Top 20 Music Moments of 2013

Jay-Z, Justin Bieber, Daft Punk, Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke

It was a year of blockbuster comebacks, surprise albums, game-changing moves in hip-hop, twerking teddy bears and tearful goodbyes of all kinds. For sure, 2013 kept us busy. These are the 20 biggest music moments in a 12 month span that was crammed with milestones.

BEST OF 2013: Year-End Charts, Lists, Photos + More

  1. 20

    1D's Memorable Moves

    Another year, another smashingly successful One Direction album. "Midnight Memories" sold over 500,000 copies in its first week (according to Nielsen Soundscan) making the heartthrobby quintet the first group to debut at No. 1 with each of its first three albums. The group explored more mature, guitar-based sounds on the new set, which featured a pair of top 10 singles ("Best Song Ever" and "Story of My Life") and another pair that reached the top 20 ("Diana" and "Midnight Memories"). Outside of album sales, the band introduced its best-selling perfume (dubbed "Our Moment") and starred in the behind-the-scenes tour film "This Is Us," which proved a box office triumph.

  2. 19

    Kendrick Takes 'Control'

    Somehow with no album out this year, Kendrick Lamar still created the type of buzz that most acts only get when they're in-cycle. The rhymer's guest verse on Big Sean's "Control," a throwaway cut from his "Hall of Fame" album no less, attacked lazy rappers and respectfully challenged (and named!) Drake, J. Cole, Wale and more to step their games up. That's after the Los Angeles stud proclaimed himself the "King of New York." Oh yeah, Kendrick ruffled feathers.

  3. 18

    Tragic End to a Fallen Country Star

    In a series of events too macabre even for country music, singer Mindy McCready ended her life on Feb. 17 with a shot of a gun, in the same spot that her ex-boyfriend, David Wilson (pictured), killed himself a month before. Nearby lay his dog, shot dead by McCready. The grim scene was the end of a turbulent decade for the "Guys Do It All the Time" singer, which included several arrests, a pair of suicide attempts, a tabloid scandal tied to an alleged underage relationship with Roger Clemens, and her ill-advised appearance on "Celebrity Rehab With Dr. Drew."

  4. 17

    YouTube Made the Hot 100 Star

    If you knew Baauer and Ylvis before 2013, you were either one of a select few or simply from Norway. Exiting 2013? Nearly everyone knows those names -- or at least recognizes "Harlem Shake" and "The Fox." And thanks to our revamped Billboard chart methodology (which now factors YouTube plays along with digital sales, radio spins and streaming plays), each act vaulted high on the Hot 100. Baauer's "Harlem Shake" became the first benefactor by vaulting to No. 1 on the Hot 100 (announced on the cover of Billboard) -- and held that spot for five weeks total. Months later, it was comedy duo Ylvis, whose "The Fox (What Does the Fox Say?)" peaked at No. 6 on the strength of, again, a massive amount of downloads and YouTube spins. Both songs became the first of many to receive assists from massive amounts of video streams and rocket higher on the charts than ever before, making that nationwide hit all the more reachable for even the most small-time of artists.

  5. 16

    BBMAs Light Up Las Vegas

    Not to toot our own horn, but this year's Billboard Music Awards rocked. On May 20, 9.5 million viewers across America tuned in to watch a galaxy of A-list musicians light up the stage at Las Vegas' MGM Grand. Taylor Swift, Bruno Mars, Nicki Minaj, Lil Wayne and Icon Award recipient Prince turned in top performances, Madonna turned up to grab her Top Touring Artist award, and Miguel turned red after a miscalculated stage jump had fans in the pit ducking for cover. Most notable of the night was Justin Bieber, who performed twice, took home the fan-voted Milestone Award, and made headlines for calling out the haters in his acceptance speech. Take that, non #Beliebers!

  6. 15

    Justin Bieber Hits Highs & Lows

    As usual, Justin Bieber was constantly in the spotlight during 2013. This year, however, the headlines weren't always flattering. On the plus side, there were the flurry of top 10 hits from his 2012 album "Believe," a Milestone Award-win at the Billboard Music Awards (see No. 16), and a 10-song set dubbed Music Mondays that kept new music in the ears of his Beliebers. But there was also Mally, the singer's pet capuchin monkey who was quarantined in Germany due to improper documentation. There were the backstage fainting spells in London. His hope that Anne Frank "would have been a belieber" didn't go over so well. And most recently, the singer embarked on a whirlwind South American tour that saw him end a concert early in Argentina, anger Brazilian police by spraying graffiti on a wall, and get caught leaving an alleged brothel in Rio de Janeiro. Bieber ends 2013 on an up note, with the release of second movie, 'Believe,' and 'Journals,' a collection of his Music Mondays singles. After that, his manager Scooter Braun says that Justin will "(take) a break just to make music and relax, take some time for himself for the first time since he was 12." After his chaotic '13, we're sure he could use the rest.

  7. 14

    David Bowie and More Triumphant Rock Revivals

    David Bowie celebrated his 66th birthday on Jan. 8, but his fans got the best gift when the long-dormant legend unexpectedly dropped a new single and announced "The Next Day," his first album in 10 years. Bowie's surprise kicked off a year of unanticipated returns from some of alt-rock's heaviest hitters. On Feb. 2, British shoegaze giants My Bloody Valentine broke the Internet after self-releasing 'm b v,' their first album of new material in 21 years. Then, on May 21, Trent Reznor announced that Nine Inch Nails wasn't as defunct as he'd led fans to believe: later that summer, the project released its eighth album "Hesitation Marks" and hit the road for the first time since 2009.

  8. 13

    Death at Electric Zoo

    New York's Electric Zoo wasn't the first EDM festival to be plagued by the loss of life due to drug overdoses. But after two attendees passed away during the first two days of the annual event this past September, promoters cancelled the third day. It sent a clear message that death wasn't an acceptable part of dance music culture, prompting larger discussions about rave safety and the dangers of "Molly."

  9. 12

    Jay Z's New Rules

    Before Beyoncé stunned the world with the promotion-free release of her self-titled album, her husband Jay Z installed some "new rules" of his own. Less than a month after surprisingly announcing its debut date through a three-minute Samsung ad, Jay Z (yeah, no more hyphen) collaborated with Samsung to release his album, "Magna Carta Holy Grail," for free to the first one million Samsung Galaxy users on July 4. Even after its unique promotion, Jay earned his 13th No. 1 album when "Magna Carta" debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, selling 580,000 in its first week according to Nielsen SoundScan. Jay broke countless chart records with his unconditional marketing and continued to tour on one of this year's most successful stadium tours, Legends of the Summer, alongside Justin Timberlake.

  10. 11

    Swedish House Mafia Bids Fans Farewell

    They came, they raved, they left. EDM supergroup Swedish House Mafia closed the book on the relatively brief phenomenon of its career in March. The trio (Axwell, Steve Angello, and Sebastian Ingrosso) disbanded after their whirlwind, 52-date One Last Tour, including sold-out shows at Madison Square Garden and five at San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic and with one final and very emotional last hurrah at Ultra Music Festival in Miami.

  11. 10

    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.

  12. 9

    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.

  13. 8

    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.

  14. 7

    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.

  15. 6

    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.

  16. 5

    Kanye West Careens Through 2013

    Highs and lows were constants in Kanye's 2013. This time last year, he announced that his then-girlfriend (now fiancé) Kim Kardashian was pregnant with their first child. "Yeezus," his sixth solo album (arriving in June just days after his daughter North was born), reflected none of the joy a first time parent typically boasts. Instead, it was the soundtrack of frustration, harsh and militant -- punk and aggro. The anti-establishment "Yeezus" sentiments were echoed often in radio interviews, where Kanye often said he felt marginalized by fashion houses not willing to back his own line. But the tide has turned a bit since then. He's currently on an ambitious tour and Adidas recently announced that West has signed with them (his line is expected to be out next fall). Kanye's also revealed that he's working on a new, potentially more hit-filled album as well. Happier days seem to be ahead for Mr. West.

  17. 4

    Justin Timberlake Suits Up for a Busy Comeback

    On the evening of Sunday, Jan. 13, just after pop culture fans had finished digesting the Golden Globe Awards, another bombshell dropped -- Justin Timberlake had returned to music, dropping his first new song since 2006. Timberlake released "Suit & Tie," a debonair, horn-laced single featuring Jay Z, and announced that his third album, "The 20/20 Experience," was due later in the year. "Suit & Tie" and "Mirrors" both cracked the Hot 100's top 5, and "The 20/20 Experience" enjoyed a dominant debut, selling 968,000 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Soundscan. Timberlake followed with a second edition of the "20/20 Experience" on Sept. 27, which helped him stay in the headlines for the rest of the year. To get the word out, Timberlake and his team succeeded in saturating the pop culture world with all things JT: a week-long residency on "Late Night," an 'N Sync reunion at the VMAs, more performances on the Grammys and American Music Awards, and a musical guest spot on "SNL" to close out the year. Meanwhile, JT rocked shows big and small, from the Legends of the Summer with Jay Z and the opening dates of the 20/20 Experience World Tour, to buzzworthy gigs like SXSW and Super Bowl weekend in New Orleans. In one of the most tireless years for a performer in recent memory, Timberlake's twin albums went on to sell a combined 3,071,000 units, according to Nielsen Soundscan. 

  18. 3

    'Glee' Fans Mourn for Monteith

    Cory Monteith had run for a long time, but in 2013, his demons finally caught up with him. On July 13, the singer, actor and "Glee" star was found dead in his Vancouver hotel room from a combination of alcohol and heroin. The 31-year-old had documented a struggle with substance abuse since he was a teenager, but had begun to seek treatment for addiction earlier this year. Unfortunately, it was too much to overcome, leaving in his wake a stirring tribute at the 2013 Teen Choice Awards by fellow "Glee" mainstay -- and girlfriend -- Lea Michele, as well as a show episode honoring his character of Finn Hudson this fall.

  19. 2

    Boom Goes Beyonce

    Remember back in February when Beyonce played the Super Bowl and many fans expected her to drop a new single? Even though that didn't arrive until more than 10 months later, it was still Beyonce's year. After causing a minor lip-syncing scandal at President Obama's second inauguration, she delivered the second most-watched Super Bowl Halftime performance ever (104 million viewers), debuted new music with Pepsi and H&M, stomped her way (in stilettos!) through the Mrs. Carter World Tour -- all before delivering the ultimate mic drop just before midnight on Dec. 13. "We went through everything to keep it sacred and a surprise," the singer also known as Sasha Fierce, Mrs. Carter and now "Yonce" said at a screening for the "Beyonce" visual album held in New York Dec. 21. "Because there's joy in that and it's missing, and that's something I was able to experience as a kid." Based on all the breathless, Christmas-morning-like video reactions -- which were followed by stunning chart and sales debuts -- Beyonce made us all feel like kids again, too.

  20. 1

    Miley Can't Stop: The Year's Most Talked-About Pop Star

    Miley Cyrus was a maelstrom that expanded and grazed nearly every aspect of pop culture in 2013, from stop-in-your-tracks performances to salacious music videos, from the tabloid sections to the "twerking" enthusiasts. At the eye of that storm, however, were some of the biggest and best singles of the year. A veteran recording artist at the ripe old age of 21, Cyrus reinvented herself this year with the trap-happy party cut "We Can't Stop," which rode a Mike WiLL Made-It Beat to No. 2 on the Hot 100 chart. Its follow-up, "Wrecking Ball," was even more inescapable, smashing the listener with a chorus as powerful as its titular object and giving Cyrus the first No. 1 single of the career (and about a million viral parodies to coincide with that achievement). Sure, Cyrus courted controversy throughout 2013, but her antics were bolstered by raw musical talent; consider her American Music Awards performance, which paired a context-free blinking cat with a moving performance of "Wrecking Ball." Cyrus was savvy enough to rule the headlines and the charts this year, making the "Bangerz" star the most enduring figure of 2013.


    Contributors: M. Tye Comer, Andrew Hampp, Jason Lipshutz, Zel McCarthy, Chris Payne, Erika Ramirez, Kevin Rutherford, Marc Schneider, Brad Weté

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