January, February and March make up the first quarter of the year. Musically, the first quarter is much slower than the fourth quarter (October – December), in which the holiday season propels large sales numbers. January is the slowest of the three months of the quarter, while February gets a spike from the Grammys, and more newer releases begin to occur in March. This year had it’s first big commercial KO with Justin Timberlake’s return after seven years. That said, it only occurred March 19. The Grammys did spike sales, but there was no ‘Adele’ effect this year with so many split decisions and no definitive choices. Regardless, these are the awards for the music of the first quarter.
Nominees: Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience; Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up!; David Bowie, The Next Day; Bilal, A Love Surreal; José James, No Beginning, No End; A$AP Rocky, Long.Live.A$AP
Winner: David Bowie, The Next Day
Much like last year, there has been no definitive choice of the best album from a ‘critical’ standpoint. All the nominees have a lot of virtues, particularly in their given genres and compared to other albums released in the category. I have only partaken of two country albums this year, but neither felt like a contender for ‘best album’ by my standards – and this is my blog! Justin Timberlake easily takes the commercial accolades for an enjoyable, if scattered pop album. David Bowie’s The Next Day was the unexpected
surprise of the year, delivering the rocker’s first new album in 10 years. Consistent, enjoyable, and creative, it has been a favorite.
Honorable Album Mentions: Dessy Di Lauro, This is Neo-Ragtime; Depeche Mode, Delta Machine; Teena Marie, Beautiful
Nominees: Justin Bieber, Believe Acoustic; Lil Wayne, I Am Not A Human Being II
Justin Bieber, Believe Acoustic
Basically, I had to think of other nominees just to give the definitive choice competition. Believe me, Lil Wayne has done better than I Am Not A Human Being II, but it’s not horrid – perverted, distasteful, and ludicrous, but not horrid. Believe Acoustic has easily been the album where I wish I could have 40 minutes of my time back. Any arguments? Didn’t think so. Just more fuel to the fire for a bad year for an overexposed pop star… literally.
Best New Artist
Nominees: A$AP Rocky; Conor Maynard; Atlas Genius; Ariana Grande; Tamar Braxton
Winner: A$AP Rocky
At this point, any of the above artists could be eclipsed by later releases. A$AP Rocky had the most notable release of the nominees, debuting at no. 1 in a slow January. Conor Maynard seemed to take more from Justin Timberlake as opposed to Justin Bieber, which is always a plus. Ariana Grande is just gaining steam, so probably more from her during the second quarter.
Nominees: Bauuer, “Harlem Shake”; Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, “Thrift Shop”; Justin Timberlake featuring Jay-Z “Suit & Tie”; Bruno Mars, “When I Was Your Man
Winner: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz, “Thrift Shop”
Honorable mention to Bauuer’s “Harlem Shake”, but no one expected a single about a ‘thrift shop’ to be the next big hit. Easily one of the year’s most unconventional no. 1s.
Pop, Rock & Alternative
Best Pop (Solo) Performance: Bruno Mars, “When I Was Your Man”
I like “Mirrors” by Justin Timberlake a lot. BUT I love Bruno Mars’s stripped “When I Was Your Man”. Soulful, thoughtful, etc. Hearkens back to Billy Joel.
Best Pop Album: Justin Timberlake, The 20/20 Experience
Back after seven years with a no. 1 album that sold just shy of a milli? This is a big album and while it is scattered, it offers a lot as well.
Recommended Track: “Mirrors”
Best Rock Album: David Bowie, The Next Day
A comeback after 10 years this great? Rock fans don’t know how good they got it if they haven’t heard this exceptional effort!
Recommend track: “Where Are We Now?”
Best Alternative Album: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Push The Sky Away
Most people don’t know who Australian musician Nick Cave is – they are missing out! This alternative singer/songwriting album is told in a narrative approach that is different from any and everything else.
Recommended track: “We No Who ‘U ‘R”
Best R&B Performance: Bilal, “Winning Hand”
- Best Traditional R&B Performance: Charles Bradley, “Strictly Reserved For You”
Best R&B Album: Bilal, A Love Surreal
Few R&B albums materialized during this quarter (and no major hits), but Bilal’s was the best. Much more accessible than Airtight’s Revenge, A Love Surreal offers a lot of satisfactory material.
Recommended Track: “Winning Hand”
- Best Solo Rap Performance: A$AP Rocky, “Goldie”
- Best Rap Performance by a Duo/Group: Lil Wayne featuring Future & Drake “Love Me”
Best Rap Album: A$AP Rocky, Long.Live.A$AP
Rap albums haven’t been in great abundance, much like R&B during the first quarter. A$AP Rocky does it better on Long.Live.A$AP than Lil Wayne does on his more recently released I Am Not A Human Being II.
Recommended Track: “Goldie”
Country, Jazz Vocal, Blues…
Best Country Album: Alan Jackson, Precious Memories: Volume II
Gary Allan may have been victorious had I partaken of Set You Free, but I have not listened to the effort. Luke Bryan partied a bit too much for my tastes, while Jackson’s second installment of Precious Memories lacks frills, but is a solid representation of southern gospel and traditional country music.
Recommended Track: “There Is Power In the Blood”
Best Jazz Vocal Album: José James, No Beginning, No End
José James could’ve been honored in the R&B category, but he straddles both genres and has a lot of jazz influence. This is easily one of the years best releases as of yet.
Recommended Track: “Trouble”
Best Blues Album: Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, Get Up!
Sometimes the best albums are unexpected ones. Ben Harper collaborates with Charlie Musselwhite on arguably the year’s strongest effort.
Recommended Track: “We Can’t End This Way”
- Other than Justin Timberlake, 2013 has commercially been uneventful as of yet,
despite releases by Bon Jovi, Luke Bryan, Gary Allan, David Bowie, and A$AP Rocky. None came close to rivaling Timberlake’s numbers.
- We can expect The 20/20 Experience to be the dominant album until something else comes out later on…
- Who else can give the Adele/Timberlake effect? Will big names like Beyoncé or Kanye West be able to give 2013 a lift?