Friday, 27 December 2013

The Best Of 2013 - part 2

JUMP TO: 100-81 II 80-61 II 60-41 II 40-21 II 20-1

At the start of 2013, I decided I had reality singing competition fatigue. And so, I went cold turkey. For the first year since before Popstars and Idol began, I didn't watch anyone's "journey" or endure another big band week. As big a pop fan as I am, I just couldn't sit through any more seasons of IdolThe X Factor or The Voice - from anywhere in the world - after years of watching multiple versions of each.

Would Union J have been bigger if they'd had "the blond one"?

Coincidentally, you won't be seeing Harrison Craig, Dami Im, Sam Bailey, Candice Glover or any other 2013 reality show winner feature in this list. Even though I didn't tune in, if any of them had released a half-decent single since their respective shows ended they could still have made the grade. But, they didn't. As it turns out, there are already more than enough former reality contestants releasing good music - and here's one now...

Number 80 "Soothe My Soul" by Depeche Mode

One of the highlights of my year was getting to see Depeche Mode play the O2 Arena in London while I was there on holidays in May - the first concert of theirs I've seen since 1994. It was worth the wait and one of the best shows I've been to in ages. Matters were helped by the fact that the gig was to promote Delta Machine, which was a much better album than their previous one, Sounds Of The Universe - and this second single was easily the best track on it.

Number 79 "Just Give Me A Reason" by Pink featuring Nate Ruess

Sometimes you hear a song for the first time and just know it's going to be a massive hit. That was the case with this third single from Pink's The Truth About Love album. I tweeted as much, and then had to promptly delete my tweet since apparently there was a review embargo in place - but the sentiment was there. The track was eventually released, giving Pink yet another number 1 in Australia and providing co-vocalist Nate Ruess from fun. with his first taste of solo success.

Number 78 "Loving You" by Matt Cardle / Melanie C

The seventh season of The X Factor UK, which took place in 2010, was a pretty good one - and thanks to the wonders of YouTube, I managed to watch all the live finals. Besides winner Matt, finalists included One Direction, Rebecca Furgeson, Aiden Grimshaw and Cher Lloyd, all of whom are still recording. It was also the year of Wagner, so there is that. Like many winners before him, Matt "parted ways" with Syco Records after just one album but has continued to release music independently. I never paid that much attention to his output until this lead single from his third album, Porcelain, which not only featured Sporty Spice (whose commitment to the cause extended to making out with Matt in the music video), but also gave him his highest chart position in the UK in two years.

Number 77 "NYC" by Dido

Blast from the past, hey? Dido was to the early '00s what Adele has been to the early '10s - and then... nothing. She did return after a five-year break in 2008 with a new studio album and then again earlier this year with another - but both Safe Trip Home and Girl Who Got Away sold a fraction of the amount of copies that either No Angel or Life For Rent did. With Christmas approaching, what better time to whack out a best of? An unexpected bonus was that "NYC", the sole new track on Greatest Hits, is the best thing she's done in about a decade.

Number 76 "Take Off" by Conor Maynard

Britain's Bieber released the first single from his forthcoming second album in 2013. This wasn't it. Instead, "Take Off" is an album track from his debut, Contrast, that I thought could have been a hit. The song title was also the name of one of those ridiculous "autobiographies" twentysomething pop stars put out to squeeze even more money out of their must-have-it-all fan bases. As for that single from album number two? "R U Crazy" was OK, but I'm hopeful there'll be better on the album when it surfaces in 2014. 

Number 75 "Venus" by Lady Gaga

With lyrics The B-52's would be proud of, this promotional track released ahead of ARTPOP has kind of been lost in the mix a little bit. That's a bit of a shame since there aren't that many other good songs left on the album to promote as proper singles and "Venus" might have been a good one for Gaga to have kept up her sleeve.

Number 74 "Of The Night" by Bastille

I played the Corona version of "The Rhythm Of The Night" on Christmas Day to my surprised 12-year-old nephew and 10-year-old niece, both fans of this Bastille remake, who didn't realise "Of The Night" was a cover. There's no beating the original, but this dark reimagining of the Eurodance classic, which also works in a bit of Snap!'s "Rhythm Is A Dancer" for good measure, gives it a decent shot.

Number 73 "Satellite" by Little Boots

We saw her in Part 1 and here she is again: the artist born Victoria Hesketh with the fifth and final (to date) single from Nocturnes. Besides this song and "Broken Record", third single "Motorway" ranks as my number 135 for the year, while the album is my third favourite for 2013.

Number 72 "Music To Make Boys Cry" by Diana Vickers

Another former UK X Factor contestant - this time from the fifth season in 2008 (which also spawned Alexandra Burke and JLS). Diana finished fourth, hit the UK number 1 spot with her debut single, "Once", and... parted ways with RCA (not quite Syco, but close enough) after one album. This is the title track from her eventual second album (it took three years), which we'll hear more about shortly...

Number 71 "Hey Porsche" by Nelly

I'd pretty much given up on Nelly - and I've always said he's my favourite rapper, thanks to songs like "Dilemma", "Hot In Herre", "Tilt Ya Head Back" and "Ride Wit Me". But, nothing he's released since about 2005 has truly excited me and his last single that I liked at all was 2010's "Just A Dream". So, I was happy he finally came up with the goods with this lead single from the M.O. album in which he relocated the sense of fun that had characterised his early hits.

Number 70 "Closure" by Owl Eyes

Just for a change, here's a former contestant from an Australian reality show - Australian Idol, in fact. Brooke Addamo made the top 12 (she came 11th) in the sixth season of the show - Wes Carr was that year's winner - and now records under the name Owl Eyes. After a few years spent releasing EPs, she unveiled her debut album, Nightswim, in 2013. The Fleetwood Mac-referencing "Closure" was one of the singles lifted from it and fits in perfectly with all the other ethereal synthpop I listen to.

Number 69 "Burn" by Ellie Goulding

Speaking of... here's one of the leading purveyors of dreamy electronic pop music. "Burn" was a new track added to the repackage of Halcyon (called, what else, Halcyon Days) and it ended up becoming one of Ellie's most successful singles so far. Another big hit for Ellie in 2013 was her Calvin Harris collaboration, "I Need Your Love", but I think her voice suits songs like "Burn" more than harder-sounding dance tracks like that.

Number 68 "Walking On Air" by Katy Perry

Like Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars had all done, Katy cottoned on to the idea of drip-feeding new songs from her latest album, Prism, to the pubic in the weeks leading up to its release - and this early '90s-inspired dance anthem was one of them. With big piano chords and a hands-in-the-air chorus, I would've expected it to be much higher on this list, but something about Katy's voice on this type of track just didn't work for me. A great idea pretty well executed, but a house diva she ain't.

Number 67 "Remix (I Like The)" by New Kids On The Block

I was never the most massive New Kids On The Block fan - they only rank number 18 on my top 20 boy band list - but I really liked this song from this year's 10 album. In fact, it's only bettered by "Step By Step" and the NKOTBSB track "Don't Turn Out The Lights". I might be the only one who thinks that, since it became their first lead single from an album to miss the Billboard Hot 100 since their debut single way back in 1986.

Number 66 "Center Of The Universe" by Axwell

With Swedish House Mafia disbanded, the three members went back to their own projects - and this track by the DJ born Axel Hedfors is my favourite to have emerged so far (Sebastian Ingrosso's "Reload" is a distant second at number 156 on this list). Fun fact: "Center Of The Universe" features vocals by former Alcazar singer Magnus Carlsson.

Number 65 "Cinderella" by Diana Vickers

OK, back to Diana. "Cinderella" was the lead single from Music To Make Boys Cry, an album that was entirely co-written by Xenomania's Miranda Cooper and co-produced by ex-Scritti Politti member David Gamson. Given their involvement, the synthpop feel of the album wouldn't ordinarily be that surprising, but Diana left RCA Records because she apparently wanted a less commercial, more indie rock feel. Guess she changed her mind on that front.

Number 64 "Carry You" by Union J

Just for something different... more former X Factor UK finalists - I told you there were plenty of them around. Formed in 2012 during the ninth season out of three-piece Triple J (Josh Cuthbert, JJ Hamblett and Jaymi Hensley) and solo contender George Shelley, the new pop union (see what they did there?) ended up finishing fourth (James Arthur was the winner).
Although they've been nowhere near as successful as One Direction (despite a bizarre inclusion in Kick-Ass 2  clearly aimed at breaking them in the US), Union J did release my second favourite single by a boy band in 2013 - besting 1D, The Wanted, and old-timers Blue and NKOTB. My favourite boy band song for the year? We'll get to it in Part 4, and it's by another former X Factor UK group.

Number 63 "World On Fire" by The Royal Concept

It's back to Scandinavia for an electro-rock single by this band, that I discovered thanks to an Entertainment Weekly "Like this? Try..." feature. I can't remember which act The Royal Concept was compared to - but I liked this song anyway, so thanks for the recommendation, EW.

Number 62 "One More Summer" by No Doubt

Next, an album track double play. As a general rule, I wait for an artist to finish releasing official singles from an album before I start deciding what songs they've overlooked and give them the attention they deserve. So, after the under-appreciated Push And Shove album was more or less abandoned at the end of 2012 following two under-performing singles, I latched on to this '80s-sounding track in 2013.

Number 61 "Glassheart" by Leona Lewis

As I write, Leona is enjoying her biggest hit in some time with her festive single, "One More Sleep", but she lands here with this dance track from her 2012 album of the same name. Exactly why Leona's career has gone so wrong since the success of her debut album is unclear - although bad single choices and confusion about what type of artist she is have certainly played a large part.

In Part 3: a singer with her best single since the early '90s, a pair of Idol runners-up and yet another DJ from Sweden.

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