Was it so long ago that Daft Punk were still in reclusion, Justin Timberlake’s new album(s) was just a glimmer in his and Timbaland’s eye, and the word “Yeezus” was not yet a part of the pop lexicon? Yes, a good deal has happened in the pop world these last six months, and as we were re-introduced to those old friends of ours, we were making countless new ones as well, resulting in a rich six months of pop music that you can only start to summarize with a list of 50 songs.
Still, attempt to summarize we shall, with our countdown of the 50 best songs from the first half of 2013. Check out our Spotify playlist of all the available songs at the bottom of each page–we hear it makes for a pretty righteous 4th of July barbecue soundtrack.
#50. EMBLEM3, “CHLOE (YOU’RE THE ONE I WANT)”
Just what every girl wants to hear–that even though her sister is the really hot one in the family, she’s still the one for you. Well, when it’s sung and rapped this sweetly and innocently, over a summery Sugar Ray guitar hook, she might be persuaded to overlook the implied insult, anyway.
#49. MIGOS, “CHINA TOWN”
Migos’ Young Rich N—as mixtape is like if the Atlanta trio were a rap one-hit wonder, except that every single song on the record could’ve been their “Racks” or “Cash Out.” Wonderiest of all is perhaps “China Town,” with a meaninglessly addictive hook, a chorus littered with Mortal Kombat references and pager sound effects, and verses that turn the drug trade into something playful and colorful enough for a Berenstein Bears book. Socially irresponsible, perhaps, but very catchy.
#48. THE BAND PERRY, “DONE.”
How definitive is the end-of-relationship stamp The Band Perry puts on their latest barnstorming, crossover-ready breakup song? Well, if the authority with which Kimberly Perry belts the “I’M THROUGH! / WITH YOU!” line on the chorus wasn’t clue enough, the fact that the title is in all caps with a period at the end of it should probably be pretty convincing. Pop stars don’t generally waste a lot of space with title punctuation, you know.
#47. FALL OUT BOY, “MY SONGS KNOW WHAT YOU DID IN THE DARK (LIGHT ‘EM UP)”
Did it Save Rock n’ Roll? No, but it did save montage editors, TV music supervisors and PA operators at sporting events from having to use “Radioactive” for the trillionth time, which is arguably just as important. And any soundtrack that gets Patrick Stump’s glorious voice back on Top 40 radio is plenty worthwhile in our book. I mean, that falsetto! So righteous.
#46. MAC MILLER, “S.D.S.”
Who could’ve possibly guessed that Mac Miller would sound so at home rapping over a woozy, swirling, supremely stoned-sounding Flying Lotus beat? OK, maybe in retrospect it wasn’t all that shocking, but Mac slips into the role like he was doing the fratboy MF Doom routine his entire career, and hell, maybe he should have been. Low mainstream ceiling for fare like this, perhaps, but there’s no turning back to “Donald Trump” at this point.
#45. CL, “THE BADDEST FEMALE”
Beyonce may have been first to declare “Bow down, bitches” in pop this year, but our Jacques Peterson transferred the sentiment to K-pop solo star CL upon the release of her first single apart from her pop supergroup 2NE1, “The Baddest Female”–rightly so, considering the song’s effortless cool and commanding sonic thud, both highly Queen Bey-worthy. Not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good, you know.
#44. ZEDD FEAT. FOXES, “CLARITY”
One of the year’s most indefatigable pop songs, “Clarity” has now been highlighting DJ sets at EDM festivals for half a year, and is still yet to cease its gradual climb up the Hot 100. It’s Foxes’ unusually soulful vocal on the verses that really sets the song apart from the anonymous hits of the festival circuit–the delivery on lines like “Hold still right before we crash / ’cause we both know how this ends” is so heartfelt and complelling that Zedd thought we might actually be interested in an acoustic version of the song. Mistaken, but telling nonetheless.
#43. KELLY ROWLAND, “DIRTY LAUNDRY”
“Swear, y’all don’t know the half of this industry.” Not from Kelly’s perspective, apparently, as she sings to our jaw-dropping surprise about her conflicted jealousy over big sis Beyonce’s tremendous commercial success and her own traumatizing struggles with domestic abuse. Still, despite all the lyrical bombs being dropped, it’s producer The-Dream’s insistent piano pounding that hits the hardest, every note coming like a dagger to Kelly’s already broken heart.
#42. AVRIL LAVIGNE, “HERE’S TO NEVER GROWING UP”
The sublime will always overrule the ridiculous in pop music, which is why someone like Avril Lavigne–a near-30-year-old divorcee about to get married for the second time, to the guy from Nickelback no less–can sing a 16-year-old’s Peter Pan anthem about forever yougnness, and we’ll still have no choice but to sing along. Also, why that Radiohead line is still super-great.
#41. FUTURE FEAT. LIL WAYNE, “KARATE CHOP (REMIX)”
Listen to this song enough, and eventually, you’ll even be ordering your Chinese food delivery in Future’s binosyllabic cadence. “COULDI-GETAN-ORDER-OF-FRIED-DUMPLINGS? (THEM DUMPLINGS!)” Just try not to chop the delivery man like karate when he shows up with your order.
For songs #40-31, click NEXT.