The Night We (Thought We) Lost Lil Wayne
In March, TMZ reported sobering news for rap fans: Lil Wayne was on his deathbed after suffering a seizure. But not hours later, Weezy himself quashed fears, tweeting "I'm good everybody." Though reports swirled that his hospitalization was due to a codeine overdose, Wayne later asserted it was due to stress and his past medical history. True enough, the scare offered a deeper glimpse into the life of the popular rapper, especially after coming out later that month as an epileptic in a radio interview and revealing that, though he'd had plenty of seizures, this time he'd experienced three in a row and came close to death.
Robin Thicke Winks His Way to the Summer's Top Song
In 2013, Robin Thicke knew exactly what you wanted. After carving out a modestly successful career, the singer teamed up with Pharrell and T.I. for "Blurred Lines," the inescapable hit of the summer that spent 12 weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100, effectively ruining the chances of songs like Daft Punk's "Get Lucky" to get its share of the glory.
But "Blurred Lines" transcended mere radio airplay; during Miley Cyrus' MTV Video Music Awards performance last August, Cyrus came out during "Blurred Lines" to twerk up against Thicke, causing a ruckus that eventually became the most-tweeted-about event ever. Couple that with accusations of plagiarism from Marvin Gaye's family and controversy surrounding the song's subject matter, "Blurred Lines" was more than a hit song -- it was a phenomenon.
Daft Punk's Random Acts Pay Off
It started with two helmets: one gold, one silver, on a black, wordless poster. It became a media event -- from a TV ad during "Saturday Night Live" to a fan-map of billboard sightings on Reddit -- ushering the return of the pioneering French duo known as Daft Punk and its new album, "Random Access Memories." Made with real instruments and featuring Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers and the legendary Giorgio Moroder, the album spent its first two weeks atop the Billboard 200 and lead single "Get Lucky" reached No. 2 on the Hot 100. And they look set to have a big 2014 as well: In January, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter will perform at the Grammys and compete for five awards.
Rock and Country Reel From Huge Losses
There's really no way to measure just how important both Lou Reed and George Jones were to their own corners of the music world. Reed was an occasionally polarizing punk poet who preferred challenging his listeners ("Berlin") over churning out hits ("Walk on the Wild Side"). "I'm not a human jukebox," he once said. Jones could literally fill that jukebox with his signature odes to heartache ("He Stopped Loving Her Today"), booze ("White Lightning") and other country tropes -- often enduring those same hardships in his real life. Jones was 81 when he passed away on April 26, spoiling a final tour that would have wrapped up in November. "I will surely miss my fans and the good people I have met along this journey," he told Billboard. Reed died on Oct. 27 of liver disease at 71, leaving behind a legacy of fierce independence that spanned his years in Velvet Underground and a wide-ranging solo career.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Lorde Lead Class Of New Superstars
One of the pleasures of closely following mainstream music is to watch fresh-faced artists shake up the scene in real time, and 2013 was stocked with new talent. Witness Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, the first duo to ever take their first two singles to the top of the Hot 100, who also happened to score the biggest hit of 2013 ("Thrift Shop"), pen a moving gay-rights anthem ("Same Love") and land multiple Grammy nominations in the process. Speaking of Grammys, Lorde also has a shot of winning multiple trophies, after the 17-year-old New Zealander released an out-of-nowhere smash hit on her first try ("Royals") and issued a dark, gorgeously written debut album around it. While Macklemore & Ryan Lewis and Lorde were two of the brightest new figures in pop, artists like Ariana Grande, Imagine Dragons, Florida Georgia Line, Kacey Musgraves, Capital Cities, Icona Pop and A Great Big World also shone in their own right.