Best songs of 2013
How weird of a year was 2013, musically? Look no further than the songs that made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100: There were only 10 of them, and they included a track released three months before the 2012 election (“Thrift Shop”), a glorified meme (“Harlem Shake”), and a single whose video featured a former Disney star licking a sledgehammer (“Wrecking Ball”). The 36-year-old son of a Canadian actor scored his first-ever #1, and so did a 16-year-old girl from New Zealand. Oh, and for you traditionalists out there, don’t worry, Katy Perry and Bruno Mars once again returned to the top, too.
To make it all plain for you, we assembled the MTV editorial and music teams and asked them to rank their favorite tracks of the year, taking into consideration factors like sales, radio and video play and social media impact. We then compiled the results and came up with this Top 10: The Best Songs of 2013.
Where did your favorite song end up? Have a look.
10.”I Knew You Were Trouble,” Taylor Swift
Dubstep and one unforgettable bad boy defined Taylor Swift’s most danceable hit to date. Taken from 2012’s Grammy-nominated Red, “Trouble” is about the regret that comes with falling hard for the wrong guy. But however bad it might’ve hurt, the pain paid off for Swift, who worked with pop masters Max Martin and Shellback on the rave-ready single. The song climbed to #1 on the Hot 100, went platinum four times over, and spawned a VMA-winning video, where Swift (complete with pink hair) makes out with Spider-Man. Reeve Carney may have snagged Swift in his web, but the song caught everyone’s attention and hasn’t let us go since. — Jocelyn Vena
9.”Radioactive,” Imagine Dragons
Say hello to the year’s biggest (and quite possibly only) rock song, a pounding, primal anthem that starts small but just keeps expanding — kind of like Imagine Dragons themselves. They’re unquestionably the breakout band of 2013, and this song, which just picked up a Grammy nod for Record of the Year, was a large part of the reason why. Of course, in a very 2013 twist, it was produced by Alex da Kid, and was heard blasting out of noted rock aficionado LeBron James’ headphones in a Beats by Dre commercial. Welcome to the new age, indeed. — James Montgomery
If anyone was wondering if EDM could carry over it’s momentum from 2012, they need look no further than Zedd’s megahit “Clarity” . The slow-build banger floats on the ethereal vocals of English singer Louisa Rose Allen (a.k.a. Foxes) and an incessant beat that kept late-night ravers bouncing all year and provided the soundtrack to festivals all summer long. Not to mention the kind of crowd-uniting, life-affirming chorus that most DJs would give their left turntable for. It all made Zedd a breakout star, who also made headlines thanks to his work on Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP opus. — Gil Kaufman
7.”Can’t Hold Us,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
If there was any fear that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis would become one-hit wonders after the ascent of “Thrift Shop,” the boys from Seattle quickly quieted the critics when they notched their second #1 single of 2013.
“Can’t Hold Us,” with its boisterous church clap and uplifting Ray Dalton hook, became a sweeping anthem for underdogs everywhere. The duo performed the four-times-platinum-selling cut at the 2013 mtvU Woodie Awards and the MTV Movie Awards before taking home a Best Hip-Hop Video Moonman for the song’s extravagant visual at this year’s Video Music Awards. Guess that’s what you get when Wu-Tang raised you. — Rob Markman
6.”Started From The Bottom,” Drake
You’ve gotta give it up for Drake — when it comes to crafting instant hip-hop anthems, few did it better than the YMCMB rapper this year. With “Started From the Bottom,” Drizzy created a cultural phenomenon. Over the catchy Mike Zombie beat and a simple, yet addictive, hook he had the masses — from fans to fellow celebrities — chanting a new aspirational slogan that still shows no sign of disappearing.
Not to mention that the track was officially released just days before the Toronto native took home a Grammy Award for Best Rap Album for 2011’s Take Care, and the much-lauded “Bottom” video debuted just hours before he accepted the trophy. He truly started from the bottom, and now … — Nadeska Alexis
5.”Roar,” Katy Perry
After three years off, KP rolled back into the pop universe with her golden Prism semi-truck and the feisty anthem “Roar.” And if her empowering jungle music video and knock-out boxing ring performance at the 2013 VMAs weren’t enough to inspire, we don’t know what will. Though it’s been out since August, the song is still sitting in Billboard’s Top 10, giving Katy’s “Roar” the rarest of things: A pop song with staying power. — Emilee Lindner
4.”Wrecking Ball,” Miley Cyrus
Ever heard it? The video for Miley Cyrus’ second Bangerz single made as much of an impact as her naughty VMA performance when she got naked and climbed atop that swinging sphere of forged steel. The parodies that followed — complete with sledge-hammer-licking and vulnerable crying — became just as famous as Miley’s vid.
To date, “Wrecking Ball” has racked up more than 398 million views on YouTube, the second-most watched YT video of the year. It has also offered about a bit more emotion and reminded the world of one fact that got lost in the smoky haze of twerking and dancing with molly– the girl can really sing. — EL
3.”Get Lucky,” Daft Punk
It shouldn’t have resonated the way it did, not in 2013, when folks were busy bowing down to Baauer and succumbing to Miley’s machinations. And yet, “Get Lucky” somehow became the biggest hit of Daft Punk’s 15-year career, going toe-to-toe with “Blurred Lines” this summer, selling more than 7 million copies worldwide and making it all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Was it the rare example of taste overtaking the masses? Probably not. Instead, chalk its success up to the undeniable presence of Pharrell Williams, the sumptuous flourishes of Nile Rodgers’ guitar licks, the fact that we are all, in some way, just looking to get lucky. After nearly a decade between albums, the robots returned with the gift that “keeps on giving.” There’s still time to send that “Thank You” card. — JM
2.”Blurred Lines,” Robin Thicke
“Hey hey hey!” As far as sentiments go, it’s not much … and yet, try to find a better way to sum up Robin Thicke’s ubiquitous — and oddly litigious — smash, the year’s best-selling (6 million copies and counting), longest-reigning (12 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100) song. Some called it misogynistic, others found the video’s parade of topless females problematic, and hey, they’re both valid criticisms, but no one ever said “Blurred Lines” was the thinking man’s anthem.
Instead, focus on that beat, those boasts, or the blissed-out cameos by Pharrell and T.I. — and try not to feel happy for Thicke, who, after a decade in the trenches, finally made it to the top of the mountain. Regardless of what happens next, he’ll always have this, 2013’s signature song, one that’s sure to be a staple at weddings for the foreseeable future. — JM
She may never be “royal,” but Lorde’s chart-topping single will forever be enthroned in the collective cerebral cortex of the world. Although the anti-consumerist jam debuted in 2012, it gained traction in 2013 leading up to the release of the 17-year-old singer’s debut LP, Pure Heroine. The single hit the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 and scored Lorde the longest reign on the Alternative Songs chart by a lead female. Lorde’s mission statement — that “pop music doesn’t have to be stupid” — not only separated her from the rest of the field, but made her a singular star (and earned her a multi-million dollar publishing deal too).We guess she can live that fantasy. — Brenna Ehrlich