10 Best Songs of 2014 (So Far): Critics' Picks
Sam Smith, "Stay With Me"
Need a good cry in between listening to your favorite summer jams? Sam Smith had you covered with "Stay With Me," a fragile ballad that finds its backbone when a gospel choir assists the British singer on the harrowing chorus.
Rita Ora, "I Will Never Let You Down"
Written and produced by Rita Ora's now-ex Calvin Harris, "I Will Never Let You Down" is the Song of the Summer that never quite took off in the States. One listen to that delicious synth line and gooey chorus will whet your appetite for more listens, though.
Drake, "0 To 100"
Even Drake's tossed-off tracks are scorching: months after releasing another hit album, Drizzy returned briefly to take it from "0 to 100" with careening bars punctuated by boasts like "If I ain't the greatest, then I'm headed for it."
After penning track for mainstream personalities like Rihanna and Katy Perry, Sia kept an anthem for herself, warbling through the tear-streaked verses of "Chandelier" before swinging freely into the most epic pop chorus of the year.
Future Islands, "Seasons (Waiting On You)"
Sure, Future Islands made the blogosphere giggle thanks to Samuel Herring's gonzo performance on "David Letterman," but beneath the manic dancing was a bulletproof indie-pop single designed to make you howl in pain and shake your hips simultaneously.
Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea, "Problem"
The snappy R&B of Ariana Grande's breakout hit "The Way" feels minimalist compared to the multi-faceted bubblegum of "Problem," which manages to squeeze in Grande's heavenly vocals between Iggy Azalea's smirking rap, Big Sean's cheeky whispering and a horn riff that flips "Thrift Shop" on its head.
The Antlers, "Parade"
Indie rock stalwarts the Antlers made a tough-to-top album, "Burst Apart," in 2011, but with gorgeous, horn-tinged waltzes like "Parade," the group's recently released "Familiars" full-length might just mark a career high.
Disclosure feat. Mary J. Blige, "F For You" Remix
Disclosure's white-hot dance cut received a dash of soul from the queen of R&B earlier this year when Mary J. Blige decided to rework -- and, quite frankly, improve -- one of the many highlights from the U.K. duo's "Settle" album.
First Aid Kit, "My Silver Lining"
Swedish sister duo make deceptively charming folk music, and new album "Stay Gold" features an array of austere harmonies and stark songwriting on songs like the outstanding single "My Silver Lining."
Usher, "Good Kisser"
Usher is always reliable for a canyon-sized dance track or two every album cycle, and those are inevitably coming. Until then, let's bask in the strange, sexual rhythms of "Good Kisser," which simmers without boiling but leaves listeners fully satisfied.