The face of pop in 2013
  • The face of pop in 2013

This week’s Hot 100 is notable for the fact that every one of its top ten songs are in the same positions they were in last week, a rare peaceful period for a chart that’s normally defined by its turbulent nature. And after watching these songs rise, fall, and rise again over the course of weeks or months—or shooting straight to the top and holding their position for shockingly long periods of time—this moment of stasis hints at a temporary equilibrium between pop music’s competing impulses, and suggests that this week’s top ten may be the quintessential snapshot of pop in 2013.

So what does pop in 2013 look like? A lot like Pharrell, it seems. Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” continues to hold the number one spot, while Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” hangs in at number four after 17 weeks on the chart, many of them at the very top. Both songs are heavily indebted to the smooth-edged sounds of 70s soul and disco (some may say a little too indebted), and both have found audiences that span a broad range of tastes and demographics, from hipsters to hip-hop heads to the most mainstream of mainstream listeners, proving that the kind of wide-spectrum consensus many people thought had been destroyed by the splintering effects of the Internet still lives on. (Bruno Mars’s “Treasure,” at number seven, proves the continued viability of that particular retro approach.)

Further down, Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop” (at number two) and Jay Z’s “Holy Grail” (at number five) embody the synergistic collision of pop and rap that’s been one of the year’s defining musical aspects. Jay and “Holy Grail” guest star Justin Timberlake have been commingling the two genres for a while, and this year have been collaborating on a deeper (but highly successful) level. “We Can’t Stop” was produced by Mike Will Made It, whose previous hits with Juicy J, Lil Wayne, 2 Chainz, and Future were already starting to impact pop radio before Cyrus tapped him for a single that “feels black,” and whose controversial, twerk-centric video became a flashpoint for discussion about white pop’s co-opting of black hip-hop culture.

Then there’s the rest of the top ten tracks, which embody some of the more awful aspects of the year in music. The vampirically unkillable “Radioactive” by Las Vegas alt-rockers Imagine Dragons (which holds onto its high point at number three after almost an entire year on the charts), Zedd and Foxes’ “Clarity” (at number eight after 21 weeks on the chart), and relative newcomer “Safe and Sound” by Capital Cities (number nine, 15 weeks), all offer fusions of alt-rock songwriting and EDM production that differ slightly in mood and color, but are united in their bland forgettability. Anna Kendrick’s “Cups (Pitch Perfect’s When I’m Gone),” on the other hand, typifies the agonizingly twee take on old-timey folk music (or what I’ve started calling “white people campfire handclap music”) that’s unexpectedly become a commercial powerhouse over the past 12 months.

And at number ten, there’s Maroon 5, because we are never going to be rid of Maroon 5 and it’s better to simply find peace with that fact than to fight it any longer.