The first few months of any year are usually still so filled with remembrances of the year that just ended–best-of lists, award shows, catching up on things you may have missed in the prior 12 months–that it’s easy to ignore or miss out on the new stuff coming out. Yet three months into a new year, and we already have enough quality music for a rock-solid Top 40 list of our favorite songs. From advance singles to much-anticipated albums still around the corner, to deep cuts on the albums that have already come out, to unexpected hits that we never saw coming, here are the 40 songs from the first three months of the year that have made us okay with turning the calendar over to 2013.
(Note: No songs included on our year-end list last year are featured here, which means such early 2013 smashes like Rihanna‘s “Stay,” Icona Pop‘s “I Love It” and Baauer‘s “Harlem Shake” are unfortunately excluded, though they remain in our hearts and on our radio dials always.)
40. MACKLEMORE & RYAN LEWIS FEAT. RYAN DALTON, “CAN’T HOLD US”
Less obnoxious than the self-righteous and occasionally grating “Thrift Shop,” but no less catchy or exhilerating, the second single off Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ unexpectedly massive The Heist is again given a big assist by a smooth soul hook on the chorus, this time courtesy of former tennis instructor Ray Dalton. Already a top 20 hit, “Can’t Hold Us” seems well on its way to being Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ second mega-smash of 2013.
39. HUNTER HAYES, “SOMEBODY’S HEARTBREAK”
Last year’s “Wanted” proved that 21-year-old Hunter Hayes–a baby by male country star standards–could do ballads as well as anyone in the pop world, but “Somebody’s Heartbreak” proves he can go toe-to-toe with some heavy hitters in the rock world as well, with some impressive guitar noodling that demonstrates that he’s more John Mayer than Justin Bieber. When Brad Paisley is inviting you to join him on guitar at the ACM Awards, chances are you’re doing something right.
38. ZEDD FEAT. FOXES, “CLARITY”
One of the better diva-led EDM anthems of recent days, “Clarity” proves it’s more than just a nice “HEYYYYY-EYYYY” chant with a big build-up-and-drop with its beat-less acoustic version, which is pretty enough to get airplay on its own. They’ve taken to playing it in promos for the MSG Network, and if it’s good enough for the New York Knicks in the midst of their 12-game winning streak, it’s certainly good enough for us.
37. ONE DIRECTION, “KISS YOU”
One of our favorite songs from last year’s Take Me Home, we were thrilled when One Direction tabbed the effervescent, impossibly likeable “Kiss You” as the album’s third single, with an old-school “Trying on Different Costumes and Getups While Horsing Around” video to boot. We still get that same kind of ru-uh-ush every time we listen to it.
36. FLORIDA GEORGIA LINE FEAT. NELLY, “CRUISE (REMIX)”
To be honest, we were never totally sold on the original version of “Cruise,” but it turns out that it was always just a Nelly verse away from irresistibility. The St. Lunatic’s finest Nashville (or Florida-Georgia, as it were) crossover moment since the historically underrated Tim McGraw collaboration “Over and Over,” by the time Nelly starts singing the chorus himself, you’ve pretty much got no choice but to ride with him. (Eyyyyyyy, must be the country!)
35. KATE NASH, “3 AM”
A combination of two time-honored lyrical traditions–late-night breakup-induced insomnia, and staring at the phone wondering should-I-or-shoudln’t-I?–given new energy with the catchy nerviness of the song’s frenetic bass-and-drum-led groove, and held together with Nash’s deeply felt (and beautifully double-tracked) singing on the chorus. You’ll probably be able to relate to some part of it, but if even if you can’t, you’ll enjoy dancing to it just the same.
34. ASHLEY MONROE, “TWO WEEKS LATE”
A classic country lament about being the other woman from young old soul Ashley Monroe, from her excellent Like a Rose album. Monroe’s ballad is obviously meant to be more Tammy than Taylor, but she packs it with enough self-awareness (“So the man is gone / What a damn cliche”) and guilty-but-gleeful indiscretion (“I know the Bible says / That you’re supposed to wait…”) to make it something far more fun than just a Grand Ole Opry throwback.
33. PITBULL FEAT. CHRISTINA AGUILERA, “FEEL THIS MOMENT”
An ecstatic club track with Christina Aguilera singing the song’s chorus and a hook lifted from a-ha’s ’80s pop classic “Take On Me”? As always with Pitbull, it’s so ridiculous that it just might work, and dammit, “Feel This Moment” does, a worthy successor to Mr. 305′s “Give Me Everything” when it comes to party anthems that insist on enjoying right now as much as humanly possible, at all costs.
32. FUTURE FEAT. LIL WAYNE, “KARATE CHOP” (REMIX)
“Slang a bunch of narcotics / Pull up in the new ‘Rarri.” Doesn’t sound like the stuff that great pop hooks are made of, but delivered in Future’s syncopated and auto-tune-drowned staccato and served over a juggernaut of a Metro Boomin beat, it’s inexplicably addictive–even a typically disinterested Lil Wayne verse sounds kind of awesome on it. By the time the last chorus rolls around, you can’t help screaming “MICHAEL JACKSON BILLIE JEAN!” and making goofy karate sounds yourself.
31. FALL OUT BOY, “MY SONGS KNOW WHAT YOU DID IN THE DARK”
After a near-half-decade hiatus, Fall Out Boy announced their return–the second-most-unexpected of 2013 thusfar–with the rip-roaring “My Songs Know What You Did In the Dark (Light Em Up).” A chest-pounding, stadium ready singalong that proves the group is capable of keeping up with the times without sounding like bandwagon-jumpers, “My Songs” is destined to be the stuff of a thousand movie trailers and other promotional montages by year’s end, so enjoy it while you can.
For songs #30-21, including a double-dip of Beyonce, click NEXT.