Top 12 Songs of 2012
Jonny Chadwick compiles his ultimate playlist for 2012. Is your favourite on there?
Although released in 2012, Grown Up has the distinctive mark of 90s hip-hop. The poor-to-paid narrative nostalgically evokes Juicy in its self-satisfaction, but this is not a mere nod to a prominent predecessor. It is Brown’s effortless delivery that makes the song stand out, each syllable dripping with the smugness of a man who has scaled such lofty heights in spite of all opposition. (Probably the best music video of 2012 too)
Dylan Baldi, the man behind Cloud Nothings, is no stranger to the simple guitar pop melody. Having constructed a joyously teenage debut album about being rejected by girls, he enlisted the help of producer Steve Albini for his second full-length. As one would expect from the man who worked on Nirvana’s In Utero and Manic Street Preachers’ Journal For Plague Lovers, Albini’s influence made Cloud Nothings’ sound harder, heavier and much less playful. This is most evident on Wasted Days, a near nine-minute cacophony of meaty riffs and ominous vocals. Halfway through, the song descends into a cacophony of noise before re-emerging with Baldi repeating the line ‘I thought I would be more than this!’, a foreboding final statement from one of the most visceral rock songs of 2012.
Japandroids love partying, and their music is permeated with a sense of urgency. There is a tangible sense of anxiety that any moment should be wasted in not living life to the full. The House That Heaven Built is perhaps the best example of that on their thrilling second album, Celebration Rock. Including one of the best lyrics of the year, ‘You’re not mine to die for anymore, so I must live’, the track rarely lets up throughout its five minute duration as Japandroids simultaneously attach great importance to every moment whilst refusing to dwell on them.
The brilliance of Genesis is in the gorgeous layering of so many elements. With so much going on, it would be easy to lose certain aspects amongst a mess of instrumentation, but Claire Boucher manages to keep each part distinguished from the next to create a deeply satisfying whole.
Hudson Mohawke and Lunice collaborate to make one of the most thrilling dance tracks in recent memory. The brilliance is in the creation of a sound so full and exciting from such simple elements. One hook, one beat and one sample combine to make a song that is still just as satisfying on the thirtieth listen as the first. Banger.
Tom Krell writes bedroom pop for people to listen to in their bedrooms. & It Was U begins much like any How To Dress Well track: a soft vocal over minimal instrumentation. However, as the song evolves the beats progressively grow until the listener finds themselves transported out of the caustrophobic bedroom setting and firmly onto the dance floor.
It was no surprise that Chromatics were included on the soundtrack to Drive. The polished production of their music was perfectly matched with the blockbuster’s slick and stylish aesthetic. On Kill for Love, a beautifully slow and deceptively simple pop song, the space around the sparse instrumentation serves to transform a small-scale melody into an astonishingly euphoric creation.
CHVRCHES certainly have an ear for melancholy. Vocalist Lauren Mayberry’s voice has a devastating sadness that is at once fragile and powerful, while the anthemic synth melody soars from the huge verse into the even bigger chorus. The most exciting thing is that, as those who have seen them live will confirm, they already have four or five other equally euphoric tracks waiting to be released.
Probably the most hyped artist of the entire year, Kendrick Lamar does not lack confidence. Therefore it is no surprise when Lamar introduces Backseat Freestyle with the lines ‘Martin had a dream, Martin had a dream, Kendrick have a dream’. His self-regard is not misplaced, as his ambition and talented has created the most accomplished rap record since My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. (The song also wins the accolade of rhyme of the year for ‘My scrotum, imposin”.)
In a chart pop scene dominated by the likes of Rihanna, it is refreshing to see the success of a track like Call Me Maybe. The innocence and simplicity of the chorus’ vocal over that gigantic synth string melody is a combination that is simply impossible to resist. With brilliantly non-sensical lines like ‘Before you came into my life, I missed you so bad’, Call Me Maybe is an objectively brilliant song.
Frank Ocean’s second record, Channel Orange, would have risked being overshadowed by the publicity surrounding his revealing of his sexuality if it had not been so large in scale and ambition and so perfect in its execution. At over 9 minutes in length, Pyramids was not the conventional choice for a first cut from a major label debut. Detailing the story of a strip club worker, the song steadily evolves from a slow jam to a club banger before effortlessly morphing into a smooth r&b croon over whirring synths.
Quite simply the most enjoyable song of 2012. From the huge pop chorus to the hilarious spoken word part just after the middle eight, this was a masterfully joyous piece of songwriting. Swift’s self-awareness adds to the charm of the single- she makes absolutely no pretensions to alternative credibility, instead embracing her role as a pop star and creating the best song of 2012. It may never be bettered… like ever.