By Shannon Carlin, Annie Reuter, Jeremy D. Larson, Scott T. Sterling, Jillian Mapes
In 2013, Kanye West did all he could to convince us he was a genius, while a New Zealand teen made us think twice before popping that Cristal.
Miley couldn’t seem to stop, no matter how much we wished she would. And Robin Thicke’s biggest problem of the year turned out not to be all those naked ladies in his “Blurred Lines” video, but the estate of Marvin Gaye.
After two years, Lady Gaga finally revealed the meaning of her ARTPOP, though it seemed not as many people cared as she had hoped. Perhaps Mother Monster should have taken a page out of her friend Beyoncé’s book, who managed to outsmart us all with her clever surprise release. And let’s not forget Justin Timberlake, who came back to music after seven years. We’ll let you decide if he also brought sexy back.
As Radio.com gears up for 2014 we’re revisiting some of the best, worst and most infamous stories of the past 12 months. But we don’t want to spend too much time on the intro — we’re not Drake — so read on to see which artists made this year one we’ll all definitely remember.
Most Controversial Artist: Miley Cyrus
Even in a year when Kanye was at his most nuclear and R. Kelly had to answer for past (alleged) transgressions, no one in music generated more controversy than Miley Cyrus. From her perpetually wagging tongue to twerking all over Robin Thicke at this year’s MTV VMAs to her very nude video for “Wrecking Ball,” Cyrus successfully trolled the world while making herself over into the pop star we just love to hate on – and seemingly can’t get enough of.
Best New Artist: Lorde
This one wasn’t even a contest, as the wide-eyed ingénue from New Zealand captivated music listeners — and the industry — in a way we haven’t seen since Alanis Morissette was screaming about Dave Coulier’s indiscretions back in the ‘90s.
Saddest Breakup: My Chemical Romance
Three cheers for sweet, sweet Gerard Way and his band, who leave behind at least two excellent albums and a whole box full of jelly bracelets and black eyeliner. Those kids are not okay (I promise).
Best Music Video: Seth Rogen & James Franco “Bound 3”
While most of the world stared in shock at Kanye West easy riding with a nude, but nipple-less Kim Kardashian in the video for “Bound 2,” actors James Franco and Seth Rogen found inspiration. Their shot-for-shot remake comes complete with a topless Rogen playing the role of Kim.
Biggest Comeback: Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake had not one, but two comebacks this year. He brought us two solo albums, his first, The 20/20 Experience, sold 968,000 copies in its first week, making it the No. 1 sales debut of 2013. He also reunited with his former boy band *NSYNC for a couple of minutes at the MTV VMAs, making fans everywhere wish the boy band never said bye, bye, bye.
Beef of the Year: Kendrick Lamar vs. Every Other Young Rapper in the Game
It was the shot heard ’round the world when Kendrick hijacked Big Sean’s “Control” with a verse that called out a number of the most popular rappers in hip-hop — including Big Sean — while placing himself next to such legends as Eminem, Andre 3000, Jay Z and Nas. The response was swift and often dramatic, with a multitude of those called-out —Meek Mill, J. Cole and Drake — striking back. It was Drake though who seemed to be most hurt by Lamar’s verse, taking what many believe to be his second jab at K-Dot on the recent remix of Future’s song “Sh!t.”
Honorable mention: As I Lay Dying frontman Tim Lambesis offers a hit man $100 to kill his wife, ending their meeting by saying, “Just to clarify, I do want her dead.”
Weirdest Use of Likeness: Britney Spears
A new musical called Spears The Musical: The Gospel According To Britney will chronicle the life, death and resurrection of Jesus using Britney’s hits like “Stronger,” “One More Time,” “Lucky” and “Crazy.” Is it the greatest story ever told to the greatest music ever written? Umm, maybe?
Strangest Duet: R. Kelly and Phoenix‘s “Trying to Be Cool” Remix
While Phoenix frontman Thomas Mars sings about “mint julep testosterone,” Kellz details a regular night out: “I’m gonna walk up in the club/ I’m gonna holler at the honeys/ Im’a have a few laughs, take a few shots and throw a little money.” That sounds pretty cool to us.
Best Album Launch: Beyoncé‘s Sneak Attack
Who besides Beyoncé could keep her album a complete secret until its release? Not to mention, become the first woman in history to ever debut at No. 1 with her first five studio albums with an album that was only released on iTunes? All hail, Queen Bey, for teaching the rest that no hype is the new hype.
Most Improved Style: Drake
No new sweaters. Drake ditched the Cosby look for leather sherseys and OVO gear. And now that he’s announced a deal with Nike’s Air Jordan, we’re expecting his style to improve by leaps and bounds in 2014, both figuratively and literally.
Biggest Hype That Didn’t Pay Off: Lady Gaga‘s ARTPOP
On November 11, after two years in the making, she revealed the release date of her album and touted her ARTPOP app, which since the release of the record no one has spoken about. Her first single, “Applause” leaked, leading Gaga to release it earlier than planned and even with that extra time it still hasn’t been able to top the charts. And though ARTPOP debuted at No. 1, in its second week it only moved 46,000, copies, dropping 82 percent to No. 8. Jeff Koons did make a sculpture in her likeness though, so that’s something.
Best Concert We Saw: Kanye West’s Yeezus Tour
We called Kanye’s theatrical spectacular “The Sermon on the Mount” but other good ones were “Yeezus Christ Superstar” or “Matterhorn: The Rap Show!” But it’s most likely based on a 1973 Jodowarski film called The Holy Mountain. That’s what’s called raising the bar.
Biggest Legal Battle: Marvin Gaye Estate vs. Robin Thicke
Robin Thicke has said his love of Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give It Up” inspired his GRAMMY-nominated summer hit “Blurred Lines.” But Gaye’s family thinks it might be a little too inspired by Marvin’s song. Since August, Thicke and Gaye’s estate have been in a legal dispute over copyright infringement. Next time Thicke talks about his inspirations, he should keep the artist’s name to himself.