30. BRUNO MARS, “LOCKED OUT OF HEAVEN”
Would “Locked Out of Heaven” still be one of the songs of the year without that air-horn like synth riff on the chorus? Probably, but that riff—and maybe Bruno’s chorus grunting is the thing that really elevates “Heaven” from being a top-notch Police rip-off to being one of the most exciting songs you’re likely to flip past on pop radio the last two months. —A.U.
29. NICKI MINAJ, “BEEZ IN THE TRAP”
While she’s been busy orchestrating and organizing many a feud this year, Nicki provides us with a stinging response to any haters threatening to foil our own personal quest for immortality. With sticky production and a feature from 2K12′s most ubiquitous (2 Chaaaaainz!), we applaud a song that finds ways to sincerely shout-out anti-cool locales like Hoboken, Delaware and Connecticut. —E.E.
28. FIONA APPLE, “EVERY SINGLE NIGHT”
Only a melody this lulling could house lyrics these unnerving without the song being completely unlistenable—let alone catchy, which “Every Single Night” comes dangerously close to being with its “Every single night’s a fight with my BRAIII-AI-AI-AI-AIIIII-AIIIIN.
27. TYGA, “RACK CITY”
Here we bow to the insight of old Popdust friend Brandon Soderberg of SPIN, whose first three reasons for “Why Tyga’s ‘Rack City’ is the Best Song on the Radio [In January 2012]” are “1. It sounds like it’s from six years ago, 2. It sounds like it’s from 26 years ago, 3. It sounds like it’s from 60 years in the future.” Rack, rack city bitch. —A.U.
26. FUN., “SOME NIGHTS”
It shouldn’t work. Queen-style harmonies, martial drumbeats, and the most melodramatic self-pity this side of Thought Catalog—who thought that would go together? But listen to “Some Nights” again and you can hear the tracks that paved the way for fun.’s ascendance this year: Their keen trick was in blending the earnestness of the Mumford crowd with the unapologetic artifice of Lady Gaga. That’s the sort of mix that fills the kids with Glee. —N.J.
25. CHER LLOYD, “WANT U BACK”
An entire timeline of Stockholm Syndrome in three-and-a-half minutes: Who is this manic muppet, and why is she grunting? Does she know he doesn’t want her back? At least she’s honest about her brattiness though, that’s refreshing. Do you think she’s in on the joke? Huh, it’s over already? OK, maybe just one more listen. Wait, why can’t I get her voice out of my head? Rimembah ol the things that you an’ oi did fuhst? No, stop looking at me like that, I’m just doing my Cher Lloyd impression. What do you mean, “Why do you have a Cher Lloyd impression?” —N.J.
24. SKY FERREIRA, “EVERYTHING IS EMBARRASSING”
Real talk: Sky Ferreira is the truth, or at least something like the girl you’d hate in high school, for legitimate reasons. This year’s Ghost EP showcased the beauty’s stirring vocals and love of borrowing from familiar ’80s synths. Also of note: this EP’s universal standout features the sexiest pronunciation of “basically” since Maya Rudolph and Jorma Taccone teamed up for an early ’90s flashback. —E.E.
23. FRANK OCEAN, “PYRAMIDS”
You couldn’t name a favorite moment from Frank Ocean’s nearly-ten-minute, thoroughly genre-less opus “Pyramids”—you’d need a top five, and probably a top ten. In the running, though: The dance beat winding down to a stoner crawl, the backwards-playing John Mayer guitar solo, “The way you say my name makes me feel like I’m that nigga / Though I’m still unemployed.” —A.U.
22. ICONA POP, “I LOVE IT”
Jersey Shore may be long past its prime, but the franchise proved this year it’s still a dance-music kingmaker when Snooki and J-Woww chose Icona Pop’s raucous opus as the theme for their MTV spinoff, and launched the song to the top of the fist-pump stratosphere. The tanned twosome’s taste proved impeccable, for once—”I Love It” is pure mayhem, and it introduced the best boast ever for these Buzzfeed-driven times: “You’re from the ’70s, but I’m a ’90s bitch.” —N.J.
21. KENDRICK LAMAR, “THE RECIPE”
good kid, m.A.A.d citymight’ve been one of the albums of the year, but Kendrick’s best single wasn’t on it—”The Recipe,” a tacked-on bonus track whose head-nodding vibes and pro-”women, weed and weather” stance would’ve made it a poor fit, but still cemented Kendrick’s status as a worthy G-Funk torch-bearer. Plus, no song that starts with an airplane sound effect has ever been bad. —A.U.
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