What became of pop in 2013? Are we in a better place now that David Bowie is back and David Guetta has shut up for a bit, or did we plummet down a moral sinkhole led by Robin Thicke and a sledgehammer-wielding Miley Cyrus? How can we know for sure where we stand? With a haphazardly compiled collection of imaginary pop awards, that’s how. Happy Christmas, see you in January.
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR (ARTIST)
This was the year that Fleetwood Mac returned to the stage with the long-absent Christine McVie, and Kraftwerk brought every one of their albums to a long live stint in Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. But the biggest fuss was reserved for Bowie, his top-notch new album The Next Day and his glam V&A exhibition. Now how about a 2014 world tour, Dave?
COMEBACK OF THE YEAR (SOUND)
Nineties dance music
Two decade-old beats and synths were everywhere in pop, on Katy Perry’s Walking on Air, Lady Gaga’s Do What U Want, Count on Me by Chase & Status and Bastille’s Of the Night, which blended two big hits of the early Nineties to such appalling effect that an appearance on a special music edition of Crimewatch is inevitable.
Daft Punk — Get Lucky
So immediately lovable that it was almost impossible to believe that it wasn’t a song that had been around for years, Get Lucky’s fluid funk lodged itself in the brain sometime around April and is still there. It’ll take at least a decade’s worth of wedding discos and karaoke nights to ruin it completely.
As someone observed recently (on Twitter, of course), Cher tweets like she’s yelling to you in a busy bar, all capital letters, unique abbreviations and careless revelations. She’s one of the few major stars who uses social networking to show you a little of her real self, instead of endlessly repeating compliments and flogging tour tickets.
Geri Halliwell’s comeback single went to No 94 but that was only in Australia. Razorlight’s cocksure frontman flopped right here with a French-influenced debut album, Borrell 1, that 594 people bought in the week it went on sale. His record label took it with good grace, releasing a press release proclaiming it “the 15,678th best-selling album of the year to date”. It’s all to play for with Borrell 2.
GIG OF THE YEAR
Kanye West, Eventim Apollo, Feb 24
Before he startled his fans with his violent, intense Yeezus album, there was this live reminder of why West is the most fascinating major star around. Performing alone in a straitjacket and diamond facemask, on a steeply sloped stage that at one point filled with fake snow, he proved as vital and unpredictable as he’s ever been.
VIDEO THEME OF THE YEAR
“NSFW” was the attention-grabbing internet caution of the year. Justin Timberlake’s naked women were deemed “artistic” enough to be permitted on YouTube, while Robin Thicke’s were not. Miley Cyrus bared 98 per cent of her flesh and earned a million billion clicks a second. How do the songs go again? No one knows.
MUSIC BOOK OF THE YEAR
Morrissey — Autobiography
No piece of pop writing could overshadow Morrissey’s tome this year, dubbed a “classic” on its controversial Penguin cover before anyone had read a word. Many have pointed out that it’s overindulgent, self-aggrandising and moany — not particularly surprising, is it? It does also contain some great writing from a man who remains genuinely passionate about music.
COLLABORATION OF THE YEAR
Noel Gallagher and Damon Albarn
At the Wireless festival in the summer, Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z were enjoyable stage buddies but we saw that one coming. Much more surprising was Noel Gallagher joining Damon Albarn and Graham Coxon, once his sworn enemies in the Blur vs Oasis years, at March’s Teenage Cancer Trust gig. Noel and Damon duetted on Blur’s Tender, Paul Weller played the drums and Britpop fans wondered when they would wake up from this bizarre dream.
FEUD OF THE YEAR
Azealia Banks vs everybody
You’re nobody in pop until firebrand rapper Azealia Banks has fallen out with you. She said she dropped a collaboration with Disclosure when she felt they were rude about her in an interview. “We made the beat on the way there in the car, so I don’t give a damn if she uses it,” said the band’s Howard Lawrence. She also accused Lily Allen’s husband of looking like “a thumb”, at which Allen pointed out that she’s had two children and made her comeback in the time it’s taken Banks to make a still unreleased album. “Bitch is scared of the ball.” Zing!
What else? Proving that absence makes the heart grow fonder, Somerset’s temporary town returned after a fallow 2012 with The Rolling Stones in its back pocket. A stellar line-up that also included the rejuvenated Arctic Monkeys, Nile Rodgers’s Chic and a better than ever Vampire Weekend could only have been tarnished by terrible weather, which never came.
THE “THIS WASN’T HOW I PLANNED IT” AWARD
There was the second album by The Civil Wars, released at a time when both members of the band had declared they would never speak again, but the most confusing return to pop was Lily Allen’s. Two radically different singles were released near-simultaneously, one a cosy Keane cover for the John Lewis advert, the other an edgy feminist anthem full of rude words. The boring one went to No 1, while the latter plummeted out of the top 40, which may have her urgently adding more beige to her next album as we speak.
INADVERTENT CRIMEFIGHTER OF THE YEAR
Ri-Ri’s Twitter feed briefly became the greatest crime-fighting tool since the sniffer dog when the singer visited Thailand in October. Everything she recorded — being photographed with a protected slow loris, watching a woman do unspeakable things with two turtles and a ping pong ball — led to someone’s arrest, until people started fleeing every time she turned on her smartphone.
BRAVEST ANIMAL IN POP
Justin Bieber’s monkey
Snoop Dogg changed his name to Snoop Lion, Liam Gallagher rode a dog in a pub and Dappy was kicked in the face by a horse — heroic creatures all, but the one that really went through the mill this year was Justin Bieber’s monkey. The capuchin was abandoned in Munich after Bieber brought it on tour with the wrong paperwork, and a German zoo is still waiting for poor Mally to be picked up by its owner. If this is how he treats his pets, what does he think of his fans?
MOST EFFECTIVE INFURIATING OF HIPSTERS
The enigmatic Swedish dance duo dealt with the fact that every new female singer with a synth sounds like them these days, by releasing a new album of unlovable industrial beats and playing a Roundhouse gig that involved them doing amateurish synchronised dancing to a backing tape. Whether it worked depended on how many layers of irony you felt able to apply.
LEAST LIKELY NEW MUSIC JOURNALIST
People have been known to try all sorts of desperate things to get a job writing for NME but becoming leader of the Labour Party isn’t usually one of them. Nevertheless, Ed Miliband had a column in the music weekly for one week this month, defending his none-more-bland picks on Desert Island Discs.
“I know choosing A-ha and Robbie Williams doesn’t make me the coolest kid on the block,” he wrote. Unfortunately it didn’t pre-empt a new weekly series, in which he is introduced to the delights of trap, EDM and chillwave.