2014’s Best Pop Singles: Idolator Editors Pick 20 Favorites
Truly great albums were hard to come by in 2014, but the land of pop music was flooded with amazing singles over the past 12 months. In fact, we had a field day re-visiting the sounds of this year in order to compile this list, which you’ll find is filled with everything from synthed-up R&B jams to housey club cuts to twangy guitar pop to sassy rap joints.
So let’s just hop to it. Below you’ll find Idolator’s roundup of the 20 Best Pop Singles Of 2014. (Also, if you didn’t already check out our list of the Best Albums Of 2014, it serves as a nice companion piece!) We’ve even thrown in a handy Spotify playlist featuring each track — well, except for the Beyonce one, which we had to substitute with a dodgy, generic “as made famous by” cover version. Enjoy!
20. SZA, “Babylon”
SZA is not one of 2014’s mainstays when looking at a pop music angle, but the singer is not one to be overlooked. Like BANKS, she made a name for herself within the new realm of alt-R&B artists. Top Dawg Entertainment’s latest signee released her third EP Z back in April, with “Babylon” being the lead single. It was drastically different from the other tunes that dropped at that time, but that’s what made it so special.
“Babylon” is a chilled down-tempo filled with smoky synths courtesy of DJ Dahi, which fade in and out of SZA’s cloudy vocals. The song was made even stronger with a feature from rapper du jour (and TDE labelmate), Kendrick Lamar. Just take caution when listening to “Babylon”; you may get caught up in its entrancing rapture. — BIANCA GRACIE
19. Beyonce, “7/11″
The Hive will cut a bitch for looking at Beyonce sideways, but even social media’s fiercest fan army didn’t have anything nice to say about “7/11″, the lead/only single from Queen Bey’s visual album repackage. Two weeks later and the song is a meme. It’s also the second-highest charting single (after “Drunk In Love”) from the entire era.
So, what happened? The incredible DIY video, which was filmed on Bey’s iPhone, went viral and the Detail-produced anthem became an instant club/party favorite. It also took a minute to process the song’s sprawling structure. “7/11” is an avalanche of hooks without a chorus. Which not only makes it one of the catchiest singles of 2014, but also one of the most innovative. — MIKE WASS
18. Nick Jonas, “Chains”
In early 2014, Nick Jonas announced that he was working on another solo project. His first album, released during his stint as a Jonas Brother, was smothered in classic Disney pop. So when “Chains,” the first single from his eponymous sophomore LP, was released over the summer, we were not expecting it to be the instant banger that it was.
The mid-tempo R&B tune may not have charted on the Billboard 100, but who cares? Produced by Jason Avigan (Demi Lovato, Fifth Harmony, Maroon 5), “Chains” packs just as much of a punch as “Like I Love You,” Justin Timberlake’s breakout solo single. It features a slinky bassline that creeps up your spine, as Jonas’ soulfully croons about being trapped in a relationship. Listen to this song just once, and you’ll be begging to set him free! — BIANCA GRACIE
17. Leighton Meester, “Heartstrings”
Sure, Leighton Meester might be best known for her role on Gossip Girl, but don’t write her off as just an actress-turned-singer just yet. While she started her music career with the kind of catchy, campy dance-pop gems like “Your Love’s A Drug,” Leighton since shifted her sound into something much more mature — and lush. The result is “Heartstrings,” a gentle, guitar-driven tune colored by airy wisps of ’60’s-tinged French pop and folk.
Armed with catchy melodies (“Tie my heartstrings…”) and dreamy layers of sound, Leighton supplied one of the year’s best, most understated surprises, thus proving why she deserves to be taken seriously as a musician. — BRADLEY STERN
16. Future Islands, “Seasons (Waiting On You)”
Future Islands are my favorite anti-pop stars. Frontman Samuel T. Herring looks like an accountant, he moves around the stage like your drunk uncle at a wedding and his emotional delivery is borderline confronting at a time when displaying disinterest is the status quo.
But these are the exact same reasons why a ticket to the band’s live show is the best gift you can give yourself. When you factor in their incredible music, like melancholy synth-pop anthem “Seasons (Waiting On You),” you can’t help but think that Future Islands are destined for even bigger things. — MIKE WASS