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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


Fall Out Boy

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Fall Out Boy “My Songs Know What You Did In The Dark”

This marked the reunion everyone thought would never happen, ever since Fall Out Boy broke up – like, two whole years ago. So it makes sense they return with a fantastic stomper about getting haunted by music and memories that dog you from your past. 2000s nostalgia: here at last.


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Phoenix, “Trying to Be Cool”

"I'm just tryin' to be cool/It's all because of you," declares Thomas Mars, which is like Rihanna confiding she's trying to be hot. But somehow Mars is all the cooler for it, doing a vocal electric glide through gleaming synth-pop that explodes in a dance-party orgasm on the outro. If he's talking to us, we're flattered.

Janelle Monae Erykah Badu

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Janelle Monáe feat. Erykah Badu, “Q.U.E.E.N.”

"Am I a freak for getting down?" asks Monáe. No girl, not when the music is this tight. An anthem of self-determination with Prince-ly synths and a funkadelicious bassline, it downshifts into soul-jazz midway through, with Erykah offering Badu-ist perspective ("booty don't lie!"). Then Janelle transforms into a superhero MC to take it home. "Categorize me, I defy every label," she declares. And she does.

Black Sabbath

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Black Sabbath, “God is Dead?”

Ozzy Osbourne's first studio LP with Sabbath in 35 years brought the ur-metal here, with Ozzman rhyming "gloom," "doom," and "tomb" like a bad-tripping freshman after his first taste of Existentialism 10 – which of course, at its core, is what heavy metal is all about. That and crushing riffage, which guitarist Tony Iommi shovels out like an inspired gravedigger.

Franz Ferdinand

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Franz Ferdinand, “Treason! Animals.”

A modern love song from the glamorous Scottish guitar boys. "Treason! Animals." combines organ-drenched Seventies stoner rock with vintage disco, as Alex Kapranos switches off between "I'm in love with a narcissist," "I'm in love with my nemesis" and "I'm in love with my pharmacist" – all very Franz Ferdinand dilemmas.

2 chainz

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2 Chainz feat. Pharrell, “Feds Watching”

The reigning king of punchline rap snaps back at intrusive government surveillance (really!) as only he can – by celebrating his amazing wardrobe over a Pharrell beat that feels like a tropical vacation. "I'ma be fresh as hell if the feds watching," goes Chainz' exuberant refrain, sounding like a swagged-out Edward Snowden.


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Mystikal, “Hit Me”

"Say it proud/I'm black and I'm loud" chants the New Orleans rap vet at the end of this breakneck don't-call-it-a-comeback funk jam, which registered as the first great hip-hop single of 2013 while arguing Mr. "Shake Ya Ass" may be a better James Brown impersonator than even Charles Bradley. Dude also channels the Jackson 5 and Muhammad Ali. Que pasa? he asks. Answer: This is.

Empire of the Sun

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Empire of the Sun, “Alive”

Aussie duo Empire of the Sun gave us the year's giddiest dance pop anthem with this sunnily stomping, group-sing-along bliss blast. These guys sure weren't shy about telling us the source of their disco happiness: "Swimming through the smoke/Wrapped in velvet gold."

Charles Bradley

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Charles Bradley, “Victim of Love”

The career James Brown impersonator became a breakout star in his sixties when he sidelined the adopted persona (see the remarkable documentary Soul Of America). This sweet, doo-wop-scented slice of soul-folk – one part Otis, one part James, totally Bradley – shows why.

Jay Z

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Jay Z, “Tom Ford”

"Numbers don't lie, check the scoreboard," Jay Z advised over this bottle-poppin' Timbaland beat. It might be his most lavish playa anthem ever, the work of man who has traded street corners for runways but can still pull off a line like "flush out a Riesling/When Hov's out them hoes out/Y'all put y'all weaves in."

Major Lazer

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Major Lazer feat. Bruno Mars, Tyga and Mystic, “Bubble Butt”

As joyfully jiggly and deliriously physical as its subject, Major Lazer's twerk-enticer lures its featured guests into some inspired raunch amidst the bottom-heavy (heh) bass and squiggly synths. If Miley had wriggled to this on national TV, no one would've batted an eye – they would've been too busy turning around, sticking it out, showing the world what they got.