Best of 2013- As Told By Our Contributors

Best of 2013 As Told by Our Contributors
We here at soulhead have enjoyed being your trusted source for breaking information in all things soul. From reminiscing on all the classic sounds that game to define a generation, to the new music that reflects the great legacy of soul music, 2013 has been good to us!

And while we love all the artists we’ve profiled over the years, there are a few that have stood out to us! This list is a companion piece to our “Year in Review in Reviews 2013”. You shouldn’t leave 2013 without at least checking out these albums!

Happy New Year! Stay Safe.

Best of 2013- As Told by Our Contributors

First of all, it would be unfair to not simply get this out of the way: Beyonce.

There, we’ve said it.

For all the reasons listed in our recent review of the celebrated album, 2013 was the year of Queen B, and we believe this list would be incomplete without mentioning it. Now, that said, there’s is still much love (and hype) surrounding that album, so we’ll take this time travelling a bit deeper in to our recesses to get in to some serious talking about our favorite albums of the year, starting with the paragon of controversy and brilliance, Kanye West.

Brash, bold, and mostly brilliant — that’s what Jay said in his review of Yeezy’s explosive, divisive sixth album, and we stand firm in that assessment. Sonically,Yeezus is unlike anything hip-hop has ever before heard, with its stew of influences including electro, industrial, soul, and dancehall. Lyrically, it’s manic and aggressive. From the bombastic theism of “I Am A God” to the anti-commercialism screed “New Slaves,” Kanye takes his listeners to the darkest corners of his tortured genius mind. And the best part is, it’s all very much tongue-in-cheek. Yeezus is funny, if you allow it to be, but it’s also what great art is supposed to be: raw, brutally honest, and forward-thinking. Yeezus has risen again. All praises due.
While aforementioned divas have been smashing many records in terms of moving units and inspiring something short of idol-worship, another lady has been quietly developing a dedicated, steadfast following. Janelle Monae’s sophomore studio album The Electric Lady reintroduced us to that zany, magical world of Metropolis, but still kept us down to Earth with that soul-filled verse of hers. Seeing her live performances of songs like “Dance Apocalyptic” and the title track “Electric Lady” she made us believe that soul music was still alive and well! This lady is a dynamo and so forceful and precise that we wonder if Janelle Monae is really just the disguise for Cindi Mayweather as opposed to the other way around!
Another musically brilliant artist (or rather band of artists) that we loved this year was The Robert Glasper Experiment- Black Radio 2
Similar to  Monae, Glasper and Co. might not have posted big numbers, but their effect was felt (and heard) in the soul music community. With amazing guest singers, divinely orchestrated sounds and just the energy off the album, this album was something a smorgasbord for those with the ears for soul, R&B and jazz. We love that Glasper reinvigorated the genre in a way that seemed so effortless. Indeed, listening to Glasper almost take a refined palette for knowing and appreciating fine soul music, but there are certainly notes of sweetness that even the youngest of soul acolytes could appreciate.
Now, as far as someone making a splash in not just pop culture but the Nielsen numbers, there’s the incomparable Drake — Nothing Was The Same
If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. For Nothing Was The Same, Toronto’s crown prince of rap stuck to the formula that’s made him successful over the course of two great albums and one classic mixtape. Sure, there’s very little in terms of innovation, but there’s still considerable growth here. While Drake continues to wear his heart on his sleeve (just check the super emotional “Too Much” and confessional “From Time”), he’s also become more aggressive. “Started From The Bottom,” the year’s best hip-hop song, finds Drake snarling, stomping, and asserting himself as the best in the game right now. “The Language” takes all challengers to task (“I don’t know why they been lyin’/But your shit is not that inspiring”). And “Worst Behavior” is a petulant tantrum, a reminder of how even the tiniest slight can fuel one’s desire to prove their worth against any and all adversaries. Who else is making rap albums and doing numbers like they’re pop?
On the other side of hip-hop there was Danny Brown — Old
Personally, we feel that  Old was a sleeper. When we started off to review it, we had no idea who Danny Brown was. We thought he was merely some fun-loving rapper, one who catered to the hipsters and hypebeasts. And then, play button was pressed. This album holds the tales of a man struggling to reconcile the two lives he’s led: one is that of a street hustler determined to survive no matter the cost, the other a successful rapper caught up in the trappings of success. Don’t be fooled by the EDM-influenced, carnivalesque beats — Old deals with some real stuff. The twisted fairytale-like “Wonderbread” details the perils of growing up poor in the hood. “Gremlins” chronicles the exploits of young hooligans gone wild. And “25 Bucks” is a cautionary tale about the consequences of criminal behavior. The album’s closing track, “Float On,” finds Danny wishing he lives long enough to witness him impact on music. He need not worry: Old has certainly placed him in the pantheon of gifted MCs.

And speaking on sleepers…

Black Milk- No Poison, No Paradise

The Detroit native crept on to the scenes and acted with this quiet gusto that barely broke notice above the underground. But nonetheless, we loved everything about this album. The way Black Milk managed to chronicle the lives of Detroit denizens with innovative beats that straddle and defy genre lines was remarkable. In fact, we still shiver thinking about the duality of  “Sunday’s Best/Monday’s Worst”.

And lastly, rounding out this Best of 2013, we cannot leave out a man who has worked a lot harder this year than we realize, Mr. Justin Timberlake.

It is true, in the name of pop culture it would seem that this year goes to Mrs. Carter, flat out. But considering both A-rated projects put out by JT (The 20/20 Experience, and 2 of 2), we have to tip our hat to him and realize how influential he has been this year. Indeed, of Bey is the Queen of Pop, Justin is at least the Prince Consort!

We have loved this year 2013! It seems that most of the music this year seems like it has been dominated by new projects from pop culture mainstays and heavyweights who have finally found their stride, producing the music they want their fans to hear. We love this sense of unbridled freedom from our super soul stars and want them to continue to do so!

And for all of their success, there were still several projects from more low-key artists that really earned our hearts and ears. We can only hope that 2014 will see more of the lowkey types continuing to produce create music and battling towards prominence.

Here’s to another year of great and even greater music that livens our hearts and stirs our souls!


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