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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

 

Migos

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69

Migos feat. Drake, “Versace (Remix)”

Sometimes a single word is all you need to craft an indelible hook. For this trio of young, brash ATLiens, the magic syllables are "Versace," repeated so many times they blow past conspicuous consumption straight into post-verbal nirvana. Even better: This official remix, where Drake does Migos the high honor of stealing their excitable flow.

Sam Baker

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68

Sam Baker, “Ditch”

"Got a crazy ass wife, got a baby on the way," sings this rough-diamond Austin singer-songwriter, who also notes his job where "the crew's a bunch of stoners" and "the boss is a shit." It's a downward spiral from there, but an impressively uplifting one. Plus: the year's best gratuitous Taylor Swift reference.

Speedy Ortiz

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67

Speedy Ortiz, “Tiger Tank”

These guitar kids from Western Massachusetts scored an excellent indie-rock debut, Major Arcana, with wry vignettes like "Tiger Tank." Sadie Dupuis breaks her twenty-something romantic angst down to its component parts, from "My mouth is a factory for every toxic part of speech I spew" to "My face is a label for how awfully I'm doing." But the guitars help her put it all together.

Albert Hammond Jr

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66

Albert Hammond Jr., “St. Justice”

The best Strokes song of the year wasn't on the new Strokes record. It was this bedroom-rock gem from guitarist Albert Hammond Jr.'s great EP AHJ. "St. Justice" recalled the Strokes at their most effortlessly easy-on-the-ears, with a thunderbolt bass line, a warm blooping synth melody and lyrics steeped in post-rehab emotional clarity.

Kanye West

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65

Kanye West, “I Am a God”

Kanye rocked the funniest, craziest line of the year ("In a French-ass restaurant/Hurry up with my damn croissants/I am a God"), and assured himself a lifetime of hastily prepared baked goods. This is the greatest hate-rap screed by a deity with dangerously low blood sugar in ages.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

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64

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Sacrilege”

Karen O offers up this breathlessly conflicted lover's prayer over Nick Zinner's glam-guitar slashing and Brian Chase's punk-funk drums. But then a gospel choir puts its arms around her like early-morning Jehovah's Witnesses on the doorstep, soothes her soul, and takes the jam home. Sounds like salvation to us.

Disc

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63

Disclosure feat. AlunaGeorge, “White Noise”

Bringing house music yin to dubstep yang, the UK brothers pair up with fellow newbie club rulers AlunaGeorge for a rubbery freestyle invitation to "let's play rough." Anglophile bonus points for the way Aluna Francis obliterates the second "t" in "automatic" before disappearing into a K-hole of echo.

TV on the Radio

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62

TV on the Radio, “Mercy”

The New York art-rockers are at their best when they drop their guard and let it the apocalyptic dance-rock rip. "I see tons of people looking lost and lethal," Tunde Adebimpe sings, and the ferocious, hyper-speed track goes off like a bomb in the hipster disco.

Lorde

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61

Lorde, “White Teeth Teens”

Lorde's songs feel like dispatches from the margins of suburban teen dystopia, hanging just on the verge between desire and disavowal. Here she rides a muted girl group shimmy and tells a boy to "impress the empress, take a shot now" down "at the underpass where we all sit, and do nothing and love it." She makes her nowhere feel like the center of everything.

Sleigh Bells

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60

Sleigh Bells, “Young Legends”

This Brooklyn duo keeps finding new ways to screw with conventional notions of how rock is supposed to sound – their acoustic guitar blasts as loud as the synth feedback. Alexis Krauss chants a hard-ass warning – "Young legends die all the time" – like it's bubblegum pop, while guitarist-producer Derek Miller makes the music go bang.

miley cyrus

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59

Miley Cyrus, “Wrecking Ball”

Miley belts a break-up ballad that calls attention to the aspect of her game nobody ever notices – her country-flavored vocal power – and cruises to Number One, proving that Miley's a baller as well as a banger. And the video sets a whole new standard for the erotic exploitation of construction equipment.

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.

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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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