2014: Favorite 50 Songs of 2014

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music and films that helped define the year. More from this series


Every day this week, we unveiled 10 tracks that comprise our Favorite 50 Songs of 2014, with each day showcasing a new theme and its accompanying mix. We’ve already been to the GYM, VOID, ALLEY, and CLIFF. For our final theme, we’re taking the top down, turning the volume up, and going for a ride in the COUPE.


YG
“Who Do You Love? (feat. Drake)”

[Def Jam]

Apparently, living “the good life” comes packaged alongside the heavy pressure to flex. We know this well — hip-hop’s prosaic need to proclaim sexual and political “freedom” via cash money. But, somehow, “Who Do You Love?” came across as a gift that alleviated the angst-y male gaze from turning everything stone cold. Mustard was in peak form here; a four-bar minor-phrase, the kick, and the “hey” were all perfectly designed and ready-to-please. Perhaps more than any other rap track this year, the piece showed us the benefits of “lightness.” The Mustard/YG axis even coaxed “The Boy,” that one paradigmatic Toronto rapper, to deliver a tightly-packaged party drop instead of his typical meandering, self-referential goosebumpy thing. All-in-all, the “gift” of Mustard’s production allowed for an indulgent pleasure-ride in a lane wide enough for YG and Drake to blithely flex those six figures. They easily cruised from 0 to 60 to $600,000.

Freddie Gibbs & Madlib
“Thuggin’”

[Madlib Invazion]

Is Freddie Gibbs actually thuggin’? That vapid question has loomed over Gibbs’s career for the past half-decade, farcically culminating with him being shot at in front of a gentrified-ass Williamsburg record store and, thus, not really offering any kind of resolution to the argument. Alas, we here at TMT encourage amaurotic conviction over inconsequential debates, so don’t worry about Gibbs’s cred; instead, ponder how good Gibbs and Madlib’s “Thuggin’” is. One of many standouts from the duo’s phenomenal collaborative album Piñata, the track found Madlib collaging Rubba’s “Way Star” into an incredibly dynamic beat, while Gibbs juxtaposed a smooth delivery against the grit of growing up in Gary. Please don’t attempt to murder him again.

Beyoncé
”***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)”

[Columbia]

If there were a good way of describing how women ALSO participate in mansplaining, it’d be the lyrics to Beyoncé’s “***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)” [original version above]. And of course, it’d be in the most exhaustive tone, ‘cause having to explain yo-self ONE MORE TIME, gurrl; I ain’t sticking around for the war cloud. I’m a white guy, so tracks like “***Flawless (feat. Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche)” typically get me [stereotype-dancing], but in all honesty, it’s a good outlet into a plethora of mindsets I’m not typically used to. Although, some girl at work told me she didn’t like “the weird sounds” in Beyoncé’s latest album, so she never really listened to it. Power to being alive, and “Fuck it!”

Bobby Shmurda
“Hot Nigga”

[Epic]

Crow sounds had a hell of a year. 18+ released a 7-inch that featured “Crow” as the A-side and later laid the track down for their EUREKA!’d full-length. Meanwhile, Jahlil Beats sent a WAV file via carrier crow over to Bobby Shmurda who then sent “Hot Nigga” over to Drake and then BAM: the crow sound is jetting over to work with Kanye on his upcoming while being named #2 on The FADER’s must-have beat kit of 2014 behind that “Hey” sample DJ Mustard puts in absolutely everything. AYYY, crow sounds caught a body ‘bout a week agoooo!

OG Maco
“U Guessed It”

[Quality Control]

“U Guessed It” came out of nowhere. Atlanta was calling itself weird, pots were calling kettles black, and we were four years removed from Flockaveli. FOUR YEARS. We were dying of thirst out there. It was like that Coors Light commercial where people go from being boring and sexualized to enjoying life and each other’s sexualization, except if the beer train was this song and on its way through East Atlanta. OG Maco’s energy was only amplified by the video of OGG and Rome Fortune falling through a hotel, mobbing in the elevator, yelling “HWAH,” making the world a better place for everyone.

Rich Gang
“Lifestyle”

[Self-Released]

A victory lap single released ahead of their compulsively listenable Tha Tour: Part 1 mixtape, Rich Gang’s “Lifestyle” coasted over London on da Track’s lush piano chords, G-funk synthlines, and bumping trap percussion into its pole position as the consummate summer jam for cruising in the coupe (or the yacht) with all your (rich) homies. Rich Homie Quan tried on a bouncy Andre 3000-core flow (“trouble trouble” […] “fist knuckle knuckle”), while Young Thug populated his double verses with the stream of freewheeling flows and upper-register volleys that we’ve come to cherish from Atlanta’s most consistently unpredictable MC.

FKA Twigs
“Two Weeks”

[Young Turks]

FKA Twigs’s defining song was once “Water Me,” in which she sang of affection-starvation over an Arca production so fragile a single thump could shatter it. Those days are over, idiot! That girl may have pleaded for growth, but the Twigs on “Two Weeks” thrived into the force and size of the damn sun. “You say you want me/ I say you’ll live without it,” she sneered, a sly power grab at the center of a song imploring “you” to be sensually consumed by her. If “Two Weeks” seemed straightforward production-wise, it’s because those tightly-sequenced blasts of synth and percussion were forced to fall in line with her command. “You know you’re mine,” she shouted, and yes, we know. We know.

iLoveMakonnen
“Club Goin’ Up on a Tuesday”

[Self-Released]

I used to be terrible at singing along to music — especially rap. I mean I couldn’t even get through the first line of the Fresh Prince theme song. That was before iLoveMakonnen. I have now sung along to every word of “Club Goin’ Up On A Tuesday” about three billion times, just in my car alone. But it wasn’t just the accessibility or simplicity that made “Tuesday” so beautiful. It was the rawness, the realness, the intimacy; the pure, confident, gentle delivery of a message and style that was both comforting and unfamiliar. But mostly it was for giving nerds like me some rap we can finally sing along to.

Hannah Diamond
“Attachment”

[PC Music]

Like an OS upgrade, “Attachment” swiped the foundations underlying our regular mental interactions with the what and the why of earworm pop and replaced them with a more attractive (and initially even irritating) version of the same thing, quickly wiping all memory of how this stuff used to operate. A creation of both the bedroom and the factory, PC Music’s beveled bass drop(let)s and blushing synth-puffs nestled close to Hannah Diamond’s slightly-off recitations of sweetness, gliding along serenely but trapped in a complex melancholy, daydreaming about horizontal intimacy in the flattened future.

Taylor Swift
“Shake It Off”

[Big Machine]

Is “Shake it Off,” as advice, good or bad? Is it advice, even? A command, maybe? Is there an option? Is the “it” that’s shaking [off] always and necessarily by definition not “me,” and if so, once off, where does it go? If I shake myself [off] down to the very, very, very bottom, and off, off, off “it” comes, what then is left? No blurb­space for answers, I guess, but I will say that I’ve heard this song probably at least as much as any other song this year, and I’m still happy when it comes on. And anyway, as far as I’m concerned, Tim Terhaar’s still got the final word.

We celebrate the end of the year the only way we know how: through lists, essays, and mixes. Join us as we explore the music and films that helped define the year. More from this series


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