Best Music of 2013
|Beyoncé in a scene from "XO," a song|
and video from her self-titled album
Beyoncé is Beyoncé's fifth studio album. It has 14 tracks. It's referred to as the "visual album" because each track also has a music video or short film that comes with it. The album debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200. It's Beyoncé's fifth consecutive #1 and her highest in terms of first-week sales. Beyoncé is also the best-selling debut for a female artist in 2013.
I was able to listen to part of the album on Spotify, a music-streaming service that I just learned about this year. Yet, Spotify was launched in October 2008 in the United Kingdom and Sweden where the service is subscription based. It allows you to listen to music via the Internet, either on your computer or mobile device. It was brought to the USA in July 2011. Sean Parker, the co-founder of Napster, is a shareholder and board member. He helped to negotiate with record companies to provide their songs to Spotify.
However, Patrick Carney of The Black Keys and Thom Yorke of Radiohead criticized Spotify for not properly compensating artists. In a Huffington Post article in 2012 by Kia Makarechi, Carney said Spotify doesn't have enough subscribers to support proper compensation for artists. In a BBC News article on July 15th, 2013, it was reported that Spotify had 24 million active users, only 6 million pay monthly fees. It was also reported that Pandora, another music-streaming service, is pushing to lower how much it pays in royalties. Yorke ultimately pulled some of his music from Spotify.
This is of course the essence of pop music and even hip hop, to feed off the styles and sounds of others. Yet, other young white pop stars that borrow from hip hop or R&B like Robin Thicke or Christina Aguilera somehow manage to carve out their own distinctiveness. Cyrus is not yet there. However, she cleverly partnered with producers that make the album catchy as Hell. So, putting aside the controversy and just evaluating the songs, Bangerz is not so dismissible. It almost is but not quite.
On the opposite end is someone like Paul McCartney who knows exactly who he is. McCartney is an artist and musician in full command of his style and voice. His distinctiveness stands, if not towers, over someone like Miley Cyrus and probably all artists out there today. His latest album, simply titled New, is one of the crowning achievements of 2013.
The one thing that McCartney and Cyrus share is that both their albums were released in October 2013, which is past the deadline for the Grammy Awards. Neither got nominations this year. Jay Z leads with nine nominations. Yet, the 44-year-old rapper from Brooklyn didn't garner any nominations in what's considered the four major categories for his latest album Magna Carta... Holy Grail. One of which he is ineligible. The other three are dominated by younger artists.
Jay Z is ineligible for Best New Artist. The other three categories are Song of the Year, Record of the Year and Album of the Year. The nominees for Album of the Year, which is the ultimate and most important award, are Red by Taylor Swift, The Heist by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, The Blessed Unrest by Sara Bareilles, Random Access Memories by Daft Punk and Good Kid, M.A.A.D City by Kendrick Lamar.
However, there is a possibility that Jay Z could walk on stage to accept the award for Album of the Year. If Kendrick Lamar who is up for seven Grammys wins that ultimate award, according to the Grammy rules, the prize would not only go to Lamar but also to all featured artists, the producers, the mixers and the engineers. Due to some last minute changes to one of Lamar's singles, Jay Z was added as a featured artist, so technically it's another nomination for him.
Not that I have anything against Beyoncé's husband but I hope he doesn't win that one. Not that I have anything against Lamar either, but to me of all five nominees in that category, Daft Punk is by far the best. "Get Lucky," which was the lead single off Random Access Memories and is up for Record of the Year, has been stuck in my head nearly all year.
Best Folk / Country
12 STORIES by Brandy Clark
AMERICAN KID by Patty Griffin
THE WORSE THINGS GET, THE HARDER I FIGHT,
THE HARDER I FIGHT, THE MORE I LOVE YOU by Neko Case
THE WOMAN I AM by Kellie Pickler
GHOST ON GHOST by Iron & Wine
THE HIGHWAY by Holly Williams
LET'S BE STILL by The Head and the Heart
Best Rock / Alternative
MODERN VAMPIRES OF THE CITY by Vampire Weekend
HESITATION MARKS by Nine Inch Nails
NEW by Paul McCartney
CHOP CHOP by Bell X1
HEZA by Generationals
RIGHT THOUGHTS, RIGHT WORDS, RIGHT ACTION by Franz Ferdinand
SONGS FOR IMAGINATIVE PEOPLE by Darwin Deez
Best Pop / Electronic
RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES by Daft Punk
PALE GREEN GHOSTS by John Grant
DAYS ARE GONE by Haim
DUNGEONESSE by Dungeonesse
TRUE by Avicii
BANGERZ by Miley Cyrus
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE OST by Various Artists
Best R&B / Soul
SHE by Alice Smith
THE ELECTRIC LADY by Janelle Monae
TRUE [EP] by Solange
LOVE IN THE FUTURE by John Legend
TO DUST by Alice Russell
Best Rap / Hip Hop
ACID RAP [Mixtape] by Chance the Rapper
FLY ZONE [Mixtape] by Le1f
MATANGI by M.I.A.
AGE AGAINST THE MACHINE by Goodie Mob
FREE THE UNIVERSE by Major Lazer
Best Singles from non-listed albums
"Neurotic Society (Compulsory Mix)" by Lauryn Hill
"Flatline" by Mutya Keisha Siobhan (MKS)
"Let Me Be Myself" by Nelson
"XO" by Beyoncé
"Strong" by London Grammar
"So Into You" by Chris Malinchak
"Come to My Door" by José James
"Young and Beautiful" by Lana del Rey
"To the Last" by James Blake
"I Heard" by Young Fathers
"Waiting for Thunder (Malala)" by Eric Himan
"It Makes No Difference" by Over the Rhine
"Green Garden" by Laura Mvula
"Little Black Dress" by Sara Bareilles
"Healing Hands" by Paul Allen and the Underthinkers
"Cut" by Richard Buckner
"V.S.O.P." by K. Michelle
"Give It to Me" by Sheryl Crow
"Ores & Minerals" by Mazes
"I'm Not Gay" by Jesse Pepe