2013 was a great year in music. A flood of new bands came onto the music scene. New songs were released from old favourites. Other artists changed the game through their released work.
While there have been some music downfalls, there have more than enough music triumphs to wash the bad ones out of our memories and shine on their own merit. In no particular order, here are my top fifty songs of 2013.
1. Always Alright by Alabama Shakes
It’s difficult not to like this song as Brittany Howard clearly has some fun wailing on her vocals and getting wild with her Gibson guitar. With so many bands of other genres coming about, it’s nice to be reminded that rock and roll will never fade away.
2. Best Day of My Life by American Authors
This upbeat song has been featured everywhere, from Lowe’s commercials to being performed by the Voice season five contestants as a group song. The “oohs” paired with the downbeat make it a fun one to bop along to.
3. Reflektor by Arcade Fire
The best description I’ve heard for this song is a combination of “art and party.” Add in David Bowie, and it becomes possibly the best song of the year.
4. Do I Wanna Know? by Arctic Monkeys
With a darker edge sound, the song slowly rolls on but keeps you enticed with its simmering, slow-burning groove. There’s a new sound for the Arctic Monkeys, and I’m digging it a lot.
5. Wake Me Up by Avicii
Representing Swedish pop/dance at its finest, this song has been one of the year’s favourites. A good reason for that is its versatility as it blurs the lines (in a good way) of genre.
6. DONE. by The Band Perry
It’s been awhile since I’ve heard The Band Perry have as much fun as they do in their foot stomping hit, DONE. With all of the its built-in sass, I’d imagine this one would be really good live too.
7. Drunk In Love by Beyoncé, Jay-Z
From announcing the return of Destiny’s Child to killing it at the Superbowl Halftime Show to taking over the world with the Mrs. Carter world tour to changing the game forever with her surprise visual album, Beyoncé owned 2013. Through her surprise release, she demonstrated she knows exactly where her market lies: the internet, which is why her album was announced via Instagram. If she were played on the radio more often, Drunk In Love would be her main hit with its sick beat and sassy rap vocals.
8. Little Numbers by BOY
Tired of waiting by the phone, the band BOY stands up for girls’ in similar situations in this indie-pop, piano song in a fun and catchy way. Consisting of two female members, I doubt the name for their band is a coincidence.
9. Safe and Sound by Capital Cities
Given that trumpets are hardly ever used in contemporary electronic/mid-tempo pop songs, Capital Cities used this unique advantage in their favour for Safe and Sound. Its members, Ryan Merchant and Sebu Simonian, have a one-of-a-kind story as they met through Craigslist, wrote music for Wal-Mart and Home Depot and made their success through the internet blog music scene (I can’t relate to that last part at all).
10. Change by Churchill
Through Bethany Kelly’s musical yelp, the song creates a hook that becomes stuck in the listener’s mind. Though repetitious at times, the song’s uniqueness and the way it successfully tailors to each member’s talent makes you for forget everything but the addictive melody.
11. Atlas by Coldplay
Appropriately assigning a futuristic and whimsical melody, Coldplay matches the tone of The Hunger Games: Catching Fire perfectly. Choosing a slower, contemplative sound over something more fast-paced, the band uses the slow build up to the song’s climax to perfectly align with the events of the impending war in the movie while also creating a piece that could stand alone without any Hollywood accompaniment.
12. Rich Girl (cover) by Cole Vosbury
I found myself rooting for Cole Vosbury the most on Season 5 of The Voice. With his cool, raspy voice, he made me more fond of songs I already had liked such as Maggie May, showed his wide range through performing various genres and grew into a better performer. By making each song his own, his version of Daryl Hall & John Oates’ Rich Girl proves to be just as strong as the original through the addition of some rock elements to better suit Vosbury’s style. It was a good song to revive and has reached new audiences.
13. Get Lucky by Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams
Daft Punk made their return to music obvious through their hit with Pharrell Williams. With Williams’ velvety vocals, Nile Rogers’ signature guitar stamp and a reminder of how good electronic dance can really be, there’s hardly anything to dislike about this song.
14. The Stars (Are Out Tonight) by David Bowie
Speaking of returns, the one and only David Bowie made his return with his album, The Next Day. Bowie is not the type of artist to put out an album just for fun. There is always a purpose. With The Stars (Are Out Tonight), Bowie discusses how much celebrity culture plays a part in our society and leaves the listener to decide if that’s a positive change or not.
15. Burn by Ellie Goulding
Co-written with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Burn brings a dream-pop element that makes it fun to dance to while Goulding’s soothing and hypnotic voice keeps the listener’s attention. If she’s good enough for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s royal wedding, she is good enough to be included in the best of 2013.
16. My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up) by Fall Out Boy
Fall Out Boy has successfully transitioned into a more rock aggressive group with their first single in years. It’s a such a smash hit that it leaves the listener exhilarated after.
17. Out Of My League by Fitz and The Tantrums
Fitz and The Tantrums are best known for taking older song elements from past decades and modernizing them with a twist. Trading in their 60’s retro from their last album, Out Of My League has an 80’s retro feel to it that makes transporting back in time oh so enjoyable.
18. Best I Ever Had by Gavin DeGraw
DeGraw moves away from his usual slower paced songs to a more up-tempo, pounding kick drum sound we hear in his first single in about a decade, Best I Ever Had. With horns that are reminiscent of current indie acts like Of Monsters and Men and a super catchy bridge (I think I love you, don’t even know ya), it’s no wonder the song became a hit.
19. The Wire by Haim
Having heard of them before actually hearing their music, Haim had some high expectations to live up to. Even so, The Wire well lived up to those expectations with its guitar pop sound, similar to that heard in an 80s arena, and has a bouncy type of feel. While the rest of their album is just as great, The Wire is the single that became their first hit.
20. Shake by The Head And The Heart
Adding a little more pep in their step, the Seattle-based band released Shake in 2013. The song’s kick drum encourages the listener to tap their foot along with the beat. John Russell’s voice is so unique and entices the listener so much that they have no choice but to listen as the band joins in for various harmonies before creating a strong, lasting chorus in the end.
21. Q.U.E.E.N. by Janelle Monaé feat. Erykah Badu
Monaé seems to be a powerful combination of Prince and Beyoncé. She performs very much with a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude with a lot of soul, funk and badass. While she may have a micromanage attitude, but she loves the feeling of letting that self-control loose as described in her 2013 hit. While she was likable to begin with, her sass makes her lovable.
22. A New Life by Jim James
Having many appropriate and similar themes for a new year, New Life is all about a fresh start being able to happen whenever you want to make it. It has an organic feel and sound with its simplistic yet meaningful lyrics and chords. Who knew the My Morning Jacket singer had so much to offer on his own?
23. All Of Me by John Legend
There are few others singers who have as sincere of a voice as John Legend. That honesty cuts you right to the core as he pours his heart out in his sweet love song, All Of Me. And boy can he sing! You can understand why his fiancée cried when she first heard it, as she was the inspiration behind the hit.
24. This Ladder Is Ours by The Joy Formidable
It’s really amazing that just three people can accumulate so much sound. Ritzy Bryan plays a sick guitar as she blazes through the song bringing it to each new phase as the drums pound on. The song seems much shorter than it really is because of its pace and leaves you wanting more.
25. Mirrors by Justin Timberlake
Although the longer non-radio version displays Timberlake’s talent much better, Mirrors offers us a look into his life more so than others as it deals with his wife, not a past lover. Though there’s nothing significantly different in this sound than that of his past work, it’s still nice to listen to his more recent work.
26. Follow Your Arrow by Kacey Musgraves
Kacey Musgraves has certainly tried to revolutionize the country music scene with her hit Follow Your Arrow. The song features lyrics like, “Make lots of noise / Kiss lots of boys / Or kiss lots of girls if that’s something you’re into.” Challenging traditional country music, it looks like Musgraves is aiming to turn the states into a rainbow.
27. Roar by Katy Perry
Perry continues to release ridiculously catchy tunes as heard in Roar. I admire the strong theme of empowerment, especially coming from a popular woman.
28. Shot At The Night by The Killers
Produced by M83’s Anthony Gonzalez, the song is a perfect blend of what makes both of the acts great. It has an epic undertone, almost 80’s rock, as the synth sound is paired with a plucky guitar and soaring vocal echos.
29. Supersoaker by Kings of Leon
While I love all of Kings of Leon songs, I’m very fond of their early work, which is why I love Supersoaker. They took their sound back to their roots and sound like they’re having a lot of fun in the process. It has me looking forward to their sixth album, Mechanical Bull, very much.
30. Young And Beautiful by Lana Del Rey
While not everyone loved the soundtrack to Great Gatsby, everyone did, however, love Lana Del Rey’s contribution to the film, Young and Beautiful. It’s poignant, amorous, and emotionally distressing all at once, suiting the story beautifully. An epic song for a story that has fascinated many for decades.
31. Cannonball by Lea Michele
Lea Michele’s single Cannonball has made the transition from broadway/television star to recording artist smooth for her as the pop song, Cannonball, became an instant success. With Michele’s powerhouse vocals and help from writers like Sia, she takes an uplifting stand to channel her inner strength to push on and conquer. After the year she’s had, it’s very inspirational to see.
32. Harper Lee by Little Green Cars
With a catchy sound and memorable lyrics, it’s hard to get Harper Lee out of your head. As a debut song for the band, Little Green Cars, the song unfolds into a hushed acoustic and grows into delicious harmonies and a harder beat as the story moves ahead. And who doesn’t like a song that plays off of To Kill a Mockingbird?
33. You Never Need Nobody by The Lone Bellow
Such wonderful musicianship is felt in this The Lone Bellow hit. You Never Need Nobody has a nice development that is made stronger by the belted-out gospel harmonies. Add in the blues-country sound, and it becomes a memorable song.
34. Royals by Lorde
She’s definitely the best new artist of the year, Grammy or not. At only 17 years old, Lorde looks to unite those teens who don’t identify with the lavishly wealthy and instead looks to celebrate and revel in the fact that they’ll never become those type of people. Apart from this different viewpoint, the song highlights the uniqueness and clarity of Lorde’s voice and style with some powerful lyrics.
35. Bad Girls by M.I.A.
Some may have dismissed M.I.A. after her only hit seemed to be Paper Planes. However, Bad Girls proves that her knack for pop and talent persist to be as acute as ever. In this daring push for feminism and social justice, it’s all too easy to have fun with her in the hit. The song proved to be an effective demonstration as it was written to address the ban of women drivers in Saudi Arabia.
36. Weight by Mikal Cronin
Knowing what needs to be done but lacking motivation is the kind of Weight that Cronin sings about on his hit. Kicking down the obstacles in his way, Cronin decides to let go as he drives the song with his guitar skills and infuses the kind of rough energetic pop that caught attention for him in 2011.
37. Sweater Weather by The Neighbourhood
Embracing the new retro fade of music, The Neighbourhood’s indie hit, Sweater Weather, entices the listener with its hip hop beat and lyrical rhythm that could misplace the song into the rap genre, blending different genres together. While the lyrics are full of relatable emotion, the song becomes an alluring and mesmeric integration of styles.
38. Man by Neko Case
A rocking and antagonistic track, Man serves as Neko Case’s weapon of choice as she tears apart gender norms. With some help from She & Him’s M. Ward, who plays a rugged guitar, Case makes a pretty convincing argument as she cries, “You didn’t know what a man was until I showed you.”
39. Counting Stars by OneRepublic
Counting Stars begins with a gentle and tenor beat as the lead vocals pulls the listener in. Transitioning into a more up-tempo beat, sharp acoustics sound out as the consistent and busy instruments push the song to become even more lively. The overall effect is an irresistibly buoyant and catchy hit that makes you want to count stars with the band then hit repeat.
40. Still Into You by Paramore
I’d argue that this is the best pop song of the year with its arena-rock sound paired with its love lyrics. Williams’ vocals are passionate and lively, making Still Into You an instant rock hit.
41. Let Her Go by Passenger
A beautiful and intimate arrangement, Passenger’s Let Her Go thrives in its simplicity. Michael Rosenburg’s fragile vocals are what makes the gentle folk/pop hit about lost love push onwards into the world of mainstream, radio-friendly music.
42. Queenie Eye by Paul McCartney
Riding on a rougher current than his previous single, New, McCartney’s other 2013 hit, Queenie Eye is based on of a children’s playground game. Going back in time seems to be the main theme of the song as it has a reminiscent sound to that which made McCartney famous over 50 years ago with The Beatles. I guess if it’s not broke, don’t fix it. Sidenote: the music video is filled with many big name stars.
43. Sirens by Pearl Jam
The smooth and grungy ballad features lead vocalist, Eddy Vedder, contemplating love and mortality in possibly his most fragile vocals to date. It’s the perfect blend of majestic and sensitivity that only Pearl Jam can achieve.
44. Entertainment by Phoenix
Opening in a playful synth theme, Phoenix’s Entertainment grows into an enormous and hysterical sound, almost frantic for volume. While it has been criticized for the way the drums fall away just as the main vocal hook is delivered, it is so catchy that it makes up for any small mishaps.
45. I Sat By The Ocean by Queens Of The Stone Age
Reminding every one of Joshua Hommes foremost traits, the song demonstrates the band’s scorching guitar work and distinctive hooks that make I Sat By The Ocean a hit. It has a cheerful and dynamic energy that is made clear by a tight guitar lead that hooks the listener along to remind them that Queens of the Stone Age are just as sharp as ever.
46. Brave by Sara Bareilles
Though its sound has drawn many similarities to Katy Perry’s Roar, Brave is not inspired by Bareilles but instead by her gay friend, who she penned the hit for as motivation to come out of the closet. With her unbridled passion and dominant chorus, the hit has the potential to become a civil rights anthem.
47. Closer by Tegan and Sara
While many may have known of Tegan and Sara for years, the duo had not become mainstream until their pop single Closer hit the radio airwaves in 2013. The song is ecstatic and celebratory with exuberant, clever lyrics. With soaring vocals and an addictive chorus, it’s no wonder the song became a hit.
48. Diane Young by Vampire Weekend
After their last album was called forgettable by critics, Vampire Weekend revived their sound and came back on the scene with some funk in their electronic hit, Diane Young. Ezra Koenig sounds energized as ever as Chris Baio almost steals the song with his nifty bass guitar playing to make the song fun and unique.
49. Byegone by Volcano Choir
Volcano Choir may not be significantly different from the tender, distinct beauty of Bon Iver, Justin Vernon’s previous band, but it’s different enough in that the sound is looser. They sound like they’re having fun jamming together to form the epic song, Byegone, that remarkably crams at least three major dynamic shifts, each more powerful than its predecessor. Rather than lessen the song’s glistening spirit, Vernon’s distinctive abstract lyrics lead it.
50. Sacrilege by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Sacrilege may perhaps be the most majestic, gritty, and honest anthem yet. Karen O sings about a seemingly angelic yet forbidden romance as guitarist Nick Zinner dances and stomps around her with riff after riff. The song is so engrossing and delicious that it feels like icing on the cake when the gospel choir joins in at the end.
What were your favourite songs of the year?