As the year draws to a close, I finally have a few minutes to reflect on the year that was and the songs that kept me going when I needed that extra boost of energy. And as is often the case, when one sits back and compiles the songs that have aged well, no matter how many times I’ve heard them, I find myself staring at about 20 tracks — with entries from the worlds of pop, rock, hip-hop all represented — that resonated.
While there is always room for argument, and there are a number of tracks that nearly made the top 10 — an honorable mention list would definitely include Avicii’s “Wake Me Up!,” Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive,” Lorde’s “Royals,” Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (featuring Majid Jordan), and Janelle Monae’s “Q.U.E.E.N.” (featuring Erykah Badu) — they pay me to make the tough decisions. Accordingly here are the 10 tracks (presented in reverse order) that resonated in 2013:
10. “Locked Out of Heaven,” Bruno Mars
Excluding the chorus, the lyrics and music sound like they could have been a lost Police track from that band’s 1980s heyday, but Mars continues to prove how talented he is (and why his career will be a long one) in his ability to meld music that would have topped the pop charts 30 years ago with a modern, pop chorus and give the entire enterprise a fresh, jaunty feel that makes you want to hear more.
9. “Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke (featuring T.I. and Pharrell)
Sure, Marvin Gaye’s family is unhappy with the resemblance of Thicke’s summer hit to Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” — and considering how popular “Blurred Lines” is, there will be plenty of money to settle with Gaye’s family — the track was undeniably made for shaking it at beach parties. Add an unrated video that only added to the track’s appeal and you end up with one of the year’s most entertaining tracks.
8. “Thrift Shop”, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (featuring Wanz)
This song is all about the flow. Laugh out loud lyrics combine with the hook-iest chorus of the year, horns, and a simple-yet-compelling beat result in a song that you just want to sing “This is f-cking awesome” as often as the artists do.
7. “Pompeii,” Bastille
The best song from one of the year’s best albums, this song works both as a great rock song and a stealthy dance track (which was emphasized in the Monsieur Adi remix).
6. “Reflektor,” Arcade Fire
The title track from Arcade Fire’s long awaited fourth album is the longest track in this list (running 7:34) and shorter, radio-friendly versions transform the epic journey undertaken in this song — one that spans two languages as well — into an incomplete, somewhat-incomprehensible mess that feels half-baked.
5. “Twin Size Mattress,” The Front Bottoms Over the course of the past 18 months, this indie-punk band (that has been together for nearly seven years), has broken through with a pair of fantastic albums, and this track, from Talon of the Hawk overflows with longing and intensity and angst, and lyrics like “my nightmares will have nightmares every night.” If you’ve never heard of them, they are about 20 minutes from being, well, everywhere.
4. “Ya Hey,” Vampire Weekend
After the band’s explosive self-titled debut was followed by a somewhat disappointing sophomore set (Contra), it was unclear whether the band’s third album, Modern Vampires of the City would prove a return to the form that drove people crazy more than five years ago. Fortunately, tracks like “Ya Hey,” which takes a philosophical look at life and death and combines it with a catchy beat to form a truly unforgettable song that should not be as singable as it is.
3. “What Is This Thing Called Love,” Editors
Editors exploded onto the alternative scene in 2005 with The Back Room, an album that exceeded its significant hype. Editors were going to be the next big British band; cerebral Britpop that would cross the pond and appeal to the masses. That didn’t happen in the states, despite the band having released a number of excellent albums. Their fourth disc, The Weight of Your Love, has polarized both fans and critics. Some believe that it’s the best work of their career and others thought that it was overwrought. “What Is This Thing Called Love,” is a heartbreaking masterpiece, where lead singer Tom Smith’s ethereal voice carries the listener on a difficult emotional journey. Definitely the least known track on the list, this piece of classic Brit-pop deserves to be heard by a wider audience.
2.”Suit & Tie,” Justin Timberlake (featuring Jay-Z)
Every year there is one song that is used in a commercial and after a few spins, no matter how good the song is, you’re sick of listening to it and the backlash begins. You cringe whenever you hear the song on the radio. You begin to hate the artist for licensing the song. The better the song, the more upset you get because you feel like the song deserves better than to be disseminated in a 30-second commercial spot. “Suit & Tie” should have been that song. But a funny thing happened on the way to overexposure. “Suit & Tie” simply overcame the massive overexposure, and when Timberlake sings, “I can’t wait till I get you on the floor good-looking,” all is forgiven. You want to dance. You can’t be mad at the song. You just can’t.
1. “Get Lucky” Daft Punk (featuring Pharrell Williams)
Creating a list of the top 10 songs of a given year is never a simple endeavor. Numerous songs vie to make the top 10 and often, the final order of the top songs is not cemented until the writer is at the keyboard and commits to a final order; however, some years, writers get fortunate and there is one song that, going in, the writers know will be the year’s top song. Sure, they’ll have to figure out the rest of the top 10, but one song stands out. It was the song that you knew was the best song of the year the first time you heard it. It was the song that you could could not be topped the first time you heard it. This year, “Get Lucky” is that song.
From the first time I heard the song, through the writing of this paragraph (with the song playing in the background as I type), there has not been a single time that I’ve even considered turning the song off, and if that doesn’t sound like high praise, let’s take it a step further. There has not been a time that this song has played that I haven’t wanted to get up and dance — and those who know me know that I don’t dance. The song only improves with age. It is far and away the best song of the year and will prove to be one of the best of the decade. The lyrics are simple-yet-mesmerizing, the music bathes you in a 1970s retro vibe without transporting you out of the present day. It’s a perfect song. And those are rare.