The best pop albums of 2013

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 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
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-pronto a correre-cover
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
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 artpop cover
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

Beyoncé BEYONCÉ album cover
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 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
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!

Gig Review: Icona Pop at Bitterzoet


Icona Pop delivers energetic show in Amsterdam

Swedish electro pop-duo Icona Pop had a worldwide hit this year with their debut single ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’. Last month, they released their international debut album This Is… and to promote the record they are touring across Europe. On Monday evening they visited Amsterdam and performed in the sold out venue Bitterzoet. The girls presented a fast paced, energetic and swinging show.

The atmosphere in the venue was very positive and enthusiastic from the very moment Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo walked on stage in their space-themed short dresses. They started the show with ‘We Got The World’, one of their singles that has only been released in Sweden so far. The fans who claimed the spots in the front, mostly young boys and girls, still knew every word to the song and sang along with the lines of the infectious chorus: “They say you’re a freak when we’re having fun, say you must be high when we’re spreading love, but we’re just living life and we never stop.”

Basically every song got a very positive response from the audience, even the ones that did not make the cut for the international album but were part of the Swedish version, like ‘Top Rated’ which turned out to be one of the most euphoric moments of the night. The tracks on the new album, like ‘In The Stars’, ‘On The Roll’ and ‘Then We Kiss’ all managed to get people to sing and dance, even though they have only been released for a few weeks. The insanely catchy single ‘Girlfriend’ turned out to be one of the highlights as well, when the crowd enthusiastically functioned as backing vocalists.

Caroline and Aino performed as a ‘two women show’, playing guitar, keyboards and synthesizers themselves. They do not present a perfectly smooth show, which is for the better as it leaves a bit of room to let their enthusiastic and charming personalities shine through. During ‘Manners’, there seemed to be some technical difficulties, but the girls carried on professionally. Most of Icona Pop’s repertoire is a loud, upbeat mix of pop, electro and dance, but in their somewhat more stripped back moments like ‘Light Me Up’ and especially ‘Just Another Night’, the girls showed they actually have pretty good voices. Both the harmonies and individual vocals were on point during most of the night. Of course they are not this generation’s best vocalists, but their audience did not come to hear them sing a perfectly polished version of a ballad. They like the shouty vocals they became famous for on ‘I Love It’.

Above all, the audience of Icona Pop’s gig came to dance and have a good time and that is exactly what they did, especially at the last part of the show. New single ‘All Night’ went down well with almost everyone’s hands in the air. And then there was only one more song to come. Icona Pop completed a perfect party when they finally played their hit single everybody knows. Literally the whole venue shouted the ‘I Don’t Care, I Love It’ parts simultaneously. The girls perfectly proved to be able to convert their upbeat and energetic music into a fitting and infectious live show.

01. We Got The World
02. In The Stars
03. Then We Kiss
04. Nights Like This
05. Good For You
06. Girlfriend
07. Light Me Up
08. Manners
09. On A Roll
10. Top Rated
11. Ready For The Weekend
12. All Night

13. Just Another Night
14. I Love It


Concert recensie: Icona Pop in Bitterzoet

Icona Pop geeft energieke show in Amsterdam

Het Zweedse electro-pop duo Icona Pop heeft een wereldwijde hit te pakken met hun debuutsingle ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’. Vorige maand kwam hun internationale debuutalbum This Is… uit en om deze plaat te promoten touren de meiden nu door Europa. Maandagavond kwamen ze op bezoek in Amsterdam en stonden ze in een uitverkocht Bitterzoet. Icona Pop gaf een snelle, energieke en swingende show weg.

De sfeer in de zaal zat er al goed in vanaf het moment dat Caroline Hjelt en Aino Jawo het podium betraden in hun jurkjes die er uitzien alsof ze er mee de ruimte in gaan. Ze begonnen de show met ‘We Got The World’, één van de singles die alleen in Zweden werd uitgebracht. De fans die plekken vooraan hadden bemachtigd, vooral jonge meiden en jongens, kenden het lied toch woord voor woord uit hun hoofd en zongen uit volle borst mee tijdens het aanstekelijke refrein: “They say you’re a freak when we’re having fun, say you must be high when we’re spreading love, but we’re just living life and we never stop.”

Eigenlijk kreeg elk lied een zeer positieve ontvangst van het publiek. Dit gold zelfs voor de liedjes die de internationale versie van het album niet haalden, maar enkel op de Zweedse uitgave staan, zoals ‘Top Rated’ dat uiteindelijk een van de meest euforische momenten van de avond werd. Tracks van het nieuwe album, zoals ‘In The Stars’, ‘On The Roll’ en ‘Then We Kiss’, wisten het publiek ook aan het zingen en dansen te krijgen terwijl de nummers pas net uit zijn. De ongelooflijk aanstekelijke single ‘Girlfriend’ bewees zich ook als één van de hoogtepunten, toen de mensen in de zaal enthousiast fungeerden als achtergrondzangers.

Caroline en Aino traden op als een ‘twee vrouwsshow’, waarbij ze zelf hun gitaar, keyboard en synthesizers speelden. Ze lieten geen perfect geolied optreden zien, maar dit geeft hen enkel ruimte om wat meer van hun enthousiaste en charmante persoonlijkheden te laten zien. Tijdens ‘Manners’ leken ze te kampen met wat technische problemen, maar ze zetten hun show professioneel voort. Het grootste deel van het repertoire van Icona Pop is een luide, uptempo mix van pop, electro en dance, maar tijdens de wat rustigere momenten zoals ‘Light Me Up’ en vooral ‘Just Another Night’, laten de meiden horen over goede stemmen te beschikken. Zowel de harmonieën en de individuele stukken zijn zeker in orde tijdens het grootste deel van de show. Natuurlijk behoren ze niet tot de beste vocalisten van deze generatie, maar het publiek komt ook niet naar hun show om een perfect uitgevoerde ballad te horen. Ze waarderen juist de ietwat schreeuwerige vocalen waarmee de dames bekend werden op ‘I Love It’.

Boven alles reisde het publiek af naar Bitterzoet om te dansen en te genieten en dat is precies wat er werd gedaan tijdens het laatste deel van de show. De nieuwe single ‘All Night’ werd goed ontvangen, gezien alle handen in de lucht waren tijdens het refrein. Toen was het tijd voor het allerlaatste lied waar iedereen natuurlijk al naar uitkeek. Icona Pop maakte een perfect feestje compleet met hun hitsingle die iedereen kent. Letterlijk de hele zaal schreeuwde tegelijk mee met de ‘I Don’t Care, I Love It’ passages. De meiden hebben bewezen dat ze goed in staat zijn hun swingende en energieke muziek te vertalen in een passende en aanstekelijke liveshow.

Album Review: Icona Pop – This Is…


Swedish duo proves to be more than ‘I Love It’

In 2013 they were suddenly there. Their international debut single ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’ became a world wide smash hit. Of course I am talking about Icona Pop. This Swedish duo, consisting of Caroline Hjelt and Aino Jawo, has been working on their music career in Sweden for a few years now, but had their big break earlier this year. They already released a Swedish edition of their debut album, but now the international version is out too. And it proves that the girls are capable of more than just one smash hit.

The ridiculously catchy and infectious ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’ turned out to be a successful formula for Icona Pop. The combination of the loud sounds, the pumping beat, their feisty lyrics and scream-singing suited them very well, but the album does not consist of eleven songs that follow this path. The girls created a more versatile album, but the upbeat and cheery mood ‘I Love It’ introduced, is omnipresent throughout the record.

This becomes apparent when hearing the second international single ‘All Night’. Although this song is not as spectacular and a bit more generic than ‘I Love It’, the song breathes the same upbeat happiness that works contagious. The same goes for ‘Girlfriend’, which was released as a single in Sweden last summer. The chorus is a banger and the cheeky lyrics fit well with the personas of the girls. ‘Ready For The Weekend’ and ‘We Got The World’, which were both on the Swedish release of their album as well, follow a similar path with synth-heavy and dance productions, and are both infectious little songs that work perfectly as a background sound to preparation for a Saturday night out.

The second half of the album, however, is slightly different. It starts with the brilliant ‘In The Stars’. This song is absolute pop brilliance. It swings, the production is great and the chorus (especially the post-chorus) are probably the best moments on the album, when it comes to melodies. This song has the potential to be the next huge hit they need, in order to avoid being seen as a one-hit-wonder. On ‘Just Another Night’, a slightly slower and more serious song, we hear more personality and emotion in the voices of the girls. The instrumentation is more like a pop/rock band sound, which is great in order to shake things up a bit. On ‘Light Me Up’, Icona Pop goes down a more sensual and laidback route, influenced by a bit reggae and urban. Once again the chorus is undeniable.

Icona Pop delivered a carefree, infectious and catchy pop album with some necessary diversity to keep things interesting. The album is full of potential hit singles, so it should not be an impossible task for the girls to become more than a one-hit-wonder.

Must listen: In The Stars, Girlfriend, We Got The World, Just Another Night, Light Me Up.

Check this blog next week for a review about Icona Pop’s gig in Amsterdam.


Album Recensie: Icona Pop – This Is…

Zweeds duo heeft meer in huis dan hit ‘I Love It’

In 2013 waren ze er ineens. Hun internationale debuut single ‘I Love It (feat. Charli XCX)’ werd een wereldwijde hit. Ik heb het natuurlijk over Icona Pop. Dit Zweedse duo, dat bestaat uit Caroline Hjelt en Aino Jawo, werkte in Zweden al enkele jaren aan hun muzikale carrière, maar eerder dit jaar kwam de grote doorbraak. Ze brachten in hun thuisland al eerder hun debuutalbum uit, maar nu is het tijd voor de release van de internationale versie. Het album laat zien dat de dames meer in zich hebben dan één hit.

Het belachelijk aanstekelijke en catchy ‘I Love It’ bleek een succesvolle formule voor Icona Pop. De combinatie van de luide productie, de pompende beat, hun felle teksten en schreew-zingen paste goed bij ze, maar het album bestaat gelukkig niet uit elf replica’s van deze single. De meiden creëerden een afwisselender album, dat toch bij bijna alle songs de positieve en enthousiaste vibe van ‘I Love It’ weet terug te brengen.

Dit wordt meteen duidelijk bij het horen van de tweede internationale single ‘All Night’. Hoewel het lied minder spectaculair en wat meer mainstream is dan de eerste single, heeft het dezelfde aanstekelijke vrolijkheid over zich. Hetzelfde geldt voor de single ‘Girlfriend’, die afgelopen zomer in Zweden uitkwam. Het refrein knalt en de ondeugende songtekst pas goed bij de persona’s van de meiden. ‘Ready For The Weekend’ en ‘We Got The World’, die beiden al op de Zweedse editie van hun debuut stonden, volgen een vergelijkbare dancesound met veel synthesizers. Beide songs zijn zeer aanstekelijk en werken goed als achtergrondmuziek bij de voorbereidingen voor een zaterdagnacht uit.

Het tweede deel van het album is enigszins verschillend van de eerste paar tracks. Het begint met de briljante track ‘In The Stars’. Deze song is pure pop-perfectie. Het swingt, is goed geproduceerd en het refrein (en vooral ook het post-refrein) zijn de beste momenten van het hele album op het gebied van melodie. ‘In The Stars’ heeft de potentie om de grote hit te worden die ze nodig hebben, om te bewijzen dat ze geen eendagsvliegen zijn. On ‘Just Another Night’ een wat langzamere en serieuzere track, horen we meer persoonlijkheid en emotie in de stemmen van Caroline en Aino. De instrumentatie neigt hier meer naar een pop/rock band, wat goed is voor de diversiteit op het album. Op ‘Light Me Up’ klinken de dames sensueel en laidback met invloeden uit urban en reggae. Men kan wederom niet om het sterke refrein heen.

Icona Pop levert een zorgeloos, vrolijk en pakkend popalbum af, met de nodige diversiteit om het spannend te houden. Het album staat vol met potentiële hitsingles, dus het moet geen zware opgave zijn voor de dames om het imago van eendagsvliegen te ontstijgen.

Dit moet je gehoord hebben: In The Stars, Girlfriend, We Got The World, Just Another Night, Light Me Up.

Houd dit blog in de gaten, want volgende week vind je hier een review over het optreden van Icona Pop in Amsterdam.