Spotifying 2013

I started a project on Spotify last year where I made a playlist of the 12 songs of 2012 that defined my year musically.  Some were songs I listened to on repeat at the gym (hence the inclusion of a Pitbull jam on this list), while others were songs I just associated with memories or people from that 12 month span.  Some were rather old songs, but my rule of thumb was if I discovered them in 2012, then they were up for inclusion, which is how an old John Denver song ended up on my list.

It was a fun exercise and one I finally got around to doing for 2013 just recently.  I didn’t remember the assembly being so difficult last time. This year, I initially dragged over 20 songs into the playlist, then had to slowly cull from there. “No, Jess, you don’t need three Great Big World songs on there,” I told myself. I also cut some of the obvious and ubiquitous songs of 2013 like “Get Lucky” and Bruno Mars’ oeuvre, since it doesn’t exactly feel like the personal experience I am looking for in my selections.  After some cutting, some adding, some deleting, and some adding back, this is what I came up with (alphabetically by title, of course):

“Bellas Finals” by the cast of “Pitch Perfect”

I think Anna Kendrick might be giving Kristen Bell a run for her money as my number one girl crush. I’ve been a fan of hers since I was in college and caught her stealing the show as Fritzi in the delightfully over the top nerdy art kid dream of a movie “Camp”, but for some reason, I never got around to seeing “Pitch Perfect” in theaters. Shortly after the WSOP, I decided to reward myself for surviving the summer with HBO and, rather than dig into “Game of Thrones” straight away, I watched this movie first instead.

It should surprise exactly no one that this movie about arty nerds in college was right up my alley. Picking from the host of quality performances was tough. I almost selected the final performance of the Bellas’ male counterpart, The Treblemakers (I can throw down that rap section in the middle like a beast fwiw), but even though it is 2013, the anthems of 1980s classic films like “The Breakfast Club” (heavily featured here) are going to win me over until at least 2043.

“Catch My Breath” by Kelly Clarkson

In October my friend Elaine and I went to a free Kelly Clarkson taping and we were talking about how strange a role Kelly Clarkson plays in our musical selections. I would never self-identify as a fan of hers, yet when I scroll through Spotify, I have to have at least ten of her songs spread across my playlists. 

Unlike other Clarkson songs, which I enjoy to rock out to on car rides, this particular one stuck with me moreso than the others.  I am not often one to get very self-helpy or aspirational.  I know it works for other people, but that sort of motivational stuff has never done much for me.  But, after a stretch of my year where I felt like I was letting myself be a doormat and feeling pretty stupid about it as a result, this served as my musical pep talk.  And some great running music at the gym.

“Goodnight and Go” by Imogen Heap

One of the good things about attending dance classes regularly is your musical horizons expand along with your range of physical ability. I don’t know if most people realize this, but dancers have great taste in music, so I am always glad to get to non-ballet classes like the contemporary one I took where I was introduced to this song back in the spring.

It also bears mentioning that I am a sucker for a good wistful song.  The kind of song you can listen to when you’ve got a crush.  This one gets a little bit…er…leery?…at points, but I still love so many of the lyrics, particularly the chorus.

“I Want Crazy” – Hunter Hayes

Yes, I like country. Don’t be those people who say it is the worst. You don’t like “everything but country.” If you did, you’re telling me you’ll listen to classical tuba or Native American flute? Enjoy all the polka there is to offer? Didn’t think so.

A lot of people have been hard on the bros of country these days, but I think Hunter Hayes tends to avoid the criticism, in part, because he is that country-lite Taylor Swift-esque country singer and, in part, because the kid is just 22 years old.  I don’t really actively follow the country music scene, but the older the get, the more I find myself defaulting to the country radio station when my phone isn’t an option.  I really don’t know how I became this person. I don’t think I mind being this person as much as I thought I would though.

“Janet” – The Format

I wrote a blog earlier this year about discovering The Format. This is my favorite song from that discovery.

“Just Give Me a Reason” – Pink f. Nate Ruess

Another dance class discovery, this is the song that got me to give fun. more of a chance and, as a result, discover The Format.  While the video of the mattress afloat in the ocean is a little bizarre, Pink, like Kelly Clarkson, keeps sneaking into my music collection without me realizing it.  One thing I learned from dance class? It is surprisingly effective to do crunches to this song.

“Love on Top” – Beyonce

If you weren’t sure I am completely out of touch with the contemporary music scene, this should seal the deal for you. No songs from the new Beyonce album for me, I am just going to continue to rock out, clean the house, go to the gym, and sing in the car to this tune from her 2012 album, 4. 

A brief aside, but given that 2013 was also the year of her Super Bowl performance, can we briefly talk about how people talk about how Beyonce is this incredible dancer? Go watch those Destiny’s Child videos again. This girl was terrible, worst of the three by a mile, but somehow she managed to both get better at dancing and find choreography that highlights what she is good at when it comes to movement. Still though, I find very few of her songs to be very dance-able. My sister played me “Drunk in Love” today and I let out a yawn or two, but other than that, didn’t have much of a reaction. For every great song like “Single Ladies”, there is a super mediocre one like “Best Thing I Never Had”. More throwbacks like “Love on Top” Bey, please.

“My My Love” – Joshua Radin

Do you guys watch “Parenthood”? Hint: “no” is the wrong answer. This show is amazing and amazingly good at getting me to sob like a child.  This song, which plays in the background of Amber and Ryan’s engagement this season, just destroyed me. Such a beautiful song with phenomenal lyrics. It is the kind of love song that makes you hope someone feels that way about you someday, that makes you hope you can feel that way about someone. But this is coming from a gal who is a sucker for any nerd-voiced emo white boy singing acoustic-type music, so you may not want to take my word for it.

“Neon River” – Keane

When I travel for work, I don’t always get to see much of anything outside the casino. So, I make it a point to do as much walking around as I can. Such was the case for my first trip to Melbourne for WSOP APAC this spring.  Walking along the river, this tune from the most recent Keane album caught my ear.  As someone who is positively obsessed with every single track of Keane’s debut album “Hopes and Fears”, the numerous follow ups have all been pretty disappointing, but I dutifully try to give the album a couple of good listens before discarding all but one or two songs. There are songs here and there that I enjoy, like “The Lovers Are Losing” and “Nothin in My Way”, but their “Strangeland” album is the first one in ten years that has me liking the majority of the tracks.  “Neon River” is my favorite and it reminds me of walking along the waters by the Crown, which was easily my favorite part of the APAC trip.

“Say Something” – A Great Big World

Every year on “So You Think You can Dance”, there is a number that takes my breath away, then takes my time away as I rewatch it 100 times on YouTube.  This year, that number was Amy and Robert’s duet to this song

You make think you’ve heard this song before, but if you’ve heard the version with Christina Aguilera, I highly advise you to check out the original version, which is simplistic, beautiful, and heartbreaking.  I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say I listened to this song 200 or 300 times this year. I cried with it, I sang along, and I just relished in it, knowing this year I found one of those all-time favorite songs that I will listen to several thousand more times before I leave this world.

“Simple Song” – The Shins

Much like “Parenthood”, “How I Met Your Mother” manages to wow me with their musical choices.  This song plays at the end of last season over the final scene where we get to see the Mother for the first time.  That is what got me to give the song a try, but in the fall, when things were getting a bit overwhelming for me on a lot of fronts, this song’s chorus is was what hooked me in. 

That being said though, did anyone watch this week’s HIMYM, which was told entirely from the Mother’s POV? Delightful vintage quality HIMYM—too bad we have to suffer through so much less than ideal stuff to be rewarded with these little glimpses of awesome.

“Stars and the Moon” – Jessica Mulaskey

There has to be a showtune on this list somewhere.  This one barely snuck in to make the list, but this December, I took a day at work and just cued up every Jason Robert Brown penned song I could find.  It all started because my cousin Joel, an accomplished musical theater composer, started blogging about his creative process.  I was reminded how much I love Joel’s work as well as how great the storytelling in showtunes can be, so I turned to Brown, whose musical “The Last Five Years” is currently being adapted into a movie I positively can’t wait to see featuring (we’re coming full circle here) Anna Kendrick.

This is one of those songs I find it impossible to understand how it took me so long to find it. Brown’s “Someone to Fall Back On” is probably my favorite song of all time. I have songs from the same show as “Stars and the Moon”, but for some reason this tune just lived in a blind spot.

I found it though, then listened to this beautiful story unfold several dozen times, grateful that I found it eventually, even though it may have taken longer than I would have liked.

“Summer Song” – Matt Duncan

Everybody has their song of the summer. Mine just happens to be written and performed by a high school classmate.  I knew Matt’s first album, Beacon, took off a couple years ago. I have all the songs and enjoy his throwback hipster jam band vibe a lot. Unlike many other friends with artistic pursuits, I didn’t listen out of obligation, I listened because I really dug the music and like to humble brag that we sat next to each other in Calculus.

His new album dropped this year and this song was my WSOP jam, keeping me mellow as I drove to the Rio, giving me around three minutes of summer fun before heading in for another long day at the office.

I would approach my recommendations with a grain of salt.  If these 13 songs are any indication, I am pretty eclectic, far from educated musically, and way too emo-y for my own good.  But it is still nice to see what comes my way each year and think about where it comes from.  Of these, absolutely none came across my radar because I heard it on the radio.  In fact, I’d probably wager that will be the case when it comes time for 14 for ’14 too…

Btw, for those who are curious, this was my 12 for ’12:

“Back in Time” – Pitbull
“Bella Donna” – The Avett Brothers
“Even If It Breaks Your Heart” – Eli Young Band
“Gotta Have You” – The Weepies
“Home” – LCD Soundsystem
“I Wanna Dance with Somebody” – Matt Alber (originally by Whitney Houston)
“Meanstreak” – Matt Duncan
“On Your Porch” – The Format
“Poison & Wine” – The Civil Wars
“Sunshine on My Shoulders” – John Denver
“Teenage Dream (Acoustic)” – Darren Criss (originally by Katie Perry)
“Windmills” – Toad the Wet Sprocket


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