People often step to me and say, ‘Limmy, it must be so hard deciding your Top 10 songs of the year. I mean, gurl, you listen to so much shit.’ I then pat their head gently with all the love and sagely kindness of Yoda and say, ‘A Top 10 song you will know, when you hear’.
And usually that’s not just with one listen. It’s with multiple listens – over and over – everywhere you go. You start making up situations in your daily life so you can mention the song to a friend or quote its lyrics on Twitter. You sneak it into mixtapes for friends and in multiple playlists. You get really fucking upset when people rubbish it or clearly haven’t watched the video for it even though you’ve posted it on their Facebook wall, like, a thousand times this week.
So having said that, my Top 10 songs of 2012 are actually pretty obvious to people who know me. Unlike the albums of the year countdown where there were a few outer-pop forays, this countdown is a no-brainer.
Before we get to the Top 10 songs of 2012, here’s a quick recap of my other songs of the year:
#30 – ‘Scream’ by Usher
#29 – ‘Like a Girl in Love’ by Elen Levon
#28 – ‘Radioactive’ by Rita Ora
#27 – ‘Guilt Trip’ by John Rowley
#26 – ‘Wanna See U Dance (La La La)’ by Kat DeLuna
#25 – ‘Candy’ by Robbie Williams
#24 – ‘Do It Like That (Fred Falke Remix)’ by Ricki-Lee
#23 – ‘Closer’ by Tegan and Sara
#22 – ‘This Kiss’ by Carly Rae Jepsen
#21 – ‘Boys’ by Abelard
#20 – ‘Don’t Fail Me Now’ by Melanie Amaro
#19 – ‘Get Along’ by Guy Sebastian
#18 – ‘No Shame’ by Sarah De Bono
#17 – ‘I Heart You’ by Toni Braxton
#16 – ‘Fantastic Baby’ by Big Bang
#15 – ‘Gang Bang’ by Madonna
#14 – ‘I Found You’ by The Wanted
#13 – ‘Automatic’ by Nicki Minaj
#12 – ‘Starring Role’ by Marina and the Diamonds
#11 – ‘Home Run’ by Misha B
– #10 –
‘Blow Me (One Last Kiss)’
I don’t know where you hail from but here in Australia, it is considered un-Australian to not like Pink. The feisty yet down-to-earth American pop rocker is pretty much an honorary Aussie, given how much she tours here and how many tons of records she sells. However – as with any artist who has achieved ubiquity in the press, TV and radios – you grow tired of seeing Pink everywhere. ‘Blow Me (One Last Kiss)’ and its accompanying album The Truth About Love came at a point where I literally couldn’t handle any more Alecia Moore.
But there’s something about ‘Blow Me’ that just knocks me over every time I hear it. I know on paper it sounds like every other massive Pink uptempo we’ve heard in recent times. Producer Greg Kurstin, who has never written or produced for Pink before, totally nailed it – bringing out her signature raging vocals, can’t-fuck-with-me attitude, and this massive hook served over searing hot rock beats.
What separates ‘Blow Me’ from Pink‘s other recent uptempos – like ‘Raise Your Glass’ and ‘So What?’ – is that she’s actually pissed off and fed up with love. And she does this so fucking well. There’s this raw, trembling energy flowing through the song that reminded me of the sensation you get after you explode at someone. It’s a complex mix of anger, feeling vulnerable and a little defensive.
It’s a total meltdown moment when you hear Pink scream over head-banging beats and duelling guitars and synths: “I think I’ve finally had enough. I think I maybe think too much. I think this might be it for us. Blow me one last kiss!”
I love that the lyrics are also really visual and metaphorical, “White knuckles and sweaty palms from hanging on too tight… tie a knot in the rope, trying to hold, trying to hold but there’s nothing to grasp so I let it go!” Let’s not forget about the “sick Whiskey dick” part too.
– #9 –
‘Ghosts (Hermitude Trapped in Heaven Remix)’
I would like to thank Aussie hip hop maestros Hermitude for getting me properly obsessed and initiated into the world of trap. I find it strange that I’ve snuck into this hybrid hip hop/house style through an Aussie band when there are countless mixtapes and seminal records out there marked by T.I. and 2 Chainz that are probably closer to the core of the genre.
Hermitude‘s remix of The Presets‘ single ‘Ghosts’ outranks the original version in my books because I think it does what a really great remix is supposed to – it takes only the strongest, the most essential parts of the song, and regenerates it in a new light. This trap-style remix picks up elements like Julian Hamilton‘s wailings and comical ‘huh‘s, chops and changes it then fit them in with a fierce perforating beat.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this year’s albums and songs countdown, I’ve just been really inspired by a range of musical styles that I’ve never really come across before. Trap music is definitely one of them, and I’ve decided that if I can’t teach myself to make this kind of music, I wanna at least learn to dance to it like these hot mofos.
– #8 –
‘Can’t Say No’
Look. I do my best to keep up with what the children are listening to these days, not out of some vain hope of retaining my youth – I’m a gaysian. I am always gonna look at least seven years younger than my birth certificate – but because I never wanna lose sight of true pop. I think teeny bopper music and young pop idols are the heart of popular music, and you can’t be a legitimate music critic or pop music blogger if you turn up your nose at that.
Having said that, I have vehemently resisted Justin Bieber and Cody Simpson‘s music for the longest time and this year, the walls finally came down. I allowed myself into the fangurly Tumblr blogs and immersed myself in their tunes, listening wide-eyed and dreamily as if Biebz and Codez were singing to me and no other girl in the world. I mean, when I was growing up I didn’t allow myself to have such an intimate connection with male pop singers, so I’m really making up for it now.
19-year old British munchkin Conor Maynard quickly rose to be the king of my
fantasies new pop persuasion the second I heard his debut single ‘Can’t Say No’. There was something criminally sexy about the way his breathy vocals caressed your ears and the way your hips just wanna ride to that crisp, urban electro beat.
“They send my rocket to the sky, I want them. Should I go for them? I’m like, Houston. I think we got a problem.” Lord Jesus. I mean, the kid is singing about being tempted by fine females everywhere he goes even though he knows he’s got a girl waiting for him at home. It’s not necessarily something I can directly relate to but I still feel like it is a rather universal song for all men. Because, fellas, let’s be real – whether you’re young or mature, taken or single, gay, straight or licking on both sides, you’re thinking about sex all the time.
‘Can’t Say No’ taps into that carnal, sexual energy. It speaks to the tireless wandering eye and that age old temptation to do something about it. Whether it’s the girls in the club, or the cute guy on Grindr who is like 600 metres away, or just Justin fucking Bieber – you know you’ve thought about it.
– #7 –
It was a very cruel seven-month wait for Little Mix to finally debut ‘Wings’ – their proper, official first single. By this stage I was ready to take a fork to my kidneys because the anticipation itself was gonna end me anyway. I’ve been a fan of the UK X Factor-spawned girl group since they entered the live shows and repeatedly slayed your faves week after week until they eventually claimed the crown.
‘Wings’ was well worth the wait because it delivered precisely what we required from Little Mix: an infectious uptempo that was vibrant, fresh and vocally on-point. It was crucial that the girls, who were so often praised for their ability to harmonise like a seasoned girl band, didn’t lose that feature in their music. To be honest, it was what separated them from the pack, really.
There are so many songs recorded by girl bands lately that don’t actually emphasise any sense of togetherness or some form of collective identity. The focus has somewhat shifted from harmonies to giving members more solo lines and time to shine in their respective sections of the song. So thank fuck Little Mix came correct with ‘Wings’.
British production team TMS (who has delivered for the likes of Dappy and Professor Green) crafted a summery track with sassy horns, marching band drums and hand claps to boot. With all that energy already teeming from the music, it was easy to see why the girls clocked it as the perfect foundation to write an empowering anthem for a new generation – mixing in motherly advice with familiar, rosy metaphors about taking flight.
“Mama told me not to waste my life, she said spread your wings my little butterfly. Don’t let what they say keep you up at night. And if they give you sh**, then they can walk on by!” – Now tell me, what little girl or fabulous little boy wouldn’t wanna strut to the playground to that?
– #6 –
Hectic, carefree, and positively drippin’ with swagu: this is the fresh Nelly Furtado jam you want quaking the speakers at your house parties. I have to admit, I thought this song was too much to deal with the first time I heard it. It was one thing to handle the blaring horns when you’re nursing a hangover, but it’s another when you’re trying to make sense of Furtado‘s laissez-faire spoken word verses that resemble that of MIA‘s.
Eventually, after about two listens the following week, I gave in and it became tradition for me to cue this song as the first track through my headphones every time I left the house. There’s so much colour and confidence in the beats, you can’t help but walk a little differently when you hear that groove – kinda like the walk you do after you’ve just picked up at a bar.
‘Parking Lot’ was written by Furtado as some kind of nostalgic review of her hometown and y’know, the thing all young people who grew up in suburbia did to past time: hang out at random spots like the parking lot or drive around with their mates blasting music at deafening levels.
Sonically, the irresistible groove just moves you. I am infatuated with that ferocious stomp–stompstomp–clap beat, which recalls Gwen Stefani‘s ‘Hollaback Girl’, but I also can’t get enough of the sweet sing-along “Na na na na na! Ley! Ley!” section that calls for a touch of Hula dance moves. There’s even a touch of doo-wop in the verse at the very end with marching band beats, further emphasising Furtado‘s ability to cohesively amalgamate different musical ideas in her songs.
– #5 –
‘I Love You’
One of my favourite K-pop acts 2NE1 pretty much turned the party with ‘I Love You’, which is alarmingly their only Korean single this year. I’m just gagged because their second mini album (featuring ‘I Am The Best’ and ‘Ugly’) is still everything to me.
What I really love about ‘I Love You’ is that it doesn’t sound like a typical 2NE1 single. In the same way that ‘Call The Shots’ signalled a defining new direction for Girls Aloud, ‘I Love You’ did just that for 2NE1. We’ve heard the awesome foursome spit fire on fierce electronic hip hop and reggae fusion tracks for the past three years, so it’s a delightful to see them step out with an alluring intergalactic dance ballad for a change.
Structurally, they’ve jam packed like five different hooks into this song. It’s impossible to pick a favourite part as you’re trekking along because every section that follows seem to be better than the last one. CL starts you off with a sultry English spoken word intro and the first verse built on crescendoing synths, before you know it in comes the simple ethereal chorus resounding “I love you, oooooh-oooooh-ooooh”, which you only ever hear twice in this song.
Verse two and the middle eight are completely different experiences altogether, with Dara and CL leading the way with their sassy rap verses that feel like familiar landmarks of the 2NE1 sound. Just like it was with the girls’ fierce 2010 single ‘Can’t Nobody’, the very last verse in ‘I Love You’ is an absolutely dynamite hi-energy section that always feels too criminally brief. There you have screaming synths and pulsating dance beats competing with the girls’ final promises of “I love you everyday, don’t get away, take me away! I love you everyday, in every way, let’s holiday!”. Perfection.
– #4 –
‘Call My Name’
In the last 12 months, it’s been really interesting surveying people I come across about their knowledge of Cheryl Cole. I find that most young Australians do have some vague to beginners’-level understanding of the Geordie pop goddess thanks to her fervent appearance in women’s magazines and fashion blogs. However, start asking them about their favourite Cheryl song and you’re either greeted with cricket sounds or strained guesses, which usually lead to them trying to describe to you what she was wearing/doing in a particular music video. At this point, as a Chezza Soldier, it is your duty to quickly (and correctly) identify the song for your mate and put them out of their misery with a swift back hand to the face for not knowing better.
‘Just go home and look up ‘Call My Name’. It’s produced by Calvin Harris.’ That’s usually my quick fix recommendation. I say this because ‘Call My Name’ is the best Cheryl single to date. It is everything you want in a present-time dance/pop song: it sounds current and it manoeuvres beautifully across both club and daytime radio realms.
‘Call My Name’ was birthed from the fertile production loins of Scottish DJ Calvin Harris, who popped out ‘We Found Love’ for Rihanna, and although comparisons are rife with the aforementioned RiRi smash – this song sounds like something designed for a popstar.
The lyrics are tinged with infatuation and I love that it captures, in the simplest manner, how hypersensitised one gets when one is in love. “How’d you think I feel when you call my name? You got me confused by the way I change.” – It sums it up so beautifully and effectively.
One could also say the song holds personal relevance for Cheryl given that this is the first single she launched as just “Cheryl”. For the past six years she has been known as “Cheryl Cole”, taking the surname of her now ex-husband Ashley Cole. Even though they were separated not long after she launched her solo career, Cheryl kept the surname, but with the arrival of ‘Call My Name’ and her third album, finally came the switch to ditch it. It was time people said her name and got to know Cheryl.
– #3 –
‘Let’s Have a Kiki’
I can’t think of another song in 2012 that I have referenced more than ‘Let’s Have a Kiki’. If you were caught out in the rain, you weren’t just drenched, hunty. You was a “drowned, harassed rat”. If you were throwing a party or just organising a little get together involving fun music and friends, you was having a “kiki”. If you were gonna serve, you were also gonna “work and turn and huh-huh-honey”.
The arrival of this new Scissor Sisters cult classic couldn’t have been more timely. In a post-Rupaul’s Drag Race world where American drag lexicon is so readily traded and applied in every street corner and venue with smoke machines, we needed an anthem like this.
We needed an anthem that celebrated the camaraderie amongst our fiercest friends, an anthem that injects a heady dose of opulence, drama and downtown New York street cool.
I’ve always been a fan of any SS song that featured Ana Matronic‘s sassy spoken word verses and ‘Kiki’ let’s you have it in mothertrucking proportions in a freestyle-fashion over 90s house beats that sound fabulously fashioned for the ball.
– #2 –
‘What You’ve Done to Me’
I think there might’ve been a few clutching of pearls and startled reactions when Australians heard Samantha Jade‘s X Factor winning single: ‘What You’ve Done To Me’. I felt a collective turning of heads and quietly impressed expressions of, “this is actually pretty fucking good for an X Factor single.”
After years of being let down with dud recordings dealt by winners of these TV talent shows, ‘What You’ve Done To Me’ swiftly restored our hopes with its bombastic hook and thumping dance pop beats. It didn’t sound like a song you’d find tucked away in the bowels of some producer’s hard drive, as you often get with songs hurriedly pitched to talent show contestants. This song sounds like something hot you’d immediately rush to Selena Gomez or some other bankable Disney star. I quickly became obsessed with it.
Aussie songwriting and production duo DNA co-wrote ‘What You’ve Done To Me’ with Tania Doko (ex-Bachelor Girl) and Jorgen Elofsson (who has written for Britney, Steps and Agnes). Even though it was a universal pop song about feeling untouchable when you’re in love, I think in some strange way it also reflected Sammi’s fight to be a popstar.
It cuts close to home when you hear the X Factor queen, who was once signed to the same label to Britney, open with: “sometimes you get what you want, sometimes you get what you don’t, sometimes you get nothing at all”. In this context, ‘What You’ve Done To Me’ suddenly becomes the happy ending song for the underdog’s story, whether you’ve been unlucky in love or have struggled to make your dreams come true.
An addictive A-grade pop song delivered by such a promising and well-loved Australian pop princess-in-making, ‘What You’ve Done To Me’ just feels a gold medal moment in our nation’s memory of 2012.
– #1 –
No, duh. How many of you saw this coming? How many of y’all knew the ending before this countdown even began? Girls Aloud‘s all-conquering comeback single ‘Something New’ is officially my most played song of 2012, racking up well over 150 listens in just two months.
I’ve tried to slap myself out of this trance in time to finish the Top 10, because the song is still so fresh and is somewhat of a current obsession, I didn’t want it to affect my judgement. But for real, I just can’t think of any other song I would put above ‘Something New’ in 2012.
My #1 song of the year always goes to the song I imagine would take me back to memories and experiences unique to that particular year. The joy and hysteria I experienced when I first heard ‘Something New’ ranks as one of the most memorable music experiences I’ve had this year.
Girls Aloud is one of my favourite artists of all time and here we have their first single in three years. It wasn’t a fucking disappointment, like it was with the Spice Girls‘ comeback single ‘Headlines (Friendship whatever-the-fuck)’. This was a completely fan-serving outing. The girls hooked up with Xenomania once again, the driving force behind their success and sound, and delivered a high energy floor-filler that complements the sentiment surrounding their 10 year anniversary. This song embodies both nostalgia and excitement for the future.
There were elements of the good old bonkers Xenomania lyrics mingled with an assertive reminder of the girls’ place in pop, and how they famously trumped One True Voice 10 years ago to claim their first UK #1: “‘Cause we’re the leaders of the pack! Boy, you better watch your back.”
There’s also the old multiple-hook structure and rapid tandem singing of verses that has become so signature of Girls Aloud material. Both Nadine and Cheryl sound practically indistinguishable from each other as they fire off adrenalin-fuelled lines in the chorus. Just like it was in ‘The Promise’, Sarah is back moonlighting a distinct second verse. Kimberley slips comfortably between her bratty, spoken word rap verses and the enormous sung chorus. Nicola also held her own in ‘Something New’ – given that she has traditionally been dealt the softer, more atmospheric sections to sing, there’s actually very little opportunity in this song for her to resume that role, which I sense suited her just fine because she did mention during the recording of her solo album that she was tired of playing that part.
Y’know what? 10 or even eight years ago, I wouldn’t have thought that Girls Aloud would be such a big part of my life or could be so seminal in teaching me about pop music. Their decade-long discography is a schizophonic collage of sounds, referencing over 50 years of pop, often juxtaposing several styles in the space of one three-minute song. The approach to writing and creating multiple-hook intensive songs is inspiring. And with ‘Something New’ I can only hope that their legacy lives on in one way or another – whether it’s with the band’s future material or a regeneration of such an approach to making pop music that is adopted by a new wave of up-and-coming artists, perhaps, like myself.