2013’s Best Albums: Idolator Editors Pick Their Favorite 10

Idolator Staff | December 6, 2013 5:40 am

Pop made a major resurgence in the latter half of the previous decade, and brought us bright new stars like Rihanna, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus, Ke$ha and One Direction. But when all the dust on the past 12 months finally settles, 2013 may very well prove to be the year that Big Pop first began to go bust. Don’t stress too much about it, though — there’s a cyclical ebb and flow with this tide we call music, and today’s Syron may very well wind up being tomorrow’s Britney.

And so here we are in early December, bringing you our annual roundup of the year’s 10 best albums, as chosen by the Idolator crew made up of Robbie Daw, Sam Lansky, Carl Williott, Mike Wass and Bradley Stern. Aside from one iconic dance-pop act, a pair of hip hop luminaries and a sibling indie pop pair who surprised us all with the turn they took with their seventh album, a bulk of our picks are symbolic of the new breed of artists making an impression on the musical landscape. We probably wouldn’t have predicted their inclusion here a year ago — or even known who one or two of them were — but if Baauer taught us anything in 2013 (don’t worry — he’s not on this list), it was to expect the unexpected.

Head below to see the fresh new faces and the seasoned acts who bent our ears in their direction, and gave us our favorite 10 albums of the year.

10. M.I.A., Matangi Released: November 5

Everyone spent the first half of 2013 gleefully nodding along to smooth smashes like “Get Lucky” and 20/20 Part 1. Then Yeezus came along, and everything else sounded bland and boring. Matangi managed to stand out post-Yeezus by combining the chaos of that album with the head-bobbing calm of the “Blurred Lines” era, resulting in a jittery, playful jumble of sounds with a surprisingly heavy R&B influence throughout.

M.I.A.’s collage-music approach has never sounded so natural, her dual nature never so fluid. Matangi is snotty pop, it’s cheery protest music, it’s religious music that manages to not suck. And it’s the most consistent, inviting album of her career. — CARL WILLIOTT

9. Selena Gomez, Stars Dance Released: July 23

Some critics dismissed Selena Gomez’s debut album as a solo artist as formulaic and one-dimensional, but they seemed to have missed the point. Stars Dance celebrates easily consumed EDM as unabashedly as Kylie’s Fever or Madonna’s Confessions On A Dance Floor. It’s not meant to be deep and meaningful (although songs like “Love Will Remember” definitely pack an emotional punch), but irreverent, contagious fun. And it certainly delivers on that promise.

World music-flavored lead single “Come & Get It” was, for some, the song of the summer, while follow-up “Slow Down” made clubs hum for months. Impressively, there’s no shortage of potential hits on the album. The spooky electro title track would sound great on radio, “Birthday” has been heartily embraced by fans and “Like A Champion” is already being played at major sporting events. Oh, and “Undercover” rhymes “sexy machine” with “Hollywood dream”, so you know it’s future cult classic. — MIKE WASS

8. Kacey Musgraves, Same Trailer Different Park Released: March 19

In a year without a new album from Taylor Swift, Kacey Musgraves provided what was both a substitute and an antithesis to fresh tunes from pop-country’s reigning queen: Musgraves’ major-label debut Same Trailer Different Park is drawn with details just as fine and heartbreaking, with a similarly precocious gift for songcraft. But where Swift trades in fantasy and archetypes, Musgraves is all true Southern grit, as brazenly modern as anyone in her class. There are the dead-end jobs and trailer parks that have always populated country music, sure, but Musgraves’ ferociously clever and audaciously honest take on sex, drugs and loneliness puts her in a league all her own. “Follow Your Arrow” is a laissez-faire anthem for a generation; “Merry Go ‘Round” is a hauntingly accurate portrait of small-town life; “It Is What It Is” is the saddest song about friends with benefits you’ve ever heard. It’s as close to a perfect album as any this year. — SAM LANSKY