2012 was an amazing year for music. I haven’t had such a good year since 2009… and 2006 before that. Is this some kind of Every-3-Years trend?! There was just so much goodness to go around that compiling this list gave me such a glut of songs that I’ve decided — for your sake — to break it up into categories. Let the ADD commence!
My 2012 Mixtape: The Best of the Best
What constitutes “the best of the best”? Well since tastes differ, let’s just say this is not a list of songs I — his royal highness — deem to be the best musical output of 2012. These are simply my personal favorites. The ones that drove the play count on my iTunes and iPod through the roof (before my computer crashed and I lost everything). The ones I never skip on random shuffle. The ones that I’m still listening to with relish, however many months after they were released. The ones that’ll remind me of 2012.
- Muse – “Madness” – perhaps their finest love song, took forever to grow on me, but it’s worth every single listen *just* to hear that final “I need your love” wail. Shivers.
- No Doubt – “Push and Shove” – on an otherwise OK album, this clear standout is an epic jam that sounds like an old ND reggae-ska tune had a baby with some watered-down dubstep babydaddy.
- David Guetta feat. Lil’ Wayne and That-Piece-of-Shit – “I Can Only Imagine” – God help me, I do not allow anything with Chris Brown onto my personal devices, but this fucking song is just the best dance track of the year, morals be damned. If you’re ever stuck in traffic next to me while this song is playing, bring protection from all the awesomeness. Breezy you win this round.
- The Killers – “Runaways” – this just reminds me of the 80s: bad leather, big chorused power pop, lame cowboy vibe. Like “Madness,” this took a while to grow on me, but then it never let go. So pretentious and grand.
- Frank Ocean – “Pyramids” – the most epic song of 2012. Clocking in at nearly 10 minutes, it’s basically 2 songs for 1. The first half, a space-funk odyssey about Cleopatra, is the shiiiiiiiit. Part Prince, part Gap Band. The second half is a blissed-out jam about strippers at the Pyramid. This will go down as one of my favorite songs of all time. Fuck, it’s good.
- Florence and the Machine – “No Light, No Light” – and now we’re at the 2nd most epic song of 2012. Majestic and grand, the full gospel of Flo at max power. Her sustained note at the end is enough to send me over the edge of fanatical bliss.
- Phillip Phillips – “Home” – who would have thought an American Idol winner would have one of the best songs of 2012? It’s sweet, uplifting, heartfelt and perfectly plain.
- PSY – “Gangnam Style” – yeah, it’s in my top 10. Suck it. Inexplicably, against all laws of nature, I am not sick of this song yet. Destined (doomed?) to go down in history as THE one-hit wonder of 2012 (sorry Carly Rae), it’s world’s better than previous title-holder, “Macarena.” God bless this chubby Korean hero: he broke K-Pop into the American masses. Something Rain, Girls Generation, Wonder Girls and Super Junior failed to do.
- Metric – “Breathing Underwater” – blissed out indie-pop with one of my favorite choruses of 2012. “Is this my life, or am I breathing underwater?” What does it MEAN??? I couldn’t tell you, but all I know is that I feel the same way as Emily Haines. Love. This. Song.
- Linkin Park – “Powerless” – this is basically the “Numb” or “In The End” of their recent album, Living Things. In typical genius LP fashion, it’s catchy, brooding, full of despair, pianos and sound effects, and you can totally sing along to it. I played the shit out of this track.
- Usher – “Scream” – I first heard this song on SNL. I jumped off my sofa, turned the volume up and proceeded to have a midnight dance party in my pajamas. This song gets my blood pumping in all kinds of nasty ways. Dance pop perfection.
- Kelly Clarkson – “Dark Side” – in a year full of dark female pop songs, this was my queen. Katy Perry, Pink and Rihanna had great ones too, but Kelly brings the catchy melody like no other. I’ll boldly put this at #2 behind Breakaway for best KClark albums.
- Of Monsters and Men – “Little Talks” – what’s that? You remember I told you about them back in February? Yeah you did. I first heard this gem on WFNX (RIP) and bought tickets to their first Boston concert about 1 minute after first listen. It’s great to discover a new band.
- Joshua Ledet – “It’s A Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” – this blew me the fuck away. Just listen to it. Those notes he hits at the end? Yeah, I just came too. What a force. This is his song now.
- fun. – “Some Nights” – it took forever, but I finally succumbed to fun. We all need an anthem. This is grand post-emo goodness via Queen and hip-hop production. I love fun.
- The Black Keys – “Lonely Boy” – in late December and early January, this was my JAM. Over the year, it was relegated to the sidelines. But a song this catchy and rollicking deserves a spot in my coveted list. Try NOT shaking your ass to this song, you statue.
- Ellie Goulding – “Lights” – when the hell did this song come out? Last year? Two years ago? First time I heard Ellie was in an H&M in Tokyo in 2010, when this album was out. But it’s #1 in the US this year? I’m so confused. Whatever, it’s amazing. The bridge between her debut and her 2012 dub-fluenced opus.
- Coldplay & Rihanna – “Princess of China” – you know how I feel about this song. The collision of worlds results in a perfect song, full of yearning, pain and passion.
- The Rolling Stones – “Doom and Gloom” – these geriatric motherfuckers still rock harder than 99% of the younger dudes in the business right now. They haven’t written a song this good in decades. Welcome back, boys.
- Maroon 5 – “One More Night” – my pleas to Ryan Murphy for a Glee mash-up of this song and Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” have been heretofore ignored, but a boy can dream. I hated this song at first, but hot damn, after a few listens, it’s revealed itself to be one of M5’s best songs. Oh Adam, how you slay us.
- Alt-J – “Fitzpleasure” – thank you, iTunes free single of the week. This Mercury Prize (i.e. the UK’s best album of the year) winner is a weird and funky number that fans of Hot Chip and Battles might enjoy. One commenter said it sounds like Adam Sandler, because it’s total gobbledygook nonsense (seriously, that link above is to the lyric video. WTF?!). That ruined it for a couple seconds…then that deep dirty groove hooked me right back in. Gloriously weird.
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – “Dear Believer” – these freaknik hippie weirdos make music that bring me back to ’60s SoCal (because I was totally there). Lush, warm and soothing. It’s the sound of love. “Reaching for heaven is what I’m on earth to do.” Amen.
- The Shins – “Simple Song” – like “Breathing Underwater,” this track bore to my core on the strength of a simple lyric: “I know that things can really get rough/when you go in alone. Don’t go thinking you gotta be tough/and bleed like a stone.” Again, it just speaks to me.
- Pink – “Try” – hot damn, what power. And did you see that video??? Pink’s artistic integrity can’t be fucked with now. It’s tough. It’s pretty. It’s so…Pink.
- Bruno Mars – “Locked Out of Heaven” – I’m never a fan of such obvious sex reference, but hot damn, this Police + MJ’s “Beat It” tune is a party starter. Watch the live performance to add a little kick to your step.
- Ingrid Michaelson – “End of the World” – a love song for the zombie apocalypse.
- Karmin – “Brokenhearted” – I hated them at first. Everything said “annoying poser fakes!” Despite the fact that they live in Brookline. Despite the fact that their music is really catchy. Cred be damned, I Love This Song. One of the few tracks that have survived the entire year.
- Ke$ha – “Die Young” – didn’t like it at first, and then I watched the AMA performance where – *gasp!* – I saw that she could really sing. And banging on giant drums ALWAYS wins me over. Less obnoxious than her previous output, I can actually see her growing as an *gasp!* artist.
- Carly Rae Jepsen – “Call Me Maybe” – don’t fight it. It’s one of the best pop songs ever. Get over it.
- Lana Del Rey – “Blue Jeans” – I’ll defend her to the end. This song is pure audio sex.
Neil’s 2012 Playlists: The Best of the Rest
- Nicki Minaj – Va Va Voom/Starships
- Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch – Sweet Nothing
- Rihanna – Where Have You Been?
- Havana Brown and Pitbull – We Run The Night
The P-Word (“Pop”):
- Katy Perry – Wide Awake
- One Direction – One Thing
- Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire
- Carrie Underwood – Blown Away
Played The Fuck Out (But I Still Like It):
- Gotye and Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know
- Maroon 5 – One More Night
- Rihanna – Diamonds
- Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen – Good Time
- Ellie Goulding – Lights
- Neon Trees – Everybody Talks
- PSY – Gangnam Style
- Usher – Scream
- Taylor Swift – We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together
- fun. – Some Nights
- Phillip Phillips – Home
- Bruno Mars – Locked Out Of Heaven
- Flo Rida feat. Sia – Wild Ones
WUBWUBWUBWUBWUB: The Best Dubstep Infections of the Year
- Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble
- Ellie Goulding – Hanging On
- Justin Bieber – As Long As You Love Me
- Muse – Follow Me/Unsustainable
- Alex Clare – Too Close
Rock Isn’t Dead (Yet):
- The Black Keys – Gold On The Ceiling
- Linkin Park – Burn It Down
- Gary Clark Jr. – Numb/Ain’t Messin’ Around
- Beasto Blanco – Breakdown
- The Parlor Mob – Into the Sun
- Kaiser Chiefs – Little Shocks
- Frank Turner – I Still Believe
- Foxy Shazaam – I Like It
- Jack White – 16 Saltines
Rock Songs That Made Me Cry
- The Killers – Here With Me
- The Black Keys – Little Black Submarine
- Coldplay – Up In Flames
- Muse – Madness
- Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Dear Believer
- The Shins – Simple Song
- Bat for Lashes – Oh Yeah
- Connor Youngblood – The Warpath
- Keane – Silenced By The Night
- Snow Patrol – Called Out In The Dark
- Paul Banks (Interpol) – The Base
- Metric – Youth Without Youth
- Garbage – Sugar
- Charli XCX – Nuclear Seasons
- Santigold – Big Mouth
Songs That ALWAYS Make Me Change The Station
- Ed Sheeran – The A Team
- Chris Brown – Don’t Wake Me Up
- The Lumineers – Ho Hey
- Imagine Dragons – It’s Time
The Year In Disappointment (i.e. Albums I Should Have Loved But Didn’t)
- Garbage – Not Your Kind of People
- Fiona Apple – The Idler Wheel
- Keane – Strangeland
- how to destroy angels – An Omen
- Scissor Sisters – Magic Hour
- Tori Amos – Gold Dust
- Tenacious D – Rize of the Fenix
- Kaiser Chiefs – The Future Is Medieval
- Madonna – MDNA
- The Cranberries – Roses
- G.O.O.D. Music – Cruel Summer
Most Overrated (a.k.a. We Won’t Remember You In 2013)
- Sleigh Bells
- Azalea Banks
Favorite Remixes (That Made The Originals Better)
1. Gotye and Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know (DJ Mike D)
Add a deceptively simple beat and change the song entirely. This is the one they play on the pop stations that you can’t find anywhere.
2. Rita Ora – R.I.P. (Delta Heavy remix)
Add screaming digital machine-gun blasts to bring a mediocre R&B-step song into Skrillex territory. The drop is so spine-tingling on this one…I can’t even.
3. Lana Del Rey – Blue Jeans (Penguin Prison remix)
Add a sexy New Wave synth beat to an already sexy track and you’ve got something so good it was added to the deluxe re-edition of the album.
4. Ellie Goulding – Figure 8 (Alias Radio Edit)
Less dubstep, more house. More untz-untz, less wubwubwub. This old man prefers dancing the night away rather than getting mosh-raped to death by drugged-out bros. Always.
Favorite Movie Tunes
1. Adele – “Skyfall” (Skyfall)
When’s the last time a song made a movie better, and vice versa? A huge track.
2. Neil Finn and Howard Shore – “Song of the Lonely Mountain” (The Hobbit)
Chills. Absolute chills.
3. Mary J. Blige and Julianne Hough – “Harden My Heart” (Rock of Ages)
In a movie filled with lots of Glee-style singalong karaoke, Mary J. comes in and pulls a Mercedes, absolutely destroying everyone else with her sheer power and depth. The chills just shoot out of me when she steps on the scene at 1:24.
4. Linkin Park – “Powerless” (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter)
Best part of the movie. For many of you, that will make the perception of the movie that much worse.
5. AKB48 – “Sugar Rush” (Wreck-It Ralph)
Not only one of the best movies of the year, but also one of the best musical credit endings ever. I was already on a nostalgia high from the film; this just kicked everything into overdrive.
6. Arcade Fire – “Abraham’s Daughter” (The Hunger Games)
If this brooding, intense song doesn’t put you in the right kind of fuzzy mood to kill kids weaker than you and slaughter for survival, then please, you can make a run for the cornucopia first. Thanks.
Up next: Favorite videos, favorite moments and…. FAVORITE ALBUMS OF 2012.