It's that time of the year again! Great year for pop music, a lot of interesting new artists this year, etc. I know you're eager to get to the list. Just a couple of quick notes:
1. This year, I decided to expand my list to include album tracks, remixes and other assorted "releases" in addition to singles. The best song last year, Selena Gomez & The Scene's "My Dilemma," wasn't eligible because it wasn't released as a single, so I decided that I needed to make a change. Why screw over something amazing just become some idiot at the record label is too dumb to release it?
2. One Direction "What Makes You Beautiful" and The Wanted "Glad You Came," both of which were big hits here in the States this year, are ineligible because they were already featured on my Best of 2011 list.
3. My eligibility cut-off is the beginning of December, so all the songs from Ke$ha's Warrior album (except "Die Young") and Swedish House Mafia "Don't You Worry Child" will have to wait until next year's list.
Almost Made It: Drake featuring Lil' Wayne "HYFR (Hell Ya Fucking Right)" | Alphabeat "Love Sea" | Aiden Grimshaw "Is This Love" | Calvin Harris featuring Florence Welch "Sweet Nothing" | Saint Lou Lou "Maybe You" | Darin "Nobody Knows" | Miley Cyrus "You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go" | Foster the People "Color on the Walls (Don't Stop)" | Carly Rae Jepsen "Hurt So Good" | Lana Del Rey "Diet Mountain Dew"
50. Queen of Hearts "Shoot the Bullet"
49. Calvin Harris featuring Example "We'll Be Coming Back"
48. Samantha Jade "What You've Done to Me"
47. Justin Bieber featuring Nicki Minaj "Beauty and a Beat"
46. Robbie Williams "Candy"
45. Madonna "I'm Addicted"
44. Jessie Ware "No to Love"
43. Foster the People "Houdini"
42. Natalia Kills "Kill My Boyfriend"
41. Conor Maynard "Can't Say No"
40. Little Boots "Headphones"
39. Lawson "Taking Over Me" (The Alias Radio Edit)
38. Cheryl Cole "Under the Sun" (The Alias Radio Edit)
37. David Guetta featuring Nicky Romero & Sia "Wild One Two"
36. Ellie Goulding "Anything Could Happen"
35. Minnie-Oh "You and I"
34. Le Kid "Human Behaviour"
33. Ricki-Lee "Raining Diamonds"
32. Justin Bieber "Thought of You"
31. Karmin "Brokenhearted"
30. Kris Allen & Meiko "Loves Me Not"
29. Diana Vickers "Music to Make the Boys Cry"
28. Lana Del Rey "Ride"
27. Carly Rae Jepsen "Turn Me Up"
26. Dream Beats featuring The Face "Love Stuck"
25. Rihanna "Where Have You Been"
24. Rebecca Ferguson "Glitter & Gold" (Cahill Radio Edit)
23. Kelly Clarkson "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)"
22. Stooshe "Black Heart"
21. Taylor Swift "Red"
20. Lana Del Rey "National Anthem"
Don't you know who you're dealing with?
The video, which imagines Lana as Jackie O, is really what sold this song for me. See also: the WestFunk and Fred Falke remixes as evidence of Ms. Del Rey's versatility.
19. Loreen "Euphoria"
Forever, we sail into infinity
Another year, another stellar Eurovision entry from Sweden. And this time they won the fucker with this gutsy, almost schizophrenic track, probably the most interesting mood pop song since "Say It Right."
18. Tome Damli & Eric Saade "Imagine"
And I can't forget about you/I'd rather be lonely instead
The fact that this carefree, sunny-sounding track is actually one of the most heartbreaking, depressing songs of the year is a great reminder of how masterful the Swedish are with pop music.
17. Ke$ha "Die Young"
Young hunks, taking shots/Stripping down to dirty socks
The Glitter Trash Queen returned with what is her most mature work to date. Well, "mature" for the woman who brushes her teeth with Jack Daniels, that is.
16. One Direction "I Would"
I can't compete with your boyfriend/He's got 27 tattoos
While a few too many of Take Me Home's tracks sound like they could have been sung by other artists, "I Would" is one that only could have come from My Boys. Their vibrant personalities are all over track, elevating an already cleverly written song into the album's standout.
15. Carly Rae Jepsen "Call Me Maybe"
Hey, I just met you/And this is crazy
Deceptively simple, endlessly addictive, one of the most genius hooks in ages. Bow down to Queen Carly Rae, peons.
14. Taylor Swift "I Knew You Were Trouble"
Pretends he doesn't know that he's the reason why/You're drowning
Dismissed as "The Taylor Swift Dubstep Song," "I Knew You Were Trouble" broke Taylor's last tie to the country community and, according to some rather dim individuals, every ounce of credibility she ever had. All I have to say is: Welcome to the Pop World, Taylor.
13. Agnes "One Last Time" (Extended Remix)
I let you down/And then I woke up next to a stranger
The album version is great and probably fits the mood of Veritas better, but this (somewhat) more uptempo version somehow makes the melancholy and heartbreak that much more palpable.
12. Justin Bieber "Die In Your Arms"
There's no way that I could share you/That would break my heart to pieces
Like most male popstars, Justin Bieber wants to be the next Michael Jackson. Unlike most male popstars, Justin Bieber could actually be the next Michael Jackson. No, don't snicker at that. It's entirely true. If "Die In Your Arms" proves anything, it's that Bieber can do a smooth, midtempo love song and do it extraordinarily well.
11. Charlotte Perrelli "The Girl"
Of all the mistakes that I know I've done/Breaking your heart was the biggest one
Easily, the year's most epic chorus. The rest of the song ain't too shabby, either.
10. Girls Aloud "Something New"
We're the leaders of the pack/Tell me, can you handle that?
In the years since Girls Aloud's last album, the "girl group" has fallen on some hard times. The last Sugababes album bombed, The Saturdays have grown increasingly generic and new girl groups like Little Mix aren't even fit to carry Nadine's Tesco Club Points card . The Aloud, reuniting with Xenomania, reaffirmed their status as the greatest pop act in the world with "Something New," producing a song that introduced the "something new" pop music sorely needed by late 2012.
09. Cheryl Cole "Call My Name"
I love you too much to let go
The moment my love for Calvin Harris became heart-racingly, like-a-punch-in-the-gut real.
08. Dragonette "Let It Go"
We don't need a cure for the weight of the world
Very rarely do I ever love a song on first listen. But the moment I heard "Let It Go" on the band's SoundCloud page, I was so enamored by this rapturous, pulsing beat that I had to listen to it over and over and over again. Dragonette are often hit or miss for me, but I would hit this song all night long if I could.
07. Avicii "Levels"
Oh, oh, sometimes, I get a good feeling
Given the fact that one 2012 hit sampled it (Flo Rida's "Good Times") and another outright ripped it off (Ke$ha's "Die Young"), "Levels" feels more and more like one of the most important songs of the year.
06. Nicki Minaj "Starships"
But fuck who you want and fuck who you like
The moment when Nicki Minaj either jumped the shark or became reborn as the most atypical, genre-bending popstar around. Obviously, I believe the latter.
05. Justin Bieber "Boyfriend"
I can take you places you ain't never been before
Ten months later and "Boyfriend" is just as clever--both as a single choice and as a song itself--as it was back when it was released.
04. One Direction "One Thing"
Something's gotta give now/'Cause I'm dying just to know your name
To the unconvinced, "One Thing" is teen pop tripe, a generic song that can't even be bothered to come up with something more creative than "You've got that one thing" as its hook. But, in its own way, "One Thing" is a tribute to the boyband songs of yesterday, when times and pop hooks were much simpler. The lyrics may read inane on paper but they reveal a level of depth and longing few songs can muster.
03. Florence + The Machine "Spectrum (Say My Name)" (Calvin Harris Remix)
We are shining/And we will never be afraid again
I've always admired Florence Welch far more than I liked her music ("Dog Days Are Over" and "Shake It Out" notwithstanding). But the moment I heard her wail, "Say my naaaaaaaame!" like a drugged up acid queen over that Calvin Harris beat, I knew that Florence and I would get along just fine.
02. Lana Del Rey "Off to the Races"
I'm your little scarlet starlet/Singing in the garden
Everything a pop song should be but so rarely is: moody, mysterious, lush, yet ever so fragile. A popstar is born.
01. Demi Lovato "Give Your Heart a Break"
You try to smile it away/Some things you can't disguise
Before Miley and Selena eventually caught up to her, Demi was the be all and end all of the Disney pop princesses. Her 2009 album Here We Go Again was a mature-beyond-her-years masterwork which proved (to me, if no one else) that, hey, maybe these Disney kids were on to something. In the three years since that album, I have been a huge supporter of Demi, eagerly awaiting her big mainstream breakthrough. After a rough year for her in her personal life, Demi, almost out of nowhere, achieved just that with "Give Your Heart a Break." Picking up on my favorite trend of 2012, "Give Your Heart a Break" sounds like a light, summery pop song but is actually quite melancholic when you dig beneath the surface. A beautiful, sad love story pours out of Demi about a guy who has been damaged by past relationships and a girl desperately trying to convince him to take a chance on her. "Give Your Heart a Break" wasn't the first time Demi proved that she could hang with the Katy Perrys and Rihannas of the pop world, but it's certainly the most convincing argument that the rest of the world has finally figured this out, too.