If you were too busy twerking in 2013, you may have missed a year that saw lots of really great music. In addition to welcoming back some old favorites, there were also fresh (and feisty) newcomers to the charts.
Justin Timberlake dropped two albums after taking a seven-year break from the studio, while newer acts like Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
and Lorde slowly but surely became among the music industry’s newest royals.
Global superstars like Katy Perry, Lady Gaga and One Direction duked it out for pop supremacy, but in the end, they all had us dancing and roaring to their songs. Hip-hop heavyweights also had their time in the sun: Kanye West got fired up (and became a family man), while Drake just wanted to make all ladies swoon.
But it turns out 2013 was also the perfect year for artists to reinvent themselves. Bruno Mars became a ’fro-rocking sex machine and Miley Cyrus proved that she really “can’t be tamed” after all.
The 10 artists who make up MTV’s list this year were all ranked based on our criteria, including sales, air play, live performances, cultural impact, social impact and their general ability to keep us buzzing during the period between January 1 and December 6. Here are the Best Artists of 2013!
10. Lady Gaga
Only the Mother Monster could have given her latest album, ARTPOP, such an ambitious title. Since releasing the clap-happy #1 single, “Applause,” back in August (just before taking the stage at the VMAs), we’ve just been trying to keep up with the jet-setting songstress. She’s been Venus, a goose and even a gypsy.
Never one to rest on the success of her last great achievement, Gaga added some new players to her creative Haus, including art icons like Marina Abramovic and Jeff Koons, as well as lyrical heavyweights like T.I. and R. Kelly. But how do follow an artRave? Easy. You sell over a quarter of a million records in one week, getting grinded on by Kells and hang out with the Muppets, obviously. — Jocelyn Vena
2013 was the year of the Lorde — the 17-year-old musician, that is. Lorde, a.k.a. Ella Yelich-O’Connor, has been aging like a fine wine (that she’s not old enough to drink) since she signed to Universal Music at 13.
Three or so years later, she burst onto the scene with “Royals,” which sat pretty at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for weeks, and earned the singer some historical honors: She holds the record for the longest reign on the Alternative Songs chart by a lead female. Hardly a one-hit wonder, Lorde’s debut record, Pure Heroine, scored the singer an avalanche of accolades. Not bad for a teen who considers herself “just a disgusting person.” — Brenna Ehrlich
8. Bruno Mars
Mars rang in the year with the #1 song in the country, and then scored another chart-topper in April. He had Freida Pinto working the pole in the “Gorilla” video; won big at both the 2013 VMAs and the MTV EMA (much to the consternation of Kanye ); launched a massive world tour; and picked up Grammy nominations for both Record and Song of the Year. And it was all on the strength of last year’s Unorthodox Jukebox, his most audacious and artistic effort to date. To paraphrase his spiritual mentor, Frank Sinatra, in 2013, Bruno did it his way. — James Montgomery
If it wasn’t telling enough that Kanye West made a rare (and overseas!) appearance at Drake’s annual OVO Fest this summer just to praise the Toronto rapper, this fall ’Ye officially declared that “Drake season” is in full swing. Though Drizzy didn’t drop his anticipated third album, Nothing Was the Same — with another major feature from Jay Z — until late September, he got the year started with “Started From the Bottom. The hit spawned a million memes and was used in many a catchphrase.
He kept things rolling with his insanely popular “wedding song,” “Hold on We’re Going Home,” which he performed at the 2013 VMAs. Oh, and, his album went platinum in just over a month. Cheers to Drizzy. — Nadeska Alexis
6. Katy Perry
Is there anyone who didn’t hear Katy Perry’s roar this year? Her latest album, “Prism,” debuted at #1 in October, selling 286,000 copies in its first week. And in two short months, “Roar” and “Unconditionally” have been unavoidable on the radio, with the former hitting #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. Besides the anthem “Roar” being adopted as the unofficial soundtrack of spin classes everywhere, Perry had a big year at the movies, too, including when she “blue” our minds as Smurfette in “The Smurfs 2.” It’s safe to say that she had an unconditionally good year. — Kase Wickman
5. One Direction
It seems like One Direction had no time for sleep in 2013. Shall we say, they were … up all night? This year marked the thee-year anniversary of the fivesome’s formation on the U.K.’s “X Factor,” and to celebrate, they put out a brand-new LP, Midnight Memories, selling half a million copies in the first week of release. On top of that, they released their 3-D movie, “This Is Us,” and premiered a marathon, seven-hour live stream dedicated to fans on 1D Day. They won Best Song of the Summer at the 2013 VMAs (and got to meet a naked Lady Gaga). And after being MTV’s Artist of the Year in 2012, we see them dominating this list for years to come. — Emilee Lindner
4. Kanye West
This year Kanye the rapper, producer, fashion designer, added another prefix to his name: “Christian, revolutionary, visionary products person.” Musically, West delivered his minimalist and experimental Yeezus album and then added to the experience with an eye-popping tour of the same name. West made a powerful impact with his “New Slaves” single and set a new standard by broadcasting the video on the sides of buildings across the world. Outside of the studio, ’Ye made major headlines, too, when he welcomed his daughter North West into the world and proposed to Kim Kardashian with a 15-karat rock. Add to all of that his recent media blitz and it’s clear that Yeezy was “Bound 2” make this list. — Rob Markman
3. Justin Timberlake
JT had perfect vision in 2013. He maintained a presence in the film world with “Inside Llewyn Davis,” but also conquered music once again, much to the delight of, well, everyone. He not only topped the charts — twice — with parts 1 and 2 of his comeback LP, The 20/20 Experience, he also did the unthinkable. Yep, he reunited with ’NSYNC at the VMAs, the same night he took home a Moonman or four.
Apparently, JT does almost everything in pairs though. He hit the road with bestie Jay Z this summer, and then went back out, kicking it solo with his own trek. And he did it all in Tom Ford-designed suits and ties. Not too shabby. — JV
2. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
If recent history is any indication, a song like “Thrift Shop,” — what with the 6 million in U.S. sales and the six weeks at #1 and your grandma bragging about how her shawl is “so damn frosty” —, often leads to the inevitable question “that’s great, but can you do it again?” Turns out, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis were able to do it again (and again). The pair had their second-consecutive #1 with the infectious “Can’t Hold Us” and then followed that up by providing the soundtrack to social change with their gay rights anthem “Same Love,” all while playing increasingly larger stages like the 2013 VMAs . With a high-energy show , the pair cemented their reputation and their spot near the top of our list. — Gil Kaufman
1. Miley Cyrus
In hindsight, it seems ridiculous that we spent so much time focusing on the supposed “a-POP-calyptic” showdown between Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. Miley came in like a Wrecking Ball , declaring her independence and dominating the pop-culture landscape. Whether it was the tongue , the twerk-tastic VMA performance or the Terry photo shoot, there’s no denying there was a method to Miley’s madness, the kind that could only be orchestrated by a 21-year-old who’s been in the business for nearly a decade. She schooled — and shocked — us all in 2013, and did so on her own terms. All hail the new Queen of Pop. — JM