If you know anything about me at all you probably know that I love music more than almost everything else. When I was 10 years old I heard U2’s “Bad” on the radio and I became fascinated with the nuance of the song. That translated into listening to the radio anytime I could get my hands on it, and when my mother wasn’t railing against secular music. I used to put a tape in the player, turn the sound all the way down, and let it record whichever radio station happened to be on for 45 minutes. Then I would turn it over and record for the next 45 minutes. That’s how I found songs like “Shout,” by Tears for Fears, and “Love is a Battlefield,” by Pat Benatar, and a host of other dynamic songs I would have never heard otherwise.
At the end of every year since then I’ve made my own list of my own top songs from that year. And I don’t care if absolutely no one else heard the songs or cared for them. It’s all about my own tastes. I have two rules, though, for a song to count. It had to be released in that calendar year, and it couldn’t be from my top 2 artists, even if they had released music in that calendar year. That second one was because usually they would take all the top spots, and I wanted to compile a list that was varied. So, without further ado, here are my top 5 songs of 2013*:
5. Say Something – A Great Big World (feat. Christina Aguilera)
“Say something. I’m giving up on you. I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you. Anywhere, I would have followed you. Say something. I’m giving up on you.” I never would have heard this song if not for singing shows like The Voice and The X Factor, where the original artists came on to sing (on The Voice), and the song was covered brilliantly (on The X Factor, by Alex and Sierra). But I have loved its haunting melody from the start. It also features one of the most subtle vocal performances by Christina Aguilera in a supporting role. Simply brilliant.
4. Holy Grail – Jay-Z (feat. Justin Timberlake)
“One day you’re here. One day you’re there. One day you care. You’re so unfair. Sippin’ from your cup til it runneth over. Holy grail.” This song would probably be number 1 if it had just been Justin Timberlake’s portion of it, but just like Suit & Tie from The 20/20 Experience, the song suffers when Jay-Z enters it. As much as I love Jigga, for some reason he doesn’t seem to hold his end of the bargain when he collaborates with JT. The song is still amazing enough, though, despite that, for me to place it high on my list for the year.
3. Brave – Sara Bareilles
“Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out. Honestly, I wanna see you be brave.” This song truly speaks to me with its defiant nature, wishing for something that is obviously difficult to do, for people to be brave, to stand up for themselves against whatever it keeping them down. Sara Bareilles is a dynamic songwriter who doesn’t get enough credit for the music she produces, and Brave is the rare song that incorporates that kind of social consciousness with individual strength. I could never tire of hearing this song.
2. Copy of A – Nine Inch Nails
“I am just a copy of a copy of a copy. Everything I say has come before. Assembled into something into something into something. I am never certain anymore. I am just a shadow of a shadow of a shadow.” Trent Reznor is a genius. I’ve been saying it for years but he has really outdone himself with the most recent Nine Inch Nails album, Hesitation Marks. It’s like nothing he’s every done before, and at the same time like everything he’s done before. And this song is so tongue in cheek it’s eerie, playing on the idea that so many artists these days are only copies of themselves, that so many people don’t venture farther than their own insular worlds. Classic.
1. Wrecking Ball – Miley Cyrus
“I came in like a wrecking ball. I never hit so hard in love. All I wanted was to break your walls. All you ever did was wreck me. Yeah, you, you wreck me.” Honestly I could care less about all the publicity that Miley Cyrus gets. This song has spectacular, introspective lyrics that are as intense on the fiftieth listen as they were on the very first. No, Miley doesn’t have the best voice, but neither does Britney Spears and I love a lot of her music as well. If you have a good enough writing crew, the vocals themselves don’t have to be perfect, and Miley uses a great songwriting crew. Wrecking Ball is clearly the best song of the year, in my humble opinion.
*There were a ton of songs that made my top 30 of 2013, and I will release the complete official list on New Year’s Eve, so check it out then.