The albums that shaped the last 12 months

Beyonce
Beyonce

The year 2013 provided the music world with some of its biggest headlines and here we look back at last year’s stars.

Bowing down to a legend

When 2013 started, no-one saw a new David Bowie album coming. He hadn’t released anything in 10 years, had barely been seen and had all but withdrawn from public life.

Nevertheless, and despite the fact it was two years in the making, the Thin White Duke’s first album in a decade arrived completely by surprise.

After the event, it was revealed the staggering lengths those involved had gone to - namely signing hefty non-disclosure agreements and using good old-fashioned discretion - to keep the cat in the bag.

In an age where most artists document their every recording via Twitter and Instagram, it seems even more impressive that only a handful people knew it was coming before lead single ‘Where Are We Now?’ popped up on iTunes.

queen b

If Bowie’s album kicked off the year with a secret, Beyonce managed to bookend 2013 with another, seemingly from nowhere.

No lengthy build-up for Queen B, just an announcement that her ‘visual album’ was available to buy that same morning, featuring 14 tracks and 17 accompanying videos.

Regardless of the album’s pedigree - and as it happens, it’s brilliant - just think how many make-up artists, designers, producers and other assorted creatives are involved in making 17 videos for Beyonce.

The trick worked, with her self-titled album breaking iTunes sales records on its first day of release.

aLL GONE GAGA

If there were surprise releases, one album we’ve known was coming for a couple of years was Lady Gaga’s ARTPOP. And things didn’t quite go to plan.

The album immediately went to number one in the US, but in its second week it recorded an unprecedented 82 per cent sales drop, causing many commentators to brand it a failure.

Gaga’s always been an eccentric character with a complete vision of her creative output - that’s mainly why she’s so interesting - but prior to ARTPOP, she’d always had the songs to back up that eccentricity.

JT - THE COMEBACK KID

JT fans were given a real treat this year when, after a seven-year hiatus, they had not just one new album, but two. After years of deflection and speculation, ‘The 20/20 Experience’, which was co-written by Timberlake and producing partner Timbaland, was a huge surprise when it was released in two parts: the first in March, with the second part following in September.

Instant hits such as ‘Mirrors’, ‘Suit And Tie’ and ‘Take Back The Night’ featured on the tracklist.

It was one of the biggest musical comebacks of the year and sees the 32-year-old truly fulfil his musical vision.