My favourite part of winter holidays is surprisingly not the Bailey’s in my hot chocolate, or the smell of our Christmas tree when I walk downstairs, but the excuse to reflect on the nearly completed year, and all of the music it has brought us. I don’t know whether it was the threat of an apocalypse or what, but some very good music was released in 2012. Originally I was planning to simply put an album list out, but I realized I would be skipping over some amazing songs not included on what I would consider a stand-out album. So, here are the 12 songs of 2012 I would consider best:
12. Adorn – Miguel
Quite simply some classic and sexy R&B right here. This video isn’t anything special, but I’m listening to this song while I write about the other songs further up the list.
11. Into the Wild – LP
An example of the power of ukelele and whistling. Laura Pergolizzi has written for Christina Aguilera, Avril Lavigne, and Rihanna, but it seems to work much better when she sings her own stuff. Also, there is this fun Thelma-and-Louise-inspired video.
10. Who – St Vincent & David Byrne
This combination of young and old artist seems meant to be, and this song is the standout from Love this Giant. The horns, the rhythms, the quirky… it was love at first listen.
9. Somebody that I Used to Know – Gotye
I almost didn’t put this on the list, but the truth is when we remember 2012 years from now, we are still likely to get this in our heads. Why is it as good as it is? Mostly Kimbra, probably, considering the rest of the Gotye album is dreadfully boring. Instead of posting the actual video, I think the majority of us can relate to this:
8. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
Passionate, political and heartwarming. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis have proved themselves to be risk takers, so why not release a rap track promoting marriage equality? Then again, he is not coming out himself, and this is post-Frank Ocean. Still, he thoughtfully identifies himself as an advocate in a musical culture that is not exactly known for its pro-gay rhetoric (as Macklemore himself points out).
7. Disparate Youth – Santigold
I have been hoping for a track like this from Santigold for some time. It’s a great pop tune with an addictive groove, but it’s also a track full of hope, possibility and revolution, without too much emotion.
6. Love Interruption – Jack White
I know Jack White can kill a rock guitar solo, but I like him best when he’s bluesy, and this is one of my favourite things he has ever done. This song also gave me a new appreciation for the bass clarinet.
5. Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen
I won’t lie, I was a skeptic the first time I heard Carly Rae Jepsen on the radio. However, I quickly moved the song to ‘guilty pleasure’, and by the time summer rolled around it was just plain ‘pleasure’. And I know I’m not the only one, based on the number of covers and parodies that cropped up. Here’s my favourite version:
4. Hold On – The Alabama Shakes
Hooray for new bands that sound old! These youngsters remind me of a female-fronted Black Keys. Soon after this song blew up on youtube, I couldn’t find a vinyl copy of Boys and Girls in stock anywhere. Literally no one expected their success to reach the heights that it did in the time that it did, and now they are going to represent at the Grammy’s against the likes of Jack White and Frank Ocean. Good luck, Shakes!
3. Bad Girls – M.I.A.
A great song, paired with this video that is not only a joy to watch, but one that cleverly commentates on the Saudi government’s ban on women drivers. The video has everything – bling, guns, desert drag races, a ginger kid – and is made only more boss by its political swagger.
2. Climax – Usher
I have been an Usher fan since the day I first saw him on BET, doing his chair dance to “You Make Me Wanna”. Still, when I heard he was releasing a song called “Climax,” I worried that Usher was following in the older and creepier footsteps of R. Kelly. What a pleasant surprise to hear it instead describe the emotional experience of an inevitably ending relationship. And what better way to communicate feelings than with nearly constant falsetto.
1. Bad Religion – Frank Ocean
Hands down. There is no question for me that this song was the most moving (emotionally and beat-wise) song of the year. In the midst of his bad religion, Ocean finds community and compassion with a taxi driver of another faith. In some ways Ocean came out of the closet with this song – it was one of the first places early reviewers noticed a different pronoun than expected – but what makes Bad Relgion truly beautiful is not his subject, but the way he approaches this unrequited love: with vulnerability, grace, and courage.