Year In Music 2014

Billboard Year in Music 2014: Ed Sheeran and Charli XCX Dish on No. 1 Hits, Sophomore-Slump Fears and Finding Their Voices

David Eustace

Ben Cook, Max Lousada, Charli XCX, Ed Sheeran and Craig Kallman photographed by David Eustace on November 9th in Glasgow

The Hit Factories
Ed Sheeran: x
1 Week on Billboard 200

Charli XCX: "Boom Clap"
3 Weeks on Mainstream Top 40

X marked the spot in 2014 for fellow Brits and Atlantic labelmates Ed Sheeran, 23, and Charli XCX, 22. Sheeran's sophomore set, x, entered the Billboard 200 at No. 1 in July and topped charts in 13 other countries, including his native United Kingdom. Meanwhile, Charli XCX (born Charlotte Aitchison) scored two of the year's biggest hits in Iggy Azalea's "Fancy," which she co-wrote and was featured on, and her own breakthrough solo single, "Boom Clap." "They're both at the top table of songwriting globally," says Ben Cook, president of Atlantic Records U.K.

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Ed Sheeran: I was very apprehensive, because so many people have big, successful first albums and can never follow it up. I didn't want to fall into that camp. I went into this album thinking I'd do it much the same as I did the first. But when you have Pharrell Williams or Rick Rubin or Benny Blanco coming to a show and saying, "We should work together," you can't really say no. I've spread my wings musically, but it's still me at the core.

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Charli XCX: I didn't fully get my voice across until Icona Pop's "I Love It," but no one really knows that's me [singing on the song], so I felt kind of mad and channeled that anger into [sophomore album] Sucker. I never know when I've written a hit; I just write songs that I think are cool. We pitched "Boom Clap" to Hilary Duff's people, but they weren't feeling it. So I was like, "Fine, I'll sing it." I want to XCX the top 40 with my songs.



2014's No. 1's: J Balvin & Farruko  | Idina Menzel & the 'Frozen' SoundtrackTove Lo, Kiesza, & Nick Jonas | Taylor Swift | Barbra Streisand | Weird Al Yankovic | Ed Sheeran & Charli XCX | Nicki Minaj | 'Guardians of the Galaxy' SoundtrackEnrique Iglesias | Kacey Musgraves | Santana | Sam SmithIggy Azalea | Jason Derulo | Meghan Trainor, Nico & Vinz

This article first appeared in the Dec. 20 issue of Billboard.