2014 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast
Social media eclipses TV as the top driver of pop culture in “the year of the booty,” Indie-Folk spreads and underground Hip-Hop styles vie for chart dominance.
Welcome to the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week on Chartcrush, we dive deep into a year in pop music and count down the top ten songs according to our recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s leading trade publication, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re setting our sights on 2014, the tipping point when social media went from being an important emerging and evolving part of pop culture, to being its gravitational center, like how TV eclipsed radio in the early ’50s.
In 2011, Coca-Cola launched the first multi-million dollar social media brand campaign on Facebook (“Share a Coke,” where users got to design their own Coke cans) and in 2014 postings for social media marketing on the job site Indeed doubled. The surge of U.S. adults on social platforms passed 60% in 2014 according to the Pew Research Center. For teens it was nearly 90%. By 2016, Hillary Clinton’s presidential election loss to Donald Trump was being blamed, albeit more loudly than credibly as it turned out, on Russian-paid-for ads on Facebook.
Music, of course, a focal point of social media going all the way back to the MySpace days in the ’00s, and Billboard started its Social 50 Artists chart, ranking likes and mentions on social platforms, in 2010. But in 2014, even septuagenarian Pop Diva Barbra Streisand managed to get her 34th album Partners to debut at #1 by going big on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Her full-hour appearance on NBC’s Tonight Show, Jimmy Fallon’s first year hosting: well, that helped too. But if there were any lingering doubts that social was the new go-to for publicity and awareness building, Streisand, not to mention the viral “ice bucket challenge” in 2014, sealed the deal.
Revenue though? Not so much. For that, a different game changer was needed to pull the music biz out of its 15-year tailspin from music piracy on peer-to-peer mp3 platforms. Music streaming data had been a factor on Hot100 since 2007 when custom-playlist radio-type streams were first factored into the chart’s calculus, but it wasn’t until 2012 that Billboard debuted its Streaming Songs chart, and started factoring on-demand streams in the Hot100. YouTube views were added in 2013, but streaming’s revenue upside wasn’t at all apparent yet.
Taylor Swift took her entire catalog off the streaming platform Spotify in 2014. She didn’t think the 0.6 cents a stream artists were getting was fair, and she wasn’t alone. But Spotify’s Daniel Ek spent the year arguing that it was a lot better than the 0.0 cents the billion or so people downloading music illegally were generating. It was a couple years before usage of streaming services ramped up to the point where 0.6 cents a stream added up to real money. But by ’17 Taylor’s catalog was back on Spotify. In ’18 streaming passed 50% of total music industry revenue, and by ’19, on-demand streaming alone was making more bank than the entire industry was in 2014.
#10 Pitbull featuring Ke$ha – Timber
Now in music, the glitzy, blingy, party-time, synth-driven, Auto-Tuned, four-on-the floor “New Pop” that Billboard heralded in 2010: still the default at the top of the Pop charts. And it’s epitomized by our song at #10 as we kick off our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014: the Latin rapper who scored the #5 song of 2011 in the style with “Give Me Everything,” featuring the overnight Pop sensation whose glittery, brash, decadent image made her the poster girl for the “New Pop” when she nailed the #1 song of 2010 with “Tik Tok.” It’s Pitbull featuring Ke$ha, “Timber.”
That was the formula for a hit Rap song in the early 2010s: irresistible Pop vocal hook with the Rapper delivering the message with urgent phrasing. “Timber,” Pitbull featuring Ke$ha, Billboard’s #2 Rap song of 2014 and #10 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the year’s biggest Pop hits. They co-headlined a North American tour together in 2013, Pitbull and Ke$ha did, and “Timber” was a product of that year-long collaboration. But Pitbull admitted he’d originally had a different singer in mind, Rihanna, whose collab with Eminem “The Monster” kept “Timber” out of the top spot at #2 for four weeks at the beginning of the year.
#9 MAGIC! – Rude
At #9, a Canadian reggae fusion trio that got a ton of incoming from critics when their first hit was suddenly all over Pop radio in late July and August. The New York Post called the song “a flaccid, boring slice of lightweight reggae that sounds like it was written to be heard in a dentist’s waiting room.” And a Billboard piece trumpeting all the new female talent in 2014 and proclaiming “Pop’s ‘End of Men’ Moment” dismissed it as a “retrograde hit by Canadian ragga-nothings.” Ouch! And that’s just a small sampling.
But in the streaming era, as Billboard noted in 2013, fans were now in charge, and this became the first reggae-tinged #1 hit on the Hot100 since Sean Paul’s “Get Busy” all the way back in ’03. Here is MAGIC with an exclamation point. I guess you’re supposed to say it loud and fast… MAGIC! “Rude.”
MAGIC!’s Rude, #9 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show for 2014. When it hit #1 at the end of July, Time actually reached out to the great-great-granddaughter of the original queen of etiquette Emily Post to ask if a dad saying no to a guy that wants to marry his daughter is, in fact, rude. The conclusion? No, having a negative opinion about something (even something someone cares deeply about) isn’t just on its own impolite. MAGIC! continued charting songs in their native Canada for another couple years but in the U.S. they were a true one-hit wonder.
#8 Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX – Fancy
Speaking of impoliteness, some have called the early 2010’s Hip-Hop’s “Ratchet Era,” ratchet being a slang term out of the South that comes from “wretched.” At first it was a put-down but it evolved. Ebony defined it in 2014 as “uncouthness so absurd that it borders on camp” and credited Baton Rouge rapper Lil Boosie with injecting it into the vernacular with his “ode to unadulterated (sic) ignance,” “Do the Ratchet.”
Anyway, there were lots of stylistic currents in Hip-Hop in the early 2010s, the most dominant being what the Millennial-targeted website Mic.com called “Pop-Rap mashups” that were topping the charts. We just heard a great example at #10, Pitbull and Ke$ha’s “Timber.” So maybe the early ’10s were the “Pop Mashup Era” of Hip-Hop. But out in L.A., producer DJ Mustard was calling what he was doing with artists like YG, Tyga and Ty Dolla Sign the “Ratchet Sound,” a minimalist but catchy up-tempo style targeted at clubs.
Tyga’s “Rack City,” #7 in 2012, the biggest hit out of that scene on the Pop charts, until our song at #8 by 2014’s top Rapper on the charts, who was a woman! Pop’s “End of Men” moment indeed! DJ Mustard had nothing whatsoever to do with it, other than chilling with her in L.A. when her career was ramping up, and he accused her and her producers of “jocking” his sound, but definitely not the first time in Pop history that someone’s sound got “jocked.” Elvis Presley anyone? At #8, it’s 2014’s big Summer earworm, by not only the year’s top Rapper, but Billboard’s Top New Artist overall, Australian-born Iggy Azalea featuring British Singer-Songwriter Charli XCX, “Fancy.”
Iggy Azalea featuring Charli XCX “Fancy,” the #8 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. It was Billboard’s #4 song of the year, and as I mentioned, the #1 Rap song. But Iggy, no stranger to controversy, first accused of ripping off DJ Mustard’s “Ratchet” West Coast Hip-Hop style, and then, when she made it big, of cultural appropriation for being Australian-born, yet rapping with a Southern “blaccent.” And insensitivity for some of her past Tweets and comments, plus her aggressive image and attitude. Definitely a lot of current to swim against as a celebrity in the ’10s.
Her feature on Ariana Grande’s “Problem” was at #2 behind “Fancy” for five weeks, the first time the same artist had both the #1 and #2 songs since The Beatles. And then “Problem” replaced “Fancy” at #1, giving Iggy Azalea 13 consecutive weeks at #1, beginning of June to end of August. But just a year after “Fancy” topped the chart, Cosmopolitan was already wondering in print how Iggy Azalea had become the world’s most hated pop star, and after 2015, she didn’t crack the Top 40 again on any Songs chart, not even in her native Australia.
#7 Avicii featuring Aloe Blacc – Wake Me Up
Now on Billboard’s year-end charts, there’s a long history of massive hits that didn’t rank anywhere near where they should’ve because of when they were hits during the year. If a song’s chart run is over the holidays from one year into the next? Well Billboard has to get its year-end issue out before New Years, so anything after whatever they set as the cut-off issue for their “chart year” is either ignored, as in the ’50s and ’60s, or kicked into the following year, which splits the points between two different years. Here at Chartcrush, one of the reasons we do this show is to correct that record by factoring every song’s full chart run into whichever calendar year it earned the most points.
Having said all that, though, our #7 song was a tricky one! It entered the chart in July of 2013 and made the top ten in September 2013, where it stayed for 21 weeks including six at its peak of #4. Now even though its peak was in 2013 and it was declining on the charts in 2014, it took its sweet time and didn’t exit until July of 2014, 53 total weeks. And by a slight margin it scored more ranking points in 2014. It’s the biggest hit by one of the top headliners in the early ’10s Electronic Dance Music craze: Swedish DJ and Producer Avicii, Billboard’s #1 Dance/Electronic artist for 2014; Rapper-Singer Aloe Blacc, who wrote the lyrics, on lead vocals, “Wake Me Up.”
So every other major genre in the ’00s merged with Electronic Dance Club sounds to score big under the “New Pop” banner, why not Indie Folk? Well, that’s what Avicii must’ve been thinking with “Wake Me Up,” the #7 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. The crowd at Miami’s Ultra Music EDM festival didn’t quite know what to make of it when the banjo came out and Avicii unveiled it live during what Spin called the “Hee Haw 2013 portion of the set.” But Indie Folk groups Mumford & Sons and The Lumineers had been racking up hits for a couple years, so what Avicii started as an experiment hit the bullseye on the Pop charts and wound up the biggest hit of his career.
His follow-up, “Hey Brother” was also a hit, and “Wake Me Up” singer Aloe Blacc made the Top Ten later in ’14 with his Elton John “Your Song” riffing “The Man.” In 2018, Avicii’s sudden death by suicide shocked the world.
#6 Sam Smith – Stay with Me
At #6 is Billboard’s #2 New Artist of the year, behind Iggy Azalea, and his Gospel-inspired ballad in which he pleads with a one-night stand not to leave him. And as you listen, you’ll notice that most of the Gospel feeling in the song comes from the choir in the chorus. But it’s not a real choir! It’s the singer layering his vocal like 20 times to create that choir effect with overdubs. He used real backup singers, though, when he sang the song on Saturday Night Live, which he credits for breaking him in the U.S. a full 11 weeks before his album was even out! It’s English singer Sam Smith, “Stay with Me.”
Sam Smith, “Stay with Me,” #6 as we count down the biggest hits of 2014 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Smith won four awards at the 57th Grammys including Record of the Year for “Stay with Me,” and in his acceptance speech he thanked the man who inspired it by breaking his heart, “because you got me four Grammys.”
Earlier I mentioned the 2014 Billboard article “Pop’s End of Men Moment,” a riff on feminist provocateur Hanna Rosin’s buzzworthy 2012 book The End of Men. The Billboard piece singles out Sam Smith along with Ed Sheeran as the type of “expressive, nurturing, cooperative” man that the charts still had room for in 2014. But after “Stay with Me” dropped to #6 on September 20 there wasn’t any room at all for the XY chromosome set in the top five on the Hot100 for seven straight weeks. It was all ladies. The previous record for all females in the Top Five? Four weeks in early 1999.
#4 OneRepublic – Counting Stars
Another 2014 op-ed in Billboard, same issue as the “End of Men” article, was titled “Rockers in Dockers.” It observed that what was once called “Classic Rock,” and before that just “Rock,” was now “Dad Rock.” Bruce Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, U2, Foo Fighters, Spoon, Wilco, The Strokes and others: called out by name as acts with “white male auteurs, guitar solos, heroism and narrative songs.” “Music for squares:” patriarchal and exclusionary. Whew! That’s an awful lot of shade, and coming alongside proclamations about the end of men, in the sixth year of the Obama presidency with Obama’s grass-roots arm, Organizing for America, urging young people to sign up for Obamacare in its viral “pajama boy” ad on social media, if you were a White male still bringing your guitar onstage in 2014, easy to see how you might not want to be played on Rock radio. So maybe not a surprise when you scan through the Rock genre charts for the early ’10s looking for big Hot100 hits and even acts that coulda woulda shoulda been on there, and would’ve been, for example, in the ’80s, but aren’t. Our #4 song, a great example.
Lorde, Imagine Dragons, Bastille and Coldplay: Billboard’s top four Rock artists of 2014, but these guys? Not even on the list. It’s the third single from their third album, Native, released after a three-year hiatus, and it was on the Hot100 for, get this, 68 weeks, 25 in the Top Ten, it’s OneRepublic “Counting Stars.”
OneRepublic, “Counting Stars,” #4 as we count down the top ten songs of 2014 here on The Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. As big as they were in the early ’10s, group leader Ryan Tedder was just as big a deal behind-the-scenes as a Songwriter and Producer. He started writing “Counting Stars” for Beyonce while chillin’ with her and hubby Jay-Z at their place in the Hamptons on New York’s Long Island. “Counting Stars” turned out to be more of a fit for OneRepublic, but Tedder’s song “XO” was the lead single off Beyonce’s self-titled album released for Holiday shoppers at the end of 2013 and Billboard’s #2 album of 2014, behind only the Frozen soundtrack.
#5 John Legend – All of Me
At #5, just the third song with only piano and vocals to hit #1 in the history of the Hot100. The first was Adele’s “Someone like You,” our #6 song of 2011, and then Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man,” #14 on the year 2013. From 1958 to 2011? No piano and vocal only songs got to #1, which is kind of surprising with piano-based artists like Elton John, Carole King, Billy Joel and Alicia Keys in the mix. But the idea of stripping down an arrangement to just the Singer and his or her instrument: not a new idea, but in the 2010’s after years of everyone from Rockers to Rappers searching for new ways to put across intimacy and raw emotion in the grooves of recorded music, sometimes less is just more. Billboard’s #1 Radio and Adult Contemporary song of 2014, #5 on our Chartcrush ranking, here’s John Legend’s “All of Me.”
John Legend, “All of Me,” #5 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. A lot of that song’s success on the Pop charts was thanks to an up-tempo remix by Dutch DJ and producer Tiësto that was preferred by Pop radio.
In 2018, John Legend won an Emmy for his role as Jesus in NBC’s Easter Jesus Christ Superstar concert, which made him the first Black male in the elite “EGOT” club: winners of Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards: E-G-O-T.
#3 Katy Perry featuring Juicy J – Dark Horse
We heard Iggy Azalea’s “Fancy” at #8, directly influenced by “Ratchet” sound producer DJ Mustard out of L.A. Our #3 hit, by a major established Pop star, but influenced by a different underground strain of Hip-Hop, namely Trap, out of Atlanta, where Azalea also spent a lot of time. But this song topped the charts weeks before “Fancy” debuted.
Trap, pioneered by Atlanta Rapper (and Iggy Azalea mentor) T.I. in the mid 00’s, but it stayed mostly underground until our #3 song, which was declining after eight months on the Hot100, but rebounded back into the Top 20 the week after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri in August of 2014. The subsequent unrest birthed the Black Lives Matter movement and a surge of racial consciousness last couple years of the Obama administration. And Trap, which broke through with this song, led Hip-Hop’s comeback on the Pop charts in the late ’10s, with its ominous, dark vibe, gritty lyrics and spacious reverberated ambiance. Perfect for the (quote from the singer) “witchy, spell-y kind of black magic-y idea” (unquote) of the song about a woman warning a man not to fall in love with her.” At #3, it’s Katy Perry featuring Juicy J, “Dark Horse.”
Billboard’s Top Female Artist, top Singles Artist and #2 top overall artist of 2014, Katy Perry featuring Juicy J., “Dark Horse:” #3 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown of the biggest hits of 2014. And also Billboard’s #1 Streaming song of the year.
Perry, no stranger to Hip-Hop collaborations. “California Gurls” with Snoop Dogg and “E.T.” with Kanye West: both among the top ten hits of 2010 and ’11, respectively. So when even a mainstream glossy like GQ is calling Trap “the sound of Hip-Hop in 2012,” if you’re Katy Perry, it’s a no-brainer.
Another breakthrough Trap megahit in 2014: DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What,” a very respectable #19 on our 2014 ranking. After further Trap milestones like Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” in ’15, Desiigner’s “Panda” in ’16, Migos and Lil Uzi Vert’s “Bad and Bougee” in ’17, Hip-Hop was never bigger on the Pop charts and Trap was the sound, launching white Rapper Post Malone and the mature phase of Pop diva Ariana Grande’s career in ’18 and ’19.
#2 Meghan Trainor – All About That Bass
Our #2 song is a latecomer to the early 2010s Pop explosion, who hit pay dirt with her very first single: a song that’s been described as “a Bubblegum Pop, Doo-Wop and Retro-R&B song that draws influences from various musical genres including Hip-Hop, Country, Soul and Rock ‘n Roll.” Wow, that’s an awful lot going on in one song, isn’t it? Makes you seriously ponder Mic writer Matt Pollock’s proclamation that “2014 Was the Year Pop Music Killed Traditional Genres.” But there’s no denying that the song kicked America’s 2014 obsession with big booties into overdrive. At #2, it’s Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass.”
Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass,” not the first big-booty song that hit the charts in 2014. Jason Derulo’s “Talk Dirty” and “Wiggle” were out before, and Miley Cyrus may’ve gotten the ball rolling even before that with her twerking at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. But “All About That Bass” wall-to-wall on Pop radio in the Summer sealed the deal on what was widely recognized as a cultural obsession with butts, as Vogue put it in August.
Later in the Summer, Nicki Minaj reprised Sir Mix-a-Lot’s 1992 hit “Baby Got Back” at the 2014 VMAs (her song “Anaconda”). Then J-Lo remixed her song “Booty” with Iggy Azalea. That hit clubs in September and went straight to #1 on the Dance chart. And then Kim Kardashian’s mic drop on the whole “Year of the Booty” thing with her bare-butt cover shot and “Break the Internet” photo spread in Paper magazine.
#1 Pharrell Williams – Happy
And that gets us to the #1 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. It was #1 for ten of the 13 weeks between “Dark Horse” and “Fancy,” March to May, and the first song ever to hit #1 on six singular-format Billboard Airplay charts: Adult Contemporary, Pop Songs, Adult Pop Songs, Rhythmic Songs, Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay and Adult R&B Songs. Translation? Massive crossover hit, with almost universal appeal across multiple genres. From Disney’s smash animated feature Despicable Me 2, here is the #1 song of 2014, and a real good candidate for “feel good song of the decade”, Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.”
Ten consecutive weeks at #1, Pharrell Williams’s “Happy,” the #1 song on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2014. Pharrell in 2014: no stranger to the Pop charts, but for the most part up to then, all the way back to the early ’90s, he preferred to work behind the scenes. Just a low key guy with huge talent, gets along with everyone, but totally okay taking second or featured billing. He did have a #5 hit in ’03 under his own name with “Frontin'” featuring Jay-Z, but other than that, for the rest of the ’00s up to 2014, Pharrell’s biggest hits were as a featured artist on tracks like Snoop Dogg’s “Drop It like It’s Hot” in ’04 and ’05, Ludacris’s “Money Maker” in ’06, and then two of the biggest hits of 2013, Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” both of which he co-wrote.
Pharrell was even going to give “Happy” to another artist: CeeLo Green, who recorded it and Pharrell thought CeeLo’s version was better. Only reason that version wasn’t released in the Fall of 2012 was CeeLo’s label didn’t want to cannibalize sales of his Christmas album!
Since “Happy” was in Despicable Me 2, it was nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar, but lost to Idina Menzel’s “Let It Go” from Frozen. A reporter caught up to Pharrell after the Oscars and asked him how badly he’d wanted that award, and Pharrell said: “When they read the results, my face was frozen. But then I thought about it, and I just decided just to let it go.”
And that’s our countdown! If you’re comparing our Chartcrush ranking to Billboard’s year-end top ten for 2014, you’ll notice a few differences. Our #10 song, Pitbull and Ke$ha’s “Timber” just missed Billboard’s top ten at #11 on the year, and Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” was only #22 on Billboard because, as I mentioned earlier, Billboard split its long chart run between ’13 and ’14. So what songs from Billboard’s top ten got bumped to make room for those two?
Well at #9, Billboard had the song I mentioned earlier that made Iggy Azalea the first artist since The Beatles to have both the #1 and #2 songs on the Hot100 in the same week, and it stayed that way for five consecutive weeks, June into July. But Iggy was the featured artist.
Ariana Grande featuring Iggy Izalea, “Problem,” #20 on our countdown. So does Iggy featuring on that song match The Beatles with that chart accomplishment? Most sources, including Billboard, say yes.
At #6 on Billboard’s year-end Hot100 for 2014 was Jason Derulo featuring 2Chains’ “Talk Dirty.”
So that makes two songs in Billboard’s year-end top ten that have that cheapy horn sound in the chorus, coincidentally the two songs not in our Chartcrush top ten. It was already a pretty well-worn gimmick in 2014, that horn sound, started by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis on 2013’s “Thrift Shop.”
Well folks, that’s our show for this week. I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Thanks for listening to our 2014 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and streaming links for this and other Chartcrush countdown shows, plus chart run line graphs and other lit extras. We count down a different year every week from the beginning of the charts in the ’40s all the way up to the present, so tune in again next week, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.