Trendy yet timeless.
Some music never gets tired, others are catchy once and then forgotten. For materials which have been released for over a decade, time has helped us to separate the wheat from the chaff. It’s a little trickier with contemporary music, especially in the world of mainstream pop where unlike the alternative scene, we don’t have the advantage of “critical consensus”.
Some school of thoughts would even go as far to argue that mainstream music no longer has merits—that it’s now overruled with corporate greed aiming to capitalize on trendy fads for quick cash. That’s an understandable point of view, but as a poptimist, I would argue that mainstream music is home to some of the best melodies. And after all is said and done, the best of mainstream pop music did resonate with many of us, so not everything is lost yet.
I started this little music project back in December 2012. I compiled a Pinterest list of 150 future mainstream classics over the span of 15 years (1998-2012) which, in my view, still sounds fresh today.
Now that 2013 is over, it is interesting to have a look back on the year and predict the classics.
Firstly, the rules and parameters…
1. I don’t pre-decide how many songs from each year would make the list. This allows the qualification for each song to be judged on its own.
2. To qualify as ‘mainstream’, the song needs to either enter the Top 10 on Billboard Hot 100 anytime throughout the year, or Top 100 on Billboard Year-End Hot 100.
3. To qualify as ‘classic’, uhm… I have no scientific method to offer, ‘kay. A song may be picked because it’s legitimately good (the Adele territory), it’s one hell of a pop tune (the Katy Perry territory) or it’s so bad it’s good (the Rebecca Black territory, whom unfortunately never charted high enough to qualify). I’m gonna try to be objective, but we all can agree to disagree.
And here’s the 2013 Future Mainstream Classics list… (in no particular order)
– P!nk – Try | P!nk’s best emotional mid-tempo since Who Knew. It’s probably also one of her simplest singles to date, yet the sincerity she brought into this song burns our hearts out. Extra nugget points for the music video choreography, which is serving Running Up That Hill-caliber tea.
– Bruno Mars – When I Was Your Man | One major reason why I never caught on to Bruno Mars love back in his debut era: He’s a giant cheese ball with lyrics that make me cringe. Toning down saccharine arrangement in favor of old-school piano-soul charm is a much-welcomed approach, allowing his undeniably excellent gift for writing pop melodies to truly shine.
– P!nk feat. Nate Ruess – Just Give Me A Reason | For the first time, P!nk takes the drama and exclamation mark off to show us her softer side. And it struck a powerful chord: “We’re not broken just bent, and we can learn to love again” is 2013’s best relationship mantra. By miles.
– Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX – I Love It | It’s hits like this that restore my faith in general public’s music taste. One part ABBA, one part riot grrrl, one part club-electro, Icona Pop has found a refreshing Europop sound with attitude.
– Daft Punk feat. Pharrell Williams – Get Lucky | It’s that one disco song you’re not ashamed to admit liking. This truly stands out from the seas of overproduced and generic dance-pop.
– Bruno Mars – Treasure | Tight funky-soul stuff that recalls back to Michael Jackson’s Off the Wall heyday. Bruno Mars + good taste = sorry Timberlake, looks like we have a new King of Pop.
– Miley Cyrus – We Can’t Stop | Other than the fact that this Dirrty / Slave 4 U successor is already making cultural impact everywhere, Miley actually did come up with a very compelling and different sound which could possibly be the whitest R&B song we’ve ever heard. And it’s all sorts of brilliant.
– Lorde – Royals | Look, someone’s snatching Lana Del Rey’s indie queen bee wig! I prefer Lana overall, but c’mon… those hip-hop drum and snaps, those snowballing harmonies, those lyrics about tigers on a gold leash. I gotta give this round to Lorde.
– Of Monsters And Men – Little Talks | Sleeper classic of the year. It barely blipped on the radar and all of a sudden it’s the most successful Icelandic song ever. To be able to marry the imaginative visions of greats such as Björk and Sigur Rós with such pop sensibility, you know this fivesome has done something great.
– Mariah Carey feat. Miguel – #Beautiful | The nu-soul direction with delicious guitar licks gives off an eerily traditional yet completely modern-sounding vibe. Mariah’s soaring voice also meshes well with Miguel’s smooth delivery. Absolutely MC’s best in almost a decade.
What’s on your 2013 list? Do you think I missed anyone?