Top 25 albums of 2017

For the last couple of years I’ve #SHUNNED a conventional “Top X albums…” list in favour of a straightforward ranking of each and every one I listened to. I heard 50 in 2017 and started typing out a ranked thing, but honestly this has been such a shrug-worthy year for full-length records that I got bored halfway through and decided to keep it to a condensed Top 25 instead.

These are the albums I’ve stuck at No1 in the past. Some… curious choices, I think you’ll agree:

2010: Lights – Ellie Goulding
2011: 21 – Adele
2012: Electra Heart – Marina and the Diamonds
2013: Salute – Little Mix
2014: 1989 – Taylor Swift
2015: Breathe In Breathe Out – Hilary Duff
2016: Lemonade – Beyonce

Back to 2017, and I’ve put a Spotify playlist at the bottom containing my favourite track from each album, don’t you worry.

Oh and I hit publish on my Top 50 singles list yesterday – you can read that here.

So here we go…

25. Nervous System – Julia Michaels

I toyed with putting a few other albums here instead of Nervous System, just because it’s only a seven-track long “mini-album”, but to be fair it’s a great mission statement from Michaels, and it has more good songs on it than many full-length releases I’ve heard this year ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. If you don’t like the sound of her voice, this won’t change your mind; but while Uh-Huh does flirt quite dangerously with pure irritation, the rest is great. Worst In Me is my favourite, but Make It Up To You and Issues are also well worth a visit.

24. Harry Styles – Harry Styles

When Sign Of The Times came out, I was a bit 😑 – but it makes a lot more sense in the context of this self-titled album, which won’t land Styles on the cover of Q any time soon but is still a commercially bold album with some commendable highs. Two Ghosts is my personal fave.

23. Strange Words and Weird Wars – Marnie

I’d never heard of Marnie before, I just spotted this album on Popjustice’s rolling list of great albums and gave it a spin. Can confirm it is v good, if all a bit samey by the end.

22. Witness – Katy Perry

HERE’S THE THING, RIGHT. I remain convinced that there is a brilliant EP somewhere on Witness. And the singles were all pretty good, right? Roulette is a corker? A messy era, for sure, but one with many more redeeming qualities than I think have been appreciated.

21. Flicker – Niall Horan

I really didn’t expect to like Flicker as much as I did, and that’s even after Slow Hands made me re-evaluate my feelings towards the whole Niall Solo Thing. It’s just a very likeable listen, tbh, and good for him. Anecdote enthusiasts will be pleased to know I had a lovely autumnal walk to this.

20. Glasshouse – Jessie Ware

I worried when Midnight came out that I wouldn’t love this new era, but Glasshouse is reliably good. Alone is the standout for me, but Your Domino is also worth checking out; and generally this is just a very good advert for a lovely long-term relationship.

19. Beautiful Trauma – Pink

This is a great album but it doesn’t hit the bullseye quite as convincingly as Pink has done in the past, ‘imo’. Compared to, for example, The Truth About Love; it just seems to take itself a tiny bit more seriously, and have a bit less fun in the process. But it’s still a keeper: the title track is much better than lead single What About Us, and stuff like Secrets and Whatever You Want also hit the spot.

18. Hopeless Fountain Kingdom – Halsey

With Lauren Jauregui collaboration Strangers the jewel in its crown, Hopeless Fountain Kingdom more than makes up for that motherfucking inescapable Chainsmokers collaboration last year. Lots to love.

17. Fifth Harmony – Fifth Harmony

Against the odds, this is the embattled group’s most cohesive album yet. It’s just a shame they forgot to put any big hits on it to help, yaknow, sell any copies. Camila’s absence is noticeable but I hope this isn’t the end of the road.

16. Fake Sugar – Beth Ditto

If you’ve slept on Fake Sugar, give it a spin: Ditto is a powerful vocalist and on this debut solo album she’s got a lot of great material to work with. Fun in places, affecting in others, she even leaves U2 rotting on stuff like We Could Run.

15. So Good – Zara Larsson

There seemed to be a lot of disappointment in the air when So Good didn’t quite live up to its name, but I’d still argue that it’s got a lot to offer. It may not reinvent the wheel, but it scores more than it misses: TG4M, Don’t Let Me Be Yours and What They Say all complement the big singles very nicely indeed.

14. Gone Now – Bleachers

Jack Antonoff’s worked wonders for Lorde and Taylor Swift, but he also kept some good stuff back for his own project: Gone Now is a very well produced record that sounds like the soundtrack to a 1980s teen comedy, and honestly the best decision he ever made was to put previous band Fun. on the backburner.

13. From The Outside – Hey Violet

The best way of describing Hey Violet’s output is the fact that they were snapped up by a record label division ~helmed by 5 Seconds of Summer. Peppy pop-rock with a slightly punky edge, it’s rammed with likeable tunes – My Consequence packs one hell of a chorus, and on All We Ever Wanted they even set their sights on the dancefloor.

12. LANY – LANY

I can’t remember who introduced me to LANY but I really like this album. Wistful indie-pop that sounds like it could have been released at any point in the last 30 years, it deserved more than the No90 chart position it got.

11. Number 1 Angel – Charli XCX

Technically a “””mixtape””” (what’s the difference again?) but still great: I don’t think Charli XCX is the everything-turns-to-gold genius she’s often hailed as but this is still a fantastic collection of songs; ILY2, 3AM, Dreamer and Emotional being my favourites.

10. Dua Lipa – Dua Lipa

I’ve only very recently returned to Dua’s album and decided I liked it. It’s taken a while for her to properly click with me as an exciting popstar: for a while she just sounded too ~cool for me to properly invest too much energy in, despite the slick tuneage at her disposal. But her eponymous debut is a winner: it’s waaaaay too long (17 tracks on the deluxe edition!) but there’s plenty to love. On top of the hits there’s Begging, IDGAF and No Goodbyes;  and even the Chris Martin-featuring Homesick is a delight.

09. Reputation – Taylor Swift

I still think 1989 is the best pop album of the decade so far, and even though the wheels have come off Brand Taylor so spectacularly in recent years, I was hopeful that Reputation would deliver more of the good stuff. And it did, but in a different way: I read a great quote that was like (I’m paraphrasing) “1989 and Red made you think, ‘this woman really understands the human experience’. Reputation makes you think, ‘this woman really understands the market’.” So while it IS strong, and it IS still one of my faves of the year, it’s just that little bit less heartfelt than before. But Getaway Car is amazing, King of My Heart and Delicate are real gems, and – once you decide to embrace Taylor’s new direction – the likes of This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things, …Ready For It and I Did Something Bad are also worthy 8/10s.

08. Ctrl – SZA

Apparently SZA created OVER TWO HUNDRED SONGS for Ctrl, and the 14-track final product is so good that I wouldn’t say no to a Carly Rae-style “Side B” situation in the near future. Ctrl is rooted in R&B but its neo-soul leanings are what give it its edge. Prom is a good introduction for pop fans, but honestly this whole set is more than worth 49 minutes of your time.

07. After Laughter – Paramore

Well I didn’t expect 2017 to end with me being a Paramore fan, but here we are: I loooove After Laughter. It’s an early-year highlight that I forgot a little over the summer, then revisited recently and fell in love with all over again. It’s just really, really good pop-rock; with new wave and synthpop influences that introduce the long-running group to a whole new audience. Hard Times, Fake Happy, Forgiveness, Pool and Grudges are the standouts.

06. Tears on the Dancefloor – Steps

Scared Of The Dark was a spectacular return to form, but what of the album? Could the most surprising full-time comeback stars of 2017 deliver a proper record? DAMN RIGHT THEY COULD. Happy is my personal highlight, and a video showing them going round London at night in secret agent attire solving mysteries would have been amazing, but not to worry. At only ten tracks long, Tears On The Dancefloor doesn’t outstay its welcome – and with more energy, fun and conviction than many of their younger rivals, I’m psyched to see where they go from here.

05. Tell Me You Love Me – Demi Lovato

I was nervous for this one. I used to be a properly keen Demi stan a few years ago, but the Confident era was pretty weak and it just didn’t sound like the singer herself was too fussed about reaching for the top anymore. But Tell Me You Love Me is a triumph, and it did take me a couple of listens to properly get my head around it. It’s quite different for her: whereas 2013’s Demi album sounded like a Now! compilation, this is much less hit-chasing, and ultimately more satisfying because of it. Daddy Issues and Sexy Dirty Love are magnificent bangers but the rest is influenced more by R&B than her Capital FM-targeted output of yore: among the highlights, Only Forever is dreamy, Hitchhiker is one of her best love songs to date, and Cry Baby is a stark reminder to never get on her bad side. The vocals are a bit OTT in places, but this is  a massive win for one of pop’s most underappreciated and unfairly mocked talents.

04. Meaning Of Life – Kelly Clarkson

I was interested to see the reaction to Meaning of Life. Among Kelly stans (which, full disclosure, is a group that includes myself), the consensus seemed to be that this was her best full body of work in YEARS; whereas others seemed to like it but not love it. Now I don’t subscribe to the belief that Kelly’s been off her game for a few years, because I thought Piece by Piece was full of great stuff, but Meaning of Life just sounds so good in Kelly’s hands. If some of it sounds a bit Meghan Trainor-y, it’s because it’s the kind of music she wishes she could pull off: Medicine, for example, is fun and commanding in Kelly’s hands, whereas Meghan’s personality-devoid tones would have had me rolling my eyes and grasping for the skip button. Elsewhere Heat is LOTS of fun, Would You Call That Love – produced by Greg Kurstin – is a great track that wouldn’t have sounded out of place on Piece by Piece or Stronger, and I Don’t Think About You is the big acrobatic ballad that would have gone down a storm on an X Factor results show. 15 years into her career, one of the best singers of our time is only just warming up.

03. Melodrama – Lorde

The Serious Critics’ darling of 2017, Lorde didn’t score as big #numbers with Melodrama as she did with Pure Heroine but this is muuuuch better, if you ask me. Supercut is pure and simply one of my favourite tracks of 2017, and could very possibly have been No1 on my year-end singles list if it hadn’t been kept as an album track. Elsewhere the double-headed Hard Feelings/Loveless is great, Green Light is glorious and Liability is a song many will easily relate to (though if you ask me, I prefer the Reprise).

02. Rainbow – Kesha

Now I did not expect Kesha to pull this out of the bag. Not because I doubted her ability, but because at one point it looked like her legal case against Dr Puke had got so ugly that she may never have been able to release any music again.

But Rainbow arrived, and it’s an absolute riot. When it does touch on the inevitable (as it does in triumphant lead single Praying), it does so in spectacular style. And elsewhere, she’s just back to her fun-loving best – but this time with much more artistic versatility than when she was shackled to Satan himself on her last two records. Collaborators vary from Dolly Parton(!) to Eagles of Death Metal(!!!!), and honestly it’s all superb. She tries on many different subgenre hats, and they all fit. If you’re yet to catch up and unwilling to sit through the whole set, make beelines for Hymn, Praying, Learn To Let Go and Spaceship.

01. About U – MUNA

I was introduced to the music of MUNA back in February when somebody tweeted about how great this album is, and within a month I (the most gig-reluctant music fan on this godforsaken planet) had booked to see them live.

About U is very special –  Katie, Josette and Naomi have crafted a string of pop songs that perfectly capture All The Feelings without ever getting dreary or sounding insincere. I Know A Place, the queer bar anthem, is all the more poignant in this post-Orlando world; Loudspeaker is hands-aloft feel-good euphoria; Winterbreak is bang-on when it comes to on-off love that’s doomed to fail but impossible to resist… honestly I could go through the entire tracklist.

This record didn’t bother the charts at all upon its release but I would ***heavily recommend*** checking it out on Spotify or whatever – the fact the group supported Harry Styles’ recent tour is an encouraging sign that there’s still some behind-the-scenes faith in them scoring wider commercial success, and I’m gagging to hear whatever’s next.

Top 50 singles of 2017

This is my TENTH ONE OF THESE LISTS, guys, I’m getting so old – and my extra-ness is not diminishing with age! How about that?!?!?!1?!

These are the past winners of these annual slogs:

2008: Sweet About Me – Gabriella Cilmi
2009: Battlefield – Jordin Sparks
2010: Teenage Dream – Katy Perry
2011: Till The World Ends – Britney Spears
2012: Wings – Little Mix
2013: Heart Attack – Demi Lovato
2014: Into The Blue – Kylie Minogue
2015: Style – Taylor Swift
2016: Into You – Ariana Grande

SO WHAT’S IT GOING TO BE IN 2017? Is it finally time for a MALE ARTIST to deliver my tune of the year? Lol of course not.

Here’s my Top 50… and there’s a SPOTIFY PLAYLIST CONTAINING THE WHOLE LOT OF THEM at the bottom. If you’re impatient and/or like to consume your music visually, I’ve added links to music videos too.

(I’ll be following this with an albums rundown in a day or two, don’t you worry.)

50. Hair Down – Mollie King

Someone could say to me, “Shaun, what are you playing at, this is the worst song humankind has produced since Nickelback’s Rockstar”, and I would be like, “that is absolutely fair enough but I, for one, welcome nonsensical football references in my throwaway camp-as-fuck Xenomania floorfillers”. Watch on YouTube

49. Would You Mind – PRETTYMUCH

You know in The Simpsons episode when they form a boyband and the music is essentially a parody of N*SYNC? That’s exactly what this song reminds me of. In the best way possible. Watch on YouTube

48. Best Behaviour – Louisa Johnson

I know the jury is very much divided on this song, and my enthusiasm for it has definitely waned as the year has gone on – but I’m still gonna insist it’s a good’un. Watch on YouTube

47. Tease – Ralph

A slick, breezy, anti-fuckboy gem. “You’re always talking about your dog and your restaurant” is a great complaint lyric. Watch on YouTube

46. Get Low – Zedd feat. Liam Payne

A straightforward, frill-free banger – and, in my opinion, Liam’s best solo track yet by a looooong way. Watch on YouTube

45. Baby Who – The Aces

A quietly moving, softly-executed parting-of-the-ways ballad. Watch on YouTube

44. Last Dance – Rhys

Swedish/American upstart Rhys made a strong impression with this one; about accepting that a relationship just isn’t going to get off the ground. Watch on YouTube

43. Younger Now – Miley Cyrus

Miley’s abandonment of the headline-grabbing bangerz of 2013 might have come at the expense of sales (in the UK, the two pre-album singles of this era – Malibu and Younger Now – reached No. 11 and 54 respectively; compared to We Can’t Stop and Wrecking Ball, which were both No1). Still, this track is very likeable ‘imo’ – and deserved more than it got. Watch on YouTube

42. Let Me Go – Hailee Steinfeld, Alesso, Florida Georgia Line

Love Myself is becoming more and more of a distant memory, but Hailee is still producing serviceable bangers – and though Let Me Go’s non-chorus payoff is a bit of a disappointment, the rest of it superb. It’d be good in 2018, though, to see her properly hitting her stride. I HAVEN’T LOST THE FAITH JUST YET. Watch on YouTube

41. It Ain’t Me – Kygo with Selena Gomez

Makes you think it’s a sophisticated guitar-driven ditty, then calmly gives way to a floorfiller with a highly chantable chorus. Watch on YouTube

40. Strangers – Sigrid

Sigrid has been on the biggest of rolls this year, and it would be great to see her score more commercial success in 2018. Can Strangers be the song to do it? Well probably not, to be honest, but it SHOULD be. Watch on YouTube

39. In My Way – MUNA

WHAT A LOVELY SONG. MUNA are among my absolute top-tier faves of the year and I can’t wait for their next era. Watch on YouTube

38. Friends – Justin Bieber with BloodPop

One of my favourite music writers asked how much better this would have been if Robyn or Carly Rae Jepsen were in charge of the topline, which is fair – and this is certainly a 2017-by-numbers style of chorus-free banger. But also! It’s a bop! Watch on YouTube

37. Issues – Julia Michaels

She helped write the music that elevated Selena Gomez and rejuvinated Britney Spears, so it was only fair that Julia Michaels would get her own crack of the pop whip: Issues is a clever, stripped-back track that makes a far better case for her as a star in her own right than, say, its irritating follow-up. Well done all. Watch on YouTube

36. Love So Soft – Kelly Clarkson

This is a very good song, but if the superior album track Heat is given the single treatment in 2018, I can’t promise it won’t be very high on my next year-end list. For now, this was an excellent launchpad for New Kelly and the video was her best for a very long time. I mean the looks!!! Watch on YouTube

35. Your Song – Rita Ora

It’s not the almighty slap-you-in-the-face-kick-you-in-the-balls comeback anthem that would have appeased the gays and only the gays, but the Sheeran-penned Your Song was a clever track with which to relaunch Rita’s music efforts: simple, likeable and very ‘on trend’. Watch on YouTube

34. …Ready For It? – Taylor Swift

Look What You Made Me Do delivered the headlines, but …Ready For It? delivered the (slightly) better song. Swift’s new era isn’t up there with 1989, but …RFI is a strong, dark-edged track with a great chorus. Watch on YouTube

33. Love You Like That – Dagny

I thought this was Natasha Bedingfield when I first looked at the single cover. I’d LOVE it if N-Beds came back with something like this. Listen on YouTube

32. Swish Swish – Katy Perry feat. Nicki Minaj

I listened to this the morning after the election and now I always think of Corbyn singing it to May for some reason?!?! Watch on YouTube

31. Under Attack – JIM

I’m very hard to please when it comes to male-led pop songs but this is an uplifting, hands-aloft, straightforward tune that y’all cruelly slept on. Listen on YouTube

30. Slow Hands – Niall Horan

This is the moment Niall became the new holder of the prestigious ‘1D Member I Most Would’ title. What a song. Watch on YouTube

29. Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato

Now listen, right, this isn’t up there with Demi’s best lead singles: Skyscraper, Heart Attack, Cool For The Summer… heck even Here We Go Again are all better than this. But! What a bop! And the fact it gave her her biggest Billboard hit yet – at the start of her sixth era – is amazing. Watch on YouTube

28. He Like That – Fifth Harmony

Well the wheels certainly slipped off the 5H machine this year, didn’t they? But if you ask me, He Like That is one of their best singles – and certainly deserved more than the absolute tumbleweed it was met with by mainstream audiences (no Top 100 appearances in the UK or US). And also THIS VIDEO!! Watch on YouTube

27. Fake Happy – Paramore

Paramore have had a great year, and I didn’t really consider myself to be much of a fan prior to 2017. Fake Happy is my favourite thing they’ve put out so far – the lyric “don’t ask me how I’ve been, don’t make me play pretend” sums up its whole ~vibe nicely. Watch on YouTube

26. Do It – Rae Morris

For a while this was one of those songs that people I usually agree with were bleating endlessly about, and I didn’t really Get It. But I GOT THERE EVENTUALLY, EVERYONE, DON’T WORRY. Watch on YouTube

25. Neon Blue – Steps

Camp, fabulous, heartwarming and unmistakably Steps. Watch on YouTube

24. Alone – Jessie Ware

Midnight – the first track from Jessie’s Glasshouse era – never really clicked with me, but she is fucking GREAT at gorgeous love songs, of which Alone is another corker to add to her collection. Watch on YouTube

23. Learn To Let Go – Kesha

Y’know how Intense Pop Fans have been insisting to Casual Pop Fans for a few years now that Carly Rae Jepsen is phenomenal, regardless of whatever they think of Call Me Maybe? Now I feel we’re in the same position with Kesha; trying to shove the Rainbow era under the noses of anyone who still sees her as the care-free banger queen of yesteryear. And I mean those bangers were amazing, make no mistake – but this new chapter in her career was executed to perfection, and this is one of the best tracks from it. Watch on YouTube

22. Want You Back – HAIM

It’s a shame that HAIM’s latest album didn’t live up to the quality of this gorgeous lead single, but to be fair it sets quite the high bar. A thoughtful handclap ballad with a great video to match. Watch on YouTube

21. Uncrazy – AFSHeeN feat. Rebecca Ferguson

Barely anybody on Planet Earth has even heard this track, which is a right shame – it’s a low-key electronic number that puts R-Fergz in a lane I wish she’d tried out much sooner. Listen on YouTube

20. Disconnect – Clean Bandit feat. Marina and the Diamonds

This song’s been performed live a couple of times but a studio recording never surfaced until this year. It’s an angsty mentalhealthbanger driven by the always amazing Marina and the increasingly impressive Clean Bandit. Listen on YouTube

19. Chained To The Rhythm – Katy Perry feat. Skip Marley

This feels like a million years ago now, doesn’t it? At the very top of the… shall we say troubled Witness era, this sophistipop treat was released – its message is as subtle as a brick to the face, but since when did we go to Katy Perry for cleverly nuanced lyrics? The pre-chorus bit is still awesome. Watch on YouTube

18. Praying – Kesha

A SURVIVOR. Watch on YouTube

17. Crying On The Bathroom Floor – MUNA

Worth mentioning that I Know A Place was released in 2016, but I didn’t hear it until this year. If it had been released in 2017, it would be A Contender. Watch on YouTube

16. Bad Liar – Selena Gomez

Can Selena Gomez convincingly sing a note? The answer, post Bad Liar, remains unclear, but that doesn’t mean she’s not still one of the world’s best  popstars, or that Bad Liar isn’t irresistable. Watch on YouTube

15. Symphony – Clean Bandit feat. Zara Larsson

The video was emotional. The BBC Christmas ad was emotional. And this song is emotional. Watch on YouTube

14. No More Sad Songs – Little Mix feat. Machine Gun Kelly

It’s a shame that MGK was lazily chucked into the middle of this, because the jazzed-up production since last year’s original album version is actually great; and this song easily ranks among the girls’ best. Watch on YouTube

13. Boys – Charli XCX

Thing is… I’m not actually convinced this is that good a song?!?!?! But the amount that it’s a complete earworm, combined with the video, combined with the Best Use Of A Videogame Sound In A Pop Song 2017, make it a high-ranker regardless. Watch on YouTube

12. Plot Twist – Sigrid

I would love to shout this venomously at someone. If a kind soul reading this could monumentally piss me off in the near future so I can realise that dream, that would be wonderful. Watch on YouTube

11. Flame – Tinashe

If Judgement Day comes in 2018, it won’t be because of same-sex marriage or capitalism or Instagram thirst traps. It will be because we all collectively failed to make Tinashe’s Flame a hit. Watch on YouTube

***********************

10. New Rules – Dua Lipa

The song that launched a thousand memes, put a solo female artist at the top of the UK charts for the first time since Adele in 2015, and finally made Dua Lipa a fully-realised popstar after what felt like millennia of trying. I do wonder if Hotter Than Hell was maybe slightly better than this, but New Rules became such a ~craze that it pretty much soundtracked the end of the summer. The Ten Commandments found rotting.

09. Don’t Kill My Vibe – Sigrid

What. A. Debut. Sigrid ARRIVED with this track; and not only that, she followed it up with several more incredible pop nuggets and became the year’s best popstar your friends have never heard of. Don’t Kill My Vibe is quietly seething, fully brilliant, and the clapalong middle-8 is glorious.

08. Scared of the Dark – Steps

This was a MOMENT. Was this not a MOMENT?!?! Steps! In 2017! The day of its release, Scared Of The Dark triumphantly crept its way to the top of the iTunes charts and, I swear to God, few other pop culture events have excited me that much this year. SOTD is that rare comeback success story; a song that stays true to a band’s roots whilst planting them firmly in the modern market. I mean it’s just bloody good pop, at the end of the day.

07. Instruction – Jax Jones feat. Demi Lovato and Stefflon Don

“All my ladies.” Jax Jones delivered my personal song of the summer with the help of Demi Lovato and superstar-in-waiting Stefflon Don; a track that should have had a solid fortnight at No1 rather than a brief peek inside the Top 10. To sound ~cool whilst having lyrics that literally explain a full dance routine is quite something. Cha Cha Slide could never.

06. Power – Little Mix feat. Stormzy

“… My turn.” This was a BIG highlight when the Glory Days album was released in 2016, so thank fuck it was finally released as a single this summer. Plus, in a rare instance of a guest rap being an all-round good shout, Stormzy actually added to the song’s appeal, rather than took away from it. And hey, Jesy still got to give that bizarre shout-out to her motorbike at the end. Everyone’s a winner.

05. Waking Up Slow – Gabrielle Aplin

Now I never disliked the breakout singer-songwritery material of Gabrielle Aplin (she who soundtracked the John Lewis Christmas ad a few years ago) but I did not in a month of Sundays expect her to put out genuinely great, shimmering pop music. Waking Up Slow is an ethereal, sparkly dream; the kind of song that puts butterflies in the stomach, and I’d love for her to be re-signed by a major label in 2018.

04. Cut To The Feeling – Carly Rae Jepsen

If the verses were sliiiiiiightly better, this would be No1 by a clear mile. As it is, on the strength of that glitter-ready, homosexual-assembling chorus alone, it’s still an absolute triumph. To THINK this would have been discarded forever were it not for the soundtrack needs of a crap animated movie?!

03. Green Light – Lorde

It’s not like Lorde has ever been underrated by the Serious Music Press but this year she properly got the Full Acclaim treatment with her all-round amazing second album – and rightly so. I didn’t reaaaaaally click with her first time around (I liked Royals and Yellow Flicker Beat, but I never considered myself a push-past-old-ladies-in-ASDA-to-buy-her-album kind of fan), but this year changed all that… and Green Light is a pop masterclass.

02. Anywhere – Rita Ora

The Oraissance really hit its stride with Anywhere – easily among her best singles to date, and possibly (POSSIBLY) even better than I Will Never Let You Down. Anywhere is the track that vindicated everyone who’s been insisting for years that Rita is “quite a good popstar, actually”; and it’s so rewarding to see her soak up renewed success (even if this was criminally kept off No1 by Havana) after being stuck in contract limbo for what feels like a billion years; resigned to things like The Voice and Fifty fucking Shades in order to stay in the public consciousness. Now for the love of God let’s hear that elusive second album before we all die of old age.

01. Touch – Little Mix

This technically hit its chart peak at the very end of 2016, but A) the video didn’t come out until January and B) I didn’t include it on last year’s list because I figured it would peak in ’17, so here we are.

And GOOD GRIEF does Touch still hit all the right spots.

MNEK did wonders for Little Mix back in 2013 with the excellent album cut Nothing Feels Like You, and he’s back at the controls here to deliver to the bangeriest banger that ever did bang; a song so seismic it’s probably in some way responsible for climate change. Touch’s chorus is all-conquering, its dance routine is fucking BONKERS, and Peri’s outfit in the video is so weird it’s iconic.

No pop band is forever, and six years into their career we are lucky to still have Little Mix at all – but the fact they’re at the very top of their game, four albums deep, is nothing short of a marvel.

Now listen to THE LOT:

And see you again next year.

Except for tomorrow, when I’ll do albums, and the day after that, when I’ll do films, and the day after that, when I’ll do telly.

Christmas Farce opens this week – with bonus Anita Dobson!

Christmas Farce – a play of mine that had its first outing a couple of years ago – is back, bigger and better than ever, for three whole weeks, starting this Tuesday (November 28).

We’re at the good ol’ Waterloo East Theatre this time; bringing Samuel Buttery, Marc Gee-Finch, Emma Tansley and Alan Bradley on board alongside returning faves Jamie-Rose Monk, Natalie Lester, Timothy George and Katherine Edrupt. The fabulous Stephen Davies is now directing.

The play is about a company of actors putting together a crap version of the Nativity – and we’re over the moon to have had the iconic Anita Dobson record the voice of their Stage Manager.

Catch Christmas Farce at the Waterloo East Theatre until December 17. Tuesday-Saturday at 7:30, Sunday at 4:00. The first three shows (Tuesday 28, Wednesday 29, Thursday 30 November) are all cheap £10 previews, otherwise tickets are £15 full price and £13 concessions.

BOOK HERE.

Don’t miss it!

5, 6, 7, 8! Yep, we really just did a Steps musical

A funny thing happened last week – my theatre company launched a DIY Steps musical.

WHAT A DREAM.

It is my view that Stepsbangers are among the finest in pop music history (I went into much more detail about this in an angsty blog earlier this year) and getting to piece together a 70-minute comedy that threaded in their greatest hits was SUCH a great experience.

The audiences were some of the best I’ve ever had for any show I’ve put on, the cast were a dream and I really hope we get to do it again some day. I wanted a laugh-out-loud show with big songs and a big heart, and I think between us we made it.

Thanks so much to everyone who came to watch, the cast and crew, the Upstairs At The Gatehouse team and the Camden Fringe. The week was such a fun ride, very good for the soul and I will miss it a lot.

See some tweets here:

Read one of our great reviews here.

And see the trailer below.

New play All That debuting this June

My new play All That is being wheeled out for five performances this June.

Semi-coincidentally sharing its name with a lovely Carly Rae Jepsen slowjam, the piece is a comic drama about varying attitudes towards monogamy within the gay community – but not as dry as that probably sounds.

It follows two couples – one in an open relationship, one not – as they live together under one roof; prompting crossed wires, awkward tensions and more than one re-examination of a relationship’s ground rules.

Christopher Cohen, James Robert-Moore, Tom Bovington and Roberta Morris join me in the cast, with Jamie-Rose Monk directing.

We’ll be at the Lion and Unicorn Theatre for five nights only; June 6-10, 2017. Come and take your mind off the General Election for a bit.

All seats are £12 and are available now via See Tickets. Click here.

Praise for previous plays:
“Akin to an exceptional sitcom, conducting the audience to laugh, gasp, groan and cheer in all the right places ****” – The Stage on Positive
“One of the most compelling productions I’ve seen in a long time… Impeccable comic timing *****” – Attitude on Positive
“One word – awesome! *****” – LondonTheatre1 on Christmas Farce