Well here we are, a painful, undertaking, two weeks later. After many re-writes, drafts, and dodged questions about why Jennifer Lopez managed to make this list, it is indeed time for my top fifteen songs of 2012.
I won’t bore you with more pointless words about how 2012 was a great year in terms of music (it was) or how I’m anxious to see what 2013 brings (I am), but I’ll leave you with the knowledge that these fifteen selections, for the most part, clogged up my Last.fm, most likely ostracized my roommate with my incessant use of the replay button, and had me proclaim that I was in fact, “screaming.”
EVAN’S TOP 100 SONGS OF 2012: #15-#1
15. SAINT LOU LOU – “Maybe You”
Released over the summer on the trendiest label of them all, Kitsuné, the song managed to coat even the most unbearable summer heat with a distinct Nordic chill. A heavenly pop cut coming to us via Swedish twin sisters Miranda and Elektra Kilbey, “Maybe You” features a sleepy synth riff throughout, with the girls reflecting on a relationship lost, penning a heartbreaking tale of all that could have been.
14. LANA DEL REY – “Ride”
Curious if she would continue on with the trademark baroque pop sound that made her debut so enjoyable to listen to, LDR managed to do one better with “Ride,” the first single from the Born To Die re-release Paradise. Combining her smokey, mellow drawl with a captivating tale of confusion and vulnerability, Del Rey manages to keep you on the edge of your seat for a good 5 minutes. Oh, and don’t tell me you didn’t get chills when she proclaims “I’m tired of feeling like I’m fucking crazy,” without a doubt the moment in which “Ride” manages to come full circle.
13. ICONA POP – “I Love It”
Icona Pop’s deliciously Eurotrash anthem sees the duo scream and pout about a lame boyfriend. From crashing their own car, lighting his clothes on fire, or proclaiming “You’re from the seventies/but I’m a nineties bitch,” “I Love It” is one beautifully bratty juvenile scream-along. Icona Pop have gone and created a rarity these days; a surefire floorfiller that’s sure to bring all the intoxicated girls out of the woodworks that manages to stay clear of a Pitbull feature.
12. GRIMES – “Genesis”
She may don quite possibly the coolest head of hair in pop music today, but there’s nothing flashier about Claire Boucher than the lead single from her 2012 effort, Visions. “Genesis” sees her combine her schoolgirlish shriek over layers of a fluttering harp and bopping electronica. As accessible as it is quirky, “Genesis” is something that Björk, the queen of quirk, would totally give her blessing.
11. FAYE – “Water Against The Rocks”
I attempted to stray away from the tried and true ‘filling in her cavities’ reference here, but that seems to be the only way to describe former Play lead vocalist Fanny “Faye” Hamlin’s transformation from sugary sweet Nickelodeon mainstay to ethereal electro diva. A far cry from her days touring with the likes of A*Teens and Destiny’s Child, this dreamy, eerily sensual cut from her forthcoming debut boasts Faye’s vocals sway across a mid-tempo of earthy electronica and a soaring chorus that could double as an air raid siren, echoing comparisons to fellow Swedes Niki and the Dove.
10. LANA DEL REY – “Off To The Races”
“Off To The Races” shows us how Miss Gangsta Nancy Sinatra herself got that moniker in the first place. In a unique, flavorful five minutes, we hear Del Rey switch from speakeasy siren to curbside tramp with such relative ease, she more than likely had Nicki Minaj shaking in her cotton candy-colored wig. Unlike Minaj, however, Del Rey manages to convincingly tie the two personalities together by letting the sweeping strings and hard hip hop beats take a back seat to her sly, smooth delivery.
09. BRIGHT LIGHT BRIGHT LIGHT – “Waiting For The Feeling”
Piano house revival with a handsome mug to boot, Rod Thomas aka Bright Light Bright Light is what the male pop landscape desperately needed in 2012. With a debut record full of hi-NRG piano riffs that would make Crystal Waters proud paired with the understanding that the best dance music makes you weep into your whiskey, “Waiting For The Feeling” is a heartfelt, genuine, and deliciously retro throwback to the glory days of Stock Aiken Waterman. Thomas accomplishes a rare feat, creating not just one of the best singles of 2012, but something that would have found its way to the top of the charts in 1993 as well.
08. G.O.O.D. MUSIC – “Mercy”
How many rappers on one song is enough? I usually draw the line at three, but only Kanye could make four work. “Mercy” sees Yeezy, Big Sean, Pusha T, and 2 Chainz throw down on a freestyle tour-de-force that seamlessly flows from one performer to the next. Certainly the one song that everyone was saving their best lines for, personal favorites include Pusha T’s “That white frost on that pound cake/Your Duncan Hines is irrelevant” and Kanye’s “I do suicides on the private jet/You know what that mean? I’m fly to death.” Although let’s be honest, no matter the verse, there’s not a moment of this I can complain about.
07. CARLY RAE JEPSEN – “Call Me Maybe”
Overplayed, overtly simple, annoying, we’ve heard it all in regards to this one. You can’t possibly please the purists when it comes to a song of this magnitude. With it’s sweet, sugar-like melody and symphonic use of disco strings, “Call Me Maybe” is the musical equivalent of catching lightning in a bottle. Jepsen managed what many try and fail upon execution; taking the structure of what makes a hit these days and proceed to throw it out the window. A half-hearted reference to the club? It’s not here. Unnecessary rent-a-rapper verse? Not a trace. Pseudo-dubstep breakdown? No sir. Just pure, unadulterated bubblegum sweetness.
06. WILD NOTHING – “Paradise”
Correcting what debut effort Gemini seemed to lack, Nocturne and more importantly standout track “Paradise” served as John Tatum aka Wild Nothing’s redemption. “Paradise” combines hypnotic, infectious dream pop with the post-punk touch of Movement-era New Order that could easily be inserted into the climax of a multi-million dollar blockbuster. Accompanied by a music video starring actress Michelle Williams (speaking of million-dollar blockbusters), the five and a half minute cut contains only a miniscule helping of vocals, choosing to focus on a lush, illusory buildup instead.
05. SOLANGE – “Losing You”
Remarkable. 2008’s Sol-Angel and the Hadley Street Dreams was one thing, but “Losing You” took Solange’s label of ‘the other Knowles sister’ and shattered it to pieces. The lead single from Knowles’ sophomore effort True sees Dev Hynes’ production take a backseat to Solange’s cinematic yet completely nonchalant vocals. A breeze of chilled new wave and tranquil r&b, “Losing You” projects a relaxed groove that many these days couldn’t even dream of pulling off. Your move, Bey.
04. USHER – “Climax”
Equal parts haunting and sensual, Usher and Diplo present us with a masterclass in the art of the slow jam. Telling the tale of a relationship that has all but run it’s course, “Climax” keeps you holding on by giving you exactly what you ask for, but eases up just enough to always leave you begging for one more verse. The electronic elements, while just subtle enough for club play, had no trouble sounding just as at home on r&b radio. And that falsetto, oh man, that falsetto.
03. BEACH HOUSE – “Wild”
Love at first listen, in an American Apparel nonetheless. The second track off Bloom mixes moody, haunting lyrics with Beach House’s trademark ethereal indie pop sound. Four albums in, the Baltimore based duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally show that they’ve still got that magic touch, managing to create a soundscape that could soundtrack your sweetest dreams as well as your worst nightmares, fine-tuning the celestial finesse that both Legrand and Scally are known so well for.
02. JESSIE WARE – “110%”
2012’s answer to Sade, Jessie Ware showed no problem following in Ms. Adu’s footsteps in perfecting the art of quiet storm, albiet with a modern twist. Ware combines breathy, whisper-like vocals projected over a skipping beat and a sample of Big Pun’s “The Dream Shatterer” that would have felt out of place on anything but the most hardcore of hip hop records, “110%” could very well be considered a minimalist masterpiece; something that indeed shows that less is a matter of fact more.
01. GIRLS ALOUD – “Something New”
2012 treated us to an underwhelming crop of girl group singles: The Saturdays’ “30 Days,” Stooshe’s “Love Me,” Little Mix’s “Wings,” all of which accomplished nothing but reminding us why we so desperately dreamed for a Girls Aloud comeback. On “Something New,” Girls Aloud manage to incorporate every element that makes pop music enjoyable while still remaining miles ahead of their aforementioned contemporaries, even after a four year hiatus. Fun, innovative, and effortless, it does leaps and bounds around the competition without sounding the least bit forced. From the booming introduction, to the speak-sing verses drenched in attitude, to the brilliant ‘follow the leader’ bit at the end, “Something New” manages a rare feat of wading through the tangled, tired web that is modern pop. Simply put, no other song brought me such joy this year as this one did. The leaders of the pack, indeed.