5. Agnes - Release Me - 2008
I was fully aware of who Agnes was and had been a minor fan of hers for a few years. She was the winner of the 2005 Idols competition in Sweden. Her unique voice and stunning looks made her something of a star there and she had a couple of huge albums. In autum 2008 she returned with the decent, but not spectacular, Europop song On & On. It was announced that the second single would be Release Me. I listened to it as soon as it was announced and was impressed straight away. Second listen I was stunned and on every listen since I have been obsessed. A classic fusion of pop and dance with gorgeous strings, a fantastic dance breakdown, a thundering bassline and typically strong vocals from Agnes. It was easily my favourite song around christmas time 2008. I saw Agnes perform Love Love Love in Sweden earlier in Melodifestivalen, having been anticipating it due to how much I loved Release Me. Just before I went to Sweden I'd heard that the unthinkable had happened - Release Me, shockingly one of her smallest hits in Sweden - had been added to UK music channels. A few weeks later it was added to radio playlists and by May it shockingly became a top three hit in the UK. Just like Sara Bareilles' Love Song the year before, a song that I had fallen in love with but assumed it was just going to be one of those songs that 'should have been a hit' was a hit - everyone was singing it, the song was everywhere, comparisons to our own Leona Lewis were all over the place - and the song later became a huge hit around Europe and even as far as Australia. This is testament to how brilliant the song is. Seeminly so simple, it is incredibly effective - one of the greatest commercial pop/dance songs of all time in my opinion and I'm glad it was the huge smash hit I always thought it could be!!!
4. DJ Sammy & Yanou feat Do - Heaven - 2002
I sound like a broken record, but here's another song that I was well ahead of the (British) crowd with. Summer 2002 and I heard a song on the internet that amazed me. It was a trance cover of Bryan Adams 80's US #1 hit Heaven, a song that was known in the UK but had only ever been a minor hit here. Unlike most 2002 dance reworkings of 80's songs, this cover sounded far from cheap - it added a completely new feel to the song giving it a new lease of life. This was not just down to Spaniard DJ Sammy and German Yanou's excellent production but also to Dutch singer Do's gorgeous soft but powerful vocals. The song had been a US top ten hit surprisingly - seeing as dance never does well there - so I picked up the single on import and was obsessed with it all summer. I raved to everyone about the song to little attention - until I started raving about the now perhaps even more famous Yanou's Candlelight remix - a b-side on my imported CD single, the song was stripped back down with just Do singing over a piano, an even more simple rendition of the song than Bryan Adams original. Where the dance remake impressed me, the ballad version was incredibly beautiful and became something of an anthem to everybody I played it to. I discovered in the autumn that the song was to receive a UK release - I expected that it would be a flop but instead it went straight to #1, beating hugely hyped comebacks from Craig David and Madonna and becoming one of the defining dance anthems of the decade in the process. For a song that had been something that I felt like only I knew, I was incredibly happy - to this day it's my second favourite UK #1 single of all time. I still hear both versions on the radio 7 years later and I hope that they will continue to be played because it is just a sensational version of a brilliant song.