It’s been a turbulent year for authors and publishing. While writers are generally less likely to be found twerking at award ceremonies or swinging naked from destruction apparatus, that isn’t to say that the publishing world hasn’t been rocked by its fair share of controversies in 2013.
April saw the release of The Cuckoo’s Calling, the acclaimed debut novel by Robert Galbraith. However upon an investigation by a Sunday Times journalist, it was revealed that Galbraith was just a pseudonym for none other than J.K. Rowling. Despite her annoyance at being unveiled as the crime novel’s author, Rowling’s upset must have been slightly pacified when sales of the book increased 4000% almost instantly. Cue a slew of indie authors (me included) trying to convince the world that Rowling also ghost-wrote their fledgling novels, while the world speculated on which other famous writers may have slipped under the radar with books written under crafty pseudonyms. Still, Rowling has vowed to carry on the series, and despite the cat being firmly out of the bag, has also pledged to continue writing under the name of her male alter-ego.
Throughout the year, rumours of unseen stories written by J.D. Salinger have been brewing in the literary press, but in November, a scanned copy of three previously unpublished short stories appeared on eBay. Since then, the stories have been shared all over the internet, despite Salinger’s wish that one of the stories remain unpublished until 2060. The reclusive Salinger himself died three years ago, and although these ‘new’ writings have been met with mixed reviews from fans, it’s nevertheless exciting that even more novels by one of the world’s contemporary literature giants may still be to come.
2013 has been rife with celeb autobiographies, the typical gush of fading stars dying to cash in one last time. From the insincere to the unfunny, the ghastly celebrity memoir has continued to flourish. However one autobiography has stood out from all the rest. Morrissey‘s aptly titled Autobiography was released this year as a Penguin Classic, despite the fact it was a brand new title. Penguin defended the decision by claiming that Morrissey has managed to the achieve the iconic status that most people can only hope for in death – and they aren’t wrong. The instant classic is an excellent read, full of self-deprecation, revelations and belly-aching laughs. The best, and most honest, autobiography we will likely see for some time.
October saw retailer WHSmith make a blunder of epic proportions by withdrawing, for a limited time, every indie published book from their website. The website itself was down for several hours too, replaced only by a cryptic message that inappropriate content had been found within some of their self-published material. Exactly what this content was has yet to be revealed, but the whole fiasco has certainly uncovered some more serious issues regarding the precarious nature of self-publishing.
Finally – this December saw horror heavyweight Stephen King finally join Twitter. Although his first tweet wasn’t quite the bone-chilling epic we’re used to (it was “My first tweet. No longer a virgin. Be gentle!”) there’s no doubting that one of the world’s best loved living storytellers will make an excellent addition to the Twitter universe. Even after a day, he was one of Twitter’s most followed writers – no small feat when you consider the other huge names also clogging up cyberspace with their witticisms and quips. You can follow Mr King here.
What were your favourite writing scoops and controversies of 2013? Let me know in a comment!
It’s that time of year again – the tinsel and the garish lights come down from the loft and every blog and publication out there starts compiling end of year lists like they’re going out of fashion. So as an avid fan of the list, I thought I’d compile my own, showcasing my five favourite pop albums of 2013. If you haven’t listened to these albums yet, you’ve been missing out!
5. Foals – Holy Fire
From the very beginning, Foals have never shied away from experimenting with their sound. Holy Fire sees the band at their most playful and challenging, serving up tunes that are as innovative as they are instantly likable. Never tiring of making indie-fused pop music, Foals’ fourth album contains more catchy choruses and riffs than any of their previous efforts. My Number is a rush of dance-floor-beckoning excitement while Inhaler is possibly the group’s most epic composition to date. Explosive and creative but not without moments of tenderness, Holy Fire is Foals at their innovative best.
Listen to: My Number
4. Lady Gaga – ARTPOP
Gaga’s third album proper marks a departure from the heavy handed pomp of 2011′s Born This Way, a collection of pop songs infused with occasionally jarring jazz and metal influences. ARTPOP (she will tell you herself the capitals are necessary), is a significantly more upbeat affair, and despite the pretentiousness suggested by the album’s concept, manages to provide track after track of instantly catchy, memorable pop songs. Although Gaga’s penchant for dodgy wordplay can detract from some of the songs’ impact, her lyrical ability shines through on gems such as Swine, a Euro-house rave with a distinctly dark lyrical theme, proving once again that Gaga is unafraid of combining the serious and the superficial. ARTPOP is an album that oozes sex appeal (Sexxx Dreams), is innovative in its use of sound (Aura) and consistently bowls you over with massive sing-a-long choruses (Applause). It may not be the musical equivalent to the Mona Lisa, but as far as pop albums go, ARTPOP is up there with the best.
Listen to: MANiCURE
3. M.I.A. – Matangi
M.I.A. is a woman on a mission. Following on from the themes of government conspiracy seen on 2010′s Maya, Matangi is a call to arms, a scream of resistance and a refusal to back down. Now pally with Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (who helped her pen the track AtTENTion) M.I.A. has never been hungrier for the truth, best seen on tracks like Bring The Noize in which she raps “the truth is like a rotten tooth, you gotta spit it out”. Matangi is not, as you would expect, always an easy listen, but that isn’t to say it isn’t packed with huge tunes. Only 1 U is a slice of techno-pop reminiscent of XXXO while Come Walk With Me is a return to the familiar territory of Asian inspired beats overlapped with a singalong chorus. The centrepiece of the album, however, is undoubtedly the magnificent Bad Girls, a huge, politically driven track that could rival even Paper Planes as M.I.A.’s best song to date. While Matangi might not be crystal clear upon first play, its niggling earworms become more and more gratifying upon each new listen.
Listen to: Bring The Noize
2. Arctic Monkeys – AM
The Monkeys exploded back onto the pop scene in 2013 with an album that silenced any whispers that the band had lost their magic touch. AM is an album that delivers big tunes led by gritty, grungy electric guitars paired with sultry vocals and twinges of seductive R’n'B. Frontman Alex Turner’s songwriting is, as usual, on fine form, delivering quips and witticisms as well as lyrics that are heartfelt and emotionally charged. Owing much of his skill to those who have gone before him, Turner pays tribute to punk-poet John Cooper Clarke by turning one of his poems into the album’s closing track, I Wanna Be Yours. Every voice on this album drips sexual energy, from Turner’s alluring drawl to the come-to-bed backing vocals, creating an album as rich in lusty desire as it is in guitar-led anthems.
Listen to: Do I Wanna Know?
1. Dido – Girl Who Got Away
Probably not most people’s first choice when electing an album of the year, but undoubtedly mine. If you thought Dido disappeared some time around 2003 (and you would be forgiven for thinking so), I would urge you to give this album a listen. Now at the age of 41, Dido’s songs are masterfully crafted, but not lacking the whimsical charm of her earlier hits. Girl Who Got Away is a soft, often melancholic listen, and despite its relatively long duration, it never becomes tiring or grating. Kendrick Lamar appears in the sprawling Let Us Move On to provide a rap that sits perfectly as the track’s centrepiece, and is refreshingly void of references to bitches and dollar signs. Meanwhile, the haunting Day Before We Went To War surpasses all of Dido’s previous attempts at conveying a sense of utmost despair while End Of Night serves as the album’s almost anthemic tribute to the end of failing relationship. However Dido also plays with new genres, such as on the trip-hop influenced Blackbird, a track that would seem more at home with Dido’s brother, Faithless frontman Rollo. All in all, Dido’s fourth album is a delicate and utterly enthralling masterpiece, quiet in its excellence, but excellent nonetheless.
Listen to: Blackbird
So there you have it – my top 5 albums of 2013!
Honourable mention: Laura Marling, Pet Shop Boys, One Direction, The Knife.
Dishonourable mention: Robin Thicke, Gary Barlow, James Arthur, will.i.am.