My attempts to review the musical identities of years gone by have had an annoying habit of collapsing in on themselves. I like to attribute this to the fact that my choice of poison is music of a popular nature. Yes, you read that correctly – I, Robert Gould, am a loud, proud pop music fan. In fact, my only real problem with pop music is how broad the term is. In one way I feel blessed to have so many classic records to work my way through, but I’m still in the early stages of it all. As a result I’ve ended up spending so much time digesting the complete works of, say, Madonna that the a lot of the output of 2012 has gone straight over my head. Now I know some sassy people out there will say this a good thing, but when I started to work my through all the Best of 2012 lists by Popjustice, NME et al I thought that maybe it wasn’t such a bad year after all. I can only hope one of my loyal spambots has a similar epiphany upon reading through my own compilation of the dizzying musical heights reached over the last 12 months…
10. Khia – “Fall Back”
I promise I am not being ironic when I say that Khia Shamone, esteemed ambassador for cunnilingus and beyond, created one of the best ballads of the year with “Fall Back”. Kelis only released two tracks this year, both quite middling affairs, and so it is both reassuring and depressing that the spirit of her best work could be so effortlessly captured by the undisputed Queen of the South.
9. Frank Ocean – “Thinkin Bout You”
Handsome, well spoken and undoubtedly talented, Ocean is the male pop star we’ve all been waiting for. His brand of ethereal R&B is epitomised by this smooth little number about unrequited love.
8. Rihanna – “What Now”
Against all the odds, Ms. #ThugLife herself delivered one of the years best albums. There were a variety of stunners laced throughout Unapologetic, but it’s “What Now” that embodies everything great about her new musical direction. The verses are soft and introspective, the chorus explosive and powerfully delivered. Whatever you think about her not-so-private private life, it’s songs like these that prove her team to be one of the smartest and most dynamic in the business.
7. Usher – “Climax”
Usher proves he still has it (‘it’ being that stunning falsetto) on this Diplo-produced ballad.
6. AlunaGeorge – “Your Drums, Your Love”
As you’ve probably already gathered, I am quite the fan of airy, mid-tempo ballads, and “Your Drums, Your Love” is a truly gorgeous example of what this sub-sub-genre is capable of.
5. No Doubt (feat. Busy Signal & Major Lazer) – “Push & Shove”
2012 was a messy year for No Doubt. Between the underperformance of comeback single Settle Down to the accusations of racial insensitivity for their Looking Hot video, people seemed to forget that their first album in more than a decade was actually a very solid effort. Wistful ballads “Sparkle” and “Dreaming the Same Dream” harked back to the No Doubt we knew and loved from the 90’s, while the superb title track was looking firmly to the future.
4. Lana Del Rey – “Ride”
It took me almost a year to get over Ms. Grant’s supposed inauthenticity, and I’m glad I did. “Ride” is a sumptuous road movie in sonic form, with an explosive chorus and middle-8 making up for it’s meandering tempo.
3. Girls Aloud – “Something New”
Now, I know their current single “Beautiful ‘Cause You Love Me” is more in need of the mass promotion this placement provides, but “Something New” was everything I wanted from a Girls Aloud comeback single. It somehow managed to be brash yet catchy, with plenty of Nadine Coyle to boot.
2. THEESatisfaction – “Sweat”
I believe “Sweat” is the closest an artist or band has come to encapsulating the sensations of sex in musical form. THEESatisfaction were my find of the year – their debut album Awe Naturale is a masterclass in shimmering, experimental R&B. Stream Awe Naturale in full here.
1. Madonna (feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.) – “Give Me All Your Luvin’”
A controversial choice, I’m sure. While I can understand every possible criticism leveled at this jittery gem of a song – the barebones production, Madge’s uninvolved vocals, the tacked-on raps – it still stands as an undoubtedly catchy and decidedly cocky call-to-arms for lobotomised Madonna fans everywhere.