Every year something that was old becomes new again, and 2014 was no exception. Everything from the bucket hat to Michael Keaton was resurrected, as well as the Republican party. And while Instagram’s #tbt and the podcast Serial were both excellent conduits for comebacks, ultimately it was the music industry and its various channels that were responsible for 2014’s strongest cases of nostalgia. These are the 10 songs that experienced the greatest musical comebacks of 2014.
Sir Mix-a-Lot – “Baby Got Back”
On her aggravating earworm “Anaconda”, Nicki Minaj didn’t just sample Sir-Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”; she hijacked it. The opening whips and stuttered rendering of the 1992 classic blast listeners back into a world of cassette tapes and Gameboys until the bass drops, and the sounds of 2014 are briefly restored. Still, bass drops aside, “Anaconda” is 80% “Baby Got Back”, and its 380 million views on YouTube and FM ubiquity have caused people to obsess over Becky’s butt at heights not seen since the Dream Team dominated the Barcelona Olympics. For better or worse, “Baby Got Back” is 2014’s runaway winner. In the hands of a mega-pop star, the song was thrust back to life and easily wormed its way back inside the heads of tired millennials, as if it had never even left.
Michael Jackson – “Love Never Felt So Good”
Michael Jackson’s “Love Never Felt So Good” is the most legitimate member of this list in that it reached its comeback status through relatively traditional means. It also experienced tremendous popularity despite wearing the sounds of ’70s balladry proudly on its sleeves. With a cameo from Justin Timberlake providing momentum, “Love Never Felt So Good” clawed its way out of the blogosphere and onto the Billboard charts. A phenomenal feat for a posthumous track, especially one that followed a round of disappointing releases. The airy simplicity of the song lifts hearts in the same way that Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” does. It elicits smiles and ultimately serves as a redeeming reminder of the inarguable talent of an artist whose legacy was marred by his troubling final years.
T-Pain – “Buy U a Drank (Shawty Snappin’)”
T-Pain is not NPR’s usual suspect, but he is the star of their most watched “Tiny Desk” episode ever. Without the curtain of Auto-Tune to hide behind, T-Pain was forced to bare his authentic abilities on this stripped-down version of “Buy U a Drank”, and that he did. As a result, “Buy U a Drank” came back with a vengeance this year and introduced T-Pain to a whole new audience who likely had about as much familiarity with him as their children have with Yusuf/Cat Stevens.
D’Angelo – “Untitled”
Rumors of a new D’Angelo album began to spread like Ebola in the latter half of 2014. D’Angelo enthusiasts like Questlove dropped hints that the album’s arrival was nigh, while the man himself kept quiet, only furthering the public’s anticipation. In the meantime, there was an uptick in mentions of the almost 15-year-old “Untitled” on Twitter, in articles, and even in conversations among friends. In the ambiguous months leading up to Black Messiah, “Untitled” functioned as a placeholder. The song was resurrected by listeners as a way to whet their appetites for an album that they could only hope would actually materialize. And now that it has, the conversation surrounding “Untitled” has yet to taper off.