Hottest Songs & Biggest Music Discoveries of 2013

January 6, 2014

Did you notice the calendar switch from 2013 to 2014? This seems to happen every year, bringing a deluge of end-of-year lists, especially where music is concerned. Still, we promise you have yet to see anything like the 2013 “year in music” maps below.

The Echo Nest collects more detailed, sophisticated data about all of the recorded music in the world than anything else, affording us a unique vantage point for analyzing what transpired in music last year. The following end-of-year lists, available in both map and playlist form, were created not by asking a music expert what music she personally liked to hear last year, but by listening to all the music released this year and reading everything people everywhere said about it, which is part of how The Echo Nest operates.

Rather than having one person or a roundtable of magazine editors weigh in on the year’s most impactful music, our system accounts for how the whole internet feels about it.

1,000 Hottest Songs of 2013

The following map, created by The Echo Nest data alchemist Glenn McDonald as part of Every Noise At Once, showcases the hottest 1,000 songs of 2013, grouped by artist, with larger, darker text indicating artists with hotter songs and/or multiple songs on the list. You can listen to each artist directly on the map (with 30-second samples for all and full tracks for Rdio subscribers):

For a lean-back version of this experience, the following playlist plays the “hotttest” artists of 2013 (our proprietary attribute includes three t’s in the word “hotttness”):


You might have noticed that you haven’t heard of some of these, which is due in part to the worldwide nature of what The Echo Nest sees (although we can also dial in certain regions).

"This is pulling from everything we know — worldwide, all genres," explains McDonald. "American listening is a huge factor because we’re a huge part of the listening world, but we’re not limited to that here… I totally expected to see a lot of Latin artists, and we do. Part of the reason it’s interesting is that you don’t see a lot of other multiregion lists pulling from all over."

In other words, the above map reflects the hottest songs on planet earth last year, not just in one particular country.

500 Biggest Musical Discoveries of 2013

Another way we look at music is by identifying songs that took the world by surprise, in that they grew quite popular despite having been recorded by artists who weren’t yet well-known.

The following list shows the artists whose stars started rising fast enough in 2013 to make The Echo Nest’s “Discovery” list, and grabs the 500 who had the “hotttest” tracks of the year.

In other words, these are the relatively unknown artists that The Echo Nest predicted would make a splash in 2013, which actually did make a splash.

"We had Lorde [on the Discovery list] before ‘Royals’ hit,” recalls McDonald. “We had that song ‘Clarity’ [by Zedd] before it was a hit. We had Luke Bryan before he was big, and Icona Pop. We had Chvrches before their album came out. I think that Neighborhood song ‘Sweater Weather’ we had before it was big. That Martin Garrix song “Animals” is huge in Europe and we had that.”

To hear the 500 biggest musical discoveries of 2013, you can check out this new page on Every Noise at Once:

And here’s our 2013 discovery playlist on Rdio:


Astute observers will notice at least one oddity in the above map. What on earth is Darius Rucker doing on there? Is the man once known as “Hootie” no longer officially famous?

"Yeah, his prominence as a solo artist indicates that it’s less than Hootie’s," said McDonald. "And discovery is always proportional — it’s hotttness disproportionate to familiarity. In his case, he’s still relatively familiar, but his song took off super quickly relative to his fame as Darius Rucker."

The Echo Nest’s “discovery” attribute correctly predicted that Lorde, Icona Pop, Chvrches, and others would break through in 2013. One-step-ahead hipsters and label types who wish to tap its power in 2014 are in luck: Our discovery list updates each week throughout the year on Rdio, allowing them to hear the next Lorde before she hits the big time.

"If you listen to every week, you would have known about a fair number of artists that everybody else discovered later," said McDonald, "and I would expect that to continue."