I said 2013 was a phenomenal year for music, and now I’m going to prove it. Even with extending the list to a top 20, there were still a surprisingly large number of painful cuts. After all, I consider over half of this year-end to be at least good, if not great. But I narrowed it down to just songs in the great tier (which still left me with a shit ton of choices), but this was the final result, starting off with the long list of honorable mentions (warning: some of these will piss you off)
HM. Catch My Breath- Kelly Clarkson
YE Position: 68
Admittedly this style is nothing new or special from Kelly Clarkson, but the melodies here are definitely more fleshed out than her other stuff from this era, making it easy to get stuck in your head, but not to the point where it annoys you. The lyrics, surprisingly, do a lot of the heavy lifting, describing her struggle for creative independence against her label. It’s a relatable topic for many artists, and many other songs have done this idea better, but it still gets its message across, and easily stands out as one of Clarkson’s best songs.
HM. Runnin Outta Moonlight- Randy Houser
YE Position: 98
Here’s proof to country elitists that bro country can be done right. The song’s all about Randy Houser showing up at his girlfriend’s house at midnight because it’s a beautiful night and he wants to share it with her. It doesn’t come off as anything but genuine and nice. Meanwhile, the song is supported by Houser’s deep, rich voice and loud, stomping production. Definitely a song I’m not afraid to admit that I really like.
But if you want a bro country song I am embarrassed for liking-
HM. That’s My Kind Of Night- Luke Bryan
YE Position: 78
So this is completely ridiculous. Nearly everyone has thrashed it thoroughly as one of the worst songs of the year, and I used to be with them. Then I started to think this song was so bad it was hilarious and I began to like it ironically. And then, all of a sudden, I started finding things to like. Something about how fully this song embraces every bit of stupidity in its lyrics and just has fun with it eventually won me over. Yes, the lyrics are almost to the level of Boys Round Here, but instead of just throwing those cliches out there and hoping they connect, Luke Bryan has the common sense to turn them into something, and to then sell them perfectly with charisma and lively production. If you wanted a song that manages to take all the worst aspects of bro country and turns them into something that’s actually pretty great, I’d point you to this song, and only be a little ashamed of myself for doing so.
HM. The Other Side- Jason Derulo
YE Position: 66
Jason Derulo’s a weird artist for me. He keeps putting out songs I either like or love, despite not being a very good performer. With that said, he’s clearly putting his all into this one. The production definitely helps, with the gentle guitar on the verses slowly building into the wonderful explosion of synths on the chorus. And yeah, the lyrics may be a little sappy, but who cares? Just an insanely fun, catchy song that even Jason Derulo’s biggest haters don’t seem to mind.
HM. I Need Your Love- Calvin Harris ft. Ellie Goulding
YE Position: 56
I’ve been able to defend myself pretty well so far, even with fucking That’s My Kind Of Night. But here- I kind of can’t. There’s not really anything wrong here, but there’s no particular element that makes it stand out from the rest of the edm popular at the time. I guess the best reason I can come up with is the song just sounds very upbeat and positive, with Ellie Goulding’s ecstatic vocal performance and the energetic bounce of the glitchy drop. It’s not close to either artist’s best work- but especially with the mainstream edm scene right now, I’ll always enjoy returning to this.
HM. Berzerk- Eminem
YE Position: 67
Ok, I don’t understand how you can go from this to the dull sludge on Revival one album later. Now I’m sure some little 12 year old white boys (aka around 80% of Eminem fans), would argue that this isn’t lyrically clever enough, making it one of Eminem’s worst songs. But, like, that’s clearly not the point. It’s just meant to be a wild party song, you stupid little boy.
…I’m arguing with imaginary children, what the fuck am I doing with my life. Anyway, the distorted samples and Eminem’s aggressive flows help to make this one of the most out-of-control and awesome songs of the entire year. However, another song did what this one did even better, so I couldn’t put it on the list.
HM. Heart Attack- Demi Lovato
YE Position: 50
I’ve never liked Demi Lovato all that much. No matter what she does, it just ends up missing the mark for me. Give Your Heart A Break was fine, but unmemorable, Cool For The Summer tried to sound dark and epic but ended up with way too much of the former, and Sorry Not Sorry… just wait for whenever I make a worst of 2017.
But then there’s Heart Attack. The mix of guitar and dubstep-inspired synths sounds perfect, sounding intense but not overwhelming. The songwriting is also quite compelling, describing how terrifying it can be to really fall in love, which Demi Lovato manages to sell perfectly. Wish Demi Lovato was like this more often, because she definitely has it in her.
HM. Mama’s Broken Heart- Miranda Lambert
YE Position: 89
In a year filled with so much bro country, a song like this one really stands out. The premise is that Miranda Lambert is acting out after a breakup, and her mother calls her up and tells her to stop because “it doesn’t matter how she feels, it only matters how she looks”, and she needs to “act like a lady”. But Miranda’s not having any of that, tearing into those traditional gender roles her mother follows, the whole time being backed up by roaring chaotic guitars and pounding drums. Awesome song, country music needs more songs like this.
HM. Best Song Ever- One Direction
YE Position: 74
This song must have been a huge surprise at the time. I mean who would’ve expected this teen-pandering boy band to suddenly make this classic rock-inspired greatness? The writing’s a lot better here too, actually being about a specific girl instead of the self-insert “you”, and successfully capturing the feeling of a wild night you can barely remember the next day. And from this song onward, One Direction did start to improve. And now this group is dead and all the members have their own solo careers with distinct styles, some of them even being good. And I’d like to think all of that is owed to this song.
HM. Just Give Me A Reason- Pink ft. Nate Ruess
YE Position: 7
This is a very good song that I don’t really care about. It sounds good, the storytelling and chemistry is great, and I’ll listen to it if it comes on, but out of all the songs on this list, it’s the one I return to the least. And the one I have the least to say about.
HM. I Cry- Flo Rida
YE Position: 64
In my mind, I’ve always associated Flo Rida very closely with Pitbull. Mainly because neither of them deserved all the shit they got. Like come on, if you really wanna get mad at dance club music, LMFAO and The New Boyz are right there. But enough about that, what about the song in question?
This is probably the most personal Flo Rida’s gotten in his music, referencing what it was like growing up in the projects, and how grateful he is that he’s made it out. The sampled hook also works surprisingly well, especially when Flo Rida harmonizes with it. And then there’s the production and Flo Rida’s rapping, both of which sound bright, energetic and hopeful, making it work as a motivational anthem as well. Good job, Flo Rida, and I’m really sorry about your sister. That must really suck.
HM. The Way- Ariana Grande ft. Mac Miller
YE Position: 31
I’ve always considered this a very fun, catchy pop song with nice bouncy production and good performances from everyone involved, but listening to how happy Mac Miller sounds on his verses gives me such a strange feeling now, and I don’t know if this makes the song better or worse. Leaning more towards the latter, though.
HM. Hall Of Fame- The Script ft. Will.i.am
YE Position: 85
Look, this isn’t anything particularly original or innovative, I’ll admit that. But for me at least, this works as empowerment anthem. And there’s a few reasons why: 1) the usage of the “you” pronoun makes it feel more direct, 2) the lyrics are more specific and actually encourage the listener to work to pursue their dreams, and 3) the instrumentation is quite powerful, with the gleaming piano and thunderous drums. Believe it or not, this song was the closest to making the list. Consider it my number 21.
HM. Demons- Imagine Dragons
YE Position: 62
I feel like I should’ve put this on the list. Dan Reynolds is giving one of his most passionate vocal performances to date, and the lyrics are very powerful, if a bit melodramatic. However, the production doesn’t really “explode” enough on the chorus, taking away some of the emotional intensity. And there’s also just the fact that I never come back to this song. It’s great, and I’d definitely listen to it if it came on, but I’d hardly ever choose to listen to it. Radioactive and It’s Time are just so much better. Still, that doesn’t make the song any less potent or epic.
HM. Treasure- Bruno Mars
YE Position: 30
What is there to even say? This is just great fun. However, Bruno went on to make better funk throwbacks with Uptown Funk and 24K Magic, so unfortunately I can’t see much reason to come back to this. But hey, at least the intro’s hilarious.
HM. When I Was Your Man- Bruno Mars
YE Position: 8
And here’s another Bruno Mars song that’s become relatively forgotten, only this time I can’t see why. Yeah, it’s a minimalist piano ballad, but the lyrics more than make up for it, describing how Bruno regrets not being a better boyfriend, before hoping that her new boyfriend is treating her better, which is a really mature perspective that I can respect.
But didn’t Bruno Mars have another hit in 2013? One that everyone likes, way more than the previous two I’ve mentioned? Well, they’re right, it is better, and that’s why it’s #20.
20. Locked Out of Heaven- Bruno Mars
YE Position: 11
Like Treasure, this song also has some influences from the 80s, mainly The Police, to the point where it almost directly copies their style. Now, I don’t care about this at all, since I know next to nothing about The Police. What I do care about, however, is this song, which is fantastic. The funk guitars are punchy and vibrant on the verses, complementing the hiccuping backing vocals, but on the chorus the guitar is combined with a soaring synth line and hard-hitting drums, while the backing vocals continuously go higher and higher, building to a massive climax at the end of the chorus, before reverting back to normal. Bruno’s also singing his heart out, about not getting to have sex. Yeah, they don’t even try to hide that metaphor, the prechorus literally says “your sex takes me to paradise”. Eh, whatever. Doesn’t make the song any less awesome.
I’ve defended this next guy in the past, mostly last year, when everyone was tearing into his latest album, while I thought it was a perfectly passable album with a couple great songs. But with that being said, I don’t think I’m going to have to justify this to anyone.
19. Mirrors- Justin Timberlake
YE Position: 6
Apparently this was written as a tribute to Justin’s then-fiance, and he did not hold back at all. Some people think the “mirror” sentiment is egotistical, and… no, not really. He’s not in love with her just because she’s a copy of him, it’s that they’ve become so connected and unified together that they’ve become like reflections of each other. And then there’s Justin, who sings with a great deal of emotion and sensitivity. And with the elegant strings and cascades of synth, this is just a gorgeous song.
…However, it drags on way too long. The second half- which comes in around the 5:30 mark- just isn’t that good, and I’ve usually tuned out by then, because it’s not interesting enough to justify itself. It’s perfectly fine, but whenever I listen to this song, I usually skip over that part. If that didn’t exist, or if it was more compelling, I could’ve put this one a lot higher, but as it is… I still really like it.
Here’s a song that you probably expected to be a lot higher. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic song that I really do love, it’s just that there are a ton of songs this year that are better and more overlooked in my opinion. But anyway, here’s Daft Punk.
18. Get Lucky- Daft Punk ft. Pharrell Williams
YE Position: 14
Is there anything I can say that hasn’t already been said? Well, yeah, there is one thing: the lyrics and vocals are nothing special. I mean, Pharrell’s good, but he doesn’t exactly leave a unique impression. So the fact that Get Lucky still made the list in spite of that truly is a testament to how great this production is! Every single instrument has an unbelievably tight groove, and when combined, it just sounds amazing and hypnotic. It has an ethereal vibe, like you’re floating through space while listening to this. And the bridge utilizing Daft Punk’s synthesized voices is just the icing on the cake.
It’s a little weird that it took until 2013 for Daft Punk to have a crossover hit, but I’m not about to question a good thing. There was an opportunity for a “get lucky” pun there, but I have just enough self-respect not to make it. Probably.
Here’s a song that you probably expected to be a lot higher. And don’t get me wrong, it’s a fantastic song that I really do love, it’s just that there are a ton of songs this year that are better and more overlooked in my opinion. But anyway, here’s Macklemore
I just copy-pasted that from my preamble for Get Lucky. Wow, I’m lazy. Come on, me, it wouldn’t have been that hard to come up with something original.
17. Can’t Hold Us- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ray Dalton
YE Position: 5
After the unbelievably massive success of Thrift Shop, Macklemore made this his next single- a song that proved he could be great while being serious as well. And before you ask, no, Macklemore’s third hit Same Love isn’t on the list. Mostly because it’s a song I respect a lot more than I like. But back to this song, which is essentially a song boasting Macklemore’s newfound success, while still staying humble and taking time to thank all the people that made it possible, through clever and well-written lyrics.
And that’s not all, because this song sounds epic. Macklemore, as usual, has incredible charisma and flow, and he’s backed by triumphant horns, driving bells, and ghostly backing vocals. Excellent song, deserves all of its acclaim, and we’re not even in the top 15 yet.
It’s funny how popular trends in music can vary around the world. For example, in the mid to late 2000s, electronic music was huge in Europe, but it didn’t cross over to the United States until the 2010s. So when this group released their goodbye song, it became their first (and only) hit in the US. Oh, and the song’s pretty great too.
16. Don’t You Worry Child- Swedish House Mafia ft. John Martin
YE Position: 26
This song is just a fucking behemoth of edm. It utilizes so many different-sounding synths and blends them together seamlessly, creating a huge, uplifting atmosphere that continuously evolves- having moments with just a single faint piano line, as well as titanic, explosive drops. This was a good choice for a final song, you always want to end on a high note. The lyrics are amazing as well, looking back on childhood memories, and the advice given by a parent- “don’t you worry child, see heaven’s got a plan for you”- that they have held to this day, being expressed through John Martin’s hoarse, powerful voice. Swedish House Mafia may have broken up, but at least they ended their career with this wonderful piece of music.
Best country song of 2013.
15. Highway Don’t Care- Tim McGraw ft. Taylor Swift & Keith Urban
YE Position: 77
Ok, first thing I noticed about this song while putting the list together- it’s really similar to One Number Away, just with a worse narrative. But even if it is a lesser version of One Number Away, so what? That was my favorite song of 2018, after all.
But the lyrics are significantly worse because there’s a lot more projection and less reflection (I know that sentence sounds unbelievably dumb, shut up). But there’s still a lot to like here, like how Taylor Swift plays the role of a song the girl is hearing on the radio, and she still has surprisingly good chemistry with Tim McGraw. And the song does feel incredibly genuine and heartfelt on the chorus.
But honestly, this wouldn’t make the list at all if not for the production. Yeah, Keith Urban’s the highlight of a song, I never thought I’d say that either. Granted, he’s just playing guitar and not singing, so that helps. And the whole song really just feels like buildup to the two guitar solos, the first one being a lot more intricate than the second, but the second one just hits you with so much more emotion, as it follows the repetitive yet still powerful bridge, and comes in to end the song on a perfect note.
Damn, I knew 2013 was a strong enough year for this next song to have some competition, but I didn’t expect it’d be pushed all the way down to 14.
14. Counting Stars- OneRepublic
YE Position: 63
Now THIS is a much better anthem than 22 was. It describes the desire to escape the corporate system and go on adventures, to live with more risk, and it sounds like it. The production, Ryan Tedder’s voice, the melodies- all of them feel like they’re in constant motion. And not like in a “motion sickness” way, in a good way. Not much I can add, just a fantastic anthem that I’m pretty sure everyone can relate to at some point in their lives. I just happened to like thirteen other songs this year more.
Fun fact: I almost left this off the list entirely. Not because it doesn’t deserve it, I just have nothing to say about it.
13. Still Into You- Paramore
YE Position: 100
Like, come on guys, it’s just so happy… with Hayley Williams’ exuberant vocals, the punchy, bright pop-rock production, and the lyrics, which are well-detailed and presented in such a joyous way that it’s just incredible. It doesn’t make any sense that this was at the bottom of the year end list, this feels like the perfect hit. Okay, next song, I told you I didn’t have much to say about this one, but I’ve got quite a lot to say about this next one.
Oh boy. I don’t think many people are going to agree with me here. Because this is a song attacking the critics. Almost always, that’s a bad move. Just look at what happened with Taylor Swift and Look What You Made Me Do, or to a lesser extent, Shake It Off. To get me to side with you, you have to give the critics some degree of respect, while still refuting their points leveled against you. Going back to the previous example, Taylor Swift did neither. Lady Gaga did both.
12. Applause- Lady Gaga
YE Position: 37
Let’s start with the production, which could also serve as a response to those saying her music “sounds too weird”. Its sound resembles that of Poker Face, Just Dance, and most of her earlier work. Except the synths are a lot harsher and choppier, before exploding into a discordant mess on the chorus, without reaching the point where it becomes painful to listen to. It’s a more subtle response, and it was definitely smart to leave criticisms of her music out of the lyrics, as that would just make her look horribly insecure and weak.
But how about the lyrical content itself?
“To crash the critics saying, ‘is it right or is it wrong?’”
From the second line, the type of critic Lady Gaga is addressing is made clear- the kind that doesn’t really know how to criticize the art, so instead targets the artist. I mean, go back and look at the reviews she got around this time, a lot of them barely even mentioned the music in question, almost like they were trying to find something to complain about.
“I’ve overheard your theory ‘nostalgia’s for geeks’
I guess sir, if you say so, some of us just like to read”
Yeah, see, there’s a perfect example of that. Because she made an 80s throwback hit, she’s trying to “pander to geeks”. But aside from that, some people might take issue with some of this song’s other lyrics, more particularly the prechorus and chorus, because “I live for the applause” makes it sound like she is only doing it for the attention. However, taking the rest of the song into consideration, I’m going to interpret it a different way: she needs to have these fans who cheer for her to counteract all the shit thrown at her, and if you look at it that way, it’s actually really understandable. And it even makes her looks less full of herself in the process.
Congratulations, Lady Gaga, you managed to take an idea that could very easily backfire horribly, and turned it into the best hit song of your entire career.
I have always felt most of the criticism thrown at this guy was unfair. He at least had more ideas and experimented more often than most of his contemporaries, and you couldn’t really mistake his reckless production style for anyone else. But on the other hand, I always thought he was always holding back, at least in his pop crossovers.
That is until he released this song.
11. Sweet Nothing- Calvin Harris ft. Florence Welch
YE Position: 44
Now, see, this is how you use production to create a mood. The story is about being in a relationship where one person is giving real in return. Florence Welch sells the weary frustration portrayed in the lyrics effortlessly, while the beat stays low, but threatening. Like a coiled snake. And then when the chorus hits, all that frustration is realized in both Florence Welch’s passionate vocal performance and the wiry beat’s continued buildup. And then it’s all released in the drop, and oh boy is this a drop. It’s angry and fierce enough to feel cathartic, with the rapid-fire synth. But even when it lets loose, never once does it lose control of its atmosphere and impact. The song even ends amazingly, with the drop fading into the background, like a machine being shut off. One of the most underappreciated songs of 2013, and one of the best edm songs of the decade. And it just missed out on the top 10.
So, I know I’ve had some controversial opinions in the past, probably like eight on this list alone, but I don’t think anything I’ve said will award me as much backlash as putting this song on the list. Plenty of people hate this song, even going as far as to describe it as “audio torture”. And for a while I actually agreed with them. But then one day it just clicked with me, and I’m going to try my hardest to defend it.
10. Bugatti- Ace Hood ft. Future & Rick Ross
YE Position: 91
No, no, this is not a joke. I legitimately think this song is better than Can’t Hold Us, Counting Stars, and Get Lucky. And I know that you all hate me now, so let me make my case. First, even I’ll admit that the lyrics aren’t that good, aside from a couple “memorable” lines. But this song manages to make these basic lyrics sound epic.
The production. Oh my god the production. I didn’t know Mike fucking Will was capable of this. It’s what makes this song so disgusting to some people, but I absolutely love every second of it. It knows when to be calm and restrained, and it knows when to just let loose. On Future’s hook, it sounds ominous, almost creepy, like you’re walking down a pitch-black corridor. And then the drop hits like a plane into the twin tow- shit, no, shouldn’t continue that metaphor. Abort. What I’m trying to say is it sounds explosive, with that power-drill synth cutting in and out in the background. And then it continues into Ace Hood’s verses, and he is on fire here, going in with so much intensity and ferociousness; both his verses are like riding a rollercoaster going at breakneck speed, it’s just exhilarating. And while he’s definitely the weak link here, I’m not going to overlook Rick Ross’s verse. His flow isn’t nearly as strong as Ace’s, but I do love how the production alternates based on his delivery. Wow, with both Future and Rick Ross, this almost feels like an apology for UOENO, and if that’s the case, apology accepted. An overlooked masterpiece, I wish we got more trap rap that went as hard as this does, while actually pulling it off (unlike “Look At Me!” or Gummo). And if you’re still mad at me for this choice, I’ll let Ace Hood deal with you.
“fuck all you haters, you bore me”
yeah that’s right
What is this doing on the hot 100?
9. Sail- AWOLNATION
YE Position: 25
Yeah, I don’t know how this got popular. I can’t think of anything else from this decade that sounds even remotely like it. But then again, if more songs did sound like this, I could see myself getting sick of that very quickly.
The whole song is extremely coarse and raw, with that abrasive dubstep-inspired bass cutting in over a lighter, good-spirited piano, but for good reason. After all, this is a song looking into the mind of someone with severe depression, anxiety, and… ADD apparently. And there’s no real message, just a collection of passing thoughts strung together. He feels different from everyone else, he contemplates suicide, you know, all that good stuff. But then, halfway through, the song gradually becomes more soothing and pleasant, almost like calming down after letting out all your worst feelings. And the main line of the song- “Sail!” is sort of a call to keep going, even if things aren’t really getting any better. Again, there really isn’t anything quite like this song. But at least it became a huge sleeper hit that stuck around for a ridiculous amount of time!
If you couldn’t already tell, the electronic music scene of 2013 was fantastic. You’ve seen examples of this before, and (spoiler) there’s still more to come. We had veterans of the genre like Daft Punk and Swedish House Mafia finally crossing over with some of their best songs to date, and also innovative newcomers. Here’s an example of the latter.
8. Clarity- Zedd ft. Foxes
YE Position: 24
Oh my god how are we only at #8!? In any other year a song this great would easily make the top 5, hell, maybe even the top 3. Forget what I said about Don’t You Worry Child, this is a truly titanic piece of music. And it does it all with a very simple premise- two lovers keep coming back to each other even if they’ll soon regret it, but with this production and Foxes’ vocals, it sounds like the most important thing in the world. It slowly builds with a simple piano line, but adds more and more atmospheric synths until the drop comes crashing down. The explosion of colliding synths, another high-pitched robotic synth in the background, and a choir of backing vocals to add to that epic feel. And what’s so amazing is that the drop- it keeps building, getting more intense and gigantic, before, suddenly, resetting itself. And it feels like a complete listening experience then, but you’re only halfway done, as the cycle repeats, only with everything feeling even more explosive and powerful. I probably explained all of that horribly, but I don’t care. One of the best of its genre this decade, a song I regularly come back to even to this day, and, again, only the 8th best hit song of 2013.
Back in 2017, Kendrick released his album Damn., to massive critical and commercial success. With his sudden breakthrough to the general public and all the hype surrounding it, it can be easy to forget that Kendrick actually had a decent-sized hit four full years before he became a household name.
And yeah, he’s not going to release a single that can top it anytime soon.
7. Swimming Pools (Drank)- Kendrick Lamar
YE Position: 79
Yeah, this dark, bizarre song about alcoholism was Kendrick’s first exposure to the mainstream. I’d call that shocking, but considering what we’ve already seen on this list, no it makes complete sense. The lyrics describe Kendrick’s struggle with drinking, both acknowledging the harm it’s doing to him, while also showing why he continues to drink in the first place. When he’s drunk, he feels like a different person, someone who everyone likes being around at parties. But at the same time, his conscience is trying to save him from drinking too much and dying. And he sees it, he can almost reach that freedom of being sober- but then he’s pulled back in by the desire to fit in.
And on a musical level, the song is just as intricate. The mind-numbing hypnotic hook represents the repetitive nature of drinking. And the song keeps the low-key tone, with the murky bass and Kendrick’s relatively monotone delivery. The only time it flares up is on the prechorus, where that ghostly synth comes in as someone’s telling Kendrick to drink more and more, reinforcing the “peer pressure” angle. Everything is perfectly crafted. This is, without a doubt, Kendrick’s best- and smartest- hit song. If anyone’s going to argue that Kendrick isn’t one of the greatest rappers of our time, this is the perfect counterpoint to that claim.
It still amazes me that this became a hit at all. This is the kind of song where you look at it and say “yeah, there’s no way something like this’ll get big”. Guess that’s 2013 for ya.
6. Little Talks- Of Monsters & Men
YE Position: 65
Every single part of this song is the best part. Take the lyrics. They tell the story of two lovers- one of which has passed away- having a conversation. But it’s not really a sad song. The female singer on the song plays the old woman who is still living, and the male singer plays her deceased husband, and they have excellent chemistry together. The old woman lies awake, nearing the end of her life, in a state of constant anxiousness and worry. She starts speaking to the voice of her dead partner, who reassures her that everything will be alright and that they will be together again soon, and be able to have those “little talks” again like they used to. Again, this isn’t a sad song, even though it certainly sounds that way from my description.
In fact, from how the song sounds, you probably wouldn’t notice the story at all. The instrumentation is lead by bold trumpets and chanting backing vocals. It creates a feeling of a triumphant sendoff, honoring life rather than mourning death, as they travel onward to their final destination, to be reunited again. Breathtaking song, can’t believe it ever became a hit, but I am so glad it did.
This next artist is one that I like, but am also frustrated by at the same time. He’s a great writer, but quite often he doesn’t show that in his biggest singles, choosing to release his “safer” love ballads. And while those songs are mostly fine, his best singles are definitely the ones with more clever and interesting writing. Like, say, a song describing everything that went wrong in a real life relationship where both sides were at fault, or going back to his childhood and the power those memories still hold for him, even if they aren’t all good. Or, more relevantly, he could tell the story of a woman addicted to cocaine who is going to die.
5. The A Team- Ed Sheeran
YE Position: 75
No way around it: this is just pure sad. The simple acoustic production and Ed Sheeran’s delicate vocals put all the focus on the story, and… holy shit. I’m sure this song was horribly abused in all the shitty “emotional” facebook videos back in the day.
But let’s really look at the story this song tells. From what I can gather, this was inspired by a woman Ed Sheeran met while working at a homeless shelter named “Angel” (which explains all the angel metaphors used here), who had a cocaine addiction. And the imagery used in the song is amazing, like how he describes her face crumbling away, and how it uses the “snow” metaphor for cocaine and actually does something with it. The final line of the song even implies that she dies. Radio stations played this. Constantly. It may have taken three years for this to become a hit, but I’m so glad it was. Ed, you should be like this more often.
…when I referenced this song in my dishonorable mentions on the last list, I think I might’ve understated how much I love it.
4. Thrift Shop- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Wanz
YE Position: 1
Yep. This song is all the way up at #4. I know that most people like this song, but I don’t think anyone would consider putting it above the likes of Swimming Pools and Little Talks. People feel that way about Can’t Hold Us, though. And Can’t Hold Us is epic, but Thrift Shop is just one of the most unique and iconic songs of the entire decade. “Oh, it’s a song about buying shitty used clothes at a thrift shop.” Yeah, that’s part of what makes it so great!
First of all, Thrift Shop just sounds phenomenal. The sax loop- courtesy of producer Ryan Lewis- is ridiculously catchy and never gets old, even as it repeats for the entire song. And then we have Macklemore, whose charisma and energy is infectious. He’s clearly having a blast here. And the lyrics are hilarious while also sneaking in some clever social commentary.
“They be like ‘oh that gucci, that’s so uptight
I’m like ‘yo, that’s 50 dollars for a t-shirt”
“That shirt’s hella dope
And wearing the same one as six other people in the club is a hella don’t”
Actually, you could probably interpret the whole song as a parody of brag rap. But even with this, I don’t get the vibe that Macklemore feels like he’s better than anyone else. I mean, he’s bragging about buying as many old, disgusting clothes as he can for 20 dollars. And then there’s the fact that nearly all of this song is iconic. Here’s some highlights.
“Walk into the club like what up, I gotta big cock”
“Them people like ‘damn, that’s a cold-ass honkey”
“Probably should’ve washed this, it smells like R Kelly’s sheets
But shit, it was 99 cents!
And that’s just from the first half of the first verse! Also, bonus points on the last one for casually dissing R Kelly.
It’s kind of amazing that this ended up as the biggest song of the entire year, but I honestly can’t imagine a world where it wasn’t huge, and I don’t really want to. Absolute masterpiece.
And on the subject of massive hits-
It wasn’t exactly hard to get sick of this song. It got overplayed to all hell, and still gets used in commercials to this day. It broke the record for weeks spent on the hot 100, with 87. It entered the charts in 2012, and didn’t leave until mid-2014. But the question is: did it really deserve all that?
3. Radioactive- Imagine Dragons
YE Position: 3
This song is apocalyptic. Yes, I know everyone else has described it with that exact word, but it’s really the best way to describe it. Dan Reynolds’ voice is being pushed to the limit in the best of ways. The instrumentation consists of primal drums, haunting bells, ethereal backing vocals, and sludgy, menacing guitars. Imagine Dragons clearly went all out to make this sound like a literal apocalypse. Which is what the lyrics are about. The story is told from the point of view of a guy waking up in the middle of the end of the world, how he fights for survival, and coming to terms with the chaos, accepting it as the “new age”. This is some of the best storytelling in music I’ve ever seen (yes, really).
But even with all of that, even with this being one of my favorite songs of the entire decade, we’re only at number 3. It had to take two incredibly special songs to push this down, and believe me, these next two songs are just that. So let’s go.
Y’know, even if Lady Gaga botched “Applause” horribly, her fans would still defend her. But what if someone released a song attacking their fans? That wouldn’t end well for anyone! And even if it ended up good, there’s no way that song could be commercially successful, right?
2. My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark (Light Em Up)- Fall Out Boy
YE Position: 40
Oh, I know this isn’t going to sit well with some people. But I don’t care. Up until recently, this song was much lower on the list, but after really thinking about it, I realized a few things, and this skyrocketed up the list, now serving as one of my favorite songs not only of 2013, but of all time. Why is that?
Well, let’s start with the music itself. The production makes it clear from the beginning that this will be a dark, unpleasant listen- in all the right ways. The wailing backing vocals, the squealing bursts of synth, and the roaring mechanical guitar and percussion, especially when it all comes crashing down on the chorus. The lead singer (I don’t know his name) knows when to go over the top, and when to tone his vocals back, while still maintaining that power throughout. This song sounds like the soundtrack to an epic final battle in hell. That didn’t make very much sense, but whatever. I’m sure you get the idea.
But then we have the elephant in the room- the lyrics. For some backstory, this was written after several years of hiatus for the band, being the first single released after their reunion. And they come back filled with rage, as they tear into all the fans that gave up on them because they weren’t “cool” anymore. The types of people that only like what the trends are dictating because they’re unable to have a single independent thought or opinion, all because they’re so afraid of being judged by the people they try to impress. Believe me, I have had to deal with so many people like this, hell, quite a few times I’ve been that person, afraid to express myself for fear of social judgement. So I speak from experience when I say that mentality leads to nothing but toxicity and shame. So hearing this song eviscerate it so thoroughly is an absolute rush of catharsis for me.
But guess what! Even after all that, it’s not #1. So what is?
Well isn’t this fitting.
I have said that 2013 is my favorite year for music of all time, so the fact that my #1 for this list is a serious candidate for my favorite song ever just works out perfectly. A song that not only sounds absolutely flawless, but one that will always make me feel better, no matter what mood I’m in. It’s helped me through a lot, especially over the past couple years, and now this is my chance to give it all the praise it deserves. And so, with all of that said-
Rest In Peace, Avicii.
1. Wake Me Up- Avicii ft. Aloe Blacc
YE Position: 19
Yes, Wake Me Up by Avicii is my favorite song of 2013, the 2010s, and of all time. And there’s so many reasons why that I don’t even know where to begin.
How about the lyrics? They describe the feelings of someone who is nearing adulthood, and on the one had wants to remain young, but on the other hand, would like to be “wiser and older”, but doesn’t want to have to deal with the process of getting there, preferring to stay in their own world of dreams. But none of this is presented in a selfish way, it all feels completely natural and human. And these are also emotions I constantly experience, and have for the past few years. I absolutely understand the feeling of doing anything you can to escape all the new pressures and challenges that begin to arise, why do you think I started doing these reviews in the first place? I’ll do as many creative projects as I can if it means I don’t have to think about real life. So the song already means a lot to me for that reason alone.
But let’s also take into consideration what this song meant to Avicii. He was someone who couldn’t handle being famous, which lead to a downward spiral that ended with him taking his own life. The day he died was one of the saddest days of my life, and I listened to this song nonstop, because in retrospect, it meant so much more.
And I haven’t even touched on how perfect this sounds! Aloe Blacc’s rich, deep voice carries all the emotional weight of the lyrics, but the real star is the production. It goes from textured acoustic guitars to the gorgeous luminescent synths seamlessly, and the fast-paced tone might seem counterproductive, but it really isn’t. These melodies sound incredible, and it feels like the song is carrying you through all those hardships, And for four minutes, I can let go of all my problems, stress and anxiety, and just envelop myself in this song. No matter what mood I’m in, listening to this always makes me feel so much better, and for that and every other reason I’ve given ,Wake Me Up by Avicii is, in my opinion, easily the best hit song of 2013. Thank you, Avicii, and once again, rest in peace.