Top 5 Albums of 2013

By Jimmy Long

5. Jay-Z – Magna Carta, Holy Grail  

A Samsung commercial during the NBA finals announced an unexpected Independence Day release of Magna Carta, Holy Grail. Though the album was to go on sale July 8th, Jay-Z had made a deal with Samsung so that anyone with a Samsung device download the album on July 4th. The album features artists such as Justin Timberlake, Nas, Rick Ross, Frank Ocean, and Beyoncé as well as formidable producers that only lengthen the list of big names on the project. 1,000,000 copies sold on the day of its release due to the deal with Samsung. This caused the album to be certified platinum.

Upon release, the album was met with many mixed reviews from critics who were not sure what to think. Lead by the title track, “Holy Grail” featuring Justin Timberlake, fans received the album well. They were were excited to hear about the sudden release of the full-length album from the artist. With 6 Grammy nominations and 1 win, the work by Jay-Z this year is definitely some of the best.

4. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City   

This year’s Grammy award winner for Best Alternative Music Album, Modern Vampires of the City by Vampire Weekend is one of the most critically acclaimed albums of the year. By debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 with first week and selling over 134,000 albums, it became the band’s second consecutive chart-topping, number-one album. The album proves to be an enjoyable listen with the feel good lead single, “Diane Young.” For all of the indie fans out there, “Modern Vampires of the City” is a must.

3. Lorde – Pure Heroine 

New Zealand singer/songwriter Ella Marlja Lani Yelich-O’Connor, also known as Lorde, released a single on October 20th that no one believed would be one of the best selling songs of the year. The hit “Royals” went on to reach 4,415,000 downloads in the U.S. alone. Lorde’s album, Pure Heroine, was released on September 27th. While it wasn’t the best album by numbers, it was critics received it well.

With “Royals” leading the album to success, Pure Heroine peaked at #3 on the Billboard charts. This gave the lead single the extra push it needed to win best pop solo performance and song of the year at the Grammy Awards. The album is a masterpiece that was extremely unexpected from the 17-year-old artist.

The second single from the album, “Team,” is currently hitting the charts and so far peaking at #8 on the Billboard Hot 100. While Lorde was snubbed in the best new artist category at the Grammy awards, she was still critically acclaimed and has become a major success with the release of her debut album.

2. Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience – The Complete Experience  

With part 1 being released on March 15th and part two on September 27th, 2013 seemed to be all about Justin Timberlake. Despite it being snubbed at the Grammy’s, was one of the best of the year. Timberlake returned to the music scene following his six-year hiatus with the release of the album’s lead single “Suit & Tie,” causing an uproar of excitement for fans. The 20/20 Experience was flying off the shelves as the best selling album of 2013.

With five Grammy nominations and two wins, fans agree that Justin Timberlake was snubbed by the Recording Academy. Missing out on the three major categories (album of the year, record of the year, song of the year) was something that fans vocalized through media.

The parts of this album have different sides to them. As Timberlake put it himself: “The first album is like the most beautiful, virginal freshman that you fall in love with when you’re a freshman in High School. And then you go over to her house to have dinner to try to impress her parents and you realize she has a sister that’s a Senior – you know the brunette that got the tattoo too early – and gives you the look like ‘I’ll turn you out!’ It’s got a darker energy to it.” I couldn’t say it better myself.

The music’s energy changes into a dark, twisted, and exciting party that isn’t expected but gladly welcomed. The album opens with “Pusher Love Girl,” which won “Best R&B Song” at the Grammy awards, causing the album to pull the audience in for a promising listen. This album is a strong contender for album of the year, and was definitely some of Justin Timberlake’s best work to date.

1. Beyoncé – Beyoncé   

From deep bass rumbles to high riffs, Beyoncé does it all on her 5th studio album. Am I putting this at #1 because of all of the hype? Possibly, but who doesn’t love Beyoncé? Though hype surrounds this album, it’s a prominent contender for album of the year.

With a surprising release exclusively on iTunes, the media and fans alike exploded with excitement. The full-length album is compiled with 13 songs and 17 videos. With absolutely no promotion, the album skyrocketed to number 1 on the Billboard 200 and is now one of her best selling albums. Selling 1 million copies in 6 days, an Apple representative stated that Beyoncé’s album was the “fastest selling album in the history of the iTunes Store.”

Because of her attitude and new image, the songs on the album stand out from anything she’s done before. She identifies herself as “Yoncé,” a seductively successful woman who gets what she wants. In the track “Flawless” she sings about her marriage to Jay-Z and that he’s not the only powerful one in the relationship: “I took some time to live my life, but don’t think I’m just his little wife.” Hidden messages throughout the album prove that numerous amounts of time and effort was put into this work of art. Feminism is a consistent theme throughout the album, such as in “Flawless.” In the song, Nigerian feminist author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie speaks about male and female expectations.

Some of the biggest names in the music business are producers and songwriters on the album, which include Timbaland, Pharrell, Justin Timberlake, J-Roc, Hit-Boy, Sia, Frank Ocean, The-Dream, Miguel, and many more. The album was a star-studded success that reached out to many different genres. Containing ballads and high-energy dance songs, there’s something on this album for everyone.

The videos for Beyoncé’s self-titled album are also an impressive feat. They each have a different mood, but are still related to her story. Trends are still being set for new artists and media alike because of this album. Beyoncé scored a masterpiece with this one.