It Was All About The Great Voices
More than any other year that I can think of in recent memory, 2013’s best songs were all about terrific vocal performances. Of course, any song with an insanely catchy rhythm can win you over on that alone, with vocals and lyrics coming in distant second and third. I think what I hear is great singers who really should be receiving far more recognition than they are getting. They can’t tour much, have dedicated fan bases, and spend a lot of time cultivating their path online. It’s too expensive for performers to travel great distances to play for 150 people unless they can get a break with the costs involved.
In the commentary that follows, I’m not talking about all of the songs between 75 and 41, particularly those where performers also had songs higher up. So consider what follows to be some highlights of the year 🙂
- One performer who set the tone from the beginning to the end of 2013 is FrankMusik. Granted Vincent Frank does have some moderate success behind him, but to do what he achieved in 2013 stretched his resources. And achieve he did – two albums, Between and Between Us, an EP Far From Over, as well as two tours in the US and shows in the UK. I was happy to ride the FrankMusik train in 2013 even though I didn’t get to see him perform this time because you never knew what to expect next. Plus there’s his unbridled enthusiasm in creating his music, which ranged from frenetic to pensive. And the stories he told, mainly so very sad but cathartic at the same time. Two more FrankMusik songs appear higher up on my list. “Chasing Shadows” #72; “Life (Is My Revenge)” #69; “Fast As I Can” #56.
- Another performer who had a great year, but with all of the bells and whistles possible, is Justin Timberlake. He hinted that he would release his first album since 2006 at the end of last year, which was quickly followed by his single “Suit & Tie”, featuring Jay-Z (#73). The powerful R&B/pop album The 20/20 Experience arrived soon after, the best selling album of 2013 no less, full of a varied set of songs that averaged in the 7 minute range, kind of risky in itself, but definitely a whole lot of fun when they weren’t too ambitious like the raucous “Let The Groove Get In” (#53). By the time second single “Mirrors” arrived, it was already known that The 20/20 Experience Part II was on deck, and the very 80’s and Michael Jackson-influenced single “Take Back The Night” (#49) was upon us. And with Jay-Z’s Holy Grail album, we were pretty much assured of hearing new Justin Timberlake music every day in 2013. But even with all of the money behind this project, was it a total success? I would say Part I achieved what it should have, and more. I think there were missteps with Part II arriving so soon after Part I even though many of its songs were stronger than those on Part I. But unlike recordings by independent artists, Parts I and II will pay for each other over time. It was great to have Justin Timberlake back though as his voice was in fine, fine form.
- UK soul singer Charlie Brown had been featured on many songs and mixtapes over the last five years, but broke into the UK Top 10 with his uplifting “On My Way” (#75).
- 17 year old New Zealand singer Lorde topped charts worldwide with her lyrically and melodically clever “Royals” (#68). I couldn’t get enough of it for the first several weeks before it ran its course and peaked at #11.
- New York dance duo Ghost Beach arrived on my chart with a unique sound that bridges punk and dance in the Penguin Prison remix of “Too Young”, which is #70 for 2013.
- 20 year old Florida-born Ariana Grande was already well known to the teen set for her roles on “Victorious” and “Sam and Cat” as Cat Valentine. But her stunning vocal range came to prominence over the last few years, and her debut album Yours Truly saw release in late summer. It was however preceded by a winning single called “The Way”, featuring rapper Mac Miller, which got to #8 on my chart and is #66 for 2013.
- UK pop singer James William has established himself with his Olly Murs tribute shows, but is also quite the astute songwriter as well. His bright and shiny “Lay Your Love On Me” ranks #54 for 2013.
- Another UK pop singer draws more from classic R&B influences to arrive at a contemporary sound that recalls Simply Red a lot of the time. Sam Dickinson released his debut album The Stories That Occurred and “Learn To Wait”, its second single, is #50 for 2013.
- L.A.-based Jarell Perry released one of the most sensational albums for free download in early 2013, Simple Things. It’s full of powerful songs that make a really cohesive listening party as an album as a whole, which is unusual considering most performers are opting for EP’s. The song that stuck with me most throughout 2013 was “9 2 5”, which tells why it’s so important to break out of a regular routine and experience life. “9 2 5” is #45 for 2013. Expect great things from Jarell in 2014, starting with the EP White.
- NYC trio Andy Suzuki & The Method built on their existing east coast following (as well as a dedicated one in Brunei!) by releasing a full album, Born Out Of Mischief, which transcends rock, pop, jazz and country styles, led by fine vocals by Andy Suzuki. The impressive “Dirty Floors”, which could be the theme song for any indie musician, got to #7 on my chart and is #42 for 2013.
Continuing from 2012…
- UK duo Bim released their Lifelines EP in late 2012, and one of its best and lyrically most powerful songs was turned into a video featuring comic book images. “Burn” is #74 for 2013.
- UK teen favourite Conor Maynard paired up with Ne-Yo for the dance hit “Turn Around”, which is #64, while Ne-Yo himself brought some emotionally-charged R&B/dance to charts with “Let Me Love You (Till You Can Learn To Love Yourself)”, which is #61 for the year.
- Daniel Bedingfield found much online success with his Secret Fear-Stop The Traffik EP and the award-winning video for last year’s “Secret Fear”, which he also directed. More good things are coming from Daniel in 2014! Joining the class of 2013 from that project is “O.V.E.R. U.” at #55.
- Cambridge, MA quartet Passion Pit continued with singles from their 2012 album Gossamer, which often seemed to offer emotionally loaded lyrics over slight and bright melodies. “Take A Walk” is a little different and stands out from the rest of the songs on the album. It reached #6 on my chart and is #46 for 2013.
- Australian dance duo The Presets offer synth-drenched otherworldly dance music which sounds like nothing else. Their album Pacifica wasn’t always successful but the focal point to me was the intense album track “A.O.” (which stands for ‘adults only’), which is an unmade science fiction movie unto itself. It’s #47 for 2013.
- At end of 2012, US quartet One Republic issued the single “If I Lose Myself”, which was eventually included on the band’s first album in 3 years, Native. The single signaled a more synth-led sound than usual which I found to be very appealing, though it wasn’t until later in the year with “Counting Stars” that the group once again achieved massive success, reaching #1 in the UK and Top 5 in the US. “If I Lose Myself” is #71 for 2013 – it may be re-released to follow up “Counting Stars”.
- 2012 was absent of music from our favourite boy robot, Simon Curtis. So the singer gifted us with an EP of songs written for others, called WWW, full of the expected electronic pop and dance bliss but somewhat different from what we had heard in RA and 8bit Heart previously. But “Berlin Wall” (#63) is an unforgettable singalong anthem paired alongside the likes of “Laser Guns Up”, while “Do I Have To Dance” (#48) is a shattering dance epic as the singer pleads “notice me” but alternately screams “how long do I have to dance?” as if it’s the worst thing in the world. Simon has a new song and dance video funded by fans which will appear in 2014.
- Adam Tyler has been busy writing and recording his follow up to 2011’s Shattered Ice album after spending a lot of 2012 touring. He gave us a taste of what he’s working on with the dubstep-influenced “Fade Into The Light” at #58. The song was also featured on the essential dance compilation This Beat Is Poptronik… Volume 2… along with three others on this list!
- L.A.-based Semi-Precious Weapons toned down their rowdy rock style a few notches for the anthemic ballad “Aviation High” early in 2013, which also serves as a lead-in to their upcoming release in early 2014. Can’t wait to hear what these boys have to offer us! Of note: Jarell Perry also recorded a spot-on soulful cover of “Aviation High”, proving the song’s instant versatility.
- And at #41 for 2013 is the Oscar-winning “Skyfall” from Adele, which got to #7 at the top of the year.
SONGS 75 to 41
The prettier web version should be online by the end of Sunday.
75 CHARLIE BROWN On My Way
74 BIM Burn
73 JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE featuring Jay-Z Suit & Tie
72 FRANKMUSIK Chasing Shadows
71 ONE REPUBLIC If I Lose Myself
70 GHOST BEACH Too Young (Penguin Prison Remix)
69 FRANKMUSIK Life (Is My Revenge)
68 LORDE Royals
67 OSVALDO SUPINO Ma Radio
66 ARIANA GRANDE featuring MAC MILLER The Way
65 MATTHEW KOMA One Night
64 CONOR MAYNARD featuring NE-YO Turn Around
63 SIMON CURTIS Berlin Wall
62 SEMI-PRECIOUS WEAPONS Aviation High
61 NE-YO Let Me Love You (Till You Learn To Love Yourself)
60 LAWSON Juliet
59 PARRALOX Headhunter
58 ADAM TYLER Fade Into The Light
57 RIVER TIBER What Are You Afraid Of
56 FRANKMUSIK Fast As I Can
55 DANIEL BEDINGFIELD O.V.E.R. U.
54 JAMES WILLIAM Lay Your Love On Me
53 JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE Let The Groove Get In
52 LAWSON featuring B.o.B. Brokenhearted
51 PET SHOP BOYS Love Is A Bourgeois Construct
50 SAM DICKINSON Learn To Wait
49 JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE Take Back The Night
48 SIMON CURTIS Do I Have To Dance
47 THE PRESETS A.O.
46 PASSION PIT Take A Walk
45 JARELL PERRY 9 2 5
44 CHRIS WALLACE Keep Me Crazy
43 WILLY MOON My Girl
42 ANDY SUZUKI & THE METHOD Dirty Floors
41 ADELE Skyfall