This year I’ve introduced you to Radio Bobby – but that wasn’t until this past summer. Radio Bobby is my way of sharing what I think are the week’s best new music releases – but that has no indication on how things wind up for a Top 50 countdown at the end of the year. To figure this year’s lot, I compiled a Top 50 by combining initial impressions (grades, as tracked throughout the year), plays and playlist appearances (as tracked in iTunes). Before we get into a countdown though, it’s time to reveal who I think were the most influential or important musicians of 2013:
Male Country Artist of the Year: Chuck Wicks
Chuck Wicks has done it – but before I tell you what it is, have you heard his EP Rough? If not, go – listen to it now. It, the first track titled “Fix Me,” is one of the best country songs I’ve heard in the last decade. It’s an amazing, unique, and soaring vocal that should have established him as a megastar in country music. Whether or not that happens remains to be seen, but I’m really hoping that’s the case. He’s a bona fide country artist who has an impressive ability to inspire summer fun (“Salt Life”) and to move you with a heartfelt vocal (“Fix Me”).
Runner Up: Scotty McCreery
Breakthrough Artist of the Year: Charlie Worsham
Take note! Charlie Worsham is the first country artist to be named my breakthrough artist of the year! His debut album Rubberband is full of singles you’re going to love (if you’re a country music fan, that is). My favorite is the title track, “Rubberband,” it’s got just the right amount of twang mixed with the feel of a contemporary country song – which is both pleasing and surprising. You should also be checking out “Young to See,” “Could It Be,” and “Love Don’t Die Easy.” Mark my words, this guy’s going to be a somebody in the next few years – you’ll see (I have a good track record with this category!).
Runner Up: Austin Mahone
Collaboration of the Year: “Say Something” by A Great Big World f. Christina Aguilera
“Say Something” is probably one of the most heartbreaking, yet beautiful songs in the entire universe right now. Combine the lyrics with Ian Axel’s soft, yet powerful vocal and Christina’s breathtakingly restrained, yet soaring vocal and you have one of the most tender, moving songs of the year. It’s emotive and it’s simply put: timeless.
Runner Up: “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
Electro-Dance Artist: Borgore
Israeli dance artist and producer Borgore released Wild Out, an EP featuring the sickest dance beats, sounds, and rhythms I’ve heard all year. My personal favorites: Having to be scared of the “Booty Monsta,” and a choppy version of “Wayak.” I love Borgore’s unusual blending and experimentations.
Runner Up: Rudimental
Female Country Artist: Kacey Musgraves
Tell me you didn’t hear, or haven’t seen anything about Musgraves’ popular single “Follow Your Arrow.” It’s the most unusual of country songs that sends a positive message in the midst of drug references and sexual experimentation. For that song alone, Kacey Musgraves is not only one of the hottest new artists in music, but she’s the only female country artist that’s commanded widespread attention this year (aside from Carrie Underwood and her Sound of Music press). If you’re going to debut, might as well make it this good. The rest of her album (Same Trailer Different Park) is country-inspired singer/songwriter material that many people can either connect with or find their groove to.
Runner Up: Kandia Crazy Horse
Pure Vocalist of the Year: Cody Karey
Let the record show that newcomer Cody Karey can sing! – and that he has one of the most exciting pure voices in music today. Interestingly enough, upon first glance, that’s not what I expected. I saw his image (how he was styled, on the cover of his album: “Cody Karey”) and saw his genre listed as “pop,” so naturally, I was expecting heavily auto-tuned bubblegum pop. When I clicked play, I was blown away and immediately thought, “This guy’s going to be one of Canada’s (oh yes, he’s Canadian) most important artists on an international level.” I’ve already compared him to the likes of Josh Groban, Celine Dion, and The Tenors. Listen to: “A Million Pieces,” “Unbroken Dreams,” “You Are the Song,” “Leap of Faith,” and “All I Know.”
Runner Up: The Civil Wars
Alternative/Rock Group of the Year: Fitz and the Tantrums
Fitz and the Tantrums was everywhere this year – except on the Billboard Hot 100 – but nevermind that. Their hit single “Out of My League” (from the album More Than Just a Dream) was associated with Apple, and charted at No. 1 on the alternative charts. Their neo-soul, indie pop/rock sound in undeniably impressive and some of their sounds are entrancing (notably “Merry Go Round,” “Fools Gold,” and “Break the Walls”). Their image is even being solidified – don’t believe me? Look at the Google ad running in cinemas, that neon heart is theirs – I know you know it – and if you didn’t before, you do now.
Runner Up: Fall Out Boy
Mainstream Group of the Year: Panic! At The Disco (tie) / OneRepublic (tie)
Panic! At The Disco released Too Weird To Live, Too Rare To Die! which is full of songs that captivate the listener and showcase Brendon Urie’s voice. Disco’s sounds have matured since their early indie-punk/alternative rock days and have grown to incorporate more dance friendly synths and pop-type lyrics and instrumentals. One of my favorite bands to listen to over the course of the year, I fell in love with their racy single (and accompanying video for) “Girls/Girls/Boys” and their anthem for life “Far Too Young To Die.”
Talk about comebacks. After 3+ years on hiatus, OneRepublic released Native and spawned hit singles “If I Lose Myself,” “Feel Again,” and their biggest hit since “Apologize,” “Counting Stars.” The album is OneRepublic’s first to chart in the Top 10 of Billboard’s album chart. And their sound blends pop with ambience and trance-like vocals and beat. Oh yes, I nearly forgot, the deluxe edition of the album features some really great acoustic recordings.
Runner Up: none
Music Video of the Year: “Tunnel Vision” by Justin Timberlake
Nudity was all the rage in music and it’s videos this year – from videos like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” “Girls/Girls/Boys” by Panic! At The Disco, and Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” to Lady GaGa’s ARTPOP cover art and magazine spreads. While not in the buff himself, Justin Timberlake re-emerged on the music scene and featured nudity (female, of course) prominently in his video for “Tunnel Vision.” It’s artistic, it’s adventurous, it’s daring, alluring, and racy – think I could get anymore adjectives in there to describe it. The nudity in this video (contrary to Robin Thicke’s) is tastefully done and there are some really gorgeous moments throughout – almost as if to celebrate the feminine form/figure, instead of sexualizing it.
TOP 5 MUSIC VIDEOS: 1. “Tunnel Vision” by Justin Timberlake, 2. “Applause” by Lady GaGa, 3. “Girls/Girls/Boys” by Panic! at the Disco, 4. “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry, 5. “My Kind of Love” by Emeli Sande
Mainstream Female Artist of the Year: Lady GaGa
Talk about your tough decisions. From all the wrecking balls and twerking and VMA controversy, 2013 appeared to by Miley Cyrus’ year, but who could deny the presence of Lady GaGa? From her cancelled tour and hip surgery to her ARTPOP album, appearance on Saturday Night Live, acting gig in Machete Kills, holiday special with The Muppets (feat. Elton John) and nudey magazine covers, “Mother Monster” was everywhere (not to mention all the commercials i.e. Kia). Sure ARTPOP wasn’t her best album (in its entirety – it could have done without a few songs), but she still commanded attention and crossed-over into many different genres. GaGa was everywhere and she traded in some of her outlandish outfits and heels for nudity. Regardless, the girl can still produce a hit (“Applause,” “Do What U Want,” “Venus,” and “ARTPOP,” which I’ve already said would be one of her most iconic songs).
Runner Up: Miley Cyrus
Mainstream Male Artist of the Year: Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake is back in the music scene after a lengthy absence! Over the past few years, JT has found himself on the successful end of Hollywood dramas and comedies (Friends with Benefits, The Social Network). But now, without any further ado, the King of Pop has returned – in a big way. His artistic and stylized music videos (Tunnel Vision, Suit & Tie) were some of the most compelling and many of his singles elevated the pop genre and will likely inspire a new movement of lengthy, soulful and artsy singles to come. Well done, Mr. Timberlake, well done.
Runner Up: Bruno Mars
Album of the Year: The 20/20 Experience by Justin Timberlake
Two albums. One year. Same artist. Same title. Justin Timberlake. The 20/20 Experience (and Part Two of Two) is a game-changer. The last major shift in pop music was thanks in part to Lady GaGa’s The Fame / Fame Monster, which inspired up-tempo dance tracks. With his latest releases, Justin Timberlake should inspire a paradigm in pop music that will see slowed down, artistic singles on the horizon. Most importantly, we should begin hearing actual vocals and move away from overtly obvious auto-tuning (not entirely, but the majority should).
Runner Up: “More Than Just a Dream” by Fitz and the Tantrums
TOP 50 SONGS OF 2013
50. “Land of Gathering” by The Ceremonies
49. “Drink of You” by Jamar Rogers
48. “Talk” by Illy f. Kira Puru
47. “Roar” by Katy Perry
46. “We Remain” by Christina Aguilera
45. “Come With Me” by Ricky Martin
44. “Unconditionally” by Katy Perry
43. “See You Tonight” by Scotty McCreery
42. “Loved Me Back to Life” by Celine Dion
41. “Unbroken Dreams” by Cody Karey
40. “She Said” by Cody Longo
39. “Venus” by Lady GaGa
38. “Pompeii” by Bastille
37. “Retrograde” by James Blake
36. “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake
35. “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke f. Pharrell and T.I.
34. “Break The Walls” by Fitz and the Tantrums
33. “Not Leaving You Tonight” by LL Cool J f. Fitz and the Tantrums & Eddie Van Halen
32. “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift
31. “Follow Your Arrow” by Kacey Musgraves
30. “Right Place Right Time” by Olly Murs
29. “Long Night Moon” by Reckless Kelly
28. “Stompa” by Serena Ryder
27. “Marry The Night” by Adam Lambert (GLEE)
26. “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Ray
25. “Saturday Night” by Natalia Kills
24. “Made to Love” by John Legend
23. “Same Love” by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis
22. “Can’t Stop” by OneRepublic
21. “The One That Got Away” by The Civil Wars
20. “Say Something” by A Great Big World and Christina Aguilera
19. “Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus
18. “Here’s The Thing” by Javier Dunn
17. “A Million Pieces” by Cody Karey
16. “Burn” by Ellie Goulding
15. “Murder” by Justin Timberlake f. Jay-Z
14. “Tunnel Vision” by Justin Timberlake
13. “Somebody Loves Somebody” by Celine Dion
12. “Side Effect Of You” by Fantasia
11. “Do What U Want” by Lady GaGa f. R. Kelly
10. “Gimme What I Don’t Know (I Want)” by Justin Timberlake
9. “My Kind of Love” by Emeli Sande (and RedOne)
8. “Far Too Young To Die” by Panic! At The Disco
7. “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic
6. “How to Be A Heartbreaker” by Lea Michele and Dean Geyer (GLEE)
5. “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” by Fall Out Boy
4. “Applause” by Lady GaGa
3. “Fix Me” by Chuck Wicks
2. “Together” by The XX
Song of the Year: “ARTPOP” by Lady GaGa