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2013 Year in WTF Music Review

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One of my favorite times of the year is December. Some might think that’s because of Christmas… but nay, my favorite holiday is my birthday because we all have some degree of narcissism. Some might think that’s because of the snow… but no, you try walking up UW-Madison’s Bascom Hill in over a foot of snow. Some even might think that it’s because of the holiday season in general… but no, I live in Chicago, IL and I hate tourists so add that with Michigan Avenue and you’ll find I pretty much stay in my house during the holiday season. The reason December is one of my favorite times of the year is because of all the “2013 Year in Review” posts that come out. Whenever I read one of these posts, my thoughts are either 1) “oh right that happened, I tried to forget,” 2) “No way! That totally happened in 1999, not 2013,” or 3) “LOL I should have read the news more often, when did this happen.”

Obviously, this is a music review website, so I should probably focus on 2013 Year in Review: Music, but I really do urge you to take a look at the more general news story versions of 2013 Year in Review posts because I guarantee you missed the dumbest things that happened this year. Here’s my review of 2013 Music though… enjoy…

1. Big artists released new albums.

Katy Perry’s Prism (October 22): First time to my site? I’m obsessed with Katy Perry. Although not the best album of the year (we’ll get to my opinions on the best later), it is hands down an awesome album. Prism doesn’t stray too far from the sounds of Teenage Dream, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for someone like Katy Perry. With hits like “Roar,” “Walking on Air,” “Dark Horse,” and “Unconditionally” already being constantly replayed on the radio after just one month, Katy Perry clearly doesn’t need to change her sound. Plus, she’s Katy Perry – just try not to love her.

Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience (March 19): JT came back. Technically, JT came back twice since The 20/20 Experience was released in two parts. The first part debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 968,000 copies in its first week. People were excited for JT to say the least.

Kanye West’s Yeezus (June 18): Guess what? I’ve never listened to this album. But hey, it came out and it was huge. I haven’t really given Kanye West the time of day since he named his child Blue Ivy. The album deserves some recognition though because Yeezus debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, selling 327,000 copies in its first week. Plus, we’ve all seen that music video for “Bound 2” right?

OneRepublic’s Native (March 26): This album was actually meant for 2012 (circa August 27th, 2012 with “Feel Again”), but wasn’t ready in time, and was thus released in 2013. I have no problem with an artist publically announcing that their album is not ready in time – beautiful things take time, right? And oh my god, Native is beautiful. Native peaked at number four on the Billboard 200, but a solid number one in my heart (still not the best album in my mind, have patience).

Honorable mentions: 1) Beyonce, 4 (March 29); 2) Drake, Nothing Was the Same (September 24); 3) Jay Z, Magna Carta Holy Grail (July 9).

2. There were a lot of really, really bad reunions.

This year was like the reunion of the 90s. First there was Destiny’s Child at the 2013 SuperBowl Half-Time Show. It literally lasted like 20 seconds and I’m pretty sure they didn’t even turn on Kelly or Michelle’s microphones. Great attempt #1 though, Music Industry. The second reunion was NSYNC at the 2013 VMAs. It lasted a little longer, and at one point Justin Timberlake was actually in the background. In addition, the whole time, you’re like “oh their microphones aren’t on either” and then all of the sudden, JC decides to sing the most unnecessary “baby, baby, baby” just to prove he thinks he’s still memorable. The final reunion of 2013 was TLC at the American Music Awards. They sang “Waterfalls.” Like no, “Scrubs” or go home.

3. EDM made some great moves.

Daft Punk. Random Access Memories had to have been one of the most anticipated albums of 2013, or maybe I was just so anxious for it that I felt the rest of the world was too. We hadn’t heard new Daft Punk since Human After All dropped in 2005, so Random Access Memories was eight years overdue. The album is the duo’s most successful album overall, as it debuted at number one in over 20 countries worldwide and eventually reached number one on 23 different charts.

Avicii. True was Avicii’s debut studio album and it is amazing. The album first came to listeners’ ears in April 2013 when Avicii released a 60-minute mix on SoundCloud, and then it continued to reach ears when Avicii played over 40 total minutes of the album at Ultra Music Festival in his set. The three singles released from the album – “Wake Me Up,” “You Make Me,” and “Hey Brother” – have been quite successful, too. Although the album only peaked at number four on the Billboard 200, it’s no doubt that this was an exciting year for Avicii.

EDC. Electronic Daisy Carnival made a lot of moves this year. I don’t think we need to discuss that it happened, that it increased in size, that it spread to new locations, or that it was probably amazing (I obviously didn’t make it this year… or any year so far, but it is on my bucket list). What EDC really taught us this year was the true positive economic impact that festivals have despite what non-festival goers think and protest. If you still don’t believe that festivals are GREAT and POSITIVE, check out Insomniac Event’s Economic Analysis of EDC Chicago 2013.

Swedish House Mafia. Although the soundtrack for the One Last Tour came out in 2012, the tour started and ended in 2013. I had tickets, but school comes first (my mother told me that… trust me, I would have been there) so I didn’t make it. Over 1 million fans saw the end of the Swedish House Mafia era on their last tour – that doesn’t include the people, like myself, who tuned in to see their final performance together at Ultra Music Festival.  “We came, we raved, and we fucking love you.”

4. Miley Cyrus made her mark. It happened, it was necessary to include it in the review, but we don’t need to speak about it more.

5. Nielsen/Billboard released the mid-year Music Industry Report. The trends: vinyl sales up, streams up, digital track sales down. So what we really see here is an increase in hipsters listening to vinyls (just kidding, I have my own collection that I love), a lot of people listening to music on Spotify, and a lot less people purchasing music with a lot more people illegally downloading music. But really, the report is really interesting and I’m very interested to see the end-of-year report, too.

6. A lot of really great albums came out from new artists.

CHVRCHES, The Bones of What You Believe (September 24). While CHVRCHES didn’t first come to the scene in 2013, they’re pretty new and The Bones of What You Believe was their first studio album that dropped this year. The album got some great recognition too: it was number 32 on Rolling Stone’s 50 Best Albums of 2013 and received a score of 81/100 on Metacritic, indicating “universal acclaim.” In addition, it reached number one on the US Independent Albums chart.

Lorde, Pure Heroine (September 27). Lorde has to be one of the biggest new names in 2013. …Like “Royals” – I’ve heard that song every day for the past six months at least. She even just had her cover of the Tears for Fears song “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” included on the Catching Fire soundtrack. Her album, Pure Heroine, peaked at number three on the Billboard 200. Lorde is seriously talented and her voice is seriously unique. The girl is 16 – ponder that for a bit.

HAIM, Days Are Gone (September 30). HAIM (anyone Jewish, please help) has actually been around for a while, but their first album, Days Are Gone, was just released in 2013, a few months ago. The album has some great new sounds (similar to Fleetwood Mac, I hear), but my favorite is definitely “Send Me Down.”

7. My personal opinion… The Number 1 Album of 2013: The Great Gatsby Soundtrack.

Do soundtracks count as albums when it comes to figuring out the best one of the year? They do in my mind. The Gatsby soundtrack was huge. If you didn’t like the Gatsby soundtrack, it’s safe to say you actually do not have a soul. Regardless of your feelings toward the movie (if you didn’t like it, you didn’t read the book, plain and simple), you have to love the soundtrack. There were huge names associated with this album: Jay Z, Beyoncé, Will.I.Am, Fergie, and Florence + the Machine. There were new artists on this album: Lana Del Rey, The xx, Gotye, Nero, and Sia (ok those aren’t new, but less known at the time). When the track list and first trailer for the movie including some of the songs came out, the album started becoming highly anticipated. The album blew away predicted sales and chart performance. Within its first week of release, it had sold over 137,000 copies and was at number two on the Billboard 200. The Gatsby soundtrack deserved all the recognition it got and more – my Twitter feed and my Facebook news feed were filled with Gatsby Soundtrack links for weeks after the release – it was everywhere and it deserved to be. Sure, it didn’t strike a number one, but sometimes we need to look at the content of the album rather than the sales and chart positions of the album.

8. Finally, the end of year mashups that were released YESTERDAY:

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OneRepublic’s Grammys Galore & Christmas Special!

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FROM TOTAL ASSAULT:

OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder Nominated for 2 Grammy Awards

New Song “Christmas Without You” on iTunes Now

Ryan Tedder, lead singer/songwriter/producer of the multi-platinum selling band OneRepublic has been nominated for two Grammy Awards. Capping off a year where OneRepublic has topped the charts, Tedder was recognized by The Recording Academy as the nominations for the 54th Annual Grammy Awards were announced in a live broadcast on CBS this week.

Tedder received a Grammy nod in two categories:  Album of the Year for Adele’s “21,” which he co-wrote and produced the song “Rumour Has It” and co-wrote “Turning Tables,” as well as a nomination for Producer of the Year Non-Classical for his work with Adele, Beyonce, Cobra Starship, Colbie Caillat, Gavin DeGraw, Jennifer Hudson and  Demi Lovato.

OneRepublic also kicked off the holiday season with a brand new song called “Christmas Without You” which features cover art designed by Ryan himself. Check out the band performing the song live at the National Christmas Tree Lighting this week, and head to iTunes to grab it now.

Sunday Special: Billboard’s Hot 100 – Deserving?

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Feel free to watch the rest of this video from YouTube user BillboardGoddess, but the part I’m addressing starts at 7:10 and covers the Top 10 of Billboard’s Hot 100 countdown. This is a new segment that I plan to cover each Sunday: the Hot 100 – are we happy to see it so high or are we disappointed that it’s climbed its way to the top?

10. “Lighters” – Bad Meets Evil ft. Bruno Mars

I always enjoy hearing Bruno Mars’s voice; he has a very unique voice that was a surprisingly beneficial addition to this generation’s music. However, I’m happy to hear him as a featured artist in this song rather than a solo artist in his own song. As always, Eminem busts out raps better than any white man I’ve ever heard. I mean no offense to any race, but white men in the 2000s haven’t really shown that they can successfully rap. Then you hear, Royce da 5’9″ throw down a verse containing seemingly popular lyrics amongst raps these days: “What goes up must come down.” A little cliché, but Royce da 5’9″ has a somewhat soft voice that makes it acceptable. The only complaint I have with this song is the fact that this man thinks Royce da 5’9″ is a cool name.
Overall, thumbs up/glad to see it working its way to the top.

9. “Good Life” – OneRepublic

First, always listen to this original version rather than the remix version with B.o.B. No offense to him, but OneRepublic is just one of those bands that should stick with its musical genre rather than expand to rap. Second, I’m sad to see this moving down the list. The radio played it just enough to not make me hate it and OneRepublic created a good enough song to make me love it. It’s got a background whistle that I wish I could whistle along with, but unfortunately I never learned how to whistle, and Ryan Tedder’s beautiful man voice that I love to sing along with. In addition, it’s got a realistic message because this is the good life so live it.
Overall, thumbs up/sad to see it working its way off the list.

8. “Edge of Glory” – Lady GaGa

Let me admit that Lady GaGa does scare me, but she puts out some pretty addicting music. This song may be working its way off the Billboard list, but I don’t see its fame ending anytime soon – it will have quite the life span in clubs and remixes. Lady GaGa always successfully releases the perfect dance songs and “Edge of Glory” is no different. It’s a great pop song with a spontaneous beat and not-annoying vocals so don’t expect to see it disappear despite Billboard’s list.
Overall, thumbs up/moving off the radio and into clubs.

7. “Tonight Tonight” – Hot Chelle Rae 

I’m fortunate enough to see Hot Chelle Rae live in just a week so hopefully I’ll have more to say about them then, but for now, they definitely impressed me with their debut song. I always enjoy hearing an actual alternative band make it big, and I suppose Hot Chelle Rae has a somewhat pop feel to them, but it’s as alternative as the Hot 100 list will get during summer. This song screams summer with both the upbeat rhythm it gives and the lyrics such as, “There’s a party on the rooftop, top of the world” and “Just don’t stop, let’s keep the beat bumpin’.” I definitely expect to see more than a one-hit-wonder from these guys.
Overall, thumbs up/will stick around until the end of summer.

6. “How to Love” – Lil Wayne

For me, this is disappointing for Lil Wayne. Maybe it’s my inability to really sit down and listen to what is now considered rap, but it also might be that I remember the Lil Wayne that introduced “Lollipop” and “A Milli,” two songs with low beats and fast lyrics. I just don’t think that summer was the right time for Lil Wayne to release a slow, sappy love song. Apparently many disagree with me on this because it’s worked its way to number six on Billboard’s Hot 100, but I’m entitled to my opinion. I always expect more out of bad boy Lil Wayne.
Overall, thumbs down/skip it when it plays on the radio.

5. “Rolling in the Deep” – Adele

If you’ve read my past posts, you’ll know that I think this song is way too overplayed; that’s why I am glad to see it working its way down the list and, hopefully soon, off the radio. I love Adele, don’t get me wrong. She’s amazingly talented and has an absolutely beautiful voice. “Rolling in the Deep” is magnificent and Adele’s vocals continue to surprise me, but it’s time for another one of her songs to be recognized. Let “Rumour Has It” work its way up.
Overall, thumbs up/but get it off the radio.

4. “Super Bass” – Nicki Minaj

The only thing addicting about this song is the repeated vocals and corresponding rhythm of “boom ba boom boom bass.” I’m not even sure if those are the correct words, but really, they aren’t words to begin with. Nicki Minaj can do a decent accompaniment or short verse in someone else’s song, but I don’t think she has enough talent to actually have a solo career. I apologize if you disagree with me, but I hear nothing truly unique about this song.
Overall, thumbs down/missing the creativity.

3. “Give Me Everything” – Pitbull ft. Ne-Yo, Afrojack, and Nayer

Save this brilliant song by taking it off this list and limiting its play on the radio. I truly believe this song is great and deserved all the attention it got, but it’s getting overplayed. I’m glad to see it climbing down the list because now it can get its rest. Let the clubs and remixes play it from now on where its true purpose can be served. It’s a song that makes you want to dance with its upbeat rhythm and fast, easily-heard lyrics.
Overall, thumbs up/but overplayed on the radio.

2. “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” – Katy Perry

I admit that my Katy Perry bias will get in the way of this review once again. This song is perfect for summer and perfect for the Billboard Hot 100. I’ll be seriously shocked if it does not reach number one. Katy Perry worked her way up from a home that didn’t approve of MTV (not like that would have an effect because they don’t actually play music) and created songs that include lyrics such as, “And we took too many shots. Think we kissed, but I forgot.” If you’re like my friends and I, this song became the 2011 Summer Anthem.
Overall, thumbs up/let it peak at the top.

1. “Party Rock Anthem” – LMFAO ft. Lauren Bennett and GoonRock

I’m proud to see LMFAO in the number one spot. This song has been around for a few months now and it’s got just enough bass and upbeat to make it popular. It’s more techno or dubstep feel made it reach many different types of music lovers and the radio just barely stayed away from the overplay limit so that it didn’t annoy everyone that heard it. I can’t really predict much for this song – will it stay at the top for a few more weeks or it will quickly make its descent?
Overall, thumbs up.