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The Year of the Selfie: The Music Moments that Made 2013


Well ladies and gentleman, the close of 2013 is almost upon us–I can’t believe it either; and, according to the Oxford Dictionary, the foremost authority on the English language (I suppose…) selfie is your word of the year.

As a millenial, I’m rather sensitive to social critics who tend to condescend to those in their late teens and 20s, the demographic to whom the selfie has been subscribed. With the rise of Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, and with it, the selfie, many from the generations that precede us as use selfies as evidence of our narcissism, and a desire to broadcast every moment of our lives–no matter how insignificant.

In order to really delve into an issue, one must only look to the wisdom of American Horror Story: Coven. Emma Roberts’ character on the current season of the FX miniseries, put it this way:

I am a millennial. Generation Y, born between the birth of aids and 9/11 give or take. They call us the Global Generation. We are known for our entitlement and narcissism. Some say it’s because we’re the first generation where every kid gets a trophy just for showing up. Others think it’s because social media allows us to post whenever we fart or have a sandwich for all the world to see. But it seems that our one defining trait is a numbness to the world, an indifference to suffering.

Overly simplistic, yes. Drawn from a fictional character on a cable TV show, yes; but there are dozens of pieces from every possible print and digital medium on this subject, that share this sentiment.

Not saying much of it isn’t true to one degree or another, but I find the concept of a social critic, a writer, condescendingly calling out an entire generation of people (over and over and over) to be a bit ironic.

They too feel the need to share their opinions, the lens through which he or she views the world, with whomever can be forced to listen–isn’t that a bit narcissistic?

I too am in this category–calling myself out.

As one of these millenials, a single female in her 20s coming-of-age with all the Internets and social media at my disposal, I may not take selfies, but I am expected to (and do) consume an obscene amount of pop culture. What else am I going to do with my time? I am the center of my own universe after all.
We can’t possibly digest everything that’s out there. Not even Portlanders.

When reflecting on 2013 and what this year has meant to pop culture, and me specifically, it’s quite difficult to pinpoint the most influential moments in music, movies, television, politics etc etc; as a Grantland commenter put it–all of us, not simply older generations, are adjusting to a digital age of cultural overload.

And similarly, as Chuck Klosterman and Company at Grantland put it–we must pinpoint micromoments that were significant to us, and assumably many, in our reflections on 2013.

So here it is KSR, because my thoughts are the most important thoughts that have ever been put to digital paper, I’m going to share my picks for the most influential songs, albums, artists, and micromoments loosely associated with music, of 2013:


– The Miguel face kick

There are so many music awards shows–the Grammys, the American Music Awards, Country Music Awards, MTV Video Music Awards, the “we have to think of another awards show or what we will air on Sunday nights in the summer?” Awards Show.

But the 2013 Billboard Music Awards show, in which apparently Taylor Swift, Maroon 5, Rihanna, and blah blah others won lots of pointless awards–the show was memorable for one shining moment–the Miguel face kick. While performing his hit song that I wouldn’t recognize if Miguel himself performed it for me, Adorn, the rambunctious R&B star got a little carried away, attempting to leap over the crowd from one side of the stage to the next.

It wasn’t enough that he kicked two women in the face, Miguel landed violently on each of their heads, hooking one, and knocking the other into the stage. It was a moment that will live in Tumblr lore forevermore.

Blurred Lines

Althought not awarded the song of summer at the Video Music Awards (that “honor” went to One Direction’s Best Song Ever…) Blurred Lines clearly was that song. Spending 12 weeks at Number One on the Billboard Hot 100, it had the longest run at the top spot of the 2010s.

Aside from playing approximately 7 billion times a day at any given second anywhere in the world, Blurred Lines will live in infamy as not only that overplayed song from 2013 you never want to hear again–but also as the most controversial song of the decade.

Exacerbated by the Robin Thicke-Miley Cyrus VMA performance (more on that later,) the song’s lyrics and music video have been condemned as mysognistic and a promotion of rape culture.

Robin Thicke, Pharrell, and T.I. singing about hating “blurred lines” because “I know you want it, I know you want it, (if you don’t Imma make you want it) cuz you’re a gooooood girl doesn’t exactly sound like a healthy sexual interaction between two consenting adults; it’s a yes or no thing, no grey area there Robin. And the music video, in which naked girls prance around fully clothed men singing about girls being animals? Just a tad bit dehumanizing.

The song of 2013 everyone… let’s pretend that didn’t happen, ok?

– Lorde-y

We’ve written pretty extensively about the rise of New Zealand’s teenage pop star, Lorde, here on the site. Her ascent to the top of the Billboard charts with her single Royals, was quite remarkable. The quirky 17-year old has made a name for herself by calling out other artists like Selena Gomez for sexualizing themselves, refusing to tour with Katy Perry, and other (possibly manufactured) gouges at mainstream American pop music.

Yesterday marked the release of her new music video, Team, Vevo crashed within minutes of the video being posted–that’s a pretty good sign that Lorde has some staying power post-Royals.

[“Royals” by Lorde: More Punk than Punk…and a Step Forward for Pop?]

[The Lorde Led Pop Revolution]

– Macklemore and Ryan Lewis emergence

Virtual unknowns just a year ago, Macklemore (and that other guy) have been involved in several top-40 hits from 2012-2013–YouTube sensation Thrift Shop, Can’t Hold Us, Same Love, and now, White Walls.

And as outspoken advocates of LGBT equality and other social issues, the duo is using their popularity to make an impact.

– Daft Punk and Pharrell resurgence

The internationally-known French electronica/funk/martian duo, Daft Punk had been “relatively” silent for some time until this year. Without a full-length studio album since 2005, Daft Punk had “dropped” a track here or there and creating the score for 2010’s Tron: Legacy, the release of Random Access Memories was greeted with jubilation by music bloggers far and wide.

Get Lucky and Lose Yourself to Dance were the first two singles from the album, and each were not overtly sexual enough not to be played at children’s parties, sporting events, and other inappropriate settings.

Each of these singles also featured producer/songwriter/mogul Pharrell Williams. Getting his hands on Blurred Lines, along with the unexpected team up with Daft Punk, Pharrell has burst back on the top-40 scene as a performer.

Pharrell’s a nice dude, with some nice dreams, see these ice cubes, see these Ice Creams?


– Justin Bieber SMDH

The Biebster has been on his Believe tour since September of 2012, and is currently promoting the concert movie, Believe 3D, set to release on Christmas Day, but other than some collabo with Nicki Minaj, I couldn’t name a single Bieber song of 2013.

However, I can name about 3 dozen incidents in which the Biebs made TMZ for something unrelated to his artistry (haaaaaaaaaaaa.)

Aside from being surpassed by Katy Perry as the most followed person on Twitter, other tragedies have befallen your favorite androgynous pop star in 2013.

  • Justin Bieber’s pet capuchin monkey, Mally, was confiscated by German custom agents in March of 2013.
  • Also in March, Bieber had a run in with a paparazzo in London, and was restrained by his bodyguard while threatning to “beat the f***ing f*** out of him.”
  • Bieber was accused of spitting on a neighbor in his LA neighborhood.
  • Bieber goes shirtless through security in a Polish Airport, Wladyslaw Reymont, shirtless
  • In April, Justin visited the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam. In the guest book, he wrote,  “Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber.”
  • Selena Gomez and Bieber broke up at some point during this year. I will find out the exact date, don’t you worry Funkhouser
  • Keyshawn Johnson, former NFL wide receiver, confronted Bieber about speeding through their residential LA neighborhood in some Ferrari cake. Porsche. Whatever. Bieber hid in his home, as he should have. Keyshawn called Bieber  “entitled.” Nawwww he’s Canadian! Can’t be.
  • Justin Bieber was caught on video, leaving a NYC nightclub peeing into a mop bucket, and spraying a bottle of cleaning supply at a picture of Bill Clinton (why was that there anyways…) and saying “F*** Bill Clinton. The two spoke on the phone later and cleared that whole thang up.
  • On his tour of South America, Bieber reportedly was seen leaving a Rio de Janeiro brothel, several days later, this was followed up with a selfie video of a sleeping Bieber taken by an alleged porn star/prostitute in Brazil. He also spray-painted (I think the kids call it “tagged” these days) a wall.

I’ve had enough, I’m done. Get it together Bieber. You’re besmirching Canada’s good name.

– Our Father Yeezus, who art now a Kardashian, hallowed be thy name

Kanye West released his popular 7th studio album, Yeezus, and became a father with the birth of North West, June 15th.

Kanye West is a god and a genius and the father of our Messiah, but most importantly–he and Kim K are the most reflective couple of American pop culture in 2013. While we’d like to say it’s Jay Z and Beyonce, let’s be honest–Kim and Kanye represent the entire spectrum (not socioeconomically..)–from trashy reality television to whatever the hell Kanye represents on any particular day. He’s a political and cultural critic, and a very talented artist–but like mutants–we fear what we don’t understand. Kim is a bit easier to read.

Most importantly, Bound 2. Thank you Kimye for blessing us with your engagement, this child, and this video in 2013. We could not ask for more.

Oh, and 2013’s unquestioned Prince (soon to be King) of rap music–Kendrick Lamar has been bopping along with Kanye on the Yeezus tour. The kid out of Compton will be headlining festivals worldwide soon.

His verse in Big Sean’s Control, calling out other rappers (or is it rappists?) is one of the most talked about moments in hip-hop this year.

The Harlem Shake fad

Remember that? It came in January, it left in February. Praise the gods.

What Does the Fox Say?

I know you’re tired of this now too. I feel bad for mothers with 5-12-year olds, you must be in hell right now?

The Norwegian pair, Ylvis’s viral sensation, What Does the Fox Say, came out of nowhere to chart and reach 10 bajillion views in 2013.

– Eminem is beginning to feel like a rap god/acid-bot

Like Kanye, this rap god also had a new album, Berzerk, but it’s been overshadowed for me by his greatest achievement–an interview during halftime of the Michigan-Notre Dame game on ABC’s Saturday Night college football broadcast.

There may never be a more awkward minute and a half between three people in history. Cherish it, moments like this only some so often.

The Great Gatsby soundtrack

Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby, one of the more popular movies this summer (but currently 15th in the domestic box office behind We’re the Millers and The Heat…. da fuh) is noteworthy for having one of the most unexpected, popular soundtracks of 2013. Co-produced by Jay Z, it featured songs by The XX, Lana Del Rey, Florence Welch, Gotye, Beyonce and Andre 3000, Jack White, and Jay Z himself.

The Roaring 20s have never felt more like the Roaring 2010s.

Another candidate for most interesting soundtrack of 2013 is that of the soon-to-be-released Coen Brothers’ film, Inside Llewlyn Davis. The folksy tracks feature voices such as that of Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, and Marcus Mumford. Check it out here.

– Genre crossover

2013 has seen the rise of “blurred lines” between genres in music–from Taylor Swift introducing some electronic feel to her pop country, Florida Georgia Line rap sangggging in a twang with Nelly, Dutch DJ, Avicii combing folk country with dance music, to One Direction becoming less boy band and kinda sorta more rock band–music ain’t what it used to be.

In the digital age, we are all interconnected, and because of this, the barrier between typically dichotomous forms of music such as rap and country, or top-40 and dance music is fading faster than ever before.


– Dance music taking over

On a similar note, electronic dance music–from deep house to funk to electronica to progressive to dubstep to techno to dahelldoesthatallmean (I swear these are all things,) the music that has dominated Europe for years is finding a mainstream audience outside the club and music festival scene.

From Beatport, a site entirely dedicated to the producer and the DJ, to the Billboard Hot 100 which features such songs as Zedd’s Clarity and Avicii’s Wake Me Up, Ellie Goulding and Calvin Harris’s I Need Your Love, electronic music has taken hold. And not only “party” music is gaining popularity here in the states, but also more relaxed, electro-pop/synth-pop artists have made strides–Chvrches, Cut Copy, Active Child, The XX, BANKS, Crystal Castles, GEMS, and many others are becoming mainstays in the blogosphere, and in radio charts as well.

The most blogged about band in the world for the first half of 2013, Disclosure, is one of the freshest on the electronic scene. The 19 and 22-year old British brother duo incorporates funk, synth, house, (alllll the EDM varieties) into their original music and remixes. Their first studio album, Settle, was one of the best of 2013–original, catchy, and filled with the voices other talented British newcomers–London Grammar, AlunaGeorge, and Sam Smith–these kids are here to stay.

I saw them in concert. It was epic. Listen to them here. Moving on.

It must be noted, with more and more suburbanites doing those bad drugs Miley Cyrus talks about, digital dance music should remain a mainstay in the festival and live music communities for the distant future. Whether EDM will maintain its influence in pop, rap, and even country music, targeted at a more soccer mom and teeny-bopper crowd, remains to be seen. 2013 MTV Video Music Awards - Pre-Show

– The year belongs to Miley

We all know it and there’s no denying it. No one has made more news than Miley in 2013, she’s even being considered for TIME’s Person of the Year.

The VMA twerkfest with Robin Thicke was undoubtedly the biggest micromoment for Miley Cyrus. I cannot remember any incident in pop culture in the past decade that has been talked about more, or by more diverse parties, than this. Along with releasing her album Bangerz, hosting Saturday Night Live, dancing with little people, rapping with Wiz Khalifa and Mike Will Made it in 23, being featured on the cover of Rolling Stone, smoking a spliff onstage in Amsterdam, licking a sledgehammer and swinging naked in Wrecking Ball, or performing that very song at the American Music Awards with a crying digital cat, in a cat two-piece–Miley knows how to market herself.

She can’t stop, and she won’t stop.

I almost forgot about that video, that’s how much Miley Cyrus excitement there was in 2013, that bizarre video seems like NBD.

Oh, and Wrecking Ball is currently the #1 song on the Billboard Hot 100. And she just turned 21.

So here’s to you Miley, you owned 2013. Also, R. Kelly–you’re my runner-up. The greatness that is Sex Dolphin, along with performing with Phoenix at Lolla and Coachella, means after decades you’re too legit to quit.

Sound off if you have any other top music moments of 2013, or want to go less mainstream with it then I did here–all ears.


Article written by Brennan English

Just give me all the bacon and eggs you have. @BrennanKSR