2013 Top Ten Pop Countdown Podcast

Billboard adds YouTube to the Hot100 and bloggers recoil at “incorrect” fan-propelled hits, but JT is back, Folk booms, Katy Roars and Miley gets her twerk on!

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Welcome! This is the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, I’m your host, Christopher Verdesi. Every week we do a deep dive into a year in music and culture and count down the top ten songs according to our exclusive recap of the weekly Pop charts published at the time in the music industry’s top trade mag and chart authority, Billboard magazine. This week on Chartcrush, we’re turning the clock back to 2013.

In the Year in Music issue at the end of 2013, CBS Radio’s top programmer Kevin Weatherly summed up the year with an observation that, really, sums up the whole ’10s decade. “This time,” he said, “feels less about any particular movement and more about how young people are discovering music.” Social media, including YouTube, was how young people were discovering music. A tough thing for a veteran radio programmer to admit, but viral videos had already been propelling songs onto the charts for a few years when Billboard officially added YouTube to its Hot100 song ranking calculus, making 2013 the peak year in one of the handful of brief periods in pop culture when organic, bottom-up trends could, and did, break through, with little or no help or approval from cultural buzz-leaders.

Often the opposite! The gatekeepers in the music biz and tapping away at keyboards in entertainment media had watched in horror as things like Rebecca Black’s “Friday” in 2011 and PSY’s “Gangnam Style” in 2012 did end runs around their barriers, racking up tens of millions of views and making the charts. But in 2013 the gates were smashed completely when many of the year’s top hits were in that category, and the besieged pundit class lashed out.

It wasn’t just music, of course. Internet-fueled activism had toppled governments across the Middle East in the Arab Spring, and here at home, tipped the scales for same-sex marriage before many even realized it was a serious debate. Social media was driving so many headlines that when an attack by Islamic terrorists on the anniversary of 9/11 in Benghazi, Libya killed four Americans including the U.S. ambassador, President Obama’s Secretary of State and U.N. Ambassador (Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice, respectively) blamed a YouTube video, and the legacy media ran with it. Despite GOP challenger Mitt Romney’s best efforts to call that out in a debate, instead of Benghazi costing President Obama his re-election, he won his second term just weeks later.

Then after the 2016 election when Donald Trump upset Obama’s endorsed successor Hillary Clinton, Obama again singled out social media as the culprit. At first, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg called that “pretty crazy,” but once Obama got the ball rolling behind the scenes, Silicon Valley bowed to enormous government pressure to aggressively moderate political discourse in tandem with the feds, and even after Trump was sworn in as President, new phrases no one had ever heard before like “algorithmic filtering,” “shadow banning” and “cancel culture” trended.

Now, music critics and other cultural gatekeepers of course didn’t have direct access to the feds’ legal and regulatory carrots and sticks, but they could study algorithms, master analytics, court influencers and ride favored political currents to amplify their voices, and entertainment media got a lot more political in the Trump years, along with everything else. But in 2013, when top-down manipulation and suppression on the internet was still unthinkable and it was a huge story when something, let alone someone, got censored or scrubbed, or for government officials to make their ideological preferences known via a back channel, there was less noise between artists and fans than at most other times in Pop history.

#10 P!nk featuring Nate Ruess – Just Give Me a Reason

And one surefire way to get lots of fans to pony up 99 cents for a download was for two name acts to join forces on a single, and our #10 song was the top charting example of that in 2013: #1 on the iTunes chart for six weeks before hitting #1 on the Hot100. It’s P!nk, teaming up with Nate Ruess, front man of one of 2012’s top chart debuts, the New York Indie Pop band fun. “Just Give Me a Reason.”

Billboard’s Woman of the Year for 2013, P!nk with fun.’s Nate Reuss, “Just Give Me a Reason, ” #10 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 2013’s top ten hits. P!nk first hit the charts all the way back in 2000, but being a little edgier and a year later than Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, her evolving brand of defiant, scrappy female Pop-Rock had to wait for hitmaking producers Max Martin and Dr. Luke, who made Kelly Clarkson’s multi-platinum Breakaway album mid-decade. P!nk’s ’07 Funhouse album had her first #1 hit, the Martin/Luke-produced “So What”, and from there she was unstoppable: a string of five consecutive top tens from 2010 to ’13. “Just Give Me a Reason” was the last of those.

#9 Justin Timberlake – Mirrors

At #9 a major musical comeback for another late ’90s Teen Pop alum who in ’06 and ’07 scored six top tens including three straight #1s, but slipped on the charts the next couple years and pivoted to acting: films like The Social Network, Bad Teacher, Friends with Benefits and the Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis.

RCA’s marketing campaign for his highly-anticipated return to music rated a full feature story in the business section of Billboard, and to gin up pre-orders, music’s top retailer in 2013, Apple, streamed his new album The 20/20 Experience free in it’s iTunes mp3 download store the week before it was released, and it was Apple’s fastest-selling album ever the year after downloads eclipsed CDs as music’s top revenue source. Oh, and he was a guest on NBC’s Late Night with Jimmy Fallon for an entire week promoting it! The advance single was a collab with Rapper Jay-Z, “Suit & Tie,” which shot to #4 in its second week, but the follow-up was even bigger. It clocks in at over eight minutes on the album, but here’s the radio edit of Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors.”

Justin Timberlake’s “Mirrors,” #9 on our Chartcrush Countdown of 2013’s top ten hits: a song he wrote with his longtime producer and co-writer Timbaland in 2009 just before switching to acting fulltime. But it was a paean to his then-girlfriend, 7th Heaven actress Jessica Biel, too personal to put on someone else’s album, so he held it back, and by the time he returned to it, he and Biel were engaged. Their October 2012 wedding was a huge story, and when “Mirrors” came out in early ’13: big boost from all that hoopla. And no hard feelings with Timbaland; he produced the finished version along with the rest of Justin’s 20/20 Experience album.

#8 Katy Perry – Roar

Our next act debuted the same year P!nk scored her first #1, 2008, and had the same producers, Max Martin and his protégé Dr. Luke. And both continued scoring hits with Martin behind the glass into the ’10s. But as successful as P!nk was, this singer was even bigger: eight consecutive top tens, including five #1s, since 2010. And just as a marriage can fuel a big hit, so can a divorce! She’d only been with English activist-comedian Russell Brand 18 months when Brand dumped her via text message! And she channeled all those emotions into her fourth album, Prism, which dropped in October of 2013. At #8 is the advance lead single from that album, Katy Perry’s “Roar.”

Katy Perry’s “Roar” shot from #85 to #2 its second week on the Hot100, spent two weeks at #1 in September and is the #8 song of 2013 here on our Chartcrush 2013 countdown: the latest in a long string of early ’10s girl-power anthems, and it reminded enough people of another one that’d just been on the charts, Sara Bareilles’s “Brave,” that a mash-up vid of the two songs went viral. That is, until producer Dr. Luke took to Twitter to point out that “Roar” was already in the can when “Brave” came out.

But that wasn’t the end of Perry’s plagiarism woes. Her next big hit off her divorce-fueled Prism album, “Dark Horse” with Rapper Juicy J, helped introduce the world to the Trap style that defined Hip-Hop in the second half of the ’10s and was the #3 song of 2014 by our Chartcrush ranking, but it sounded an awful lot like the beat in a 2008 track by a Christian Rap act, and that lawsuit ground through the legal system for years: a lower court’s $3 million judgement against Perry overturned on appeal in 2022. Katy Perry’s next album Witness in 2017 got mixed reviews and only yielded one top ten hit, but she landed as a judge on ABC’s reboot of American Idol in 2018.

#7 The Lumineers – Ho Hey

But in the Spring of 2012, still on the Fox network, Idol crowned its season 11 champ Phillip Phillips, and his coronation single “Home,” unlike Idol coronation singles up until then that typically debuted in the top ten from the initial burst from the show but vanished quickly, “Home” stayed on the chart 40 weeks and sparked a mini Folk revival with other Indie Folk hits following in its wake, notably Mumford & Sons’ “I Will Wait” and Of Monsters and Men’s “Little Talks,” but none were as big as our #7 hit, whose run in the top ten from December ’12 to February ’13 was also when those other songs peaked. The group got their name when an emcee at a Jersey City club mistakenly introduced them as the act that was slated to play there the following week, so they kept the name, true story! It’s The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey.”

Before moving out to Colorado, The Lumineers were based in Brooklyn, New York, and front man Wesley Schultz says, the “ho’s” and “hey’s” in “Ho Hey” were to wake up jaded scenesters in their local Brooklyn audiences. For the title, “Hey Ho” wouldn’t do (for obvious reasons), so it’s “Ho Hey,” and on top of its 62-week run on the Hot100, which makes it the #7 song on our 2013 Chartcrush top ten we’re counting down this hour, the song also topped the Rock, Alternative, Adult Pop and Adult Album Alternative or “Triple A” charts.

The Lumineers never cracked the Top 40 on the Hot100 again, but stayed big on those other formats and kept packing arenas, even opening for U2 on their Joshua Tree 30th anniversary stadium tour, the highest grossing tour of 2017. As for the mini-Folk boom they headlined, it reverberated with Avicii’s EDM-Folk hybrids “Wake Me Up” and “Hey Brother” later in ’13, then Hozier’s “Take Me to Church,” George Ezra’s “Budapest,” X-Ambassadors’ “Renegades” and others mid-decade.

#6 Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton – Can’t Hold Us

At #6 we have the follow-up hit by a duo whose chart breakthrough earlier in 2013 threw the music world for a loop and was considered by many to be a Novelty song. We’ll hear that one in a few minutes, but as deep as RCA’s pockets were hyping Justin Timberlake’s comeback, the one-two punch from this act right at the same time turned out to be the most successful launch in 2013. Which is amazing because other than a distribution deal with Warner Music’s Alternative Distribution Alliance, they didn’t have a label! The follow-up dropped just as that first left-field started slipping, and it’s a straight down-the-middle EDM-Hip-Hop club banger that dispelled once and for all the notion they were just a couple of goofballs poking fun at Rap culture, with a headline in Spin declaring “This Guy’s Not Going Anywhere” after their Saturday Night Live appearance that week. The follow-up made them the first duo in Hot100 history to top the chart with their first two singles. At #6 it’s Seattle Rapper Macklemore and his Producer/Partner Ryan Lewis, featuring Singer Ray Dalton, “Can’t Hold Us.”

“Can’t Hold Us” at #6 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2013, Seattle Hip-Hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Ray Dalton, the second single and second #1 hit off their debut album The Heist, but an older song. Lewis had made the beat in the late ’00s and they’d sat on it because Macklemore thought it sounded like a soccer anthem. And sure enough, once its initial release came out in 2011, the all-sports cable channel ESPN snapped it up for College GameDay promos. No airplay or chart action though, ’til after their big breakthrough in 2013, which we’ll be hearing in a few minutes.

#5 Bruno Mars – Locked Out of Heaven

But first, at #5 is Billboard’s Hot100 Artist of the Year, on the cover of the 2013 Year in Music issue: his fourth #1 hit since debuting on the charts in 2010 as the featured singer on Rapper-Producer B.o.B.’s #1 hit “Nothin’ on You.” And then his first single as a headliner, “Just the Way You Are,” was #1 for four weeks and our #3 song of 2011. And his next after that also topped the chart, “Grenade.” So coming into ’13, expectations were high for his Unorthodox Jukebox album (his dad was Jewish), and it didn’t disappoint: another pair of #1’s, and then he headlined the Super Bowl halftime show! This was his biggest 2013 hit, on top for six weeks. It’s Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven.”

Bruno Mars, “Locked Out of Heaven,” #5 here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2013. When his next single, “When I Was Your Man,” hit #1 for a week in April ’13, Mars became the fastest Male artist to score five #1’s since Elvis Presley in the 1950s. He was the singer on 2015’s biggest hit, British Producer Mark Ronson’s “Uptown Funk,” and after his next set, 24K Magic, finally came out after a four-year wait at the end of 2016, he won all six of the Grammys he was nominated for, after losing all six in 2012 to Adele.

#4 Macklemore and Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz – Thrift Shop

OK, at #4, as promised, the breakthrough hit by the duo whose club banger follow-up “Can’t Hold Us” we just heard at #6. It’d been #1 for four weeks when Billboard added YouTube plays to its Hot100 formula February 23. And the very next week, March 2, an even bigger YouTube hit, Baauer’s “Harlem Shake,” debuted at #1 thanks to tens of thousands of homemade vids of folks doing the dance and sampling the track. Yeah, all those views counted too on Billboard’s charts! So our #4 song sat at #2 for all of March but reclaimed the top spot for another two weeks in April.

Rappers Drake and Kendrick Lamar had groundbreaking Hip-Hop tracks on the charts, but right from jump: a little kid introducing the Rapper: well that was something completely different, so it was the two White guys without a record deal blithely mocking 20 years of Hip-Hop cliches—poppin’ tags instead of bottles—who won the year in Hip-Hop. Only the second independently released #1 hit in history, at #4 it’s Macklemore and Ryan Lewis: “Thrift Shop.”

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s breakthrough hit, “Thrift Shop,” Billboard’s #1 song of 2013, but #4 on our Chartcrush ranking that factors full chart runs instead of only weeks within the chart year as Billboard does.

No one quite knew what to make of that song. Two White guys from Seattle and their 51-year-old Software Test Engineer bud upending 20 years of Hip-Hop luxury consumption cliches and making the case for secondhand shops. Was it a joke? If so, bloggers in the shriller corners of the blogosphere (Spin, Vulture, Salon et cetera) didn’t see the humor. Not in a year when Hip-Hop was in transition and Black headliners weren’t scoring #1 hits. None did in calendar 2013; just features like Wanz with the “I’m gonna pop some tags” and “this is frikkin’ awesome” lines on “Thrift Shop.”

After the Grammys, Macklemore validated his critics’ grumblings about race and Hip-Hop culture when he publicly apologized to Black Rapper Kendrick Lamar for winning all the Hip-Hop awards. Lamar demurred and Drake famously dissed Macklemore’s apology. But then in 2014 the top Rapper wasn’t just White, she was female, and Australian! Iggy Azalea! Uh oh! By 2015, though, Iggy had followed Macklemore & Ryan Lewis into Pop’s nascent cancel bin as the blogosphere effectively neutralized the hordes of irksome YouTubers who, with their millions of clicks and views, had surfaced all these “incorrect” artists and songs in the early ’10s.

#3 Lorde – Royals

But not before our #3 song with a similarly subversive message topped the Hot100 for nine weeks in the Fall of 2013. It was a minimalist Indie song by another unknown, and critics and pundits still seething about “Thrift Shop’s” success took aim at her callouts of Hip-Hop cliches like gold teeth, diamond watches, private jets and expensive liquor brands as “the kind of luxe” that “ain’t for us.” One blogger labeled the song “deeply racist,” and that got amplified by no less than CNN and Time magazine. But there was pushback. The singer was barely out of diapers during Hip-Hop’s bling era in the early ’00s, and while the tropes may’ve originated in Rap, by 2013 they’d become so widespread that no one could really claim exclusive ownership. One Black writer flipped the script: “Perhaps the notion that Maybachs, Cristal and gold teeth automatically equate to Rappers and ‘Black folks,'” she wrote, “is the real ‘deeply racist’ thing here.” And a journalist in the singer’s native New Zealand called viewing everything through the lens of American racial politics “ignorant” and “imperialistic.” The singer’s response to all of this? It’s in the song: “We don’t care, we crave a different kind of buzz.” At #3, it’s Lorde’s breakthrough and biggest hit, “Royals.”

Lorde’s “Royals,” #1 for nine weeks, October to December and the #3 song of the year here on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2013. It wasn’t the first Alt-ish leftfield chart topper in the ’10s. Fun’s “We Are Young” and Gotye and Kimbra’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” hit in the Spring of 2012. But Lorde was the first Gen-Zer. With YouTube now factoring into the Hot100, all a kid needed to impact the charts was access to mom and dad’s computer. But “Royals” was popular with older folks too. It was #1 on the Adult Top 40 chart for three weeks. And remixes by The Weeknd and Rick Ross even had it on urban radio. Lorde’s next album Melodrama didn’t arrive ’til 2017, but debuted at #1 on the album chart despite it’s biggest single “Green Light” only getting to #19.

#2 Imagine Dragons – Radioactive

Well, just two more hits to go, and at #2, the song with the longest run on the Hot100, not just of 2013, but of all-time up ’til then, 87 weeks. And it held that record ’til The Weeknd’s “Blinding Lights” notched 90 weeks in 2021. Really long chart runs, another feature of a Hot100 driven by on-demand video plays and streaming. About half of those 87 weeks were before it peaked, as it sputtered along behind the group’s first charting single, “In Time.” That got to #15, but this one continued its slow, four-month climb to its peak of #3: a slow-burning, bottom-up sleeper smash at the dawn of the streaming era. Out of Brigham Young University, relocated to Vegas, baby! It’s Imagine Dragons’ “Radioactive.”

Three different “Radioactive’s” charted before Imagine Dragons’ in 2012 and ’13. Kiss’s Gene Simmons in 1979, supergroup The Firm in ’85, and Alternative band Kings of Leon just two years earlier in 2010. But Imagine Dragons were unanimously hailed as the year’s top Rock debut on the strength of their “Radioactive” and other 2013 hits. Their next single, “Demons” also took its sweet time climbing the charts, debuting in January; peaking at #6 in December! “In Time,” “Radioactive” and “Demons,” all off their 2012 EP, Continued Silence, then ported over to their first full-length album, Night Visions.

#1 Robin Thicke featuring Pharrell – Blurred Lines

Well, we’ve chronicled in some detail how many of pop culture’s gatekeepers in the blogosphere in 2013 weren’t happy with where legions of YouTube and on-demand streaming clickers–a.k.a. “the public”–were steering music, and that went for the year’s top hit too. “Thrift Shop” and “Royals” got the lion’s share of the shade in 2013 for their perceived disses of Hip-Hop culture, but this one found itself on the receiving end too, for promoting “rape culture.” What do you think? #1 on our Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown for 2013, it’s Robin Thicke with Pharrell Williams: “Blurred Lines.”

The #1 song of 2013 here on the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show, Robin Thicke with Pharrell Williams, “Blurred Lines.” The album version has an R-rated rap verse from veteran Rapper T.I. that some radio stations played a heavily censored version of, but most went with the Rapless one we just heard.

So are the “Blurred Lines” between consent and non-consent as many angry bloggers asserted? Pharrell, the main songwriter, maintained that the song is about rejection. But the soft-core video banned by YouTube gave credence to the “rape culture” allegations, and to make matters worse, one of the models in it sued Robin Thicke for assault.

OK, but were all songs by men about romantic frustrations now off limits? It sure seemed that way. Even the holiday song “Baby, It’s Cold Outside!” Miley Cyrus, for one, must not’ve gotten that memo though, twerking all over Robin Thicke during his performance of “Blurred Lines” at the MTV Video Music Awards in August, while the song was #1.

By the way, Billboard had “Blurred Lines” at #2 on the year behind its #1 song, “Thrift Shop.” “Blurred Lines” still had 17 weeks left on the chart though after the end of Billboard’s chart year, so factoring songs’ full chart runs as we do at Chartcrush, it’s #1 by a pretty comfortable margin.

Bonus

And there were some other shake-ups as well comparing our Chartcrush Top Ten to Billboard’s. Of the songs we heard this hour, three didn’t make Billboard’s year-end top ten, again, because they only count weeks within their discrete “chart year.” They had Bruno Mars’s “Locked Out of Heaven” at #11, The Lumineers “Ho Hey” at #12 and Lorde’s “Royals” at #15. So those three coming into our top ten bumps three of Billboard’s top ten on the year. What are those?

Well at #9 Billboard had the year’s biggest Country crossover hit: the song that defined the sub-genre Bro Country.

The original Country version of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise” got all the way to #16 on the Hot100 in 2012, so for ’13, they did a remix with Rapper Nelly, and that was in the top 10 on the Hot100 for 14 weeks peaking at #4. Our ranking puts the “Cruise” remix at #19 on the year.

Although “Locked Out of Heaven” missed Billboard’s year-end top ten at #11, Bruno Mars’ other #1 hit in 2013, which we have at #14, was #8 on Billboard.

For four of the five weeks that “Harlem Shake” was #1 with “Thrift Shop” at #2, “When I Was Your Man” was #3. After “Thrift Shop” resumed the top spot for two weeks and dropped back to #2 on April 20, it moved up and got its one week at #1.

And speaking of Baauer’s “Harlem Shake”…

“Harlem Shake” only “shakes” out at #28 on our Chartcrush ranking, but Billboard has it at #4 on the year, most likely from the humongous click volume on all those viral vids that sampled the song the five weeks it was #1. That’s just a guess though; since the early ’90s for its year-end charts Billboard has summed the underlying data it uses for its weekly rankings, and that data isn’t public. Our rankings are based only on Billboard’s published weekly chart positions, and despite debuting at #1 and staying for five, “Harlem Shake” faded fast, only racking up 20 total weeks on the chart, well below the average of 36 weeks for songs that hit #1 in 2013. An important hit though, for the viral dance craze, yeah, but also for breaking the ice on Hip-Hop’s next big thing on the Pop charts, Trap. Katy Perry’s Trap-influenced “Dark Horse” followed in 2014, then Fetty Wap’s “Trap Queen” in 2015: both among the top ten hits their respective years.

Well that’s it for our 2013 edition of the Chartcrush Top Ten Countdown Show. Did you have fun? I hope so! Thanks for listening; I’ve been your host, Christopher Verdesi. Check out our website, chartcrush.com, for written transcripts and links to stream this and other Chartcrush shows on Spotify, plus chart run line graphs and other buzzworthy extras. We count down a different year every week on this show, from the beginning of the charts in the 1940s all the way up to the present, so tune again, same station, same time, for another edition of Chartcrush.

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