30) Little Mix – Wings
From that opening smash of brass I was sold on Wings, the sound of Little Mix marching to claim the girl group crown for their own. In this one song they transition between their inspirational, sassy and all around badass personas at lightning speed, the production creating the catchiest marching tune ever made. In one song, Little Mix achieved more than The Saturdays did in 3 albums, and became the first worthy successor to Sugababes we’ve seen.
29) The XX – Angels
It’s hard to think of a song as pretty as Angels was in 2012. Given their reputation for oddly monotone melancholy singing and constant bass guitar accompaniment, Angels was a revelation. Singer Romy delivers a perfectly restrained vocal holding your attention, even over the emptiness of the accompaniment. It’s a unique song on this list, but was definitely one of my highlights of the year.
28) Fun. – We Are Young (Feat. Janelle Monae)
I’ll admit it was that feature that first got me interested in We Are Young, but once I gave the song a listen I knew that it would become a massive hit. It has that quality of being the sort of record you can listen to alone in your room, as well as in a club with drunken people singing along. If you break it down, the whole thing is like a boyband song torn to shreds and pieced together at half speed. A Na Na section, talk of being young, a stripped back ending, it;s a formula that made for one of 2012’s iconic songs.
27) Drake – Crew Love (Feat. The Weeknd)
Drake has to be up there as my most listened artist of the year, the singles from Take Care constantly on repeat. Crew Love was one of the few actually released this year and is every bit as amazing as those from 2011. One of my favourite raps from Drake, the ‘and really I think who I’m becoming’ defines everything that he was going for with Take Care. The Weeknd provides an incredible vocal as well as some of the most intense production heard all year to make Crew Love a simple joy to hear.
26) Kanye West – Mercy (Feat. Big Sean, Pusha T & 2 Chainz)
If you paid attention to my album list, the most obvious ommision was Kanye’s label record Cruel Summer. It didn’t make the cut due to the lack of decent songs outside of the main singles, desite said singles being the Hip-Hop jams of 2012. Most of Mercy belongs to Big Sean and his ‘Swerve’, ryhming ass with ass so often in his amazing opening verse you’d think Nicki was about to turn up. Just when you think you know what Mercy is all about, Kanye turns up, switches up the production completely and delivers one of the best verses of the year. Much like the Kanye songs yet to appear, Mercy is god damn tune, and one with the craziest hook of the year.
25) Rihanna – Diamonds
Rihanna finally released the Umbrella sequel fans like me were waiting for, and Diamonds was worth the 5 year wait. Leading an album campaign with a mid-tempo was risky given We Found Love was the equivelent last album, but the song held its own. Getting Sia on board was an obvious move, but Diamonds still sounds like a Rihanna record. The ‘shine bright’ chorus may feel light a retread of Umbrella, the fact these diamonds are in the sky like raindrops making it even more so, but in my book sounding like Umbrella is the biggest compliment a song can recieve.
24) Adele – Skyfall
You thought she was gone but Adele makes a second appearance on one of my lists. Adele was preoccupied with illness and later her baby in 2012, meaning she hardly did any promotion for 21 or her only single Skyfall. She has the power to still be the biggest artist of the year without lifting a finger, quoted as recording Skyfall in just 10 minutes. In those minutes she recorded the best Bond theme since the Shirley days, with sweeping strings and deep vocals that rise to an epic final chorus worthy of the Bassey comparison.
23) Jay-Z & Kanye West – No Church In The Wild (Feat. Frank Ocean)
As the opening track to Watch The Throne, No Church In The Wild is probably as dramatic as Adele’s song. Jay and Kanye both expertly deliver verses full of brilliant moments, and having Frank Ocean on vocals was a brilliant decision by the pair. The star of No Church In The Wild is that rolling guitar sample heard throughout. It’s threatening, dramatic and cinematic in the way it sweeps in and out of focus at key moments. In terms of production, No Church In The Wild is like a movie with Jay and Kanye as the stars.
22) Frank Ocean – Pyramids
The crowing centrepiece of Channel Orange, Pyramids is ridiculous in scale. There’s influences from just about every genre in this 10 minute epic, from the classic RnB vocals to the stab of Eurodance that catches you off guard a minute or so in. It’s one of the best moments in music of the year and made me change my whole outlook on Ocean the first time I heard it. The song devolves into another halfway through, the closest any artist has come to achieving the switch ups seen on The-Dream’s albums. It’s a journey from Egypt to the strip club, one that 2012 wouldn’t have been the same without.
21) Florence & The Machine – Spectrum (Say My Name) (Calvin Harris Remix)
The other hook up between Flo and Calvin narrowly misses out on my top 20. Harris adds some extra oomph to an already dramatic song, but Florence remains the main attraction. The biggest chorus of her career, screaming along to ‘Say my naaaaaammmmee’ is something just about every person in the country has done in 2012. The way she pronounces ‘illumiates’ is another favourite of mine, it’s a dance record that stays classy throughout, something not many artists could attest to in 2012.