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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Best and Worst of 2013 - Spinnin' The Records

The special look back on the year known as 2013 continues with a musical interlude.  After all, this is Sunday - the day of the week that is typically reserved for the discussion of music.

And, let me tell you...2013 was one HUGE year for music.  As someone who has not really listened to Top 40 radio in approximately a decade, I must say that 2013 was actually not a bad year for music.  I even have a few songs from 2013 downloaded onto my iPod!

Before we continue with this look back on 2013 in music, I am going to be posting the previous two links so that you can keep up with this retrospective of the past year.

12/27/2013 - Best and Worst of 2013 - Television
12/28/2013 - Best and Worst of 2013 - Video Games

Feel free to peruse those lists at your leisure.  I even invite you to make comments about my choices or to come up with highlights of your own.

So, shall we get on with the look back at the year 2013 in music?  Yes?  

All right, let's get on with it, beginning with the biggest night in music history!


You know, I'm going to rank the 2013 Grammy Awards as being a mixed bag.  As far as the actual ceremony goes, I thought it sort of lacked something.  And this is coming from a guy who has watched the Grammy Awards nearly every year since the late 1980s (I missed the 2011 edition, as I was still in intensive care following a not-so-routine surgery).  But as far as the big winners of the night, well...I suppose it almost made up for it.

Record of the Year:  Somebody That I Used To Know/GOYTE f. KIMBRA
Album of the Year:  Babel/MUMFORD AND SONS
Song of the Year:  We Are Young
Best New Artist:  fun.
Best Pop Solo Performance:  Set Fire To The Rain/ADELE
Best Pop Duo/Group Performance:  Somebody That I Used To Know/GOYTE f. KIMBRA
Best Pop Vocal Album:  Stronger/KELLY CLARKSON
Best Traditional Pop Album:  Kisses on the Bottom/PAUL McCARTNEY
Best Country Album:  Uncaged/ZAC BROWN BAND
Best Country Solo Performance:  Blown Away/CARRIE UNDERWOOD
Best Country Duo/Group Performance:  Pontoon/LITTLE BIG TOWN

Okay, so maybe fun. isn't my favourite band ever, and I honestly got more annoyed by Mumford and Sons "I Will Wait"'s repetitiveness than anything.  But, I have to admit that I do like that Adele song.  And, to have two former American Idol winners taking home a Grammy Award?  Sort of gives a smidgen of credibility to an aging reality show, don't you think?  

In fact, let's listen to a song from Carrie's successful album.  The track is "Two Black Cadillacs", and it reached its peak on the country charts in early 2013.

And since I've posted the first song, let's post some more!

SELENA GOMEZ - Come and Get It
Released:  April 7, 2013

Selena Gomez had a really stellar 2013.  Her latest album "Stars Dance" was a big seller in both record stores and on iTunes (I know that I stocked a lot of copies of her CD when it was first released in the summer of 2013).  And, one way that I could tell that it was a huge hit was when I was working in the seasonal section and I heard this song playing in every radio of cars that drove by the outdoor soil compound!  The single eventually peaked at #6 on the Billboard charts, and #1 on the dance charts.

This album also marked a transition of sorts for Selena Gomez.  She turned 21 years old this past year, and her Disney Channel series "Wizards of Waverly Place" ended, so it's quite clear that she could have gone one of two ways - The Hilary Duff way or the Lindsay Lohan way.  Fortunately, aside from an incident in which she goofed up at a concert and swore in front of a bunch of kids, Selena seems to be heading down a good road.   Course, in 2014, I could end up eating those words, but hey, I actually like her.  Maybe it has to do with the song "Who Says" being an anthem for self-esteem and anti-bullying that has to do with it.  

This next person though?  Well...let's just post the video, keeping in mind that it might not really be suitable for preschoolers and young children.

MILEY CYRUS - Wrecking Ball
Released:  August 25, 2013

Oh, Miley, Miley, seem to have taken a wrecking ball to your Disney past this year, haven't you?  Surprisingly enough, your actions have probably made you more popular and relevant than ever before...even though your cavorting naked in your music video is hardly considered original.  Ever hear of someone called Madonna?  She managed to make it happen first with her "Express Yourself" video which came out three years before you were even born!

Now, here's the wacky part that I find hard to believe.  When listening to the song on the radio, I actually don't hate it.  Wrecking Ball is certainly a powerful song with good lyrics.  And, believe me, when it comes to Miley Cyrus, she certainly can perform a great ballad.  And, I suppose that in a way, she did have huge success with this single.  Despite the mixed reviews, the single did chart at #1.

But, everyone by now knows that Miley Cyrus seems to be well content on shooting Hannah Montana to death and burying her corpse in an oil drum to be buried in the Disney child star graveyard.  She says controversial things on Twitter, does controversial things in her video.  Uses controversial foam fingers in a controversial performance at the MTV Video Music Awards.

And, apparently she was on the shortlist for TIME Magazine's Person of the Year issue!  Go figure.  Although, I can show you what the supposed song of the year is.  And as it so happens, it is linked to Miley's controversial VMA appearance!

Released:  March 26, 2013

Ah, yes...the most requested, most played, most parodied song of the year.  No wonder I have a hard time listening to it for more than once a day!

Truthfully, I actually don't mind the song itself.  It was the music video that I wasn't overly a fan of.  I know a lot of people were saying that the video was extremely controversial given that the dancers in Robin's video were topless and scantily moving around in seductive poses.  But, honestly, I found it boring as heck.  I mean, the Twitter hashtags randomly appearing?  Lame.  The dancing girls?  Been done before a million times.  The song itself was fantastic, but the video was an absolutel snoozefest as far as I'm concerned.

And yet, it was the most requested song and video of the year.  Go figure.

To be honest with you, I can't really call myself Robin Thicke's biggest fan.  I mean, he's all right, I guess, but for some reason, I can't get past the fact that his dad played Jason Seaver on "Growing Pains".

(TRIVIA:  Robin's younger brother Brennan voiced the role of Dennis Mitchell in the 1980s cartoon series "Dennis The Menace".  Not really that interesting a fact, but it does go to show that show business definitely ran in the Thicke family tree.)

Though I will say this.  My own personal favourite song of 2013 happens to come from one of the guys whom Robin recorded "Blurred Lines" with.

Released:  November 21, 2013

I have to confess.  I loved this song from the moment I first heard it on "Despicable Me 2".  And, part of the reason why I love this song a lot is because it's one of the rare songs that got me feeling up and in a good mood amidst a sea of depressing songs and lukewarm pop music.  And, besides, the music video has minions in it!

But here's something quite interesting about this single.  It has done well in Europe and overseas.  It reached the top of the charts in The Netherlands and France, and hit the top ten in the UK, Australia, Denmark, and Ireland.  Yet, here in North America, the song remains unreleased. it any wonder why I tend to listen to music from the UK and Australia.  It appears that those nations still have musical taste!

Well...with one exception, I suppose...

ONE DIRECTION - Best Song Ever
Released:  July 22, 2013

Okay, I have a confession to make.  I've never really cared for boy bands.  To me, whenever I think of bands I like, I think of Stone Temple Pilots, U2, R.E.M., Collective Soul, and even classic bands like The Beatles, Badfinger, and The Rolling Stones.

And although I can probably find at least one song that I like from bands like the Backstreet Boys (Shape of My Heart) and 98 Degrees (Give Me Just One Night), I still wouldn't go out of my way to buy a whole album of songs, or concert tickets to see them live amidst a sea of screeching prepubescent girls in the audience.

One Direction seems to be the latest boy band who seems to be exploding in popularity.  The band seems to be part of a modern day British invasion (they started making music right around the same time that Adele, Ellie Goulding, and The Wanted did), and they have had successful album and DVD sales.  After all, their latest album "Midnight Memories" seems to be selling quite well at my store, and I can attest to seeing several 12-year-old girls getting their parents to buy them the new One Direction movie when it was released on DVD and Blu-Ray a few days ago.

That said, I have to admit that having a song entitled "Best Song Ever" is quite ballsy and cocky, even if the song really isn't about One Direction boasting that they have the best song ever.  Unfortunately, the song peaked at #2 on the Billboard Charts, making it rather ironic that a song entitled "Best Song Ever" could never really be that.

EMINEM - Berserk
Released:  August 27, 2013

I don't know if I could really consider this a "comeback" album of sorts, as Eminem never really left the music scene.  But when word got out that Eminem was releasing his seventh studio album in late 2013 - his first in three years - fans certainly salivated with delight until the album's release was made official in November 2013.  And, I can certainly attest to the popularity of the album - the first day it was released, we sold out completely.

(Thereby proving that the compact disc format isn't completely dead yet.)

And, I'll have to admit this to all of you right now.  I am an Eminem fan.  Certainly his songs do require some rather creative radio edits due to the language found in the songs...but at least Eminem has one thing that a lot of carbon copy, cookie-cutter, manufactured pop groups don't have.  And, that is the fact that all of his songs are written by Eminem himself, and are filled with so much emotion that built up from years of a tough childhood and adulthood.  And certainly, Eminem's trouble with the law and personal life have been well documented in the tabloids.  These days though, Eminem seems to be on the road back.  Even I've noticed that his songs aren't as angry and hate-filled as they used to be, which is a good sign.

Released:  December 16, 2013

Beyonce Knowles may just have very well had the best kept secret in the music industry - much to the chagrin of retailers who have launched a campaign to refuse to stock her album on store shelves (I'm looking at you, Target and Amazon).

It was pretty much given that Beyonce was overdue to release a new album.  It had been some time since her last project, and everyone believed that 2013 would be the year in which she would do exactly that.  After all, she would perform at the Super Bowl this past year and stage a reunion with her Destiny's Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams if she didn't have something up her sleeve.

What we didn't know was that Beyonce had planned to release the album on her terms.  In her own way.

So when people who have iTunes accounts logged on and saw that Beyonce's new album had apparently been released on December 13, it caused a major uproar.  There were no announcements by Beyonce, or any of the associates that Beyonce worked with.  Somehow, Beyonce managed to release an album digitally on iTunes without anyone else knowing about it!  Fourteen singles and seventeen music videos were released in secrecy on the thirteenth, and by December 14, the buzz had generated 1.2 MILLION tweets on Twitter and had several celebrities commenting about the secret release in complete shock and hysteria!

It was as if Beyonce had played the ultimate April Fools Day joke in December...and she caught everyone off guard.  It's unknown at this time how well the album will eventually do, but I have to say that it was a genius marketing strategy.  Well played, Beyonce.  Well played.

LADY GAGA - Applause
Released:  August 12, 2013

On the flipside, whereas Beyonce completely kept her latest project underneath her hat, Lady Gaga couldn't promote the album enough!  She did press tours, talk show interviews...pretty much everything that an artist would do in order to get people talking about the album.

And when her "Artpop" album finally did come out, it was released in several versions.  There was the standard CD, a Deluxe CD with added songs, and a special Lady Gaga package which had the Deluxe CD with added songs plus a T-shirt (that likely nobody over the age of nineteen could squeeze into).

But, Lady Gaga forgot one thing.  You could promote the hell out of the album all you wanted, but if the material wasn't good, it didn't really matter all that much.  I'm not saying that Lady Gaga's "Artpop" is horrible...I'm sure it's quite good.  But the lead single "Applause" certainly didn't measure up to her previous singles "Poker Face", "Bad Romance", and "Born This Way".  

CHER - Woman's World
Released:  June 18, 2013

I'm only adding this particular single in because of the fact that at my store, I cannot keep this particular album in stock!  We get copies in, and they automatically are sold out within a twenty-four hour period!  I get more questions about this Cher album than I do any other musical artist!  Of course, I do also happen to live in a town that is more or less considered a retirement community, and most of the people who live in town more or less grew up watching the Sonny and Cher show on television!

That said, while I can't call myself a major fan of Cher, I will say that I don't mind this single.  To be truthful, I thought Cher had a rather unique singing voice that definitely stood out in a sea of Madonna wannabes.  I don't see myself going out to buy her latest album (which is good since it's always sold out at my store), but if she happens to be playing on the radio, I'll leave it on.

And, besides all that - plastic surgery aside - Cher still looks fantastic at 67 years of age.

And, to conclude this look back on music in 2013 - a year which saw Michael Jackson's doctor released from prison and Justin Bieber announcing his retirement from the music scene at the ripe old age of 19 - here's one final song which was released in late 2012 by a teenage artist from New Zealand who is reportedly considered to be a frontrunner at the 2014 Grammy Awards.

LORDE - Royals
Released:  November 22, 2012

Coming up tomorrow, we'll pop some popcorn and buy some oversized Kit Kat bars to go over the Best and Worst in 2013 film.

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