- Dance music both retro and experimental ruled the best pop albums of 2013.
The return of the futuristic electronic dance duo Daft Punk was one of the most instantly familiar and retro sounding major releases of the year. However, just enough of the pair's trademark robot style was present to also make Random Access Memories thrillingly contemporary. Kudos to the pair for bringing legends Nile Rodgers and Giorgio Moroder to a new generation of pop fans and giving us "Get Lucky," the biggest pure disco hit in decades.
The story of Avicii's long awaited debut studio album began in March 2013 at the Ultra Music Festival. His blending of country and bluegrass sounds with electronic dance music alarmed the guardians of dance music tradition. Avicii accomplished his goal of disrupting the dance music scene while unleashing "Wake Me Up," one of the biggest worldwide pop hits of the year, and one of the most engrossing, if a bit wacky, pop albums of the year.
If you dig under the controversy and the furor over twerking and the foam finger at the MTV Video Music Awards, Miley Cyrus created one of the best mainstream pop albums of the year. Brimming with hooks, danceable beats, and big doses of humor, Bangerz instantly trounced any of the young star's albums that came before. Look well beyond "Wrecking Ball," there is plenty to like here.
Los Angeles based trio Haim were one of the most hyped new pop acts of the year. They won the BBC's celebrated Sound Of poll to begin the year. That made them a rare US act to be honored in this fashion. When their debut album Days Are Gone appeared, Haim more than fulfilled the hype. This is an album to go back to over and over.
Beyonce surprised nearly everyone with the release of this album just before Christmas after zero advance promotion. The album came out complete with music videos. Beneath all the sensation it created, this is a very solid album. It moves beyond her last album 4 and finds Beyonce pushing boundaries once again while digging into her personal feminist philosophy. Beyonce is a star the pop music world needs.
Lorde is a teenage pop star who smashed the usual model of teen stars with one anti-materialistic smash hit "Royals." Her debut album, while having a few weak moments, introduces a bracing new talent. Atmospheric, thoughtful, and catchy, Pure Heroine fulfilled the promise of Lorde's debut hit.
James Blake's self-titled debut album was deservedly celebrated. Here on his second collection he gets even better. The songs are tighter with mesmerizing, brooding hooks. Overgrown won the UK's prestigious Mercury Prize for best album released by an artist from the UK or Ireland. James Blake is one of the most promising new recording artists to emerge in recent years.
Elton John returns to the stately piano rock of his early albums and creates an intimate album that proves he still has ideas that deserve sharing. Bernie Taupin remains one of the most compelling pop lyricists of the past 50 years and Elton John's piano work has never been better.
Sara Bareilles continues to prove here that she is one of the most talented of mainstream pop singer-songwriters. She digs into personal conflict on The Blessed Unrest and comes up with songs as instantly catchy as the hit "Brave" and the Carole King tribute "Little Black Dress."
It looks like boy band One Direction want to stay around awhile. Midnight Memories finds them giving their sound more depth as on the reflective hit single "Story Of My Life" and adding a few rock edges to their peppy pop. This is well crafted mainstream pop with true crowd appeal.