Idolator’s Favorite Miscellaneous Things Of 2013, From #JusticeForBionic To Morrissey’s ‘Autobiography’ To Miley 2.0
There was a lot to love in the world of pop music this year, but not everything that made 2013 excellent fell into the category of great tunes: While counting down our favorite songs of the year, the best EPs of 2013, and the records that we kept on heavy rotation, there was a surplus of other pop culture detritus that felt worth mentioning — even if you can’t buy any of it on iTunes.
What do we mean? Oh, y’know, the things that galvanized headlines and had us in stitches all year: The rise of a brand new Miley Cyrus, the Twitter movements to seek justice for pop songbirds Ke$ha and Christina Aguilera (respectively), innovative campaigns from Justin Bieber and Kanye West, and a whole lot of other stuff, too.
Head below to see everything Idolator editors loved in 2013 that didn’t make it onto any of our other lists.
The Reinvigoration of Christina Aguilera
The almighty Legendtina took a beating in 2012 with the underperformance of her opus Lotus, but lo and behold, if 2013 wasn’t Aguilera’s best year in a long minute: First off, there was the #JusticeForBionic movement, which saw the songstress’ underrated LP Bionic finally receiving the acclaim it deserved; after a rigorous diet of Sex For Breakfast, she returned to The Voice looking slimmer and more glam than ever; and she teamed up with A Great Big World on “Say Something” to give herself yet another major hit; and that feud with Lady Gaga was settled once and for all in a game-changing performance of “Do What U Want” that rendered the competition utterly and permanently irrelevant. If she stays on the upswing, there’s a good shot that 2014 will be better than ever for the pop diva. —SAM LANSKY
Justin Bieber’s #MusicMondays
Whether it was a shameless marketing ploy for Believe or a calculated rebranding ploy is beside the point. Justin Bieber released 10 of the strongest songs of his career with his #MusicMondays series, completing his transformation from laughable heartthrob into legit R&B force. Attach these songs to any other name, and the music buzz universe loses its hive-mind. -CARL WILLIOTT
Miley Cyrus spent most of 2013 shoveling dirt on Hannah Montana’s coffin. After relaunching as a tongue-poking twerk-enthusiast in the retrospectively tame “We Can’t Stop” video, the 21-year-old etched her name in the annals of pop culture by riding a wrecking ball sans clothes and fetishizing a foam finger at the MTV VMAs. Like many pop music observers, I didn’t know how to take Bangerz-era Miley to begin with, but what initially seemed forced and shocking now comes across as refreshingly kooky and cartoonish. She is the new Lady Gaga — only without the art school pretension. Well played. —MIKE WASS
Britney Jean Probably Killed Will.i.am’s Career (Thank God)
Put Dr. Luke at the helm of a Britney Spears album, and what happens? The back-to-back greatness of Circus and Femme Fatale, putting the Queen B on top of the charts and at the top of her game after a dark few years. But with Will.i.am at the helm of the superstar’s eighth studio album, Britney Jean, her radio performance and sales were worse than ever before. Nobody wanted to see Spears fail; she’s been one of the industry’s most reliable and consistent hitmakers, with nary a bum uptempo jam in her back catalogue. But my personal hope is that the floppery of Britney Jean will serve as the nail in the coffin of Will.i.am’s career, at least as a pop tunesmith. At the very least, the dismal performance of this last album ensures that Spears’ next effort should be largely Will-free. Praise Godney. —SAM LANSKY
Girls’ Generation’s “I Got A Boy” Video
If ever there was a way to begin the new year with a bang, it was this: On January 1, leading K-Pop kweens Girls’ Generation came busting out of the gate with their game-changing, genre-hopping Korean single, “I Got A Boy.” The accompanying video is as much of a sensory overload as the song, as the flaw-free nonuplets flaunt their fashion-forward style and hip-hop dance skills across several bright, neon-lit sets. The visual smorgasbord went on to become an international smash, notching roughly 10 million views in just over two days, and earning the ladies the (deserved) Video Of The Year win at the first-ever YouTube Awards. For those praying for a K-Pop crossover in Western pop, this was one of the year’s most major victories. —BRADLEY STERN
Everything Leading Up To Yeezus
First the masks, then the anti-corporate rants, then a months-long whisper campaign about a dark new Kanye West album with some Daft Punk involvement. It all came to a head when West debuted “New Slaves” by projecting the stark video onto some 60 buildings on May 17, followed a day later by his ferocious unveiling of “Black Skinhead” on SNL. Yeezus season was nothing short of the most wonderful time of the year. -CARL WILLIOTT
Azealia Banks: A Tale Of Embarrassment & Exhaustion
Centuries from now, historians will posit the question: “Whatever happened to Broke With Expensive Taste?” They’ll pore over Twitter logs and iTunes sales records, studying grainy Instagrams and Terry Richardson’s old backup hard drives. They’ll reach out to Pharrell, who will still look like he’s 25, and he’ll respond with a terse, “No comment.” And gradually, they’ll piece together the tale of how a hotly tipped young rapstress killed her own career through a humiliating parade of self-aggrandizement and delusions of grandeur, by espousing the use of homophobic slurs and feuding with her contemporaries, until the public was so exhausted with her that everyone just gave up. And they’ll put on “212” and say, “Man, this was a good song. Too bad Azealia was so awful.” —SAM LANSKY
The Ke$ha juggernaut ground to a screeching halt after the disastrous Warrior era, with her concerned fans looking for someone to blame. After all, the music was great. So the fault couldn’t lie with K$, could it? After some amateur detective work (ie. angry tweets from the diva’s mother), Animals placed a bullseye on super-producer Dr. Luke — arguing that he stifled the former hitmaker’s creativity (probably true) and thwarted her success by purposely releasing bad singles (completely irrational). That led to an initially amusing petition to free Ke$ha that ultimately made her a laughing stock when she reemerged in late 2013 with a career-saving hit courtesy of — you guessed it — Dr. Luke.
Look: I love Lady Dolla. I buy her albums and go to her shows. I even own a Get Sleazy hoodie! But she needs to wake up to the fact that no label will give her complete artistic freedom this early in her career. If that’s not acceptable, then there are hundreds of open mic nights across America where she can belt out terrible rock anthems over fuzzy guitar feedback to her heart’s content. Instead of fueling a vocal minority of her fans’ online douchebaggery, Ke$ha needs to reign them in and go back to being the smartest pop diva in the game. —MIKE WASS
Vin Diesel Covering Rihanna’s “Stay”
Sometimes music is a revelation, connecting moments and providing a brief clarity during this stressful, messy slog called life. This was not one of those times. Here, we’re left only with questions. Who was he singing to? Who was filming? Why did it happen in an empty room? Were drugs involved? What kind of tortured pain leads to that groaning sound at the very end? Oh, and why, God, why? -CARL WILLIOTT
One of music’s great mononymous treasures finally delivered on the longstanding promise of his unfiltered memoirs in 2013 — well, nearly unfiltered. while Morrissey‘s Autobiography became a UK bestseller in October, it arrived stateside in early December slightly edited down (censored?).
Naturally, given Moz’s penchant for witty bite and barb, several of his peers fall prey to the pop legend’s pen, making Autobiography into a shamefully guilty, laugh-out-loud pleasure at times. It’s not all negative, though, and even Morrissey’s innocent observations make for refreshing entertainment in this day of PR-tested over-politeness.
* A day spent in London with Michael Stipe: “We enter the Hammersmith Odean through the stage door, and six minutes later Michael walks on stage with REM. He is wearing the same clothes that he has worn all day, and he hasn’t brushed his teeth.”
* Breakfast with David Bowie: “David quietly tells me, ‘You know, I’ve had so much sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive,’ and I loudly tell him, ‘You know, I’ve had SO LITTLE sex and drugs that I can’t believe I’m still alive.”
* Meeting the “shockingly down-to-earth” Elton John: “He tells me how he loved the New York Dolls and Jobriath, but how he considered Bowie to be ‘a vampire’.”
* On being a candidate for major label megastardom in the ’90s: “…I am reliably informed how Warner need a massively successful ‘act’ who is ‘alternative’… I hear nothing more but I note the immediate meteoric Warner rise of Alanis Morissette — the incongruous promotional manifesto enveloping her first album that shifts 27 million copies worldwide. Evidently Alanis had all that I lacked in order to gain a saturated global push.”
* A pair-up with Robbie Williams that never happened: “I am then invited to sing with Robbie at the upcoming Brit Awards, of which Robbie has somehow collected eighteen (it need hardly be said that my own award cabinet rained polished and empty).” -ROBBIE DAW
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