The world of music in 2013 was a productive one. We saw more quality releases than we did in 2012, but we also saw Justin Bieber continue to make music that tortures everyone except 12-year-old girls. We saw tenured artists like Pearl Jam return with some of the best music of their long careers. We saw new faces like Haim bring the 1970s back to rock n’ roll. We even saw Jay-Z go platinum before his album was even released.
The top ten singles of 2013 across all genres aren’t that obvious. There is a big difference between being the top ten best singles and the top ten selling singles. If you want the top ten selling singles, you can find a multitude of year-end countdowns of them in every other music publication out there. The top 10 best singles (across all genres) in 2013 are as follows:
#10 – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis “Thrift Shop”
The simple fact that we have a hip-hop track about being thrifty and sensible with money is enough to make the top ten list for me. Aside from that, the track brought back a vintage feel to hip-hop that we rarely see anymore. This song would have easily been a hit 20 or even 25 years ago. It was actually released in late 2012 but gained the majority of its traction in 2013 along with other singles from their album “The Heist.”
#9 – Kings of Leon “Wait For Me”
My first impression when I heard the guitar intro to this track was that I could see it at the emotional climax of any John Hughes film from the 1980s. The Kings of Leon have seen some tough times over the past couple of years, but have returned to form tremendously with their 2013 album “Mechanical Bull.”
#8 – Jay-Z & Justin Timberlake “Holy Grail”
It first must be said that the Magna Carta and the Holy Grail have nothing to do with each other. But two things that are very old in the same sentence such as these make for a good album name. With Rick Rubin producing and these two artists behind microphones, a hit record is inevitable. Throw in a Nirvana melody and we have icing on the cake.
#7 – Katy Perry “Roar”
OK first off, tigers don’t roar (lions do though). Whether she has the eye of the tiger or not, Katy Perry released an inspirational anthem that would make even the ones with the least amount of self-confidence believe they could accomplish anything.
#6 – Darius Rucker “Wagon Wheel”
This single from Rucker’s 3rd country album was met with an outright uproar from the home state (NC) of the band who originally wrote the song, the Old Crow Medicine Show. Calm down, North Carolina, geez. I’m sure Old Crow Medicine Show is getting paid handsomely. If they are so great then why wasn’t the song a massive hit when they did it?. Darius Rucker is pure gold.
#5 – Cher Lloyd “I Wish”
Lloyd was back in 2013 with her own signature brand of “swag pop” on the track “I Wish” that also featured a verse by rapper T.I. It’s a song about female insecurity written and performed by a young lady that has no reason to be insecure about anything. Well done Cher. Well done.
#4 – Haim “The Wire”
This female trio rock/pop band stormed onto the music scene in the fall with “The Wire.” The first time I heard this track, I though “Heartache Tonight” by The Eagles was playing. These girls may look as vintage as the girls in the Manson family, but boy can they write songs! Haim easily gets my vote for the best new artist of 2013.
#3 – Fitz & the Tantrums “Money Grabber”
This song sounds like it came straight out of a Quentin Tarantino film. It was also used in a New Amsterdam Vodka television ad. It’s the perfect blend of classic soul and modern rock. It gives me the mental picture and flashback of being in a nightclub in north Hollywood looking for something better to do. Another interesting fact is that this song was originally released and well received in 2010 but it has again surged back into the spotlight and airplay in 2013. It’s not often a song goes away and then comes back. It’s good to have a retro return track in a year-end top 10 countdown.
#2 – Lindi Ortega “Tin Star”
I’ve said before that modern country music can be separated into two categories-Lindi Ortega and all the rest. “Tin Star,” the title track from her 2013 album is about everything that makes music great. “No Billboard hits, no sold out nights” Ortega sings as she serenades the listener with a genuinely heart-felt story of how bruises, scars, and the love of music keeps her coming back for more.
#1 – Pearl Jam “Sirens”
“Sirens” is one of the more powerfully emotional songs of the 21st century so far that you will hear. It’s a track that tackles the subject of the fragility and preciousness of life once you have something to lose, such as a family. It’s about how you can sometimes live your life with disregard as a youth, but come to realize later that it all could be ripped away in an instant. “It’s a fragile thing this life we lead, if I think too much I can get overwhelmed by the grace by which we live our lives with death over our shoulders. Want you to know, that should I go, I always loved you, held you high above true. I study your face; the fear goes away, the fear goes away, the fear goes away.” Find me something that meaningful and touching in a Pitbull song and I’ll buy you dinner for a year.
Pick up a copy of my new novel, “A Fire That Wouldn’t Go Out” on Amazon starting December 17th!