2013 really has been a stellar year for music, capped off of course by last week’s huge news of Beyonce’s surprise fifth studio recording. Here we’ll take you on a trip down memory lane with some of the biggest music surprises, announcements, and hits of the first half of 2013.
Don’t worry if this brings a tear to your eye and you’re left thinking “2013 was amazing and we’ll never have something this good again”, 2014 is already shaping up to be full of some brilliant new pieces of musical goodness.
The year started off with a huge shock, when Justin Timberlake quietly unveiled a new YouTube video announcing the end of his 5-year hiatus from the music-world, with a simple clip titled I’m Ready.
The singer had been quietly working away on his follow-up to 2006’s FutureSex/LoveSounds amid levels of secrecy that confused people as to how not one piece of material from the new recording had leaked online. The LP (The 20/20 Experience)’s first release, Suit & Tie, released almost one week later, shot to the top-spot in charts around the globe, and cemented the return of a superstar to a pop-world that had been missing a certain ‘spark’ over the years.
Later on that month, rumours started circulating that Daft Punk had left their label in preparation for a new release, with Chic hitmaker Nile Rodgers confirming he’d been working with the French ‘robots’ on some ‘exciting’ new pieces. The exciting piece was confirmed almost two months later to be Random Access Memories.
The month ended with the story of the then-defunct UK music store HMV‘s staff going on a Twitter rampage on the company’s official account, against their unfair dismissal (below):
Following on from Justin Timberlake‘s January announcement of new music in the previous month, February started off with the star previewing new tracks in his home turf, along with introducing his new band, the now infamous Tennessee Kids.
On the same day, rumours also started spreading of a Destiny’s Child reunion (after an unreleased song Nuclear was put up for sale on iTunes). The rumours were then laid to rest after Beyonce, Michelle and Kelly appeared during Beyonce’s half-time set at the Superbowl.
Closer to home, two fairly new groups [at the time] Disclosure and AlunaGeorge, collided to reach No 2 in the Official UK charts with their collaboration White Noise, whilst Fleetwood Mac surprised many by announcing they would once again hit UK soil with a Greatest Hits tour.
Kylie Minogue also announced she had been signed to Jay Z‘s Roc Nation record label, the fruits of the signing though we’re still waiting on (bar Skirt which failed to cause large-enough traction), whilst Laura Mvula‘s first UK TV appearance on BBC’s The Graham Norton Show instantly shot her to British prominence and heralded a new dawn for UK soul music.
The second week of February, however, was full of big announcements back in the Timberlake camp, with the star confirming he was to embark on a global tour with Jay Z under The Legends Of The Summer moniker, whilst The BRIT Awards announced the star as the main headline performer of the 20th February show. One week prior to the ceremony, Timberlake also confirmed that he was to play his first UK show in five years after the BRIT Awards at London’s The Forum; tickets sold out in a record 11 minutes.
Back to more superstar antics, and Beyonce premiered her Life Is But A Dream documentary on US TV, giving viewers and fans a rare glimpse into the life of the singer, whilst British summer event Wireless Festival announced a superstar line-up for the July weekend, featuring Justin Timberlake, Frank Ocean, Jay Z and Snoop Dogg, amongst others.
In news that also surprised the global recording industry, the US Billboard Charts also confirmed that they would be adding YouTube views to the official charts, a move that potentially started long-term repercussions for video partner VEVO.
The month also celebrated the 20th Anniversary of acclaimed US hip-hop label So So Def, with a star-studded concert, featuring Mariah Carey, Usher, Kris Kross, Ludacris and more joining founder Jermaine Dupri to mark the event. Meanwhile, global streaming tech firm Spotify announced a partnership with Ford to provide their powerful play to the marque’s in-car entertainment system, a move that was counteracted some months later with Apple announcing their ‘iOS In The Car’ program with leading automobile manufacturers.
With an unbearably-cold winter starting to close its doors, March heralded a stream of new music that was set to make its mark on the year. First up, Rudimental unleashed Waiting All Night, their Ella Eyre-featuring hit that pricked everyone’s ears up to the sound of UK dance music that was set to take the world by storm. Ed Sheeran also introduced the world to Passenger, whilst new femcee on the scene Azaelia Banks drummed up excitement for her expected debut Yung Rapunxel.
Justin Timberlake continued the month by finally unleashing The 20/20 Experience, letting fans know what he’d been working on over the previous twelve months whilst in music hiatus; the star also started teasing an imminent sequel to the album, surprising fans and the industry alike.
Beyonce also unleashed some new music, directly onto Soundcloud, with Bow Down eventually turning itself into Flawless, on her latest studio LP. Meanwhile Robin Thicke firmly cemented his return to music with Blurred Lines, a track that was set to take the summer by storm and hit charts globally (though not without its controversies). Additionally, a surprising new track by some ‘sort of’ newbies was also unveiled, heralding a strong dawn for UK music when Naughty Boy and Sam Smith unleashed La La La.
After an incredibly frustrating wait, ex-Sugababes Mutya Keisha Siobhan (MKS) finally unveiled the first piece of new music since their reformation, a cover of Kendrick Lamar’s Swimming Pools. Meanwhile, a scent of summer was starting to appear when Russ Chimes announced new 90’s-enthused Turn Me Out, whilst organisers of the Glastonbury Festival started unveiling headline performers.
April started off with the good news that beleaguered retailer HMV was to be rescued by Canadian investment firm Hilco, whilst the start of spring was official confirmed when the world started going gaga for Daft Punk as more and more details of their exciting new project Random Access Memories were slowly announced. Get Lucky, the first release of the album, was commended due to its return to the 70s disco/funk era, and earned multiple awards (including iTunes Song Of The Year and Spotify’s Most Streamed Single).
Chase and Status returned with Lost and Not Found, featuring Louis M^ttrs, the first cut from their latest album Brand New Machine, again strengthening the proposition of UK dance music for 2013.
Emeli Sande started the month off showing she means business with all genres, by appearing on a remix to Kendrick Lamar’s infamous Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe, whilst more exciting news for Justin Timberlake fans came when the star confirmed the release of the follow-up to The 20/20 Experience.
The world also received its first play of Daft Punk‘s Random Access Memories, which succeeded on winning over a brand new breed of fans (along with delighting their already-strong base). Meanwhile Pharrell Williams continued his onslaught back into the minds of the masses with new single Happy, taken from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack; bizarrely it’s taken almost six months for heads to turn and the single is now charting.
A relatively slow month for major news was put to bed toward the end when Glastonbury organisers confirmed the stellar line-up for the following-month’s festival, whilst one day later, V Festival also unveiled their line-up for the August event.
June heralded the start of the British music calendar’s summer, with new music coming from the likes of Mutya Keisha Siobhan (Flatline) and TLC (Crooked Smile). The former also announced initial plans for a tour, which set the internet, and UK fans, spinning into a frenzy of excitement.
Midway through the month, Kanye West started the first of soon-to-be-many outbursts after his latest album Yeezus leaked online, whilst his close friend Jay Z surprised the world by announcing a new album (Magna Carta Holy Grail) and a release date two weeks later.
Celebrity news outlets got all excited as the month continued, when Kanye West and Kim Kardashian announced the birth of their daughter North, whilst movie fans ended up in a frenzy after the creators of acclaimed disaster movie Independence Day confirmed sequels to the project.
Meanwhile, on the pop front, screaming teenagers across the globe became excited again after sensations One Direction unveiled their new single Best Song Ever whilst also announcing their forthcoming album Midnight Memories.
June was capped off by a rousing Glastonbury Festival; perfect weather and a balance of legendary music helped fans and organisers proclaim it the ‘best year ever’.