In my first installment of 2013 end-of-year lists, I talked about five musical artists whom I felt were overrated in comparison to the media acclaim they received. This week, as promised, my second installment names five musical artists who definitely deserved the attention they got this year. Here’s my list of the top five most notable artists of 2013. See if you agree.
5. Arcade Fire
This alternative act from Montreal has had a remarkable year, musically speaking. Not only did they release what may come to be known as the defining album of their career (Reflektor), but they also provided the musical score for the Spike Jonze film Her (starring Joaquin Phoenix), which has yet to see wide release but has already been a huge hit on the film festival circuit. Arcade Fire hasn’t had the same level of media coverage as other on this list, but every bit they’ve received has been well deserved.
4. Katy Perry
When her lead single “Roar” took to the airwaves last summer, we had a feeling that Katy Perry was about to release her best album to date. Turns out we weren’t disappointed. Prism is not only Perry’s most vulnerable and personal album, but it turns out it’s a damn good pop record, too—full of the radio-friendly hooks we’ve come to expect from her. And guess what? She actually sings pretty good on this record, as well.
While teenage New Zealander Lorde might seem the most unlikely candidate for a rocket-ship ride to superstardom, it turns out this girl has got some musical substance to back it up. With its sparse electronic accompaniment and warbly vocals, Lorde’s lead single “Royals” not only spent a huge amount of time at the top of the charts, but it managed to do so pitted against heavy hitters like Gaga and Miley. Her debut release Pure Heroine was equally impressive. Keep your eye on this one; she’s not going anywhere soon.
2. Justin Timberlake
In all ways, Timberlake’s official return to music in 2013 was nothing short of stellar. Not only did his two-part The 20/20 Experience deserve the acclaim it received (let alone being 2013’s best-selling release overall), but his multiple live performances actually had substance to back the hype. A strong comeback by a highly talented artist.
A latecomer to the list, Beyoncé shoots to the top with her self-titled “visual album,” not just because of the record itself, but also because of the brilliant way in which she revealed it to the public, keeping it under wraps even from the media and releasing it all at once. And even more than that—with each song accompanied by its own high-quality music video, the album itself is over-the-top. The result: Beyoncé shot to the top of the Billboard 200 with only three days’ worth of sales, and sold exclusively on iTunes. This move was so gutsy and brilliant that the fans are eating it up—so much so that Bey doesn’t even need grinches like Target and Amazon to pick it up in order for it to be one of the biggest releases of the year.
In my final installment of this series, I’ll point out five artists who were underrated in 2013—“dark horses” you might not have heard of yet. Stay tuned!