The year of 2013 was quite the year in music in general as pop continued to follow its new steps into electronic infused sounds by diving deep into sound echoing the ’70s flair. This year also brought twerking to the forefront for better or worse, gave unique and original artists a voice in the mainstream, saw the return of a true rebel of the industry and, by unforeseeable force, rap was actually listenable (unless your name was Kanye West). The best part about this year is I am finally breaking the rule of the song having to have charted and opening it up to more than just the mainstream pop songs, so prepare for some much needed surprises and a change of pace from the previous year. Truly this was a wonderful year in music, so let’s not waste anytime and dive straight into the 25 Best Songs of 2013.
25. “Pompeii” by Bastille
Finally, they made a song for all of us history nerds who love music. Bastille creates a simple yet gorgeous balance of chaos and heartbreak in a short time frame. Taking the tragedy of Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, the song explains how not even optimism can look past this as nothing more than a disaster while the settling sets up for an allegory of a romance falling apart. It also serves to show that the end is just routine and something both have experienced that. From the booming chorus that leads the song to the bridge breakdown toward the end, “Pompeii” hits it just right. Last year, Walk the Moon was in this same position, so let’s hope Bastille does not end up as a one hit wonder like those fellows.
24. “Now I’m All Messed Up” by Tegan & Sara
The duo responsible for curing young hipster hearts from breaking in two, Tegan & Sara returned with full force in 2013 with their album Heartthrob and giving ballads about the aftermath of the relationship. “Now I’m All Messed Up” is one of the deeper cuts on the album as they dive deep into wanting the former partner out of their life for good and that there is no reason for them to try and enter their lives again. It is a beautiful blend of keyboards and guitars by capturing the melancholy in the wake of the conclusion with both of their voices shining bright in the track.
23. “Walks Like Rihanna” by The Wanted
The UK Boy Band scene has decided to come across the pond and deliver a kick in the pants to pop by having another *NSync and Backstreet Boys rivalry with Harry Styles and the boys of One Direction against Nathan Sykes and the boys of The Wanted. On this list however, The Wanted win hands down with the infectious pop anthem that is “Walks Like Rihanna.” One Direction had a great year as well, but this song was in my head longer than a majority of their songs with a thumping crush tribute to a girl who may not have the best talents, but she has it where it counts on crush terms. Okay, so the song is a bit vapid in the lyrics and mostly relying on the beauty of her rather than character, yet the musical arrangement is where it kicks in with a thumping breakdown section and a chorus worth singing along to, even if you dislike them.
22. “Fine China” by Chris Brown
Christ Brown the man has always been a controversial figure in my mind with his cases of domestic violence, random outbursts and being kind of a prick, but he has calm down considerably to bring out his finest work since “Forever” with the Michael Jackson inspired “Fine China.” Brown’s vocals are as sharp as ever hitting the highest of highs with the best of them and clever lyrics saying the woman of his dream something that just cannot be irreplaceable, but her man can be replace with himself. I am also aware of the hilarious in hindsight lyrics of “I’m not dangerous,” but let’s ignore that in order to test the fine arrangement of modern beats Ne-Yo would be jealous of and strings that help carry Brown’s voice along. Not bad for a guy I wanted dead years ago.
21. “Rap God” by Eminem
Eminem has become more than rap royalty and increased into biblical proportion by taking down would be mainstream rappers without creativity or honesty in his sermon in “Rap God.” Marshall Mathers hits every verse and hook with such insanity looking back on his career and using it to his advantage to boast, brag and even give some inspiration to new rapper, even if he says homophobic slurs at that (something about that actually pisses me off, but the rest of the song is superb). The key moment is when Shady decides to claim his supersonic rap speed and proceeds to do just that by breaking the rap rhyme barrier by surpassing even Twista. Eminem is back to his roots and we would not have it any other way.
20. “Do What U Want” by Lady Gaga ft. R. Kelly
There cannot be a year without Lady Gaga, right? Actually, in the wake of her wildly mediocre album ARTPOP, Lady Gaga managed to get out one hit song and that song made an impact bigger than half that album wishes it did. “Do What U Want” is a sex anthem worth getting a bit naughty and down on the floor to with Lady Gaga always seductive voice going with a smooth pulse-pounding electronic club beat ready for the next guy in line to show her one hell of a night. Luckily, that next guy is R. Kelly who happen to go back to his early ’90s era self by luring Gaga into the sheet with him because only he has the pleasure she wants. It’s not overly raunchy, gets to the point and has R. Kelly singing the word “fuck” so beautifully in the most un-ironic way, it’s a delight that this single even made it to the pop charts.
19. “The Way” by Ariana Grande ft. Mac Miller
Ariana Grande has been taking over the world and being more overexposed as time goes on to the point it becomes exhausting, but before any of that nonsense happened at the second half of the year, she released the gorgeous pop track known as “The Way.” The spirit of ’90s Mariah Carey was sucked out of Mariah and put into Grande to give her a booming voice, but also an old-school vibe to the song with breathy vocals and a almost seducing sound. Of course, the only gripe I have with this song is Mac Miller, well, sucks. Luckily, he is underplayed in the song and does not destroy it to the point the song collapses. “The Way” is a great throwback track from an artist and actress that needs to take a long break for awhile to give her praise again.
18. “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities
Armed with a hipster vibe and perfect production work, Capital Cities take us on a musical adventure with “Safe and Sound” as styles rapidly change on one hell of a roller coaster ride. Combining the sounds of horns, synths and the drum machine beat is no easy task so thank God these boys know how to sing to back it up. It is one of those rare songs where you hear it and automatically want to dance to it armed with gorgeous lyrics about wanting to be alone and embrace the love of someone, but ever has two lovers alone sounded this awesome. the other plus to this track is that the video is amazing with great editing, use of visual effects and delivering the dance vibe in full force.
17. “Still Into You” by Paramore
By now reading the list, readers may notice I am kind of a softie when it comes to love songs, so the fact Paramore decided to make a poppy love song makes me smile. With Hayley’s gorgeous vocal and a bombastic rock sound, “Still Into You” is encapsulates the whirlwind feeling of being in love with someone for an extended period of time It’s a beautiful melodic work of pop-rock and it is great to see Paramore grow away from their “emo” roots, even if the new album was very hit and miss. This track stands out by being fun, dreamy in the bridge to the final chorus and perfect for the lover in all of us.
16. “Treasure” by Bruno Mars
“Baby squirrel, you’s a sexy motherfucker.” Any song beiginning with a Speak N’ Spell cursing definitely gets on this list, but all joking aside, “Treasure” gives back the ’70s cheese and sound of the era with a modern twist as only Bruno Mars can provide. With his killer vocals and stellar production work, this track hits all of the trademarks right from the disco flip drumbeat, a pratcially perfect bassline and chimes kicking in left and right. It even has a bit of Kool & the Gang and Earth, Wind & Fire thrown in with a whole group getting down on the boogie and singing with Mars. If this was the ’70s, this song would kill on the roller rink with everyone ready to celebrate.
15. “Wake Me Up” by Avicii
The first and certainly not the last producer/Dj on the list, Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” gave everyone a new song to set as their alarm clocks around the nation. The song works on both the technical aspect of sampling a great acoustic riff and melding it with a front and center synth riff alongside it with the unfortunately uncredited Aloe Blacc delivering a tremendous voacl range to help carry the song from obscurity. It is as if Mumford & Sons and Deadmau5 hooked up at the Ritz, made love and formed a delicate and precious baby from the wake of the drunken evening and that is a strange compliment to give a song. “Wake Me Up” gives a great song to jam to and deliver on every front as to why it is as popular as it is.
14. “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus
Much like the aforementioned Chris Brown, Miley Cyrus has grown in controversy with her tongue sticking out, twerk heavy and wild and out there antics, but like Brown, the music matters in the end and Cyrus’ heart is out on the open in “Wrecking Ball.” Cyrus’ singing has gotten better than her Disney days and her lyrics have become more powerful and dramatic (well, on this track at least) as time went on by comparing her breakup to a massive demolition with true integrity and crushing blows. “Wrecking Ball” captures what Cyrus can really do music wise in between all the manufactured and dismal singles put out before this song and shows even though someone has a bad reputation doesn’t mean they are not broken from the inside. Cyrus is really coming along and I hope that she can make a name for herself in a positive light, rather than the negative.
13. “Youth” by Foxes
The video is so hipster, I think a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon appeared in my hand, but with that said, Foxes is a relatively new artist that already packs quite a punch by making her own beats and sounds in order to amplify her message, especially her in “Youth.” Like Lana Del Rey but without the superbly ’emo’ style, Foxes has a unique style and vocals by giving a song capturing the concept of exploring and the nature of youth with a “anthemic” sound, a sample close to an siren going off in the distance and a massive build up to a dramatic grand closure in the song’s climax. Foxes has been a hit in the UK and only now got exposure here in the Sates, but take a look at her previous work and one may be pleasantly surprised by a new original.
12. “Brave” by Sara Barielles
Sara Barielles has had a great year going from her coffeehouse singwriting roots from 2007’sLittle Voice into a neat little star with her recent release The Blessed Unrest, now nominated for the major Album of the Year award at the Grammys, but Sara’s hit song this year shows her journey was worth it. On “Brave,” the always gorgeous Barielles sings about how going out there, taking your talent can lead to great places and stnading up for yourself with honesty without being stuck in a shell. Barielles hits it out of the park and knows what she is singing about with a killer chorus, dynamic change of pace midway thriugh the second chrous and a thrilling drum beat next to the piano riff, being “Brave” seems like a great choice. As a long time fan, I am glad to see the respect she deserves finally happening.
11. “Holy Grail” by Jay-Z ft. Justin Timberlake
Along with the return of Eminem to the rap game came Jay-Z’s return, yet instead of rapping about better than the other rappers and boasting about fame, Jay-Z takes the opposite rapping about the pressures and dark places of fame. Despite liking the concept of fame that surrounds him, Jay-Z samples Nirvana and original beats to tell his tale of the seducer of fame. Even Justin Timberlake takes a stab by making fame take the form of a woman that loves him one fay, but would willingly toss him in the trash for the next. To me, that is more powerful than boasting about your tight game and flow, and proof Jay-Z still knows who he is.
10. “Hold On, We’re Going Home” by Drake
Drake is always known for his rap, but personally, Drake always shines the brightest in his R&B stylings. Not to say he is a bad rapper as his album Nothing Was The Same has Drake rapping with the best of them, but “Hold On, We’re Going Home” stands out by not only being catchy, but being an ’80s throwback as well. Armed with a slick drum beat and sleek mysterious ambient use of synths, Drake delivers an romantic ode with simplicity and heartfelt vocals with Mijad Jordan giving a entrancing breakdown section that takes the song to a greater level than it would have listeners believed. The song itself even got covered recently by the Artic Monkeys and the cover was just as good, if not better than his track, proving Drake’s worth as an artist both in R&B and rap genres.
9. “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe” by Kendrick Lamar
Last year’s savior of the rap game is still riding high off the success of his album good kid, m.A.A.d city, Kendrick Lamar is still on his mission to bring an underground sound to the mainstream and brings it to the front on “Bitch, Don’t Kill My Vibe.” Lamar raps about how he is rising in the game, how the change is making the one that adores change for the worst while essentially telling them not to kill the mood being created and be something more than just the others version of fame. Lamar still has his sound that elevated his career to the stratoshpere and he, along with three others on the list, are up for the Album of the Year. It seems that no one intends to kill Lamar’s vibe anytime soon.
8. “Just Give Me A Reason” by P!nk ft. Nate Ruess
This is one of the rare times where I had this song on my mind for the list since it was released as a single this year. P!nk’s best track from arguably one of her best albums comes in the form of the duet “Just Give Me A Reason” as we find out about excepting the fact that a relationship is falling apart. Nate Ruess of fun. appears as the other voice of reason wondering exactly where all of the complaints are coming from as P!nk tries to figure it out as well and there is no clear reason as to why it seems the end is near. Most relationship end in unexpected ways and these two come together powerful vocal ranges nd styles to capture the bittersweet moment where both parties feel it should end. P!nk set out on her recent album to uncover the truths of love and this song lives up to one of those sad truths.
7. “Can’t Hold Us” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton
If Kendrick Lamar is out to be the savior of modern rap, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis are helping to keep that trend going by bringing an indie vibe to the mainstream game and coming up in it with “Can’t Hold Us.” The final rap song on the list that also deals with fame as Macklemore rises in popularity, especially after the inescapable “Thrift Shop,” while still holding it down on being himself without fame totally changing him. With Ray Dalton booming voice and Macklemore raspy way of rapping, the moment of success and glory is perfectly captured rather than boast or show the darkness as Macklemore wants to live in the moment. Luckily, being in the same category of Lamar and Barielles shows that his moment has came.
6. “Man” by Neko Case
Alternative country rocker Neko Case has made herself known in the indie world as singing the truth and sticking up for herself and all of that is made clear in her song “Man.” Case is having nothing of anyone’s gender defining roles and bullshit and ramps up her personal views as a straight white woman to tell the men so. She knows exactly what she is, who she wants to be and what she was raised on by making a strong and intellectual message for all of those suffering from identity issues or those who just want to find out what exactly our purpose is. Neko Case is one impressive singer and makes a case, no pun intened, for the impact indie still has in the industry by saying something most artists are still afraid to pay any mind to.
5. “Clarity” by Zedd ft. Foxes
Zedd went from being some DJ only us electronic fans knew and loved into someone everyone wants to know and love and, boy, I am happy to see Zedd get some time in the limelight. Teamed up with the aformentioned gorgeously voiced Foxes, Zedd makes bombastic anthem of devotion to a lover and the feeling they provide, even the ending is looming. Funny, there seems to be a pattern of fame, love and breakups on this list that somehow all make sense when put togeher, yet “Clarity” gives clear focus on the end with a outstanding choir, modern “synth-phonic” beats and Foxes voice carrying on a collage of near-pop perfection. Zedd continues to delight with his signature sounds with “Stay the Night,” but this song remains his calling card for the year as it continues to get people on singing along.
4. “Where Are We Now?” by David Bowie
To the surprise of everyone, David Bowie decided to come out of his hiatus of music a deliver his new album The Next Day that is up there with the best of his work. It was hard to choose one song that encompasses the essence of the album, but one track that sticks out in my mind was the gorgeous and hauntingly beautiful “Where Are We Now?” recounting a lost love. Bowie’s epic ballad shows how the man who was the Thin White Duke and Ziggy Stardust seems to be broken from the pain of a romance from the past he could never recover from and, judging by Bowie’s years in the industry, it must be a long internal pain to deal with. Along with this concept, Bowie deals with the wasted time and his older self reflecting on everything leading up to now until the climatic and fragile ending where the song gets more broader in terms of the somberness created by the rest of the song. Bowie is an artist I admire and influence has crept into my personal written work and luckily he still remains as wonderful as ever.
3. “Royals” by Lorde
New Zealand native Lorde gave a hip-hop inspired pop song about not being in the life of luxury and how everything is better to not be, but rather live in the fantasy rather than the reality. “Royals” decides to take fame and look at it without really wanting to dive into it thanks to the pressure and reputation that comes along with it. It drives that point home alongside 17 year-old Lorde’s gorgeous vocal and truly know how to create a stellar pop hit backed up by great double-tracking and one hell of a drum beat alongside it. Fortunately, Lorde is growing in popularity allowing more of her music to get exposure to audience who otherwise would stray away from artists like her.
2. “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake
JT has had a year of hits and misses with average to just okay song on first part of The 20/20 Experience. Yet, “Mirrors” is the magnum opus of the entire experience by creating a powerful and gorgeous love track that shows the maturity of Timberlake’s romantic lyrics with a beat unique to its own. With swelling violins, a thumping bass and symphonic synths, “Mirrors” gives Justin a return to form while assembling something new for us. Timberlake creates a vision of being someone’s equal and wanting to protect no matter what and nothing from the past matters while the future is going to be a mystery for them both. In about eight minute, Timberlake devotes his time well to explain true emotion and true passion unlike his tracks on FutureSex/LoveSounds and defines what makes Timberlake such a memorable figure. Just don’t listen to “Strawberry Bubblegum” after. It will ruin the taste buds.
1. “Get Lucky” by Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams
Like the legend of the phoenix, Daft Punk rose from the ashes of the abysmal Human After All and decided to head back to the lab or their Discovery days to create not just one song that oozes classic ’70s style and electronic roots, but a whole damn record focused on it while mixing, bending and blending genres with Random Access Memories. From the instance I heard that album and heard the lead single, I knew they had it in the bag for best song of 2013 and the best album, so “Get Lucky” is number one for rebooting the French robotic duo to life and finally giving Daft Punk the pop respect they deserved their entire careers. Teamed up with the soulful voice of Pharrell and co-written and performed with disco/funk legend Nile Rodgers of Chic, “Get Lucky” made song that is both sexy, fun and a delight to jam out to as Daft Punk provide their signature electronic vibes with the soul of pure funk and dancehall riffs. It brings the true essence of classic and memorable pop music by making everything else in the pop world seem like the same manufactured crap we get on a weekly basis. Daft Punk take classic samples of obscure pop sounds and create new sounds with it to bring on a new hit on every song and every song on Random Access Memories follows the same trend. “Get Lucky” is 2013’s best song of the year and will remain a classic song for years to come.