The 10 best songs of 2012
It was the year of the banjo and the big ballad; the year Katy Perry grew up and Carly Rae Jepsen arrived with a spring and a smile; the year barn dance folk rockers became global pop stars; and the year Scandinavians controlled the charts and beat the Am
10 RIHANNA divided the - critics DIAMONDS in a way 'Diamonds' few other Rihanna songs have. Sure, it lacked the muscle and dramatic hooks of many previous singles, but the girl who can do little wrong rarely sounded better than on this first single from her seventh album.
It's a laid back slow burner that invades and refuses to leave. Her rain-soaked performance of 'Diamonds' on the insipid X Factor put everything - and everybody - else to shame.
9 TAYLOR SWIFT - I KNEW YOU WERE TROUBLE If 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together', the first single from Swift's fourth album 'Red', introduced her to a whole world of new fans, 'I Knew You Were Trouble' cemented the deal. Much was made of the song's dubstep experimentation, but it's fundamentally a great pop song, made all the better by some of Swift's best vocals to date and the studio wizardry of production royalty, Max Martin and Shellback. Despite all the success of 'We Are Never...', this is Red's standout track, all the better for taking the Nashville star right out of her comfort zone.
8 OF MONSTERS AND MEN - LITTLE TALKS Iceland's Of Monsters and Men topped their home country chart in 2011 with this indie pop duet. But it wasn't until 2012 that most of the rest of the world sat up and took notice. With catchy lyrics, hand claps, blasts of brass, hooks galore and a singalong chorus, Of Monsters and Men's 'Little Talks' showed another side of an Icelandic music industry misted in quirkiness and experimentation by the likes of Bjork and Sigur Ros (not that there's anything wrong with that).
7 KATY PERRY - WIDE AWAKE For an artist, the trauma of breaking up usually results in one of two things: meltdown or a creative surge. Katy Perry recorded 'Wide Awake' specifically for 'Part Of Me', the warts-and-all film documenting her world tour, after her split with hubby Russell Brand, and the message of breaking up and moving on is clear. The strengths are in the assured lyrics ( 'not losing any sleep, I picked up every piece and landed on my feet') and the lush production, aided by a delicious, pillowy synth. Uberswede Max Martin had a hand in the writing, and the production team included some heavyweights, but Perry's pop craft can't be denied.
6 JESSIE WARE - WILDEST MOMENTS England's Ware tiptoed into the UK charts at number 46 with this single from her debut album 'Devotion', and curiously scored a top three hit with the song in Belgium. Thundering drum claps and electric piano give ' Wildest Moments' a retro feel and this, coupled with a classic, soulful vocal, makes the song one of the year's biggest underachievers in chart terms. On this evidence, Jessie Ware is one to watch. 5 FUN - WE ARE YOUNG (FEAT JANELLE MONAE) This was first released in 2011, but did little until propelled into the stratosphere of chartdom by its use in a Chevrolet ad during the 2012 Super Bowl. Cynics may argue that record company and band management orchestrated the song's success through careful ad placement, but what of it? The power ballad with a twist came with a devastating chorus that had us hooked from one listen. It remains one of the year's biggest and best singles.
4 BLUR - UNDER THE WESTWAY Blur may be little more than a side project for Damon Albarn these days, but the band still brings out the best in him. 'Under The Westway' , one of two new Blur tracks released in the run-up to their Hyde Park concert for the Olympics, saw them return to form in some style. Big rolling drums and gorgeous piano served as a backdrop to Damon Albarn's soul-baring vocals, harking back to a time when nobody did this kind of ballad better than Blur.
3 CARLY RAE JEPSEN - CALL ME MAYBE Rarely these days does a song come along that makes us smile. But 'Call Me Maybe' did. Jepsen's pop gem was like a breath of fresh air out of Canada, an uncomplicated, uncluttered antidote to all the overbearing, navel gazing, smooth operators and studio magicians who couldn't conceive a simple touch of brilliance like this. Chances are, it's a once-off, but for 3.13 minutes Jepsen soared closer than she probably knows to pop genius.
2 FIRST AID KIT - EMMYLOU It's an unlikely story. Two sisters in a suburb of Stockholm honing authentic American country as if they were bred into the rural heartland of America. Johanna and Klara Soderberg perform the sweetest close harmonies and possess a rare ability to weave melody into great tunes, but the siblings' greatest asset is that they tap into the folk and country roots of American music the way few American artists still do. Listen to 'Emmylou', the best track on First Aid Kit's second album ' The Lion's Roar' and you will be converted.
1 THE LUMINEERS - HO HEY Denver's The Lumineers debut album was no great shakes, but had two golden nuggets: 'Stubborn Love' and 'Ho Hey'. The latter makes this list not because it was one of the most played songs of the year worldwide but because it brought a refreshing chunk of good old thigh-slapping, foot-thumping honesty to a roots revival brigade that showed signs of creaking under the weight of high expectation in 2012 (yes, I do mean Mumford and Sons). If you can listen to this rustic mini-anthem without succumbing to its charm your heart is cold indeed.