From Rack City to the Gangnam District, pop music was a fun place to visit in 2012. We reconnected with old friends (Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj) and made some new ones as well (One Direction, fun., Our Girl…well, you know her name), with about as many different sounds and styles contending for our affections as we can remember in a long, long time.
2013 is already shaping up to be a year to be reckoned with as well, with new releases from 2012 absentees like Lady Gaga and Beyoncé on the way, but to quote the man Frank Ocean, we do not think so far ahead. So relive the year that was with our list of the 100 Best Songs of 2012—the boy-band songs, the one-hit wonders, the dancefloor anthems and the instant classics that made the year so unforgettable. Mayans, do your worst.
And by the way: Check out the rest of our year-end coverage, too!
100. TWIN SHADOW, “FIVE SECONDS”
A worthy successor to M83′s “Midnight City” as the year’s best, most lushly romantic ’80s-inspired synth-pop song, with a title and hook that demands emotional urgency in an effectively literal manner. —Andrew Unterberger
99. DAVID GUETTA FEAT. SIA, “TITANIUM”
The French DJ’s foolproof method of pairing treadmill-worthy beats with an above average female crooner gets new life with this inspirational take on metallics. —Emily Exton
98. NELLY FURATDO, “PARKING LOT”
It didn’t get much attention after first single “Big Hoops” tanked, but Nelly’s second Spirit Indestructible single “Parking Lot” was awesome, riding an inscrutably funky stomp-clap hook, with Nelly playfully serving as head head cheerleader: “Meet us in the parking lot / We’re gonna turn the speakers up / ‘Coz we ain’t doin’ nothin’.” —A.U.
97. SOLANGE, “LOSING YOU”
Beyonce’s little sister has a style and sound all her own on this somewhat regretful, somewhat empowering track. When paired with her effortlessly cool video (thanks to enviable dancing and wardrobe), it’s clear S is going to be all right with or without out the boy in question. —E.E.
96. BAAUER, “HARLEM SHAKE”
Don’t be surprised if this abrasive-but-impossibly-catchy jam ultimately ends up being sampled by as many pop and hip-hop songs as Major Lazer’s “Pon de Replay”—its prickly, lurching groove gets under your skin like no other song since. —A.U.
95. GRIMES, “OBLIVION”
The shimmering, shimmying nocturnal pop gem off Canadian pixie Grimes’ acclaimed Visions album, made all the more memorable by an exceedingly cute and unpretentious music video. —A.U.
94. R. KELLY, “SHARE MY LOVE”
Kellz is back with an instructional anthem for the people that should only be remembered for one word: “Populate.” —E.E.
93. MIRANDA LAMBERT, “OVER YOU”
Miranda’s ballad of loss and heartbreak, co-written by husband Blake Shelton about a real-life tragedy, would have endured for its heart-rending rawness (“You went away / How dare you? / I miss you!”) anyway, but Lambert maybe owes Cassadee Pope a thank-you card for turning it into one of the biggest reality TV hits of the year as well. —A.U.
92. CONOR MAYNARD, “CAN’T SAY NO”
2012 saw many claimants to Justin Timberlake’s vacant throne, but none could match the swagger of the young JT like this Apollo 13- quoting Brit. -Nate Jones
91. JASON MRAZ, “I WON’T GIVE UP”
Mraz’s third big hit, spaced over the course of a decade, was maybe his best, the first time when his goofy personality failed to overwhelm the strong pop songwriting underneath, resulting in a sweet love song that should be soundtracking married couples’ first dances for decades to come. —A.U.
For songs #90-81, click NEXT.