2013: Standout Musical Moments

What a year. 2013 has been filled to the brim with musical talent and suprises. Some artists began their careers, while others picked up the microphone once again. Musicians became artistic and the boundaries of genres were pushed. Special deals were made and every artist had their own unique approach towards generating memorable music. Here is a look back on musical moments from 2013 that stand out in my mind.

You Ready JT?

Justin Timberlake’s shift from acting back to music was one of the more memorable parts of the year. Although his 20/20 Experience could have been left to a 1-part experience (the first half specifically), his re-participation in music has long been awaited.

Jay-Z Gatsby

As if The Great Gatsby movie featuring Leonardo DiCaprio didn’t receive enough attention already, Jay-Z was chosen to put together its soundtrack. This lead to major anticipation for both releases. Since many of the songs on the soundtrack were “album only,” listeners were forced to either buy the album in its entirety, or go without listening. Sadly, the film incorporated weird camera usage, inconsistent pace, and over-the-top party scenes that created a stressful experience for the viewer. The album followed suit with multiple tracks that felt as weird as the movie did, such as Beyoncé and Andre 3000 on their “Back to Black” cover. However, it was still a memorable event involving HOVA.

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Magna Carta Holy Sale

Turns out Jay wasn’t finished after releasing the movie soundtrack, either. In a business deal (“I’m a business, man”), Mr. Carter sold 1,000,000 copies of his album to Samsung so that the company could give his album out for free to those with a special app – all before the CD even dropped. Regardless of the album’s rather weak effort, no one else has accomplished such a feat to my knowledge.

Vampires’ Far From Weak End

 As one of the best albums this year, Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City finished their trilogy on a high note. Surprisingly less focused on the intriguing use of instruments that made songs like “Horchata” so interesting, the group’s development in production and vocals was at its highest on this compilation.

Doin’ It Right

Some listeners were caught by surprise as the Daft Punk album, Random Access Memories, strayed from the duo’s usual formula. They chose not to make the same exact type of music as before, and instead focused on making a clear, smooth album. Admittedly, “Get Lucky” was a terrifically crafted song for climbing the charts, but the robotic finesse across the rest of the album succeeded with no luck needed.

Croissants

Hurry up, Kanye’s hungry. Yeezus was harsh and industrial, much unlike what listeners expected after Yeezy’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He is as crude as ever, and his egotism has skyrocketed. But, as stated in the first track, he “give[s] us what we need. It may not be what we want.” That would explain how reviews were so mixed upon its arrival, but either way, Yeezus pushed boundaries of what mainstream artists do, and was successful in that respect. Furthermore, Kanye dramatically changed my view on concerts, as explained in my article about attending his music tour. It isn’t about simply walking around on a stage anymore, and other performers should take note.

Stacks of Raps

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Kanye West, Drake, Jay-Z, Eminem, Pusha T, Childish Gambino, Kid Cudi, J. Cole, A$AP Rocky, Chance the Rapper, Run the Jewels, Mac Miller, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, Tyler the Creator, Earl Sweatshirt, Wale, and that isn’t even the entire list. A ridiculous amount of rappers released albums or critically acclaimed mixtapes, which has made for an extremely exciting year for hip-hop listeners. Drake “started from the bottom”, Eminem the “Rap God” came strong with the lyrics, A$AP Rocky showed off his flow. Kanye and Gambino had creative and successful projects, while Kid Cudi’s first attempt at producing his own album fell short of his previous entries. Pusha T proved his ability to make a solid solo effort, whereas J. Cole could have diversified his flows and voice in order to maintain listeners’ attention. One of the standout rap pieces wasn’t even an album at all. Chance the Rapper’s mixtape Acid Rap had some of the best rap of the year, and I am excited to see where he goes from here. Not only do these artists attest to how huge of a year 2013 was in music, but it also leaves concerns as to what 2014 will potentially be like without releases from the vast amount of rappers mentioned.

Welcome to Music

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A few musicians in particular caught my attention this year, either through gaining newfound popularity or actually beginning their careers. Although there are many, some that stood out were Lorde, Haim, and Disclosure. Pure Heroine showed a darker, self-aware side of Ella (Lorde) in comparison to her single “Royals” and was a delightful album to experience. I first encountered Haim when they were featured on Kid Cudi’s Indicud, but they truly shined on their debut album Days Are Gone. Finally, Disclosure was a group that my roommate introduced me to last year. When their album Settle came out over summer, I was happy to see that my friend was right about their ability to make great electronic songs.

To Infinity and Beyoncé

Beyoncé’s newest album shocked the world last Friday, releasing in a manner that seems impossible in this day and age – secretly. For as much as music this year has been wonderful, there hadn’t been one artist who was able to prevent his or her album from leaking. That is, until Beyoncé tried. With the amount of people involved in creating music videos and music for an album, it is probably the closest thing to a music miracle this year. Not only was I shocked by the album’s release, but also the fact that I like the music and accompanying videos so much. She has great production that compliments her vocals well, and the album wasn’t just an attempt to make money. That doesn’t mean that it didn’t rake in a few stacks, though. In just three days, 828,773 copies of Beyoncé were sold through iTunes, about doubling the previous record for three-day sales held by Taylor Swift for RED. To put that in perspective, the highest selling first week this year was Justin Timberlake’s, with over 900,000 in seven days.

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Musicians Transition to Artists

One of my favorite aspects of music this year has been that musicians are transcending more than just genres, but also mediums. Beyoncé made what she called a “visual album”, with videos prepared for every single song. It was impressively successful; each music video is distinctly unique, yet reflects her overall artistic vision. Childish Gambino created a “world” to go along with his album, putting out a short film months before release and writing an accompanying 72-page screenplay. Kanye West gave a performance unlike any concert I had witnessed before; watching the act unfold was like attending a play. Musicians have worked towards blurring the lines between genres, and now it seems that creativity has risen up once again to mix together music with movies, writing, acting, and more. I cannot wait to see where music will end up next.

It is difficult to capture everything that happens in a year’s worth of music. Opinions may differ, but the magnitude of music that was released, along with the methods by which each artist stood out from one another, is beyond debate. 2013 has been a superb year for listeners; let’s hope 2014 will have its fair share of noteworthy moments as well.

Images & Gif courtesy of Tumblr.

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Jonathan Reed