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100 Best Songs of 2013

Daft Punk went disco, Kendrick Lamar murdered the competition, and a 16-year-old New Zealander dissed bling and made the whole world sing

French robots owning the radio with super-smooth Seventies disco, a 16-year-old wunderkind repping the mean streets of New Zealand, an angry hip-hop genius going off on corporate racism, Canadian rock redeemers making epic art-disco, HAIM, Drake, Miley, Justin – music in 2013 was a hot mess of innovation and blurred genre lines. Anarchy on the hip-hop and pop charts and thrilling new energy in the EDM and indie-rock underground meant picking the best 100 songs amidst all this wasn't easy. But it was fun.

Contributors: Jon Dolan, Will Hermes, Christian Hoard, David Marchese, Rob Sheffield and Simon Vozick-Levinson

 

Daft Punk

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58

Daft Punk feat. Julian Casablancas, “Instant Crush”

Soft-focus disco strut with a lilting California MOR undercurrent and the vocoded Strokes frontman singing about a summer memory that just never dies; it's the sound of a cyborg searching for love and the Seventies searching for Eighties, and it's one of Daft Punk's earnest pop peaks.

Paul McCartney

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57

Paul McCartney, “New”

The title track from Macca's latest album sounds old, title notwithstanding, but in the best way. A Beatlesque pop confection with production by retro-modernist Mark Ronson, it's got a bouncy harpsichord-flavored melody line and a touch of brass that recalls "Got to Get You into My Life." It sinks its hooks instantly, going out on some goofy-sweet scat singing that will probably linger on your palate all day.

Laura Marling

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56

Laura Marling, “Master Hunter”

Quoting Dylan ("It ain't me, babe"), England's 23-year-old princess of folk follows her own road on this existential anti-love song, the highlight of the seven linked songs that open Once I Was An Eagle. She connects the 1960s singer-songwriter tradition – and the ancient one it revived – to the ache of the now.

The National

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55

The National, “Sea of Love”

These guys excel at introspective adult mood pieces, so it's bracing to hear them rock out with an unabashed roof-raiser like this one. Matt Berninger plumbs his haunted heart, rhyming "love is a virtue" with "sorry I hurt you." For the last minute or so, the band rises up for a cathartic shout-along finale. Proof that dad-rock can be a verb.

Karl Walter/Getty Images for Coachella)

54

Pusha T, “Numbers On the Boards”

His toughest track since the Clipse days, celebrating "36 years of doing dirt like it's Earth Day," with bass to match from Kanye West and DJ Don Cannon. Pusha clowns MCs who lack his money ("Your plane's missing a chef" – burn!) or his skills, asking, "How could you relate when you ain't never been great?"

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53

Kacey Musgraves, “Follow Your Arrow”

An anthem of self-determination suggesting you roll up a joint and/or kiss folks of your own gender if you feel like it. No big shock, except it's a mainstream country song, and a great one. They bleeped the weed refs on the CMAs, but they still let her sing it. Revolutionary.

Gus Stewart/WireImage

52

Sky Ferreira, “Heavy Metal Heart”

Ferreira's former misadventures in the pop machine lend real-life resonance to this bursting declaration of personal freedom. When she swears, "The way I was before/I'm not her anymore," as her art-damaged voice soars above winking blasts of double-kick drumming, it's enough to melt even the steeliest A&R (or black metal) heart.

Jemal Countess/Getty Images

51

Bruce Springsteen, “High Hopes”

This was the last thing anyone expected from Springsteen, dropped on the world as a surprise late-autumn release. He covers a song by the Havalinas, an utterly unknown L.A. band from the Nineties, and turns it into an E Street anthem. He also brings in Tom Morello, whose guitar helps him rage against the machine. (Besides that machine that got stuck in the mud, somewhere in the swamps of Jersey.)

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