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Because it is almost the end of the year, I will present you some lists of the best things that happened in pop music in 2013. Today, it is time for the list of the 20 best pop albums released in 2013. Let’s have a look!
20. Bastille – Bad Blood
Bastille is one of the most exciting new acts that broke through this year. Bad Blood is a great record with a distinctive sound, mostly because of the singer Dan’s warm vocal style. ‘Pompeii’, ‘Things We Lost In The Fire’ and ‘Laura Palmer’ are all brilliant songs with a great production and instrumentation. Impressive debut!
19. Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest
A deserved Grammy nomination for this one. Sara Bareilles released an impressive album with amazing songs like ‘Brave’, ‘Hercules’, ‘Cassiopeia’ and the gorgeous ballad ‘Islands’. Sara always released good albums, but it feels like this time, everything is even a little better and this style fits her completely.
18. Marco Mengoni – #ProntoACorrere
Marco Mengoni represented Italy at the Eurovision Song Contest with the wonderful ballad ‘L’Essenziale’. On his album, he shows he also sounds great on up tempo pop songs like ‘Non Me Ne Accorgo’ and the title track. His voice is amazing and the hooks on the tracks are extremely catchy. No wonder this was one of the most successful albums of the year in Italy.
17. Emmelie De Forest – Only Teardrops
The Danish Emmelie De Forest won this year’s Eurovision Song Contest, but ‘Only Teardrops’ was not the only good song she put out this year. Her debut album was full of good pop tracks in the same style as her Eurovision song. She shows she is more than a one hit wonder with this album and I hope we will get to enjoy more of her music in the next few years.
16. Ellie Goulding – Halcyon Days
Ellie Goulding came up with a re-release of her brilliant album Halcyon, now called Halcyon Days. She had huge hits with ‘Burn’ and ‘How Long Will I Love You?’ and the other tracks on this new version are great too. It is not the best collection she released so far (how could she ever top Halcyon?), but still she once again managed to put out wonderful songs like ‘Hearts Without Chains’ and ‘You, My Everything’.
15. Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monáe’s eclectic mix of R&B, soul, pop, funk, hip-hop and more, delivered us some amazing songs on her debut record The ArchAndroid. Her second effort does not disappoint with some of the best songs in her career so far, like the beautiful duet ‘PrimeTime’ with Miguel. The album has great variation but still feels like an extremely cohesive work of art. Janelle Monáe never disappoints.
14. Natalia Kills – Trouble
Natalia Kills came back with a surprisingly strong second album. Where her first record was quite hit and miss, Trouble is a more cohesive body of work with a higher quality of songs throughout the album. From the emotional ‘Saturday Night’ to the bonkers ‘Rabbit Hole’, Natalia Kills impressed with a great collection of strong pop songs.
13. AlunaGeorge – Body Music
AlunaGeorge was one of the most promising new acts this year and they absolutely delivered with their album. Their electronic style with Aluna’s distinctive vocals are immediately recognizable. Their singles ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ and ‘Attracting Flies’ are the best songs on the album, but almost every track has a memorable chorus and a great production.
12. Anouk – Sad Singalong Songs
Dutch singer Anouk left rock music behind for a bit and made an orchestral album full of beautiful ballads. She represented the Netherlands at Eurovision with the gorgeous ‘Birds’ and songs like ‘Kill’, ‘Stardust’ and ‘The Good Life’ all have that same cinematic and captivating quality. The lyrics are heartfelt and personal and Anouk’s voice sounds better than ever.
11. Icona Pop – This Is…
These Swedish girls had an enormous hit with the amazing single ‘I Love It’, but they showed they have more to give with their album. Their music is a bouncing mix of pop, electro and dance and literally every track has a huge chorus with a great hook. Absolutely one of the best and catchiest releases of the year.
10. Diana Vickers – Music To Make Boys Cry
Diana Vickers took some years to record her second album, but it was definitely worth the wait. She changed her style a bit and focuses more on electro pop these days. Music To Make Boys Cry is a cute little record with a handful strong pop songs with great hooks and memorable choruses. The title track, ‘Cinderella’, ‘Boy In Paris’ and ‘Dead Heat’ should have all been hit singles.
09. Lady Gaga – ARTPOP
Lady Gaga will always have to deal with huge expectations when it comes to the release of her albums and there will always be people who are disappointed with her new output. For me however, ARTPOP is a decent pop record with some great tracks on it. It is not her best work so far (The Fame Monster says hello), but still ‘Applause’, ‘Sexxx Dreams’, ‘Do What U Want’ and ‘Venus’ show she still knows how to write huge choruses.
08. Beyoncé – BEYONCÉ
I waited until the last day of the year to complete this list, as I could not predict if any artist would ‘pull a Beyoncé’ and release a record out of the blue. She surprised the world with this interesting, cohesive and captivating album. Almost every track on there sounds fresh and it seems Beyoncé found the style that fits her best. ‘Haunted’, ‘XO’, ‘Mine’ and ‘Jealous’ are all brilliant tracks and with every listen another song stands out. Great work Bee, we now understand why it took you so long!
07. Lorde – Pure Heroine
The success of the young singer Lorde from New-Zealand might be one of the biggest surprises of the year. It is still hard to imagine how a then sixteen-year-old was capable of creating such a cohesive, well-written album full of huge tunes. Not only singles ‘Royals’ and ‘Tennis Court’ are great songs, but she shows her talents on beautiful and catchy songs like ‘White Teeth Teens’ and ‘Buzzcut Season’ as well. If she is this good at the age of 16, what will happen when she is a grown woman?
06. Birdy – Fire Within
If any artist this year showed how she grew and matured musically, it is Birdy. After releasing an album full of covers as her debut, she did co-write her whole second album with a surprisingly strong record as a result. Beautiful ballads like ‘Words As Weapons’, ‘Strange Birds’ and ‘No Angel’ are still an important part of her music, but she also tries new, more up tempo sounds on ‘Light Me Up’, ‘Wings’ and ‘Standing In The Way Of The Light’, which fits her wonderful vocals perfectly. Definitely one of the most impressive albums of the year.
05. Charli XCX – True Romance
Charli XCX, known for her feature and co-writing on Icona Pop’s ‘I Love It’, released a brilliant debut album herself this year. True Romance is an album full of slick, stylish and pumping electro pop. Her lyrics are sharp, the beats are fat and her vocal style is immediately recognizable. Tracks like ‘You (Ha Ha Ha), ‘You’re The One’ and ‘Nuclear Seasons’ all have huge choruses with killer hooks. This young woman knows how to write some perfect pop tracks, ladies and gentlemen!
04. Gabrielle Aplin – English Rain
Gabrielle Aplin has been working very hard for quite a few years, but in 2013 she finally dropped her first record ‘English Rain’. Her voice sounds angelic, her lyrics are strong and often relatable and the melodies are beautiful. The album deals with a broad range of emotions and Gabrielle is convincing as the teller of the stories. She is angry on ‘Keep On Walking’, thankful on ‘Salvation’, done with a relationship on ‘Panic Cord’ and cautious on ‘Please Don’t Say You Love Me’. This album has a great variety of strong songs and that voice is just lovely.
03. Miley Cyrus – Bangerz
The most talked about pop star of the year did not only twerk, she made a pretty great album as well. Singles ‘We Can’t Stop’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’ are both brilliant, but Miley proved to be capable of even more. There are a few missteps on this record (‘SMS (Bangerz)’ and ‘Love Money Party’), but the heights, such as the singles, ‘Drive’, ‘FU’,‘4×4’ and ‘Someone Else’ are all so good that it makes you forget not every song is perfect. Miley Cyrus proved herself to be an interesting pop star with some great tracks!
02. Haim – Days Are Gone
Band of sisters Haim started the year with huge expectations after they won the Sound of 2013 poll. They did not disappoint with their debut record ‘Days Are Gone’ with a great recognizable sound and eleven strong tracks. The first single ‘Forever’ is still the standout track, but songs like ‘Falling’, ‘Days Are Gone’ and ‘Let Me Go’ all show their song writing talents. The sisters created an own sound and delivered a cohesive album that never bores.
01. Laura Jansen – Elba
The best album of 2013 came from an unexpected place for me, but Dutch singer-songwriter Laura Jansen delivered a truly impressive album. First single ‘Queen Of Elba’ is one of my favourite songs of the year and basically all tracks on the album are great. The lyrics are all well written, touching and tell very personal stories and the melodies are utterly gorgeous. From the uplifting ‘Golden’ to the emotional ballad ‘A Call To Arms’ and the more electronic ‘Lighthouse’ and from the great mash-up ‘Smalltown (Come Home)’ to the heartbreaking and personal ‘Pretty Me’, literally everything about this album is right. She crowned herself the queen of Elba, I crown her the album queen of the year!
Janelle Monáe delivers another flawless record
When Janelle Monáe released her first full record, The ArchAndroid, in 2010, she received huge praise from the music critics. They almost unanimously declared the album as one of the best of that year. Monáe took three years to come back with her second album. The singer released The Electric Lady in September this year, once again receiving raving reviews everywhere, and rightfully so.
The Electric Lady continues the story she was telling on The ArchAndroid and her debut EP Metropolis. Just like The ArchAndroid, The Electric Lady is divided in two parts, Suites 4 and 5, following the 3 suites found on her previous material. The story about the android Cindi Mayweather also returns on this record. The album starts with a great collaboration with Prince, on which she sings she is ‘giving ‘em what they love’. She continues to give us what we love on basically every track.
Other than superstar Prince, there are lots of other featuring artists on this album. We already heard Erykah Badu on the banging female power anthem ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’, full raps and hip hop influences, which was released as the first single. On the catchy title track ‘Electric Lady’, soul, R&B and pop singer Solange adds some (backing) vocals and her voice works perfectly well together with Monáe’s sound. Janelle duets with jazz musician Esperanza Spalding on ‘Dorothy Dandridge Eyes’. The best collaboration however, is the third single ‘PrimeTime’ with Miguel (who had a big hit with ‘Adorn’ and worked with Mariah Carey on her comeback single ‘#Beautiful’ earlier this year). ‘PrimeTime’ is definitely one of the most romantic, sweet, smooth and sensual duets released in quite some time. Both Miguel and Janelle sound completely gorgeous and convincing in their solo parts and together, their voices blend together like they were basically meant for each other.
Suite 4, the first half of the album, consists mainly of up tempo tracks, like the carefree, catchy and contagious second single ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ and the beautiful and straightforward ‘We Were Rock & Roll’. The first part ends with the sweet little song ‘Look Into My Eyes’ and this sets the mood for Suite 5. The majority of this part is more down tempo, consisting of a few beautiful and romantic ballads. On the lovely ‘Cant Live Without Your Love’, Janelle describes the intensity of going through a heartbreak and on ‘It’s Code’ she begs someone to ‘hold me, and love me until I want no more, and need me until I need no more’, in some truly emotional passages.
The highlight of the second part is ‘Victory’. Janelle turned a simple, but true message like ‘to be victorious, you must find glory in the little things’, in an amazing track. The lyrics are on point and her voice sounds incredible in the chorus. The last track describes the feeling after hearing this album; ‘What An Experience’ indeed! It is a worthy closer to a perfectly cohesive album that at the same time manages to experiment with many different sounds and styles. The Electric Lady mixes soul, pop, R&B, hip hop and jazz effortlessly. Janelle’s crystal clear vocals, in combination with her impressive song writing make this album into one of the best things released this year.
Must Listen: PrimeTime (feat. Miguel), Victory, Electric Lady (feat. Solange), We Were Rock & Roll, What An Experience, It’s Code.
Album Recensie: Janelle Monáe – The Electric Lady
Janelle Monáe maakt indruk met ijzersterk tweede album
Toen Janelle Monáe in 2010 haar eerste volledige album, The ArchAndroid, uitbracht, werd ze de hemel in geprezen door bijna elke recensent. Bijna unaniem werd het album als één van de besten van dat jaar beschouwd. Monáe nam drie jaar de tijd om met een waardige opvolger te komen. In september dit jaar bracht ze The Electric Lady uit, waarmee ze wederom op lovende kritieken kon rekenen, en volledig terecht.
The Electric Lady gaat verder waar Janelle met The ArchAndroid en haar debuut-EP Metropolis was gebleven. Net als The ArchAndroid, is The Electric Lady verdeeld in twee delen, Suites 4 en 5. Deze suites volgen de eerste drie delen op, die waren verdeeld over haar eerste EP en album. Het verhaal over de android Cindi Mayweather keert ook terug op het nieuwe album. The Electric Lady begint met een sterke samenwerking met Prince waarop Janelle zingt dat ze ons zal geven waar we van houden. Daar is geen woord aan gelogen, want dit doet ze gedurende het hele album.
Superster Prince is niet de enige waarmee Monáe samenwerkt op dit album. Zo hoorden we Erykah Badu al voorbij komen op het knallende vrouwenpower-lied ‘Q.U.E.E.N.’, vol raps en invloeden uit hip-hop, dat fungeerde als de eerste single. Op de pakkende titeltrack ‘Electric Lady’, verzorgt soul, pop en R&B-zangeres Solange wat (achtergrond)zang en haar stem past perfect bij de stijl van Monáe. Met jazzmuzikante Esperanza Spelding werkte ze aan ‘Dorothy Dandridge Eyes’. De beste samenwerking van de plaat is echter ‘PrimeTime’ met Miguel (bekend van zijn hit ‘Adorn’ en ‘#Beautiful’, zijn duet met Mariah Carey), dat als derde single werd uitgebracht. ‘PrimeTime’ is absoluut één van de meest lieve, romantische, sensuele en zwoele duetten van de afgelopen jaren. Zowel Janelle als Miguel klinkt prachtig en overtuigend in hun solo’s en in de refreinen komen hun stemmen zo mooi samen dat het haast lijkt alsof ze bestemd zijn voor elkaar.
Suite 4, de eerste helft van het album, bestaat voornamelijk uit uptempo liedjes zoals de zorgeloze, pakkende en aanstekelijke tweede single ‘Dance Apocalyptic’ en het mooie, eenvoudige ‘We Were Rock & Roll’. Het eerste gedeelte wordt afgesloten met het lieve en kleine liedje ‘Look Into My Eyes’ wat alvast de sfeer maakt voor Suite 5. Het grootste gedeelte hiervan is wat rustiger en bestaat uit een aantal mooie en romantische ballades. Op het aandoenlijke ‘Can’t Live Without Your Love’ beschrijft Monáe de intensiteit van een break-up en op ‘It’s Code’ smeekt ze iemand: ‘hold me, and love me until I want no more, and need me until I need no more’ op een emotionele manier.
Het beste nummer van het tweede gedeelte is ‘Victory’. Janelle verpakt de simpele maar doeltreffende boodschap ‘to be victorious, you must find glory in the little things’ in een prachtig liedje. De lyrics zijn sterk en Janelle’s stem is in topvorm in het krachtige refrein. Het laatste liedje vat het luisteren van het album goed samen: ‘What An Experience’. Het is een waardige afsluiter van een perfect samenhangend album dat tegelijkertijd vele verschillende geluiden en stijlen combineert. The Electric Lady mixt soul met R&B, pop, jazz en hip-hop ogenschijnlijk zonder moeite. Janelle’s kraakheldere stem in combinatie met haar indrukwekkende schrijverstalent, maakt dit album tot één van de beste releases van dit jaar.
Dit moet je gehoord hebben: PrimeTime (feat. Miguel), Victory, Electric Lady (feat. Solange), We Were Rock & Roll, What An Experience, It’s Code.