Clean Bandit’s 13 biggest bops ranked, from Rather Be to Rockabye
Drive with Wes Nelson slaps a bit TOO hard methinks
Sometimes I think that Clean Bandit are the British Black Eyed Peas, a laughable statement that makes me chuckle at my own screen, but one that makes a weird sort of sense to me purely in the way that they’re both these unique bands that churned out bop after bop and sounded completely unique compared to anyone else in the charts. Love them or hate them, they’ve managed to endure the changing nature of the UK music landscape with an impressive rack up of featured artists who’ve all helped the group get four number ones and 10 UK top 10 hits. AND a Grammy. With all that said, here are the 13 greatest Clean Bandit songs – ranked.
13. Playboy Style (featuring Charli XCX and Bhad Bhabie)
In what is by far and away the most random track Clean Bandit has ever released, this tune from their second record sees Charli XCX jump on board with … *checks notes* Bhad Bhabie, AKA Danielle Bregoli, AKA “Catch me outside how bout dat?” As you might expect from the greatest pop star of all time and a big meme girl turned rapper, Playboy Style is a romp. I’m not really sure how legit Bhabie’s rapping is but it’s a vibe nonetheless. Charli annihilates it.
12. Real Love (featuring Jess Glynne)
Before she said a transphobic slur on a podcast and kicked off about not being let into Sexy Fish in trackies, there were halcyon days where Jess Glynne was known for two rather good tunes with Clean Bandit. Real Love is the second of the two, and the slightly less good one, but still a track that epitomises what Clean Bandit started out doing sonically and slaps in the way that only those 2014 hits can slap.
One of the funkier house bops in the Clean Bandit canon, Stronger features uncredited vocals from Sean Bass and the incomporable, Glee alum, Alex Newell. Newell’s vocals on the chorus are stratospheric and – although I have PTSD from hearing this on loop during a miserable stint working at River Island – it is unquestionably a little bit superb.
10. Drive (featuring Wes Nelson and Topic)
Love Island alum Wes Nelson has no business going off so hard on Drive – a song that when it was announced I laughed but one that shut my chuckles up quickly with the fact it’s a groovy little titslapper. Wes’ breezy vocals just absolutely go off? Is Wes the British Drake? Methinks he might be? It’s the most Top 40 chasing Clean Bandit have literally ever been, but if they’re going to bop as hard as Drive I welcome their Joel Corry era with open ears.
9. Solo (featuring Demi Lovato)
Solo treads the fine line between being an absolutely euphorically great pop song and being insufferable. The chorus is Marmite, with its WOOP WOOP WOOP and squeaky motif of “AY SOLO SOLO ERRRRBODY” not exactly being palatable to all ears. Me? I’m partial to Solo’s charms when the mood takes me. Even my nan could tall you that Demi is renowned for their vocals, and I wish they got to flex the vocals more on the chorus rather than just in the bridge. All in all though, a summery Clean Bandit staple and essential when getting their best songs ranked.
8. Rockabye (featuring Sean Paul and Anne-Marie)
Spending six weeks at number one on the UK Chart and becoming the Christmas number one single for 2016, Rockabye is one of Clean Bandit’s biggest hits ever. Anne-Marie is on lead vocal, and she gives it some absolute welly on arguably the biggest and most recognisable chorus in their discography. If you can overlook the accidental comedy of Sean Paul shouting “Daily struggle!” in the verse, Rockabye still slaps six years later.
7. Tick Tock (featuring Mabel and 24kGoldn)
There’s something quite unassuming about Tick Tock. I was a neutral party on it when I first heard it in 2020, but the more time I spent with it the more I fell in love with it. It’s kind of a return to the classical Clean Bandit sound of yore – the way the beats of the verse give way to the stringy chorus is bliss. Mabel was always destined for a Clean Bandit feature, and she bodies it. 24kGoldn’s verse hits as well. I strongly feel like all songs that have clock sounds or say tick tock in them go off, and this is just further evidence to that hypothesis.
6. Baby (featuring Marina and Luis Fonsi)
Baby marks the first release of Marina’s in which she’d dropped the “and the Diamonds” from her name, and what a way to reintroduce yourself to the pop landscape Baby is. Marina and Luis Fonsi (of Despacito fame) have outstanding chemistry on the most deliciously summery and holiday tinged track of all Clean Bandit songs ranked here. The flamenco is flamencoing, the whole track feels like a 7pm jug of sangria in Barcelona and it has a freshness and warmth that has endured the years since its release. Makes me want to book immediate annual leave. Inject it!
5. Symphony (featuring Zara Larsson)
I would love to have seen the ITV producers of Britain’s Got Talent and X Factor’s face when they first heard Symphony and realised that they could shove it in as the music whenever Simon Cowell says “It’s four yeses.” Symphony is what I call you’re-through-to-bootcamp music. Corny it may be, but there’s a reason these songs work so well when we see a call centre worker suddenly realise she might be the next Alexandra Burke – they’re euphoric. Zara Larsson has one of the best vocals in pop music, and she lets you know just how good it is on this bloody massive chorus. Soaring!
4. Rather Be (featuring Jess Glynne)
The first Clean Bandit song I ever heard, and I was shaken to my core to be honest. I’d never heard anything quite like the electronic production and the classical strings with a chorus that was just anthemic. It’s important to remember that before the song got ruined by the fact it’s been an inescapable mainstay on adverts for nearly 10 years and before we all collectively decided we disliked Jess Glynne, Rather Be is fundamentally amazing. Like, really amazing. Grammy winningly amazing.
You’ve probs not actually sat and had a listen to it for a while, due to over saturation. That’s normal. But just take four minutes, clear your mind and act like you’ve never heard it before. You’ll be wowed.
3. I Miss You (featuring Julia Michaels)
Fresh off the back of her breakout hit Issues, Julia Michaels – one of the greatest songwriters in pop, FYI – came on board for this absolutely stellar Clean Bandit track that reigns thing back to as delicate as dance music can be. The recurring “mmm”s are full of warmth, the vocoder layering on the pre chorus, the piano intro – it’s all just quietly brilliant. What a way to kick off the top three ranked Clean Bandit songs.
2. Disconnect (featuring Marina)
Disconnect had a chaotic journey to release. First premiered at Coachella in 2015, the song didn’t see a release til two years later when it finally hit streaming services in June 2017. During that two years, Clean Bandit apparently had 30 different versions of Disconnect on their laptops. Marina herself tweeted the band in 2016 asking when the song was dropping. It was all up in the air, and resulted in Disconnect becoming one of their only singles to not even get into the UK Chart’s top 100.
But Disconnect is outstanding. It is one of Marina’s best as well as the band’s, the production at pleasant odds with the gloomy nature of loneliness. It deserved to be huge.
1. Tears (featuring Louisa Johnson)
Tears is an absolute BEAST. It is a force to be reckoned with on all fronts. A monstrous 1990s inspired roar of huge vocals and production that feels like it’s slapping you round the face, it’s that arresting. Before I go on, let’s have a moment of silence for Louisa Johnson as we mourn what could and SHOULD have been. Louisa, fresh off the back of winning the 2015 season of The X Factor, deserved to be the biggest pop star in the country. She looked like a superstar and had the voice to match. Tears was our first taste of Louisa the pop megastar after her winner’s single, and, I mean… Look at the material.
The quiet intro, almost a cappella. The fast prechorus as the group introduce strings and more instruments and a beat. The chorus? Leans into the empty space between the lyrics and beats before crescendoing into the post chorus breakdown. The magic and thrill of the middle eight, with the finger clicks and the burst into the stratospheric vocals Louisa lays on “I don’t need you to see if I’m alright”? Perfection. My gym playlist would never be the same without it.
Listen to our playlist of the 13 best ranked Clean Bandit songs here.