This year, I finally stopped clinging to any notion that I don’t love pop music above all else. I tried to tell myself that I was a bigger fan of indie stuff for the past few years, but the best defense I had was that I just didn’t listen to the radio all that much. It made me the worst kind of music snob: the illiterate. I made mash-ups on my guitar to prove that every Katy Perry song sounds the same and that Justin Bieber is basically Rebecca Black with Usher’s money behind him, with very little knowledge of their larger music libraries to back me up. Meanwhile, I still listened to Jason Mraz as if his opera-trained voice made up for the fact that his music usually sounds like a nursery rhyme wearing a fedora.
That all changed when I learned Justin Timberlake was coming out with a new album. Suddenly, I was ten years old again, and all five of the CDs I owned were either Backstreet Boys or N*SYNC. To me, those were the good old days of pop, when no matter if artists were in love, heartbroken, or anywhere in between, they would still find a way to have fun. I don’t know why I thought pop music ever lost that, but I’m gonna go ahead and blame the rise of dubstep.
Then, my good friend and fashion blogger Maddie (plug #1: http://modaiolo.wordpress.com/) made me listen to “Suit & Tie” and finally, the fun was back, and this time, it was sexier. It took some modern sounds, some Motown, some Jay-Z, and a little bit of class, and rolled up a big, fat blunt with it. And it was awesome. And I was (and still am) obsessed. And I started listening to the radio again. And for the first time since wub-wub dropped the bass along with all the fucks I had to give, it seemed like the artists actually dared to put out music they were proud of as opposed to what would get people to dance mindlessly (read: Rihanna 2009-11). And though these 5 songs weren’t all on the radio this year, they’re the reasons I’ll keep listening.
“Same Love” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert
“Thrift Shop” proved that there are more good white rappers out there than Eminem. “Same Love” did what more mainstream rappers should be: going personal and political. Drake can go on and on about that time he got to second base under the bleachers in seventh grade; Kanye can (and probably will) give a free copy of “Blkkk SkkkN Head” to everyone who buys his $150 white T-shirt; Kendrick Lamar can take a huge dump on Big Sean (too late); it doesn’t matter. No hip-hop song was more important than this one this year.
“Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake
I could probably write three separate posts about Justin Timberlake and why this year should belong to him, but I’ll settle for writing about this song. Simply put, it’s what N*SYNC would sound like if they were still around today. A capella groups (plug #2: http://www.facebook.com/HarmonicCombustion), which are one of the hottest So Hot Right Now trends of 2013, have a huge boner for this song. I don’t think it’s the best song off of his album (that honor goes to “That Girl”), but it’s perfect as a pop song. The hook is catchy as hell, the lyrics are just deep enough so that it won’t lose the 7-year-olds listening, and it’s sung well. Extra props to Timbaland for making the best-produced album in a damn long time.
Side note: though the breakdown is unpopular, I love it, especially when paired with the video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuZE_IRwLNI), which is also my favorite of 2013.
“Ragtop Car” by Noisettes
Noisettes have been written before on this blog, because they rule. Hard. Seriously, if you haven’t heard of them before, do yourself a favor and spend some time getting to know them. This song, off their 2012 album “Contact,” is the most laid-back love song I’ve heard in a really long time. Though it’s not popular in this country, it is pop music, and I’m including it because I think it’s everything “Ho Hey” wanted to be but couldn’t because The Lumineers kept writing the same song over and over again on their last album.
“Get Lucky” by Daft Punk ft. Pharell Williams
Man, did Daft Punk have it right this year. This song sums up pretty much what the entirety of “Random Access Memories” was trying to say: dance music can and should be simple. Besides the indisputable fact that Pharell is basically King Midas when he touches a track, and should be revered as highly as bacon, “Get Lucky” was Daft Punk’s answer to dubstep, and I think it’s nearly dead because of songs like this. That’s not to say I don’t like dubstep; there are subgenres like trap and house which, despite the fact that they’re still largely underground—never mind; that sentence doesn’t deserve an end. The point is, real instruments have started to find their way back into computerized dance music, and SURPRISE—it’s fun to have both, which is what these faceless French nerds have been saying the whole time.
“Somebody” by Jukebox the Ghost
I can’t figure out why this band isn’t more popular. They kick a lot of kinds of ass, and after seeing them live, they kick all kinds of ass. “Somebody” did come out in 2012, but it’s definitely my favorite song of 2013. It’s balls-to-the-wall sunshine that clearly came from a personal place, and if that’s not fun to you, then you can continue being a cynical asshole. I’ll be in 2014, where hopefully, hipsters will go to die, and the mainstream can have just as much to offer as everywhere else.