Top 50 Tracks of 2012: 10-01

surviving the golden age, best of 2012
Frank Ocean, Thinkin Bout You10. Frank Ocean “Thinkin Bout You”
It’s no coincidence that the most traditional R&B song on Frank Ocean’s Channel Orange is also the artist’s best song to date. For an artist who has taken on a sort of “flavor of the week” role this past year, “Thinkin’ Bout You” is a reminder that Ocean’s talent and charisma would hit the zeitgeist just as emphatically 30 years ago as it has today. It’s a masterclass in R&B vocals and proof that Channel Orange is only the beginning of Ocean’s assured musical dominance for the next decade. – Mark Steinbach
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David Byrne, St. Vincent, Who9. David Byrne and St. Vincent “Who”
The opening track from David Byrne and St. Vincent‘s collaborative album, Love This Giant causes quite a bit of disequilibrium. The open brass line goes through twice before any accompaniment comes in but the acoustic guitar strumming does not start in the logical place: the one beat. Instead it starts on the upstroke causing a disjointed feeling. The disjointed feeling continues through the entire song. But while at first disconcerting, once you get used to it, the song is actually a genius pop track. – Adam Morgan
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Japandroids, Younger Us8. Japandroids “Younger Us”
Simultaneously an earnest ode to adolescence and an intense pop punk anthem, “Younger Us” is almost impossible to dislike. Japandroids were lauded this year for both the force of their songs and the maturity of their writing. “Younger Us,” released officially as a single two years ago, is a welcome inclusion on Celebration Rock, giving the album an injection of youthful carelessness and poetry. – Mark Steinbach

meek mill, drake, amen7. Meek Mill featuring Drake “Amen”
If you check my account, I listened to no song more in 2012 than Meek Mill and Drake‘s “Amen.” There is a reason for that. Part of it is the summer anthem feel created by Jahlil Beats and Key Wane organ-laced production that sounds like a Methodist service gone awry. The other half are the verses that are easy enough for even a white guy for me to rap along to. While the verse drop an exorbitant level of braggadocio, there is something very real when Drake raps “I ain’t lyin’ in my verses I’m just telling you the basics of growin’ up with your friends and becoming the one that made it.” – Adam Morgan
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Carly Rae Jepsen, Call Me Maybe6. Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”
As a collection of people, there was no song that Americans heard more than Carly Rae Jepsen‘s “Call Me Maybe” this year. Every morning this summer, the Today Show featured someone new doing a choreographed dance to the track. It is all because the track is so damn danceable. Using the same eurodance beat that vaulted Snap! and Ace of Base into the spotlight during the 90s, made a Canadian Idol cast-off the biggest pop star of the year. – Adam Morgan
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Usher, Climax5. Usher “Climax”
Spin Magazine named “Alt-R&B” their trend of the year. And while they used the phrase to vault Frank Ocean to genre-defining status, there is no doubt that Usher bested him with “Climax.” A painfully slow-burning track that rushes to nothing, “Climax” showed why Usher has become a pop superstar: he has the voice and the patience. While Frank Ocean could just be a specter, Usher continues to be the voice of his generation. – Adam Morgan
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taylor swift, we are never ever getting back together4. Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
“You Belong with Me” was the crossover hit that made Taylor Swift the ultimate girl next door. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” shattered that image because she no longer has that puppy-love stigma surrounding her. Instead, it has been replaced with generation-y snark which is almost more endearing. A girl who would cheer for you from the bleachers was cool but a woman who could sarcastically chuckle “hide away and find your piece of mind with an indie record that’s MUCH cooler than mine” is a rare prize. – Adam Morgan
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C2C, down the road3. C2C “Down the Road”
While looking at Spotify’s charts for France, I came across an entrant I had never heard before: C2C‘s “Down the Road.” Upon listening to the track my ears were greeted with the loudest boom-bap beat backing a delta blues record being scratched by four of the world’s premier talents. The group, who won the Disco Mix Club World Team DJ Championship four years in a row between 2003 and 2006, knocked a homerun out of the park with “Down the Road.” – Adam Morgan
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2. Kanye West featuring Big Sean, 2 Chainz and Pusha T “Mercy”
Despite Cruel Summer being the most disappointing project Kanye West has ever put his name on, it still produced the great moment of “Mercy.” Begin with a shrill adlib from a forgotten dancehall record, Kanye develops a menacing trill beat based around the most gangster sample possible–“Tony’s Theme” from Scarface. Upon this beat, Big Sean does what he does best: raps a forgettable verse while creating a memorable one word adlib. His addition of “swerve” during the song’s “Lamborghini mercy, your chick, she so thirsty/I’m in that two-seat Lambo with your girl, she tryna jerk me” chorus is as memorable a moment as Kanye’s synth-filled futuristic bridge and 2 Chainz‘ song stopping verse. – Adam Morgan
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Shins, Simple Song1. The Shins “Simple Song”
Ever since The Shins‘ soundtracked the better moments of Garden State, they have felt like the biggest little indie band in America–a band that the masses may not be able to name but whose songs they definitely know. “Simple Song” sounds like a band striving for more. James Mercer penned the song about marriage and the beginning of starting a family but it does not sound that humble. The track feature big, arena rock guitars, drumstick-breaking percussion, and Mercer desperately trying to reign his flighty voice into something more assertive. In the end, the elements align perfectly to create the Shins’ greatest song. – Adam Morgan
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