See my list of top 10 albums here, and feel free to leave a comment with your favorite single of 2012.
1. "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye (feat. Kimbra)
There was a time this year that this song (in one version or another) was ubiquitous on St. Louis radio right across the dial, from KDHX to Z107. It got into my head and there was a period of time (I don't care to share the exact amount of time) that I listened to nothing else but this song in my car. I literally mean I listened to this song over and over again, so much that I think I might have started hallucinating about it at some point. (This followed a period of listening to nothing but alternating versions of "The Tourist" by Radiohead and Sarah Jarosz. What can I say? I can be obsessive.) It never even occurred to me that Gotye sounds like Sting until someone pointed it out to me, which, I admit, gave me pause.
2. "One Thing" by One Direction
The Gotye streak was broken when I finally gave in to the pop sensibilities of boy band (I use that term under protest as I detest it) One Direction. "What Makes You Beautiful" had made a positive, but impermanent impression on me. But once I saw the band perform "WMYB" and "One Thing" on Saturday Night Live, I was hooked. The slow burn intro, the joyous, effervescent chorus, the delicious harmonies! What's not to love? I rank singing along with music in my car (and elsewhere) high on my Favorite Things To Do list, and this song is a perfect candidate. There are even dance moves, if you must know.
3. "My Heart Skips a Beat" by Olly Murs (feat. Rizzle Kicks (U.K.) or Chiddy Bang (U.S.))
This is the sweetest, brightest, danciest little pop song I heard all year. And it's performed by the adorable British boy next door, Olly Murs. The original features the charming rap of Brit duo Rizzle Kicks, while the U.S. version has the slightly harder sounds of duo Chiddy Bang. I love both versions and the differences are really rather minimal. I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking and I confess to a few solo dance parties fueled primarily by this song.
4. "Fitzpleasure" by Alt-J
This is the one song on my list that wasn't an actual hit on U.S. radio, although I initially heard it at the end of the last episode of "Weeds." And speaking of kitchen dance parties, this song has been featured on several occasions, particularly when I need to loosen up after hours of cooking. If this song doesn't get your hips rotating, well, I just don't know what will. Alt-J won the Mercury Prize in England this year and their album is full of more quirky, strange stuff. Check out the video for this song; it's weird and kind of beautiful-scary.
5. "As Long As You Love Me" by Justin Bieber
Listen, I didn't think it could happen either, but damn it if this song didn't creep into my subconscious. It seems I am partial to the dubstep-lite stuff that's showing up in pop music these days (see "Fitzpleasure" above and "Too Close" below), and this one fits right in there. I'm particularly fond of the "As Long As You Love Me (LFOMG Dubstep Remix)" I found somewhere online, but the original is plenty catchy. Yeah, Justin can be a whiny little poseur, but the sing-along qualities and the dubstep stomp of this song makes up for it.
6. "Too Close" by Alex Clare
I think I heard this first on some TV commercial or another and I loved the dark, moody feel of it. Thanks to the handy Shazam app, it was easy to identify and acquire. (How did I survive without Shazam? Seriously.) As noted above, this one delves into the lighter realm of dubstep and it makes me wish I were in a dance club hearing it really loud and booming.
7. "Home" by Phillip Phillips
OK, the first time I heard this song, I assumed it was a new Mumford & Sons song that had somehow made it on to commercial radio. Mind you, I liked it more than any actual Mumford & Sons song, save for maybe "Little Lion Man" which remains the only high point in the Mumford canon, if you ask me. When I found out it was by Phillip Phillips (did his parents hate him?), the most recent American Idol winner, I was a bit dismayed. Then I kicked my own ass for being a snob and just enjoyed the song. It's well done, it's sincere and the harmonies are killer. If you like the Lumineers, (or, hell, Mumford & Sons) there's no good reason you shouldn't like this.
8. "Little Things" by One Direction
The second single from their second album, "Little Things" is an Ed Sheeran-penned acoustic ballad; not exactly what was expected after the exuberant Clash-homage that was the debut single ("Live While We're Young"). Their fans (and I righteously call myself one) know that these five young men can truly sing, and this song proves it to everyone else. Haters gonna hate, though, and that's your loss. I say, give in to the un-dark side and revel in the pretty, pretty melodies and harmonies.
9. "Locked Out of Heaven" by Bruno Mars
There's a lot to love about this song starting with the fact that it's a (very) thinly veiled ode to amazing sex with his lover. Then there are the supremely charismatic and soaring vocals of Bruno, and, maybe best of all, the strangely hypnotic background vocals -- eh eh eh eh, eh eh eh eh, OOOH! This song makes me happy when I hear it, and that's all I need. The fact that it was pointed out that it sort of sounds like Sting again gave me pause, but I shrugged it off.