1. Bleachers - "I Wanna Get Better"
I hated all the fun. singles, so I was skeptical of anyone from that band doing anything good, but Jack Antonoff doesn't sing anything like Nate Ruess, and beyond that this song is just fantastic. His girlfriend is Lena Dunham, which only matters insofar as she directed the song's video and it's awful, but otherwise who cares. Everything else I've heard from this album has been pretty good, too, hope it has a ton of hit singles. Check out my favorite 2014 singles playlist on Spotify btw.
2. Michael Jackson f/ Justin Timberlake - "Love Never Felt So Good"
Although the whole enterprise of raiding Michael's vaults for posthumous releases is a little distasteful, I do kind of like the way they handled Xscape, picking out a small selection of songs, and giving you both the original demos and the more polished remixes by Timbaland and other modern producers. The results are mostly uninspiring, but this song is so good that it almost justifies the enterprise to have this out in the world -- I love the idea that all these circumstances conspired to give us a Michael Jackson song written by Paul Anka and produced by Timbaland. This is just such a warm, lovely tune, with the cheesy sentimental side of MJ intermingled with a dance track. I kind of prefer the Michael solo version to the single with Timberlake, but whatever.
3. Katy Perry - "Birthday"
When "Unconditionally" stalled at #14 on the Hot 100 after nine consecutive Katy Perry singles that went top 3, it wasn't that surprising because "Unconditionally" was dreary garbage and "Dark Horse" was quickly stealing its thunder. But "Birthday" recently stalled at #17 and it's been kind of a shock to hear something so good and so firmly in the mold of #1s like "California Girls" and "Last Friday Night" not perform similarly. That video is pretty awful, though, I think the lack of YouTube hits may be actively hurting its chart performance (it currently has less than 25% as many views as even the "Unconditionally" video). Even the lyric video has more views than the proper video.
4. Blake Shelton f/ Gwen Sebastian - "My Eyes"
"The Voice" has become such a pyramid scheme, consistently boosting the careers of the celebrity coaches while doing virtually nothing for the aspiring singers it's supposed to be helping, that it makes total sense that the most a finalist like Gwen Sebastian has done with her career since the show is appear on the 7th single from an album by her coach on the show, Blake Shelton. This track is pretty great, though.
5. Miranda Lambert - "Automatic"
Never been a big Miranda fan, so it's unsurprising that the lead single all her fans were disappointed by seems totally fine to me, other than the annoying car sound effects towards the end. It's funny to hear her sing longingly about the days when "staying married was the only way to work your problems out," though, considering that Blake Shelton left his first wife for her.
6. Mila J - "Smoke, Drink, Break Up"
Jhene Aiko's "The Worst" has really been the worst thing about R&B radio in the last few months, no pun intended. So it's a pleasant surprise that she has a sister who also makes music and can actually sing and has a dope single.
7. Rich Homie Quan f/ Problem - "Walk Thru"
I'm bummed that this has seemingly already stalled on the charts, it really felt like an endlessly likeable song that really stood a good chance of being a proper follow up to "Type of Way" after Quan started blowing up with features.
8. Rick Ross f/ Lil Wayne - "Thug Cry"
Ross has really hit an odd career patch where he's still a big star and appears on hits, but he can't seem to make any for his own albums. God Forgives squeaked by with "Diced Pineapples" doing okay, but Mastermind hasn't had gotten a single track into the top 20 on urban radio (which has never happened with any previous album): not "No Games" (which didn't even make the final tracklist), not "The Devil Is A Lie," not this. I actually like "Thug Cry," unlike the other songs, though, wish it was doing better. One of Wayne's best verses in recent memory, too.
9. Eli Young Band - "Dust"
Of all the acts making fake Tom Petty songs on country radio nowadays, these guys might be the best at it. It still blows my mind that this band is led not by a guy named Eli Young but by a guy with the last name Eli and a guy with the last name Young.
10. Eric Church - "The Outsiders"
I generally like Church's softer tracks like "Springsteen" and "Give Me Back My Hometown" and find his rocker side pretty unappealing, so I was pretty kneejerk about deciding "The Outsiders" sucked and put it on the worst list on my round up of 2014 country singles. My local hard rock station, 98 Rock, has picked up on "The Outsiders" in the last few months, though, and I realized it actually sounds totally good there, would be fine with Church making a crossover to rock radio with his uptempo stuff. The tempo changes in the instrumental section at the end are just killer, and kinda balance out the terrible lyrics in the verses for me.
Worst Single of the Month: Calvin Harris - "Summer"
I kinda respect Calvin Harris for being able to have hits on US radio with his own voice on them, which pretty much no other EDM producer has been able to do if they also release singles with established pop stars on them. But his voice has such an unappealing croak to it, and this song really feels like it couldn't be a more lazy and cynical 'summer jam' if he just said the word "summer" and then dropped the generic dance breakdown.