2012 was the year of catchy singles that made us sing along and bust a move wherever and whenever. This year, we witnessed the boy band comeback, the pop-dance-hip hop fusion trend, and the distinct evolution of R&B. Without further ado, here are the best songs of 2012:
(Check out our picks for Best Albums of 2012.)
25. “Whistle” – Flo Rida This song gets the nod for catchiest song of the year (maybe tied with “Call Me Maybe,” which will not make the cut this year).
24. “Where Have You Been” – Rihanna Ri Ri had quite a year on the charts and on airwaves this year. This single especially dominated. Produced by Dr. Luke, Cirkut, and Calvin Harris, the song builds on the success of other rave-worthy hits “We Found Love” and “Don’t Stop the Music.” She has showed us many sides from island jammer to heartbroken balladeer, but her vocal confidence in this song supports a career for Ri purely as a dance music goddess. Rihanna may be wondering “where have you been” but we know for sure she is not hiding from us.
23. “Locked Out Of Heaven” – Bruno Mars Mars is a master at singing songs about sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll and making it sound like vintage, fluffy pop songs. This single is no exception. It dropped at the end of 2012 but has already become a sensation, securing its place well into 2013.
22. “I Knew You Were Trouble” – Taylor Swift Sure “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” is much more representative of 2012, but this track blows that and all others on Swifts album Red away. The single recently dropped and debuted at no. 3, but the hooking dubstep beat on this song will make it outplay “WANEGBT” in no time.
21. “HYFR” – Drake ft. Lil Wayne “HYFR” went beyond making it as a popular song; it became downright proverbial in 2012. No one can argue with the YMCMB duo, especially in this song of celebration.
20. “Wild Ones” – Flo Rida Another viral club hit for Flo Rida.
19. “Give Your Heart A Break” – Demi Lovato As an epitome of pop perfection, this single is a guilty pleasure that we still blast and pretend no one can see us performing in our cars. Demi showed us how much she has grown up since her Disney days, but her song remains ageless.
18. “Turn On The Lights” – Future Ironically, this song makes us want to turn off the lights and grind to the sexy sound of Future. The song was a Top 5 hit on both the R&B and Rap charts, but no. 1 at any Atlanta strip joint. The reggae-dirty south fusion sound of producer Mike Will Made It will make you want to get on stage and dance dirty, too.
17. “Take A Walk” – Passion Pit Although the lyrical substance of this song may be devastatingly depressing, the melody sings a different tune. That is likely why this song became representative of a Taco Bell commercial and a motivational campaign video for President Obama’s 2012 presidential race.
16. “212” – Azealia Banks If it weren’t for this song, we’d all still be wondering where this fascinating creature Azealia comes from.
15. “Goldie” – A$AP Rocky This rapper made his mark on 2012 with this song and others by bringing his groove-tastic style and smart-ass-tic flow. Amongst a hip hop backdrop of what is widely believed to be degenerating, A$AP sets himself apart by providing substance without having to be compared with the original hip hop greats.
14. “Titanium” – David Guetta ft. Sia This powerful dance hit was inescapable in 2012.
13. “Feel So Close” – Calvin Harris Once we un-clicked the repeat button on “We Found Love”, we noticed that this EDM mastermind took 2012 by storm with his smashing singles. Usually featuring other (vocal) talent, Harris took the forefront this time and hit it out of the park.
12. “Bad Girls” – M.I.A. Another empowering smash hit by our original bad girl. Known for her fresh street savvy repertoire involving producers like Diplo, this song is different as it is produced by Danja–a heavily mainstream producer who is known to have worked with Britney Spears and Timbaland. His presence is nothing less than justified, however, as his shrewd ear combined hip hop with middle eastern sounds for this jam.
11. “Adorn” – Miguel This smooth crooner adorns us with a fresh, psychedelic take on baby-making music that contributes to the trending transformation of R&B. The song recently scored three Grammy noms, including Song of the Year. Please practice safe listening.
10. “Ho Hey” – The Lumineers In the same vain as Mumford & Sons, this song is equally refreshing with its purely acoustic sound amongst an ocean of electronic music. The song is sure to perk your spirits.
9. “Backseat Freestyle” – Kendrick Lamar This track does a good job of displaying Lamar’s awareness of his wicked talent but also showing that he doesn’t take himself too seriously. Lamar exploded on the scene with an impressive album in 2012, but he is sure to stay for a while.
8. “Climax” – Usher After almost two decades of being a superstar, Usher stays savvy on what the masses like. “Climax” is a sensational single, for which Usher teams up with producer Diplo and mixes his sensual vocals with an electronic beat. You can hardly believe this is a song about break ups.
7. “I Will Wait” – Mumford & Sons In a year (and era) of pop dance and EDM, Mumford & Sons brings a raw rock/folk sound so refreshing and soulful that might make you renounce EDM forever.
6. “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You” – Frank Ocean Ocean continues to shift the shape of modern R&B with deep, personal songs. This single from Channel Orange was iconic this year, as Ocean was able to subtly and beautifully express his sexual orientation to the world–all the while showing off his vocal range.
5. “Glad You Came” – The Wanted The comeback of boy bands this year came with a new level of sophistication due to brit-pop vocal group The Wanted with songs like this one. “Glad You Came” achieved just the right balance of feel-good cheese and respectable talent. The Wanted: we’re glad you came.
4. “Too Close” – Alex Clare British-American singer Clare took dubstep to another level this year by laying his edgy, soulful vocals on his tracks. “Too Close” may have been popularized by the Internet Explorer commercial, but its reach and impact hits much harder.
3. “Mercy” – Kanye West, Big Sean, 2 Chainz, & Pusha T This bass-bumping hip hop collaboration showed no mercy in 2012, and stands as a stamp of an era where Yeezy shares the spotlight for once by showcasing other talent.
2. “Somebody That I Used To Know” – Gotye ft. Kimbra This quizzical, cynical single made everyone’s playlist this year. It’s ironic how a song undefinable by genre or style could so centrally defined 2012’s music scene.
1. “We Are Young” – fun. ft. Janelle Monae In a lifetime of incessant aging, this year we were able to get younger–even if only for 4 minutes and 10 seconds. The melancholic harmonies and high-registered melodies bring a strong note of hope to young adults that hold fun.’s songs as personal anthems. “We Are Young” is the anthem of 2012.