2012: Year In Review

Yes, it's that time of year again. It was a fascinating year in music, where the biggest hits of the year were the most unexpected.

10. Olly Murs f/Chiddy Bang - "Heart Skips A Beat"

Both Olly and Chiddy Bang have come out with music recently that can only be described as a perfect representation of 2012, yet also evocative of an earlier age. One of my most played songs of the year. In a perfect world, this would have been a #1 Billboard Hot 100 hit instead of peaking at #96.

9. Justin Bieber - "Die In Your Arms"

A love letter to the Motown era and the early days of the Jackson 5, with a synthesized piano beat and finger snaps. So smooth and sweet. A perfectly crafted pop song and a homage to the beginning of what became an iconic era. The best song on the latest and greatest CD by Justin Bieber (oh god did I really just write that?)

8. Pink - "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)"

Pink, fascinatingly enough, has been one of the biggest success stories to come out of the late TRL era. She always maintained control of her career and consistently released intelligent, layered, and most importantly mind-numbingly catchy singles. Her latest single is one of her all time best - one that could have been released anytime in the past 10 years or in the next 10 years.

7. Paul McDonald & Nikki Reed - "Now That I've Found You"

A song by a real life husband and wife (and former American Idol Season 10 contestant) that carried me through the most difficult of mornings with its sweet simplicity and muted urgency, about a love that is so full it is as clearly defined in its absence as in its presence. Absolutely stunning and not in a showy way.

6. Cher Lloyd - "Want U Back"

The definition of so-bad-it's-good, I originally heard this one on Sirius XM Hits One about 6 months before it broke through on mainstream radio like Z100 and went on to be a massive hit. It's pretty stunning that a song like this which is so intensely European in make, style, and voice would cross over into the US and make Cher Lloyd a household name amongst the under-30 set. Well, sort of. Anyway, one of the songs I listened to most this year (which will probably continue into next year as well).

5. One Direction - "Live While We're Young"

Anyone who grew up on a steady diet of TRL can more than appreciate the latest (and greatest boy band) to come out of the past decade. One of the most perfect pop songs I've heard since the golden age of pop. A song that would not sound out of place in a car commercial, or any movie set at a beach, evocative of sunscreen and barbeques and falling in love with all the fleeting impermanence of summer. 

4. Alex Clare - "Too Close"

This song was originally brought to my attention by the Internet Explorer commercials sometime in April. And then it stayed in my consciousness for the rest of the year. And deservedly so. As I wrote back then, "there is something layered about the song, something new that I discover and rediscover each time I listen." It's an odd marriage of dubstep with aching lyrical content.

From my original post: "The song pulsates with urgency and explodes into a thudding dubstep breakdown on the chorus.  The lyrics are desperate and sad, about a breakup between two lovers who have over time cooled to friendship. The musicality expresses the nuts and bolts of technology, all blips and synthesizer. But the lyrics are passionate and heartbreakingly honest. "

3. Bruce Springsteen - "American Land"

As I wrote in my Top 10 Songs by Bruce Springsteen post while Hurricane Sandy was raging outside my window, "this is a song not to be missed, simply put." What more can I say? Channeling the hope of the past to make a point about the current landscape. It hits you over the head immediately with the opening beat which is modern and almost militaristic, and then the Irish instruments start up about twenty seconds in. The music swells for almost a full minute before any lyrics start. I can imagine there are two readings for this song: joyful and disillusioned, and I'll choose to read it the way I feel it: joyfully.

2. Shovels and Rope - "Birmingham"

One of the most evocative songs I have ever heard. This sort of storytelling is both rare and earthshattering in its intensity and single-minded motivation. As I wrote in August, "I haven't heard a song this achingly beautiful in years. It's a velvet lined throwback to an era when you could stumble blindly into a bar and have your world changed by two people on stage with a harmonica and a guitar. Songs that tell the story of an entire existence in less than 4 minutes, with all the sweat, blood, and agony of each day wrapped up into the most succinct of lines." It's the kind of song that makes you long for more in your life, to die to find out what your legacy will be and if it will be someday worthy of song.

1. Of Monsters & Men - "Little Talks"

No song even came close to the ingenuity, originality, and overall pure genius of this song that caught my attention as a free song download of the week on iTunes. I wrote about this song on this blog back in the very first week of 2012 and the song continued to capture my imagination, intellect, and heart throughout the entire year. I knew in the sixth day of the year, no song that could exist in the upcoming 12 months could top this one.

As I wrote back on 1/6/2012, "The song describes the push and pull between what we know we need and what we desperately want. Being haunted by the ghost of our memories, always lurking behind us but perpetually out of reach. It evokes an airy beach house in the winter where the open space seems stifling beyond measure, where sunlight spills across the floor in a way that can't fill the space or warm the cold. Where hope exists, in a way you know like you understand life is finite, but can't bring yourself to truly believe in it."

Honorable Mentions:
- Nicki Minaj - "Starships"
- Maroon 5 - "One More Night"
- Justin Bieber - "Boyfriend"
- David Guetta & Nicki Minaj - "Turn Me On"
- Stefano - "I'm On A Roll"
- Rita Ora f. Tinie Tempah - "RIP"
- David Cook - "The Last Song I'll Write For You"
- Chiddy Bang - "Ray Charles"
- The Biters - "So Many Nights"

American Idol Covers Of The Year:
- Skylar Laine - "Stay With Me"
- Elise Testone - "Whole Lotta Love"