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Ask Billboard: Readers’ Favorites of 2014

It's our annual "Ask Billboard" tradition: your favorites (and mine) of the past 12 months. On with the countdowns …

As always, submit questions about Billboard charts, as well as general music musings, to Please include your first and last name, as well as your city, state and country, if outside the U.S. Or, Tweet @gthot20



Happy Holidays! Here’s my 2014 music year …

Concerts. I saw just four shows this year, three of them oddly enough in a five-week period between June 3 and July 5. The first was the night before Record Store Day, and a local tribute to Daryl Hall and John Oates (honoring their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame). It featured many talented musicians mainly from the Portland, Maine area.

In early June, I saw Billy Idol perform for the first time (!) at the last of his three U.S. dates before heading to Europe! What an amazing show! I’d certainly see him again. Later that month, I saw the English Beat perform for the fifth time since 2009, and as always, Dave Wakeling & co. didn’t disappoint.

Lastly, I saw Foreigner, Styx and the Eagles’ Don Felder on July 5 for an outdoor show in Bangor, Maine. For some reason, Mother Nature didn’t want me to see Foreigner this year: in February, I missed a show in Portland due to a snowstorm, and the show in Bangor happened one day after Hurricane Arthur soaked the city. But, the weather, while cool for July, was beautiful and the show was fun.

Record Store Day. I had the honor of meeting R.E.M.’s Mike Mills during a signing at Bull Moose in Scarborough, Maine. He was really down-to-earth and funny. It was certainly a pleasure meeting him.

Favorite album of the year. Don’t know if this album will appear on many year-end lists, but it’s at the top of mine: Blondie’s 10th studio album, Ghosts of Download (part of the Blondie 4(0) Ever package). After seeing Blondie perform for the first time in NYC in October 2013, I was highly anticipating this album’s release (in May), and Debbie Harry and the band delivered a sensational record with elements of dance, rock, pop and reggae. Highlights of the album for me include the singles “Sugar on the Side,” “A Rose by Any Name,” “Put Some Color on You” (a digital bonus track) and the brilliant and surprising cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s “Relax.”

Favorite songs of the year. Songs that didn’t already have the name Blondie attached to it include “Love Never Felt So Good” by Michael Jackson and Justin Timberlake, “Uptown Funk!” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, “Word Crimes” by “Weird Al” Yankovic, Coldplay’s “A Sky Full of Stars,” “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift (my guilty pleasure song of the year) and “Bang Bang” by Jessie J, Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj.

Music moment of the year. WKRP in Cincinnati has long been my second-favorite show of all-time (and an inspiration for my pursuing broadcasting as a career) and for more than 30 years, I’ve been waiting for this entire series to be released. This fall, it finally happened, as Shout! Factory released the complete series on DVD with most of the original music intact. For about a month, I binge-watched every episode and fell in love with the show all over again. Many thanks to Shout! Factory and all of the recording artists who allowed their music to be on the DVDs!

And thank you, Gary, for all you do with Chart Beat and “Ask Billboard.” Best wishes for a wonderful 2015!

Ron Raymond, Jr.
Host/Producer, Stuck in the 80s
Portland, Maine

Thanks so much, Ron! We’re just getting started with our annual “Ask Billboard” tradition, readers’ favorites of the past 12 months. On with the countdowns …

Hi Gary,

My top 10 songs of 2014:

10, “She Came to Give It To,” Usher
9, “Empire,” Shakira
8, “You’re Mine (Eternal),” Mariah Carey
7, “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith
6, “All of Me,” John Legend
5, “Blink,” Cascada
4, “Not a Bad Thing,” Justin Timberlake
3, “First Love,” Jennifer Lopez
2, “All About You,” Hilary Duff

1, “Into the Blue,” Kylie Minogue

And, my top 10 albums of 2014:

10, V, Maroon 5
9, Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas
8, Shakira., Shakira
7, Me. I am Mariah … The Elusive Chanteuse, Mariah Carey
6, The London Sessions, Mary J Blige
5, In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith
4, X, Ed Sheeran
3, A.K.A., Jennifer Lopez
2, 1989, Taylor Swift
1, Kiss Me Once, Kylie Minogue

Happy New Year!

Derek Borland


Hey Gary,

So many great songs and albums have come out this year and I’d love to share some of my favorites.

Top 10 albums (including my favorite tracks):

10, Lana Del Rey, Ultraviolence (“Florida Kilos”)
9, Lights, Siberia (“Running With the Boys”)
8, Bad Suns, Language & Perspective (“Salt”)
7, Taylor Swift, 1989 (“I Know Places,” “New Romantics”)
6, St. Vincent, St. Vincent (“Birth In Reverse”)
5, The Neighbourhood, #00000 & #FFFFF (“#icanteven,” feat. French Montana)
4, Banks, Goddess (“Goddess”)
3, Azealia Banks, Broke With Expensive Taste (“Heavy Metal and Reflective”)
2, Foxes, Glorious (“Talking to Ghosts”)

1, Tove Lo, Queen of the Clouds (“Talking Body,” “Not On Drugs”)

… and singles:

10, Major Lazer, “All My Love,” feat. Ariana Grande
9, Nick Jonas, “Chains”
8, Lana Del Rey, “Brooklyn Baby”
7, Fifth Harmony, “BO$$”
6, Hilary Duff, “All About You”
5, Taylor Swift, “Style” (future single!)
4, 5 Seconds of Summer, “Good Girls”
3, Banks, “Waiting Game”
2, Pharrell Williams, “Come Get It Bae”
1, Selena Gomez, “The Heart Wants What It Wants”

Thanks so much!

Samuel Shallenberger
Mt. Juliet, Tennessee

Hello Gary,

Thanks for always providing interesting chart trivia and information. It’s always enjoyable reading for us chart crazies to share your enthusiasm.

My personal top 10s for the year (yes, they are a bit heavy on the Ed Sheeran and One Direction, as you can see):

10, Just as I Am, Brantley Gilbert
9, Nick Jonas, Nick Jonas
8, 1989, Taylor Swift
7, Cheek to Cheek, Tony Bennett and Lady Gaga
6, Behind the Light, Phillip Phillips
5, The Outsiders, Eric Church
4, In the Lonely Hour, Sam Smith
3, Hozier, Hozier
2, Four, One Direction
1, X, Ed Sheeran

10, “Fool’s Gold,” One Direction
9, “Photograph,” Ed Sheeran
8, “Stay With Me,” Sam Smith
7, “Take Me to Church,” Hozier
6, “Counting Stars,” OneRepublic
5, “Night Changes,” One Direction
4, “I See Fire,” Ed Sheeran
3, “You and Me,” You + Me
2, “18,” One Direction

1, “Afire Love,” Ed Sheeran

Thanks again and have a happy 2015!

George Lotter


Hi Gary,

Here’s a countdown of my top 10 singles of the year (of my entire top 100):

10, “Neon Lights,” Demi Lovato
9, “Timber,” Pitbull feat. Kesha
8, “Chandelier,” Sia
7, “This Is How We Do,” Katy Perry
6, “Fancy,” Iggy Azalea feat. Charli XCX
5, “All About That Bass,” Meghan Trainor
4, “Bang Bang,” Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj
3, “Human,” Christina Perri
2, “Dark Horse,” Katy Perry feat. Juicy J
1, “Problem,” Ariana Grande feat. Iggy Azalea

M. U?ur Dursun
?zmir, Turkey


Hi Gary,

I’m a producer (producteur) at radio station 102.1 CKOI in Quebec City. I made a mash-up of my top 40 for 2014. Take a look [above]

Big thanks!

Mike Sickini

Here are my top 10 songs, courtesy of my iTunes playlist this year … Enjoy!

T10, “Don’t,” Ed Sheeran
T10, “Don’t Tell ‘Em,” Jeremih feat. YG

T10, “i,” Kendrick Lamar
9, “No Love (Remix),” August Alsina
8, “Animals,” Maroon 5
7, “Love Me Harder,” Ariana Grande & the Weeknd
6, “Touchin, Lovin,” Trey Songz
5, “Black Widow,” Iggy Azalea feat. Rita Ora
4, “All About That Bass,” Megan Trainor
3, “Tuesday,” I Love Makonnen feat. Drake
2, “Habits (Stay High),” Tove Lo
1, “Hold You Down,” DJ Khaled feat. Chris Brown, August Alsina, Future & Jeremih

Happy holidays,

Andre’ Johnson
East St. Louis, Illinois 


Hey Gary,

It feels embarrassing, but it’s my first ever email to you (or Billboard) and I’m already asking you to publish my list of favorite albums and songs of 2014. Anyway, this year I heard a lot of good songs (both charted and uncharted). I’m looking forward an even more impressive 2015.

Top 10 albums:
10, 1989, Taylor Swift
9, I Never Learn, Lykke Li
8, Conversations, Woman’s Hour
7, Complete Surrender, Slow Club
6, Phantom, Madi Diaz
5, Ultraviolence, Lana Del Rey
4, Anthems, I Heart Sharks
3, No Moon at All, Wildcat! Wildcat!
2, Haerts, Haerts
1, Siren, Young Summer

Top 10 songs:
10, “Karaoke,” I Heart Sharks
9, “Just Like a Dream,” Lykke Li
8, “Delivrance,” Alcest
7, “I Killed Sara V. ,” Lowell
6, “Remember Love,” S
5, “Cure,” Barcelona
4, “Summer,” Katie Herzig
3, “Afraid of Nothing,” Sharon Van Etten
2, “Circus,” Paper Aeroplanes

1, “Black River,”  Wolf Gang

See you next year!

Goiânia, Brazil

Alex Vitoulis, associate charts production manager:

10, Carrie Underwood, Greatest Hits: Decade #1. A decade in and still going strong. This is what a greatest hits package should be: nothing but hits and even has two new outstanding songs, one that has become a hit (and the other will become one).

9, Sia, 1000 Forms of Fear. As songwriter and artist, Sia demonstrates why she is one of the most sought-after and highly-regarded talents in the industry today.

8, Hozier, Hozier. Among the best debut full-lengths this year. These picturesque songs are moving, haunting and filled with depth.

7, Taylor Swift, 1989. Taking a break from her country roots, Swift fully embraces the pop landscape and out-pops most of her peers. With two No. 1 hits down and a third on the way, she shows all that she has crossed into adulthood confident, self-assured and putting any doubts to rest that she knows her worth.

6, Sam Smith, In the Lonely Hour. That voice. Need I say more?  Music is supposed to move you and Sam does that. Can’t wait for the next chapter.

5, Beyonce, Beyonce: Platinum Edition. She changed the musical landscape upon the original release in December 2013 and this November 2014 re-issue reconfirms just how “***flawless” this album is. Adding the remixes that everyone was craving just sweetens this release more.

4, Parachute, Live From Minneapolis (EP). They sound just as great live as they do on their studio albums. A total treat.

3, Secondhand Serenade, Undefeated. John Vesley knows how to craft a song that hits you straight in the heart. His duets with country artist Veronica Ballestrini are breathtaking and the meshing of their voices are perfection.

2, The Script, No Sound Without Silence. A must-see live band. Nothing short of superb.

1, Sheppard, Geronimo (EP). This Australian sextet (including siblings George, Amy and Emma Sheppard) are the real deal. Amazing harmonizes, lyrics and melodies. Look for a major breakthrough on U.S. soil in 2015.

10, Hardwell featuring Matthew Koma, “Dare You.” Koma can write and sing.
9, Sia, “Chandelier.” She swung and hit.
8, Jessie J, Ariana Grande & Nicki Minaj, “Bang Bang.” A powerhouse of vocal fortitude.
7, Taylor Swift, “Blank Space.” Pop perfection.
6, Charli XCX, “Boom Clap.” Infectious.
5, MAGIC!, “Rude.” Pure magic.
4, Meghan Trainor, “All About That Bass.” The first of many to come from this talented songstress.
3, Mark Ronson feat. Bruno Mars, “Uptown Funk!” Another classic that Bruno is connected to.
2, The Script, “Superheroes.” These guys can do no wrong.
1, Sheppard, “Geronimo.” I have not been able to get enough of this song since August. I still have on constant repeat.

Emily White, rock chart manager:

Unranked (it’s like picking favorites among my imaginary children!)

Favorite albums:
Spoon, They Want My Soul
Wye Oak, Shriek
Future Islands, Singles
Perfume Genius, Too Bright
Lydia Loveless, Somewhere Else
St. Vincent, St. Vincent
Warehouse, Tesseract
Run the Jewels, RTJ2
Ariana Grande, My Everything
Radiator Hospital, Torch Song
Solids, Blame Confusion
One Direction, FOUR
Teebs, E s t a r a
Tony Molina, Dissed and Dismissed
Ryan Adams, 1984
D’Angelo, Black Messiah
Beyoncé, Beyoncé

Favorite songs:
Heat, “Rooms”
Shakey Graves feat. Esme Patterson, “Dearly Departed”
5 Seconds of Summer, “Don’t Stop”
Flying Lotus feat. Kendrick Lamar, “Never Catch Me”
Ought, “Today More Than Any Other Day”
Caroline Rose, “America Religious”

Lana Del Ray, “Shades of Cool”
J. Cole, “Be Free”
Sharon Van Etten, “Your Love Is Killing Me”
Chad Vangaalen, “Where Are You?”
Lil Silva feat. Banks, “Don’t You Love”
Mitski, “Francis Forever”
Krill, “Unbounded Nameless Future”
Angel Olsen, “High & Wild”
Avey Tare’s Slasher Flicks, “Little Fang”
Tinashe, “All Hands On Deck”

Favorite live shows:
Ty Segall, Webster Hall (Sept. 18)
Future Islands, Death By Audio (Nov. 18)
Girlpool and Meatbodies, Death By Audio (Oct. 23)
Radioactivity, Baby’s All Right (June 30)
She Keeps Bees, Cameo Gallery (Aug. 21)

Gordon Murray, dance chart manager:

Top two musical events:
Tori Amos’ “Unrepentant Geraldines Tour.” Amos performed solo from May to November across three continents, playing multiple instruments simultaneously while singing (and sounding stronger than ever). She performed more than 300 different songs, including older b-sides and obscure album cuts, as well as over 120 different covers, many of which she had never sung before (including songs by Beyonce, Miley Cyrus, Madonna, Metallica, Nine Inch Nails, Dolly Parton, Prince, Radiohead, Rihanna, Diana Ross and many more). Though the sparsely-produced Unrepentant Geraldines album may have let down some fans, the tour was a highlight among her career, showcasing the purity of her unique musical talent, night after night after night.

Madonna’s Rebel Heart album. An unexpected holiday treat for Madonna fans, the released songs tease the possibility of a musically diverse album combined with mature lyrical content. “Devil Pray” alone is a cut above the rest, presenting one of her most gorgeous, soaring vocals ever in an intriguing musical context.

And, top 10 songs:
10, Paul Van Dyk with Jessus & Adham Ashraf featuring Tricia McTeague, “Only in a Dream”
9, SBTRKT feat. Ezra Koenig, “New Dorp, New York”
8, Selena Gomez, “The Heart Wants What It Wants”
7, Zhu, “Faded”
6, Armin Van Buuren, “Ping Pong”
5, Shiba San, “Okay”
4, Josh Butler, “Got a Feeling” (Bontan remix/Pleasurekraft edit)
3, Wild Culture & Juliet Sikora, “In You”
2, Eelke Kleijn, “Ein Tag am Strand”
1, David Guetta feat. Sam Martin, “Lovers in the Sun”

William Gruger, social/streaming chart manager:

10, Freddie Gibbs & Madlib, Pinata
9, RATKING, So It Goes
8, Caribou, Our Love
7, Flying Lotus, You’re Dead!
6, D’Angelo, Black Messiah
5, Theophilus London, Vibes
4, Spooky Black, Leaving (EP)
3, Aphex Twin, Syro
2, Todd Terje, It’s Album Time
1, Run the Jewels, Run the Jewels

10, Rae Sremmurd, “No Flex Zone”

9, Grimes, “Go,” feat. Blood Diamonds
8, Basement Jaxx, “Unicorn”
7, Spooky Black, “Idle”
6, Jack U, “Take U There”
5, Todd Terje, “Intro”
4, Theophilius London, “Tribe,” feat. Jesse Boykins III
3, Drake, “How Bout Now”
2, Run the Jewels, “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
1, Clean Bandit feat. Jess Glynne, “Rather Be”

If you’re still reading … here are my favorites of 2014. (And, if you’re not reading, they still are!)

Top albums:
T10, Myla Smith, Live at the Levitt Shell
T10, Jen Coates, Seed Sessions
9, Lily & Madeleine, Fumes
8, Oh Honey, Sincerely Yours (EP)
7, Chvrches, The Bones of What You Believe
6, Oh Honey, With Love (EP)
5, Suzanne Vega, Tales from the Realm of the Queen of Pentacles
T3, The Both, The Both
T3, The Strange Familiar, The Day the Light Went Out
T1, Stars, No One Is Lost

T1, Alex & Sierra, It’s About Us

Favorite stories I wrote:
5, Meghan Trainor On ‘All About That Bass’: It’s About ‘Loving Your Body … And Your Booty’ (Q&A)
4, Hot 100 Record-Breaker Fred Stobaugh, 97, Returns With New Song
3, Casey Kasem Gave Billboard A Voice
2, Why Hit Songs Now Have One-Word Titles
1, Howard Stern: The Billboard Cover Q&A (with Billboard VP/charts & data development Silvio Pietroluongo)

Favorite shows:
Three in-a-row: Lily & Madeleine at Le Poisson Rouge (Nov. 6), Oh Honey at Best Buy Theater (Nov. 7) and Stars at Music Hall of Williamsburg (Nov. 10).
Five others: The Both, HAIM, Liz Longley, the Strange Familiar and (live at Billboard) Matthew Sweet

Weirdest coincidence:
Bea Miller (of budding pop hit “Young Blood”) is also my mother’s maiden name. I amused Miller (the singer) with that when she visited Billboard. (Pretty sure no one else told her that this year.)

Speaking of … best interview:
With legendary Connie Francis. We chatted while I was home in Boston as my mother (see above) listened in. Eventually, she told Francis, her favorite artist, how much her music has meant to her. “Every time you hear one of those songs, it’s like hearing from an old friend,” said a grateful Francis.

My girlfriend Michelle’s favorite songs:
10, “Burn,” Ellie Goulding
9, “Let Her Go,” Passenger
8, “Where No One Goes,” Jonsi & John Powell
7, “Take Me to Church,” Hozier
6, “Love Don’t Die,” the Fray
5, “Bad Blood,” Bastille
4, “Counting Stars,” OneRepublic
3, “Chandelier,” Sia
2, “Blame,” Calvin Harris feat. John Newman
1, “I Need You,” M83

My brother Michael’s favorite songs:
10, “I Love You Will Still Sound the Same,” Oh Honey
9, “Girls Chase Boys,” Ingrid Michaelson
8, “Did I Say That Out Loud?” Barenaked Ladies
7, “Everything Changed,” Jen Coates
6, “Let Her Go,” Passenger
5, “Afterlife,” Ingrid Michaelson
4, “Drive,” the Well Pennies
3, “Milwaukee,” the Both
2, “Volunteers of America,” the Both

… and No. 1? The same as me, so, as not to ruin the suspense of my list …

My top 10 songs:
10, “Horizon (There Is a Road),” Suzanne Vega
9, “Whatever We Started,” Richard Marx
8, “Rabbit,” Lily & Madeleine
7, “The Mother We Share,” Chvrches
6, “I Love You Will Still Sound the Same,” Oh Honey
5, “Milwaukee,” the Both
4, “Scarecrow,” Alex & Sierra
3, “Be Okay,” Oh Honey
2, “Trap Door,” Stars

… and …

1, “Break It to You Gently,” Camera Obscura
The song was released in 2013 on Camera Obscura’s Desire Lines album, but I didn’t hear it until my brother made me aware of it after he heard it in a store shopping for a camping trip that we took to Maine in August. Not only does it hit my indie pop sweet spot, but the video is so touching, starring a trolley (as the Scottish band calls it) just looking for a little company. (It’s my first No. 1 song of the year that makes me want to hug a suitcase on wheels every time I see one on my commute in and out of Grand Central Station.)

Happy new year and, as always, thanks for reading – and contributing so many great insights to – Chart Beat, Billboard‘s great tradition started by Paul Grein in 1981 and carried on by Fred Bronson in the ’90s and ’00s. It’s a pleasure and honor each week to continue chronicling artists’ achievements, along with the rest of the Billboard charts dept.

Per chart historian Joel Whitburn, “I’m just a huge music fan and I love the charts. I enjoy following artists’ success. There’s just a joy in that. It’s a weekly thrill. And, there are millions more like me all over the world.”