5. Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven (#11)
Billboard magazine named Bruno Mars as their Artist of the Year, and while I scoffed at it originally, it makes perfect sense. Mars didn’t drum up headlines, but he had four singles; three of which were major hits, and two went to number one. In a year where singles juggernauts like Katy Perry and Ke$ha couldn’t sustain momentum, that is killing it.
And it all started with “Locked Out of Heaven”, released late last year. Mars has always fancied himself as a retro-futurist, updating the sounds of old populist rock and soul acts with elements of today’s pop, and “Locked Out of Heaven” is the first time that he perfected the formula. The reggae/The Police verses shouldn’t work with an EDM-lite chorus, but it’s pitch perfect here. What really sets “Locked Out of Heaven” apart from Mars’ contemporaries is that few others make music that sounds this performed; “Heaven…” has a crisp, live production that gives everything from the “Uh!”s to the descending synth in the chorus extra punch. I hope you like this song, because it’s going to be a public events fixture for years. Speaking of which…
4. Drake – “Hold On, We’re Going Home” (#34)
With “Hold On, We’re Going Home”, Drake said that he and producer Noah “40” Shebib explicitly wanted to make something timeless; in their own words, “a wedding song”. It’d be premature to call “Hold On” a total success on that front, but I think it’s got a chance at being on wedding playlists from now until death. 40’s production is essentially an update on 80’s pop R&B, the lyrics are lovely and cute (though admittedly, the song’s heavy use of “good girl” kept it from being a number 1 contender for me), and for once, Drake sounds totally comfortable in his own skin. The bulk of Drake’s career so far has seen him acting hard, moody, and totally, definitely not at all the type of guy for which a Twitter account describing him as someone who catches snowflakes with his tongue and waits 30 minutes before swimming to be hilarious because it’s just believable enough. On “Hold On”, he says fuck it–he’ll be the emotional crooner who can’t quite hit some of the song’s high notes, and dances like a dork to the beat. And you know what? That guy ain’t half bad.
3. Calvin Harris ft. Florence Welch – “Sweet Nothing” (#44)
Here’s a song that I was skeptical of, listened to as a curiosity, liked whenever I heard it, then liked it enough to find it on my own, and then even loved it enough to buy. I don’t know when or how, but it became a favorite. Calvin Harris is one of the banner names in EDM right now, but he has a fairly light, less blown out touch than D.Guetta or Zedd’s bangers; for all of its EDM trappings, “Sweet Nothing” could easily live as a straight up disco track. And, while it won’t get confused for a Janelle Monae track, the lyrics offer a little more depth than your typical dance pop, giving more catharsis to an already huge chorus. Florence Welch, famous Florence and the Machine frontwoman/oversinger throws herself into the song, and she fits dance floor queen surprisingly well for an artist that I typically thought of as being stiff (can we lock her and James Murphy in a recording studio together?). This is everything that I wanted from “Stay the Night”.
2. Paramore – Still Into You (#100)
I can’t explain how happy I am that this one made the list. The power-pop/New Wave of “Still Into You” won’t jive with the entire family like “Hold On, We’re Going Home” will, but damn, if this one won’t get spins at wedding receptions where someone in the bridal party has pink hair. Lead singer Hayley Williams, whose studio vocal take deserves to be heard on its own, absolutely knocks it out of the park on this one, especially when she belts the final note on the bridge; she feels every word of this thing. And that’s what makes “Still Into You” so great: the song’s exuberance perfectly captures the “We’ve been together for longer than I’ve had most of my current wardrobe, and I still love the fuck out of you every day” feeling from being with someone for so long. Add in some joyous synths and catchy guitar riffs, and you’ve got a winner. It only just made the year-end list, but “Still Into You” deserved to be even bigger.
1. Daft Punk ft. Pharrell – Get Lucky (#14)
You don’t have to tell me, I know. Yes, giving “Get Lucky” the top spot is the safe, predictable, and probably a little rockist thing to do this year. Yes, the song is open critic-bait that’s been hyped by every “true” music fan since its summer release. Yes, it’s a bit played out by now.
But oh my God, have you heard the thing?
Weirdly enough, I almost think the full six minute version would have been a bigger hit than the abbreviated radio single. I realize that a six minute radio single is pushing your luck, but I think it could have worked here–the full version just sounds more developed and cohesive. But, no matter the version, “Get Lucky” is a perfectly crafted disco track that’s effortlessly cool and endlessly catchy, with through the roof production values and some of the smoothest vocals around (who the hell else could make comparing your dick to a phoenix work?). The drum machine/vocoder breakdown helps the song, too. It breaks up some of the monotony, and makes the song more than a simple throwback by blending it with some 21st century electronics.
“Get Lucky” was everywhere this summer, and it even stayed with us in the winter months. It tributes the past while moving forward, and sounding damn good at the same time, and for that, it is my top hit of 2013.