We here at Yahoo have been ranking the top searches since 2001, our way of providing snapshots into our collective fascinations and fixations from the year. In 2013, quite a few familiar faces return to our annual list of Top 10 Searches, although you wouldn’t be blamed for not quite recognizing them. Whether they were coming of age or coming into motherhood, the celebrities who made the list all went through a startling metamorphosis in 2013.
While the 2013 list isn’t as news-heavy as last year, when “elections” and “political polls” dominated search terms, people weren’t just ogling actors and musicians. Online focus homed in on the Obamacare rollout, a murder trial and — one more time — a smartphone.
[Related: Get an eyeful with 2013 Top 10 Searches on Yahoo slideshow]
Minecraft players on Macs and PCs can soon livestream their world building through TwitchDigital revelations
Two different digital revolutions make the Top 10 this year. Of course, given the breakneck pace of tech these days, the Apple smartphone isn’t as revolutionary but can still be revelatory. The iPhone returns with daunting regularity on Yahoo lists, and the iPhone 5 (No. 9) hit No. 2 last year, even though it wasn’t out yet. While the new iteration might not have been a monumental evolution, its GPU prowess proved up to snuff, the new ID access brought biometric technology literally to users’ fingertips, and iOS7 design marked a big philosophical break from skeumorphism.
The video block-building game Minecraft (No. 4) has won rapturous praise for being at once simple yet limitless, and for bypassing the long build-up time of other gaming companies. In 2011, the Swedish company’s smartphone app leapt to the No. 1 spot in a month, and its beta launch opened to an audience of 16 million registered users. Sales now are above 33 million and growing.
Players — many children — survive attacks by monsters by crafting weapons and creating shelters that become entire worlds. More important, it’s a game without rules and without end that has inspired real-world applications, from collaborative school projects to architecture design. Its monumental access has inspired a documentary (recently published on YouTube), a New Yorker profile, and a book about its founder Markus “Notch” Persson.
Trial and error
Despite the battles directed at Affordable Care Act, better known as Obamacare (No. 6), its search average had been moderate until its Oct. 1 launch. With a federal Jan. 1 deadline for all Americans to have health insurance, and the massive (negative) publicity from the shutdown to the national website, people finally went en masse to figure out just “what is obamacare,” “affordable health insurance” and what health exchanges were available to them. The intense search surge for the act and site pushed the term into the Top 10.
Not so with Jodi Arias (No. 8), who pulled in searches by mid-December 2012. By the time her trial began on Jan. 2, Arias had confessed to stabbing and shooting her boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in 2008. Livestreaming, social media — including Arias’ Twitter updates managed by a friend — and old-fashioned camera-hogging by the prosecutor and Arizona sheriff all contributed to the spectacle. As for why the defendant herself was such a draw, hers was a story that many could relate to (a relationship gone wrong) and yet couldn’t understand (a soft-spoken petite woman capable of such brutality).
Carl Jung had his archetypes, Yahoo has our own — often the pop princess, (Disney) girl next door, celebutante “it” girl, fallen hero, nice Canadian kid — and they can be the same person. Miley Cyrus (No. 1) last made the Yahoo Top 10 when she was 15 and still Disney’s No. 1 property as Hannah Montana. Even then, she was catapulting into adulthood with a near-topless Vanity Fair cover shot, although she apologized to fans and declared herself “embarrassed” by those Annie Leibovitz pics.
Five years, a pole dance and several writhing, “Wrecking Ball” music videos later, 21-year-old Cyrus has twerked her way into the No. 1 slot. By the way, that position was occupied by Britney Spears four times — and Cyrus is definitely on Spears’ fast-track to dump her clean-cut image. (FYI, the two share the same agent.) Her remarkable transformation didn’t happen until mid-year when her music video for “We Can’t Stop” came out, complete with debauchery and drug references. She kept fans wondering about her engagement to Liam Hemsworth until September.
Ultimately Cyrus has had the last laugh — in fact, she’s been in on the joke the whole time. Her turn as host and musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” got her a return invite two weeks later. Her album “Bangerz” debuted at No. 1 with great sales, leading to the announcement of a huge 2014 tour. And that crying kitty at the AMA Awards has been read as a “screw you” to online critics.
Kim Kardashian’s newborn daughter North West seen on October 4, 2013 — InstagramAll enough to dethrone Kim Kardashian (No. 2) as the most-searched person on Yahoo — even though the reality star became a mother in 2013. The celebutante famous for being famous stunned entertainment junkies with news she and rapper beau Kanye West were expecting a baby, paving the way for months of stories analyzing how she dressed her baby bump and speculating whether the couple would allow the tot on her family’s abundance of shows (for the record, she said no). Unexpectedly, she triggered a white-hot debate about criticism over her pregnancy weight gain — and it didn’t help she was being compared to the “ideal” maternity style of the Duchess of Cambridge.
After Kardashian gave birth on June 15, people moved on to debating the baby’s name (and what an interesting name North West is), and when the social media-savvy Kardashian would share baby’s first photo — although it was her postpartum slimmed-down selfie that got the attention. There was plenty of on- and off-camera drama with her family, with rumored marital problems between Khloé and Lamar Odom as well as Kris and Bruce Jenner’s split. That didn’t deter West’s elaborate marriage proposal — less than five months after Kardashian’s divorce from Kris Humphries was finalized — in a San Francisco baseball stadium. No wedding date yet, but expect it to keep Kardashian in our lives well past 2014.
Justin Bieber (No. 10) was another awkward coming-of-age story. Like Cyrus, the young pop singer returned to our Top 10 after a two-year absence, but perhaps for all of the wrong reasons. The year started out with his huge breakup from girlfriend Selena Gomez (No. 5), and seemed to go downhill from there. Gossip focused more on his crazy shenanigans than for his music, despite the success of his worldwide Believe Tour. Major car problems, nightclub fights (on both sides of the pond), peeing in a mop bucket while cursing out a president, a confiscated monkey — Bieber just couldn’t seem to make a good decision to save his life this year.
Being single turned out fine for Gomez (the exes still hang out). Her lead single “Come & Get It” hit double platinum, and her video got Gomez a MTV VMA Moonman. Her movie “Getaway” though didn’t win any distinctions, unless you count one of the year’s worst reviewed films on Rotten Tomatoes. (Hey, there’s always “Spring Breakers” on Amazon Prime.)
This year was also very good for Kate Upton, who went from supermodel to bona fide international celebrity. The sexpot, who turned 21, had a few tabloid romances, starting with Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and settling in with “Dancing With the Stars” pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Career-wise, she nabbed her first big screen role in “The Other Woman” (2014), playing opposite A-listers Cameron Diaz and Leslie Mann.
She’s unlikely to give up her day job anytime soon. In 2013 she booked ad campaigns for David Yurman and Carl’s Jr. and starred in a successful Super Bowl commercial for Mercedes-Benz. After she graced Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Issue cover for the second time in as many years, Vogue called her The Hottest Supermodel on Earth and the fashion world crowned her 2013 Model of the Year. All of this on top of appearing on almost every magazine cover in print — even Golf Digest.
Amanda Bynes appears in court in NYC facing charges of reckless endangerment, tampering …The most potent celebrity story though might be Amanda Bynes (No. 7). The 27-year-old actress is reportedly suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; the illness often manifests itself in females when they reach their mid- to late 20s. At first, her bizarre sightings and even more bizarre Twitter attacks on other celebrities played out like another former child star losing it, reminiscent of Spears’ breakdown in 2007 and Mischa Barton’s in 2009. Things got more serious in May when Bynes was arrested on three misdemeanor counts. In July, she was taken into an involuntary mental health hold after trying to light a fire in a neighbor’s driveway. Her parents filed for — and were granted — conservatorship over their daughter. Bynes moved to a rehab facility in late September. In a twist, a ruling that she can stand trial for a 2012 DUI case is actually good news, as she was deemed mentally competent. Unconfirmed reports speculated that she could be released in time for Christmas.
[Related: Go way back to 2001 with a nostalgic look at Yahoo’s Top 10]
Miley Cyrus dethroned Kim Kardashian to become Yahoo’s most searched person in 2013. She gave a tongue-lolling, twerk-seen-round-the-world performance at the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards. The “New Miley” shocked with her music video and breakup, but she scored with bang-up record sales and two “SNL” triumphs — tongue this time in cheek. (Dana Edelson/NBC)
2. Kim Kardashian
Kim Kardashian kicked off 2013 with the news that she was expecting a baby with rapper beau Kanye West. The reality star gave birth on June 15 to baby North West. Then, in October, Kanye surprised her with an elaborate marriage proposal. They haven’t announced a wedding date just yet, but expect it to keep Kim in our lives well past 2014. (James Devaney/WireImage)
3. Kate Upton
Kate Upton went from supermodel to bona fide international celeb. The sexpot turned 21 and nabbed her first big-screen role opposite A-listers, due out in 2014. She embarked on some tabloid romances before settling in with dance pro Maksim Chmerkovskiy. Dubbed 2013 Model of the Year, she was practically on every magazine cover — even Golf Digest. (Derek Kettela/Sports Illustrated)
In four years, the award-winning multiplayer game has become the addiction of 75 million players (many children) and made a millionaire of Swedish creator Markus “Notch” Persson. Simple graphics belie the rapture of building worlds one digital block at a time while fighting monsters. It has catapulted into real-world pop culture fun with costumes and songs. (pcgamer.com)
5. Selena Gomez
While starting the year with a breakup might have lead to a seemingly downward spiral for her ex, Justin Bieber, for Selena Gomez 2013 appeared to have her on the up-and-up. Her album dethroned Jay Z’s to debut at No. 1 and she took home a Moonman for Best Pop Video at the MTV VMAs. Some missteps: that Hindu bindi and “The Getaway.” (Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic)
6. Obamacare (Affordable Care Act)
Thanks to his online campaign strategy and ubiquitous BlackBerry, Barack Obama had entered office as the tech president. That the Affordable Care Act stumbled in a website launch was particularly galling. Opponents pivoted from shutdown to shoutdown as citizens waded through politics and the act’s many nicknames to understand how to enroll or what the heck Obamacare entailed. (Joe Raedle/Getty)
7. Amanda Bynes
Amanda Bynes’s drawn-out problems — played out on social media — seemed reminiscent of other celebrity breakdowns. After bizarre sightings and even more bizarre Twitter tirades, she was finally taken into involuntary mental health hold after trying to light a fire in a neighbor’s driveway. Under her parents’ conservatorship, she was reportedly diagnosed with schizophrenia. (Neilson Barnard/Getty)
8. Jodi Arias
When trial began on Jan. 2, Jodi Arias had confessed to stabbing and shooting boyfriend Travis Alexander in 2008. The five-month trial focused on whether the killing was self-defense or premeditated. The defendant contributed to the unseemly circus, granting media interviews and providing tweets managed by a friend, who also set up a website to sell her pencil sketches. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
9. iPhone 5
Doomsday speculation on Apple’s market strength was as much sport as chaffing its fanboys, but the latter camped out to drive iPhone 5 sales above forecasts. Reporters and bloggers marveled about “queue chic.” Even rival Samsung — which outsells Apple devices — snuck in a camera crew to observe fanboys in the wild. What buyers got: the best iPhone — for now. (Lam Yik Fei/Getty)
10. Justin Bieber
The young pop singer makes his first return to our list since 2010, but maybe for the wrong reasons. This year started out with his breakup from Selena Gomez, and it seemed to go downhill from there. The Biebs got into trouble in nightclubs, peed in a mop bucket while cursing out a former president and got his monkey confiscated — but fans still “Believe.” (Ethan Miller/Getty)