Music to Our Ears: The Top 25 Singles of 2012

Sometimes a song comes on the radio that you just can’t get out of your head and that you don’t get tired of – no matter how many times per hour it’s played. While it’s hard to narrow down the very best of these tracks from 2012, I’ve done my best to put together an inclusive list of my favourites from the year, for better or worse.

25. fun. feat Janelle Monae – ‘We Are Young’

I’m going to be honest: I really don’t like this song. It drives me nuts. However, I realise I’m mostly alone in that sentiment and it did really well, fun. are lovely guys, etc, and therefore I would have been amiss in not including their debut track on this list.

24. Justin Bieber feat. Big Sean – ‘As Long As You Love Me’

Bieber wants you to know he’s done puberty and all grown up, courting ladies and proclaiming his undying love. To that end, his third studio LP (not counting that Christmas travesty) Believe included some pretty serious jamz – yes, with a ‘z’. ‘As Long As You Love Me’ was probably the best of these and despite all my better judgment, I’ve listened to this song way too many times.

23. Calvin Harris feat. Ne-Yo – ‘Let’s Go’

Calvin Harris is kind of great – and by ‘kind of’ I mean ‘definitely’. As part of his collaborations album 18 Months released a few weeks back, Calvin spent 2012 joining up with some of the biggest names in music for some pretty great club tracks, and ‘Let’s Go’ is one of the best. I generally find Ne-Yo to be an acquired taste but he’s 10x more palatable when joining up with Calvin. I love this song.

22. Rita Ora – ‘How We Do (Party)’

Rita Ora is one of those popstars that’s not really in popstar territory just yet – but she’s headed there. 2012 was a good year for Rihanna’s Roc Nation labelmate, giving her several number one singles and even a tour with Coldplay to her name (she’s great live – even in the pouring rain). ‘How We Do (Party)’ is probably one of the most amazingly mediocre and unfortunately chorus-ed yet incredibly addicting singles this year and it definitely earns its spot on the chart.

21. Gotye feat. Kimbra – ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’

This song needs no introduction. You know it, people have parodied it, the radio overplayed it, etc. There’s one reason it’s here: it’s damn good.

20. Rudimental feat. John Newman – ‘Feel the Love’

‘Feel the Love’ is incredibly addicting, and it’s also the first I remember hearing of Rudimental – probably my own ignorance to blame, there. It builds to a nice drum and bass background pretty early on and while I might generally find tracks like this to be annoying (too much racket! I’m too old for this noise!), something about this just works – perhaps it’s those nice harmonies floating over the chorus.

19. Carly Rae Jepsen – ‘Call Me Maybe’

Another ubiquitous entry, ‘Call Me Maybe’ swept not only the nation but pretty much the entire world in 2012 for reasons unknown. Perhaps because it’s a pop song in every sense of the word: semi-ridiculous/laughable lyrics, a fantastic beat and a melody that gets in your head even when you really, really want it to stop.

18. Nicki Minaj – ‘Pound the Alarm’

‘Pound the Alarm’ is definitely not the type of song any of us would have expected to hear from Nicki Minaj prior to 2012, and yet it’s exactly the type we’ll be looking for moving forward. While I sometimes miss her real rap roots, there’s no denying that her club phase is going pretty well and if ‘Pound the Alarm’ is anything to go by, we should be hearing more hits from Onika for a long time to come. That chorus? Pfffft, girl, please.

17. David Guetta feat. Sia – ‘Titanium’

Sia seems to have found a nice comfortable place as a feature artist that works rather brilliantly (after all, her song with Flo Rida, ‘Wild Ones’, only narrowly missed this list) and ‘Titanium’ is no exception. Guetta is another DJ – like Calvin Harris – who has settled on a nice working relationship with other artists that churns out some pretty amazing hits. (I’m looking at you, ‘When Love Takes Over’ with Kelly Rowland!)

16. M.I.A. – ‘Bad Girls’

I feel like I never really know what M.I.A. is up to – like she’s still in the basement of some art college making weird decoupage and recording songs on a 4-track with her MacBook and an old tape recorder in her spare time. This is obviously not the case – M.I.A. is a very serious artist, natch – and ‘Bad Girls’ came out of nowhere to immediately become one of the best songs of 2012.

15. Kelly Clarkson – ‘Stronger’

It’s hard to believe that Kelly Clarkson is from American Idol, and I don’t like thinking about it too much, so I try to forget it ever happened. ‘Miss Independent’ herself (who’s actually now ‘Miss Engaged’) has never been the epitome of the glitzy, glamourous side of pop, but that doesn’t even matter – she’s a damn good singer with a solid history of great singles. ‘Stronger’ is just another to add to the list, despite the outdated and nonsensical inclusion of flash mobs in the video.

14. Pink – ‘Blow Me (One Last Kiss)’

Oh, Pink, you minx! What a clever mixture of cheeky and charming you are. ‘Blow Me (One Last Kiss)’ – her first single in nearly four years – is killer and full of the attitude and anger we rely on Pink to give us. There’s not much else to be said about it – it’s amazing.

13. Maroon 5 – ‘One More Night’

Sure, ‘Payphone’ was amazing, but when deciding which Maroon 5 song to include in the best singles list, it was no contest: ‘One More Night’ wins, hands down. The hip-hop inspired rhythm, the weird lyrics about Adam Levine’s weakness for lipstick, the ‘WTF’ inclusion of the random baby in the arms of his object of affection in the video… it all adds up into one amazing single.

12. Cheryl Cole – ‘Call My Name’

If you live outside the UK, you probably only know Cheryl Cole as that weirdly accented judge from about two episodes of the first season of The X Factor US before she was replaced by Nicole Scherzinger. Well, my friends, Cheryl Cole is sort of the biggest thing in England since tea and crumpets and is – for good reason – the nation’s sweetheart. It’s a shame her pop career has never taken off in America, but maybe one day. ‘Call My Name’ is not only one of the best songs this year, it’s one of the best Cheryl has done in her entire career. Bonus fact: Calvin Harris wrote and produced it!

11. Florence + The Machine – ‘Spectrum (Say My Name)’

Can you tell Calvin Harris has had a good year? ‘Spectrum’ – which he produced – is one of Florence Welch’s strongest yet. Dramatic, other-worldly, dark… what’s not to love? The video, which David LaChapelle directed, is also a sight to behold. I don’t think Florence + The Machine can do anything wrong.

10. Little Mix – ‘DNA’

Another group you won’t know unless you’re a pop music obsessive or from Europe (they’re coming to America in 2013, though!), Little Mix were the winners of last year’s X Factor in the UK – a well-deserved title. ‘DNA’ serves as their second single from their debut album and it’s got all the elements of an amazing pop song. Nothing like a little space-age love jam to save the day… right? Anyone?

9. Marina & The Diamonds – ‘How to Be a Heartbreaker’

Was ‘How to Be a Heartbreaker’ officially a single? Eh, that’s debatable. What I do know, however, is that it’s damn good. No one does hilarious cultural observation quite like Marina Diamandis and what’s even better is the way she’s able to translate it into the most amazing pop song that’s so distracting, you almost don’t realise that she’s making fun of you. I was in H&M the other day and this came on and that cashier and I had a nice little singalong together. Marina & The Diamonds: bringing people together.

8. Solange – ‘Losing You’

It should be no surprise that ‘Losing You’ has made an appearance this high up on the list – it’s downright amazing. The ’80s synth layers, the groovy R&B beat, the dreamy vocals… God, this is good. If all that wasn’t enough on its own, the video adds a whole other layer of goodness. I’m using some pretty vague, repetitive terms here, but if you’ve listened to this song, you know where I’m coming from. It kind of makes you lose your faculties of speech.

7. Azealia Banks – ‘1991’

Everyone knows Azealia Banks is a total queen that effortlessly blends hip hop with dance, pop and house music in a way that is at once really nostalgic and yet completely original and exciting. ‘1991’ wasn’t officially a single – not really, anyway – but she made a video for it, so it counts in my book. The girl is FIERCE, and this track is diabolically good.

6. Bruno Mars – ‘Locked Out of Heaven’

Yes, I’m aware that I’ve not only included a Bruno Mars song in this list but also placed it in the Top 10. I never thought I’d see the day, either. However, it’s been proven that even those who really can’t stand Bruno Mars (I’m one of those people) really, really love this song. What is it about ‘Locked Out of Heaven’ that I can’t resist? I don’t know. And that’s perhaps the most maddening thing of all.

5. Frank Ocean – ‘Thinking About You’

This is apparently the official video to ‘Thinking About You’ but I kind of don’t believe that as it seems a little too weird. In any case, the song is there, which means Frank’s voice comes through, and that’s what matters. This is the song that sort of started it all for Mr Ocean, making the Tumblr and blog rounds earlier this year and making all the ladies (and perhaps some gents, I imagine) swoon. It’s romantic, it’s heady, it’s damn good – and that’s why it’s #5.

4. Disclosure feat. Sam Smith – ‘Latch’

I know the inclusion of some of my Top 25 probably make me seem like a bit of a club goer, but I’ve only ever been to a club once in my life and I left after about 45 minutes. Still, that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good house track when I hear it, and this is it. ‘Latch’ is such a sexy, sultry song that makes me want to make out and melt into my S.O. and stay in bed for 500 days. It’s also nice to listen to while it’s raining out and you’re sitting at your desk doing work like a decent human being, as I’m doing now. ‘Latch’ is repeat-worthy and was an easy inclusion in the Top 5.

3. Rihanna – ‘Where Have You Been’

Given Rihanna’s rather prolific release history, you can imagine what a hard time I had deciding on which of her eight (yes, EIGHT) 2012 singles to include on this list. ‘We Found Love’ was a close call, but ultimately ‘Where Have You Been’ took the cake for reasons that can only be described as “UH, DUH!” It’s dancey, it’s sexy, it’s got that brilliant clap-filled chorus… what’s not to love here?

2. Katy Perry – ‘Wide Awake’

Katy Perry has had a whirlwind few years since the release of her sophomore album, Teenage Dream in 2010. The fact that her personal life was a a particularly rough point made things no easier, but there’s nothing like turning the hard times into amazing songs like Katy did with ‘Wide Awake’. Sure, it was written before the whole Russell thing (Teenage Dream B-Side!), but it fit perfectly with where Katy found herself in life after the tour and her marriage came to an end. On top of it all, it’s just a damn solid pop track that’s mature and contemplative while still being really accessible.

1. Taylor Swift – ‘We Are Never Ever Ever Getting Back Together’

You could argue that Taylor Swift has been around for ages and that this isn’t really her ‘breakout’ single, but I would then tell you to get real because ‘We Are Never Ever Ever Ever Getting Back Together’ marked a new era in TaySwift’s career that she’ll no doubt look back on as the start of her true crossover to pop. This song is amazing. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it (and yes, I’ve prepared myself for the detractors who will no doubt show themselves in the comments section).

Well, that’s it for 2012. Here’s hoping for more good music in 2013, and stay tuned for my Top 12 albums of 2012 list tomorrow!

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