**This year I've decided to double post the year-end music lists here as well as at my (largely defunct) other blog, Pop Candy Arcade. If you're looking for a past history of year end music wrap-ups, though, you will find them there.**
In the years that I've made 'best of' playlists, I've not regretted it. The projects are, essentially, exercises in personal librarianship; a means of building a small time capsule to collect songs small and large and the memories that may go along with them. They're also among my most frequently played song collections because, well, they're all the relatively recent things I love. So, when the holidays come around, I begin to sort through the songs I've marked over the course of year and work on sharing them. Those familiar with the process know that before the big, official list of goodies we must confess and excise the so-called 'guilty pleasures.' These are the songs I enjoy, admittedly, but which I may feel the need to explain after I sing along.
For you judgmental, head-shaking, eye-rolling listening pleasure, I present you with these not-so-sweet 13 tracks. Maybe I shouldn't like them, but I definitely do...
EDIT (12/31): Zedd's "Clarity" and the Britney Spears track "Work B**ch" are now honorable mentions. Totally overlooked/forgot about two songs that totally need to take their place.
Britney Spears / "Work B**tch" I will freely admit to eating up every Britney Spears album since the self-destructive period of Blackout. There's something about Spears that, even now, makes her the ultimate pop product from growling voice to Barbie-blonde locks in a way that's flat-out undeniable. If you hate on Britney, you're caught up in some sort of teenage loathing that's just not worth the effort. That said, Britney Jean is the first album I haven't dug in a long while. "Work B**tch," though, is a track just made for getting shit done.
Zedd ft. Foxes / "Clarity" I hate this damn song. I hate it so much. It is so stupid. So, so, stupid. The lyrics are complete garbage, it sounds like a recycled piece of early-aughts Euro-dance trash, and the sentiment is dumb as shit. But then it builds up, past the chorus, to this euphoric climax, and I'm like, yes, we'll just listen through this part. Is it coming again? We'll wait til that. Then we'll turn it off. Jesus, I hate this song.
13. Ciara ft. Nicki Minaj / "I'm Out" We don't really need to make excuses for enjoying Ciara tracks this year. She's proven herself with "Body Party," and really, this is lady swagger pop at its best.
12. Paramore / "Still Into You" When I think of Paramore I pretty much just picture a small town kid scrounging around sale striped socks in a dark corner of a Hot Topic, possibly wearing animal ears and clutching a lanyard hung with Invader Zim keyrings. This song doesn't cancel that vision out, but it at least gives it a self-aware sense of humor. I've long loathed Paramore as an irksome 'scene' band, and I've particularly hated the vomit-inducing "The Only Exception," but "Still Into You" is a roller rink anthem type of pop song. And, well, I'm into it.
11. Katy Perry / "Birthday" Let's quote this, shall we? "So let me get you in your birthday suit / It's time to bring out the big balloons." Oh Katy, you are too funny. It's like "Teenage Dream," the super juvenile edition. Completely dumb, completely wonderful. Listen to those sneaky swelling horns in there.
10. Lady Gaga ft. R. Kelly / "Do What U Want" As we know, I kinda love Lady Gaga flat out, no apologies. And really, this song is a jam. It's a solidly crafted pop song and the most radio friendly piece on the sublimely weird Artpop. But...I'm guilty about it. Two reasons: one, even though Gaga's lyrics are most certainly designed as bedroom consent, I'm not sure we need a radio single that invites people to do what they want with bodies at this point in time. Two: we definitely don't need R. Kelly, certified creeper, in on the duet. Otherwise, yeah, it's great.
9. Miley Cyrus ft. French Montana / "FU" This tell-off track is about as close as Miley Cyrus should be allowed to a James Bond theme song. Not that "FU" has a damn thing to do with 007, but the chorus certainly has strains of a post-Shirley Bassey sound (mixed with some wobble-bass) perfect for drag show cabarets and a cover Adele could kill on. It's a clunky, clumsy, nerdy showtune that just happens to fit neatly into one of the most talked about pop albums of the year.
8. Will.I.Am ft. Justin Bieber / "#thatPOWER" I didn't think I liked this song, and then I started to hear it randomly in all sorts of public places: stores, bars, wide-open hallways pumped full of muzak. Every time I did? I was like...yeah, I got that power...walk, walk, walk...ugh, Will.I.Am you are the worst.
7. Fergie ft. Q-Tip & Goonrock / "A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)" And moving on to the other core member of the Black Eyed Peas, Fergie had a little contribution to the Great Gatsby soundtrack that was a little too fun for people to care about. Featured in one of the big, West Egg party sequences, its beats are fully in keeping with a spastic Luhrmann glitter montage, and if you can put it on without succumbing to some shoulder bouncing, you have an impressive resistance, my friend.
6. Little Mix ft. Missy Elliott / "How Ya Doin'?" If every song on the Little Mix album was as much of a 90's girl group throwback as this one, I'd probably be listening to it constantly. The answering machine message, the kitschy chorus, the MISSY ELLIOTT feature. It's the best thing. I'm not ashamed.
5. Selena Gomez / "Come & Get It" This is the song where Selena Gomez tries to prove that she's an adult, or something. She's like, oh, hey guys, guess what, this my sexy song shit. And I'm like, hey, Selena, this thing sounds like someone spun-off the beginning of Madonna's "Frozen" and forgot that they needed to write lyrics. Yet, it's kind of like this sticky fly-strip of a song. Once the rhythm starts, I get hooked in its sludgy flatness even though I know it never really gets anywhere.
4. Miley Cyrus / "Do My Thang" Though Miley Cyrus may be one of the most talked about, edgiest pop acts this year, I'm of the opinion that Bangerz is a startlingly nerdy album. It's a cheesy, unapologetic mess of good-natured appropriations and stunted teenage attitude. By the time you get to "Do My Thang" and listen to Miley spit a reminder that "I'm a southern belle / I told you once before I get crazier than hell," you just kind of have to shake your head, smile, and run with the absurdity.
3. Taylor Swift / "22" It's no "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," but T.Swizzle's sugar-sweet single has a rather irresistible slumber party anthem sound that makes it hard to rationally hate without feeling flat out curmudgeonly. The lyrics are feather weight insights on growing up, the chorus is a brilliantly simple rhyme, and, well, I don't know about you, but I feel like putting on some cat ears and sequins and throwing confetti around a living room.
2. Miley Cyrus / "We Can't Stop" I've sat on the edge of so many arguments about this song this year. Those who hate it think it's a flat, tone-deaf disaster unworthy of redemption. Those who love it tend to do so ironically. While ironic love certainly isn't something to aspire to, "We Can't Stop" does seem to capture the lazy rebellion of so many other turbo-charged pop songs while emphasizing how repetitive and deadpan they really are. Miley may not have been going for that, but the song does fully in keeping with the zeitgeist.
1. Robin Thicke ft. Kendrick Lamar / "Give It 2 U" Depending on how generous I'm feeling, "Blurred Lines" may or may not make it onto the master list of 2013 tracks. "Give It 2 U," though certainly belongs filed under the very guilty pleasures. Robin Thicke creeps me out. Majorly. And the song flat out obliterates its suggestive, flirty qualities in favor of moronically phrased raunch (see: "A big dick for ya" and "now you gettin' this dick, love"), which, typically, is a flat out no-no for a peppy pop song. But, "Give It 2 U" has an undeniable danceability and numerous occasion for voguing and jazz hands, so, we'll just go with it.