The best songs we listened to in 2013
Drake's "Worst Behavior"
The New York Times' Jon Caramanica anointed 2013 the year of Tough Drake, and nowhere is that more evident than on Drake's "Worst Behavior." The track has a little bit of everything. Drizzy channels ODB, late-'90s Ma$e, DeGrassi, and something about Bat Mitzvah money, all of which takes place over a stuttering death rattle. The best part, though, is that "Worst Behavior" — a song ostensibly about rap posturing and getting into fights — appears on Nothing Was the Same immediately before a love song in which Drake sighs, "[Who] wants to be 70 and alone?" Drake will punch you, but he'll still feel really bad about it afterward and give you a hug. —Chris Gayomali, science and technology editor.
Earl Sweatshirt's "Chum"By far the best of the Odd Future crew, Earl Sweatshirt emerged from a mysterious stint in Samoa to drop his debut solo album, Doris, earlier this year. Earl Sweatshirt's first solo single "Chum" (which technically came out last November, but was rolled into the debut LP) blends a Wu-Tang-reminiscent piano-driven beat with amazingly fluid, complex rhymes for someone as young as the 19-year-old Earl.
"Chum" offers a more mature, nuanced take on the same existentialist, outsider themes found on Earl's past tracks. But most importantly, it's got the best NBA metaphor in recent memory: "Feeling as hard as Vince Carter's knee cartilage is." —Jon Terbush, staff writer.
The Flaming Lips' "The Terror"
The ominous drones and metallic bursts of guitar that envelop The Flaming Lips' "The Terror" — the standout track from their miserable masterpiece of the same name — are decidedly radio-unfriendly. This isn't a song you pump in your car, at a party, or around anyone at all. But after another year marred by terrorist attacks, political squabbles, and violence, "The Terror" offers a frank (and, in true Lips fashion, strange) catharsis. Amid a throbbing dirge of church bells, frontman Wayne Coyne reminds us that "we are all standing alone" and intones in falsetto, "We don't control the controls." "The Terror" is a harrowing lament that somehow doesn't wallow in its own sadness. Like Kliph Scurlock's muted drums, which pulse like a heartbeat, life goes on. —Sam Rollins, web production manager
Janelle Monáe's "Q.U.E.E.N."
Science-fiction diva Janelle Monáe's newest record, The Electric Lady, is a sprawling epic overstuffed with ideas. Even the album's skits take the form of a call-in radio station where listeners debate about "android love" and Monáe's alter ego, Cindi Mayweather. But while The Electric Lady may drag slightly as a whole, its individual songs hit hard. In particular, Janelle Monáe's lead single "Q.U.E.E.N." is straight-up electric. (Sorry.) The track features an always-welcome Erykah Badu and tackles women's non-conformity without getting preachy. More than anything, "Q.U.E.E.N." proves Janelle Monáe can stay distinctively Janelle Monáe as she continues to ascend toward mainstream stardom. If she's not selling out arenas in a couple of years, something is wrong with the world. —Eric Thrum, writer