Wednesday, 25 December 2013

The Best Of 2013 - part 1

JUMP TO: 100-81 II 80-61 II 60-41 II 40-21 II 20-1

It might be stating the obvious, but I love end-of-year countdowns. Growing up, I used to be fascinated by seeing how all the different hits from the previous 12 months stacked up against each other - and I still eagerly await the Australian and UK yearly tallies. I'm less enamoured with the US end-of-year countdown, mainly because the Billboard year annoyingly runs from December to November.

JT returned to music in 2013 - twice

On this blog, you can check out my personal end-of-year lists from 1979 to 1999, as well as from 2012 (I'll complete the missing years from 2000 to 2011 next year). But, for now, let's count down my 100 favourite songs from 2013. Like last year, I'll do it 20 songs at a time across five posts between now and (if all goes to plan) New Year's Eve - when the year actually ends.

Number 100 "Sonnentanz (Sun Don't Shine)" by Klangkarussell featuring Will Heard

And the award for the hardest title and artist to type in 2013 goes to... this debut single by the Austrian duo of Tobias Rieser and Adrian Held. "Sonnentanz" started life as an instrumental track but became a hit this year once vocals from British singer Will Heard were added. Neither act has followed this up yet - wonder who we'll hear again from first.

Number 99 "Treasure" by Bruno Mars

On my 2012 countdown, I predicted Bruno would feature prominently in my chart for this year - and here he is with the first of two songs that make this list. "Treasure" was the third official single from Unorthodox Jukebox (there were a couple of promo singles in there as well), and was followed by "Gorilla", which just missed my top 100.

Number 98 "Elevate" by St Lucia

Also in 2012, I finally got on board the St Lucia train - and in 2013, the artist otherwise known as Jean-Philip Grobler finally got around to releasing his debut album. It was worth the wait, since When The Night, which features "Elevate", is one of my favourite albums from the past 12 months.

Number 97 "Give It 2 U" by Robin Thicke featuring Kendrick Lamar

After years of plugging away, Robin Thicke (son of Alan "Growing Pains" Thicke and Gloria "Friends And Lovers" Loring) finally had his long-awaited breakthrough in 2013. Sure, he'd scored mid-table hits in Australia (2003's "When I Get You Alone") and the US (2007's "Lost Without U") before, but neither of them compared to the massive, chart-conquering success of "Blurred Lines".
I got sick of that song pretty quickly - and as a result, it's ended up at a lowly number 148 for me - but the album of the same name is actually much better than you'd expect. Second single "Give It 2 U", despite featuring some pretty questionable lyrics, has a chorus reminiscent of 1980s Prince that made it my preferred choice from Robin for the year.

Number 96 "Firestarter" by Samantha Jade

Back in my Smash Hits days, I received numerous press releases about a young Samantha Jade, who was going to be imminently launched onto the world stage (for what seemed like ages). When that didn't pan out, an older and wiser wannabe pop star auditioned for The X Factor, and just went and won the whole thing. I can't say I was expecting that result, but for once the Australian viewing public put aside their antipathy for pretty girls who can sing and saved us from a situation in which Jason Owen was victorious.
Samantha's winner's single, "What You've Done To Me", was surprisingly pretty good. But, we all know the true test of what sort of career an X Factor champ is going to have is how good a song Sony Music comes up with after they've had a few months to figure out what to do with an artist. For Samantha, that was to position her as the new Kylie - a pint-sized dance/pop dynamo. So far so good.

Number 95 "Into The Night" by MDNGHT

There are four of them, they hail from Manchester, England and apparently they don't like vowels. That's about all I can tell you about MDNGHT, whose synthpop track "Into The Night" is one of those songs that sneak up on you until, after a few listens, you're hooked.
EDIT: Seems like the original video has been taken off YouTube, so here's the 2015 re-release clip instead.

Number 94 "Lies" by CHVRCHES

Another British dance act with a love for all caps and unusual spelling, Glasgow's CHVRCHES had been gaining momentum all year until, towards the end of 2013, they released "Lies". I think it's their best single to date, but it ended up as their lowest charting song in the UK. Nevertheless, parent album The Bones Of What You Believe went top 10 there and they received acclaim from all the right music critics, so, all in all, not a bad year's work.

Number 93 "Break My Heart" by Blue

Naughties boy band Blue were a last-minute inclusion in British reality series The Big Reunion this year - especially surprising since they actually had their big reunion a few years back. Having reassembled to represent the UK at Eurovision in 2011, they'd had a couple of years' practice compared to their contemporaries - and a new album in the shape of Roulette. "Break My Heart" was Roulette's second single, a song which wouldn't have sounded out of place on any of their original albums.

Number 92 "Only You" by Hurts

Oh, Hurts. What high hopes I had for your second album, Exile. Maybe it was because the singles from Happiness were so good that anything was going to pale in comparison. Or, maybe Exile just wasn't up to scratch. Either way, it was actually this album track that I preferred to official singles "Miracle", "Blind" and "Somebody To Die For". We will, however, see another appearance from Hurts (or half of them, at least) before we reach number 1.

Number 91 "Right Place Right Time" by Olly Murs

What a difference a couple of years can make. When I interviewed Olly a few years ago, his debut single, "Please Don't Let Me Go", was being used in promos for Packed To The Rafters but no one in Australia had any idea who he was. It took until "Troublemaker" for him to land a hit here, and it's been no stopping him ever since. This was the fourth single and title track to his third album. 

Number 90 "Take Back The Night" by Justin Timberlake

The problem with leaving your fans waiting for so long between albums is that the build-up can only serve to raise expectations to unreasonable heights. And so, after a seven-year gap, big things were anticipated for Justin Timberlake's return to music - and I have to say I was pretty underwhelmed. "Take Back The Night" was the only single across both volumes of The 20/20 Experience that I thought compared favourably with his previous records.

Number 89 "Fantasy" by MS MR

Like CHVRCHES, fellow all caps fans MS MR are a well-received female-fronted synthpop act that released their debut album this year. But, despite also sounding like Florence & The Machine with more of an electronic edge, the duo of Lizzy Plapinger and Max Hershenow are actually from the States. "Fantasy" was the second single from the Secondhand Rapture album, and is the first of two appearances from the group on this list.

Number 88 "Walking On Air" by Katy Perry

Like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars had all done, Katy cottoned on to the idea of drip-feeding new songs from her latest album, Prism, to the pubic in the weeks leading up to its release - and this early '90s-inspired dance anthem was one of them. With big piano chords and a hands-in-the-air chorus, I would've expected it to be much higher on this list, but something about Katy's voice on this type of track just didn't work for me. A great idea pretty well executed, but a house diva she ain't.

Number 87 "Remix (I Like The)" by New Kids On The Block

I was never the most massive New Kids On The Block fan - they only rank number 17 on my top 20 boy band list - but I really liked this song from this year's 10 album. In fact, it's only bettered by "Step By Step" and the NKOTBSB track "Don't Turn Out The Lights". I might be the only one who thinks that, since it became their first lead single from an album to miss the Billboard Hot 100 since their debut single way back in 1986.

Number 86 "Heaven (Freemasons mix)" by Depeche Mode

One of my favourite bands of all time were back in 2013 with their 13th studio album, Delta Machine, but it wasn't until dance outfit Freemasons got their hands on lead single "Heaven" that I was really impressed with the song. More on DM to come in Part 2.

Number 85 "Oblivion" by M83 featuring Susanne Sundfør

The movie was OK, but the title track from one of my favourite new groups of the previous couple of years was an exquisite slice of moody synthpop. Featured vocalist Susanne is a big star back home in Norway, where she's already scored a couple of chart-topping albums. She's being doing the rounds of the electronic bands in recent years - and also appeared on "A.M.A." by Maps, which just missed out on a slot in my top 200 for 2013.

Number 84 "Army Of Two" by Olly Murs

Here's Olly again, with the follow-up to 2012's "Troublemaker", which gave him his second top 20 hit in Australia. Army is also the name given to Olly's fan base, like Rihanna's Navy, Lady Gaga's Little Monsters and 1D's Directioners.

Number 83 "Just Give Me A Reason" by Pink featuring Nate Ruess

Sometimes you hear a song for the first time and just know it's going to be a massive hit. That was the case with this third single from Pink's The Truth About Love album. I tweeted as much, and then had to promptly delete my tweet since apparently there was a review embargo in place - but the sentiment was there. The track was eventually released, giving Pink yet another number 1 in Australia and providing co-vocalist Nate Ruess from fun. with his first taste of solo success.

Number 82 "Venus" by Lady Gaga

With lyrics The B-52's would be proud of, this promotional track released ahead of ARTPOP has kind of been lost in the mix a little bit. That's a bit of a shame since there aren't that many other good songs left on the album to promote as proper singles and "Venus" might have been a good one for Gaga to have kept up her sleeve.

Number 81 "Real" by Gorgon City featuring Yasmin

Another on-the-rise British dance act, Gorgon City are a duo with the unusual names of Foamo and RackNRuin. I've been enjoying another of their singles, "Ready For Your Love" (featuring MNEK), these past few weeks and would have put it on this list - except it's not officially released until 2014 and so I haven't been able to buy it yet. Meanwhile, guest vocalist Yasmin released two of my favourite singles for 2011 in "On My Own" and "Finish Line (Freemasons mix)", so it was nice to hear from her again.

In Part 2: an unexpected Eurodance cover, a surprising appearance by a solo Spice Girl, a former Australian Idol contestant who's gone all credible (no, not Matt Corby) and the return of a singer who sold millions of records about a decade ago.

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