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

The time has come! Were about to reveal Pop Heaven’s top 25 songs of 2012! As this year’s chart comes to a close, I find myself reflecting on the journey of actually compiling a year-end chart.

I started off with 188 singles that were released this year by popular music’s heavy hitters from all genres. Additionally, there were plenty of amazing non-singles this year, so I carefully selected the best of the best (hoping that they don’t become runaway hits in 2013 so I won’t regret including them this year) and added those to the pool as well.

From there began the surprisingly arduous task of trying to rank them all. I prayed day and night to the Pop Gods to guide me in my mission. Sometimes I found myself heartbroken to realize that a song I loved would be cut when it slowly slipped over the fine line between #100 and #101. Admittedly, there were many other terrific tracks this year that didn’t make the list.

As always, there were some oversights and there are a couple of flat-out mistakes that I wish I could go back and amend, but once it’s been published it’s Pop Gospel so it’s time to let go of regret and move on with our  top 25!

In case you’re just joining us, you should catch up!!:

Read entries 100 through 76 in Part 1!
Read entries 75 through 51 in Part 2!
Read entries 50 through 26 in Part 3!

Now, if you’re all caught up.. check out the conclusion of our year-end charts. Watch/Listen to the YouTube playlist below, or read the Top 25 after the break…


Love Without Tragedy / Mother Mary
This pair of songs, presented as a single track seem to address the beating Rihanna suffered at the hands of Chris Brown, their reconciliation and her inner feelings about her public persona and her celebrity. In “Love Without Tragedy” she sings: “You used to be this boy I loved / and I used to be this girl of your dreams / Who knew the course of this one drive / Injured us fatally / You took the best years of my life / I took the best years of your life / Felt like love struck me in the night / I pray that love don’t strike twice…” “On the other hand, “Mother Mary” represents a more internal dialogue; one of prayer and self-reflection. The production on both tracks is beautifully haunting and both are major standouts on 2012’s “Unapologetic.” (YouTube) (iTunes)


Glee Cast (Lea Michele & Dean Geyer)
Give Your Heart a Break
Dear Demi Lovato, I am sorry that I couldn’t include your version of “Give Your Heart a Break” on my year-end charts, but all of your wigs got snatched by the cast of Glee when they performed it on their recent episode entitled “The Break Up.” Stripping this song down to a gorgeous, acoustic piano arrangement and having the amazing Lea Michelle and the gorgeous Dean Geyer sing it to each other as a duet has pretty much ruined the original for me and to be honest, I’m not mad. Apols! Sincerely, Dean.
(YouTube) (Ok, Ok! Here’s Demi!) (iTunes)


Lupe Fiasco & Guy Sebastian
Battle Scars
Before Lupe Fiasco made a name for himself by performing an anti-Obama song at Obama’s second-term inauguration events in 2013, he released one of my favorite hip-hop tracks of 2012 with Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian. “Battle Scars” explored the painful challenge of trying to move on from a very broken heart. Not only does Sebastian’s vocal resonate with pain and emotion but Fiasco’s verses are equally as effective.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Leona Lewis
Come Alive
Another standout from Lewis'”Glassheart” happens to be another track where Lewis went outside of her adult-contemporary comfort zone. The track experiments with dub step, drum n’ bass and breakbeat music and is layered with electronically processed layers of breathtaking vocals that assault the senses. As with the other electronic songs on the album, Lewis also recorded a breathtaking stripped-down acoustic version which is equally as amazing. “Come Alive” is Lewis at her very best.
(YouTube) (YouTube Acoustic) (iTunes UK)


Never Gonna Let You Go

This is one of several songs I had the pleasure of reviewing as a member of the Popologist Panel on my friend David’s blog: Vertigo Shtick. Esthero is an artist I have respected for many years and I was thrilled to find out she had a new album coming out in 2012. This track has the swing and bravado of Gaga’s “Teeth” but manages to menace with lyrics like “Baby I don’t wanna break your legs but I’ll do what I’ve gotta just to make you stay.” It’s a bit of a stalker anthem, but that’s what makes it so fun!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Taylor Swift
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Taylor Swift’s sudden announcement that she would be releasing 2012’s “Red” and leading up the release with a single produced by Max Martin surprised the pop-loving world. No stranger to mainstream success with her brand of “teenage” country, Taylor’s new sound was distinctly more POP than ever before. While there are many haters, and truthfully I can understand why some may find “..Never Ever..” a bit annoying, I thinks it’s a wonderfully crafted pop song to add to the list of those Martin has been responsible for over the last 15 years and I could never hate it. Like, ever.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


The second single from P!nk’s 2012 album “The Truth About Love” ventured into emotional pop/rock territory. “Try” is certainly understated when placed next to most of P!nk’s other singles but under the surface it burns with passion. Also, I might add, “Try” boasts one of the best music videos of 2012!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Adam Lambert
Never Close Our Eyes
I have a problem. It’s come to light that I’ve completely overlooked non-single “Shady” from “Trespassing” in my chart and sadly, I can’t re-write the whole thing and eliminate a track to include it. Second single “Never Close Our Eyes” won the tug of war because a.) it was my original choice and b.) according to iTunes it got significantly more plays from me over the past year. It’s another track that should have been a major 2012 smash hit, that didn’t quite perform. I’d also like to say, somewhat cryptically that I referred to this song on a previous chart spot, if you were paying attention. That being said, it hurts me that “Shady” wasn’t in my year-end charts. (See my full review of “Trespassing” to know how much I love this album!) I’m sorry Glamily, but hey! Six album tracks in the Top 100 ain’t bad! 🙂
(YouTube) (iTunes)


This Sia-penned, first single from RiRi’s seventh studio album “Unapologetic” seems to have plenty of haters. I’ve actually seen it appear on some pop blogger worst of 2012 lists, but I don’t get that! While it’s message may be one we’ve heard before, “Diamonds” has a beautiful and memorable melody and was a refreshing mid-tempo departure from a year packed with dance singles. Yes, the lyrics are a bit repetitive but they’re actually quite beautiful in parts and like its refrain, it “shines bright” in the pool of 2012 singles!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Katy Perry
Wide Awake
The original release of 2010’s “Teenage Dream” was relatively (aside from one or two tracks) an upbeat and uplifting album, reflecting Perry’s own happiness as she fell in love and married comedian Russell Brand. During the whirlwind era, where Perry saw her superstar shoot to new heights, her and Brand called it quits just in time for the “Complete Confection” re-release, which featured a few new tracks of a decidedly more-bitter nature. Where the previously-charted “Part of Me” was a statement of defiance to an ex, “Wide Awake” looks at the break-up with new clarity. It was a risky, slow-ish summertime single but I would say that actually worked in it’s favor.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Maroon 5
One More Night
Maroon 5 are one of many artists who decided to take a distinctly more pop direction with their work in 2012. After the success of stand-alone single “Moves Like Jagger” came 2012 album “Overexposed” which has brought them one of the biggest successes of their careers thus far. Boasting a 9 week reign of the Billboard hot 100, “One More Night” is a sexy reggae-infused track about an on-again/off-again (but seemingly poison) relationship. Let it be known that 2012 is also the year that I finally stopped resisting Adam Levine’s attractiveness. I, like everyone else it seems, now have a crush… *Swoon*
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Taylor Swift
I Knew You Were Trouble
With “I Knew You Were Trouble” Taylor Swift pulled off one the most inventive uses of dub step influence to come from the current pop music trend. Rather than trying to infuse an entire track with whirrs and blips, Swift instead gives us a song that still manages to feel like her brand of Country-Pop on the verses but builds and explodes in a delightfully unexpected post-chorus that challenges not only the conventions of her genre but potentially a good portion of her fan base in a slightly more aggressive way than the other two Max Martin collaborations on her new album “Red.” Before it was even a single it managed to debut at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and sold over 416K downloads in its first week of release. Not too shabby!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Cher Lloyd
Want U Back
UNNNNH! Bow-Bow.. Bow-Bow! Right from that unforgettable into, “Want U Back” was one of the most infectious, straight-up pop jams of the year. My feelings about it can still be summed up by the end of my original review in June 2012’s Popologist Panel: “Lloyd drips with pop-forward bubblegum swag. It’s cheesy and funky and kind of amazing. Have I had too much communion wine again?”
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Adam Lambert
From the bubbliest of bubblegum, now we slow it down with a dark and dramatic piece about letting someone know the darkest parts of you. Lambert’s “Underneath” explores this theme in a very over-the-top way, which caused some difference of opinion among critics. While some felt it was too much, others (myself included) were moved by the poetic imagery in the lyric. Words aside, “Underneath” is beautifully produced, with electronic elements that are reminiscent of the production on Madonna’s “Ray of Light” and some of the most breathtaking vocals he’s put on record.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Bruno Mars
Locked out of Heaven
Among today’s successful male pop stars, Mars is certainly one of the best. After releasing a debut album that blended retro vibes of the 50’s and 60’s with modern pop stylings, Mars released follow up “Unorthodox Jukebox” and took on the 70’s & 80’s with his pretty kickass vocals! Lead single “Locked Out of Heaven” has echoes of The Police; a beat that makes me want to stomp and a funky groove that sets it apart from any other singles to hit radio last year. Bruno may feel like he’s been “Locked Out of Heaven.. for to loo-ooo-oong” but the gates of Pop Heaven are Presently open to him and his band of hooligans!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Christina Aguilera
Your Body
Another 2012 win for Swedish mega-producer Max Martin! I admit I was taken aback by the desperation/taste level in original demo lyric (“All I wanna do is fuck your body”) but was happy to hear this removed from the single and album version, not because I support censorship but because I don’t like out-of-context profanity and the song doesn’t need it. As songs about dirty, anonymous hook-ups go, “Your Body” is one of the best pop singles of 2012. The production is at times minimal and others lush and layered and it’s packed full of vocal hooks and steamy lyrics. This is the kind of track I’d have lived for in my club-going days, dirty dancing with a friend in front of the booth just to eye-fuck the D.J. (whom I had a steamy flirtationship with!) Ah, the good ol’ days!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Marina & the Diamonds
Marina’s “Electra Heart” takes elements of Greek Tragedy and spins a narrative about dysfunctional love. (Click here to read my rather wordy review/take on the album’s concept). My favorite of the album’s tracks is the heartbroken ballad “Lies” which has our heroine Electra feeling defeated after her lover’s betrayal. (“You’re never gonna love me, so what’s the use? What’s the point of playing, a game you’re gonna lose?”) The track is gorgeous and laced with Marina’s signature falsetto as she laments the true love she so obsesses for; her character’s tragic flaw. Add to this, a completely amazing acoustic rendition on an acoustic EP she released in Europe and you have a recipe for perfection.
(YouTube) (YouTube Acoustic)(iTunes)


Delta Rae
Bottom of the River
I’m cheating, just a little, on this one as the single debuted in 2011 when the group released the OUTSTANDING music video for this haunting acapella track on YouTube. That being said, I didn’t hear it until Rolling Stone mentioned the band in a cover-shoot contest last July, and both the single and the album were not available for sale until 2012! Besides, this is my chart so I’ll cheat if I want to. “Bottom of the River” is electrifying; pulsing with back woods energy. Taking the lead on this track, Brittany Hölljes sings like a woman possessed  belting the song with near supernatural energy. Honestly, you really just have to watch the music video or listen to the song loud through headphones. It’s immersive and incredible. While most of their album “Carry the Fire” isn’t exactly like this, it’s all pretty great and this sextet is one to watch!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Gotye feat. Kimbra
Somebody That I Used to Know
Surely tied with “Call Me Maybe” and “Gangham Style” as one of 2012’s most overplayed songs, Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” is not only one of the best singles to come out of 2012, but I would wager that it’s safe to call it a modern-day classic. I have no doubts that in a decade, people will still look back and say “damn, that is a really great song!” – and it really is. Despite it having a certain Sting or Peter Gabriel vibe, the melody never feels derivative of some other song. It’s passionate and it’s tense and it’s relateable. If Gotye never has another North American hit, it really won’t matter. He’s given us a miracle from Pop Heaven.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Frank Ocean
Thinkin Bout You
It would have been easy, considering how the general populous came to know of Frank Ocean, to write him off as a gimmick. When he revealed through his Tumblr account that his first love was a man, the story seriously blew up. While I don’t know that he has or would ever use the label “gay” to describe himself, the media certainly has. The correctness of this label, and even the undisputed significance of an artist from the hip-hop and R&B community coming out aside, Ocean is no gimmick. Check out his mixtape “Nostalgia, Ultra” – released prior to 2012 hit album “Channel Orange” and you’ll see this is not a one album wonder, the man is just supremely talented. “Thinkin’ Bout You” is a beautiful R&B jam with soaring falsetto on the chorus and honest, quirky and heartfelt lyrics that describe the uncertainty in his experience as he fell in love with the subject of his revelation. Brilliant!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Daley ft. Jessie J
Remember Me
The bassline of “Remember Me” alone, sells me. Daley is truly one of the most exciting new artists of 2012 for me. This track is full of smooth sass, as he tells his triflin’ ex (played by Jessie J in a small guest spot) that she can apologize all she wants for her crimes, but that he’s not having it. Daley’s vocals melt like butter over an irresistible 90’s-style beat with piano licks and hand claps. I just can’t get this song out of my head. It’s glorious! Also, I’d like to point out that even with her limited role in the song, Jessie J looks goddamn gorgeous in the music video. Why on earth did she hide all that beauty under a million pounds of makeup for her own album campaign?
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Beautiful Surprise
As we’ve seen over the course of the chart, R&B came back in a BIG way in 2012. Tamia is an under-rated artist I have always loved since the release of her debut album in 1995. Her voice is angelic; soft and sweet but she can SANG. “Beautiful Surprise” is a mid-tempo, breezy R&B jam that is reminiscent of her 1995 single “So Into You” (one of my favorite songs of all-time) and just fills me with so much joy when I listen. It’s simple concept (about the excitement of being surprised by your special someone when they arrive back from an absence earlier than expected) is a refreshing change from all of the dance floor filler and the heavier-handed break-up songs out there, proving that the simple things in life can also make sweet, sweet music.
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Kelly Clarkson
Dark Side
I was pleasantly surprised when it was announced that “Dark Side” would be the third (and evidently final) single release from “Stronger.” Though I think it’s a shame that Clarkson’s label continues to punish her for the under performance of her album “My December” by not releasing singles that she had a hand in writing, “Dark Side” is a beautiful song that anyone with insecurities that has entered into a relationship can relate to. The production is dreamy and Kelly’s vocals as evocative as ever. Pop Heaven at it’s purest!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Adam Lambert
Outlaws of Love
2012 was an especially great year for the gay rights movement, particularly in the US, where President Obama finally began to explicitly voice his support for marriage equality as he campaigned for his second term. The 2012 election showed that Americans share his support, adding three more states to the ever-growing list that will allow gay and lesbian citizens the right to marry. Perhaps unintentionally, Lambert’s “Outlaws of Love” became an anthem for marriage equality. It’s beautifully poignant lyrics and emotional vocal delivery bring tears to this out-and-proud Canadian nearly every time I listen, despite marriage equality being old hat in my country at this point.  Gorgeous AND culturally relevant. Thank you, Mr. Lambert!
(YouTube) (iTunes)


Taylor Swift & The Civil Wars
Safe & Sound
Though I think my #1 pick probably comes as a bit of a surprise to many, and there are sure to be those who disagree, I think that “Safe & Sound” may be the most beautiful thing that Swift has ever released. It debuted on 12/23/2011, which makes it a little bit of a cheat to be on the 2012 chart but the soundtrack and the movie it hails from (“The Hunger Games” ) did not release until Spring. Written and performed with alt-country act The Civil Wars, “Safe and Sound” is quiet and sort of melancholy in tone, but hauntingly romantic and if you truly know me you’d know that I’m a complete sucker for a love song. It was the first hint of Swift’s evolving and maturing sound that came to fruition on 2012 album “Red” and while it was a VERY tough decision over Lambert, it was ultimately my favorite song of the year! 
(YouTube) (iTunes)

And so ends our year-end chart! What did you think? Please share your thoughts and opinions! I love discussion and hearing from you all!

Thank you – as always, for reading, and for helping me to celebrate the wonderful music we enjoyed in 2012. All of these tracks and the people responsible for them, are…

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