Music Review: The Ten Most Popular Songs of 2013 (Part One of Two)

In honor of the new year, the Oredigger will be looking back on the most popular songs of 2013. According to the website Spotify, the top ten songs streamed globally last year were:
1. Can’t Hold Us by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
2. Wake Me Up by Avicii
3. Thrift Shop by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
4. Get Lucky by Daft Punk
5. Radioactive by Imagine Dragons
6. Let Her Go by Passenger
7. Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke
8. Just Give Me A Reason by Pink
9. Ho Hey by The Lumineers
10. I Need Your Love by Calvin Harris feat. Ellie Goulding

Astoundingly, none of these songs are terrible. Even more astonishingly, the popularity of each song is positively (if not perfectly) correlated to its quality. Starting from number ten and working up the list…

I Need Your Love is a relatively bland dance hit with an addictive beat. The refrain has the singer, Ellie Goulding, talking about how much she loves her significant other, but the verses reveal that she’s actually broken up with said significant other and is lamenting that fact. Goulding, famous for the song “Lights”, has a high, breathy voice perfect for dance songs and, presumably, lullabies. There is nothing harsh in her singing, and she can carry a tune well without electronic aid, which can be a rarity at times. There is nothing particularly extraordinary about the song. The video features lens flare and various Californians taking selfies whilst playing pool, going to raves, driving various vehicles including but not limited to cars, helicopters, jetskis, boats, skateboards, and motorcycles, and having sex. In reality, taking a video of yourself flying a helicopter will probably result in your fiery death, so emulation of the video is not advised. For no apparent reason, Ellie Goulding spends half of the video wearing nothing but a sheet.
Best use for this song: a dance party, a rave, a late-night drive in a convertible with the top down and the radio cranked, all three at once

Ho Hey is a folksy song that takes the “hey!” refrain from “Little Talks” by Of Monsters and Men and turns it into an entire song. it is impossible not to draw comparisons between the two songs, with the result being that Ho Hey ends up looking like a less-good knock-off of Little Talks. The song is slower and less produced than its predecessor, but has the same basic pattern – a tuneful section without any chanting followed by a portion where every phrase is punctuated by a chorused exclamation. It lacks the passion and emotional pull of Little Talks, however, and feels more repetitive. This is not to say that “Ho Hey” is a bad song; it is just not as good as its intellectual precursor. The lyrics of the song are partially incomprehensible, but would seem to be a lament for the fact that the singer is not with the person he loves, despite that they belong together. The video shows a bunch of suspender-clad hipsters at a party with soft lighting and weird decorations in what looks like a church; for some reason most of them are wearing identical matching outfits. In a side note, the Lumineers are a local band, straight from Denver, so their success is to be applauded.
Best use for this song: the soundtrack to an Instagram slideshow of pictures of your significant other and you

Just Give Me a Reason brings together Pink, a capable singer in her own right, and Nate Ruess, the lead singer from Fun. Both of them have excellent voices (when Ruess isn’t pointlessly autotuning himself, at least), which makes this song the one on the list with the best vocal talent – or, at least, the greatest demonstration of such. The lyrics are also quite cogent: it is a duet between Pink and Ruess, as if they were a couple, comprising her doubts that their love can last and his attempts to reassure her. This scenario was not used as the premise for the video, however. For some unguessable reason, the video is unexpectedly trippy, featuring a teddy bear with creepy glowing eyes, a floating bedroom, underwater ballet, and a lot of implied sex between Pink and some random tattooed guy while Ruess sings from the TV set. Also, Pink is in her underwear for 99% of it. It is distressing that the two songs out of the ten on the list that feature female vocalists also feature videos with the woman wearing a bare minimum, rolling around on a bed and having simulated sex with a male actor; none of the other songs on the list suffer from this ailment, and none of the videos feature scantily-clad men. This is, sadly, the case with the majority of music videos these days, implying that a popular female artist cannot make a music video without stripping down to her underwear, while a male artist can get away with basically anything he wants to. The media seems to forget that an artist doesn’t need to objectify people in their videos – or lyrics – to sell records.
Best use for this song: playing on repeat after a breakup with your significant other while you cry and scarf ice cream

Blurred Lines is undeniably disco. Its unique sound is created by sampling a reproduction of Michael Jackson’s trademark “ooh!”, the beat from “Funkytown”, and elements from a number of other bona fide disco hits. The result is a fun, dancey, retro-sounding pop song. There’s only one problem: over this catchy melange are overlaid deeply misogynistic words. The song concerns Thicke’s desire to get with a “good girl” that he believes is coming on to him. He refers to her as an “animal” that he needs to “liberate” and insinuates that the reason for her coolness towards him is due to her current boyfriend’s influence rather than her choice, thus depriving her of agency in a way that lots of creepers use to justify unacceptable behavior. The only positive in the lyrics is Thicke’s advertising his inability to come up with a rhyme, in the tradition of Alice Cooper’s classic “we couldn’t think of a word that rhymes” line in the song School’s Out. Not surprisingly, the video for this song is problematic on multiple levels. It demonstrates, for one, just how self-obsessed Robin Thicke must be, because “#thicke” repeatedly flashes on the screen throughout it, and the movie ends with the phrase “Robin Thicke has a big d-” spelled out in balloons. This is what analysts like to call “compensation”. Furthermore, while Thicke and his co-singers are dressed in suits, the eye candy serving as back-up dancers are wearing almost nothing – one of them, in fact, really is wearing nothing, just a skin-colored thong. Fortunately, a group called Mod Carousel has made their own version of the song – and the video – in which the genders are flipped. it is definitely worth looking up.
Best use for this song: disco-dancing in the club, eye-rolling

Let Her Go is a soulful indie ballad clearly designed to elicit tears. (To be fair, this seems to accurately describe most of Passenger’s songs.) In it, the singer laments the fact that he failed to realise he was in love with his girlfriend until she was gone, using a number of poetic parallels. Interestingly, the lyrics seem to suggest that the subject of the song might actually be dead… though more probably it is their love that’s dead. At any rate, it is a sensitive, mellow song that is very easy to get stuck in your head, and which feels authentic despite its popularity. The video features Passenger performing a concert to an audience of starry-eyed white people. The lead singer’s voice seems oddly small coming from a thickset, bearded Brit. Then again, he has big, sad eyes and genuinely looks like he, too, is about to be brought to tears by the song.
Best use for this song: getting drunk and weeping into your glass about all of the loves you’ve lost

Tune in next time for the top five songs of 2013!

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