Music

The Best Mainstream Pop Singles of 2013

Many genres collided in the pop realm in 2013, and the result (mostly) sounded great.

If you really think about it, pop music is the greatest genre of music. It includes and incorporates every form of music imaginable. Pop can be rock, R&B, country, electronic, bubblegum, adult-contemporary, and more. Sometimes it can even be all of these things in the same song.

Pop often gets a bad name, however. One of the genre’s most-talked-about artists recently is the ever-increasingly desperate-for-attention Miley Cyrus. In the midst of releasing weak dance/rap numbers filled with drug references, she actually released a halfway decent song. Unfortunately, people will mostly remember “Wrecking Ball” for its meaninglessly vulgar music video instead of its emotional intensity. Similarly, her MTV VMA cohort Robin Thicke released one of the best selling albums of the year, despite claims that it plagiarized Marvin Gaye.

This year had plenty of good news and several defining trends in the pop world, however. Many artists experimented with a slight electronic sound, adding digital pulses to otherwise traditional sounds (Paul McCartney, Backstreet Boys).

As of this writing, 2013’s best-selling album was Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience Part 1. His first album in seven years, it reflected a trend of older acts with a nostalgia factor making big comebacks with fresh new music (Paul McCartney, Elton John, Backstreet Boys, 98 Degrees).

Female solo artists continued to dominate the charts. Pundits wondered whether Katy Perry or Lady Gaga would rule the charts, but both artists actually did equally well this year.

Country music found itself leaning more towards pop, as several pop artists experimented with crossover country hits (Kelly Clarkson, John Mayer, Jason Mraz) and big country acts (Keith Urban, Tim McGraw) released their most mainstream material yet.

So it isn’t surprising that this year’s pop singles list consists of radically different artists and groups. Among 2013’s honorees are two boy bands, a rock legend, former child prodigies, two Norwegian TV hosts, and a whole lot of country acts.

 
10. Justin Timberlake - "Mirrors"

N’Sync briefly reunited twice this year, but they didn’t release any new music together. Timberlake could have used this as their comeback single, as it contains all the harmonic balladry and sentiment that the group was known for. But you can’t blame him for keeping his best track in years for himself. It gave the kind of endearingly sweet, ambiguous statement that pop music sorely lacks these days. What other recent hit could someone possibly dedicate to a parent without looking silly?

 
9. Yvlus - "The Fox (What Does The Fox Say?)"

The most fascinating thing about music, the Internet, and pop culture is that you never know what the next big thing will be. In this case, two Norwegian TV comics came up with a mash-up that sounds like the techno version of a children’s sing-a-long tape. The first time you hear it, the fox part comes as a complete surprise. It is a happy surprise and a not-so-guilty pleasure, if you are young at heart and don’t take life too seriously.

 
8. Ariana Grande ft. Mika - "Popular Song"

Another example of how any form of music can be translated into pop, this is a Broadway favorite covered by a teenage R&B upstart and a glitter-pop aficionado. The two must have been fans of the original cast recording, because they sing it with so much familiarity and joy. You hardly ever hear genuine laughter in Top 40 hits, but it is a welcome addition here.

 
7. Keith Urban - "A Little Bit of Everything"

Keith Urban often brings an authentic arena rock sound to the country genre. So he may have surprised listeners with this twangy rift on wish fulfillment. The chorus is one of the most sing-a-long-friendly hooks of the year. You can imagine a slight air of island breeze to it, possibly because of the slightly hip-hop-inspired intro.

 
6. Backstreet Boys - "In a World Like This"

In 2013, the Backstreet Boys embraced the adult-contemporary side of pop, and it was a great fit. Sharing the same name as the album it appears on, this single served as a sampler of all the soaring harmonies and hints of digital sound that run throughout the other tracks. You may not care for their brand of love-saves-all romance, but you can’t say that they don’t sound phenomenal together.

Next Page


Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Books

A Fresh Look at Free Will and Determinism in Terry Gilliam's '12 Monkeys'

Prof. Susanne Kord gets to the heart of the philosophical issues in Terry Gilliam's 1995 time-travel dystopia, 12 Monkeys.

Music

The Devonns' Debut Is a Love Letter to Chicago Soul

Chicago's the Devonns pay tribute the soul heritage of their city with enough personality to not sound just like a replica.

Music

Jaye Jayle's 'Prisyn' Is a Dark Ride Into Electric Night

Jaye Jayle salvage the best materials from Iggy Pop and David Bowie's Berlin-era on Prisyn to construct a powerful and impressive engine all their own.

Music

Kathleen Edwards Finds 'Total Freedom'

Kathleen Edwards is back making music after a five-year break, and it was worth the wait. The songs on Total Freedom are lyrically delightful and melodically charming.

Television

HBO's 'Lovecraft Country' Is Heady, Poetic, and Mangled

Laying the everyday experience of Black life in 1950s America against Cthulhuian nightmares, Misha Green and Jordan Peele's Lovecraft Country suggests intriguing parallels that are often lost in its narrative dead-ends.

Music

Jaga Jazzist's 'Pyramid' Is an Earthy, Complex, Jazz-Fusion Throwback

On their first album in five years, Norway's Jaga Jazzist create a smooth but intricate pastiche of styles with Pyramid.

Music

Finding the Light: An Interview with Kathy Sledge

With a timeless voice that's made her the "Queen of Club Quarantine", Grammy-nominated vocalist Kathy Sledge opens up her "Family Room" and delivers new grooves with Horse Meat Disco.

Books

'Bigger Than History: Why Archaeology Matters'

On everything from climate change to gender identity, archaeologists offer vital insight into contemporary issues.

Film

'Avengers: Endgame' Culminates 2010's Pop Culture Phenomenon

Avengers: Endgame features all the expected trappings of a superhero blockbuster alongside surprisingly rich character resolutions to become the most crowd-pleasing finalés to a long-running pop culture series ever made.

Music

Max Richter's 'VOICES' Is an Awe-Inspiring and Heartfelt Soundscape

Choral singing, piano, synths, and an "upside-down" orchestra complement crowd-sourced voices from across the globe on Max Richter's VOICES. It rewards deep listening, and acts as a global rebuke against bigotry, extremism and authoritarianism.

Music

DYLYN Dares to "Find Myself" by Facing Fears and Life's Dark Forces (premiere + interview)

Shifting gears from aspiring electropop princess to rock 'n' rule dream queen, Toronto's DYLYN is re-examining her life while searching for truth with a new song and a very scary-good music video.

Music

JOBS Make Bizarre and Exhilarating Noise with 'endless birthdays'

Brooklyn experimental quartet JOBS don't have a conventional musical bone in their body, resulting in a thrilling, typically off-kilter new album, endless birthdays.

Music

​Nnamdï' Creates a Lively Home for Himself in His Mind on 'BRAT'

Nnamdï's BRAT is a labyrinth detailing the insular journey of a young, eclectic DIY artist who takes on the weighty responsibility of reaching a point where he can do what he loves for a living.

Music

Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few Play It Cool​

Austin's Monte Warden and the Dangerous Few perform sophisticatedly unsophisticated jazz/Americana that's perfect for these times

Music

Eleanor Underhill Takes Us to the 'Land of the Living' (album stream)

Eleanor Underhill's Land of the Living is a diverse album drawing on folk, pop, R&B, and Americana. It's an emotionally powerful collection that inspires repeated listens.

Music

How Hawkwind's First Voyage Helped Spearhead Space Rock 50 Years Ago

Hawkwind's 1970 debut opened the door to rock's collective sonic possibilities, something that connected them tenuously to punk, dance, metal, and noise.

Books

Graphic Novel 'Cuisine Chinoise' Is a Feast for the Eyes and the Mind

Lush art and dark, cryptic fables permeate Zao Dao's stunning graphic novel, Cuisine Chinoise.

Music

Alanis Morissette's 'Such Pretty Forks in the Road' Is a Quest for Validation

Alanis Morissette's Such Pretty Forks in the Road is an exposition of dolorous truths, revelatory in its unmasking of imperfection.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.