Pop music is not so much a genre as a statement on pop culture. It ultimately supersedes any genre—it can come in the form of rock, rap, R&B, country, etc.—but it always manages to capture the general mainstream mood of the moment. In 2014, pop seemed more diverse than ever, from pop-rock songs from the likes of Hozier and Bastille to dance-driven numbers like Calvin Harris’s “Summer” to the pop rap styles of Iggy Azalea. If there was one common trend amongst the deluge of major label material this year, it’s the fact that women seemed to score more hits than anytime in recent history. So let’s take a look back at some of the songs that were near-impossible to avoid in 2014 at the parties we DJ’d at The Park Savoy and Nanina’s in the Park.
Beyonce ft. Jay-Z – “Drunken Love”
While released as part of her self-titled album at the end of 2013, for the first half of this year, it was hard to walk by a bar, a party, or a passing car and not hear Queen Bey echoing her now infamous “Surfbort” line. But odd pronunciations aside, this song was seemingly destined to take over, from its middle-eastern sample to its world-dominating hi-hats, capped off with a verse from the ever-dependable Jay-Z. This wasn’t just the song of 2014, this is a song that we’ll likely be hearing for the remainder of the decade.
Katy Perry ft. Juicy J – “Dark Horse”
Another pop star meets rap legend hook-up that was originally released in 2013, “Dark Horse” indisputably owned 2014, becoming the most-watched YouTube video of the year. It was also one of the most in-demand songs at the parties we played, with both the guys and girls equally getting down to the track’s Art of Noise-style synths, smooth finger clicks, and an always on-point Juicy J holding it down.
Iggy Azalea ft. Charlie XCX – “Fancy”
While Iggy has been kicking around rap’s second tier for a few years now, this was the song that truly launched her career while also becoming the song of the summer. While the beat succeeds at mimicking the ratchet-friendly style of producers like DJ Mustard and Iggy is more than capable at holding it down, Charlie XCX is the true MVP of this song, penning a chorus that is nearly impossible to forget from the first time you hear it. Bonus points go to the duo for the marvelous Clueless-inspired video.
Taylor Swift – “Shake It Off”
While Ms. Swift has been a reliable pop song workhorse for years, her 1989 album saw her fully shedding her country roots and looking to pop, hip-hop, and more to flesh out her sound. And lead single “Shake It Off” was a barnstormer no one could have seen coming; an upbeat and infectious track that seemed to harness the energy of a song like “Happy” and somehow take it to the next level. This is one we expect to keep getting requests for well into 2015.
Sam Smith – “Stay With Me”
Every year needs its signature ballad and Sam Smith brought it hard, penning a heart-breaking number that will get the floor full with slow dancing in no time. While he’s been threatening a North American takeover for some time—he was previously best known as the vocalist on Disclosure’s “Latch—“Stay With Me” was the moment where he took control of the spotlight and seemingly refused to let it go. A perfect end-of-the-night number to get everyone more than a bit loved up.