009
2010 II 2011 II 2012 II 2013 II 2014 II 2015 II 2016 II 2017 II 2018 II 2019

Friday, 29 December 2017

The Best Of 2017 - part 4

JUMP TO: 100-81 II 80-61 II 60-41 II 40-21 II 20-1

I don't think I've ever felt so disconnected from what's happening on the Australian, UK and US singles charts. It's not like I don't enjoy modern music - we're 60 songs deep into my list of favourite songs from 2017 after all - but many of the tracks that reach the global top 10s do nothing for me. Am I too old to appreciate the world's most popular music? Is my taste in current music too niche? Do we really need anymore tropical pop tunes? While we ponder those questions, here's the next batch of 20 songs I did like this year (only one of which was a major hit).

When we last saw Rae Morris on my year-end chart, it was was with 2015's stormy "Under The Shadows". In 2017, she's considerably less dramatic with the joyful bounce of "Do It". The playful tune will appear on Rae's second album, Someone Out There, which is due in February.

There's an edge to the synthpop on offer from the second Sigrid we've encountered on this countdown. Sigrid Raabe hails from Norway and "Fake Friends" is taken from the universally acclaimed Don't Kill My Vibe EP.

There are some big names associated with this single by Bleachers, the side-project from fun. guitarist Jack Antonoff. "Don't Take The Money" was co-written with and features guest vocals by Lorde, and it was co-produced by reigning Grammy-winning Producer Of The Year Greg Kurstin and Erasure's Vince Clarke. The music video for the anthemic synthpop track was directed by Jack's girlfriend, Lena Dunham, and features Arrested Development and Search Party actress Alia Shawkat. Not bad company to keep.

Next up, another song that gives some old school disco a modern twist thanks to Hot Chip's Joe Goddard. Taken from his second solo album, Electric Lines, "Home" gets its hook from "We're On Our Way Home" by 1970s funk band Brainstorm.

The lead single from Jamiroquai's album of the same name - the band's eighth since their 1992 debut - "Automaton" was the perfect song with which to make their comeback. A synth- and vocoder-heavy track, its sci-fi soundtrack feel was enhanced by the song's post-apocalyptic (and light-up headgear-featuring) music video.

Here's another single by the other Sigrid we've encountered so far - the Swedish dancer-turned-singer we saw in Part 2. A joyful burst of pop, "This Summer" preceded "Celebrate" and is by far her most popular track to date. 

Some more uplifting (musically, if not lyrically) pop from Sweden now courtesy of singer My Helmner. As MY, she's been releasing tracks for the past couple of years and really hit the nail on the head with "Skeletons", which is about all the baggage you can bring to a new relationship.  

And it's back to the mononymous Sigrid with her latest single, "Strangers", which really takes off when the second chorus kicks in at 1:07 - a moment which is matched by some amazing dancing in the song's music video.  

Another retro disco-inspired track now from American DJ/producer Blake Robin, whose stage name was formerly Baron von Luxxury. Besides his original tunes, like "Feel The Night" and "I Need You", which was just outside the top 100, Luxxury has made an impression with his reinterpretations of classic hits by everyone from Michael Jackson and Madonna to The Clash and Talking Heads.

Here's the one song in this batch that was a top 10 hit - in the UK, not in Australia. The lead single from Rudimental's upcoming third album, "Sun Comes Up" is about overcoming negativity in your past - something vocalist James Arthur knows a thing or two about.

Last year, "Pure" from their Brand New Moves EP made my year-end top 20. In 2017, "My Consequence" from Hey Violet's first album (with this band name) almost does the same despite not being one of the three singles lifted from From The Outside

With the exception of "Tears", I've never liked Clean Bandit's songs as much as everyone else seems to. And so it's kind of fitting that the one track of theirs I really took to in 2017 was the one that did absolutely nothing on worldwide charts. The failure of "Disconnect", which was recorded by the electronic band with Marina And The Diamonds in 2015 before going through several revisions ahead of release, was especially surprising because it followed two UK number 1 singles.

In some ways, it wasn't surprising at all that this new single by chart veteran Dannii Minogue didn't blaze a trail up the charts, since she hasn't seen the inside of the ARIA top 50 in 10 years, and her last Australian and UK top 20 hit was 2006's "So Under Pressure". But then again, she also hasn't released very much music in that time - and certainly nothing anywhere as good as "Galaxy", which had the added selling point of being co-written by Sia. A very welcome return to form.

A deserving winner of the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest, Helena Paparizou has enjoyed a long and fruitful career in Greece (the country she represented and where her parents are from) and Sweden (where she was born and raised), with the odd song translating elsewhere. "Haide", which was released in Greek and English versions, has more than a hint of Shakira's pan flute-featuring "Whenever Wherever" about it and gave Helena yet another chart-topper in Greece 

Amazingly, we move from one artist with Greek and Swedish heritage to another (this wasn't deliberate!), and the DJ/producer who used to make up one-third of Swedish House Mafia. Although he's made my year-end chart in other guises like SHM before, this is Steve Angello's first appearance as lead artist. "Breaking Kind" was included on Genesis, the first of three EPs Steve released in 2017, and features vocals from Paul Meany, the frontman for rock band Mutemath.

If you read the initial version of this list, this track by British producer Daniel Harle was absent, since it passed me by during 2017 and I only heard it in the dying moments of the year. A hasty revision was required and now "1UL" (short for "one you love"), the title track of Danny's EP of the same name, takes its rightful place on my top 100.

I've lost track of the number of electronic duos so far in this list, but there's always room for one more. Mica Tenenbaum and Matthew Lewin put out five singles in 2017 alone and "Set Me Off" was their second offering for the year. 

By returning with a new album in 2017, Steps not only picked up more or less where they left off, but they also got to indulge in a practice that wasn't commonplace in their heyday: the deluxe edition re-release. Just in time for the start of their UK and Irish tour, their comeback album was repackaged as Tears On The Dancefloor: Crying At The Disco with the requisite new songs and remixes included. One of the previously unreleased tracks was this energetic cover of the Delta Goodrem song from 2012, which was newly recorded for the reissue (and not just a song they had lying around left over from the original album).

Here Magdalena Bay are again - and they saved their best effort for last, with "Move Slow" rounding out the year for Mica and Matthew, who are romantically, as well as musically, involved.

Other than when Sweden win, my favourite song rarely triumphs at Eurovision. Case in point: this slice of Middle Eastern-influenced EDM by Israeli entrant IMRI, a former The Voice Israel contestant and two-time Eurovision backing singer, which placed 23rd (out of 26). Robbed.

In Part 5: my top 20 for 2017, including a few more Steps tracks (sorry, not sorry), two '80s-influenced remixes and a dance remake of a song from 1996. What was that I was saying at the start about liking modern music?

1979 II 1980 II 1981 II 1982 II 1983 II 1984 II 1985 II 1986 II 1987 II 1988 II 1989
1990 II 1991 II 1992 II 1993 II 1994 II 1995 II 1996 II 1997 II 1998 II 1999
2000 II 2001 II 2002 II 2003 II 2004 II 2005 II 2006 II 2007 II 2008 II 2009
2010 II 2011 II 2012 II 2013 II 2014 II 2015 II 2016 II 2017 II 2018 II 2019