15 Songs That Ruled Summer 2014
We'd ideally have one Meek Mill banger and something from the G.O.O.D. Music camp this summer but this isn't 2012. Although some hip-hop and R&B stars were absent from Summer 2014, we still had plenty of songs to serve as our soundtrack at the beach and the BBQs.
Iggy Azalea's 'Fancy' is considered the song of the summer in many circles because it's stayed at No. 1 on the Billboard charts for most of the scorching hot months. Plus, it's pretty hard to escape it.
However, 'Fancy's' ubiquity doesn't make it a unanimous choice. That's impossible with Drake dropping another loosie-turned-banger again and new talent coming through like the turn-up princess Tinashe, sibling duo Rae Sremmurd and Brooklyn's own Bobby Shmurda. The following tracks are going to be the ones played to exhaustion in the final days of summer -- and maybe the early days of fall. Check out 15 Songs That Ruled Summer 2014.
'Fancy' is still sticking to the Hot 100 after 24 weeks on the chart. The track is a guilty pleasure to some, an unforgettable earworm to many as well as an example of cultural appropriation for critics. It wasn't all that long ago 'PU$$Y' became a viral hit -- 2011 to be exact -- but here, her blunt confidence is transfixed and condensed into a minimalist strut. Initially released in February, she probably won't escape the song as long as her career progresses, and the irony is that it's Charli XCX's lyrics that make the song. She juxtaposes Azalea's grown woman presence with an instantly memorable hook that's sung with the high-pitched enthusiasm of a 13-year-old snobbishly checking herself out in the bedroom mirror. They're both simply different lenses of a floating ode to indulgence -- the American youth's favorite past time.
The popularity of Bobby Shmurda's 'Hot N----' stems from the conception of a dance. The video for 'Shmoney Dance,' which hit YouTube in February, featured the rah-rah verbal gun-toting, but didn't even have a dance to go along with it. The 'Hot N----' visual, arriving in March, featured the then nameless dance, but it wasn't until June when a Vine video of that infamous hat toss went viral, propelling the song to new heights. So the Shmoney Dance catches on, just like the rest of the track. The terse keys that once belonged to Lloyd Banks' 'Jackpot' now belong to Shmurda as he turns pretty tragic details into galvanizing calling cards. Selling crack since like the fifth grade? Mitch killed somebody? Meeshie's in jail? That's a shame, but at the same time, they're part of the reason we're here, Shmoney dancing.
It is a bit of a drag to hear Sam Smith in his constant, operatic melancholy on his debut album, 'In The Lonely Hour.' While it's hard to empathize with him through an entire LP, there's one strength that's undeniable: He can sing the hell out of a hook. For his second hit, Smith traded in his shrill euphoria on Disclosure's 'Latch' for choral grandiosity on 'Stay With Me.' It's a cry for companionship wrapped in a religious exodus, and its placement next to the more saccharine Iggy Azalea and Ariana Grande songs makes 'Stay With Me' feel even more singular.
Drake's 'Saturday Night Live' joke about being a polite Canadian rapper was just that: a joke. He's simply tactful in his cockiness. Drake released '0 to 100' in the midst of Hot 97's Summer Jam, one of the season's biggest events. G-Unit had their little reunion and DJ Mustard did his shtick to close the show but Drizzy was making a viral impact while both were onstage.
Boi-1da's metallic, off-kilter beat flutters with a barely-there bass in its first few seconds. The song's gratifying factor revolves around Drake, who runs off chest-thumping boasts, a sober anecdote about his absent father and then some more drunken taunting: "F--- all that 'Drake you gotta chill' s---." It's easy to hate on the self-assured, but they're the ones people in the room gravitate towards. Drake's on top of a mountain here, wringing his hands thinking about his next takeover.
'All of Me' was John Legend's first Hot 100 No. 1 despite releasing his debut album 10 years ago. But this one doesn't sound all that different from your prototypical Legend record: Your improvisational "Ooohhs," soulful piano playing and general earnestness in place of sexuality. The main difference is the tinge of focused determination, which is the undertone of the track. From the singer's serious love for Chrissy Teigen's edges to the over-the-top metaphors, it sticks simply because of a great performance on Legend's part, and how it suggests that maybe love isn't so complex.
With a misogynist paranoia wrapped in unfairly catchy mantras and a hedonistic anthem melded within a slinky, easily recognizable synth line, 'Loyal' managed to float above social mores to become a 2014 DJ essential. It's served as the soundtrack for many summer weekends, but it's ubiquity shouldn't cloud how this was the song that possibly saved Chris Brown's career. The hip-shaking and poured drinks meant that the singer's name was still in the streets while behind bars. 'Loyal' was Brown as cocksure as ever, and his reliable pop sensibility kept the long-delayed 'X' at least in the back of people's minds.
'We Dem Boyz' joins the tradition of 'Swag Surfin'' and the 'Dreams and Nightmares' intro -- songs that inject the ideal concept of masculine camaraderie with a visceral force. They're triumphant songs that cancel out all the BS that await outside the club. Once the horns start blaring and Wiz Khalifa's barks start up, the dude next to you immediately becomes the homie. This generation is used to impersonal bonds thanks to the prominence of social media and networking. Very few are immediately satisfying as the one that happens as soon as 'We Dem Boyz' -- or any of the aforementioned songs -- start up.
DJ Mustard took Mike WiLL Made It's spot as DJ of the moment, but that certainly didn't make him down and out. He's in the midst of switching from nightclub tension to slicker, more anthemic cuts. 'Buy the World' was ambitious -- the features should clue you in -- but surprisingly didn't catch on. 'No Flex Zone,' composed by two siblings out of the ATL, accomplished twice the renown of 'Buy the World' thanks to a return to basics. Sometimes rudimentary is effective, and here, the tipsy riff gives room for two brothers so full of themselves that they naturally grab your attention.
Give credit to Lil Jon for adapting, decades into his career. He graduated from wearing ridiculously oversized jorts to wearing 'fits that, you know, a normal person should wear. Plus, he switched from mad yell-rap jester to a rationale person outside of a Dave Chappelle sketch. Lil Jon is still a braided ball of energy, though; he's refined his eccentricities instead of muzzling them. On 'Turn Down for What,' his id appeal is amplified clearly over DJ Snake's hyperactive EDM instrumental.
Tinashe made that jump to major label gloss with her DJ Mustard collaboration but the true miracle of '2 On' is how simple its formula is. DJ Mustard's pulsating bass-heavy synth does the heavy lifting, while the songstress coos the night away with her floating vocals. The result is a cocktail that's both potent in its nocturnal swagger, yet sweet enough to make that second, third and fourth go-round an easy choice. Common wisdom states one shouldn't run away for his or her problems. Playing '2 On' on a Friday is a reminder that the hassles can wait; the potential fun is a much more urgent matter.
Jeremih's 'Don't Tell Em' has just started picking up steam on the Billboard charts. Despite dropping back in June, the song seemed like the type that was destined to eventually make waves. There was an immediate attachable imagery to it that could be found in the best hit songs. Within the first minute of the metallic riff -- which sounds like a prototype of eurodance-hyphy, if there was such a thing -- you get images of couples two-stepping under the neon lights. Or perhaps walking into the goons smoking weed in the basement. Or what about YG (who contributes a reliable verse here) hanging in a corner with a bottle in hand. Whatever the image that comes up, 'Don't Tell Em' is a satisfying summer jam that teases the night's possibilities.
The past few weeks reminds us that hip-hop has social responsibility like no other genre. This especially seems true when it comes to artists from Chicago. Whether the artist is of the streets or one of the kids who grew up watching it, he's expected to address the fact that "Chi-Raq" is a thing. Fair enough, but Vic Mensa is just trying to have a good time here. The house-flavored thrill of 'Down On My Luck' argues that approach is just as credible. The video -- 'Groundhog Day' in a club -- is also a treat.
With her debut album and a canceled Nickelodeon show behind her, it was time for Ariana Grande to let off some steam. After playing it cool and sweet on 'Yours Truly,' Grande decided to inject more sass into 'Problem' -- her lead single from her sophomore LP, 'My Everything.' She didn't necessarily need Azalea here, but her role as the female wingman does add a quirky element. But on top of that instantly noticeable sax (one of the top five uses of the instrument this decade), 'Problem' is both a power statement and a reminder that she's here to stay. And the word on the street is that 'Break Free' is another heater.
You usually don't correlate regret and penance with the summer. That's best left to autumn. But a climax is a climax and Norwegian songwriters Nico & Vinz coast that twangy guitar right to that peak. 'Am I Wrong' feels vulnerable without being overly melancholy and smooth enough to channel the summer breeze.
Lil Wayne is typically one of the more cool-headed figures in hip-hop, even though he should be under pressure. Drake isn't falling off the top anytime soon, and 2008 is a while ago -- at least a decade in hip-hop years. 'Believe Me' at least makes it known that Weezy is at least semi-capable of repeating his prior reign. He hasn't completely disappeared from relevance (see 'Rich As F---'), but it is a thrill to hear Wayne sound like he's trying. But he's not breaking a sweat. Between Boi-1da's spacy key riff, Wayne-isms like, "Drop dead gorgeous but the bitch ain't dyin' for a n----," and Drake again being the reliable feature, you get the picture of Wayne somewhere impishly grinning in comfort. He'll be fine, especially with 'Tha Carter V' is on its way.