We spend this time of year combing through them, but what is a best-of list, really? A declaration of good taste? A nudge toward the most exciting stuff? A simple recap of our most electric responses?
Recorded music gives us the chance to experience those good-exciting-electric feelings over and over. So each year, I try to keep it simple and make my lists by measuring how often a piece of music — be it an album or a song — called me back for another listen, with bonus points for anything that provoked shortness of breath, loss of sing-along voice, soreness of dance muscles, goosebumps, laughter, tears, disbelief or faith in higher powers.
That said, check out the top albums of 2013 right here, and the year’s 15 finest pop songs below.
WARNING: Some of these tunes have explicit lyrics.
1. Mariah Carey feat. Miguel “#Beautiful”
Couples will sing this duet at karaoke nights in the year 3000, only wondering what the hashtag was about.
2. Mikal Cronin, “Shout It Out”
Give this California dreamer three minutes to explain why falling out of love is still a bummer and he might convince you that rock-and-roll is still alive.
3. Brandy Clark, “Take a Little Pill”
In country music, tragic psychedelia is almost as rare as this woman’s songwriting talent.
4. Sicko Mobb, “H— Be Goin'”
Two teenage brothers from Chicago’s nascent “bop” scene have come up with the year’s most thrilling display of amateurism, urgency and instinct.
5. Beau Wanzer, “Balls of Steel”
A deeply primal dance track that doubles as a bizarro anti-smoking PSA? Life rules!
6. Lil Durk, “Dis Ain’t What You Want”
Of the countless rap anthems to spill out of Chicago this year, this one inherited the city’s blues.
7. Parquet Courts, “Stoned and Starving”
A rock song for when the munchies get existential.
8. Migos, “Versace”
VersaceVersaceVersaceVersaceVersaceVersaceVersaceVersace! (This is what hip-hop hypnosis sounded like in 2013.)
9. Queens of the Stone Age, “If I Had a Tail”
For those who still believe rock-and-roll should be slimey, sinister stuff.
10. Lori McKenna, “Salt”
A ballad so brutal, you could lose weight crying to it.
11. Florida Georgia Line, “Cruise”
Country music’s macho mutation into arena rock is nothing to fear if all of the songs end up being as fun as this one.
12. Rocko ft. Future, Rick Ross, “U.O.E.N.O.”
The most mesmerizing backing track in rap music since OutKast’s “Elevators,” U-O-E-N-O.
13. Colin Stetson, “To See More Light”
It lasts about 15 minutes: A saxophone convulsion, a plunge into the abyss.
14. Marc Anthony, “Vivir Mi Vida”
A stadium chant-along about individuality courtesy of the deepest lungs on Earth.
15. Icona Pop, “Girlfriend”
This corn-syrupy ode to platonic BFF-ness may have failed as Icona Pop‘s one-way ticket out of one-hit wonderworld, but I DON’T CARE.