The best pop singles of 2015

2015 has been a great year for popular music! We saw a lot of amazing artists come back and new talents making their way to the top. It’s that time of the year again where we decide what were the best pop moments in 2015. This is A Bit of Pop Music’s Top 50 of Best Singles of the Year where we go from The Weeknd to Jess Glynne and Adele to Justin Bieber! Continue reading

The best pop videos of 2015

2015 has been a great year for popular music! We saw a lot of amazing artists come back and new talents making their way to the top. It’s that time of the year again where we decide what were the … Continue reading

Album Review: Disclosure – Caracal

Disclosure Caracal cover

Disclosure brings enjoyable, but risk free second album
DJ duo Disclosure had their big break in 2012 when their remix of Jessie Ware’s ‘Runnin” caught a lot of buzz online. They followed this up with single ‘Latch’, a collaboration with Sam Smith, and from that moment on there was no turning back. ‘White Noise’ with AlunaGeorge and ‘You & Me’ featuring Eliza Doolittle became even bigger hits and their debut album Settle, released in 2013, became a worldwide hit. It’s always hard to follow up such a huge success, but with the release of their sophomore record, Caracal, they prove their popularity did not decline as it entered the UK album charts at the first spot. But is it a success in terms of artistic progression as well?

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Song of the Day: Alex Maxwell – Drive

Alex Maxwell Drive cover

Review:
London-based artist Alex Maxwell is one to watch. The 21-years-old pop singer and songwriter was the first British artist to sign with the Disney Music Group, via Hollywood Records UK. She just released her first big single called ‘Drive’ and it is produced by The Flight, who previously worked with Lana Del Rey and the Swedish-Australian twins of Say Lou Lou. The result is a pop track that is stylistically quite similar to the work of Lana Del Rey and Lorde, which is of course never a bad thing.

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Gig Review: Lorde at TivoliVredenburg

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Confident Lorde entertains young fans in new venue in Utrecht

It’s hardly a year ago that almost nobody knew who Lorde was. After she released the single ‘Royals’ however, there was no stopping her. The song took off massively and became a wordwide smash hit. There was no escaping this track on the radio and the 17-year-old then had to prove that she is not a one-hit-wonder. If her debut record record Pure Heroine, did not emphasize this enough, then her first live show in the Netherlands in the brand new venue TivoliVredenburg might have done it. She shows herself to be a major pop force that undoubtedly has a very bright future.

The support act of the night is Nick Mulvey, who plays a pleasant set on his acoustic guitar. He has a charming personality that especially the young girls in the front rows seem to warm to. At 21:00, Lorde walks on stage as her band plays the first notes of the song ‘Glory and Gore’. She immediately shows her eye-catching and unconventional dance moves to the strong beats of the track. After the first track, the curtain falls down and the drummer and keyboard player that will accompany her for the rest of the night, are visible. Because of the small band, quite a lot of the backing vocals and some of the instrumentation is not played live which could be seen as a missed opportunity, but on the other hand it also quite fits her electronic pop music.

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It becomes apparent on some tracks that she really needs the pre-recorded backings to give the song as much strength as the studio versions, for example during her rendition of ‘Tennis Court’, probably her best song yet. On her cover of ‘Swingin Party’ (originally by the Replacements) she impresses however, without using any backingtrack. Here she shows her distinctive, quite low, vocals are strong enough to carry tunes without any help. It is impressive to see how she managed to gain so many loyal fans in such a short period of time, as a large part of the audience does not only sing along to the hit singles, but also reacts very enthusiastically when she plays the better tracks on the album, like ‘White Teeth Teens’, ‘Ribs’, ‘Buzzcut Season’ and ‘Bravado’, that was taken from her debut EP.

It is surprising to see how much confidence Lorde shows when she is performing. When she does her impulsive little dance moves to the banging beats of her tracks, one would expect that she is doing this for years already. To think about the fact that she is only 17 years old, is actually quite bizar. The only moment where her young age showed, is when she did a quite lengthy monologue about throwing parties, being afraid to grow up and living her dreams before she sings ‘Ribs’. When the show almost comes to an end, Lorde takes her place in the spotlight to sing her ‘Royals’ together with the 2000 people that gathered in the new TivoliVredenburg, a venue that looks great with a nice atmosphere and great sound. The real climax of the show however, is her single ‘Team’, that gets an extended version in which Lorde has her big pop star moment when she comes back on stage in a golden dress while confetti flies all over the place.

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Although Lorde gets some help from the backing track, she is a surprisingly strong and confident performer live and the quality of her songs, that she all co-wrote herself, is extraordinary for a girl of only seventeen years old. If she will get the space and opportunity to grow artistically, she could become one of the best and most willful pop stars of the near future.

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Concert Recensie: Lorde in TivoliVredenburg

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Zelfverzekerde Lorde overtuigt jonge fans met show in nieuwe TivoliVredenburg

Hoewel een jaar geleden nog bijna niemand van Lorde had gehoord, is ze na het uitbrengen van de single ‘Royals’ al bijna niet meer uit het huidige pop-landschap weg te denken. De single werd een wereldwijde megahit en het was dan ook moeilijk om de 17-jarige Nieuw-Zeelandse niet op de radio voorbij te horen komen. Daarna werd het tijd voor Lorde om te bewijzen dat ze geen eendagsvlieg is, en als ze dat al niet met haar uitstekende debuut Pure Heroine had gedaan, dan lukt dat haar nu alsnog met haar eerste show op Nederlandse bodem in het gloednieuwe TivoliVredenburg.

Nick Mulvey verzorgt het voorprogramma met een prima set op akoestisch gitaar. Zijn charmante persoonlijkheid weet vooral de jonge dames op de eerste rijen alvast op te warmen. Klokslag negen uur is het tijd voor Lorde om het podium te betreden. Het eerste lied, ‘Glory and Gore’ zingt ze alleen op het podium terwijl na het lied het gordijn naar beneden wordt gehaald waardoor haar band, bestaande uit een toetsenist en een drummer, ook zichtbaar worden. Omdat de band zo klein is, valt het op dat er nogal wat achtergrondzang en wat instrumentatie niet live is, en hoewel dit aan de ene kant gezien kan worden als een gemiste kans, past het ook wel weer bij het elektronische karakter van Lorde’s popmuziek.

Het valt wel op dat Lorde hier en daar de backingtrack hard nodig heeft om de liedjes live net zoveel kracht mee te geven als ze op plaat hebben. Bij ‘Tennis Court’, misschien wel haar beste song tot nu toe, zingt ze dan ook een groot deel met de band mee. Op een verstilde cover van ‘Swingin Party’ (origineel van The Replacements) komt haar stem echter wel zeer mooi tot zijn recht. Hier laat ze horen dat haar lage, eigenzinnige stemgeluid wel degelijk sterk genoeg is om de liedjes in een live setting overtuigend over te brengen. Daarnaast is het indrukwekkend om te zien hoe snel de jonge zangeres een vaste fanbase heeft weten op te bouwen. Een groot deel van het publiek zingt namelijk niet alleen de hits mee, maar kennen ook de teksten van sterke albumtracks als ‘White Teeth Teens’, ‘Ribs’, ‘Buzzcut Season’ en ‘Bravado’, afkomstig van de eerste EP. Al deze songs worden even enthousiast ontvangen door het veelal jonge publiek.

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Het is verrassend om te zien met hoeveel zelfvertrouwen Lorde op het podium staat. Als ze haar impulsieve, schokkerige dansmoves laat zien lijkt het haast alsof ze nooit anders heeft gedaan. Je zou bijna vergeten dat de Nieuw-Zeelandse echt pas zeventien lentes jong is. Het enige moment waarop duidelijk wordt dat we nog met een tiener te maken hebben, is wanneer ze een vrij lange monoloog houdt over het geven feestjes, bang zijn om volwassen te worden en het najagen van je dromen voordat ze ‘Ribs’ inzet. Tegen het einde zingt ze dan eindelijk de grote hit ‘Royals’, die door 2000 man uit volle borst wordt meegezongen in een overigens mooie, sfeervolle zaal in TivoliVredenburg, waar het geluid ook zeker meer dan in orde is. De echte climax van de show volgt met een verlengde versie van single ‘Team’, waarop het blauwe pak wordt vervangen voor een gouden jurk met cape waarin ze een echt popstermoment beleeft, inclusief confetti.

Hoewel Lorde hier en daar dus nog wat hulp krijgt van achtergrondzang op de band, laat ze zien dat ze voor haar leeftijd een sterke performer is. De kwaliteit van de songs, waar ze allemaal zelf aan meeschreef, is ongekend hoog. Als dit meisje de ruimte en gelegenheid krijgt om artistiek verder te groeien, kunnen we wel eens te maken hebben met één de meest eigenwijze en succesvolle popsterren van de komende jaren.

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.