Whether you were shamefully singing along to “We Can’t Stop” or participating in the online freakout over the BEYONCE album, 2013 was a killer year for good music and surprise albums.
Story by Rumnique Nannar
Not everyone could match Queen Bey’s ability to overshadow all other artist by releasing songs and albums on Friday the 13th (sorry Lorde, Lupe Fiasco) but that didn’t stop the chartbusters from coming from Coke Studio, underground punk bands or MIA.
These are the top five music moments that made us feel endlessly cooler for improving the playlists of everyone around us!
1. Beyonce’s Secret Takeover – Consider us slain by Beyonce’s innovative and colossal surprise album. The album was the biggest kept secret of 2013 and boy was it worth the freakout and frenzy. Touted as a visual album, Beyonce released all the music videos at once, and the music is a collection of gritty, introspective songs, along with a few sex jams thrown in for good measure. The arrangements are completely addictive, as she mixes excerpts of Chimamanda Adichie’s speeches with “Flawless” and makes you blush and dance to “Partition,” her ode to limousine lovin’. This is a more mature and feminist Beyonce than we’ve ever seen before, and that growth is evident in these thoughtful and pulsating tracks. While her feminist leanings have been under contention, Beyonce’s album has certainly sparked a conversation about her identity politics and that’s a good thing too!
2. Our Matangi M.I.A. – While we’ve raved about Mathangi before, it’s such a sterling and wicked realization of all the themes that M.I.A has focused on, whether it’s riffing on her controversies in “Boom” or the addictive staple “Bad Girls.” Matangi is an abrasive album using the scattered beats of kuthu, dancehall reggae, trap, and dubstep to create addictive melodies that are much less noisy and chaotic than 2010’s Maya. While the reviews of the album ranged from the impressed to the hostile, M.I.A just doesn’t care about that. She is far more concerned with raising awareness about the issues she’s concerned in her own earnest way. Whether stirring up fights with Drake’s YOLO, or advocating that we’d better “scram, coz I’m a party fuckin’ animal,” we were so ready for this return to form from this challenging South Asian icon. For that we can applaud her messy but matured sound where there’s a slick chaos to her soundscape.
3. Coke Studio Rules! – Coke Studio India and Pakistan upped the ante with big name guests and a stunning output of songs. Coke Studio India is often that safe haven for music directors like Salim and Sulaiman, Amit Trivedi and Ram Sampath to unleash their versatile sounds and influences that go beyond the strict formats of film soundtracks. Sampath recruited Rajasthani folk singer Bhanvari Devi and Hard Kaur, an unlikely combo for the explosive Kattey, where Kaur raps about her troubled family life and Devi lets out that powerful voice. Pairing rappers with folk singers seemed to be a theme, as Amit Trivedi composed Rabba, with Punjabi singer Tochi Raina and Jaggi riffing on love and Heer-Raanjha. Coke Studio Pakistan was also back for it’s sixth season with more amazing performances from Zeb and Haniya, and the original rockstar, Ali Azmat from Junoon. The Pakistani version of the show is fabulous, since it integrates a lot of rock and punk sounds from the music scene with the rustic and traditional musicians like Sanam Marvi and folk singer Saeen Zahoor for Rabba Ho.
4. David, a hidden gem – One of the most interesting film soundtracks was the eclectic David, where eight bands and musicians contributed to a funky and moody album that is truly one of the underrated gems of the year. Bejoy Nambiar’s film followed three Davids, one a Goan fisherman, a punky layabout, and a 1970s gangster in London, which brought together a fascinating array of tracks to suit each section of the film. There were underground punk bands like The Lightyears Explode and Modern Mafia, who gained more exposure by composing electric songs for one David, played by a grungy and dreadlocked Vinay Virmani (Breakaway). Nambiar’s previous film Shaitan also incorporated musicians from the club and electronica scene, this album is a stunning suite of songs that highlight a strong and powerful punk rock scene in India that continues to grow.
5. Like a Rolling Stone – One of the greatest songs of all time by Bob Dylan finally got a music video, and my goodness what a viral sensation it was. Dylan and his team devised an interactive web experience for fans to flip through 16 cable channels featuring the Pawn Stars, the Property Bros twins, and comedian Marc Maron, all lip-syncing in perfect time to the lyrics of the song. I was completely transfixed and went through each channel at a time like a music nerd, but even when you change channels the song moves in sync. We should be asking Dylan, “how does it feel to be a viral sensation?”
Story By: Rumnique Nannar