2013 in Song: My Top 5

2013 was an astonishing year for music. Here is an eclectic selection of just some of my favourites.

5. Pulp – “After You”

“After You” was gifted to fans at Pulp’s homecoming gig in December 2012, and was officially released as a download on 28 January 2013. It’s hard to imagine that this treasure – which only previously existed in demo form – was left neglected from way back in the We Love Life era, and an absolute delight that Jarvis decided to resurrect it.

Produced by LCD Soundsystem’s James Murphy, “After You” is a splendid track depicting themes of urban despair, twisted lechery, and a decaying society’s spiral toward blind consumerism. It’s not without nostalgic cultural references (who remembers Safeway?), a liberal helping of Jarvis’s requisite wit, and an insanely catchy chorus.

The first Pulp track to be released for a decade, the bar was set high for Jarvis & Co.’s return to the music scene, but they did themselves proud. Pulp’s drummer, Nick Banks, once remarked that the track is “an absolute lost classic”. Thank heavens it’s now been found.

4. Taylor Swift – “22”

“It feels like one of those nights”

Released as a single from the album Red, this is an uber-pop track telling of the highs and lows of being 22 years old.

Its ‘throw caution to the wind’ mantra is liberating, but the juxtaposition of excitement and fear makes for an emotional track grounded in a stinging realism: that the early post-adolescent years can come with baggage (“We’re happy, free, confused, and lonely at the same time/It’s miserable and magical”).

But 22’s encouragement of free-spiritedness and optimism is almost possible to escape. It doesn’t matter if life gives you lemons and you’re not wanting a lemonade, because “everything will be alright/If we just keep dancing like we’re 22”.

It’s cute, carefree, and manages to shake off the potential gloom with its own naivete; it’s the epitome of pop, and a genuine delight.

3. Rudimental ft. Ella Eyre – “Waiting All Night”

“Tell me that you need me!!!”

“Waiting All Night” is the latest drum and bass track from British four-piece Rudimental. Its protagonist’s heartfelt pleading for emotional recognition is excruciating, made powerful and convincing by the soulful voice of BRIT-schooled Ella Eyre.

It’s difficult to escape the passion, especially when the chorus erupts. “Waiting All Night” is a searing account of the agony of disregarded lust/love/(a bit of attention!): “I’ve been waiting all night for you to tell me what you want”. Who can say they can’t empathise with that?!

A song to make you want to dance all night and scream at the top of your lungs until you’re seen and heard; a legitimate nightclub favourite.

2. Cher – “Woman’s World”

“‘Cause it don’t matter I’m movin’ on”

“Woman’s World” is a joyous return to the limelight for Cher after an almost ten-year hiatus.

This track shows that Cher’s still got what it takes. It’s refreshing to see a woman of a certain age undermining the mediocre efforts of the current pop industry and its self-obsessed, .. values. As ever, it’s an honour to revel in the lyrical quality of Cher’s songs, and momentarily escape from the omnipresent profanity of her younger counterparts.

It’s a gripping addition to Cher’s catalogue of female self-empowerment hits, reminiscent of “Believe” and “Strong Enough”. The inescapable ‘girl power’ is compelling: “Torn up, busted, taken apart/I’ve been broken down/Left with a broken heart/But I’m stronger/Strong enough to rise above.” Coupled with catchy lyrics and a persistently raucous beat, it’s superb.

1. Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?” 

“Crawlin’ back to you”

Undeniably one of the greatest tracks of the decade, and from a consistently solid album of wickedly ferocious tracks, ” Do I Wanna Know?” is a drunken rhetoric of apprehension and paranoia: the fear of potentially unrequited love, or a sexual interest with “aces up [her] sleeve” and other partners on her mind.

The depth of the protagonist’s desire is convincing, and his desperation heartbreaking. Alex Turner makes excellent use of metaphor and imagery, and with sublimely witty lyrics (“Been wondering if your heart’s still open/And if so I wanna know what time it shuts/Simmer down and pucker up”), it’s no wonder it’s been a critics’ favourite.

Arctic Monkeys are currently on fire: AM (the album from which “Do I Wanna Know” is taken) is undoubtedly the album of the decade, and arguably the best any indie band has produced this side of The Queen is Dead. Matt Mason of Q magazine writes: “Not for the first time, they sound like the best band in Britain.” Couldn’t agree more.


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