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Best of 2014

19 Songs That Should Have Been Hits in 2014

Featuring tracks from Miley Cyrus, Big Sean, Marina & The Diamonds and more, here are the year's most under-appreciated singles and best undiscovered gems

1 / 19

Marina & The Diamonds, "Froot"

It's been over two years since the world got a hefty dose of electro-pop confections from Marina and the Diamonds, and you'd think that those who fell hook, line and sinker for Electra Heart back in 2012 would be clamoring for "Froot." While the track and its video were popular on social media (and climbed as high as No. 15 on Billboard's Twitter Top Tracks), the first offering from the U.K. singer's forthcoming record hasn't quite broken in the American market just yet. (Even though it's great.) Marina's revealed plans to drop one new song every month before her new album drops in April, so there's still potential for a M&TD hit very soon. Hilary Hughes

2 / 19

Miley Cyrus, "4x4"

After "We Can't Stop" did stop, and the teddy bears and the toplessness from "Wrecking Ball" and "Adore You" waned, Miley's Bangerz LP was still a massive success. Which is why the lack of attention for the Pharrell-produced "4x4" featuring Nelly was kind of a surprise. Did the world not need any more twerking? Did Nelly not want people to ride wit him anymore? The music video was all set to be directed by "We Can't Stop" auteur Diane Martel, but it never materialized. Perhaps the world wasn't ready for a country club-banger? Jonathan Stern

3 / 19

M83, "I Need You"

France's Anthony Gonzalez—alias M83—has been on fire since 2011's emotional, '80s-synthed masterpiece Hurry Up, We're Dreaming. The M83 contribution to 2014's Divergent—a soaring, saxophone-y, criminally brief artwork called "I Need You"—deserved more fame than a measly spot on the latest teen-blockbuster soundtrack. The heartrending, Bon Iver-ishly inscrutable vocals make you weep and the swelling, layered melodies set the stage for your next giant triumph. "I Need You" shouldn't just be in Divergent, it should be in every movie for the next year. Maybe two. Zach Dionne

4 / 19

Big Sean, "Paradise"

Big Sean's big move in 2014 was "I Don't F*ck With You," with its Kanye West/DJ Mustard–powered beat and its bratty, diabolically catchy chorus. Sean loves trafficking in the obnoxious and Kanye's little Detroit dude gets way too comfortable comparing himself to the bigger B.I.G. But "Paradise" is a thunderstormy Mike WiLL Made-It production that takes Sean to a higher plane, one that goes beyond tolerable and becomes genuinely intoxicating. "Paradise" had the substance and flows to rocket past "IDFWU"—maybe it just needed a more hash-taggable name? The single has yet to chart anywhere. —Zach Dionne

5 / 19

Jessie Ware, "Say You Love Me"

Jessie Ware's sophomore album made it to No. 50 on the Billboard 200, but she's still on the come-up. Ware teamed with fellow Brit Ed Sheeran to pen "Say You Love Me," a folky R&B love-song. It could've been the come-down track to every summer party if only it'd landed earlier in the year and had the promo muscle of a "Shake It Off" or an "All About That Bass." It can be hard to score a slow-jam hit when you're not Beyoncé or Adele, but this was a worthy shot by Ware. —Zach Dionne

6 / 19

Alt-J, "Left Hand Free"

"Left Hand Free" wasn't a flop by chart standards. In fact, it peaked at number two on Billboard's Alternative Songs. But when Alt-J's debut album An Awesome Wave hit America's shores in 2012, it made a big mainstream impact. Tracks like "Tessellate," "Breezeblocks" and "Fitzpleasure" were everywhere from the Sons of Anarchy soundtrack to Nokia commercials to college a cappella set lists. This latest effort finds the Leeds band doing their best American rock accent, which we thought would translate to bigger commercial ubiquity. Maybe it needed more Miley—Jonathan Stern

7 / 19

Nile Rodgers, "Do What You Wanna Do"

"Get Lucky" propelled Chic co-founder and guitarist Nile Rodgers back into music's funk-loving forefront in 2013. Shouldn't that have been enough to propel Nile's fun-loving solo track "Do What You Wanna Do" to hit status a mere year later? Guess not. Moving on, though: DANCE PARTY! —Zach Dionne

8 / 19

Lykke Li, "No Rest for the Wicked"

Not many Swedish songstresses have recruited an American rapper for a verse. (Or covered a Canadian one.) Lykke Li’s tale of a breakup gone bad (are they ever good?) is an excellent track, and it's weirdly made all the better with the amped up bass and contribution from A$AP Rocky on the remix. It could have been her crossover hit. Unfortunately, that thumping was a thud for a lot of pop listeners. —Jonathan Stern

9 / 19

Jack White, "Would You Fight for My Love?"

While the title track off Jack White's Lazaretto earned the most attention of any song on the album—and the best chart performance, reaching No. 9 on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart—the dark and driving "Would You Fight For My Love?" was one of the more satisfying listens. The video was the most impressive feat attached to Lazaretto, with the rocker and his crew hatching the idea and filming the vid within a 24-hour timeframe. "Would You Fight For My Love?" should've been a hit for its musical appeal alone, but the added bonus of the video makes its back-up fave status that much more of a shame. —Hilary Hughes

10 / 19

The Knocks, "Classic"

This glittering, My-Little-Pony of a song clearly references "summertime" and "summer high," so obviously it should have been the jam of the summer. Unfortunately for producing duo B-Roc and JPatt—who have remixed hits for Katy PerryEllie GouldingHAIM and The 1975—"Classic"
was barely a contender in a summer that included The New Classic—Jonathan Stern

11 / 19

Little Mix, "Move"

With all due respect to Fifth Harmony, it was Little Mix's "Move" that should have been the girl-group single to break out in 2014. The experimental R&B-pop track had an atypical song structure with each chorus taking on a vocal life of its own. The groove of "Move" keeps building until its explosive, feel-good ending. Jeff Benjamin

12 / 19

CL, "MTBD"

2NE1 made major waves in 2014 when their Crush album earned the biggest first-week sales ever for a K-pop album in America. While singles "Come Back Home" and "Gotta Be You" saw the girl group venturing into new genres, leader CL slayed on her own with a solo track "MTBD." Based around a "Turn Down for What"-esque beat and the 23-year-old's dynamic flow, the banger was criminally kept to album-track status. We're praying for an even-hotter version of the track on CL's upcoming English album—Jeff Benjamin

13 / 19

Mapei, "Don't Wait"

Fuse tapped Mapei as a Breakthrough Artist for 2014, and while she kept building her profile, hitting Billboard's Heatseekers chart with her debut album Hey Hey, she hasn't yet notched the hit she's due. "Don't Wait" is anthem-level soul-pop with thick, delicious AutoTune accents and the quirky, this-sounds-like-nothing-else resonance of a song like "Somebody That I Used to Know." Adding insult to injury, Mapei and Chance the Rapper did a terrific remix that didn't break through, either. —Zach Dionne

14 / 19

Foo Fighters, "What Did I Do? / God as My Witness"

For the Austin-based component of the Foo Fighters' "musical map of America," Grohl and Co. tapped local guitar god Gary Clark Jr. and legendary outlaw of the tallest order Willie Nelson. "What Did I Do? / God As My Witness" is one of the tracks (or two, technically, as the song is split into two distinct musical thoughts) off Sonic Highways that truly reflects the city from which it sprung, with grand guitar solos, arena-ready riffs and just enough twang to prove you really can't mess with Texas. —Hilary Hughes

15 / 19

Stromae, "Papaoutai"

With a rap as aggressive as Eminem, video as captivating as Lady Gaga and beats bigger than David Guetta's, Stromae hit a home run with "Papaoutai." The French track (translated to "Dad, Where Are You?") had all the aspects to become a rare, non-English crossover—Angel Haze even jumped on an official remix and Pentatonix covered it. According to the charts, the track was one of 2014's biggest international singles, ranking Stromae alongside Psy and 2NE1. Sources indicate Stromae's prepping an English album in 2015, so fingers crossed he gets his due shine. —Jeff Benjamin

16 / 19

Bea Miller, "Young Blood"

The Lorde that should have been! Fifteen-year-old X Factor finalist Bea Miller has collected a massive Internet following in her few years on this earth, catching the attention of the likes of Demi Lovato, who brought her on tour in the fall. But not even exposure to the Lovatics helped "Young Blood" break. The track is the singer's best song to date and a youth empowerment anthem about being the best you can be. What's better than that? Maria Sherman

17 / 19

LP, "Tokyo Sunrise"

Laura Pergolizzi has co-written songs for Rihanna and Christina Aguilera, and her major-label debut Forever For Now introduced LP's own gale-force voice to the masses in 2014. With its warm guitars and pounding drums, the soaring "Tokyo Sunrise" keeps us in awe of LP's acrobatic vocal range. There was a huge push for the single in 2014, so we're still wondering why the song isn't soundtracking every meaningful closing montage on TV this year. Fans of SiaNeko Case and folk anthems should give this gem a second look. Samantha Vincenty

18 / 19

Le1f, "Wut"

After Macklemore's "Thrift Shop" brought saxophones back in fashion, 2014 felt like the perfect time for Le1f's "Wut" to finally break. The New York rapper/producer even made his debut appearance on The Late Show With David Letterman in March, but it couldn't propel the song to the top of the rap charts. A shame though, we really wanted to see a badass queer MC make it in 2014. We'll be eagerly awaiting Le1f's next single. —Jeff Benjamin

19 / 19

Tokyo Police Club, "Hot Tonight"

How could you not love Canadians who make feel good pop-rock and love vintage arcade games?! "Hot Tonight" bounces along in a music video that features the band in an awesome retro "barcade," pumping quarters into machines like the Street Fighter-styled "Twitter Beef" or the always enjoyable "Manic Mayor," starring Rob Ford's head chowing down on crack pipe power pellets. Can we just nominate these guys to be the next OK Go—Jonathan Stern

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Photo of the day

BRIDGETOWN, BARBADOS - DECEMBER 01:  Singer Rihanna and Prince Harry speak on stage at the 'Man Aware' event held by the Barb

Dec. 1: Rih & The Prince in Barbados

In Barbados Rihanna and Prince Harry raise HIV/AIDS awareness in hopes to fight HIV and AIDS stigma. Getting tested in front of cameras, the singer and the prince show us the importance and ease of the process. "It's so easy to get tested & know your status!” Rih tweeted afterwards. Today also marks the 50th Anniversary of Independence in Barbados.

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