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Year-End List 2012: 25 Songs

In 2012, we all declared that we are young, we shined bright like a diamond and we've decided to give our hearts a break as we're never ever getting back together. Like, ever. Haha. But seriously, there is no way to sum up another spectacular year for mainstream pop music, so let's have the songs do it for us instead.

So, like every year, these are my picks for the 25 Songs of 2012: odes to bittersweet heartbreaks, songs about loving for a thousand years, and even tunes about a chemical element. They're all important as this definitely "moved" me at some point over the past 12 months.

Of course, this is admittedly a subjective list based on my personal judgments and preferences, but this list should also be a great conversation starter and feel free to agree or disagree. Either way there is a lot of great mainstream music - again, take note - to be found here.


25. Give Your Heart A Break
Demi Lovato

Compared to her rousing hit, Skyscaper, this track isn't as heavy and emotional, but still flawlessly constructed with a strong emphasis on Demi's dreamy and warm vocal style. The production is slick from the string sequence to the punchy rhythmic drum beat to the piano-led bridge. The writing is relatable and mature and if it only didn't end abruptly, this would've been the perfect pop song for her.

24. Call My Name
Cheryl Cole

As formulaic as it is, this Calvin Harris produced track is possibly one of the most feel-good generic dance anthems this year. From the electro-pop laden beats to the pulsating club rhythms, the production still shines despite not being innovative or boundary pushing. Plus, it has an addictive chorus that fits perfectly with Cheryl's voice and would have anyone humming for days.

23. Scream

Just like Cheryl Cole, Usher's Scream also follows a dance anthem formula mixed with an infectious beat that works well in clubs just like its every other iteration does. But while there's nothing extremely distinct in this dance ditty, Usher's smooth vocals that glides across the words impeccably makes up for it especially in the soaring bridge. To me, this is an easy to listen dance track that I can imagine being performed live with a flawlessly choreographed routine.

22. Thinking Bout You
Frank Ocean

There's something incredibly compelling about this sensual R&B inflected jam, which features Frank Ocean's ethereal falsetto that's very reminiscent of Maxwell. The song structure is simple and the hook isn't compressed to maximum brightness, but with his bewitching vocals coupled with a fragile synth and throbbing beat, on which everything else loops and builds, the song just soars.

21. As Long As You Love Me
Justin Bieber (ft. Big Sean)

Despite the preposterous lyrics, this Justin Bieber track is hard hitting and catchy thanks to the hypnotic, dubstep-infused production that serves the song well. The lyrical theme is more adult, which compliments his passionate vocals and newly honed falsetto, and the rap verses of Big Sean adds a good dynamics to the song. It's a definite club banger and possibly one of the strongest songs in his most recent record.

20. Locked Out of Heaven
Bruno Mars

At first listen, I admit that I was disappointed as the melody seemed weak for a Bruno Mars song. But boy was I wrong! Locked Out of Heaven certainly has that retentive prowess - meaning, the song's a grower. I definitely didn't expect this sound and I was bopping with the tune from start to finish. The production is brilliant and non-generic with a faster and hip-swinging verses. Not as grandiose as Just The Way You Are or Grenade, but it evokes a vintage atmosphere that is typical Bruno Mars.

19. Wide Awake
Katy Perry

Driven by a soft synth and a delicate drum beat, this poignant mid-tempo ditty plays to Katy Perry's solid pipes as she earnestly sings an ode to a bittersweet heartbreak. The melody is gorgeous, the electronic production is polished and her breathy delivery gives the song a certain wave of sadness, which makes this ultimately relatable.

18. One And Only

There has to be an Adele song in this list somewhere no? One And Only holds to subtle instrumentation and simple structure that allows her raspy and expressive voice to develop the story in the verses before she delivers the hook of this beautifully written and arranged track. The sheer power and emotion in her voice is endlessly stunning and with its mellow verses and heartfelt chorus, anyone that has been through heartbreak can relate with this song.

17. Where Have You Been

Often criticized for her vocals, Rihanna pulls off effortlessly an impressive vocal challenge in this infectious, dance-infused track without a hitch. The track opens humbly with simple instrumentation until a swelling of electronic production builds into something eargasmic. The progression to that one big strobe-lit chorus and a dubstep influenced breakdown is exhilarating making this an obvious follow up to her hit We Found Love.

16. A Thousand Years
Christina Perri (ft. Steve Kazee)

There is absolutely nothing groundbreaking about this Christina Perri track, but it's a seriously satisfying listen for anyone who loves a good ballad. The structure is simple yet stunningly gorgeous, and with her effortless vocals and an accompanying piano arrangement complementing one another perfectly, this is a song that will try it's hardest to make you all sentimental.

15. Undone
Haley Reinhart

Built on a gorgeous piano arrangement, this plaintive ballad reveals a vulnerable side to the former American Idol finalist. It has a beautiful melody and combined with Haley Reinhart's remarkable vocals, which can transition from crystal clear readings of her words to throaty belt in an instant, the effect is highly emotional. Romantic pain has rarely been so utterly beautiful and her soulful tone and delivery is ideally suited for songs like this.

14. Too Close
Alex Clare

On paper, mixing an impressive, soulful voice with a thick, dubstep style beats and flashy production sounds like a disaster waiting to happen, but somehow Alex Clare pulls everything off quite impressively. Yes, he can make use of his pure voice in a more organic setting, however, his striking vocals and that controlled and well-balanced arrangement and production makes this a dynamic song that grabs you until the whole thing subsides.

13. What Makes You Beautiful
One Direction

Catchy. Upbeat. Cute Boys. Haha. This empowering - if a bit cheesy - jam that caters solidly to teenage girls has a melody that is dangerously exuberant with a chant that begs anyone to sing along. So while I'm not particularly a big fan of the group, this I dare say is one of the catchiest tunes to come along this year and with a positive message, it's the ideal song for teenagers with low self esteem to hear.

12. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Taylor Swift

Annoyingly brilliant! True, this is yet another breakup song from Taylor Swift, someone who has become more known for writing songs about boys, love, fairytale and, yes, broken romances, but this seems more anthemic with a lush pop production rather than her usual country arrangements. It's a solid effort with lyrics that glide along the line of bitterness, sarcasm and self-confidence. But the song's charm lies on how Taylor makes the song sounds genuine and conversational.

11. Titanium
David Guetta (ft. Sia)

Another self empowerment anthem that has become a staple within the pop genre in recent years. David Guetta's production value on this one isn't extraordinary by any means - although the relentless stereo guitar, which has a nice reverb effect, is a nice touch - but Sia's strong vocals give this a refreshing and glorious layer to the track. Add to the fact that, lyrically, this is relatively more profound than any of Guetta's work since When Love Takes Over.

10. Lights
Ellie Goulding

From the first synthesizer blips that kick off the song, you feel yourself being taken off to a playful and fanciful musical world. Lights is an airy and light piece of electro-pop that sound fresh next to the synth heavy productions and club beats that saturate radio play today. Backed with Ellie Goulding's ethereal vocal timbre, the rhythmic effect from the light percussion keeps the beat moving through the melody. The track is easy to the ears, catchy and has a chorus that easily morphs the whole number into a total earworm.

09. Safe & Sound
Taylor Swift (ft. Civil War)

Hauntingly beautiful! Who knew Taylor Swift actually had this in her? Written by the country superstar herself for The Hunger Games soundtrack, this gorgeous ballad is a far cry from the bouncy and bubbly teen romance ditties we're used to getting from her. The writing shows an interesting degree of depth on her part and she sings it with an eerie breathiness giving the song an almost lullaby sound. Easily one of my favorite songs Taylor Swift has ever written. Safe & Sound is anything but safe and sound.

08. Lego House
Ed Sheeran

A gentle acoustic number with a sound of an expertly strung guitar and a raspy voice that has the ability to make one go wobbly at the knees. It's an immaculately constructed song that has a fantastic melody, verses that are catchy enough to stand on its own, and a bridge that drops a beat leading to a rapid fire vocal - almost like a melodic rapping reminiscent of Craig David. That, paired with Ed Sheeran's incredible voice, and it's already a pop gem.

07. Home
Phillip Phillips

Celebratory. Honest. Simple. The song that won Phillip Phillips the title of American Idol this year and possibly the best and most successful coronation song out of the show's 11-year history. Home is an excellent feel good song that's incredibly uplifting without being cheesy. The song sounds contemporary and Phillip's vocals are interestingly inviting than commanding. The production from the relentless guitar strums and drumline to the participatory claps gives the track that necessary thematic element of triumphant.

06. Diamonds

With Rihanna, I guess you just don't know what to expect no? Diamonds is not the killer club banger I have been expecting, but instead, it's a mid tempo track that's relatively light but gorgeously soulful and still has that incredibly catchy hook. This is definitely a nice change of pace from her usual hectic dance beats and it's really refreshing to hear a song that's built around her voice and not the other way around. In fact, this showcases her vocals - her lower register, to be specific - in a way that she hasn't explored since, California King Bed, and there's a certain quality of calmness to her vocals. To me, this is Rihanna leading the charge in pop as this is not a lazy copy of what's come before. Good for her.

05. I Won't Give Up
Jason Mraz

There is a maturity to both Jason Mraz's vocals and his writing that is exquisite. What starts off as a very mellow and gentle acoustic number slowly builds into a bracing statement of love. The production is focused, with a surprising progression from a simple and delicate melody to an arrangement that pulsates and soars. Powerful. Heartfelt. Lovely.

04. Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)
Kelly Clarkson

The Queen of Power Anthems! Sure, Stronger has the same anthemic song structure just like most of her songs, but this one has an extremely rousing uptempo melody with a big, rushing chorus and vocal fireworks galore. Plus, the vibrant beat and driving electric guitar accents gives her words even more impact. This, to me, is one of Kelly Clarkson's catchiest singles to date.

03. We Are Young
Fun. (ft. Janelle Monae)

With an insistent pounding drum beat, this warm retro sound by Fun. is possibly one of the most engaging songs of the year. From the careful layering of instrumentation of bright piano beats and booming drums to the multiple vocal harmonies - especially from Janelle Monae's vocal that slides despite the busy layers of the production - We Are Young makes anyone want to sing out loud. It's positive, thoughtful, and immensely "chill".

02. Somebody That I Used To Know
Gotye (ft. Kimbra)

In a sea of flashy productions, this laid back Gotye track is instantly memorable and captivating. It has a spare and elegant arrangement with a touch of futuristic shimmer of electronic sound and lyrics that are decidedly depressing, but brilliant and utterly relatable. Gotye's voice, which has a palpable raw emotion, compliments Kimbra's wispy yet powerful vocals that gives the tune a certain quality of warmth and melancholy. An excellent piece of indie-pop.

01. Call Me Maybe
Carly Rae Jepsen

Hey, I just met you. And this is crazy. But here's my number. So call me, maybe? Can there be any more recognizable set of words this year than this ubiquitous track from the former Canadian Idol finalist, Carly Rae Jepsen? This song isn't life changing by any means, but it's an excellently catchy pop song with a structure that has an intriguing melody, a striking touch of strings, and an unexpected staccato delivery to Carly Rae's vocals during the verses. It's flirty and giddy and it has an indescribable sense of joy that is ultimately powerfully infectious.

OTHER NOTABLE SONGS: Payphone by Maroon 5, Glad You Came by The Wanted, Starship by Nicki Minaj, Drive By by Train, Everybody Talks by Neon Trees, Blow Me (One Last Kiss) by Pink, The One That Got Away by Katy Perry and, yes, the overly popular Oppa Gangnam Style by Psy. 

NEXT: 20 Best Movies of 2012
Year-End List 2012: 25 Songs Reviewed by DAM on 11:48 PM Rating: 5

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