New music Group 2014

November 24, 2014

LA Phil New Music Group in

Sam Smith In Concert With Keta - Los Angeles, CAKeipher McKennie—WireImage Sam Smith performs at a Los Angeles concert

Halfway through 2014, there’s already an embarrassment of riches in the realm of music — from blockbuster pop singles to epic indie ballads, ace songs from artists both new and established have provided the year with an exceptional soundtrack.

Here, TIME contributors Lily Rothman, Nolan Feeney, Megan Gibson, Jamieson Cox, Melissa Locker and Sam Lansky pick the 25 best songs of the year — so far.

Ariana Grande, “Problem”

A delirious, skronking sax loop and an assist from rising Australian MC Iggy Azalea helped make this single, the first from Grande’s upcoming second full-length, a prime candidate for the esteemed title of Song of the Summer. Guest features and gassy brass aside, her vocals are the key: sweet, soaring, and unabashedly exuberant. -Jamieson Cox

Sam Smith, “Stay With Me”

It sounds simple: take the silky smooth vocals of a British crooner, add one slow-burning love song, mix in a backing gospel choir and — boom! — you have a chart-topping ballad. Yet Sam Smith manages to elevate that formula with “Stay With Me, ” the sweeping third single from his debut album In The Lonely Hour. Evocative and passionate, this song will pull at heartstrings you never knew you had. –Megan Gibson

Allie X, “Catch”

A veteran of the Toronto pop scene, Allie Hughes rebooted her career as Allie X with this gleaming piece of synth-pop. Sugary and sharp in equal measure, Allie’s cool, clean vocals distract from the brutal lyrics, which clinically outline the pain of heartbreak to devastating effect. -Jamieson Cox

Mø, “Don’t Wanna Dance”

Subtract the synthesizers and the electro-pop beat and this track from Mø’s debut album could easily be a Motown cover. The retro girl group vibe, undulating cheerfulness and jangly dance beat work well for the Danish electro-pop songstress — and despite the misleading title, the song is the perfect soundtrack for a sing-into-your-hairbrush slumber party scene. -Melissa Locker

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