Now that I’ve counted down the most disappointing songs of 2012, it’s time to celebrate the year’s hottest hits. So let’s get this countdown started, y’all!
40. “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself)” by Ne-Yo
We did it America! Back in October, I asked us all to make Ne-Yo’s sweeping love song a massive hit in the States, and we succeeded! It peaked at #6 and has sold almost a million copies. In fact, it became his first top ten song as a lead artist in almost 5 years. And a track this melodic and catchy deserves that kind of attention. We can all feel good about this one. Here’s to us.
39. “Queen of Denmark” by Sinead O’Connor
Sinead O’Connor released a new album this year? She totally did! It’s called How About I Be Me (And You Be You), and it features some of her best work in over a decade. There are plenty of excellent tracks—the sunny “Old Lady,” the rapturous “The Wolf Is Getting Married”—but the standout song is “Queen of Denmark.” Written by gay singer-songwriter John Grant, it has some of the best lyrics I’ve heard in ages, with a lover coldly explaining why his partner will never overcome the crazy shit they put each other through. Without changing the lyrics, O’Connor sings in the character of a gay man, giving her voice extra huskiness, and when she hits the soul-shredding chorus, where all the pain comes through, she reminds me why her artistry will always be more impressive than her personal drama.
38. “Nothing’s Real But Love” by Rebecca Ferguson
She may never be as successful in America as she is in her native England, but soul singer Rebecca Ferguson still deserves attention. “Nothing’s Real But Love” proves why: That’s some vintage R&B heartbreak right there, with her smoky vocals riding on top of those drums like a champ. This song sounds timeless… something you hear once and instantly assume that you’ve loved for years, or that your parents and grandparents probably loved, or that Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles probably covered on their best albums.
37. “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen
I’m not a monster, people. I know a perfect pop song when I hear one, and even if I can’t quite adore Carly Rae’s year-defining hit, I can still appreciate it. Plus, I’ll always remember this song is all about the hot gay guy.
36. “Hold On” by Alabama Shakes
I’m really happy that Alabama Shakes got a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist, because it might convince more people to give their southern rock awesomeness a chance. “Hold On” has been my baby for eight months now, and I still get a thrill from its bluesy sound and Brittany Howard’s killer vocals.
35. “Anything Could Happen” by Ellie Goulding
I started listening to “Lights” last year, so I can’t put on this year’s list, but 2012 was certainly when I became a true Ellie Goulding fan. In my original review of “Anything Could Happen,” I said it was even better than “Lights.” I don’t think that anymore—call it the first flush of a new romance!—but I still love this epic dance track with the growly vocals at the end.
34. “One More Night” by Maroon 5
Doesn’t it seem crazy that this song was number one for 9 weeks? I feel like it got half as much attention as “Payphone.” At the end of the day, though, “One More Night” is the one I prefer because it rocks harder and it’s got better lyrics. That thing about the lipstick making Adam Levine lose his breath? A small slice of pop gold.
33. “Blown Away” by Carrie Underwood
This one crept up on me. The first time I heard it, I thought it was a serviceable power ballad, but after listening a few times, I appreciated the twisted story of an abused daughter letting her father get killed in a tornado. It’s so campy! And then I fell for the glossy production, which makes Underwood’s vocals sound powerful and just a little bit chilly, which suits the story of a daddy gettin’ his due. Those little extras are what got “Blown Away” onto my countdown.
32. “Everybody Talks” by Neon Trees
Just like I did with “Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself),” I pleaded with America to make this song a hit, and I’m so glad we came together. (Between this and all those gay marriage victories, it was great year for the power of the people!)
Anyway… the point is that “Everybody Talks” is the best garage-rock song in recent memory, and I’m glad we all succumbed to its kicky charms.
31. “Boom Boom” by Rye Rye
As you know, I’ve been riding the Rye Rye train all year, and damn if “Boom Boom” doesn’t still sound fresh after all these months. In a year when Nicki Minaj reached the top of the charts with sonic disasters, Rye Rye stayed underground with songs that are catchier, funnier, and more original. If there’s any justice, Rye Rye will be a superstar soon.
Mark Blankenship tweets as @IAmBankenship. He lives for end-of-the-year countdowns.