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: Birdy at Melkweg

Birdy Melkweg

Birdy captivates audience with her voice

Birdy is currently on tour throughout Europe in order to promote her new record Fire Within. On the 5th of November, the singer visited Amsterdam for a concert in the venue Melkweg. At the beginning of the show, Birdy told the audience she would play a mix of songs from her new record and some of the tracks from her self titled debut cover album. With an excellent set list and a great band behind her, Birdy first and foremost impressed with her voice and musicality.

Although Fire Within does not revolve around the piano as heavily as her debut did, Birdy still sings the majority of her songs playing it. The placement of the piano on stage is not the best, as a lot of fans in the front rows are not able to see the singer when she sits behind it. This would not have been a problem if she only sat there for a few songs, but there were only four songs for which she stood up and came to the front of the stage. Still, this is only a minor detail in an otherwise good performance.

After supporting act Richard Judge warmed up the audience with a few lovely songs on acoustic guitar, Birdy started off the show with ‘Strange Birds’, one of the best songs on her new record, co-written by Sia. It immediately becomes clear that her voice is flawless and powerful live. Her mature sound would almost make you forget that Birdy is only seventeen years old. She continues with interpretations of one of her biggest hits ‘People Help The People’ and ‘Shelter’, on which it is just her and her piano. For ‘All About You’ she steps away from the piano for the first time and shows to be a skilled guitar player as well. She gives a vocally outstanding performance of the single worthy ‘Heart Of Gold’ and the lyrically brilliant ‘Words As Weapons’ comes across very well in a live setting too.

On ‘No Angel’ and ‘Home’ Birdy’s voice melts beautifully together with her piano playing and she manages to get the audience, for a large part consisting of girls around the same age as the singer, quiet and captivated. On strong versions of ‘Terrible Love’ and ‘Standing In The Way Of The Light’ her band gets a little more room to shine. It is a welcome change of pace after quite a few ballads. The moment a large part of the audience was waiting for, her biggest hit, cover of Bon Iver’s ‘Skinny Love’, opens the encore. Once again, Birdy impresses with a flawless and emotional rendition, on which the audience softly sings along. The show comes to an end with new single ‘Light Me Up’ and ‘Wings’, the first hit and probably the best track of her new record.

There is still room for Birdy to grow when it comes to stage presence and interaction with her audience, but considering her young age, this will also get better in a few years time. Musically, she seems at the top of her game already. Her voice matured and sounds even more impressive in a live setting then it does on record. Birdy and her band performed a solid show which gave the sole most important factors of the night, Birdy’s voice and her piano, plenty of room to shine.


birdy melkweg

Concert Recensie: Birdy in Melkweg

Birdy weet publiek te boeien met enkel haar stem

Birdy is momenteel aan het toeren door Europa om haar nieuwe album Fire Within te promoten. Op 5 november bezocht de zangeres Amsterdam voor een concert in de Melkweg. Aan het begin van de show vertelde Birdy dat ze een mix van nieuwe songs en een paar tracks van haar cover debuutalbum zou gaan spelen. Met een uitstekende setlist en een sterke band achter zich, wist Birdy vooral met haar stem en muzikaliteit indruk te maken.

Hoewel Fire Within minder gebaseerd is op de piano dan haar debuut, speelt Birdy toch het merendeel van haar songs vanachter het instrument. Het is jammer dat de piano voor het publiek niet heel strategisch is geplaatst, want veel fans op de voorste rijen kunnen de zangeres amper zien zitten. Dit zou niet zo’n probleem zijn geweest als ze er slechts een paar nummers had gezeten, maar ze kwam slechts voor vier songs achter haar piano vandaan. Gelukkig was dit maar een klein detail in een verder uitstekend optreden.

Nadat voorprogramma Richard Judge de zaal heeft opgewarmd met een paar mooie liedjes op zijn akoestisch gitaar, begint Birdy haar optreden met ‘Strange Birds’, één van de sterkste tracks van haar nieuwe album, medegeschreven door Sia. Het wordt meteen duidelijk dat Birdy’s stem live loepzuiver en krachtig is. Door haar volwassen geluid zou je haast vergeten dat we te maken hebben met een slechts zeventienjarige zangeres. Ze gaat verder met haar interpretaties van ‘People Help The People’, één van haar grootste hits, en ‘Shelter’ die ze alleen op de piano uitvoert. Voor ‘All About You’ stapt ze voor het eerst naar de voorgrond om vervolgens te laten horen dat ze ook een getalenteerde gitarist is. Ze geeft een vocaal fantastische uitvoering van het singlewaardige ‘Heart Of Gold’ en het briljant geschreven ‘Words As Weapons’ komt live ook zeer goed uit de verf.

Op ‘No Angel’ en ‘Home’ smelt Birdy’s stem prachtig samen met de piano klanken en ze weet het publiek, dat voor een groot deel uit meisjes van haar eigen leeftijd bestaat, stil te krijgen en te fascineren. Op wat stevigere versies van ‘Terrible Love’ en ‘Standing In The Way Of The Light’ krijgen haar bandleden wat meer ruimte om te laten zien wat ze in huis hebben. Het zorgt voor een welkome afwisseling na de vele ballads. Het moment waar een groot deel van het publiek op wachtte, gebeurt aan het begin van de toegift. Birdy laat een prachtige en emotionele vertolking van haar grootste hit ‘Skinny Love’, een cover van Bon Iver, horen, waarop het publiek zachtjes meezingt. De show komt tot een einde met de nieuwe single ‘Light Me Up’ en ‘Wings’, de eerste hit en de sterkste track van het nieuwe album.

Er is zeker nog ruimte om te groeien voor Birdy als het gaat om hoe ze zichzelf presenteert op het podium en qua interactie met het publiek, maar vanwege haar jonge leeftijd is het te verwachten dat ze hierin beter zal worden de komende jaren. Muzikaal lijkt ze al een behoorlijk eind op weg naar de top van haar kunnen. Haar stem is snel volwassen geworden en ze klinkt nog indrukwekkender in een live setting dan op plaat. Birdy en haar band gaven een solide show waar de belangrijkste elementen, Birdy’s stem en piano, constant centraal stonden.

Introducing: HAERTS / Hemiplegia EP Review


Exciting new band from New York releases first EP

Looking for an exciting new band that has the potential to make it big in 2014? Look no further, you found one in HAERTS. HAERTS is a band from New York with members from the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. The members are singer Nini Fabi, Ben Gebert, Garrett Ienner, Derek McWilliams, and Jonathan Schmidt. They are planning to release a full album next year, but launched their Hemiplegia EP earlier this week and this sounds quite promising!

There was quite some attention for them on the web when they first released their debut single ‘Wings’ (produced by Jean Philip Grobler, St. Lucia), earlier this year. The song with prominent drums and bass/guitar is a great composition with a beautiful melody. Fabi’s soaring vocals add a dreamy atmosphere to the song. The middle-eight, where she sings “People never smile to say goodbye, leaving means there is nothing left to try, but I broke my wings for you”, is an emotional and breathtaking moment, that shows their class in song writing, as well as in creating a beautiful, suiting sound.

A few months later they introduced their second track, called ‘All The Days’. This slightly more upbeat and swinging song is another melodically impressive piece. The chorus is straight forward and is the catchiest thing they have done so far. The video for the song, full of beautiful shots of dancing people, is a great visual accompaniment. HAERTS pulled another two tracks out of the bag for their EP release. The first is title track ‘Hemiplegia’. This song has a more electronic vibe, which turns out to work well too with Nini Fabi’s strong vocals. The song has a nice build-up and the middle-eight where Fabi sings “You can’t move up with your eyes down” is powerful and infectious. Last but not least, there is the track ‘All For You’. This is the only slower song, that could qualify as a ballad. The instrumentation is nice and Fabi’s vocals get even more room to shine.

‘Hemiplegia’ is an impressive set of songs, all the more considering it is the debut EP of this band. Fabi and Gebert, who wrote most of the tracks together, have a good ear for strong melodies and the band as a whole knows how to create the right musical accompaniment for their tunes. 2014 could be the year of HAERTS if they keep up this high standard for their debut album.


Veelbelovende nieuwe New Yorkse band brengt EP uit

Toevallig op zoek naar een veelbelovende band die het zal gaan maken in 2014? Kijk niet verder, je hebt er één gevonden in HAERTS. HAERTS is een band uit New York met leden uit de Verenigde Staten, het Verenigd Koninkrijk en Duitsland. De band bestaat uit zangeres Nini Fabi, Ben Gebert, Garrett Ienner, Derek McWilliams, en Jonathan Schmidt. De release van hun eerste album volgt komend jaar, maar ze hebben deze week alvast hun eerste EP, Hemiplegia, uitgebracht.

De band wist op het internet al behoorlijk wat aandacht op zich te vestigen toen ze hun debuutsingle ‘Wings’ (geproduceerd door Jean Philip Grobler, St. Lucia) eerder dit jaar presenteerden. Het lied, gebouwd op prominente drumpartijen en bass/gitaar lijnen, is een sterke compositie met een mooie melodie. Fabi’s zwevende vocalen zorgen voor een dromerige sfeer op de track. De bridge waar ze zingt “People never smile to say goodbye, leaving means there is nothing left to try, but I broke my wings for you”, is een adembenemend, emotioneel moment en laat hun klasse in songwriting en het creëren van de juiste muzikale omlijsting zien.

Een paar maanden later introduceerden ze hun tweede track, ‘All The Days’. Deze meer uptempo en swingende plaat is melodisch wederom erg sterk. Het refrein staat als een huis en is het meest pakkende wat ze tot nu toe hebben gemaakt. De video, vol prachtig in beeld gebrachte dansende mensen, is een geweldige visuele begeleiding bij het lied. HAERTS voegde nog twee tracks toe voor het uitbrengen van hun EP. De eerste daarvan is titeltrack ‘Hemiplegia’. Hier laat de band een meer elektronisch geluid horen, wat overigens ook zeer goed past bij Fabi’s sterke vocalen. De track is goed opgebouwd en de bridge waar Fabi zingt “You can’t move up with your eyes down” is krachtig en pakkend. Daarnaast is er de nieuwe song ‘All For You’. Dit is het enige wat tragere moment op de EP, wat als ballad gekwalificeerd kan worden. De instrumentatie is prima en Fabi’s stem krijgt nog meer ruimte om te stralen.

‘Hemiplegia’ is een indrukwekkend geheel, zeker als je bedenkt dat het de debuut EP is van deze band. Fabi and Gebert, die samen de meeste tracks schreven, weten zeer goed hoe ze een sterke melodie moeten schrijven en de band als een geheel creëert precies de goede sound om hun songs te begeleiden. 2014 zou zomaar eens het jaar van HAERTS kunnen worden als ze deze hoge standaard vasthouden op hun debuutplaat.