So here we are, the last day of my countdown and time to see what my top 10 tracks of 2013 are. I must say it’s all a little surprising to see how it all panned out. I hadn’t really thought of any of the songs as outright contenders for the #1 of the year, but someone has to be there, and it’s about time I let the cat out of the bag.
10. Loreen – We Got The Power
Having spent the remainder of her 2012 reaping the benefits of her Eurovision-winning “Euphoria” across Europe as one of the contest’s biggest hits, where next? That seems like a good question and I’m still not entirely sure what the answer was. A video eventually arrived for “Euphoria” and a few different songs from “Heal” were launched in different territories to little avail.
But Eurovision winners always get a second bite of the cherry when they reprise their songs the following year. Loreen took advantage of this, performing “Euphoria” in a few versions, and a medley of other tracks from “Heal”. Opening that set was a brand new song, the dark and moody beat-driven “We got the power”. It wasn’t the most instant song I’d ever heard, but after sinking in I really loved it. “Heal” might have been a bit light on BPM at times – not to say I wanted 12 “Euphoria” clones – but this is more like it, she can have her message but it has a bit more of a pulse to it. If this is the shape of things to come, I guess that’s a good sign.
9. Birgit Õigemeel – Et Uus Saaks Alguse
Let’s linger on the Malmö stage for a moment longer, while the Estonian entry plays. This was a real slow burner for me, only really lighting up for me when it was performed. Birgit was really enchanting, singing her slightly re-tooled song about hope and new beginnings, with a lovely little climactic glory note before the last chorus, added after its selection in Estonian selection show Eesti Laul.
She lit up the stage, and turned what could have been a slightly humdrum ballad into something really wonderful. Estonia nearly always come up with great stuff, and this is definitely up there.
8. Mutya Keisha Siobhan – Flatline
If I was judging Loreen for failing to capitalise on an opportunity, the founding members of the Sugababes really took it to another level. The girls announced their reunion under the clunky group name of… Mutya Keisha Siobhan (as if Sugababes hadn’t been mis-spelled enough, even by their own label). The internet dubbed them MKS to save time, but there was plenty of time to be had. It was months later that the first song surfaced, and what a song it was. It just felt like a hit, just the sort of cool pop that Radio 1 would give a push at least.
Or not. After a further two months, the release date came and went (twice), with no radio support and stone-cold buzz, the single was released on a Friday (madness!) and missed the top 40 entirely. A total fiasco, and led many to wonder what the hell was going on behind the scenes. Even the current lineup of Sugababes could probably have done better with a surprise comeback – what the hell ARE they up to these days?
I hope this isn’t the end of the story, the Sugababes saga has been a source of much entertainment (and great music) for over a decade, and I’d hate for it to flatline now.
7. Susanne Sundfør – The Silicone Veil
From The Silicone Veil
Oh go on, one more from Susanne. I think I’ve said pretty much all I can say about her in the three previous entries in this top 50, but suffice to say one of her own tracks ends up cracking the top 10.
It had almost gone unnoticed the first few times I’d listened to its parent album of the same name, but it was a YouTube performance that really set this one alight. It’s one thing to have wonderful vocals on record, but to surpass them in such a spectacular way in a live performance blew my mind. I need new music from her ASAP.
6. Anton Ewald – Begging
From Melodifestivalen 2013
Ooh, one more from Melodifestivalen made it into the upper echelon of my list, and not the one I perhaps expected. I first heard this in Paris when I was watching a Melodifestivalen heat with my ESC-resistent friend (he’s totally getting converted).
At first glance he was a bit of a Saade-in-waiting, a singing dancer with model looks. He didn’t perform brilliantly in what would turn out to be a fairly disasterous heat, but it was enough to get him through to second-chance round Andra Chansen, and he joined Robin Stjernberg in the final (it turned out he’d won AC over eventual MF winner Robin) and came a very creditable 4th.
His performances got better and better, and while I didn’t take anything lasting back from his later EP “A“, he’ll surely be one to watch when he returns to Melodifestivalen in 2014.
5. Perfume – Spring of Life
As with Susanne I feel like I haven’t got a lot more left to say about Perfume, having ranked them twice lower down in this list. But here we are anyway, with the song that really set the whole thing going for me.
I’ve told this story before, but I first heard it on the flight back from Japan in Summer 2012 and was transfixed by the polished video, instantly catchy song and slick choreography. After a slow burn, I finally added it to my iPod on 1st January this year, and haven’t stopped since. I’ve gone through their whole back catalogue, including its parent album “LEVEL3” out this Autumn and seen their first gig in London, and I just love them.
“Spring of Life” is a full-on assault of cute dancepop, with some fantastic little asides, that tense middle-eight building up to the lovestruck synth freakout before the last chorus just blows my mind every time.
4. Lady Gaga – Do What U Want (ft R. Kelly)
Say what you want about Lady Gaga, in fact she invites it in the lyrics. I might not be as convinced as she sounds about how thick-skinned she is against the haters, having barely kept it together through her first big backlash. But this was the year that “ARTPOP” finally arrived, and it was a solid album.
Even now I think there are only about 3 songs I wouldn’t keep hold of. The album might have lacked too many huge hits like “The Fame” did, favouring a more consistently strong listening experience, but that’s not to say there wasn’t great stuff on it.
A surprise duet with shamed RnB legend R Kelly turned out to be one of her most sophisticated and marvellous creations of the last few years, and not simply “Gaga does RnB” in the vein many female popstars did this year in the name of versatility (and hedging their bets). She needs to get this video out though if she’s really going to add to her catalogue of smash hits, as the buzz is fading already. It would be a real shame if this one fell by the wayside.
3. Roberto Bellarosa – Love Kills
Oh yeah yeah, more Eurovision, what did you think was going to happen? Malmö was a really wonderful and enriching experience for me, supported a lot by there being such a strong selection of tracks. There was a similarly strong selection of likeable performers and backstories from the competing nations.
Belgium hadn’t had a great decade, aside from a sleeper hit in 2010. At least they weren’t The Netherlands, they could take solace in that fact. The show choosing Belgian “The Voice” winner Roberto’s song for Malmö wasn’t very inspiring, and he didn’t even seem particularly able to sing the song Belgium chose.
Months later he was belting out a synthed-up version that gave a great buzz to the arena with that pounding backing track. Roberto has seemed very nervous up to his point but you could almost see him transform during the week. He never shook the nerves but those big brown eyes showed that he finally realised he was going to nail that song. There’s nothing like it in Eurovision when someone has such goodwill behind them, as we saw with other artists in Malmö but this really stands out as a great moment for me.
2. Lawson – Learn to Love Again
From Chapman Square
You know, this was going to be my #1 of 2013 until I finished writing the bit for the then-#2 song and realised I’d just answered the question that had been hanging over these two songs for the last week. Sorry Lawson, but what a curveball would that have been?! Not to say I’m not really fond of these guys, and I enjoyed their debut album “Chapman Square” over the summer.
This was one of their sort of forgotten songs, released at the start of the year without much fanfare, breaking their run of top 10 hits. I am willing them on to bigger things, but I just don’t like the last two singles they released off the deluxe version of this album, so let’s see what happens in 2014.
“Learn to love again” is such a grand blend of guitar pop, a brilliant train-track rhythm and Andy’s powerful falsetto, with some arena-filling chants filling the gaps. While pop-rock boyband history is littered with more misses than hits, occasionally a group come along that just really click with the song, and on more than a few occasions on the album you get a song like this where you can just feel they are playing the shit out of this song with everything they’ve got. It’s such a slick song, transitions between each bit is smooth as silk and that pounding energy is so great. I really hope for more like this in 2014, rather than US-courting rubbish that’s not convincing anyone on either side of the Atlantic. Stay the course, boys.
1. Margaret Berger – I Feed You My Love
So here we are finally, and a final return trip to Malmö. Ultimately the victory goes to the Arctic Khaleesi Margaret Berger who represented Norway. Jet-black electro shocks the start of the song, with the drums smashing the backbone of the rest of the song. Talk about making an entrance, with the imposingly stark but playful character of Margaret in her ice-white catsuit and platinum blonde ponytail.
It would be easy for her vocals to have been lost in the mix but it’s a brilliantly produced track. I felt at the time that, for someone who had seen this performance a number of times before Malmö, it felt like a very slick show, but one that didn’t leave anywhere to really improve or change. So the impact was lost a little for me at the time, but fortunately most of the voters lapped it up and she came a strong 4th place – what a winner it could have been though!
Her new album is due next year, if it’s anywhere near as good as this, I’ll be first in line. But for now she can take satisfaction in the fact that she’s undoubtedly progressed the idea of what a Eurovision song can be, and it seems only Scandinavia have realised what a potent and rare thing that is.