Saturday, 21 December 2013

Play Off: Picking 2013's Best Song - Intro

Tunes of 2013: The Full 32

So: I have no idea what my favourite song of 2013 is.

This year's music failed to crystallise into a neat handful of songs like it normally does, which is both a good and a bad thing.

Yay, because it's a symptom of just how much fantastic music there's been. The 32 songs we're going to be talking about in these posts are only a small (hopefully representative) fraction of the stuff that I loved this year.

But also a mild boo, because it also means the year was lacking in truly definitive songs. I guess it was the year of Get Lucky, but while I clung onto my love of that song long after most had burned out from over-use (more on this in later posts), you're not going to find any Call Me Maybes on the list this year.

With that in mind, this approach seemed like the obvious choice: take a tournament-sized chunk of
songs, and pit them against each other, one on one, until we have a winner. Y'know, like they do in Pokémon and, I believe – am I pronouncing this right? – 'Sports'.

It's also neatly reflective of the way I used music this year. The format is adapted from Tom Ewing's Mincer which, for two months in the spring, ruled everything around me. You can read all about it elsewhere on this blog, but basically: randomise your tracks; listen in pairs; pick a winner as quickly as possible after the tracks end; delete the other; rinse and repeat.

But my listening habits have been strangely competitive in general all year. Possibly thanks to the sheer quantity of quality releases, possibly out of a sense that last year slipped through my fingers slightly, but I found myself pretty much refusing to listen to anything that wasn't current, my increasingly labyrinthine sets of Spotify playlists felt like an exercise in narrowing down everything I heard and liked into shorter and shorter lists - which is exactly what we're doing here.

We should probably establish some ground rules, baggy as they are.

  • During the selection process, each artist was limited to two songs – and there had to be a good justification for doubling up, which we'll touch upon when we hit those tracks.
  • Each song had to be one I heard for the first time this year, and it had to have a clear 2013 release date. I'm sure we'll realise I unconsciously cheated on some tracks along the line.
  • Some tracks are here representing the entire album they're lifted from, but they're inevitably here on merit. It's just that
  • In lieu of a seeding system – which seemed foolish, given that I'd be choosing both the seeds and the winners – I gave the tracks a couple of randomisations until it felt 'about right'. This means there aren't any hot contenders facing off in the first round, as far as I can tell, and the neat thematic pairings are genuinely random, sort of.
  • I'm letting myself listen to each pair of tracks on repeat as many times as I want during the writing process, which makes the decision process less spontaneous than the Mincer's one-shot policy but also, that would likely drive me insane.
  • I haven't listened to the Beyoncé album yet, because I suspected it might screw the whole thing up.
You can follow the tournament live on Challonge here, listen to our 32 contenders on Spotify, and I'll be back on Monday with commentary from the first round of matches.

To reiterate, I have genuinely no idea which track is going to win. I hope you have as much fun finding out as I do.

Tunes of 2013: The Full 32

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Videogames, film, music, comics: feed them into the Alex-Spencer machine and out come neat little articles. Like the ones you're looking at here.