Alternatively Pop’s Top 20 Tracks of 2018

As the dawn of a new year begins, the world takes a moment to reflect on the year gone by. Here at Alternatively Pop, we take that as our chance to reflect on the music released this year. Without further ado, here are Alternatively Pop’s Top 20 Tracks of 2018.

1. Pynk – Janelle Monaé

Janelle Monaé failed to release a track that was anything less than stellar this year, but ‘Pynk’ was by far and away the greatest. If you’re looking for a cry for unity among beings, an immaculate exposé of the construction that is gender and a beautiful ode to femininity, ‘Pynk’ is the song for you. It’s damn catchy as well.

2. God is a Woman – Ariana Grande

Another artist who had an incredible 2018, Grande had some great tracks and some less than so, but ‘God is a Woman’ lived up to its title. A ballsy female anthem that holds no punches, ‘God is a Woman couldn’t have been more poignant in a year where women found their voice. ‘God is a Woman’ also has one of the greatest hooks of the year, and the gospel influence at the song’s climax is arguably the year’s most goosebump worthy moment, leaving you believing that God truly is a Woman.

3. You Say – Lauren Daigle 

From a more risqué portrayal of God to a more traditional Christian offering, Daigle’s ‘You Say’ is a gorgeous ballad that recognizes the comfort, hope, and self-belief that religion and God can provide someone. A straight-up piano ballad thy focuses the ear on Daigle’s vocals and lyrics, ‘You Say’ is a simple yet stunning track in a year full of complexity and boundary-pushing.

4. Alfie’s Song (Not So Typical Love Song) – The Bleachers

A not so typical love song written by a not so typical pairing for a not so typical movie, ‘Alfie’s Song’ is the perfect soundtrack for 2018’s ‘Love, Simon’. Written by Jack Antonoff with frequent hit-maker Isley Juber and resident heartthrob Harry Styles, ‘Alfie’s Song’ is pure feel-good movie magic that is the perfect companion to a rom-com.

5. Not So Bad in L.A. – Allie X

Allie X has been consistently blasting out pop bangers over the past few years, but ‘Not So Bad in LA’ is easily one of her best so far. A searing satirical take on the city of angels delivered in a lazy, disinterested vocal with a touch of quirky thrown in, this is one for the ages.

6. Curious – Hayley Kiyoko

As representation takes hold of entertainment, LGBT artists have begun to rise to prominence. One of “20GayTeens” main breakthroughs was Hayley Kiyoko. Her debut album’s lead single, ‘Curious’, is one of the reasons of why. The nonchalant way that the track doesn’t make a big deal of how it varies from the usual heterosexual break up bop is what sets it apart, but that infectious hook sure helps.

7. Sue Me – Sabrina Carpenter


It’s amazing how far a catchy hook will get you and ‘Sue Me’ is a perfect example of how a brilliant hook can elevate a track even further than where it already was. The sassy vocal of Carpenter perfectly matches the unbothered attitude this track adopts. From its screw you lyrics to perfect synth production, ‘Sue Me’ should have been a surefire hit.

8. Sanctify – Years & Years

Years & Years ‘Sanctify’ is one of those tracks that kind of seeps into your skin until one day you wake up and realise just how well the song is constructed. From those dark, skittish drums to the equally haunting vocal of frontman Olly Alexander to the clever wordplay of the lyrics, ‘Sanctify’ is an immaculate conception.

9. Space Cowboy – Kacey Musgraves

Speaking of clever wordplay, Kacey Musgraves’ ‘Space Cowboy’ dives right into that arena. One of country’s more experimental artists, ‘Space Cowboy’ perfectly showcases Musgraves’ ability to toe the line between classic country ballad and more pop-influenced moments, as she tinges the track with a little something more than just southern charm that elevates the track beyond being just another acoustic guitar moment that gets lost.

10. Moment – Blanche

Blanche is one of the most fascinating artists to ever come out of the Eurovision. All of her 2018 droplets could have made this list, but it’s ‘Moment’ that truly capitalises on what Blanche did on last year’s ‘City Lights’ and raises the level. Here, Blanche goes from sheer potential to full-blown pop star, with her emotive vocal adding dimension to the sensual clap-along beat of ‘Moment’.

11. Bloom – Troye Sivan

Troye Sivan is one of the finest pop artists to come out of this decade, and ‘Bloom’ is the perfect example of how he has matured since his debut. The tongue in cheek lyrics laced over the sweet as sugar synth is the perfect encapsulation of sexual liberation and Sivan’s own quirky brand. Also, it’s the use of metaphor is about as good as it gets, so that earns it points as well.

12. Venice Bitch – Lana Del Rey

Despite rarely varying her sound too much, Lana Del Rey somehow always makes it sound fresh and new. On ‘Venice Bitch’, Del Rey goes back to basics, singing lightly about her sugar baby antics while backed by an acoustic guitar. Oddly the track is nine minutes as Del Rey tacks on some odd psychedelic instrumental at the end that somehow makes the track even more endearing.

13. Party For One – Carly Rae Jepsen

One hit Wonder turned cult favourite Carly Rae Jepsen returned this year following her critical darling of an album, E•MO•TION, and she delivered. Although similar to much of her previous material, ‘Party For One’ is an anthem of self-love (of the very literal variety). The sexual innuendo here is half the fun but the bouncing beat is hard to ignore and when you put them together, you have another banger from Jepsen.

14. God in Jeans – Ryan Beatty

Although not technically a single, this was one of those tracks I just couldn’t ignore. A weird hybrid between rock, country, and R&B, ‘God In Jeans’ takes on the sexes up religion claiming that “God is real and he was sleeping in my bed last night”. The track is one of those perfect blends of genre that exists on a whole level of its own.

15. Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer

After a tumultuous few years, 5 Seconds of Summer blasted back to flying form in 2018, and ‘Youngblood’ was the anthem for that comeback. The track’s thumping guitar line gets the blood pumping like no other before letting the calm set in with the minimalistic approach to the track’s verses, resulting in a rollercoaster-esque banger.

16. Miracle – CHRVCHES

CHVRCHES ‘Miracle’ is another blend genres, here blurring the boundaries of big pop and generic EDM. The drop is arguably one of the most satisfying of the year, avoiding the pitfalls of unoriginality, instead of producing a drop that actually evokes a headband instead of a groan. The track’s boldness in its production, as well as the vocal performance, sets ‘Miracle’ apart in a field where it’s very difficult to even try and be original, never mind actually pull it off.

17. Crush – Tessa Violet

A triply little number, Tessa Violet’s ‘Crush’ just oozes summer. The track relies on very little production, with Violet sing-speaking over a sparking kick track until the song climaxes into a slightly less minimalist chorus. Violet also throws in some little effective samples on the bridge to add to the track’s cool edge.

18. 5 In The Morning – Charli XCX

Pop’s resident party girl, Charli XCX released some clunkers in 2018 but who cares when she also dropped her best bop since ‘Break The Rules’. A mix between the oddball production of Pop 2 and more classic pop hits, ‘5 In The Morning’ so arguably XCX’s most on brand track to date. She sings about how great her afterparty game is with her cocky vocal providing serious ‘fuck you’ vibes, ‘5 In The Morning’ is the perfect night out banger.

19. King’s Dead – Jay Rock with Kendrick Lamar, Future & James Blake

Infinitely better than the Black Panther soundtrack’s lead single ‘All The Stars’, ‘King’s Dead’ is a stuttering star turn that showcases the talents of Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, James Blake, and even the ever-mumbling Future. ‘King’s Dead’ does exactly what a great movie track does – standing on its own as a song while also elevating the motion picture it was created for.

20. Currency – Ivy Adara

As I said before, it’s incredible how far a catchy hook will get you. And that’s exactly why this track is here. Ivy Adara’s ‘Currency’ isn’t a slam dunk, in fact, the track isn’t all that great as a whole. But that hook is so good. Although the lyrics are a bit cliché, the production takes all the right cues and Adara gives off such cool girl vibes she somehow gets away with singing about such cliché topics such as dreams and rainbows to the point that she has you singing along with her.

Listen to all of our Top 20 Tracks of 2018 on our official Spotify Playlist here:
https://open.spotify.com/embed/user/ryanxoc/playlist/20DOE9hlGJKC1y7mOcd7cF

Advertisements

Alternatively Pop’s Top 15 Albums of 2017

2017 gave birth to wonderful comebacks, marvelous debuts and brilliant follow-ups, marking one of the strongest years (creatively that is) for pop music. Here are our picks for the top 15 albums this year.

  1. Melodrama – Lorde

melodramaAn immaculate culmination of synths and sorrow, Lorde left only destruction in her wake upon her return to the music industry. An unprecedented triumph, Melodrama ranks among the greatest pop albums since music’s conception and proves that the artist behind it isn’t quite the one-trick pony some thought she was.

 

  1. Reputation – Taylor Swift

taylor coverWhilst her contemporary, Lorde, took a more experimental approach on melodrama, Swift ventured further into the mainstream (with a sprinkle of her own experimentation), and produced the polished and perfected pop that glittered on every second of every track on reputation. A departure from the demure crafted synth-pop of 1989. Swift stretched the very boundaries of pop music, and did so to a great degree of success.

 

  1. Waves – Rachel Platten

wavesA perfect example of an artist maturing into they’re sound. Platten’s Waves delivered on all the potential that its predecessor Wildfire promised. Combining a more vulnerable and sincere approach to the album’s lyrics and a slicker dance-pop production, Waves wipes away the façade and pushes Platten out from behind the clichéd power slogans that were one too many on Wildfire and shows her off for the force of nature that she truly is.

 

  1. Harry Styles – Harry Styles

harryA cohesive and risky debut rooted in soft and indie rock was not the solo project many expected when Styles began curating following the announcement of his band’s hiatus. However, it is what he created and he truly displayed every bit of talent he had. A record full of interesting tracks with different yet cohesive production makes for a wonderful debut.

 

  1. Rainbow – Kesha

rainbowBoth Lorde and Swift may have made strong comebacks in 2017, but it was the reinvention of Kesha that made for a truly pleasant surprise. Following a very public legal battle, the star returned to her comfort zone – the recording studio – and made a record that, while flawed, displayed her extensive capabilities to dabble in various genres and uncanny ability to write from unique perspectives.

 

  1. What Do You Think About The Car? – Declan McKenna

declan mckennaIn a year of marvellous debuts, McKenna seized the opportunity to capture the views of his generation. Discussing a variety of subjects that plague millennials, McKenna put those issues to an indie rock soundtrack fabulously.

 

  1. Lust For Life – Lana Del Rey

alt pop lanaAs always, Del Rey produced an album full of vintage, wistful and melancholic gorgeousness. While the first half of the album has its let downs, the second half is home to some of Del Rey’s best work to date.

 

 

 

  1. Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

Dua_Lipa_(album)A tour de force of pop magic that ranges from slower acoustic to tropical club anthems – such as the insatiable ‘New Rules’ – Dua Lipa affirmed that she is the next big power in pop music and she is here to stay.

 

 

  1. Ride – Loreen

Loreen_-_Ride_CoverMoving from her prior EDM driven releases to a more mid-tempo electro-alternative sound in a seamless fashion, Loreen’s Ride gave a darker and mature look at the star’s already unique sound and vocals, bring about one of the year’s best alternative releases.

 

 

  1. Places – Lea Michele

Lea_Michele_-_Places_(Official_Album_Cover)Places is like listening to someone slipping into their old favourite jumper after spending the entire day in an uncomfortable gown. Michele never truly sounded comfortable on her debut (except for the stunning ‘If You Say So’) but that discomfort disintegrates as she steps into her Broadway shoes and her comfort zone on the masterful traditional pop of her sophomore effort.

 

  1. Nervous System – Julia Michaels

268x0wAlthough it is technically an EP, Nervous System is one of pop’s best songwriters make her grand entrance into the singing side of her industry. A fabulous collection of modern mainstream pop that, while not overly unique, is fantastically executed.

 

 

  1. Younger Now – Miley Cyrus

MileyA beautiful but bumpy return to her country roots, Younger Now brought about some of Cyrus’ best work and worst work alike. Tracks like ‘Malibu’ and ‘I Would Die For You’ mark some of the most mature and intentional work of Cyrus’ career and made for an enjoyable listen despite its shortcomings.

 

  1. Ctrl – SZA

1200x630bbA masterclass in modern R&B, Sza explored themes of femininity, what it means to be young and all the issues that come with that with commanding lyrics and breath-taking production that displays a grasp and willingness to push the boundaries of R&B that is beyond her years.

 

 

  1. American Teen – Khalid

1200x630bb (1)Another album based in R&B, American Teen pushes the boundaries of the genre in the exact opposite direction that SZA went in and does it just as wonderfully. Khalid embraces the mainstream influences of pop music while remaining firmly rooted in R&B with brilliance and conviction.

 

  1. Gemini – Macklemore

220px-Macklemore_GeminiA mixed album that feels more uneven than the other 14 albums on this list, Gemini is held together by its brightest moments and the spirit of the artist behind. Every track and every moment, good or bad, feels genuine and earned and necessary and that, is the brilliance of the album.

 

 

 

Alternatively Pop’s Top 20 Songs of 2017

We count down our picks for the top 10 tracks of 2017

2017 was an… interesting year. Albeit not the best year in other areas, at least the music was good, even great in some cases. We were blessed with some brilliant songs this year. These are (subjective to opinion) the best of those.

  1. Praying – Kesha

Simultaneously, a piercing battle cry and heart-breaking anthem of pain, Kesha’s first release in almost five years came as nothing less than a triumph.  A stunning return to the industry and a musical 180, ‘Praying’ was the perfect encapsulation of the hurt and rage that the Trump-era has brought upon the world, as well as the personal turmoil of the voice that brought the track to life.

2. Bad Liar – Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez is not the first name that is on the tip of everyone’s tongue when it comes to experimental pop songs. However, Gomez’s ‘Bad Liar’ was an immaculate pop song that stopped critics in their tracks with its simplistic production paired with Gomez’s sensual and breathy vocals. Written over the bassline of the Talking Heads’ ‘Psycho Killer’, Gomez put herself well and truly on the map with this one.

3. Green Light – Lorde

A champion of everything weirdly brilliant, Lorde knocked everything she had done out of the water when she returned with ‘Green Light’. Marvellously rousing, ‘Green Light’ is like a jigsaw put together incorrectly but fitting perfectly all the same. Mismatched song writing over a flawlessly building pop beat, Lorde made sure her return was as perfect as it could be.

4. Look What You Made Me Do – Taylor Swift

Although it’s follow-up ‘…Ready For It?’ is sonically superior, it is ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ that truly shows off the brilliance of its creator. Arguably the most divisive song of the year, ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ was the comeback heard on every corner of the globe, and only in the wake of its flickering and savage arrival, could one appreciate the genius behind it. From the choice to make the pre-chorus build to nothing to the risk of interpolating Right Said Fred’s ‘I’m Too Sexy’, Swift made sure her return came singed with the rage and anger only pop’s most hated person could muster.

5. The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home – Declan Mckenna

On ‘The Kids Don’t Wanna Come Home’, Mckenna perfectly captured what it is to be tethering on the line between youth and adulthood in a world where so much is so unsure. The raw vocal of Mckenna paired with the pondering almost conversational lyrics make for an impeccable indie-rock track that sounds like stepping into someone’s thoughts.

6. City Lights – Blanche

The Eurovision song contest is assured to give you two things – camp over the top performances and awkward instances of countries giving their neighbour points. However, every year, there is some songs that stand out among their sub-par competitors. Belgium’s entry to the 2017 contest was one of those rare shining diamonds. An impeccably crafted pop song, ‘City Lights’ relies on its simplicity, in both production and vocals to truly make it epic and god, does it succeed.

7. Sign of the Times – Harry Styles

God only knew what the hiatus of the world’s biggest boyband would bring about and while his bandmates went in reasonably predictable routes, Harry Styles shed his mainstream cocoon and dove head first into the world of rock. A sweeping soft rock ballad that Bowie would have been proud of, Styles showed exactly what he was capable and flexed his creative muscles to their full extent for what may well have been first time in years.

8. Love – Lana Del Rey

On the lead single from her fourth full length, Del Rey returned to the vintage greatness of tracks such as ‘Young and Beautiful’. ‘Love’ arrived wrapped in a bow and dripping with Hollywood glamour to deliver an awe-inspiringly cinematic testament to the beauty of young love in a way that only the voice of Del Rey can conjure.

9. Disco Tits – Tove Lo

A sexually charged club anthem, ‘Disco Tits’ held nothing back as Tove Lo bared it all. The EDM tinged dance-pop pounds and bounces unapologetically and lets it all hang out – literally. The song draws on disco as well as more modern influences and explores a care free attitude and approach to the world – and its fabulous.

10. Feel It Still – Portugal. The Man

A retro track from a little known alternative band is an odd thing to find within the top 40, never mind the top 10, and yet that’s exactly where Portugal. The Man found themselves this year with ‘Feel It Still’. This funky hit harkens back to 60’s groove in both production and lyrically, resulting in an impossible to ignore earworm.

11. Love is Alive – Lea Michele

Michele truly created something special with the release of ‘Love is Alive’. A stunning broadwayesque power ballad that reaches to the skies and fabulously showcases the vocal talent of Michele, the track perfectly captures the essence of the star who created it.

12. Watch – Billie Eilish

Speaking of talent, this fifteen-year-old singer-songwriter is one of the best things to emerge in music in 2017. Perfectly capturing the dramatic nature of teenage love and over the top feelings that come along with it, Eilish displays a masterful touch on this pop masterpiece that throbs as though it is a recording of the broken heart that inspired it.

13. Lost Without You – Freya Ridings

In a similar vein to Blanche’s ‘City Lights’, Riding’s heart-breaking ballad thrives on its simplicity. Reduced to merely a piano and the gut-wrenching voice of Ridings, ‘Lost Without You’ displays the brilliance in the less is more mantra as its quietest moments are in fact, its loudest.

14. The Cure – Lady Gaga

After the dramatic departure from pop that Joanne took, Gaga returned to her comfort zone with this track. Debuted during her Coachella set, The Cure is a flawlessly fashioned radio hit with a chorus that is undeniably addictive and annoyingly irresistible.

15. Uh Huh – Julia Michaels

One of pop’s most prolific songwriters, Michaels had one of the best breakouts of the year with her hit ‘Issues’. However, it is its follow-up ‘Uh Huh’ that impeccably shows off her genius as a pop mastermind. With a guitar instrumental backing up the verses, it is the drop right into the chorus that makes this one of those unskippable ones that sneaks into very corner of your brain.

16. ’71 Charger – Loreen

Rooted in alternative music, ‘’71 Charger’ broke new ground for the Swedish hit maker. The track draws heavily on minimalistic beats and production, showcasing the voice of Loreen, who makes the bold choice to match and double down on her minimalistic production, with an equally minimalistic but mystifying vocal performance that can only be described as brilliant.

17. Drew Barrymore – SZA

I always believed that Drew Barrymore was the superior Charlie’s Angel and thankfully, R&B’s newest prodigy agrees. SZA cites Barrymore as an inspiration as she played the roles that SZA herself identified with such as the girl who couldn’t get the guy and the track perfectly captures that as SZA asks her lover is she is enough for him.

18. Waking Up Slow – Gabrielle Aplin

A brilliant and overlooked talent, Aplin has developed and coined a unique sound since her debut English Rain. ‘Waking Up Slow’ is fabulous new-age synth driven dance track that is alight with euphoria as bright as the sun.

19. I Know – Aly & AJ

From the pop royalty that brought us the legendary track that is ‘Potential Break-up Song’, Aly & AJ continued to deliver on their potential a decade after their last release. The track was yet another notch in the marvellous year that experimental female pop music has had. A dream pop song that has its head in the clouds and its production in 80s synth pop, ‘I Know’ plays like candy floss and vintage shops.

20. Lost in Your Light – Dua Lipa

Another breakout star of 2017, Lipa’s ‘New Rules’ was absolutely everywhere as it dominated airwaves, its predecessor was equally worthy of adoration. A catchy hook, peppy beat and interesting feature from Miguel makes for an all-around dance-pop banger that was, sadly, ignored.

Listen to all the tracks on this list on Spotify here

ALBUM REVIEW: Lust For Life – Lana Del Rey

After the misstep that was Honeymoon, Del Rey returns with an mixed bag of modernised vintage that is both incredible and cinematic as always

alt pop lanaIn recent years, the music industry has changed drastically. Streaming has taken over sales, and genres have blended. One such blend is the combo of alternative and pop. I’m not talking the alternative music of a prior era that just happened to be popular because that was a whole different animal. Ushered in by artists like The 1975 and this review’s subject Lana Del Rey, this genre blend has taken music fans, and occasionally the charts, by storm with a foot firmly in each genre that it stems from. Since its introduction, artists such as Halsey and Lorde have added to the almost feverish fan following of this genre. However it is Del Rey who has remained at the top, queen of the genre she helped bring into the mainstream.  After the masterpieces that were ‘Born To Die’ and ‘Ultraviolence’, Del Rey seemed to lose her footing on 2015’s ‘Honeymoon’. A lacklustre and uninteresting mix of what she had done before, it was a surprising misstep for such a prolific artist in what should be her prime.

However, on ‘Lust For Life’, Del Rey regains her footing, and although not as strong as her early material, she is slowly fighting back. Her sweeping cinematic lyrics and production are front and centre on the album as she discusses themes of love, lust and Americana that have made her the artist she is today. However, her usual combination of toxic love and romanticising of the star spangled banner is flipped on its head. Here, she croons of love in a positive light while adopting a realistic approach to her discussion of America, ultimately creating a very timely record. Del Rey is worried. She is worried for the future and what is to come in an Trump-age America that is so different to the one she has lovingly sang about since her beginning.

Another change in her formula, ‘Lust For Life’ sees Del Rey dive into the world of features, to varying degrees of success. Collaborations with Stevie Nicks and Steve Ono Lennon (entitled ‘Beautiful People Beautiful Problems’ and ‘Tomorrow Never Came’) mark some of Del Rey’s most gorgeous and brilliant work to date. The album’s title track sees her work with long-time collaborator The Weeknd that is satisfactory but lacks the brilliance that one would expect of two of music’s brightest stars, especially when combined with the magic of Max Martin. However, it is the Playboi Carter and A$AP Rocky features (the latter of which appears twice in succession) where Del Rey shows chinks in her armour. ‘Groupie Love’ is the stronger of the two but fails to really amount to anything more than filler which is odd for a song with a feature. ‘Summer Bummer’ is just that, a bummer. In fact, it is these two tracks and those that surround it that give the record its slump. Following the brilliant ‘13 Beaches’ and ‘Cherry’, the trap infused production on the two A$AP Rocky tracks, ‘White Mustang’ and ‘In My Feelings’ just completely misses the mark that the same production on the former two hit so perfectly.

CG_LFL_2The album’s second half is where Del Rey hits her stride. The vintage production and lyricism is some of her best and it is where she embraces her worries about the Americana she loves so dearly both explicitly on two of the album’s highlights ‘God Bless America – and All the Beautiful Women in It’ and ‘When the World Was at War We Kept Dancing’, and implicitly with tracks such as ‘Change’ and ‘Get Free’, the latter of which fabulously harkens back to the overwhelming vintage and Americana of Del Rey’s own ‘Ride’ and ‘American’, the former of which gets a direct reference in the chorus.

Ultimately, Del Rey produces some of her best and some of her worst tracks to date here. However, ‘Lust for Life’ is home to more hits than misses and when the majority of those hits come in the album’s latter half, It leaves the album with a wonderful taste of what is to come and the potential that Del Rey possesses and sometimes puts to use.