By Jack Sharkey, January 27, 2017

This is week four of our 50 week journey to explore the music of the last 50 years. Every Friday during 2017 we’re going to offer up five songs from each of the last fifty years that tell the story of music as it existed during that year, and how that music ultimately played a role in getting us to where we are today.


Some of the 250 songs will be giant hits and some will be somewhat obscure: To make the list a song needs to be representative of the time, or the beginning or end of a particular style or movement. Was the song an important part of the year or was it a harbinger of things to come? Did other artists copy the style or feel of the song and turn that into a whole new stylistic movement? The songs are not ranked in anyway, as each one played an equal part in the year in music.


Like every subjective list of art, we hope this will at times make sense and at others spark debate (and maybe even a little criticism). Take the trip with us in 2017 as we look back on the music that got us to where we are today.



The charts were filled with a distinctive style of pop in 2013, and very few (if any), songs outside of the mainstream pop genre managed to peak their heads up out of relative obscurity to find a place in the public's imagination. There was tons of great songs recorded and released in 2013, but these were the ones the year will be most associated with.  



I Will Wait - Mumford & Sons Babel was released in September 2012 and spent the next year gaining fans and attention in spite of it's relative dark textures and out-of-the-mainstream instrumentation and production. In a year of similar pop stylings on the charts, Mumford & Sons held the ground for British Isles trad and American country.



Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz - Thrift Shop Consider this the first serious ProTools hit - made on a computer for computers, Thrift Shop landed at Number 1 on Billboard's Top 100 for 2013. However, since this is a PG-13 blog, the role of Thrift Shop will be played by Gangnam Style. The mainstream isn't ready for the lyrical content of Thrift Shop, so you get Gangnam Style instead. 



The Wire - Haim The opening drums transport us back to 1979 and Heartache Tonight but the illusion is quickly shattered. A great song in its own right, The Wire is a solid amalgamation of rock posturing and techno stylings, but under the surface there's an awful lot of social commentary going on, and in a musical year of objectification, that's at once refreshing and startling. 



Blurred Lines - Robin Thicke Maybe the first pop video to prominently feature a hashtag reminding you who the artist is, Blurred Lines is an overtly posturing and sexist song that had no choice but to be a pop hit. It will also be remembered more for the lawsuit from Marvin Gaye's estate over copyright infringement: The central question being when does inspiration and homage cross the line to outright theft? Blurred lines indeed. Prince and War are also featured prominently, but as of date no lawsuits have been filed.



Radioactive - Imagine Dragons  2013 was maybe not the most stellar year in history as far as music is concerned, but then again, maybe it will be like any other year and be remembered powerfully and fondly by the people who made each song hit the charts. Who knows? Either way, Radioactive is a perfect example of the melodic and structural components of the music of the early twenty-teens, and as history moves forward this song will be evocative of its time and place. 

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