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Year-End List 2013: 25 Songs

In 2013, we didn't see that blurred line or even that nude wrecking ball coming, we lived for the applause, we roared and we demanded them to wake us up when it's all over. We all decided to be friends with a monster, which caused us a lot of trouble.. trouble.. trouble.. until everything's gone.. gone.. gone.. Ha! But yes, that's probably the best way to sum up another spectacular year for mainstream pop music, so let's have the songs do it for us instead.

Just like every year, these are my picks for the 25 Songs of 2013: odes to frugality, songs about living our fantasy, and even a tune that has something to do about chemicals. These are the songs that I've shared on this blog at some point over the past 12 months.

Of course, this is admittedly a subjective list based on my personal judgments and preferences, but this list should also be a great conversation starter and feel free to agree or disagree. Either way there is a lot of great mainstream music - again, take note, MAINSTREAM MUSIC - to be found here.

Enjoy!

25. Beneath Your Beautiful
Labrinth (ft. Emeli Sande)

A track that's sumptuous, dramatic and charged with emotion, not terribly hip, but immensely satisfying, and has that sentiment that is very heartfelt and touching. There's also a calmness in Labrinth's vocal that was soothing and this is exactly that sort of song that's making full use of Emeli's expressive and impressive set of pipes. The production is also pretty good, which gives it a more soulful sound.

24. Get Lucky
Daft Punk (ft. Pharrell Williams)

From the easily distinctive guitar riffs of Nile Rodgers to Pharell Williams' silky-smooth vocals, Get Lucky is a surefire funky disco tune that's more of a 70s throw back homage. The production was slick with a layered instrumentation and an intricate counterpoint of the classic sound with something more electronic. Plus, it has a fabulous hook no?

23. Applause
Lady Gaga

There's nothing groundbreaking here, but the anthemic and compulsively danceable tune is pretty hard to ignore. I think that it has a pretty strong back beat with an old school disco sound and a chorus that has a cascade of productions. I also appreciate Lady Gaga's ballsy theatrical delivery of the verses, which isn't particularly new for her, but still goes against radio trends.

22. Don't You Worry Child
Swedish House Mafia

Who knew? Backed by John Martin's powerful vocals, Don't You Worry Child is actually a very cathartic song from the house trio. The lyrics were introspective, but there's urgency to the music that never lets up. The beats were soaring, the synths were explosive and they just nailed the techno dance right on the head. This track is quite perplexing, but in the a good way.

21. Tonight
Jessica Sanchez (ft. Ne-Yo)

We're used to Jessica Sanchez singing power ballads impeccably on American Idol, so Tonight is a total departure from what we're used to. And while the whole production is a tad formulaic, this is a solid cut for her. It's current, it has a good hook, and well produced. Jessica Sanchez's delivery also had enough energy and sass, which makes this even more compelling. Oh, and Ne-Yo's presence somehow brings a bit of street cred to the proceedings. Still baffled why this wasn't a hit for this young newcomer.

20. Can't Hold Us
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

This was infectious, and an absolute club banger with interesting instrumentation as it laid down an urgent drum pattern, following the rhythm present in some Middle Eastern sound, and rapid-fire rapping from Macklemore, which is equally riveting. There's also a euphoric bounce to this tune that's pretty fantastic. Total earworm.

19. Let Her Go
Passenger

With an unmistakable husky tone, this mid tempo ballad starts off as a very mellow acoustic terms that slowly builds and genuinely begins to hit its stride after the first verse, which then opens up to an emotionally powerful chorus. There's maturity to both the vocals and the lyrics here that is thrilling, the rousing crescendos is quite compelling and I like that the vocals took center stage and soared effortlessly over the instruments.

18. We Can't Stop
Miley Cyrus

She proved with We Can't Stop her questionable independence with some polarizing stylish spirit. This song is like a hangover jam after getting wasted the whole night. The organic instrumental thump is fabulous, it's incredibly atmospheric, and it has a perfect hook that gives the melody an intoxicating vibe. Plus, Miley Cyrus' vocals are surprisingly strong. This is the perfect breakthrough track for the once Disney princess, and you sure find yourself singing along if the first listen doesn't put you off entirely.

17. I Knew You Were Trouble.
Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift and a dubstep-infused production would seem like a disaster waiting to happen, but while there's a lot going on with the whole sound of I Knew You Were Trouble, the overall impact of it is pretty solid. The hook is undeniably fantastic, and lyrically, Taylor glides along the thin line of bitterness and upbeat self confidence with great aplomb. Possibly one of her most pop oriented songs and yes, a fabulous crossover hit for her.

16. #Beautiful
Mariah Carey (ft. Miguel)

Other than the fairly ridiculous hashtag on the title of the song, #Beautiful is arguably Mariah's best single since We Belong Together. It's current sounding with enough of a vintage retro-pop feel from the outstanding guitar line that opens the song to the steady drumbeat during the first verse. It's also a flawless mix of Mariah's vocal stylings and Miguel's smooth inflections, especially in the chorus with a hook that's worth sitting through. This is exactly how simple, straightforward love songs are supposed to make you feel. I'd say just indulge and let the wistful spirit of this track wash over you.

15.  Say Something
A Great Big World (ft. Christina Aguilera)

This harmonious collaboration breeds possibly one of the most beautiful piano-driven songs to be released this year. Say Something is contenting, memorable, pensive and magical. Musically, it's a fairly standard plodding ballad, but this wonderful track provokes emotion as it gives off an exquisitely dreamy and overtly subtle atmosphere. It's equally brilliant that Christina Aguilera gives a suitably restrained and understated vocals, which I didn't think she's capable of doing. Just lovely.

14. Clarity
Zedd (ft. Foxes)

"If our love's insanity, why are you my clarity?" Arguably, one of the most recognizable hooks of the year! With an amazing euphoric beats and pulsating club rhythms, there's really nothing to complain about this Zedd track backed by Foxes' solid vocals. It has a jolt of energy with a massive chanted melody proving that there is plenty of room for some good quality EDM. A track that is undeniably effervescent. 

13. The Monster
Eminem (ft. Rihanna)

Backed in 2010, Eminem and Rihanna topped my year-end list with Love The Way You Lie, and now, they're back with a song that's a lot more introspective than what I was actually expecting. Somehow, there's such a cinematic quality to the song. Rihanna's strong vocals opening the song with the soaring hook before exploding into Eminem's rapping and eventually having a bigger impact  by the time it hits the hard rocking chorus with excellent drum beats and some electronic sound. There's an undeniable sensibility to the melody and lyrics that makes great use of the intense imagery of the song.

12. Radioactive
Imagine Dragons

This track just demands attention! From the atmospheric intro to the pulsating beat of effects-laden percussion to the wonderful melody to the big anthemic chorus, and even the genuinely inspired vocals, Radioactive has a confidence that's immediately gripping. It's overloaded with layers of intricate production, and I'm not mad about it.

11. Gone, Gone, Gone
Phillip Phillips

A pure authentic Phillip Phillips song from the vocals down to the lyrics and production. Gone, Gone, Gone has that fun and bouncy feel, which brings to mind a good summer roadtrip of uncertain anticipation and excitement that by the time the drums and guitar line kick into overdrive, I'm swaying to the beat and singing along. The melody is awesome and the dynamics of the song was absolutely compelling.

10. Roar
Katy Perry

It may seem a little generic in terms of its structure, but Roar is another slice of pop perfection from Katy Perry. It is a catchy song, with an insane hooky infectious and rousing chorus and an incredibly rad production. The driving drum sound on the chorus, in particular, gives the words of the song more impact than they would have in a simple pop chorus. Plus, Katy Perry's vocals get stronger and more powerful as the song progresses giving the tune that anthemic feel.

09. Mirrors
Justin Timberlake

High quality production. Strong vocals. Solid groove. Fueled by classic but distinctive beats and a slick robust production, which makes the track soar, this reflective mid tempo ballad from Justin Timberlake is yet another effective blend of genres from pop to hip hop to dance to r&b music. There's a depth in the writing that is immeasurable and quite intense, and Justin's delivery is just as impassioned.

08. Wake Me Up
Avicii

This is an artful mix of country, folk and dance music. On paper, the hybrid of these said genres shouldn't work, but with the skillful work of Avicii, this actually worked impeccably well as this pushes the limits of what electronic music is by definition. The soulful vocals of Aloe Blacc is divine, it has a ridiculous synths and thumping beats, and the lyrics is simple yet meaningful. Stunning.

07. Wrecking Ball
Miley Cyrus

While the production sounded a little too familiar, there's a simplicity to Wrecking Ball that's quite interesting. The cut is delicate with a stunningly written narrative lyrics, an almost syncopated delivery of the verses that's quite refreshing, and an instantly memorable hook. Miley's vocals are simply powerful and it's a nice mid-tempo ballad that complements her voice to great effect. It sounds earnest and there's a deep sincerity to her interpretation. Above all the technicalities, this is a song where she delivers a true passion-filled vocals I've never come to expect.

06. Thrift Shop
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Possibly the most playful and entertaining song of the year! If I'm being honest, the first time I heard this track, I said to myself that this can't be something I should take seriously. But after a few subsequent listen, I warmed up to it enough to rank Thrift Shop this high on my year-end list. I think it's very cleverly written with a great deal of humor, Macklemore's rapping is genius, and it has a fabulous hook. It's fun, catchy and it felt like a little roller coaster of a song.

05. Blurred Lines
Robin Thicke (ft. T.I. & Pharrell Williams)

Solid percussion. Great rhythm. Awesome hook. Robin Thick's falsetto. Pharrell. Nude girls. This is musical seduction at it's best. Enough said. 

04. Stay
Rihanna (ft. Mikky Ekko)

Gorgeous!! Stunning vocals with so much emotion! Rihanna's full-bodied voice is front and center and it never got overpowered by the instrumentation. You see, I love a steady piano presence in a song and this is a perfect and heart breaking example of simple but powerful recording. It didn't hurt that Mikky Ekko's verse is also lovely. Pure. Soft. Unadulterated. It is beauty, rawness and simplicity at its finest.

03. When I Was Your Man
Bruno Mars

A delicate pop gem. I think that this fits right in Bruno Mars' vocal sweet spot creating a breathtaking and haunting effect to the whole number. There's a vocal restraint that is commendable, but when he lets the lyrics breathe, he shines. The solemn, vulnerable arrangement magnifies the tenderness explored in the lyrics. The piano line is lovely, the melody is gorgeous, and I like the build up at the end, which has both subtlety and power.

02. Just Give Me A Reason
P!nk (ft. Nate Ruess)

This just took my breath away! It starts quiet and slow backed by Pink's impassioned vocals, but then it grows to a more rocking anthem with Nate Ruess' easily recognizable tone that once the song went into a huge, soaring chorus, everything just exploded. This is a great example of how two different vocal stylings could blend well on a duet and create something spectacular. There's an achingly beautiful melody, a nice build up and dynamic that it carries over into their vocals - the harmonies on that soaring bridge is stunning!

01. Royals
Lorde

There's a cool and smoky tone to Lorde's voice that resonates well with the whole atmosphere of Royals. I like that she is able to demonstrate her keen sense of inflections on this track as she shines not just as an impressive vocalist, but as a storyteller as well. The different elements going on in the percussion that never lets up is easily remarkable, the lyrics are very impressive, and it has this rare mix of reckless abandon and serenity. If Adele's a teenager with a lot of angst and character, Lorde would be it.
Year-End List 2013: 25 Songs Reviewed by DAM on 11:51 PM Rating: 5

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