Judgement Day (Special Edition): Pop Heaven’s Top 100 Songs of 2012 (Part 1 of 4)

Happy New Year, Everyone!

While many year-end, “best of” lists have long since been posted, in typical fashion I am a little late. That being said, it’s never really too late to look back at a year of popular music.

In retrospect, while 2012 may not have been a big year for stellar albums, it was a pretty great year for singles!

Some lessons learned from last year’s Top 100:

  • My 2011 picks contained a lot of non-single tracks, which did not bode well when many of those songs became singles in 2012 (i.e. Adele’s “Set Fire to the Rain.”)
  • Similarly, there were a few tracks that were released as singles in 2011 but didn’t really become hits until 2012 (“Domino” by Jessie J).

Sadly, since both of those tracks were on last year’s chart, you won’t find them in 2012’s year-end charts despite their being pretty massive hits this year.

So, this time around I tried to learn from my mistakes and started with all of my favorite singles released in 2012 that were not on last year’s chart. After listing all of those, I scoured through 2012’s album releases and picked only a few of my absolute favorite non-singles here and there to sprinkle in. A list of close to 200 songs had to be whittled down, and after hours of deliberations I was left with Pop Heaven’s Top 100 tracks of 2012!

We count down spots 100 through 76, after the jump! (or you can click “Play” on the YouTube playlist below to just listen!)


“Is There Anybody Out There?”
K’naan feat. Nelly Furtado
An inspirational hip-hop track in the tradition of City High’s “What Would You Do?” that reminds us in those moments where we feel lost in this big, cruel world, that we’re really not alone. While I’m eternally at odds with Furtado’s sometimes-unbearable nasally tone, I find myself singing this song to myself quite often and when I sit and listen to the lyrics, I’m often moved to at least a few sentimental tears.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


“Dancing with a Broken Heart”
Delta Goodrem

Delta-Goodrem-Dancing-with-a-Broken-Heart-2012While her fourth studio album: “Child of the Universe” has failed to impress me as much as her previous work, “Dancing with a Broken Heart” has a lot of beautiful moments that made it one of my favorites this year. I especially love the ad libs and harmonics that follow the chorus. Beautiful!

(YouTube) (iTunes AUS)


“Both of Us”
B.o.B. feat. Taylor Swift
As a hip-hop artist, Bobby Ray (B.o.B.) seems to be more of a Will Smith than a Jay-Z, meaning that I suspect his peers in the hip-hop community might see him as more of a pop artist. I have to admit, however,  that he’s released several really great singles and 2012’s “Both of Us” has a really cute hook care of Ms. Swift and was a frequent 2012 ear worm, for me anyway!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


“Sweet Nothing”
Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch
I’ve only just recently been exposed to this song, which may be why it’s not higher up in my 2012 rankings. Accompanied by a rather cinematic video where Florence rocks the androgyny while singing in a shady night club, Harris late 2012 single from album “18 Months” doesn’t seem to borrow from his previous hits which sets him apart from his fellow producer-turned-artist contemporaries. (Lookin at you, Guetta!)
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Pound the Alarm
Nicki Minaj
While many seemed exceedingly fond of “Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded,” I was left unimpressed after only one full listen. I attribute this mainly to one of my least favorite singles of the year: “Starships” and it’s incessant over-exposure. I expect someday I will give the album a second spin and probably find myself won over, as follow-up single “Pound the Alarm” worked it’s way into my favor as well as a couple of others still to come!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Let Me Love You
(Until You Learn to Love Yourself)


NE-YO continues making some of the best R&B/Dance crossover tracks on mainstream radio. The track has great energy and there’s something in the piano chords that feels really familiar. While it doesn’t have the yearning of 2008’s “Closer,” “Let Me Love You…” is sincere in it’s sentiment, despite generating discourse about what some feel is a patronizing tone as he tries to beef up his girl’s self confidence with the reassurance of his affections. 
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Vision of Love
Kris Allen


American Idol winner Kris Allen hasn’t really been on the radar much since his big win against Adam Lambert in the Season 8 finale. Commercial success aside, Allen has made some solid pop-rock and this, the lead single from his sophomore album “Thank You Camellia” is no exception. “Vision of Love” shows off all of the best aspects of Allen’s voice. It’s catchy, heartfelt and a lot of fun to sing along to.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


That Girl
This track by UK indie rock band Noisettes is deliciously retro, calling out the 50s/60s sound of bands like the Beach Boys. It’s refreshingly upbeat and summery and unlike any other track released this year.
(YouTube) (iTunes UK)


Body Work
Morgan Page ft. Tegan & Sara
Canadian indie twins Tegan & Sara, once folk artists, are developing a following for their recent work in the world of EDM. One such work, produced and released by adorable American House producer Morgan Page was pretty popular here in Canada and on my iPod in 2012.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Stupid Hoe
Nicki Minaj
Based on what I’ve heard from others, I may be the only person who LOVES this song and it likely won’t make many end-of-year lists. For me, Nicki’s best moments are when she sticks to hip-hop (like her verse in Kanye’s “Monster”) and this is a straight-up, hip-hop diss track, allegedly about Líl Kim. I heard this track for the first time when the trippy Hype Williams’ directed video was released and it reminded me a bit of ol’ school Missy Elliott in it’s strangeness. Delightfully bizarre, but definitely not for everybody.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Shady Love
Scissor Sisters vs. Krystal Pepsy
This is another one that may not make a lot of year-end lists, and it wouldn’t have been anywhere near mine when I first heard it back at the start of the year, but somehow during the course of 2012 something happened. “Shady Love” sounds nothing like any other track the Scissor Sisters have done. A collaboration with Azaelia Banks, “Shady..” lives up to it’s name, blending camp and ghetto fabulousness into a brash and infectious result.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Carrie Underwood
Blown Away


One of the few American Idol winners who has gone on to have considerable commercial success, Carrie Underwood kept her roll going with 2012’s “Blown Away.” Following up the cautionary anthem: “Good Girl” with the album’s powerful and melancholy title track was a lesson in contrast, as “Blown Away” tells the tale of a tornado that does karma’s work and tears through the home/takes the life of an abusive man. It’s a variation of a tale that has previously been told in songs like Martina MacBride’s “Independence Day” and even “Goodbye Earl” by the Dixie Chicks, but a welcome addition to the Country music cannon, nonetheless. 
(YouTube) (iTunes)


“Touch Me”
Katharine McPhee (from the NBC TV Show: SMASH)
Any fan of NBC’s broadway-themed musical drama SMASH would remember “Touch Me” as a moment when the series flirted with jumping the shark. While writing a broadway musical about Marilyn Monroe, the productions sleazy director decides to try and change the direction entirely and enlists Ryan Tedder to write a modern pop Marilyn. Given that the broadway numbers they had been writing were WONDERFUL, the resulting scene in the show for this pop number was pretty dreadful, but the song was great! McPhee sounds phenomenal and it really would have had the potential to be a club hit had it been marketed to radio effectively.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


“Silver Lining (Crazy Bout You)”
Jessie J
Despite having one of the worst music videos of the year (note: projecting movie clips on the singer’s body while they wear a onesie is NOT a great concept!), this single from the film “Silver Linings Playbook” has a 90’s r&b sensibility that plays into my sense of nostalgia. It’s not a perfect song by any means; the lyrics are fairly trite and it’s not likely to be a big hit, but there’s just something about it that I can’t resist.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


“Blue Jeans”
Lana Del Rey


I’m among the camp of pop bloggers who haven’t really jumped on the Lana Del Rey bandwagon, but I do appreciate the cinematic feel of her music and videos. There’s a certain allure in the instrumentation and the sleepy way in which Del Rey delivers her vocals. “Blue Jeans” is the sole entry from Del Rey on our year-end charts. I have a great idea for a mash-up with this track and another 2012 hit from a well-known and highly loved American Idol alum, but I’ll keep that one in my back pocket and maybe record it and become a viral sensation someday. Meanwhile, this blurb may give it away to those of you with a good sense of melody.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Leona Lewis feat. Childish Gambino
Leona Lewis’ third studio album: “Glassheart” is one of my favorite albums of the year, and while “Trouble” doesn’t seem like the most obvious choice for a lead single from the set, it is a very emotive and dark track that shows an evolution (at least thematically) for Lewis as she sings: “I told you never to get used to me, I stay awake when you fall asleep, I’m a while lot of trouble, We’re in a whole lot of trouble.” While the album version is a down-tempo, urban track, the deluxe version of the album features an acoustic mix that features some of Leona’s finest and most emotive vocal work. Beautiful!
(YouTube) (YouTube Acoustic Version) (iTunes UK)


Losing You
Solange Knowles has always been held in the shadow of her more famous sister, but while she may not flaunt her voice, her dance moves or her body in the same ways Beyonce does, Solange has certainly been consistently impressive in her artistry. “Losing You” has a breezy sort-of melancholy about it. It feels very late 80s, early 90s and as I said in a recent installment of Popologist Panel on Vertigo Shtick, I could imagine it as a Cyndi Lauper song (for some reason.)
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Justin Bieber


2012 will forever be the year that the Biebs finally showed me that he could mayyyyyybe begin to fill the shoes of great male pop stars before him like Timberlake. Don’t get me wrong, he still has some growing to do, but overall I thought his album “Believe” was rather well done! Hit single “Boyfriend” was a bit of a re-invention for him and one of the biggest hits of the year, even if the lyrics have some particularly hokey moments (i.e. “Swag, swag, swag.. on you, chillin by the fire while we eatin’ fondue.”)
(YouTube) (iTunes)


My first exposure to YouTube-turned-mainstream duo Karmin was when they appeared as musical guests on Saturday Night Live as relative unknowns. As first impressions go, their performances on SNL weren’t terribly good ones. Both myself and my friend found lead vocalist Amy Heidemann a little grating as she sing-rapped her way through a couple of tracks, one of which was soon-to-be hit “Brokenhearted.” Produced by Cirkut, a member of Dr. Luke’s posse, it may sound like a half dozen other singles that have hit the airwaves over the last 2 or 3 years but I couldn’t resist this infectious track for long. The duo’s 2012 EP “Hello,” however, was another story.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


“Call Me Maybe”
Carly Rae Jepsen
Surely tied with the insufferable “Gangham Style” for biggest/most-overplayed single of 2012, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” was actually making the rounds here in Canada since September of 2011. By the time it blew up in America and was suddenly an international, viral sensation, I was already beyond sick of it, which may explain it’s ranking here at #81 in my end of year charts. It’s a catchy, well-crafted bit of pop fluff and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, but I won’t mind if I don’t hear it again for a very long time!!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


“Settle Down”
No Doubt

The long-awaited return of No Doubt failed to be a complete triumph in 2012, however the lead single from their album “Push and Shove” picked up right where they left off over a decade ago. “Settle Down” contains all of the elements of classic No Doubt (not just Gwen Stefani) but also managed to sound fresh and pull me in with it’s many hooks and funky beats.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Little Boots
Upon initially hearing “Headphones” I found it a little underwhelming. In fact, it took several months for me to finally find myself hooked. The track boasts some nu-disco production elements and some highly singable hooks including a rousing round of “la la la-la-la, la-la-la-la-la-la-la” that is irresistible once it works it’s way into your brain.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Victoria Duffield
Still just a teenager, Canada’s answer to early era Britney Spears: Victoria Duffield cemented herself as a pop music staple this year with the release of several solid singles from her first album “Shut Up & Dance.” Second single “Feel” is my personal favorite because it’s a bit sexy and less bubblegum than the bulk of her other tracks. I do, however, love me some bubblegum!
(YouTube) (iTunes CA)


“Shot You Down”


One of many artists this year to whom I was introduced through my association with the Popologist Panel on Vertigo Shtick, Florrie looks like a supermodel and sounds like an indie dance queen. “Shot You Down” is my top track from her 2012 “Late” EP and it features a number of hooky vocal passes and some aggressively funky production that blends several genres.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Queen of Hearts
The last entry on the year-end charts for this instalment of the Pop Heaven Top 100 of 2012 comes from British electro-pop artist Queen of Hearts. With each new release, I seem to enjoy her more and more. Stylish, sultry and seductive, she’s an artist to watch out for, and “Neon” is a pretty great track.
(YouTube) (iTunes)

That’s it for now, but check back soon for Part 2 of our Top 100 songs of 2012, where we’ll be counting down from #75 to 51! (Click here to head to Part 2!)

We love discussion, so feel free to give your opinions on the charts so far. What are some of your favorites? Anything you expect to appear later on in the chart?

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