December 31, 2016
Girlbands are often treated like musical clotheshorses, expected to sing whatever the record label decides is the best demo submitted for their next album. Therefore it’s always exciting when a group gets to release a song that was clearly written for them.
From the sound, merging their previous best (Sledgehammer) and most popular (Worth It), to the lyrics, referencing their girlband idols Destiny’s Child and the number five, That’s My Girl was definitely written for Fifth Harmony… or perhaps it’s more accurate to say, it was written for their fans. I have no doubt the band themselves would rather be known for more mature tracks like Work From Home and All In My Head (Flex), and they almost won the battle as most of the 7/27 album has that sound, but luckily their A&R team ensured we pop fans still got the uplifting, high energy sing-along pop belter we really wanted. Co-writer Alexander Kronlund also worked on Lucky by Britney and *N Sync’s I’ll Never Stop, and this track gives me the same sugar rush as those 90s gems.
That’s My Girl might be the last of its kind from Fifth Harmony, as it hasn’t come close to the success of Work From Home or Worth It, but let’s take this moment to thank whoever it was at Epic who made this happen for us. If you’re reading this, YOU are the saviour of 2016. Now we just need to know: What happened to the six songs Max Martin produced for this album, and can we please have them ALL in 2017?
Released: 27th September
Writers: Tinashe Kachingwe, Alexander Kronlund, Lukas Loules
Best bits: 1. Destiny said it, you got to get up and get it, get mad independent and don’t you ever forget it, got some dirt on your shoulder, then let me brush it off for ya, if you’re feeling me put your five high!
2. That’s my girl, that’s my girl, that’s my girl
3. You’ve been down before, you’ve been hurt before, you got up before
December 31, 2016
Released: 2nd December
Writers: Katie Gavin, Josette Maskin, Naomi McPherson
Trivia: I loved this song when I first heard it at a MUNA gig in May, but it turned into an obsession when the studio version was (finally!!) released earlier this month, and I found out the story behind it. What I’d seen as just a fun, catchy mid-tempo pop song suddenly became a tear-jerker. It was written by the all-gay girl group in celebration of the Supreme Court ruling in favour of same-sex marriage in 2015, but took on a new and more literal meaning after the Pulse nightclub shooting in July this year. Of all the tragic and terrifying things that happened in 2016, this was one of those that hit me the hardest, as it was a heartless, direct attack on a community that has always welcomed and supported me as one of their own, in one of the few places where they feel safe. It was devastating to see someone try to take that away, but I Know A Place is a reminder of the strength and solidarity that empowers them to continue fighting for progress, even when every day seems to bring new challenges and opposition.
Best bits: 1. If you want to go out dancing
2. You think being yourself means being unworthy
3. Just give me trust and watch what’ll happen
December 30, 2016
Released: 16th October
Writers: Iain James, Jade Thirlwall, Perrie Edwards, Jesy Nelson, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Henrik Michelsen, Edvard Forre Erfjord, Camille Purcell
Trivia: Little Mix’s performance of Shout Out To My Ex on The X Factor was, to me, the pinnacle of their career. It was the first live performance of the Glory Days era, and followed on from the unexpected success of their previous album, Get Weird, which outsold One Direction and produced 2 of their biggest (and best) hits. This was their chance to confirm their place in girlband history, as not just a contender for the current crown, but a successor to Girls Aloud and the Spice Girls. They aced it. They shone with confidence, sang and danced at their very best, and finally connected with the British public as individuals, as well as a group. But it wasn’t just their success that allowed that moment to happen – it was the song. Shout Out To My Ex was written with four of their most frequent collaborators, and produced by their best. It capitalised on the tabloid stories of the past year, and responded with strength and sass. It called out all the boys that have done them wrong, but it wasn’t bitchy – instead it sounded totally joyous, celebrating the fact that they came out on top. It wasn’t just a “fuck you” but a “we did it!” and that’s exactly how this story should be told.
Best bits: 1. Shout out to my ex, you’re really quite the man
2. You made my heart break and that made me who I am
3. I’m all the way up, I swear you’ll never, you’ll never bring me down
December 30, 2016
Released: 9th September
Writers: Svein Berge, Torbjorn Brundtland
Trivia: Susanne Sundfør’s last album Ten Love Songs was so special, I didn’t dare hope she’d ever do anything that good again, especially since her previous music hadn’t been very poptastic at all. I resigned myself to the idea that it was just a magic moment in time – she’d had her chance to go pop, done it well, and would now move on. Luckily, I was wrong, as she released her most poptastic single yet in 2016, lending her vocals to Never Ever by Royksopp, the fellow Norwegian act with whom she shares management. Never Ever is a lyrically uncomplicated ode which soars and sparkles – the uninhibited pure pop triumph she was a little too cool to reach on Ten Love Songs.
Best bits: 1. Never ever gonna let you go now
2. Wanna really show you (oh-oh oh-oh) what it’s all about
3. Get, get, get, get, get you, you, you
December 29, 2016
Released: 19th January
Trivia: Grimes’ album Art Angels was a last-minute discovery of 2015 for me, so I’m glad she released my (and her) favourite track as a single this year so I can include it here. Kill V. Maim recently got a new lease of life for me when I listened to Grimes’ edition of the fascinating Song Exploder podcast, where she explains the construction of the track, and the inspiration behind the lyrics. Finally the line “I’m only a man” makes sense! I’ll leave you to listen here to find out why.
Best bits: 1. You gave up being good when you declared a state of waaaahhhrrr!
2. B-E-H-A-V-E, arrest us
3. Cos I’m only a man, do what I can
December 29, 2016
Released: 15th January
Writers: Amir Haddad, Johan Errami, Nazim Khaled
Trivia: This year I went to Stockholm for Eurovision, and although the trip itself was a bit of a disaster, I did get to see this lovely, smiley man performing this wonderful, uplifting song in person in the Eurovision final venue, Globen. I love the full English version as much as the Franglais original, so I’ve included them both here in joint 6th place.
Best bits: 1. You-oo-oo-oo-ooh, you’re the one that’s making me strong
2. Like the melody of my sooooooong
3. Tu m’as, comme donné l’envie d’être moi
December 28, 2016
Released: 3rd February
Writers: Jez Ashurst, Emma Rohan, Rachel Furner, Jason Derulo
Trivia: Girlband ballads tend to be filler tracks on their albums, but most groups have a few that are just as good as their upbeat bangers. In Little Mix’s case, Secret Love Song is by far their best ballad. Although I think it found its perfect place in their hands, every time I listen to the song I can’t help but hear writer Rachel Furner singing it in my mind. Rachel played twice at my live music night This Must Be Pop Live, first under her own name and later as Tich, and released some lovely pop songs before moving her focus to writing for other artists. Secret Love Song started out as one of her own tracks, and she performed her solo version (without the verse added by Jason Derulo) live a few times under its original name Behind Closed Doors.
Best bits: 1. I wish that we could be like that, why can’t we be like that? Cos I’m yoooouuuurs
2. Why can’t I say that I’m in love? I wanna shout it from the rooftops
3. Why can’t you hold me in the street? Why can’t I kiss you on the dancefloor?
December 28, 2016
Released: 26th February
Writers: DallasK, Brian Lee, Ty Dolla $ign, Eskeerdo, Jude Demorest, Ammo
Trivia: I was very disappointed with Work From Home on first listen as I felt short-changed after reading a misleading description of the band’s new single. This meant it took me months to realise quite how great it actually was. In fact, it became a kind of anthem for 2016, as I spent most of the year working from home. My experience was rather more literal than what the girls refer to in the song, though!
Best bits: 1. You don’t gotta go to work, work, work, work, work, work, work
2. We can work from home, oh, oh, oh-oh
3. I know you’re always on the night shift, but I can’t stand these nights alone
December 27, 2016
Released: 16th January
Writers: Harley Streten, Alessia De Gasperis Brigante, Geoffrey Patrick Earley
Trivia: Although Flume has been namedropped for several years by people talking about the new wave of Australian music stars, and he’s well known as a DJ at international clubs, festivals and online, Never Be Like You was his first top 10 single in his home country. In fact, it eventually reached no.1 and went 4x Platinum.
Best bits: 1. I’m falling on my knees, forgive me, I’m a fucking fool
2. Stop looking at me with those eyes, like I could disappear and you wouldn’t care why
3. I’m only human, can’t you see? I made, I made a mistake
December 27, 2016
Released: 1st April
Writers: Joel Little, Caleb Nott, Georgia Nott
Trivia: As much as I’d tried, I’d never been a fan of Broods before this song, but I loved it on first listen because it reminded me of the American band Delta Rae, one of my favourite discoveries of 2015. It’s a song of several parts which fit together seamlessly, and has the same tribal drama and darkness, mixed with pop sensibilities and a strong chorus. The lyrics express how the success and responsibility we strive for can make us less free than when we had nothing.
Best bits: 1. Gritting your teeth, you hold onto me
2. I’m desperate to run, I’m desperate to leave, if I lose it all at least I’ll be free
3. It’s clear you think that I’m inferior