75. “Breakfast Can Wait”
The always enigmatic Prince plays by his own rules. Long gone are the days of elaborate album projects that spawn tour de force pop hits, but the quality of his work is unwavering. His stand-alone single, “Breakfast Can Wait,” is a brilliant example of The Purple One’s natural, ingenious ability to craft the perfect song. This particular one is as smooth, sultry, and guiltlessly catchy as some of his best work.
Youth Lagoon’s Wondrous Bughouse wasn’t the most talked about alternative albums of the year, but it was easily one of the best. The standout cut, “Mute,” is an incredible example of what makes both the record and the artist so great. The track is wild and psychedelic, swirling with a trippy atmosphere. With an abundance of effects, there’s a dreaminess to it that almost transcends emotion altogether.
NOTE: At the time of publication, Lady Gaga and R. Kelly’s “Do What U Want” was included. It is no longer considered a part of this list.
Sigur Rós’ Kveikur album was darker, heavier, and more intense than their previous works, but everything that makes the group so incredible still managed to resonate throughout. Its lead single, “Brennisteinn,” is an almost-8 minute voyage through the depths of our souls, with an arrangement so possessed and emotionally heightened, that by the time it reaches its peaceful finale, we’re contently exhausted.
71. “All Night”
Swedish duo Icona Pop earned themselves a major international hit with the unstoppable “I Love It,” but the pair had a few more tricks up their sleeves than the public was generally willing to pay attention to. Their single “All Night,” on all accounts, is a better song than their mega-hit. The song has a similar unison vocal delivery, but an incredible pop melody with immense depth that generates a great deal of power.
Mariah Carey featuring Miguel
We should all know by now that Mariah Carey is never someone to write off. Once again, 2013 saw her struggling in the commercial realm with a string of lackluster singles, but when she finally landed on “#Beautiful,” she had all of our attention. With an overly-prominent guest spot from Miguel, who actually controls most of the song, when you take the track at face value, you have to call it impressive.
69. “Dark And Stormy”
Very few electropop groups are able so carry themselves as indie superstars as well as Hot Chip. Their beautifully funky single “Dark and Stormy” feels like it could have been released verbatim by any major alternative group and have it still make sense, but the fact that it remains so characteristically “Hot Chip” speaks volume to both their range and their ability to have a definitive sound.
68. “Melody Calling”
The Vaccines are clearly making it a point to release as much music as they can as soon as they can. In 2013, we were given the under-the-radar Melody Calling EP. The title track is incredible proof that, even though they’re working to hit their prolific stride, they’re still evolving. “Melody Calling” is fittingly far more melodic and polished than what we’re used to hearing, but it isn’t lacking any of the group’s raw charm.
67. “Body Party”
It’s not as easy to make a smooth and sexy track without it crossing over into x-rated territory as you think. Ciara flawlessly pulled off her 2013 single “Body Party” with just that intention. Not only is the production quality through the roof, but her thin, sultry vocals drive the addictive melody, and she never takes it to a sleazy level. This is a song to make love to, and still feel good about having some fun with it.
66. “Pyramid Scheme”
Mat Zo featuring Chuck D
There’s one EDM mastermind who is clearly on the verge of breaking out into the top-40, but may just be a little too good to leave his “cool status” aside for superstardom. Mat Zo unleashed his single “Pyramid Scheme” on us this year, featuring sampled vocals from the one and only Chuck D, and really illustrated just how brilliant and intuitive he is. The track is a diamond buried inside a very contrived pile of dance music.
65. “No Destruction”
Alt rock duo Foxygen’s “No Destruction” feels like a rejuvenation of 60s peace and love, yet still manages to feel completely relevant. With verses inspired by Bob Dylan and chorus that could have been crafted by the Mamas and the Papas, it’s really the Rolling Stones personality injected throughout that makes it so undeniably cool. With that said, “No Destruction” still feels completely original.
When Neko Case releases new music, it’s always noteworthy. Her 2013 album, The Worse Things Get, The Harder I Fight, The Harder I Fight, The More I Love You, didn’t spawn any singles, but its most noteworthy album cut, “Man” really made some headway all on its own. The delicately frenzied track is bedazzled with touches of country and even a bit of harpsichord, but it’s her lyrics that are the most exciting.
63. “Shot At The Night”
It’s a hard pill to swallow for most of us that The Killers reached the point of releasing a greatest hits collection this year, but they were able to distract us from feeling out with their celebratory single “Shot At The Night.” Produced by one half of the epically brilliant M83, the song is pretty much every 80s power anthem combined and regurgitated, but in a stunningly beautiful fashion. Only The Killers could make it not feel cheesy.
62. “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?”
2013 might have been the biggest year yet for the Arctic Monkeys. Their AM album was highly successful, both critically and commercially, and spawned several noteworthy singles, including the near-flawless “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re Hight?” The slinky, mid-tempo track is so intricately produced that you almost forget how simple and effortless it is, but that actually makes the song that much more endearing.
61. “Picasso Baby”
Jay-Z’s boldly titled Magna Carta…Holy Grail LP hardly lived up to the hype, but it did have a great moment or two. “Picasso Baby” was, fittingly, the album’s greatest work of art. With a live instrumentation-feel to the track, Jay lays down verses referencing every famous artist imaginable, but it manages to actually sound cool, albeit endearingly egotistical. The track shows Hov is still a master when he wants to be.
Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires Of The City was one of 2013’s more important records of any genre, but in the indie (both pop and rock) realm, it was an unparalleled juggernaut. “Unbelievers,” the third overall single from the album, was a clear standout. The pleasantly upbeat pop number is infused with the delicate touch of an organ, but authoritative melodies that you’ll keep wanting more of.
After the release of their Singles collection last year, Goldfrapp officially declared themselves one of pop’s most intriguing and important pop duos. The first single we heard on the other side of that collection, “Drew,” was the last nail in that coffin. Returning to a simpler, more orchestral sound, the track reminds us how good they are at crafting a strikingly beautiful song and making us want to press replay.
58. “Evil Friends”
Portugal. The Man
The title track and lead single from Portugal. The Man’s 7th studio album, Evil Friends, is a modern marvel of psychedelic rock. Masterfully produced by Danger Mouse, the track swirls in and out of various sounds, tempos, and moods, completely disregarding any ties to a normal pop structure. The energy that radiates out of “Evil Friends” ironically feels joyous and charming, but strikingly anthemic, as well.
57. “Beauty Queen”
Whereas she made a name for herself as a featured vocalist on Zedd’s hit “Clarity,” Foxes still managed to showcase what she has to offer all on her own. Although she didn’t light up the charts in quite the same way, her single “Beauty Queen” is a masterfully crafted alternative semi-electropop song. The sound wall that we’re slammed into at the chorus is epic, but it’s the way she gets us there that makes the song so great.
56. “We Found Love”
Indie rock’s most intriguing new act, Palma Violets, didn’t create tidal waves with their debut LP, 180, as much as they did a noticeable ripple effect. “We Found Love” is a track that truly exemplifies just how much ability they have to create that wave though. The linear song has many phases in just a short time period, each one as brilliant as one before, and, believe me, it will give you chills every time.
55. “Right Action”
Ever since we first heard that epic riff in “Take Me Out,” Franz Ferdinand have always been a compelling band. It’s clear now that they’re more than content being indie rock gods, but they will never give up their dazzling pop sensibility. The more-or-less title track from their 4th album, Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action, is a prime cut of Franz Ferdinand brilliance; it’s just the right amount of wacky.
Pet Shop Boys
There is no pop duo as important, inventive, and brilliant as the Pet Shop Boys. The pair teamed up with Stuart Price to producer their 12th studio album Electric this year, which spawned an expectedly epic single in the most unexpected way. “Axis” is almost entirely instrumental, setting aside frontman Neil Tennant’s vocals in favor of a vast landscape of unrelenting synthesizers and pulsing energy.
53. “Doin’ It Right”
Daft Punk featuring Panda Bear
While Daft Punk’s collaborations with Pharrell and Nile Rogers earned the most attention, Random Access Memories was an album with a great deal of depth and range. Their collaboration with Animal Collective’s Panda Bear, “Don’ It Right,” was a clear standout. The track is almost overly simplified, using a vocoder-effected vocal line as an instrumental part, but it packs an explosive amount of punch.
52. “Hold On, We’re Going Home”
Drake featuring Majid Johnson
2013 was certainly the Year of the Throwback, but unlike most of this year’s other hits, Drake decided to go back to the 80s. His hit single “Hold On, We’re Going Home,” instrumentally sounds like a modern update on Thriller-era Michael Jackson, with a melody so sweet and soulful that we almost forget that he doesn’t actually rap a single line throughout the track. He pulls it off with ease.
Empire Of The Sun
Australian duo Empire Of The Sun are almost too cartoon-like to take seriously at face value, but when you actually hear them, it all makes sense. Their single, “Alive,” the first lifted from their sophomore LP, Ice On The Dune, is electropop genius in every aspect imaginable. The hooks, both vocal and synthesized, are incredible, but the guiltless euphoria that radiates from the track is truly outstanding.