2016 in Music

It’s become an annual tradition… let’s take a look at the best music of 2016!

SONG OF THE YEAR:

Shura – What’s It Gonna Be

Whilst perhaps not the most famous of Pop songs released this year, this perfect Pop track was undoubtedly one of the musical highlights of the year. It’s a fizzy, endearing ’80’s-influenced Pop track about high school crushes full of essential repetition and a dizzying chorus. Shura’s almost whispered vocals are not dissimilar from Janet Jackson’s and it’s just a brilliant, brilliant record. Check out the incredible video too.

ALBUM OF THE YEAR:

The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it.

A lost rested on this highly anticipated second album from The 1975. After months of being promised brilliant things from Radio 1 & NME alike, in addition to Matt Healy boasting ‘the world needs this album’, the album finally arrived back in March and it was no disappointment. A beast of an album at 17 tracks and over an hour of music, it genre-hops frequently but it doesn’t disrupt the flow or brilliance of the album. There’s something for everybody – there’s the 80’s-influenced Pop-rock moments the public are familiar with from radio airplay, acoustic tracks, instrumental tracks, hell – even a huge D’Angelo-influenced gospel track!

There is not one dud moment on this album and it’s particularly brilliant during it’s ‘dream sequence’ section in which Healy documents losing his mind through a brilliant assortment of songs – beginning with ‘If I Believe You’ and finishing with the stunning ‘Somebody Else’. A brilliant, brilliant album.

TOP 10 SINGLE RELEASES OF THE YEAR

Shura – What’s It Gonna be?

See above for why we’ve chosen this track!

The 1975 – The Sound

To be honest, we could include any single from the band’s ‘I like it when you sleep…’ album – ‘A Change of Heart’, ‘Somebody Else’ etc – they are all just as brilliant as each other but we’ve chosen this, the biggest hit from the album. It’s everything Pop music should be – memorable, catchy, a little bit naughty lyrically and an absolute feel-good classic.

Christine & The Queens – Tilted

100% the most endearing song of this year. Less is often more and this repetitive but effortlessly catchy and funky Pop track is so endearing, it still sounds brilliant after being played EVERYWHERE. We need more Popstars like Christine – talented individuals who write their own music, have artistic vision and stay loyal to it.

Zayn – Pillowtalk

It’s been played to death but this track made a huge, bold statement upon its release at the beginning of 2016. Zayn’s entire ‘Mind of Mine’ album is a work of art, utilising frolicking synthesizers and alternative R&B miles removed from the sound of One Direction. There’s better songs on the album but it’s foolish to leave this huge hit from our list.

DNCE – Cake By The Ocean

Yeah, yeah, it’s been played to death but this funk-pop track with its metaphors and Joe Jonas’ smooth falsetto vocals is undoubtedly one of the catchiest, best pop songs of 2016.

Usher – Crash

The best songs often emphasise that less is more. This brilliant, subtle & moody R&B track avoids using an assortment of instruments and instead relies on Usher’s gorgeous falsetto reverberating into eerie synthesizers and a gentle dance beat. Usher at his most underrated is Usher at his best.

Robbie Williams – Love My Life

I’ve seen Mr Williams and this song get a lot of stick since its release & throughout its promotional process. I understand – Robbie’s vocals aren’t as sturdy as they once were and yes, lyrically, the song is a little ‘Tumblr’. That being said, there’s no denying this is a beautiful ballad with a lovely message. Those delicate piano chords are reminiscent of those on ‘Feel’ and this song deserved to fare just as well in the charts.

All Saints – One Strike

It takes guts for a band to make not one comeback but TWO. Their previous comeback achieved a successful single but the accompanying album flopped. This time, they returned with a scorching hot album (which reached the Top 3 of the album chart) and this fierce single. This single deserved better than its #115 position but then the single charts this year hasn’t necessarily represented good music (*ahem* One Dance being number one for 15 weeks…)

Mollie King – Back To You

Another hideously overlooked song this year. Mollie King, better known as a member of The Saturdays released this stunning, sultry electropop ballad as her debut single.

Before You Exit – When I’m Gone

Another underrated Pop smash from this year. These boys (the McDonagh brothers) deserve far more recognition. On first look, they may look like a generic boyband but they write and produce their own music. The glitchy electro production on this and the boys’ powerful vocals make it perhaps the most overlooked song of this year.

SINGLE RELEASES OF THE YEAR (LONGLIST)

Here is the long list of the best single releases of this year. We have loved, and been obsessed with every single one of these songs at some point of this year. Narrowing these down to the Top 10 above was incredibly hard but we think the Top 10 are representative of this year in great Pop music. Enjoy each of the rest of these songs!

  • Alicia Keys – Blended Family (What You Do For Love)
  • Before You Exit – When I’m Gone
  • Beyonce – Sorry
  • Blossoms – Charlemagne
  • Busted – On What You’re On
  • Charlie Puth & Selena Gomez – We don’t talk anymore
  • Christine & The Queens – Tilted
  • Craig David – When the bassline drops
  • DJ Snake & Bipolar Sunshine – Middle
  • DNCE – Cake by the Ocean
  • Drake – One Dance
  • Drake & Rihanna – Too Good
  • Ellie Goulding – Army
  • Ellie Goulding – Still Falling for You
  • Emeli Sande – Breathing Underwater
  • Frances – Borrowed Time
  • Gwen Stefani – Make you like me
  • James Arthur – Say You Won’t Let Go
  • Jesse Ware – Till the end
  • John Mayer – Love on the Weekend
  • Justin Bieber – Company
  • Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling
  • Little Mix – Touch
  • Louis Berry – Restless
  • Lukas Graham – 7 Years
  • Mac Miller – Dang!
  • Mollie King – Back To You
  • MUNA – Loudspeaker
  • Nick Jonas & Tove Lo – Close
  • Nothing But Thieves – If I Get High
  • Raleigh Ritchie & Stormzy – Keep it simple
  • Ratboy – Move
  • Rebecca Ferguson – Bones
  • Rick Astley – Dance
  • Rihanna – Kiss it Better
  • Rihanna – Work
  • Robbie Williams – Love My Life
  • Selena Gomez – Hands to myself
  • Shura – Touch
  • Shura – What’s It Gonna Be?
  • Sons of Sonix & Melanie C – Numb
  • The 1975 – A Change of Heart
  • The 1975 – Somebody Else
  • The 1975 – The Sound
  • The Chainsmokers & Halsey – Closer
  • The Fray – Singing Low
  • The Last Shadow Puppets – Miracle Aligner
  • The Weeknd – I Feel it Coming
  • TIEKS & Dan Harkna – Sunshine
  • Tom Chaplin – Quicksand
  • Usher – Crash
  • Viola Beach – Cherry Vimto
  • Wet – Deadwater
  • Wet – Weak
  • Zayn – Pillowtalk
  • Zayn – Like I Would
  • Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

All Saints – Red Flag

This album SO deserves its Top 3 album chart position. It’s a fierce album full of well written songs, slick production and a contemporary sound. These ladies deserve all the success in the world.

Busted – Night Driver

This album has been criminally overlooked this year. Many fans have complained of it being too ‘different’ from the sound they became famous for but music evolves through time. Busted made the right decision to leave the teeny-bopped pop-punk in the early noughties and try something new. The result is this stunning, atmospheric album on which the boys borrow sounds and elements from the best music of the 80’s. A brilliant album.

Frank Ocean – Blonde

This album is certainly worthy of the hype. It’s a moody and intriguing album which, whilst many of the songs feel like rough, unfinished ideas, it works.

Raleigh Ritchie – You’re a Man now, boy

Another hideously overlooked album from this year. This album gained a warm critical reception but this was not reflected in its chart position. It’s a lengthy album but one which is engaging throughout and its sound is quirky and fresh.

Rihanna – Anti

For an album that seemed to carry so much expectation then waves of anti-climax, reaction to this record was unfair. Sure, it’s not Rihanna at her commercial best but that’s why it’s so engaging and brilliant. Up ’till this album, Rihanna was the life of the party. On this album, she’s the life of the after party. It’s a moody, brooding and dark album but one which works perfectly.

Shura – Nothing’s Real

This is a stunning Pop record from start to finish, borrowing elements from Janet Jackson, Blood Orange and Madonna amongst others. Shura writes, produces and performs her own material and she’s hugely talented.

The 1975 – I like it when you sleep, for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it

This mammoth, genre-hopping, bold and brilliant album has won countless awards throughout the year and deservedly so. Every song is incredible, well-written and fantastically produced.

Tom Chaplin – The Wave

Tom Chaplin is better known as the frontman of Keane. Upon their hiatus, he relapsed into drug addiction, the recovery process of which became the inspiration for this gorgeous album. It’s a hopeful album full of inspiring Pop music with the odd trickle of electronic production.

Wet – Don’t You

This indie-pop album is subtle and low-key but gorgeous throughout.

Zayn – Mind of Mine

Expectations were high for Zayn’s debut solo album and he did not disappoint. It’s a world away from the cheesy-pop of One Direction and instead turns to sultry alternative-R&B. It’s engaging and triumphant.

ALBUM RELEASES OF THE YEAR 

Here’s the longlist of the best albums of 2016!

EP’S OF THE YEAR

Before You Exit – All The Lights

Brilliant electropop album written, produced and performed by the McDonagh brothers. Think One Direction but with more talent.

Liss – First

Quirky Pop EP which borrows lots of electronic elements and 80’s pop-influenced production. Definitely a band to watch.

MUNA – Loudspeaker EP

This American band are going to be huge next year. The Loudspeaker EP is full of soaring and confident electropop with great lyrics and fantastic guitar-work.

The Japanese House – Swim Against The Tide

The 1975’s label mate Amber Bain, better known as The Japanese House delivered another great EP this year. This is arguably the best of her 3 EPs, with more engaging and uptempo material.

ALBUM TRACKS OF THE YEAR

Here’s a list of album tracks – songs that have missed out on true exposure as they haven’t been released as commercial singles – from albums released this year.

  • Alicia Keys – The Gospel, She Don’t Really Care_1 Luv
  • All Saints – One Woman Man, Who Hurt Who, Fear, Red Flag
  • Allie X – Never Enough
  • Barry Gibb – Grand Illusion, Star Crossed Lovers, Cross to Bear,
  • Birdy – Keeping Your Head Up
  • Bruno Mars – Perm, Versace on the Floor, Straight Up and Down, Too Good to say Goodbye
  • Busted – Night Driver, New York, Thinking of You, Without It, I Will Break Your Heart, Easy, Out of Our Minds, Those Days are Gone
  • Christine & The Queens – It, Science Fiction, Half Ladies, Night 52,
  • Craig David – Louder than Words, What If, No Holding Back
  • Drake – U With Me?, Feel No Ways, Summer’s Over Interlude,
  • Emeli Sande – Right Now, I’d Rather Not, Lonely
  • Frank Ocean – Nikes, Be Yourself, Solo, Self Control, Close To You, Seigfried, Godspeed
  • Gwen Stefani – You’re my favourite, Where Would I Be?, Truth,
  • Jack Garratt – Breathe Life, The Love You’re Given,
  • James Arthur – Safe Inside, Can I Be him, Sober, Let me love the lonely, Sermon, Phoenix
  • Kanye West – Waves, Ultralight Beam, Father Stretch My Hands Part 1, Real Friends, Frank’s Track, No More Parties in LA, Fade
  • Lady Gaga – A-YO, Joanne,
  • Liss – Sorry, Good Enough,
  • Little Mix – Nobody Like You, Nothing Else Matters
  • Melanie C – Dear Life, Anymore, Room for Love,
  • Michael Buble – I Believe In You
  • Nathan Sykes – Freedom, Twist,
  • Nick Jonas – Bacon
  • Olly Murs – Predictable, Deeper, 24hrs, Read My Mind, Better than Me,
  • Raleigh Ritchie – Werld is Mine, Never Better, Cowards, A Moor, Young & Stupid, The Last Romance
  • Rebecca Ferguson – Hold Me, The Way You’re Looking at her, Pay For It
  • Rick Astley – Let it be tonight, This old house,
  • Rihanna – Same ‘Ol Mistakes, Desperado, Close to You
  • Robbie Williams – Sensitive, David’s Song, Hotel Crazy
  • Ryan O’Shaughnessy – The News, Entertainment & Warmth, Hold Me Now, No Need to worry, Supermodel, Got this feeling, Waste another day
  • Shawn Mendes – Ruin, Patience
  • Shura – Kidz ‘N’ Stuff, What Happened To Us
  • The 1975 –She’s American, If I Believe You, Please Be Naked, Lostmyhead, I like it when you sleep…, This Must Be My Dream, Loving Someone, Paris, Nana
  • Tom Chaplin – The River, I Remember You, Hold Onto our Love, Solid Gold, See it so clear
  • Tom Odell – Here I am
  • Usher – Missin’ U, FWM, Need U
  • Wet – It’s all in vain, Don’t wanna be your girl, Island, All The Ways, Move Me
  • Zayn – It’s You, She, Drunk, Intermission: Flower, Truth

 

George Michael – 20 of his best

1) Too Funky

George’s forte as a musician was to create brilliant, memorable dance-pop or sincere, aching ballads. This song falls into the former and is a plea for sexual activity, utilising a spoken clip from 1967 film ‘The Graduate’.

2) A Different Corner

George once said the following about his second solo single: “I think you can tell that ‘A Different Corner’ is genuinely the sound of a man who’s heart’s been broken. I was 19 and the best critique I ever heard of that song was from a friend of mine who said, ‘It’s beautiful, pathetic, but beautiful.'”

3) Cowboys and Angels

A brilliantly written jazz song which Michael revealed to be about a bizarre love triangle in which a woman was in love with him whilst he was in love with a man.

4) I knew You Were Waiting For Me (with Aretha Franklin)

It takes courage and a belter of a vocal to come anywhere near those of soul diva Aretha Franklin but thankfully George rose to the challenge to sing with one of his idols. A brilliant, powerful track with a killer chorus.

5) Fastlove

One of the best pop tracks from the 90’s, this was one of the more uptempo moments from the overall melancholic and brooding nature of ‘Older’. It is unusual in that it has no conventional chorus but its utilisation of hip-hop beats, brass instruments and lyrics about sexual desire make it one of Michael’s stand out tracks of his career and this was a huge hit in 1996.

6) Amazing

A sweet acoustic guitar-driven track which refreshingly used elements of acid-jazz and dance-pop. A testament to his partner of the time Kenny Goss, this piece of pop perfection was a hit single from George’s final album of all new material ‘Patience’.

7) Freeek!

A filthy electropop track which utilises multiple samples from a variety of pop & hip hop tracks to formulate its expensive-sounding production. The video is pretty sexy too…

8) Freedom! 90

An all time classic which George famously performed at the London 2012 Olympics. The video is also noteworthy due to the absence of George and instead it featuring five supermodels lipsynching its lyrics.

9) Spinning the Wheel

One of George’s most underrated works. A jazz-pop track which utilises brass instruments and a funky bass line over hip-hop beats, this track depicts the worry of a lover whose partner is sexually promiscuous during an age where AIDS was newly discovered and prevalent in the West.

10) John & Elvis Are Dead

Another of George’s most underrated works. This psychadelic Pop track documents a character who awakes from a coma to find many iconic singers have died. Slightly eerie now, considering George himself has joined them.

11) Through

A stunning ballad from George’s final album of original material ‘Patience’. Utilising little more than strings and meticulously programmed synthesizers, this desperate ballad presents a man worn down by life and pushed to the edge.

12) I Can’t Make You Love Me

The original, of course is a country ballad by Bonnie Raitt. George covered this for his ‘MTV Unplugged’ session and performed perhaps the best version. His vocals are aching with sincerity and it is by far one of the most emotional and pure versions of this beautiful song.

13) Understand

Stunning, space-y track which was previously unreleased prior to its inclusion on George’s 25 greatest hits album. George has said this track is a follow up to Wham! classic ‘Everything She Wants’ but is far more melancholic and sincere in nature.

14) Father Figure

Another classic, this soul-infused Pop track reportedly began life as a dance track until Michael removed the percussion and realised it worked better at a slower tempo.

15) Jesus to a Child

Gorgeous, heartbreaking ballad which George wrote in tribute to his Brazillian lover Anselmo Feleppa who died of AIDS in 1993. Utilising Bossa Nova music (a genre of Brazillian music which fuses samba and jazz music together), George apparently suffered severe writer’s block following Feleppa’s death but eventually wrote this track in under an hour. Following George’s death, Dame Esther Rantzen, founder of charity Childline revealed that Michael had secretly donated all of the song’s royalties to the charity.

16) Waltz Away Dreaming (with Toby Bourke)

Another little-known tracks by George which was originally written by Irish singer-songwriter Toby Bourke. Bourke was signed to Michael’s label and Michael reportedly loved the song so much, he ended up featuring on and co-producing the gorgeous ballad.

17) Outside

Brilliant, funky disco-track which parodies the infamous 1998 toilet incident in which Michael was arrested in a Beverly Hills lavatory for engaging in a lewd act. George handled the incident brilliantly, talking openly and frankly on many talk shows after the incident and this song and its accompanying video is a self-deprecating, humorous version of events.

18) Faith

One of George’s best known/well-loved tracks which was written in a rock and roll style.

19) Cars & Trains

A great track which lyrically tells of a collection of self-destructing individuals. The production on this is particularly brilliant – the glitchy finish was way ahead of its time (this seems to litter much current pop music) and the meticulously programmed/layered track adds to its brilliance.

20) December Song (I Dreamed of Christmas)

We all know and love ‘Last Christmas’, of course. George was always critical of much of the material he wrote in Wham! and it’s likely this effort was written as an attempt to write a festive song with more credibility. It never quite achieved the same status as ‘Last Christmas’ but each are brilliant in their own way. This song was written with long-time writing partner David Austin and was initially released as a free download on George’s official website before finally being released a few years later. It’s a dark, melancholic and dreamy song but it’s George at his best and is not dissimilar from much of his best work on ‘Older’.

The Music Box: An update

Hello!

You may have realised that this blog has been lying rather dormant in the last few months. I began my first full time job in September and have found it difficult to strike the work-life balance necessary to keep my hobbies, such as this blog, going.

I love this blog, I really do. I’ve spent hours working on it over the years – perfecting reviews, compiling playlists, playing with the layout etc but unfortunately it is not a viable project with my job. I must be honest with myself in that I cannot invest the time and effort needed to continue its growth.

Therefore things will change in 2017. I want it to continue this blog’s life promoting new up & coming artists and songs etc but it will be on a less regular basis.

Here’s what I aim to keep:

  • Monthly Mixtape
  • Themed Playlists
  • Music Monday (possibly an abridged version)

So thank you for the support this year – whether you’ve read loads of our posts or just one or two, every read is greatly appreciated.

Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Marc
The Music Box.

 

October Mixtape

This month’s mixtape is a little heavy in melancholia but that’s the beauty of music – getting us through the rough times.

I’m not posting much here anymore because I am struggling to find the time. I am not 100% sure I get much traffic anyway. I continue to post these monthly mixtapes because I like to share what I am listening to and they don’t take long to compile/post.

Enjoy.

 

 

 

September Mixtape

It’s September which means it’s time for the September mixtape!

We’d have loved to have included some material from Frank Ocean’s ‘Blonde’ album but unfortunately it is not available to share. Still, here’s twenty tracks we have been loving listening to in this past month.

Music Monday – Volume Ninety Nine

1) TIEKS & Dan Harkna – Sunshine (Acoustic Version)

Gorgeous acoustic guitar version of the smash summer dance hit which almost surpasses the original.

2) Carly Rae Jepsen – Roses

Sweet Pop ballad with jittery synthesizers, thunderous percussion and Jepsen’s syrupy vocals. Taken from her new EP comprised of eight outtakes from her brilliant album ‘Emotion’.

3) Mac Miller & Anderson Paak – Dang!

American rapper Mac Miller teams up with Anderson . Paak on this subtle, chilled-out tropical-house influenced hip hop track. Buoyant yet laid back, this is a huge record.

4) Tom Chaplin – Quicksand

Keane frontman Tom Chaplin goes it alone on this fantastic pop debut. Co-written by Matt Hales (better known as Aqualung), this triumphant pop track is the lead single from Tom’s forthcoming debut album ‘The Wave’. It doesn’t stray far from Keane’s sound (in fact, it is essentially a Keane song) but it works in Tom’s favour.

5) John Legend – Start

John Legend does what he does best on this schmaltzy piano ballad. A stunning love song, ‘Start’ is taken from the soundtrack of ‘Southside With You’ which utilises nothing but John’s gorgeous falsetto and tender piano chords.

 

 

 

Music Monday – Volume Ninety Eight

Welcome back to Music Monday. We’ve been a little bit AWOL in the last few months and for that, we’re sorry! Music Monday blogs will now feature five tracks instead of ten to enable us to continue to bring you the best in new music. Enjoy these 5 massive tracks!

1) Mollie King – Back To You

Member of The Saturdays, Mollie King has delivered an incredible and triumphant debut solo single. ‘Back To You’ is a moody electropop track with an equally stunning cinematic video.

2) Usher – Crash

Usher at his most underrated is Usher at his best. Minimalist yet slick and catchy, this moody piece of R&B utilises Usher’s gorgeous and faultless falsetto over jittery percussion.

3) Sons of Sonix ft Melanie C – Numb

Ex member of the Spice Girls Melanie C once again proves her versatility and worth as a solo artist on this huge summer smash. This huge tropical house track is a collaboration with London production duo Sons of Sonix.

4) Christine and The Queens – Tilted

This simplistic yet effortlessly catchy artpop track is without a doubt one of the best tracks of 2016. It may have been around for a while but we haven’t had the opportunity to include it in a Music Monday edition yet so here it is!

5) Tieks FT Dan Harkna – Sunshine (Extended Mix)

This huge house track has earned a surge of popularity from its use in the new Fiat 500 TV advert. Repetitive, maybe but its house piano riffs and sturdy vocals make it a feel-good classic.