Friday, 27 December 2013

GivePopAChance's Top 20 songs of 2013!

GivePopAChance is proud to present our Top 20 Pop and Pop-adjacent songs of 2013! Thanks for reading! We'll see you in 2014 with a whole load of new music for you to get your turkey-stained teeth into.

- Joe

After all the twerking, drug-references, nudity and post-Disney rebelliousness that made up Bangerz' marketing scheme, it's best song was the opening number, a relatively freestyle and surprisingly emotionally raw power ballad, softened with the country edge that Miley will never quite be able to shrug off. The cheap thrills of Bangerz as a whole wear off after one or two listens, but "Adore You" becomes more affecting with each repeat.


Camp as christmas and Cher-er than Cher, Katy Perry's Prism standout "Walking On Air" fits the term 'guilty pleasure' perfectly. Because there is so much pleasure to be had in the Black Box-esque vocal samples, the shameless 1990 Vogue dance beats and piano hooks, the melodramatic falsetto hook... in fact, who's feeling guilty?


Italo-Londoners Mausi gave us other mini indie-dance joys with "Sol" and "Body Language" over the last year, but the advert-friendly "Move" is their crowning earworm glory. Somehow the band get away with a flailing, slightly hysterical synth hook and a so-play-it's-safe-it's-not-safe chorus to create the underdog party song of the year.


Is it genius? No. Is it particularly creative? No. Is it gorgeous? GOD yes. Jessie Ware was sick of moping about men who keep her running even during their wildest moments over mid-tempo 80s soul beats, and decided to pick up the tempo and have some let-your-hair-down fun with cheeky one-off "Imagine it Was Us", and gives us pouty hook upon pouty hook over a gloriously retro Madonna-friendly Julio Bashmore beat. And somehow it ends up more hypnotic than anything on her still incredibly impressive debut album.


It's hard not to be impressed with "Heart Attack". It's got it's American #1 ambitions written all over its sleeve (of course it does, it's Demi Lovato), but boy, you've gotta appreciate the effort here. Demi piles on the melodrama as she gradually makes her way up to a chorus the size of China, and her "I put up this facade, but really I'm incredibly insecure" act bizarrely manages to fly... do you know what, it's just really fucking catchy ok? Brings out the ambitious karaoke-r in all of us.

THE 1975

From the minute The 1975 dropped their debut album, mid album track (now current single) "Girls" pretty much overshadowed everything bar "Chocolate" by being the most ridiculously syrupy and addictive indie song since about 1996. There's something Britpop about these guys, which they would most definitely hate to hear, but they've got the attitude and sneery vocal is down to a T. Those adorable little guitar licks that inundate the song don't hurt either.

"NEED U (100%)"

The track that really kicked off mainstream house awareness this year (a #1 single I might add), "Need U" is MNEK-penned club perfection and an unexpected mainstream breakthrough for Duke Dumont. This would be hooky enough to command dancefloors as an instrumental, but A*M*E's Janet Jackson-esque plucky vocal and MNEK's own hypnotic vocal hook (uncredited for most of the year) brings things to an irresistible rave boil.


There's no doubt that Macklemore is awesome - one of the biggest stars of mainstream hip hop and STILL unsigned - but his explicitly gay-marriage support anthem "Same Love" just catapulted him into a new stratosphere of modern day role model. Macklemore doesn't hide behind metaphors, favouring blunt honesty and personal admissions over the subtle hints that other artists would bottle out to, boldly stating "if I was gay, I would think hip hop hates me". There's also no ego involved, no need for approval (see Lady Gaga), and as a result, when Mary Lambert's simple, undramatic chorus comes around, it's a  sudden tearjerker each and every time for those whom the subject matter affects.


It feels like a cliche to even feature the year's biggest song, but "Get Lucky" is just too damn good to leave off. When a song as simple and instantly memorable as the chilled and funky "Get Lucky" is overplayed as much as it undoubtedly was this year, you know it's a winner when you just don't get sick of it. And you just sing, deliriously happy, over and over...

"we're up all night to get lucky, 
we're up all night to get lucky, we're up all night to get lucky, we're up all night to get lucky, we're up all night to get lucky...."


In 2013 Avicii recognized a fusion that had not yet been attempted by the commercial dance elite, or the underground for that matter. On paper a Country-EDM hybrid sets off alarm bells of post-"Cotton Eye Joe" novelty music distress, and sadly a lot of Avicii's True record is an unwelcome rally to line dance at a rave. However, he got it right just once, and judging on how huge "Wake Me Up" was this summer, once was enough. The fact is, however he managed it, Avicii's summer smash hit manages to capture the most joyful elements of both Country and Progressive House and combine them to create a track that is warm and friendly one minute and euphoric and exhilarating the next. 


London Grammar's 2013 journey reminds me very much of Hurts' 2010 one. Beginning with a single spectacular song (in Hurts' case "Wonderful Life" and for London Grammar - "Hey Now") and swiftly getting swept up in the hype with some equally impressive follow up songs and a debut album before you know it. But much like Hurts' before them, although London Grammar might be consistently strong and lived up to the hype as much as anyone could've hoped, nothing quite matches the magic of hearing Hannah Reid's earthshatteringly stunning voice uttering the words "Hey Now" for the first time. It's still their sparsest, most cryptic and most heartbreaking song.


On paper, the most bizarre feature spot of the year turned out to be one of the biggest revelations (although Ms Doolittle's solo output continues to be sorely dull), with Eliza penning what essentially has become modern house's "We Found Love". Although Disclosure's beats are reliably funky, Eliza's the star here, with her unusual phrases (particularly the memorably odd opening line) riding a gorgeous, silky melody that steals the show.


"The new Fleetwood Mac" wouldn't even be an understatement with Haim, who bring the funk, the soul, the class, the hooks, and the whole damn package to the table, the most deserving BBC Sound of... winners in a long time. "Falling" just pips the rest of the output for sheer unashamed hookiness, complete with Michael Jackson yelps and speedy melismatic verses that get into your bloodstream and get you thoroughly addicted.


It would so EASY to hate Bruno Mars, with his cheesy grin and even cheesier music, but taking off your muso-hat (and you should, it's Christmas), you'll find it's just as easy to love him. Every hook in the 70s funk of "Treasure" is a killer, laced with an unadulterated joy and a level of catchiness that knows no bounds. Bruno, there's not a thing that we would change - we think you're amazing. Just the way you are.


If you don't know Betty Who by now, get to know. The Aussie synthpop hipster-princess is cut from the same genius-pop cloth as Robyn, and that's not a comparison we make lightly. On "High Society", the 21 year old Betty Who celebrates living life as if you're rich, when you really aren't, and manages to sound so much more endearing and likeable than a lot of her young synthpop peers (naming no names Chloe Howl). Effortlessly and infectiously happy and kinda beautiful. 


ARTPOP is, on the whole, not a particularly surprising record. If Zedd had produced Born This Way, ARTPOP would've probably been the result. However, as far back as I can remember in modern pop, there has never been a song so TOTALLY GOBSMACKINGLY HEADS AND SHOULDERS BETTER than everything else on an album than "Do What U Want" is when compared to the rest of ARTPOP

The track's opening bassline itself smacks you in the fact in a way that every other track on the album tries to, but only "DWUW" actually succeeds in doing, and Gaga's 80s soul vocal is surprisingly convincing, deliriously over the top, but at the same time perfectly pitched. R Kelly's feature spot is ridiculous, and his climactic "we don't give a FUCK" is absurd. It's a track that makes you say, out loud, "...I'm sorry, WHAT?" after you hear it for the first time, and pretty much every subsequent time too. And it's probably the best track she's ever done, and will ever do.

THE 1975

"Chocolate" represents the heart of what The 1975 stand for - i.e. mild hedonism and aggravation towards authority. Oh and their love of weed. And much like the drug itself, and indeed chocolate (a fun little metaphor), the band's breakthrough single is instantly satisfying and moreish indie pop, worryingly addictive even. The band come may come across as disinterested and trendy hipsters to pop fans, and eager to please crossovers to indie rock fans, but I have a different theory. Watch the video for "Girls" a few positions back - the band want to be taken seriously, but they simply cannot avoid their pop appeal. Poor dears. 


It's often hard to associate the dreamy-R&B Drake with the rap scene he associates with. "Hold On We're Going Home", a straight up, commercial pop song with a sung vocal from Drake himself, sounds like a signal of intent, a distinct step forward from the tongue in cheek, slightly flat lullabies of "Marvin's Room" into a realm where Drake takes himself seriously as a singer. 

In the past I've been one of those detractors who think of Drake as the worst thing about his own tracks, but on "Hold On", he rises to the challenge and provides something close to a heartfelt vocal. Lyrically it's the most straight forward love song of his career, and the simplicity and vulnerability is endearing, something I thought I'd never call Drake, and the track sounds like the beginning of a new musical journey. I'm sure it won't last long, but for 3 minutes and 47 seconds, Drake becomes someone you could actually trust with your daughter, and your future iTunes library.


Katy Perry, the Californian sweetheart who was the most popular pop star on the planet 3 years ago, took a bit of a popularity beating this year, with a string of below par live vocals and a general lack of interest in her message of spiritual progression, which was compromised by a perceived general lack of musical progression. However, most of her critics that I have spoken to simply claim to have not taken an interest in her this time round.

It's understandable, on first listen "Roar" is a dull mid tempo "Teenage Dream" knockoff with absolutely nothing new to say. But as with so many great, great pop songs, it grows and grows on you - Much like the magnificent middle section of the song that builds to a heart stopping final chorus, one that displays a confidence and a genuine unadulterated joy that Katy Perry has never sung with before. 

And that's the point of "Roar" - it's not some now-outdated Russell Brand break up song - it's a statement about Katy Perry as an artist. She's a notoriously dodgy live singer, makes questionable fashion choices and sings songs about drinking and partying like an embarrassing older sister trying to stay hip, but nothing deters her. Katy Perry might seem like a has-been to many of you, but as she says in the bridge: you hold her down, she's gonna get up.


Spencer's home depot gay marriage proposal has been seen currently 11 million people on YouTube. What makes the video extra special is that out of all the famous love songs in  the world he could've chosen, he chose an unknown Australian singer called Betty Who to soundtrack one of the happiest moments of his life. However, once you've heard "Somebody Loves You", you'll realize that this was not some sort of statement of unsigned music support - the track is genuinely that powerful.

Lyrically and musically the song has love at its core, running through every vein, whilst managing to avoid any kind of unwelcome sentiment or insincerity. The song occupies the same 80s synthpop space as Robyn, but where Robyn would favour a smart and street wise approach, Betty Who's honest and uncomplicated approach is impossible to misinterpret, and the joy is dangerous infectious. If any pop song this year, or in recent memory, has expressed love in a purer and more convincing way, then I have not heard it.

- Joe Copplestone, 27.12.13

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