If you’re a fan of mainstream and indie variations of rock music i.e. Arcade Fire, Kurt Vile, Arctic Monkeys and Vampire Weekend, 2013 was a good year for you.
If you’re closer to my dad’s age and was still wishing for that new My Bloody Valentine and David Bowie album or that Replacements reunion back in January, 2013 was a good year for you.
If you’re Pharrell, 2013 was a good year for you.
If you’re Kanye West, 2013 was a good year for you.
If you’re a female pop star and your name isn’t Lady Gaga, 2013 was a good year for you.
If you’re a Lou Reed fan, 2013 was not a good year for you (though you probably went back through all your old Reed records and rediscovered your love for Transformer and “Street Hassle”, so maybe it was a good year).
If you like music, 2013 was a good year for you. 2013 was a good year for (almost) everyone, but there are several different way to look at this past year. Here are 12 of those perspectives as we celebrate the end of a historic year in music.
2013: The Year Of Lou Reed’s Passing
One of rock music’s most influential poets and explorers passed away in 2013, and fans around the world went back to their Velvet Underground and Transformer records and mourned. It was one of those deaths that united all people to celebrated an incredible life, for Reed was one of those few musicians that nearly everyone knew, even if they didn’t know that song they really liked is called “Walk On The Wild Side” (or that it’s about cross-dressing). Even towards the end of his life, Reed never stopped exploring the possibilities of music, and we’ll miss his sense of wonder and beauty that he found in even the ugliest of places.
Check out these 10 songs that’ll introduce you to Lou Reed.
2013: The Year Of Impressive Women
2013 was a quite a year for women in music. You had Miley Cyrus, Lorde, Janelle Monae, Kacey Musgraves, Beyonce, and Brandy Clark all making headlines and selling tons of records in 2013 (“tons” is adjusted to a modern time when few musicians are selling enough records to keep their jobs). We also had new music from Lady Gaga and, though Artpop wasn’t as good as we all thought it would be, it’s big news whenever a new Gaga album is released (in fact, it’s even bigger news that Artpop flopped and that the modern pop era that she helped create has moved on from her). And on the other side of the spectrum, we had Laura Marling, Haim, Savages, Sky Ferreira and more ladies making some of the best alternative music of 2013.
2013: The Year Of Nostalgia
If you told me on December 31, 2012 that in the next 12 months we would have new music from My Bloody Valentine, David Bowie, Pearl Jam, Nine Inch Nails, Dismemberment Plan, Boards of Canada and Jay Z AND that The Replacements, Neutral Milk Hotel, The Postal Service, The Breeders and *NSYNC (!) would reunite and perform, I would have told you that you were crazy. Well 2013 was a crazy year indeed.
2013: The Year Of The Modern Classics
Vampire Weekend made their best album, Kanye West made his Kid A to My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy‘s Ok Computer, Arcade Fire loosened up and still made an enduring rock record, Daft Punk returned with the biggest hit of their career, Arctic Monkeys became the best soul-rock band in the world, James Blake won the Mercury Prize, and we heard new music from Kurt Vile, The Strokes, The National, Kings Of Leon, Justin Timberlake, Nick Cave, Queens of the Stone Age and many more.
Yeah, 2013 was a year for modern classics.
2013: The Year Of The Rookie
Back in January we didn’t know much about Haim, Palma Violets, Lady Lamb the Beekeeper, CHVRCHES, Foxygen, Disclosure, Chance The Rapper, Savages, Perfect Pussy and Lorde, but now we all know who theses guys are.
2013: The Year Of Trying To Figure Out Spotify
It’s hard to remember life before Spotify and before having the ability to stream nearly every song you wanted to hear anytime you had an internet connection. For music fans Spotify is a blessing, a free gateway to (almost) any song you want to stream. For artists however, it’s a completely different story.
In 2013 Spotify became one the dominant music streamers in America, and we began to understand its place within a music industry that desperately needs to adjust to how most people listen to music. Those who oppose Spotify’s model include prominent musicians such as David Byrne, Thom Yorke, Beck, and many more who claim that Spotify still hurts musicians with their money breakdown.
The above picture is from a Stereogum article discussing how Spotify works and how it makes money and pays back the artists.
Only time will tell if the Spotify model can last and, more importantly, if it can be changed to benefit the musicians, but in 2013 there was movement (good or bad) to determine a future for the music industry.
2013: The Year Of The Open Letter
In the age of smartphones and social media, it’s nice to see that musicians are keeping in touch by writing letters to each other and letting us all see what they’re saying.
(But then we have this awesome Miley Sinead mash-up video that makes the whole fued ironic)
2013: The Year Of The Fox
2013: The Year Of The Rise And Fall Of The Harlem Shake
2013: The Year Of Pharrell
Here are some of the things that Pharrell accomplished in 2013:
- He was nominated for seven grammy awards for this upcoming Grammys.
- He created the first 24 hour music video for his song “Happy”, which you can view here.
- He’s featured on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, two of the biggest hits of 2013.
- He helped produce Jay Z, Azealia Banks, 2 Chainz, Mike Posner, Nelly, Mac Miller, Mayer Hawthorne, John Legend, The Weeknd, Aloe Blacc, Miley Cyrus, Pusha T and many more.
- He helped produce the soundtrack for Despicable Me 2 and Man Of Steel, two of the biggest summer movies of 2013.
- He got married and celebrated his 40th birthday (serious, the dude looks 20 and he’s 40).
- He announced his next solo record for next year which will have the help of Columbia Records, and it’ll feature “no rapping”.
- He seems like a real chill guy.
So yeah, Pharrell won 2013.
2013: The Year of Creative Album Releases
In 2013 there were many popular musicians who were either willing (or desperate) to make their album release THE event of the year, which required a lot of creativity (and money). This year was full of creative releases that built up so much hype, or in some cases there was no time for hype to build. Here are some examples:
- In 2013 Arcade Fire became The Reflektors and released cryptic messages via chalk on walls and performed with big heads on The Colbert Report and released the album on YouTube for one day that was matched to the visuals of the movie Black Orpheus, one of the key inspirations behind Reflektor.
- Jay Z and Kanye, both members of The Throne mind you, released major solo albums in 2013, but they both promoted their albums in the most polar opposite ways. Magna Carta Holy Grail was announced via The NBA Finals and Jay Z partnered up with Samsung to sponsor the album. Yeezus had no radio, no TV, no sponsors – only Kanye himself proclaiming he was a God on one of the most memorable SNL performances of all time. He also projected his face on the sides of buildings and premiered a softcore-porn music video on Ellen. In short, Jay Z was corporate America, and Kanye was the counterculture.
- For their Lollapalooza set, Death Grips decided not to show up at their own show (or they never planned on showing up, we’ll never know) and then they canceled the rest of their 2013 tour. And oh yeah, they happened to release a new album (Government Plates) to a sharply divided fan base and had everyone else talking about it – it appears that from now on, whenever someone unexpectedly drops a new album, it’s called “pulling a Death Grips”.
- Childish Gambino released a massive 72-page screenplay for this year’s Because The Internet.
- Daft Punk unveiled Random Access Memories by premiering “Get Lucky” at Coachella which was followed by multiple billboards and SNL appearances.
- Katy Perry promoted Prism via a gold truck.
- Very recently, Beyonce dropped her self-titled album out of nowhere. This technique has worked with Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails and other indie artists (like I said before, Death Grips), but for a pop megastar like Beyonce to do this it was potentially revolutionary.
2013: The Year of Insanely Great Music
In addition to all these artists I’ve mentioned before, we also had great music from Deafheaven, Mikal Cronin, John Mayer, MGMT, Drake, Iron and Wine, Josh Ritter, Phoenix, The Thermals, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Phosphorescent and so many more. There were countless other hit songs that I didn’t include that are in my Spotify playlist of my favorite songs of 2013, and there were plenty of great records that I didn’t have room to talk about that are included in my list of my favorite albums of 2013. And of course, it was a fun year for Headphone Nation – there was never a time when there was nothing to talk about.
Here’s to a mind-blowing 2013, and here’s to what 2014 might bring us.
Happy holidays y’all.
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber