This girl is right: 2013 was a cultural reset

From The Harlem Shake to Lorde's debut, we truly were not worthy.

by Douglas Greenwood
06 April 2020, 5:16pm

We’re spending a significant amount of time looking backwards right now; reminiscing about the halcyon days when something as simple as going outside wasn’t synonymous with violent spells of anxiety and the foreboding stench of death. The streets are now empty, but once they weren’t. We used to drink oat milk lattes from trash coffee chains and buy Tesco meal deals. We used to go to the park without being run over by a police van telling us to “go tf home!!!”. Back in the day, we would walk out of the movie theatre midway through a screening of Cats, claiming life wasn’t long enough to endure a cinematic hellfire quite like it. Now, we’d pay £27.99 + booking fee just to watch Jason Derulo’s CGI flattened bulge on a screen bigger than a Macbook. Times have changed, and we’re really feeling it. It’s time to revert to a simpler, sweeter era in our lives.

In a video that racked up 300,000+ views over the weekend, TikTok user Emily -- a 19-year-old self-confessed “former blonde” and “current disappointment” -- has a good idea. How about 2013?

In it, she lays out her reasons why 2013 was the best year of our lives, and… she sorta snapped? These eight -- some of Emily’s and some of our own -- are some of the strongest reasons why 2013 deserves a special place in our hearts. Culture peaked and has remained unmatched ever since.

1. We didn’t die!
As she states, 2013 started on a high note because we were all told that December 21st 2012 would be our last day on earth; a series of catastrophic events slated to obliterate the planet as we knew it. But alas, it didn’t, and we’re still here, bitches! 2013 truly felt like our year from the moment January 1st came around.

2. Lorde and Ariana Grande released their debut albums
Still sorta shook about this, considering our Kiwi queen has dropped two albums in seven years and Ari has gifted us five. The latter’s Yours Truly came first, and featured underrated bops like “The Way” featuring her ex, the late great Mac Miller. An A* pop song.

Lorde, on the other hand, single-handedly changed the game for young women in music by becoming an international superstar off the back of Pure Heroine. Women in pop culture were no longer easily malleable, all-dancing stars; they could be nuanced, in control of their image and make music that spoke to awkward teenagers the world over, and still snap. We haven’t been the same since we first heard “Ribs”, tbh.

3. Jennifer Lawrence was the biggest actor on earth
Remember that two year period in which you couldn’t look anywhere without seeing Jennifer Lawrence’s face? After her immaculate turn in Silver Linings Playbook, the world fell hard for J-Law and her gawky personality traits. She was 22 (!!!) when she fell up the stairs on her way to collect the Oscar for Best Actress in February of that year, single-handedly making everyone who is now over the age of 22 wonder how the hell someone so young could be so damn popular and accomplished. Back to bed for us!

4. Viral trends were terrible. But like, good terrible.
I cannot tell you exactly what the Harlem Shake is or was but I can tell you that, for several months throughout the middle of 2013, it’s all anyone seemed to do. Football teams, celebrities, your mate’s nan -- everybody was doing this dance trend that started with this guy and never seemed to end. Sure, it brought people together, but we’d argue that the only good thing that came from the Harlem Shake was Azealia Banks’ song about it. No more comments, thank you!

5. The music!! By god, the music!!
Ari and Lorde were just two musicians doing the most in 2013. Who else, you ask? Well, Taylor Swift delivered pop perfection with her Red era ("22"? Perfection imo). A$AP Rocky offered up his debut record, LONG.LIVE.A$AP, introducing swathes of high schoolers from the counties to the concept of “weed”! Then, there was Miley, who decided to cut her hair off, flip the bird to Disney and straddle a wrecking ball in the nuddy. Music has never been the same since.

6. Everyone in One Direction was at their peak level of hotness
As Emily points out in her video, 19-year-old Harry Styles looked like this in 2013, and “we did nothing to deserve that”. In fact, we’d argue that all of the 1D boys were just doing the most that year. They’d all grown up, discovered how to properly use hair products, and were slowly trying to find ways to dress like the adults they had become. Pre-Zayn’s exit, everything felt perfect.

7. Tumblr was horny and littered with galaxy patterns
Remember when Tumblr was actually good? Like, when you didn’t go to Instagram to post some ‘aesthetic’ photo you’d saved off of someone’s Flickr account to your followers on the microblogging platform? There was a whole era in internet culture in which girls wearing trilby hats in cornfields would haplessly photoshop galaxy patterns onto the sky behind them and ‘;3’ was still slightly unironic. Also, pre-pornography ban, it was a hotbed for everybody’s nude photos and naughty videos. 2013 Tumblr, I wanna run to you. :(

8. Beyoncé -- Beyoncé?!
We spend a lot of time throwing the term ‘cultural reset’ around for laughs, but it couldn’t apply more than with the surprise drop of Beyoncé’s self-titled record right in the winter of 2013. Never before had a pop star as huge as Bey managed to write and record a whole album (with corresponding music videos) in total secrecy. In an era where music leaks were the norm, this queen threw everybody off by giving hackers nothing to look for. What we got was her greatest album to date (don’t @ me): a concept record to end all concept records. All other pop girlies were gobsmacked -- some even tried to replicate her release strategy, but to this day nobody has done it like 2013 Beyoncé did. All of us were found dead in a ditch.

Emily swiftly followed up her debut effort with a Part 2 video featuring some more, all of which are completely and wholly accurate. Emily speaks for us all when she says that 2013 was the greatest year of our lives. When this all blows over, we’re finding a time machine just to experience its thrills all over again.

Miley Cyrus
One Direction
Harlem Shake
Ariana Grande
Jennifer Lawrence