Hardcore Heartbreak is Dontstopthepop's song of 2016. I was still completely enamoured by her single, Silhouettes In Slow Motion. It is pretty rare to have acts not only release banger after banger but actually build-upon their last song. A quality that both Frida Sundemo (the act at no.2 in my countdown) and Cilia share; an ability to be relentlessly amazing with each and every release. For evidence, just check out the magic quartet of songs she's already released: Clearly, Wilder In The Wind and the aforementioned Silhouettes In Slow Motion. Not once does she drop the ball. Whatsoever. To be sure, with Hardcore Heartbreak, Cilia manages to utterly raise the standards of pop of 2016 and that's why it's the song of 2016.  The amazing song rooted itself in my heart, head and blood. I couldn't get enough of it. 

No matter how good competitors were this year, I constantly found my mind drifting away to Hardcore Heartbreak's top-line. I'd listen to pop songs that were actually rather fantastic and be angry that they weren't Hardcore Heartbreak. Why couldn't all pop songs this year have massive choruses like Hardcore Heartbreak

More critically, why couldn't all pop songs this year have a bonus chorus/refrain-sort-of hybrid-thing that Heartcore Heartbreak boasts? What is a bonus chorus/refrain-sort-hybrid-thing I hear you ask? Ok, I don't quite know how best to describe it but it appears after the second chorus like a massive exclamation point. Let me try and explain. She sings "Don't you say my tears are fake (boy!), this is hardcore heartbreak" (x2) and boom the chant/refrain/hook arrives:

The lyric, nay declaration, of "you have to get that" marks an already poptastic song like Hardcore Heartbreak as beyond incredible. Adorned with big bad-ass vocals from Cilia, it acts its smoking gun leaving her rivals confused, befuddled and bewildered in her pop-dust. When I first heard the song, I had to instantly hit repeat and on the second play I immediately had to stop it mid-track. I was shocked. I think I may have even mouthed the words: "Hold-up. No way! She didn't! She did!". I mean, the audacity of it all. This song was already amazing as it was! 

Cilia released one of the air-tight pop songs of the year. Which ever way I cut other amazing pop songs released this year, none came close to hers. None had me pining for the same perfect-pop construction of Hardcore Heartbreak. Decked-out in bouncy verses, gorgeous chunky synths, epic choruses, the over-dramatic lyrics, dreamy harmonies, delicious backing vocals and its unique refrain of "you have to get that" there was little doubt which song was going to wear the diadem of song of 2016. Congrats Cilia! 


We Are Dreamers recoils in the same brand of melancholia of Robyn's With Every Heartbeat & Dancing On My Own, ABBA's The Winner Takes It All and Roxette's It Must Have Been Love. There are even shades of Army Of Lovers Life Is Fantastic. Sensing a trend? Yes, those Swedes do this sort of thing like no other.  

We Are Dreamers is amazing pop song of beautiful proportions. The beginning of the song begins like an opus that leads into a soaring electronic ballad of uplifting euphoria. Awash with stirring emotion whilst simultaneously restrained, We Are Dreamers is a song that finds pockets of light in the darkest of shadows. Adorned with celestial synths and a real chorus - something like the Chainsmokers and all their dreadful clones appear to omit - the stratospheric EDM anthem by Sundemo was her only 2016 single aside from her collaboration with the Danish D.J Morten Beautiful Heartbreak.  

We Are Dreamers is a perfect return after her Japanese-only albums Dear, Let It Out and For You, Love.  The latter album of which contains the beautiful singles Indigo, Million Years, Snow and Machine and well worth importing. It is criminal that Frida isn't a household name by now. Here's hoping 2017 changes that for her. Indeed, We Are Dreamers was the toast of the popblogpshere when her label released the song somewhat unexpectedly this October. Idolator called it "pristine pop", JAJAJA declared it "gigantic" while TheLineOfBestFit said the single was "uplifting in every sense". 

As We Are Dreamers dares to soar far beyond the usual limits of your average good pop song, Sundemo truly deserves to see some payback for delivering such heavenly high standards of pop. Congratulations Frida! A massive round of applause for creating and sharing a poptastic tome of music lush with heartfelt optimism that jets far above the stars and into the heavens. Pure stardust. Thank you! 


So here we go! [There were so many good songs this year that just didn't quite make the final short-list but are pretty amazing pop and worthy mentioning: Side By Side (Alvaro Estrella), Reminds Me (Noonie Bao), Wasn't My Fault (Christie & The Dreambeats), Paola (Lovenight), First and Last (Harriet), Dodged A Bullet (Alice Jemima), On Hold (The XX), The Life (Fifth Harmony), So Good (Louisa Johnson), Never Ever (Royksopp ft. Susanne Sundfør), Hurts So Good (Astrid S), 11:11 (Taeyeon), Monsters (SAY), Faded (Dua Lipa) & Vente Pa Ca (Ricky Martin)]. 

15. False Alarm - Matoma & Becky Hill [Parlophone] (Norway/UK) 

Co-written by the delightful Kara DioGuardi (Kylie's Spinning Around), Becky Hill and a series of Nowegians and Danes (from the Cutfather production house), False Alarm seared itself into my head. An incredibly good dance-pop song that deserved to do much better in the charts considering the high number of streams it received. 

14. Starboy - The Weeknd & Daft Punk [Republic] (Can/France)

Released as the lead single from The Weeknd's third studio album of the same name, Starboy was a bit of a slow burn for me. Much like the album, it was a lot less instant than his Max Martin produced breakthrough hit Can't Feel My Face but I fell hard for this seductive slice of neon-bleu dark-pop. The song reached number one in Canada, Denmark, France, New Zealand, Norway, Mexico, Sweden, and the United States. It was also his first no.1 single here in the U.K. 

13. Final Song - MØ [Chess Club] (Denmark) 

The Danish singer co-wrote Final Song with Noonie Bao (of Carly Rae Jepsens Run Away With Me) alongside MNEK! This infectious pop song emerged as MØ's big break-out smash and paved the way for her collaborative world hit Cold Water with Justin Bieber and Major Lazer. I can't wait for more from MØ next year. 

12. Faded - Alan Walker [Mer Music] (Norway) 

This beautiful electronic ballad underscored the fact that those Scandi's certainly know how to do melancholic dance-pop like no other. With 900 million views on youtube and 560 million streams on spotify, Faded became a world hit topping the charts in Germany, Sweden, Spain, Italy and Belgium. It weirdly and sadly made a brief cameo in the U.K charts (no.7). I highly recommend the epic orchestral version which is dripping with lush strings. If you like sad-dance-pop check out Alan Walker's follow-up to Faded, Sing Me To Sleep which boasts an even bigger chorus than Faded. 

11. Summer Love - The Fooo Conspiracy [RED] (Sweden)

The first Swedish song in the run-down and, gosh its by a boyband! The song is perhaps sounds very reminiscent of Danny Saucedo's amazing debut album Heartbeats and could easily be one of his off-cuts. Which is a very good thing indeed especially with Saucedo releasing more acoustic music off the back of his appearance in the highly successful T.V show Så Mycket Bättre (the Swedish incarnation of the Dutch programme The Best Singers Of Holland). I digress! The Fooo Conspiracy released a stormer of a summer pop song in the form of Summer Love, and while a member has just left, I look forward to their second album due for release mid Q1. 

10. No Flight - Alex Maxwell [Hollywood Records] (U.K)

In a complete contrast to Summer Love, No Flight is an dark epic song belonging to Maxwells polemic E.P Signs. Produced by duo The Flight whose own work is absolutely stunning, this gem of sinister pop was the first big push from the first artist signed to the newly set-up U.K wing of Hollywood Records aka Disney. A brilliant showing for all involved as being the only U.K song in my top 15, it is thus the British release of 2016. So congratulations Alex Maxwell! Release that album already! 

9. Selfish - Ace Wilder [Warner] (Sweden)

After a series of riotous upbeat perky pop singles, Ace Wilder released this moody pop track that wasn't quite a ballad but dipped in delicious emotional synth blackmail in which Ace confesses that she loves to see her partner cry. Dark! Blessed with light flourishes of looped vocal samples, piano chords, fervent synths and a trippy bass, Selfish was a song that took all the best bits of 2015/2016's genre-de-jour tropical house and mashed it all up into what to me sounds like a re-worked and revamped sequel to the Sugababes epic debut single Overloaded. For this reason alone, Selfish is amazin.

8. Sexual - Neiked [Polydor] (Sweden)

When I first heard Sexual in an A&R office in Stockholm I wanted to jump on the table and immediately start dancing. Then I didn't hear the song again. It appeared to be lost within the Swedish music industry. It was months later when it randomly appeared on some unofficial-lookin' youtube channel it took off big time for me. It became my anthem whilst at university studying music management. I couldn't get enough of it. Though it didn't do well in its country of origin, the song emerged as one of Sweden's biggest 2016 hit in the U.K charting at no.5. 

7. Fools Gold - Dagny & Børns [Universal] (Norway) 

Confession! I didn't immediately warm to Dagny. I couldn't see the fuss over Backbeat. Objectively, I understood why it received all the glowing reviews but it just didn't click with me. A Scandinavian pop act I didn't get?! What was happening! Then Fools Gold came out and boom I was in love with Dagny. I returned to all her previous releases and it all made sense. The universe was aligned right again. Fools Gold was a big 'blow-it-all-up' kind of song with a ridiculously hyperbolic chorus with a story narrated in its verses. It's punchy bridge makes it one of the perfectly constructed songs of 2016. Well done all.  

6. Into You - Ariana Grande [Republic] (U.S) 

This throbs. I could write an essay about this. In fact, I did! For my university course. So I'll spare you! In many ways Into You was its worst enemy. Its amazing track was produced so masterfully, finding a suitable topline was always going to be difficult. Indeed, the instrumental version leaked revealing the disgustingly gorgeous baseline by Max Martin, Ilya Salmanzadeh and the usual Wolf Cousins suspects. In many ways, I often go to the instrumental rather than finished released version. The ridiculous thudding club beats decked around lurking synths and sexy sharp clicks makes Into You the type of song Britney should've released this year. Into You is a perfect sultry pop song that rinses every single beat in its armour making it not merely a club banger but a new-age disco classic. 

5. Closer To Life - Atella x Frøder [Eskimo Recordings] (Norway)

We've entered the top 5! To me, Closer To Life is the cousin of Kylie Minogue's I Believe In You and Flower. With Robyn's Dancing On My Own thrown in for good measure. In fact, its the type of song I could imagine Kylie release if she ever returned to that that trippy disco pop of All The Lovers, Looking For An Angel and White Diamond. Atella are a new band straight out of Bergen and I'm definitely keeping my eyes on them. It's the tenderness of Closer To Life that makes it amazing. Despite incredibly stiff competition from the likes of Dagny (see above), Matoma (see above), Alan Walker (see above), Seeb (Breathe), Astrid S (Hurt So Good), Royksopp ft. Susanne Sundfør (Never Ever) and Ina Wroldsen (Lay It On Me) with Closer To You being the highest Norwegian song in my little list it is the best release to come from Norway this year. Well done!

4. Kids - OneRepublic [Interscope] (USA)

This release by OneRepublic slammed me sideways. Deeply inspired by all things 1980s, its sweeping synths and a narrative of teenage remembrance, Kids lodged itself in my heart. I felt this song. I believed in this song. I love how it tapped into the current zeitgeist of retromania where our favourite shows are Stranger Things and stand in line for hours for Nintendo trinkets of our teenage years. Aside from explaining the reboots of films like Ghostbusters, retromania understandably has something to do with Brexit and Trump. Kids perfectly encapsulates this without having to spell it out with a sledgehammer. You only have to refer to lyric "I refuse to look back thinking days were better just because they're younger days. I don't know what's 'round the corner. Way I feel right now I swear we'll never change" to understand the popularity of slogans like Make America Great Again. Beyond politics, Kids is also happens to be a lovely love ballad. It works in so many ways. Furthermore, it comes with a wonderful production influenced by M83 and a Seeb remix that is well worth checking out. Being the highest American entry on my countdown, Kids is the best pop single to come out of the U.S this year which perhaps makes sense considering all that has happened in 2016. 

3. This Is How We Party - Amy Deasismont [HurdyGirdyNoise] (Sweden) 

I didn't expect this at all. Not from Amy. In many ways, This Is How We Party was Amy's Confide In Me moment. For sure, she'd already unveiled her new sound with Forgive and One so I really should've been prepared for this single. The latter song, One, could've easily been in the top 15 as well and deserves a loud shout out. Amy has returned to the world of music with brilliant aplomb. This Is How We Party is one of the finest pop songs to originate out of Sweden this year. Sounding like a score from a thriller directed by David Lynch, This Is How We Party strutted into 2016 with such a disco swagger that it needed its own trumpet in the chorus declaring its arrival like a regal fanfare. With three absolutely stunning singles as an early preview of the incoming album from Amy, I am beside myself for her full length project due for release in early 2017. Well done Amy. 


The top two songs of 2016 revealed soon


As a long fan of her previous band, I rejoice at the new single Paola. Also, because of the fact it's produced by Steve Anderson and toplined by the fabtastic Bianca Claxton. Love Night is pure poppers, leg-warmers and neon tank-tops. Irresistibly 80's, its the anthem that the kids of the Breakfast Club would've mashed out after The Cure, Fleetwood Mac and Madonna. Paola purrs over synths like she was singing the lost The Flirts number 1 smash that we all forgot about because we were having too much fun dancing to I Feel Love, Dancing Madly Backwards and early Whitney Houston. Yes, this is the song Giorgio Moroder forgot to pitch to Donna Summer. It also has delirious strobe flashes of Ryan Paris' La Dolce Vita. I love it. A perfect smash for the summer. Can't get ready to dance to this and get sand in all the wrong places. Nice. Chica's, check out the Spanish version too. TUNE!


So much has been said about Manchester based Shura I was half thinking to just let things be and let the excellent song (and confluent video) do the speaking. BUT. This is such a cute tight pop song that hey - why not. Sounding incredibly inspired by Jermaine Stewart and Janet Jackson of the early 1980s with its soft euphoric synths, What's It Gonna Be clearly cuts Shura above the chorus of noise pushing Shura to another level. Shura's debut album Nothing Real drops on Polydor 8 July 2016!


In the week of the Polar Prize of Sweden comes this bouncy dance choon by Paula Lobos direct from Stockholm. Sounding like a cross between Kylie, Zara Larsson and MNEK Eyes On You is a bombastic summer song embedded with delicious loops and a relentless chorus. Definitely the type of pop song I wanna hear when I land in Ibiza later in the summer.

SMITH & THELL - STATUTE [Didrick Remix]

In the blaze and glory that was a very successful Eurovision in Stockholm, comes this beautiful anthem by Swedish duo Smith & Thell which has had me in a happy rapture since first hearing it. Statute is clearly underlined as one of DontStopthePop's early summer smashes of 2016. It is a heady mixture of Ellie Goulding, Molly Sanden, Zara Larsson and Dolly Parton. It soundtracks a perfect summery sunday afternoon with friends and family. Sublime. Album please!

SAY - MONSTERS - FIRST REALLY BIG SONG OF 2016! [this is not a drill]

OMFG! Say has arrived and launched with the stunning Monsters. As 2016 stands so far - this is the bestest. It is monstrously good. I TOOT TOOT THIS SONG! I fucking love it. Yes, I used an expletive but Monsters deserves it. It is polemic. It is epic. It is hyperbolic. It is an leviathan of a song. Since hearing the full version earlier today I've been on a constant repeat. I don't think I'll leave Say's soundcloud all day today. She belts out her vocal around a gloriously rich production (the song was produced by Say and Sebastian Winskog). The ad-libs at the end are like the caramel in the centre of the best chocolate pudding you ever ate. Oh, I love caramel btw so yeah - its a metaphor that works for me. I am ecstatic bout Monsters (as you may be able to tell). I need the album now. So follow Say at Facebook and Twitter. Tack Tack Tack Say!