Saturday, 25 January 2014


Now that I've had a kind of music catharsis/enema to cleanse me from what was a pretty dire year for the world of mainstream music, it's time to concentrate on the few (and I do mean few) good apples in the entire 100 acres of rotten orchid that is the 2013 mainstream charts.

Picking bad songs was easy, my problem was assembling an order befitting a top 10 list, as quite a number of them I pretty much couldn't stand in equal measures. I did however manage to separate the chaff from the crap and was overall pleased with my eventual outcome.

Constructing a list of 10 best songs however was like drawing blood from a stapler. Hell, some of the songs I chose as my most bearable are songs I can't stand anymore. Hence the reason why this particular list has taken it's sweet time arriving. As well as the fact that my top 10 have been changing more often than a chameleon stuck in a kaleidoscope.

I can't dilly dally around any longer because the month of February is fast approaching and as of this moment my list choices haven't changed in over 2 days, so now is as good a time as any.

Some of you may agree with my choices, a lot of you will disagree and most of you will be wondering what on Earth I have been bonging (the answer to which would be Vix; stuffy noses have been the bane of my early winter life)

Let's begin my TOP TEN BEST SONGS OF 2013  

I only allow one artist/band per song, so say for example One Direction were included, which they're not but if they were they would only be able to have say Story Of My Life or Best Song Ever in the list. One song per band/artist only, those are the rules. This is not Nam. This is blogging, there are rules.


I've always been a fan of Ska, old school Hip-Hop and Northern Soul and I think this song evokes a lot of those genre's best qualities; not only from a music stand point but in terms of subject matter and very grounded lyrical narration: The thoughts of the everyman (and woman) regarding what kind of crazy world we live in right now; where some of us spend hours taking a break from the monotony of normal life, having benign conversation and gossipping about our peers by watching other people sat in a house, talking about the monotony of normal life, having benign conversation and gossipping about their peers. Lost Generation? I think it's amazing they're even aware enough to realise they're in the wrong place.

Despite the rapping sections being the main bulk of this song, I feel they are the weakest part. Jordan Stephen's is by no means a bad rapper but his flow suffers sometimes on the more complex phrases. I do love the chorus though, it's instantly catchy and Harley Sylvester's voice is strong and soulful with a definite edge.

The strangest thing is even though this did actually get up to number 6 in the charts it has now fallen so far under the radar that even Red October would miss it. I very rarely hear it on the radio anymore, usually it's that awful follow up 'Skip To The Good Bit' in it's place (a running theme I've noticed for myself that if I like the first song I've heard by a new band, chances are I'm going to hate the next one) In retrospect though the song is not as clever as it appears on first impressions. The first verse is a wave of verbal sarcasm and acute observations where as the other verse seems to be narrated by someone completely different who revels in that style of life to enhance their own lives. So to sum it up I'd say it's a very catchy, AKA Specials throwback-alike that is at times is both silly and surprisingly charming but overall doesn't really know what it's trying to say. Bit like Boris Johnson.


Twitter rants, homophobic slurs and generally being a bit of a dick aside, this is still a pretty decent tune. It's unfortunate that due to his over sized foot in mouth syndrome, he's shot his own career foot in the door off with an RPG before he could sit down and discuss his Stella Artois sponsorship (It could work, it looks like his kind of drink) Despite all this though, I think it's a good song and it still makes me want to air drum in the most rhythm-less fashion this side of a Panda being cattle prodded.
Not everyone shares my enjoyment in this however. A very good friend of mine pointed out that he felt it sounded as generic as anything else and that there was too much going on which made it comes across as very noisy. As much as I disagree with the former I have to admit he is right about the latter; it is a very busy song at times. Towards the end it's like every member of the orchestra, their mothers and second cousins twice removed are bashing their instruments as hard as possible the noise reaches such extreme levels that it almost drowns out Arthur himself. Maybe the sound mixer lost control of the situation or maybe he'd just read Arthur's tweets. 
Before I go on to my next choice, let me just give you a quick rundown on what music I like: I like old school Metallica, Jackie Wilson, Billy Ocean, Opeth, System Of A Down, Muse, The Feeling, Creedence Clear Water Revival, The Subway Sect, Keane, Tori Amos,  and a little known song called Boxer Beat by Joe Boxer. There is no reason why a bunch of just post teen, Miss Selfridge wearing, whirlwinds of hairspray and legwarmers would appeal to me. Especially when the only reason they got famous was due to winning a show that lost any last remnants of credibility when they chose Ryland for the live finals. You can barely call this a song either; it's intro is nothing more than sporadic percussion on various wooden blocks and a vocal consisting of the kind of sounds someone would make to show agreement when they can't be arsed to even open their mouths.
And yet...

How is it possible to create such a catchy tune with little to no music? Answer, by being brave and making everything about the vocals and the message. And what vocals they are! I personally think that these girls have the best group harmonics than anyone around right now. When they do a song like this it shows just what they are capable of, it's just a shame that nothing they've done prior has showcased them in such a grand way. More important than that though is this song's message. It's a great message, some of lyrics are a wee bit suspect but what these girls are very astutely saying to all the boys out there, is to stop simply eyeing them on the dance floor from afar in the vein hope that a catch of the eye will work in the same way as rancher's lasso and instead to be bold, get the hell over there and start moving like Jagger. I am in full agreement with this as I love dancing, I'm not great at it but who the hell cares, you're there to have fun and guess what guys? Girls like it too. Lets face it fellas, whatever you can muster on the floor can't be worse than the off beat, erratic contortions of Adam Levine, or even Mick Jagger for that matter. There's nothing stopping you other than your own confidence, they want you up there and who knows you might even pull something. If not a girl then a muscle for sure but no pain no gain as they say.
The reasons why this song works is you can believe the message when these girls sing it. It sounds above all else, genuine. I don't care how expertly crafted the harmonies were on their cover of Cannonball, the song was horrible because not a single one of them had a clue what they were singing about. It was just all about putting on the most impressive vocals possible (and it didn't even accomplish that). It sounded forced, it sounded over cooked and worst of all it sounded fake. Move is about as real as I think Little Mix can ever get and that's why it works. They sound like they're having a great time and because of that I'm enjoying listening to them... and moving

There was an inner debate in my head regarding my two picks to fill in the number 7 slot. On the one hand OneRepublic's Counting Stars is gospel, country rock at it's most infectious: A cool song that conveys on a basic level that there is more to life than material wealth and not everything is all about the money, money, money. But they do this by crafting the message around a tune that is better and more fun to listen to than anything Jessie J could ever dream of creating. And they don't come across as preachy, obnoxious or patronising either which is always a bonus. The subject matter however is the thorn in the side of any successful band/artist that pretty much want for nothing and can afford to burn down their tent of made out of fiddy notes in order to gain better perspective for their astronomy based accountancy.
On the other hand though only one of these songs as introductory riff played on a mandolin. No brainer really.


Before I go on about the song let me just quickly say that these extreme percussion enthusiasts from Las Vegas are the best live act I've ever seen. A spot that was held by Kings of Leon for a very long time despite some very stiff competition from Muse and Manic Street Preachers. Considering they claimed that position as a band I've never really heard of before, it's a testament to their showmanship, humble nature and general likability because they just seemed so pleased to be there performing for us. I was completely hooked from the first beat of those massive tribal drums they cart around everywhere.
This song in particular is a great introduction to their unusual, almost Celtic sounding style. Dan Reynolds is a great frontman and his impressive range is put to best use with this inspiring track. You really believe every word he's singing, which he skilfully belts in ways both heartfelt and rousing. It's a great track by a great band. They do however sound much better live than on any recording I've found of them. Probably one of only the reasons why this track isn't in the top 5.

This next one scares me. I pretty much can't stand this next artist and I hate everything he represents in terms of the path modern music is heading down; excessive use of autotune, digital instrumentation replacing actual live recording, over sampling and over production and songs involving some of the most irritating sounds ever conceived by human error. In short, I really have an issue with Will.IAM and would advise anyone from listening to the torturous noise he laughably calls music.
But sometimes I can't seem to follow my own advice           

Just listen to that opening. As much as I normally hate sampling in music, I have to admit that this is good production at work. It 'borrows' some lyrics from Cher's Bang Bang and also the music of some kind of Charleston variation but it manages to retain it's identity as a stand alone song; unlike say 'Time of My Dirty Bit *shudder*. I love the fast paced brass intro and the banjo follow up riffs. All the elements of song combine nicely together and even Will.I.AM gives the illusion that he can actually sing. There's two options here; either the auto-tune has found a new stealth setting (it is actually used but not in an excessively annoying way) or this kind of swing, vocal jazz style really suits his voice. I actually prefer Bill.I.IS's singing sections to his random, Fergie substitute. More annoying for me though is that this song just seems to get better with every listen. I just said that about a Will.I.AM song... 
I think I need to lie down now, or check outside and make sure the Rain of Fire hasn't started 
I'm well aware that this intro of this song is partially ripped off from The Police; but you know what? So was Bruno Mars' Locked Out Of Heaven from last year, which was one of the best songs released that year. So the way I see it, if new songs can retain the same level calibre in effort, execution and do enough to give it a individual identity by borrowing a combination riff of Roxanne and Can't Stand Losing You etc then by all means, rip away! The advantage of doing something like this is that it piques your interest from the start because it sounds familiar, the disadvantage however is when a band does it repeatedly in order to disguise that their song is just pants.
This song is not pants however, it's actually rather good. Wiffs of cheese from some of the lyrical choices aside; it's tightly written, well performed, punchy, sharp and stupidly catchy.
I actually think this song has the best opening line of the year. Not just in written terms but the way it dives straight into the song headfirst with no let up. It was a clever move to write the intro as an almost acapella version of the chorus, these guys really seem to know what they're doing. Or rather there production team do. I didn't want to like this song at all but out of nearly every song on this list it's that opening line that will not get out of my head. It makes it doubly amusing whenever I hear the radio edit and it sounds like the lead singer is instinctively correcting himself because his mum can over hear him 'I talk a lot of *shhhh!* when I'm drinking, baby'.I like this song, I shouldn't but I do and probably will for quite a bit longer and it's fair to say I have high hopes for this young band.
Me and my big mouth it would seem; this song wasn't even written by The Vamps it turns out. They did however have a hand in writing their next single 'Wild Heart' which is, let me pit this mildly, horrid. 'Can We Dance on the other hand was written, not surprisingly, by guys who knew what they were doing; 3 prominent musician/producers, one of them namely, Bruno Mars. I just can't seem to get rid of this year, can I?
Speaking of which...
Putting aside Mars' somewhat disturbing views on the appeal of small mammals in their infancy (yes those are the words you first heard if you played the song, I'm as perplexed as you are) as soon as the song kicks in I feel an overwhelming urge to quickstep to the beat of the drums. It's one of the most skilfully crafted intros to a pure disco dance song I've ever heard.
Bruno Mars is once again on top vocal form, the lyrics are both sweet and over zealous but with a tongue in cheek believability. The funk fused bass line is a joy to dance to, it contains one of the uses of clearly obvious auto tune I actually don't mind and think it enhances the song rather than detracts from it and it samples what sounds like a section of music from Sonic The Hedgehog during the chorus (well it sounds like it to me). What's not to like? Great song, great singer and listening to this it doesn't feel like I could be any happier when dancing.
Or could I?...
If you're wondering why Get Lucky isn't on the list, due to my strict adhering to the rules here's the reason why. Besides, this song is just better. For a start I don't keep mishearing lines about robbing Mexican monkeys in this song and secondly, whenever I hear Get Lucky, unlike this song I never feel the overwhelming urge to dance like this:

Pharrell Williams is about the coolest man on the planet right now and it's great that he's finally getting the recognition he deserves after years of working on big hits behind the scenes. I keep reading that he's a producer/rapper but I really don't like his rapping. His singing on the other hand, completely different story. He has a voice reminiscent of Curtis Mayfield and he sounds just so impossibly cool and smooth, it's a wonder he didn't turn into an ice sculpture during recording. I have a smile on my face whenever this song comes through my headphones, and though I may not be dancing at the time, due to me being on a packed bus most likely, you better believe I'm dancing inside. Excellent song
My number one spot is probably a little predictable but I don't think it would have felt right to have included anything else
Maybe I try to kid myself that this song is better than it is though. The lyrics are certainly open to interpretation and despite all Lorde's talk of not wanting to conform to the high elitist lifestyle or abusing her new found celeb status, she actually comes from a fairly well off background and she even lyrically refers to wanting to be our ruler as well as loving the thought of being Queen. Kids today eh?
There is almost certainly an air of pretension to her work but whether, like me, you accept the ironic subtext or not, like or loathe it's minimalist structure, you cannot deny that this song has presence. Its just so vastly different to anything else around right now, ever even. Whereas all the biggest hits came retro influence and origin ie. the 70's bass of Blurred Lines and Get Lucky, the twangy country/pop/dance of Wake Me Up and even Ylvis' Fox song taking inspiration from that noughties classic; The Crazy Frog.
Lorde's music thus far has doesn't seem to have any obvious influences, except maybe a touch of Portished here and a bit of Leonard Cohen there. If there is one person she reminds me of most is Tori Amos. Who just happens to me my favourite female artist of all time. There are obvious differences I grant you, but it's the way she so effortlessly carries such emotion in her voice and the masterful use of wordplay. 
The reason why this is number one is not only that it is great song, that's catchy as hell and makes you want to sing along but also because it's the song from 2013 that I will remember the most, for a very long time.
I'll leave you with another Lorde song; the follow up to Royals which didn't even break the top 40. I actually prefer this song a bit better to Royals too. What do you think? What were your 10 favourite songs of 2013? Feel free to share and share alike.
Till the next time




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