25. Cold World – "Hell's Direction" featuring Kool G Rap
Best live band. Best hardcore record. And this song features one of the best rappers to ever breathe on the mic, Kool G Rap. It's like the Justice League of badass motherfuckers, except everyone is Superman and no one is Hawkman or Aquaman or whatever the fuck.
24. Tinashe – “2 On” featuring Schoolboy Q
At the tail end of 2013, Noisey intro-interviewed the former child actor, model, and one-time girl group member, predicting that 2014 would be Tinashe’s year and we were right. She stormed out of the gates in January with the DJ Mustard-produced “2 On,” a song that remains her debut record’s perfectly formed cherry on top (although “Pretend” is a heartbreaker and a close second). With Schoolboy Q spitting the praises of both pot and cunnilingus (agreed), “2 On” is nothing more complicated than a party jam: Tinashe takes an oft-repeated sentiment, coins her own phrase, and makes it fresh. The small screen’s loss is our gain.
23. The Lawrence Arms – “Seventeener”
Getting old doesn’t happen the way you think it does as a kid. When you’ve got youth on your side, you believe that one day, you’ll simply wake up and look like your parents. But as time goes on, you realize: Age happens gradually—a few grey hairs begin to creep in, wrinkles dig themselves in deeper, and things start to ache for no reason. The Lawrence Arms, in their long-awaited return, make this thing called age go down a little easier.
22. Sylvan Esso – “Coffee”
Life changes, but we're still all constantly looking for something to hold onto, whether it's a dance partner, a life partner, or a memory. “Coffee,” the rare song that feels instantly nostalgic without sounding stuck in the past, pulls each of these in a little bit closer.
21. Broncho – “Class Historian”
This song is ready-made for a Tampax ad where a bunch of girls are Colgate-grinning and skipping around on a beach. Or, as it turns out, it’s the perfect score for a new commercial for Tinder Plus: The Next Level of Tinder, which makes Tinder 2.0 sound like Super Mario and Star Trek at the same time! In fact, the ad seems to suggest Tinder Plus enables you to hook up with strangers all over the world! Blending bodily fluids in Berlin is just one swipe away, BBs. On a serious note, though, you could argue “Class Historian”—which is about anxiety surrounding a high school reunion—flirts with irritation by touting a melody that’s both uber-pop and lazily drawled, but this is actually critical to its appeal. It’s fuzzy indie meets new wave cool. You might say you don’t like it, but you’d be lying.
20. Ariana Grande – “Love Me Harder"
Ariana Grande spends a lot of time belting from the upper echelons of her vocal range (just don’t call her Baby Mariah, OK?), but with The Weeknd as her super-sexed up vocal foil, she sounds less shrill, less breathless and, hey, now she’s 21, more of a woman. Assembled by a crack team of songwriters—including consistent chart-conqueror Max Martin—“Love Me Harder” is 24-carat R&B-pop, and hopefully, a glimmer of what’s to come.
19. Snootie Wild featuring K. Camp – "Made Me"
There are moments in life when you feel invincible: when you're swerving down the highway doing about 80, when you're smoking on Jamaica, when you see your haters and they do not faze you, and when K. Camp and Snootie Wild sing about these things, not giving a single fuck what you thought a rap hit was supposed to sound like. “Made Me” is a perfect song about coming from the bottom and feeling on top of the world.
18. Future featuring Andre 3000 – “Benz Friendz (Whatchutola)”
This was the only Andre 3000 verse this year. In it, he proved, again, that he’s one of the greatest rappers alive. Do we need to say more?
17. Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda”
Nicki likes to fuck with us. “Anaconda” and its accompanying ass-tastic video launched a national conversation about the dichotomy of expression versus exploitation and ownership of the male gaze. Her raw, unapologetic approach to her own sexuality. coupled with her playful flow and those you-know-you-love-it “Baby Got Back” samples, is the one love letter to big, black butts that the world needed this year. Sit down, Meghan Trainor.
16. Ty Dolla $ign – “Stand For”
The best U2 song this year was not on Songs of Innocence, not by a goddamn long shot. Instead, it was by Ty Dolla $ign, whose “Stand For” reimagines the Los Angeles polymath as a stadium-pop hero who, in the spirit of personal being political, fights for his brothers locked up on bullshit even as he’s drunk on the couch at the club and fucking your girl while standing up. Even though “Stand For” reaches for the stars, Ty Dolla $ign’s mind is still firmly lodged in the gutter.
15. Fetty Wap – “Trap Queen”
At the risk of incensing the human 4chan board that is the New York hip-hop traditionentsia, the hottest New York record of the year was Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen,” which was basically a slowed-down Chicago Bop anthem as performed by a one-eyed dude from Paterson, New Jersey whose favorite rapper is Gucci Mane. If that doesn’t prove that New York is the world’s greatest melting pot, what can?
14. Dej Loaf – "Try Me"
On “Try Me,” the world's introduction to one of rap's most arresting new talents, Dej Loaf sounds like she's about to float away: The beat is pillow-soft, and her voice is a hypnotizing sing-song. Individual lines snap together in surreal succession, images of Italian foodstuffs drift by, we see Dej's immaculate closet and meet her cousin calling from jail—all of which might just lull someone into forgetting that this is a string of metaphors about shooting people and, by extension, the hardest lullaby ever made.
13. Rich Gang – “Lifestyle”
It’s beautiful, really. Rich Homie Quan and Young Thug’s voices just float over one another, like old friends who’ve been playing a game of chess every day for decades. Quan and Thug dance around the beat, their autotuned garbling somehow sounding like tears of joy. This song is a celebration for those who’ve come from nothing and made it to the top, an anthem fueled by joy and excitement and making it to the fucking top.
12. Beach Slang – “American Girls and French Kisses”
Too much emphasis is put on how music sounds over how it feels. But this song feels like a first kiss on a summer night. Beach Slang’s appeal—besides their musical kinship with bands like Jawbreaker and The Replacements—is that they can perfectly tap into those sentimental feelings of youth, as frontman James Snyder brings high school diary entries alive with lines like "Tonight let's be young! And light up these sleeping streets/ It's Friday night and I'm in the basement/ Screaming out my lungs with my best friends/ I hope when I die, I feel this alive!" Whether you’re currently living those moments or looking back on them nostalgically, this song—and really every song Beach Slang thus far have done in their brief tenure—soundtracks it beautifully.
11. St. Vincent – "Birth and Reverse"
Is your average day taking out the garbage before self-pleasuring and then getting on with whatever your schedule has in store? Seems like a good way to kick things off, to be honest. “Birth in Reverse” is experi-pop built on a bedrock of gloriously frazzled guitars and shuddering beats. What makes St. Vincent such a treasure is her ability to weld fiendish, gnarly riffs (have you seen her live? Girl’s got her shred technique on lock) to vocals that flit between beautiful and inventively strange.