Sam Smith was my star of the year. Stay With Me had a special raw emotion, melody and perfect instrumentation that few singles do but the rest of the album is absolutely top notch too – I had it on repeat for months, especially after I saw him live at Wilderness. Even in the pouring rain which scared lots of people into the food tents, he was my favourite live discovery of the year.
The whole album succeeds because he put his all into every song and made them personal, intimate and relatable.
Highlights: Stay With Me, I’m Not The Only One, Leave Your Lover
I fell in love with George almost as much as Sam and it was tough to rank him second. His album was also on repeat, although I haven’t been fortunate enough to get tickets to see him live yet.
He has a rustic stripped-back charm, an innocence almost contradicted by the experiences he is singing about and his voice is just a simple delight. Wanted On Voyage is an incredibly strong debut with thoughtful lyrics and catchy ditties the whole way though.
Highlights: Budapest, Barcelona, Listen To The Man
I don’t need to say a lot about 1989 – its ridiculous success says it all, especially as it converted so many people who were never ‘into’ Taylor before, myself included. She has seemingly effortlessly transitioned from country into self-confident, feminism-tinged pop and, honestly, blows comparable pop singers like Katy Perry out of the water.
This year, Taylor has proved that she does not need a man or in the tabloids to grab the world’s attention, especially as this music stands up so well by itself. The bubblegum pop pieces are addictive but a few are more serious and the album holds together and tells her story as a brilliant album should.
Highlights: Blank Space, Shake It Off, Bad Blood
I was never previously a huge Ed Sheeran fan but singles Sing, which is ridiculously catchy and seems to make everyone happy, and Thinking Out Loud, a sweet, sweet ballad about growing old with someone, got him into everyone’s hearts whether for the first or second time.
The rest of the album, while mostly not as successful as those two songs, is a thoroughly enjoyable mixture of acoustic rap and soft ballads, though the former are always most enjoyable. Ed has a clever way with words and an unusual talent for fitting them in quickly with interesting acoustic riffs.
Highlights: Sing, Thinking Out Loud, I’m A Mess
Now, before any critics jump on this I appreciate there are probably legions of better, more musically serious albums out there from 2014. But few music pundits could deny the success McBusted had this year with their first tour as McFly and Busted combined, which tripled in size as huge demand emerged, and this album is the culmination of that pop-punk sound and the fun they had together.
With influences from the likes of Blink-182 obvious – as to be expected with Mark Hoppus even contributing on two songs – the album takes all the best bits from McFly’s surfer dude sound and Busted’s cheeky guitar pop. Air Guitar is outrageously catchy and there are some gems on here that, criminally, so many people will never hear. So just check it out, if only to hear what the fuss is about.
Highlights: Get Over It, Gone, Getting It Out