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50 Best Songs of 2012

Taylor made weapons-grade teen pop; Kanye put his brain on cruise-control, dubstep kingpins and stadium rockers invited us all to their parties

50 best songs 2012

Taylor Swift made weapons-grade teen pop; Kanye West put his brain on cruise-control, dubstep kingpins and stadium rockers invited us all to their parties

 

Contributors: Jon Dolan, David Fricke, Andy Greene, Will Hermes, Christian Hoard, Jody Rosen, Rob Sheffield, Rob Tannenbaum, Simon Vozick-Levinson

grimes

Courtesy of The Windish Agency

28

Grimes, ‘Oblivion’

On her breakthrough single, electro-pop savant Claire Boucher drops sugar-dust vocals over a thwunking synth loop, sounding perfectly dreamy until you listen to the words: “I never walk alone after dark. . . . /Someone could break your neck/Coming up behind you and you’d never have a clue.” The catchiness only makes it creepier.

A$AP Rocky

Brock Fetch

27

A$AP Rocky, ‘Goldie’

Rapped with a wink, the year’s best sex’n’drugs’n’luxury-goods bragfest makes magic in the details – the wicked metalsmith groove, the punch-line non sequiturs (“Got a condo out in space/Open up your legs, tell me how it taste”), the way his voice pops up a couple octaves on the word “dick.” A new master of style.

lumineers

Mark Sink

26

The Lumineers, ‘Ho Hey’

This song introduced America’s answer to Mumford & Sons, complete with roots-rock barn-stomp, chain-gang choir and lyrics about hanging around Chinatown, waiting for a girl. Colorado kid Wesley Schultz sings, “I don’t know where I belong. . . ./I know I can write a song” like a heart-on-sleeve high-plains drifter.

psy

Marco Del Grande/The Sydney Morning Herald/Fairfax Media via Getty Images

25

Psy, ‘Gangnam Style’

Seoul Brother Number One invents a dance craze and conquers America, the one place that had resisted Korean disco. “Gangnam Style” blew up on YouTube and became a Top 10 hit in South Korea, Mexico, Ireland, Belgium, Lebanon, Israel, Russia and the U.S., where sexy laaadaaays know a monster beat when they hear one.