As a music lover, compiling a list of my favorite albums of the year is never an easy task. Looking back, 2013 was very good to us. We received major releases from some of the biggest acts in the game, welcomed back veterans, and were surprised by a flock of newcomers ready to make a name for themselves. While it may not have been the strongest year for all of our favorite artists, we witnessed a shift in today’s pop climate and saw the rise of talented up-and-comers. Every single album featured on this list I recommend no matter what ranking it received. I love them all for different reasons and grew to like some albums more in time. Check out my Top 50 list and comment with your faves of the year below.
50. Celine Dion – Loved Me Back To Life
49. Cher – Closer to the Truth
48. Fantasia – Side Effects of You
47. Tamar Braxton – Love and War
46. Goldfrapp – Tales of Us
45. Diana Vickers – Music To Make Boys Cry
44. The Great Gatsby: Music from Baz Luhrmann’s Film
43. Paramore – Paramore
42. Icona Pop – This is…Icona Pop
41. Zendaya – Zendaya
40. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
39. One Direction – Midnight Memories
38. Hot Natured – Different Sides Of the Sun
37. Krewella – Get Wet
36. Robin Thicke – Blurred Lines
35. Kelly Rowland – Talk A Good Game
34. Demi Lovato – Demi
33. Empire Of The Sun – Ice on the Dune
32. M.I.A. – Matangi
31. John Legend – Love in the Future
30. Britney Spears – Britney Jean
29. London Grammar – If You Wait
28. OneRepublic – Native
27. Little Mix – Salute
26. Avicii – TRUE
25. John Mayer – Paradise Valley
24. Avril Lavigne – Avril Lavigne
23. CHVRCHES – The Bones Of What You Believe
22. Childish Gambino – Because the Internet
21. Sky Ferreira – Night Time, My Time
20. HAIM – Days Are Gone
19. Katy Perry – PRISM
18. AlungaGeorge – Body Music
17. Natalia Kills – Trouble
16. Selena Gomez – Stars Dance
15. Travis Garland – Travis Garland
14. Jay-Z – Magna Carta… Holy Grail
13. Charli XCX – True Romance
12. Ciara – Ciara
11. Sara Bareilles – The Blessed Unrest
10. Kanye West – Yeezus. Sure there is a whole lot you can say about Kanye West the man, he isn’t necessarily the most likable person, but when it comes down to the music, the guy knows what he’s doing. Executive produced by Rick Rubin, Yeezus showcases Kanye‘s ability to continually evolve his sound and push the boundaries of what hip-hop can be. In true Kanye fashion, look at it as a couture garment. Meticulously made and highly conceptual, you can appreciate the genuine labor that went into creating it. You aren’t really sure that you can wear it everyday, and probably only a small amount of people will really appreciate it for what it is; everyone else will probably look at it and think “wow that’s a really ugly outfit.”
9. Drake – Nothing Was The Same. Without a doubt Drake has simply taken over Hip-Hop and R&B over the past couple of years and with good reason. With his highly-anticipated third studio album Nothing Was The Same, Drake challenges his signature sound and shows growth in his lyrics, making this effort super worthwhile. It’s an exhilarating change of pace for the genre and speaks volumes on his persona. For “Hold On, We’re Going Home” alone, it deserves the recognition.
8. Tegan & Sara – Heartthrob. It took them some time but indie heartthrobs Tegan and Sara did what they were always capable of doing – they crafted a brilliant POP album. Featuring production from Greg Kurstin, Rob Cavallo, and Justin Meldal-Johnsen, Heartthrob is easily one of the duo’s best and fully-realized albums yet. While there was definitely a glitz and glam polished sonic shift on this record, the songs maintained their sense of identity and were all still very much Tegan and Sara. Pop with substance. Who knew?
7. Lorde – Pure Heroine. From the beginning Lorde came off a bit pretentious, but as it turns out, she’s just a 17-year-old who knows exactly what she’s doing. Her debut album Pure Heroine turned out to be cohesive, honest, sonically interesting, and surprisingly sophisticated. These days it’s rare for a young newcomer to have such a unique approach so its undeniably impressive and refreshing that she wrote the entire album with just one collaborator, her producer Joel Little. It took me some time to realize, but Lorde indeed lives up to the hype.
6. Ariana Grande – Yours Truly. These days it’s difficult to find a singer that actually has a great voice, but when Ariana Grande opens her mouth, there’s no denying her effortless talent. Early comparisons to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston are ‘truly’ deserved. Her debut is a refreshingly sleek mix of ’90’s throwback R&B with Motown-inspired stylings, backed up with polished and vibrant production – its pure pop bliss. This tiny little thing has got a long career ahead of her!
5. Miley Cyrus – Bangerz. There’s just no denying this one. 2013 was an unforgettable year for Miley Cyrus. From her big break-up with Liam Hemsworth, to that much-talked about VMA performance, to the tongue, and just about everything else she did this year, we were all crazy for the former Hannah Montana. Throughout all that chaos, she managed to release her most revealing and game-changing album yet, Bangerz. An album packed with heart-breaking ballads, twerk-ready club anthems, and two of the biggest records of the year, “We Can’t Stop” and “Wrecking Ball.”
4. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience. It took him a little over six years, but Justin Timberlake finally made his return to music this year with the release of his third studio album, The 20/20 Experience. Teaming up yet again with his longtime collaborator Timbaland, The 20/20 Experience may not be hailed as groundbreaking as FutureSex/LoveSounds, but without a doubt, the record shines as an expertly written and produced body of work delivered by one of the most talented artists in the game.
3. Lady Gaga – ARTPOP. While everyone already seems to have their concrete opinions on Mother Monster, ARTPOP speaks for itself as one of her best albums yet. It’s here that she finally cements her sound. The 15-track record has its ups and downs, but they’re mostly the same triumphs and faults from her previous albums, only now they’re unapologetic and hitting harder in ARTPOP‘s modern, over-the-top, and somewhat messy concept. The choruses are bigger, the lyrics are weirder and wilder, and Gaga herself seems more free than ever. No other artist demands pop radio to adapt to her and that’s why ARTPOP is a standout pop record. Its sonically interesting while still catering to the mainstream radio-friendliness of today’s pop climate and she deserves every amount of your applause-plause for staying true to herself.
2. Beyoncé – Beyoncé. Sure, its technically only been out for a little over a week but Beyoncé undeniably snatched everyone’s wig this year with the release of her self-titled fifth studio album. The visual album featuring 14 songs and 17 videos is simply EVERYTHING. Musically, its mostly a mix of moody and sexual contemporary R&B numbers similar to the acts who helped craft the records (Justin Timberlake, Pharrell, Drake, The-Dream, Sia, Ryan Tedder, Miguel, Frank Ocean). Lyrically, its the most personal and intimate album Beyoncé‘s ever recorded – For the first time, I finally have an understanding of who she is. This is a whole new Beyoncé and she ain’t fuckin’ around. ****Flawless
1. Disclosure – Settle. Since its release in June, I pretty much knew the debut album from this British production duo would be my favorite of the year. With appearances from AlunaGeorge, Eliza Doolittle, Jamie Woon, Jessie Ware, and many more, Settle is an album that took over my life and brought some sorely needed intelligence back to joyous dance music. Blurred synth chords, deep house basslines, catchy melodies, the skipping beats of two-step garage, the vocal looping, it all comes together effortlessly for these two. Never sticking to one genre, the influences here are new and old, and that’s why I love them. Amazing dance music with a pop sensibility – What more can you ask for? This album is just IT.