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!

Album Review: Natalia Kills – Trouble


Natalia Kills gets personal on new record

British-born, but L.A.-based pop singer-songwriter Natalia Kills was launched by Interscope as the next big thing in pop in 2011. Kills never fulfilled the promise of being a worldwide superstar, but her debut album Perfectionist, did gain some success in a few European countries like Germany. More than two years later she releases her sophomore effort Trouble, which shows Kills actually deserves to be an international pop star.

Natalia Cappuccini (she decided to use her grandmother’s family name a few years ago) seems to have grown a lot as an artist since the release of her debut. Not that Perfectionist was a bad album in any way. It has its moments with great songs like ‘Mirrors’ and ‘Love Is A Suicide’, but the album felt more like a collection of songs that aimed to be hit singles, instead of a well worked out LP. Her new album Trouble feels more like a cohesive, qualitative body of work. As a listener, you get the feeling her new music says so much more about Kills as an artist as well as a person. She is not trying to chase a sound that will guarantee her hits, but she makes music with a strong personality, which works refreshing. This is mostly due to the personal lyrics of quite a few songs on the record.

Trouble starts of with an intro in which Natalia tells the listeners about her past. She states that her family was seen as a bunch of criminals by others. This storyline is explained throughout the catchy and powerful opener ‘Television’. In the more slowed down, but captivating second single, ‘Saturday Night’, Kills refers to her dad’s time in jail with the line “I wrote him a hundred times, can you hear my heart through the prison bars?”. In the same song, she sings about the times her mother had to endure violence, as well. These are very personal stories, packaged in great melodies and strong productions.

Kills does not only open her heart on the record when it comes to her troubled past, but she also produced some heartfelt songs about a past love. In the outstanding ‘Watching You’ the singer describes how she cannot let go of her former lover and expresses her sadness in clever and touching phrasings like “happy hour ain’t so happy when you got no friends”. ‘Marlboro Lights’ deals with the same issues, but shows Kills more stripped back, emotional and vulnerable than ever before. This gives her strong vocals a moment to shine.

Luckily for the fans of her debut, the up-tempo bangers with lyrics full of attitude are not completely absent on Trouble. First single ‘Problem’ proves this with its rocking electric guitars over some in-your-face industrial beats. ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ probably resembles the style of her debut the most, with its soaring, catchy chorus over some pumping beats. On ‘Rabbit Hole’, Kills seems to combine influences from Gwen Stefani’s solo material and Britney Spears’ style on her Blackout-album, which results in a bouncing, completely bonkers song. The first buzz-track from the album, ‘Controversy’, is one of the more experimental moments of the album on which Natalia lists some slightly controversial words over a fat house beat. The track is not necessarily a weak moment, but it does feel slightly out of place with the rest of the album, causing a bit of a disruption in the flow of the album.

Still, Kills proved that her label Interscope had every reason to give her the opportunity to release a second record. Not only does she show more emotion and personality as an artist, she still delivers some damn fine tunes as well. The last song on the album, the title track, summarizes everything that is good about this album: it has personality, clever lyrics, a great production and hooks that are catchy as hell.

Must Listen: Saturday Night, Trouble, Watching You, Problem, Television.


Natalia Kills wordt persoonlijk op nieuw album

De in Engeland geboren, maar in L.A. woonachtige pop-singer-songwriter Natalia Kills werd twee jaar geleden door het label Interscope gelanceerd als ‘the next big thing in pop’. Een wereldster is ze nog niet geworden, maar haar debuut deed het aardig in onder anderen Duitsland. Nu is het tijd voor de opvolger Trouble en met deze plaat bewijst Natalia Kills dat ze wel degelijk een internationale popster zou moeten zijn.

Natalia Cappuccini (ze gebruikt sinds enkele jaren de achternaam van haar oma) laat zien dat ze als artieste een groei door heeft gemaakt sinds haar debuutalbum. Niet dat deze plaat, Perfectionist, niet goed was, want het bevatte genoeg hoogtepunten als ‘Mirrors’ en ‘Love Is A Suicide’, maar tegelijkertijd voelde het meer als een collectie van potentiële hitjes dan een goed uitgewerkt album. Gelukkig komt Trouble al veel meer over als een samenhangend, solide werk. Als luisteraar krijg je ditmaal veel meer het gevoel de artieste en persoon Natalia echt te leren kennen. Kills probeert niet meer een sound te creëren die de trend van de hits volgt, maar ze maakt nu muziek vol persoonlijkheid, wat verfrissend werkt. De persoonlijke teksten van een aantal nummers spelen hier een grote rol in.

Het album begint met een stukje gesproken tekst over een moeilijke jeugd waarin Kills’ familie door buitenstaanders werd gezien als een stel criminelen. Deze situatie wordt verder uitgelegd in het catchy en krachtige ‘Television’. Kills komt op dit onderwerp terug tijdens de wat langzamere, maar absoluut boeiende tweede single ‘Saturday Night’. Ze bezingt haar vaders tijd achter de tralies met passages als “I wrote him a hundred times, can you hear my heart through the prison bars?”, maar verwijst ook naar de keren dat ze haar moeder mishandeld aantrof. Kills weet deze persoonlijke verhalen te verpakken in mooie melodieën en sterke producties.

Er wordt op dit album niet alleen openhartig gesproken over de jeugd, maar Kills wijt ook een aantal gevoelige songs aan een verloren liefde. Zo bezingt ze op het intense ‘Watching You’ hoe ze een ex-vriend niet los kan laten en vertaalt ze haar verdriet en eenzame gevoel in pakkende, beeldende frases als “happy hour ain’t so happy when you got no friends”. De ballad ‘Marlboro Lights’ snijdt een vergelijkbaar thema aan en laat Kills van haar meest kwetsbare en stripped back kant tot nu toe horen. Deze song geeft Natalia tevens de ruimte om te laten horen hoe sterk haar stem eigenlijk is.

Gelukkig voor de fans van Perfectionist, zijn de stevige, dansbare popsongs op dit album niet volledig afwezig. De eerste single ‘Problem’ is een goed voorbeeld hiervan met z’n rockende gitaren over industrieel klinkende beats. Het refrein dat werkt als een oorwurm, in combinatie met de knallende productie op ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ doet nog het meest denken aan Kills’ debuutalbum. Op ‘Rabbit Hole’ lijkt ze de sound van het solomateriaal van Gwen Stefani te mixen met de muziek van Britney ten tijde van haar Blackout-album. Dit resulteert in een stuiterende, compleet doorgedraaide, maar o zo aanstekelijke track. Het eerste voorproefje dat de fans op het album kregen, ‘Controversy’, blijkt één van de meest experimentele momenten van het album. Kills dreunt een aantal ‘controversiële’ woorden op over een pompende housebeat. De track zorgt niet per se voor een zwak moment op het album, maar feit is dat het totaal niet past bij de rest van de plaat, waardoor het de flow wel enigszins verstoort.

Al met al bewijst Kills dat haar label alle redenen had om haar de kans te geven nog een album op te nemen. Ze laat hier niet alleen meer emotie en persoonlijkheid zien, ze weet ook nog steeds zeer pakkende tracks af te leveren. De afsluiter van het album, de titeltrack, vat passend samen wat dit album zo goed maakt: het heeft persoonlijkheid, knappe lyrics, een goede productie en melodielijnen die niet meer uit je hoofd te slaan zijn.

Dit moet je gehoord hebben: Saturday Night, Trouble, Watching You, Problem, Television.