When Lorde sings “we crave a different kind of buzz” in her 2013 hit, “Royals,” the 17-year-old from New Zealand is talking about how unlikely it is that she’ll ever be in the company of the artists that she’s actually sharing space with in our best-of list. But as a whole, the music industry in 2013 has been craving a different kind of buzz.
It’s possible that 2013 will be remembered as the year that major musicians released albums with little or no lead-up. We are kind of pulling for it to be as such because we wrote a cover story on the trend in June after Kanye West, David Bowie and Jay Z had put out albums that hardly any fans knew they were even working on. The year saw additional releases in this fashion from the Pixies (after more than two decades without releasing any new material) and most spectacularly, Beyonce, earlier this month. Our constantly decreasing collective attention span demands this instant gratification approach and the artists are learning that they don’t need the labels to do a big promotional lead-up to get their fans excited.
But this was only part of the music landscape in 2013. We continued to see good-girl-gone-bad as a marketable commodity with Miley Cyrus’ effort to take a wrecking ball to her previous Disney image.
We had bad dudes trying to pick up the aforementioned bad girls in the two mega-hits that Pharrell Williams had a hand in (Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” and Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”) and we had reliably great artists perfecting their craft and continuing to take their sounds in new and weirder directions (Kanye West, Beyonce, Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire and Phoenix all deserve credit for pushing their music out of their comfort zones).
And then there was staff favorite Lorde, whose melodic pop and humble approach seems to fly in the face of all of this.
Music Editor’s Picks
1) “Yeezus” by Kanye West
2) “Modern Vampires of the City” Vampire Weekend
3) “Reflektor” by The Arcade Fire
4) “Pure Heroine” by Lorde
5) “Bankrupt” by Phoenix
Honorable mention: “Beyoncé” by Beyoncé