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.
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.
'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.
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.
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