The best pop singles of 2013

It is time for the last list of 2013. It was a good year of music. Here are my favourite pop singles of the year.

25. Karise Eden – Threads Of Silence
Karise Eden won The Voice Australia last year and launched her first self-written single ‘Threads Of Silence’ a while later. The song is a heartfelt piano ballad where she shows the strength of her vocals in the big chorus. It kind of reminds a bit of Adele’s more stripped down tracks, which is obviously a compliment. Impressive debut!

24. Tom Odell – Another Love
Tom Odell launched his career successfully with the beautiful and heartbreaking single ‘Another Love’. The lyrics are touching and definitely relatable and Odell’s delivery is heartfelt. The moment where the second verse kicks in, always gives me goose bumps. Those lyrics are so honest and powerful. What a song people, what a song!

23. Laleh – Colors
Laleh had to follow up the huge success of ‘Some Die Young’ and the album Sjung. She came back with a single and album called Colors. The single is not miles away from the sound ‘Some Die Young’ has, but it is even more catchy and a little bit more uplifting. Her style of both her voice and her writing are distinctive and ‘Colors’ is a typical Laleh track in that sense. Absolutely nothing wrong with that!

22. Céline Dion – Loved Me Back To Life

I have never been a big fan of Céline Dion, but in collaboration with Sia, she managed to create on of the best singles of the year. ‘Loved Me Back To Life’ is a ballad with a modern sound and of course Céline’s voice sounds strong and emotional. For Sia, it was one of the many successful jobs as a writer for other artists. They should work together more often, because Celine’s voice fits this type of songs perfectly.

21. Lorde – Tennis Court
Lorde, the young singer from New Zealand, was one of the biggest discoveries of the year. While her song ‘Royals’ turned out to be a worldwide hit, I still think ‘Tennis Court’ is her best track. Everything is so on point here: her distinctive vocals, the fresh production, the honest lyrics and that undeniably catchy melody. Such a smash!

20. Tove Lo – Habits
This Swedish young woman came seemingly out of nowhere with one of the best pop tracks of the year. ‘Habits’ was her first single, but the heartbreaking character of the lyrics in combination with that immensely strong chorus is such an event to listen to. She showed she has more up her sleeve with single ‘Out Of Mind’ that almost made this list as well. Welcome Tove, you are one of my favourite pop stars from now on.

19. Cassadee Pope – Wasting All These Tears
Cassadee Pope won The Voice USA last year and followed her mentor Blake Shelton’s path and started to make country music. Her first single ‘Wasting All These Tears’ is a big pop/country belter, that you could expect from the likes of Carrie Underwood as well. It is a brilliant song with a huge chorus and strong lyrics. Cassadee has such a beautiful tone to her voice which makes this song all the more special.

18. Marco Mengoni – L’Essenziale
Famous Italian pop star Marco Mengoni won the San Remo Festival and represented Italy in Eurovision with the beautiful ballad ‘L’Essenziale’. The lyrics are touching, the melody is beautiful and Mengoni has got a distinctive and incredible sound of voice. Who does not melt when he sings in Italian about how he would create new places for you when your world falls apart? Lovely!

17. Birdy – Wings
Birdy came back swinging this year. She left behind the piano covers and presented a different sound with the single ‘Wings’. It is such a good song with a melancholic atmosphere, beautiful lyrics and one hell of a strong chorus. Birdy’s soaring vocals top it all off. This single definitely shows her potential as an interesting pop star.

16. Agnetha Fältskog – When You Really Loved Someone
ABBA’s Agnetha Fältskog made a comeback with new original material. She released the beautiful song ‘When You Really Loved Someone’ as the first single. It is a traditional pop ballad with a quite modern production. The lyrics about losing the love of your life are simple, but really effective and Agnetha gives them more meaning with her fragile delivery. She shows that she has still got it vocally as well.

15. Lady Gaga – Applause
All eyes were on Lady Gaga to make a big comeback. The opinions differed a lot when she first premiered lead single ‘Applause’, but the strong pop song turned out to be a success in the charts and on the radio. It is not the best thing she has done so far, but the chorus is great and the lyrics are sharp as ever. Gaga one again showed she is still relevant in the pop world.

14. Florence + The Machine – Over The Love
Florence + The Machine took a break from recording, but still found time to create a song for the soundtrack of the fantastic movie, The Great Gatsby. It is a beautiful song with touching lyrics and of course Florence makes it even better with her impressive powerhouse vocals. The build-up towards the last chorus is very well executed. One more The Great Gatsby track to come in this list!

13. Icona Pop – I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)
This was one of the biggest hits of the year and probably one of the catchiest hooks that I’ve heard in quite a while. This pop banger works very well on the dance floor and it is hard to resist screaming along to the chorus. It’s is a great track to let off some steam and frustration. Such a deserved worldwide hit for these girls.

12. AlunaGeorge – Your Drums, Your Love
AlunaGeorge’s first official single is still their best song to date. ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ is a song that is built completely around an immense chorus that gets to you every time you hear it. Aluna’s soft vocals work brilliantly in combination with George’s productions. This song shows off their lovely style best.

11. Charli XCX – You (Ha Ha Ha)
Pumping beats, screaming synths, smooth vocals and feisty lyrics. These are the four elements that make Charli XCX’s ‘You (Ha Ha Ha)’ into a geat track. The production sounds great and it is so hard to resist singing along to that ‘in your face’ chorus. It still sounds fresh every time I hear it.

10. Amanda Fondell – Dumb
It is a shame Amanda Fondell did not get far in Melodifestivalen, because ‘Dumb’ is such a great pop song. The verses are even better than the chorus, but the repetition of ‘done/gone’ etcetera, works haunting as well. The middle-eight that almost feels like an emotional breakdown is stunning and her delivery is convincing. I don’t care what the Swedish people voted, this remains a fantastic pop song.

09. Veronica Maggio – Sergels Torg
Swedish singer Veronica Maggio made a big comeback with her single ‘Sergels Torg’. The lyrics are sad and heartbreaking, but the melody is quite catchy and uplifting at the same time. You do not have to understand a word of what she sings in order to feel the emotion in the last part where she almost screams her frustration and desperation away. Such a heartfelt track, I love it.

08. Anouk – Birds
Anouk gave The Netherlands a spot in the final, and even a top 10 position, for the first time in years at the Eurovision Song Contest. She performed her heartbreaking, cinematic, melancholic and above all gorgeous ballad ‘Birds’. The orchestral sound works well with her voice and the track is grand, moving and captivating.

07. Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop
2013 was a huge year for Miley Cyrus, who transformed into the most talked about pop star with her controversial performances and outfits. However, miss Cyrus has the material to back it up, because ‘We Can’t Stop’ is a brilliant party track. It is insanely catchy and the production is great. Wouldn’t we all like to twerk a bit to this track? I thought so!

06. Haim – Forever
The girls of Haim broke through in 2013 and their first single ‘Forever’ is definitely one of the best things this year in pop had to offer. The production is perfect, their voices sound wonderful together and that chorus is just undeniable. The track swings and it immediately showed the sisters already found their own style and sound with their first single. Impressive, indeed!

05. Miley Cyrus – Wrecking Ball
With ‘We Can’t Stop’, Miley Cyrus showed she knows how to party, but she also showed her even better emotional side on ‘Wrecking Ball’. This is one of the best pop ballads released in recent years. Miley’s delivery is heartbreaking, especially in the bridge where she sounds fragile and completely honest. The chorus literally hits like a wrecking ball and this all results in one huge pop ballad.

04. Emmelie De Forest – Only Teardrops
Emmelie De Forest managed to win the Eurovision Song Contest in 2013 with her song ‘Only Teardrops’. Although the song sounds tailor made for Eurovision, it has something fresh and contemporary at the same time. Above all, the melody is just irresistibly catchy. The flute, her voice and the drums all complement the strong melody and it made ‘Only Teardrops’ a deserving winner in Eurovision and one of the best tracks of the year.

03. Laura Jansen – Queen Of Elba
Laura Jansen surprised me with her fantastic single ‘Queen Of Elba’. From the moment I heard this song for the first time, I knew there was something special about it. The lyrics about crowning herself the queen of Elba and coming to terms with a life on her own are brilliant. The melody is lush and her voice is enchanting as always. More of this please!

02. Lana Del Rey – Young & Beautiful
‘Young & Beautiful’ was the only new single by Lana this year, but it is once again an incredible song. The melancholy in the lyrics fit the sound of the song very well and the movie The Great Gatsby could not have wished for a better soundtrack than this. Lana sounds beautiful and her delivery of the lines “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?” sounds honest and fragile. What an utterly gorgeous song!

01. Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love
The best song of the year for me is ‘I Feed You My Love’, the song that represented Norway in the Eurovision Song Contest. From the first seconds on I am captivated by it. It sounds dark and fresh at the same time and the heavy beats and production are definitely ‘in your face’. The lyrics of the song (‘You put a knife against my back and you dare me to face the attack’) fit the dark atmosphere very well and it just sounds so effortlessly cool. Margaret’s voice is perfect on ‘I Feed You My Love’ and I really need her to release a new album soon.

Gig Review: Icona Pop at Bitterzoet


Icona Pop delivers energetic show in Amsterdam

Swedish electro pop-duo Icona Pop had a worldwide hit this year with their debut single ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’. Last month, they released their international debut album This Is… and to promote the record they are touring across Europe. On Monday evening they visited Amsterdam and performed in the sold out venue Bitterzoet. The girls presented a fast paced, energetic and swinging show.

The atmosphere in the venue was very positive and enthusiastic from the very moment Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo walked on stage in their space-themed short dresses. They started the show with ‘We Got The World’, one of their singles that has only been released in Sweden so far. The fans who claimed the spots in the front, mostly young boys and girls, still knew every word to the song and sang along with the lines of the infectious chorus: “They say you’re a freak when we’re having fun, say you must be high when we’re spreading love, but we’re just living life and we never stop.”

Basically every song got a very positive response from the audience, even the ones that did not make the cut for the international album but were part of the Swedish version, like ‘Top Rated’ which turned out to be one of the most euphoric moments of the night. The tracks on the new album, like ‘In The Stars’, ‘On The Roll’ and ‘Then We Kiss’ all managed to get people to sing and dance, even though they have only been released for a few weeks. The insanely catchy single ‘Girlfriend’ turned out to be one of the highlights as well, when the crowd enthusiastically functioned as backing vocalists.

Caroline and Aino performed as a ‘two women show’, playing guitar, keyboards and synthesizers themselves. They do not present a perfectly smooth show, which is for the better as it leaves a bit of room to let their enthusiastic and charming personalities shine through. During ‘Manners’, there seemed to be some technical difficulties, but the girls carried on professionally. Most of Icona Pop’s repertoire is a loud, upbeat mix of pop, electro and dance, but in their somewhat more stripped back moments like ‘Light Me Up’ and especially ‘Just Another Night’, the girls showed they actually have pretty good voices. Both the harmonies and individual vocals were on point during most of the night. Of course they are not this generation’s best vocalists, but their audience did not come to hear them sing a perfectly polished version of a ballad. They like the shouty vocals they became famous for on ‘I Love It’.

Above all, the audience of Icona Pop’s gig came to dance and have a good time and that is exactly what they did, especially at the last part of the show. New single ‘All Night’ went down well with almost everyone’s hands in the air. And then there was only one more song to come. Icona Pop completed a perfect party when they finally played their hit single everybody knows. Literally the whole venue shouted the ‘I Don’t Care, I Love It’ parts simultaneously. The girls perfectly proved to be able to convert their upbeat and energetic music into a fitting and infectious live show.

01. We Got The World
02. In The Stars
03. Then We Kiss
04. Nights Like This
05. Good For You
06. Girlfriend
07. Light Me Up
08. Manners
09. On A Roll
10. Top Rated
11. Ready For The Weekend
12. All Night

13. Just Another Night
14. I Love It


Concert recensie: Icona Pop in Bitterzoet

Icona Pop geeft energieke show in Amsterdam

Het Zweedse electro-pop duo Icona Pop heeft een wereldwijde hit te pakken met hun debuutsingle ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’. Vorige maand kwam hun internationale debuutalbum This Is… uit en om deze plaat te promoten touren de meiden nu door Europa. Maandagavond kwamen ze op bezoek in Amsterdam en stonden ze in een uitverkocht Bitterzoet. Icona Pop gaf een snelle, energieke en swingende show weg.

De sfeer in de zaal zat er al goed in vanaf het moment dat Caroline Hjelt en Aino Jawo het podium betraden in hun jurkjes die er uitzien alsof ze er mee de ruimte in gaan. Ze begonnen de show met ‘We Got The World’, één van de singles die alleen in Zweden werd uitgebracht. De fans die plekken vooraan hadden bemachtigd, vooral jonge meiden en jongens, kenden het lied toch woord voor woord uit hun hoofd en zongen uit volle borst mee tijdens het aanstekelijke refrein: “They say you’re a freak when we’re having fun, say you must be high when we’re spreading love, but we’re just living life and we never stop.”

Eigenlijk kreeg elk lied een zeer positieve ontvangst van het publiek. Dit gold zelfs voor de liedjes die de internationale versie van het album niet haalden, maar enkel op de Zweedse uitgave staan, zoals ‘Top Rated’ dat uiteindelijk een van de meest euforische momenten van de avond werd. Tracks van het nieuwe album, zoals ‘In The Stars’, ‘On The Roll’ en ‘Then We Kiss’, wisten het publiek ook aan het zingen en dansen te krijgen terwijl de nummers pas net uit zijn. De ongelooflijk aanstekelijke single ‘Girlfriend’ bewees zich ook als één van de hoogtepunten, toen de mensen in de zaal enthousiast fungeerden als achtergrondzangers.

Caroline en Aino traden op als een ‘twee vrouwsshow’, waarbij ze zelf hun gitaar, keyboard en synthesizers speelden. Ze lieten geen perfect geolied optreden zien, maar dit geeft hen enkel ruimte om wat meer van hun enthousiaste en charmante persoonlijkheden te laten zien. Tijdens ‘Manners’ leken ze te kampen met wat technische problemen, maar ze zetten hun show professioneel voort. Het grootste deel van het repertoire van Icona Pop is een luide, uptempo mix van pop, electro en dance, maar tijdens de wat rustigere momenten zoals ‘Light Me Up’ en vooral ‘Just Another Night’, laten de meiden horen over goede stemmen te beschikken. Zowel de harmonieën en de individuele stukken zijn zeker in orde tijdens het grootste deel van de show. Natuurlijk behoren ze niet tot de beste vocalisten van deze generatie, maar het publiek komt ook niet naar hun show om een perfect uitgevoerde ballad te horen. Ze waarderen juist de ietwat schreeuwerige vocalen waarmee de dames bekend werden op ‘I Love It’.

Boven alles reisde het publiek af naar Bitterzoet om te dansen en te genieten en dat is precies wat er werd gedaan tijdens het laatste deel van de show. De nieuwe single ‘All Night’ werd goed ontvangen, gezien alle handen in de lucht waren tijdens het refrein. Toen was het tijd voor het allerlaatste lied waar iedereen natuurlijk al naar uitkeek. Icona Pop maakte een perfect feestje compleet met hun hitsingle die iedereen kent. Letterlijk de hele zaal schreeuwde tegelijk mee met de ‘I Don’t Care, I Love It’ passages. De meiden hebben bewezen dat ze goed in staat zijn hun swingende en energieke muziek te vertalen in een passende en aanstekelijke liveshow.

Album Review: Icona Pop – This Is…


Swedish duo proves to be more than ‘I Love It’

In 2013 they were suddenly there. Their international debut single ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’ became a world wide smash hit. Of course I am talking about Icona Pop. This Swedish duo, consisting of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, has been working on their music career in Sweden for a few years now, but had their big break earlier this year. They already released a Swedish edition of their debut album, but now the international version is out too. And it proves that the girls are capable of more than just one smash hit.

The ridiculously catchy and infectious ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’ turned out to be a successful formula for Icona Pop. The combination of the loud sounds, the pumping beat, their feisty lyrics and scream-singing suited them very well, but the album does not consist of eleven songs that follow this path. The girls created a more versatile album, but the upbeat and cheery mood ‘I Love It’ introduced, is omnipresent throughout the record.

This becomes apparent when hearing the second international single ‘All Night’. Although this song is not as spectacular and a bit more generic than ‘I Love It’, the song breathes the same upbeat happiness that works contagious. The same goes for ‘Girlfriend’, which was released as a single in Sweden last summer. The chorus is a banger and the cheeky lyrics fit well with the personas of the girls. ‘Ready For The Weekend’ and ‘We Got The World’, which were both on the Swedish release of their album as well, follow a similar path with synth-heavy and dance productions, and are both infectious little songs that work perfectly as a background sound to preparation for a Saturday night out.

The second half of the album, however, is slightly different. It starts with the brilliant ‘In The Stars’. This song is absolute pop brilliance. It swings, the production is great and the chorus (especially the post-chorus) are probably the best moments on the album, when it comes to melodies. This song has the potential to be the next huge hit they need, in order to avoid being seen as a one-hit-wonder. On ‘Just Another Night’, a slightly slower and more serious song, we hear more personality and emotion in the voices of the girls. The instrumentation is more like a pop/rock band sound, which is great in order to shake things up a bit. On ‘Light Me Up’, Icona Pop goes down a more sensual and laidback route, influenced by a bit reggae and urban. Once again the chorus is undeniable.

Icona Pop delivered a carefree, infectious and catchy pop album with some necessary diversity to keep things interesting. The album is full of potential hit singles, so it should not be an impossible task for the girls to become more than a one-hit-wonder.

Must listen: In The Stars, Girlfriend, We Got The World, Just Another Night, Light Me Up.

Check this blog next week for a review about Icona Pop’s gig in Amsterdam.


Album Recensie: Icona Pop – This Is…

Zweeds duo heeft meer in huis dan hit ‘I Love It’

In 2013 waren ze er ineens. Hun internationale debuut single ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’ werd een wereldwijde hit. Ik heb het natuurlijk over Icona Pop. Dit Zweedse duo, dat bestaat uit Caroline Hjelt en Aino Jawo, werkte in Zweden al enkele jaren aan hun muzikale carrière, maar eerder dit jaar kwam de grote doorbraak. Ze brachten in hun thuisland al eerder hun debuutalbum uit, maar nu is het tijd voor de release van de internationale versie. Het album laat zien dat de dames meer in zich hebben dan één hit.

Het belachelijk aanstekelijke en catchy ‘I Love It’ bleek een succesvolle formule voor Icona Pop. De combinatie van de luide productie, de pompende beat, hun felle teksten en schreew-zingen paste goed bij ze, maar het album bestaat gelukkig niet uit elf replica’s van deze single. De meiden creëerden een afwisselender album, dat toch bij bijna alle songs de positieve en enthousiaste vibe van ‘I Love It’ weet terug te brengen.

Dit wordt meteen duidelijk bij het horen van de tweede internationale single ‘All Night’. Hoewel het lied minder spectaculair en wat meer mainstream is dan de eerste single, heeft het dezelfde aanstekelijke vrolijkheid over zich. Hetzelfde geldt voor de single ‘Girlfriend’, die afgelopen zomer in Zweden uitkwam. Het refrein knalt en de ondeugende songtekst pas goed bij de persona’s van de meiden. ‘Ready For The Weekend’ en ‘We Got The World’, die beiden al op de Zweedse editie van hun debuut stonden, volgen een vergelijkbare dancesound met veel synthesizers. Beide songs zijn zeer aanstekelijk en werken goed als achtergrondmuziek bij de voorbereidingen voor een zaterdagnacht uit.

Het tweede deel van het album is enigszins verschillend van de eerste paar tracks. Het begint met de briljante track ‘In The Stars’. Deze song is pure pop-perfectie. Het swingt, is goed geproduceerd en het refrein (en vooral ook het post-refrein) zijn de beste momenten van het hele album op het gebied van melodie. ‘In The Stars’ heeft de potentie om de grote hit te worden die ze nodig hebben, om te bewijzen dat ze geen eendagsvliegen zijn. On ‘Just Another Night’ een wat langzamere en serieuzere track, horen we meer persoonlijkheid en emotie in de stemmen van Caroline en Aino. De instrumentatie neigt hier meer naar een pop/rock band, wat goed is voor de diversiteit op het album. Op ‘Light Me Up’ klinken de dames sensueel en laidback met invloeden uit urban en reggae. Men kan wederom niet om het sterke refrein heen.

Icona Pop levert een zorgeloos, vrolijk en pakkend popalbum af, met de nodige diversiteit om het spannend te houden. Het album staat vol met potentiële hitsingles, dus het moet geen zware opgave zijn voor de dames om het imago van eendagsvliegen te ontstijgen.

Dit moet je gehoord hebben: In The Stars, Girlfriend, We Got The World, Just Another Night, Light Me Up.

Houd dit blog in de gaten, want volgende week vind je hier een review over het optreden van Icona Pop in Amsterdam.