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Best of 2012: 10 pop songs

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One final ranked list looking back on 2012: 10 great pop songs (you can listen to) ...

1. "Take a Walk" by Passion Pit
Passion Pit's sophomore album is a bright, romantic pop confection. Musically bright, anyway -- like a Smiths song, underneath the cheery sound is a melancholy soul with a lot on his mind. The frenetic bursts of noise and propulsive stride of "Take a Walk" is illustrative of singer-songwriter Michael Angelakos' see-sawing emotions. But in this bouncy, buck-up anthem he errs on the side of optimism: "I remind myself that times could be much worse."

2. "Ho Hey" by the Lumineers
Amid a wave of new folk-pop acts crowding the public consciousness this year, the Lumineers' patient, staccato single and its "sweetheart" chorus lifted the band above the pack and scored it some Grammy nods. Utter simplicity wins the day.

3. "Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye feat. Kimbra
Two unknowns from down under joined forces on a single that doesn't sound like a single, until you realize that its sparse melody has embedded itself in your head for a week. High tenors go far in pop, and Gotye embraced the numerous parodies of this song.

4. "Bright Whites" by Kishi Bashi
Multi-instrumentalist, Jupiter One founder and satellite member of Of Montreal, Kishi Bashi's 2012 album "151a" couldn't hold its center, but this sunny, stomping single is a cheery delight.

5. "Hold On" by Alabama Shakes
One of the buzziest of 2012's buzz bands, this retro-R&B outfit knocked their debut album out of the park, but this thoughtful, moseying anthem best showcases the country-soul excellence of singer Brittany Howard's voice, from slow-burn to scorching.

6. "Gangnam Style" by PSY
The "Macarena" of this particular solar cycle, the South Korean smash hit -- the most-viewed YouTube video ever, closing in on 1 billion views -- is alluring in both its cultural oddities and pop savvy, mixing a bouncy tune with one of music's greatest rarities: a new dance.

7. "Call Me Maybe" by Carly Rae Jepsen
Omnipresence is not always an indicator of lowest-common-denominator slop, and it's not too hard to defend the smarts of "Call Me Maybe" compared to other memes like, say, "Friday." The simplicity of the song's coyness, nervousness and melody is pretty irresistible, which contributed to the song's circulation, quotation and parody for months on end. No guilt in this pleasure.

8. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" by Taylor Swift
As long as she's not singing it live, this rousing chant by country's ubiquitous pixie is one of the best break-up songs to come along in a long while.

9. "Some Nights" by fun.
Of course, "We Are Young" ruled the world much of 2012, but its plodding, slightly morose chorus falls flat next to the title track to this bright pop act's successful album. Sing with me: Whoa-oh! Whoa-ooh-whoa-oh! ...

10. "Skyfall" by Adele
A highly anticipated recording, Adele's only new music this year (though her "21" album from last year was still 2012's best-seller) single-handedly revived the musty, crusty tradition of James Bond themes. Graceful, sultry and smooth, her "Skyfall" ballad kills softly.


Here's a playlist of the first nine songs ...

... and No. 10:



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Thomas Conner

Thomas Conner covers pop music for the Chicago Sun-Times. Contact him via e-mail.

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This page contains a single entry by Thomas Conner published on December 22, 2012 4:00 AM.

Best of 2012: 20 overall albums was the previous entry in this blog.

2012: A Chicago POV on the year in music is the next entry in this blog.

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