10) Nicki Minaj – Beez In The Trap (Feat. 2 Chainz)
My most impassioned relationship of 2012 was with Ms Minaj, an artist who should be my favourite of the era but does everything in her power not to be. Beez in The Trap is a reason for the former those drip drops in the production fills up to produce her most infectious hip hop song yet. That chorus is so Nicki, calling out those other female rappers who really shouldn’t bother to mess with her, even if I still to this day have no clue what ‘The Trap’ is, or how you can ‘Beez’ in it. The fact that I love this song despite the appearance of 2 Chainz, officially the worst music act of 2012 goes a long way to show how obsessed I was with that hook. With the same vibe as my favourite Nicki track Did It On Em, this is the sort of song I would go crazy to in a club. Shame everyone decided to buy Starships instead.
9) Kanye West – Clique (Feat. Big Sean & Jay-Z)
Most definitely the hip-hop track of 2012, Clique saw Big Sean join in on the best track from The Throne not make it onto last year’s collab album. The pulsating bassline lets it stand next to the dubstep infused dance records this year, but Clique builds into something much more dramatic very quickly. It’s closest relation is H.A.M. which makes me imagine this was originally meant for Watch The Throne like that Jay and Kanye hit, the choir and clattering drum section that appears every minute or so achieves the monumental sound Kanye chose to dial down. All three rappers deliver incredible verses, but it’s Jay-Z who takes things to another level, showing the younger men how to do it. I was sold on Clique from those opening bars of bass, and it’s been an absolute tune ever since.
8) Swedish House Mafia – Greyhound
Of all the Swedish House Mafia songs that could make the cut in 2012, Greyhound has left the biggest mark on me. At nearly 7 minutes long it’s the longest track in my top 10, but unlike other lengthy tracks it feels like Greyhound is over as soon as it’s began. One epic build up after another, Greyhound never lets up thrusting another ridiculous layer of pounding synth and dub bass into view every minute. It never slows down either, each time you think you are nearing the end they throw another instrument into the mix. By far my favourite of the trio’s work to date, I think it’s the lack of vocals that pushes Greyhound over the edge, never has an instrumental track captured my attention like this before. 4 minutes into this marathon of euphoria part of you is telling you it’s time for the end, but those 3 minutes push it even more. It’s an exhausting experience, but most definitely one of my biggest tunes of 2012.
7) Plan B – Playing With Fire (Feat. Labrinth)
Plan B makes another appearance with the song that made me know iLL Manors was my album of 2012. Playing With Fire is soulful, emotional and dramatic, defining the album as a whole in one fell swoop. The blend of genres is effortless, the hints towards a dancier dubstep record never quite working out as the song takes a darker route for first of the song’s two hooks. The distant vocals from Labrinth give it this distinctly eerie edge, especially when heard next to the clearer vocals from Drew. There’s a section of about 20 seconds that includes the end of Plan B’s second verse and the start of Labrinth’s that amazes me each and every time I hear it. Following such a powerful verse, it’s that scratch of guitar right before everything ‘goes off’ that made Playing With Fire one of my most memorable records of the year.
6) Rihanna – Where Have You Been
I gave Rihanna a pretty rough time on this list last year, I placed We Found Love at #40 which on reflection was a huge mistake. It’s technically the best song on Talk That Talk, but on a personal basis Where Have You Been is leagues ahead. Where the bigger hit is restrained and simple, Where Have You Been is ridiculously over the top and crazy, Rihanna’s vocal in particular barely holding together on those big notes. It’s as full of character as the artist herself, which makes it so much more believable as a record. It pushes that bit more in the closing moments too, the ‘yeah, yeah’s that emerge over the final ‘wooaaah’ living up to the slow build up throughout the second half. A banging dance anthem that completes the Calvin Harris domination on this countdown.
5) Rudimental – Feel The Love (Feat. John Newman)
The top 10 is all club tracks isn’t it! Feel The Love came from nowhere to end up as my favourite dance record of 2012. It’s brilliantly constructed, a simple yet unique vocal line with the best drum and bass production of the year the song expands at every moment your ear wants it to. That entry of trumpet is faultless, a glorious unexpected moment in the sort of record the chart is already full of. It isn’t the same in your face madness of tracks like Where Have You Been and Greyhound, where you can hear the effort the creators have put in. Feel The Love is a track you imagine just happened, an effortless flow of music rather than a forced attempt to make a club banger. Rudimental may have just perfected Drum and Bass with Feel The Love.
4) Usher – Climax
With his Raymond Vs Raymond album, Usher had a slew of massive club hits with songs like OMG and DJ Got Us Falling In Love blowing up on the charts. I expected his next album to follow suit, but instead he unveiled the lead single the Diplo produced jam Climax. Who would have guessed Usher would release a song as expansive as this, it’s majesty coming from the juxtaposition of the lyrics and the production. Climax is the sexiest song not about sex ever made, everything other than the tease of a title avoiding the subject. The fact that Diplo never ever lets the production reach said climax makes this the ultimate tease of a record. It hits you deep as it builds up and then suddenly drops out. With a song this good, I’ll let Usher off for destroying my voice this year. Trying to hit those ridiculous falsetto notes in the chorus has proven to be an impossible task for me.
3) Plan B – Deepest Shame
The final entry for Mr Drew, Deepest Shame is the pinnacle of his singles career so far. The most straightforward pop song on iLL Manors, Deepest Shame sees Plan B return to the same emotive vocals seen on songs like She Said and Prayin’. No other song affected me emotionally like this did, not since Dancing On My Own has a song nearly brought me to tears. The rap verse lodged in the middle is lyrically flawless, it’s heartbreaking in its depiction of central character Michelle who is so lost in her life that there’s no way back. ‘With only herself to blame she lives this hell but there’s a millions other girls just like Michelle, out in the streets with nothing else to sell to these desperate males other than themselves’ it’s lyrics like that so simple in their brilliance that make Deepest Shame for me. It’s the best track on my album of the year, so there’s no surprise it’s made it so high on this list.
2) Sleigh Bells – Comeback Kid
Comeback Kid spent most of 2012 atop my ongoing playlist of the year, I kept on waiting for a song to better it. Eventually one did, but the impact Comeback Kid left on me has never diminished. It’s the definitive example of what Sleigh Bells have attempted to achieve with their albums. This is like a replication and perfection of their debut Treats condensed into exactly 3 minutes. It’s nowhere near as deep or lyrically compelling as any of the other tracks in the top 10, but this is loud and ferocious whilst remaining tuneful throughout. It’s an incredible pop song with the bass portion of the vocals removed and replaced by screeching guitar riffs. Alexis is this distant vocal, the juxtaposition of this ethereal angelic tone with the crash of cymbals making for a track that was unlike any other in 2012. Comeback Kid will probably be the defining track of Sleigh Bells career, and what a massive track it is.
1) Karmin – Brokenhearted
For the last 2 years my favourite artists Kanye and Robyn have occupied the top 2 positions on my singles list. in 2012 however I have relatively new male/female duos switching things up dramatically. You could say that Comeback Kid and Brokenhearted are the antithesis of each other, but hearing them back to back while writing this post I’ve started to see the connection between the two.The female pop vocal on both make them immediate hits whilst the massive sound of each record comes courtesy of the male in the group. Brokenhearted just edges past Comeback Kid for its simplicity and effortless blend of love and heartbreak. It’s not a sad song in the slightest, despite the name, it’s hopeful and empowering. A Dancing On My Own comparison isn’t out of the question, lead singer Amy may be waiting all, but she’s not letting that stop her from ‘poppin bottles by the phone’. She’s demanding that should be no heartbreak in her life right now, even if it means overselling herself slightly, ‘Anything you wanna do, I be on it too’. As new artists, Karmin give it everything they’ve got on their debut hit, something missing with so many of the pop hits in 2012. Amy’s trademark rapping is used to great effect, never crossing the fine line between quirky and annoying, the same happening with that mindlessly catchy hook which avoids being unnecessarily long. Brokenhearted was a song I never expected to take the top spot. It does so without attempting to push boundaries and without a gimmick to make it a hit. It’s simply a damn good pop song, and in 2012 that was thing I was craving the most.