Home Music Music Lists

Readers’ Poll: The Best Songs of 2012

Your selections include ‘We Take Care of Our Own,’ ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’ and ‘Gold on the Ceiling’

Brandon Flowers, Bruce Springsteen, Nate Ruess, The Killers, Fun

Steve Thorne/Redferns via Getty Images; Dimitrios Kambouris/WireImage; Lyle A. Waisman/Getty Images

Don’t let anybody tell you that the era of the mega hit single is over. Over this past year the entire country danced to “Gangnam Style,” debated exactly why it was crazy to tell someone you just met to “Call Me Maybe” and wondered who exactly Taylor Swift told off in “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” None of these songs received enough votes to wind up in the Rolling Stone Readers’ Poll Top 10. You guys seem to like the rock & roll, and not so much the women. Click through to see the results, and listen to a playlist of your picks below. And don’t blame us if you don’t like them. We just count the votes here. 

Play video

10. Muse – ‘Madness’

Muse's sixth album, The 2nd Law, polarized the band's massive fan base. Some felt they had finally taken their Queen-on-steroids sound too far, and others were dismayed at their open embrace of dubstep. Most fans, however, felt it was a logical step forward, even if some songs did push the boundaries of their sound a little much. Hell, if every song was a remake of "Knights of Cydonia," they just wouldn't be a very interesting band. The second single from The 2nd Law, "Madness," doesn't stray that far from Muse's signature sound. It's a fascinating mixture of Depeche Mode, George Michael and even some R&B. The song didn't go higher than number 60 on the U.S. Hot 100, but Muse has never been a real singles band. 

Play video

9. The Black Keys – ‘Little Black Submarines’

The Black Keys had a real tough time figuring out how to record "Little Black Submarines." A hard rock approach didn't seem to work, but they didn't want the entire song to be acoustic, either. In the end, they decided to merge the two. It begins as a gentle ballad before drummer Patrick Carney kicks in and the song takes off. It's like a compressed "Stairway to Heaven." Rock photographer Danny Clinch shot a video for the track, and although the song didn't manage to crack to the Hot 100, it has remained a fan favorite. 

Play video

8. Fun – ‘Some Nights’

In some ways, "Some Nights" is an even more important song for Fun. than their breakthrough hit, "We Are Young." Any band can have a fluke hit. Rick Dees had a hit. It didn't make him a career artist. But as soon as "Some Nights" started blowing up on the radio it became clear that Fun. were a serious talent. The song is even catchier than "We Are Young," and Top 40 radio has been spinning it non-stop for weeks. Right now it's sitting at number eight in its 43rd week of release. Now comes the big question: do they have a third one in them? Paula Cole had two hits, too. The pop world can be cruel. 

Play video

7. Jack White – ‘Freedom at 21’

This was the year the White Stripes died and Jack White the solo artist was born. It was a bittersweet time. He'll never recreate the magic of the Stripes, but his solo work is closer to that sound than he ever got with any of his other bands. Launching a mega world tour featuring songs from his whole career didn't hurt matters, either. "Freedom at 21" is a clear standout from Blunderbuss, the one that earned  a Grammy nomination for Best Rock Song. 

Play video

6. Bruce Springsteen – ‘We Take Care of Our Own’

In the grand tradition of "Born in the U.S.A.," Bruce Springsteen's "We Take Care of Our Own" was initially misunderstood. The New York Times noted that that it "mistakes jingoism for empathy," causing Springsteen to fire back, "They need a smarter pop writer." The song is very clear that America is supposed to take care of its own, but too often we fall short of that ideal. He specifically points to the debacle at the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. The song was everywhere this year, from Barack Obama's campaign rallies to stadiums all across America and Europe. Wrecking Ball is Bruce Springsteen's strongest release in decades, and "We Take Care of Our Own" is a song he'll be playing for years and years to come, even though many people will continue to see it as an "America, Fuck Yeah!" song. 

Play video

5. The Black Keys – ‘Gold on the Ceiling’

The Black Keys have pulled off a pretty remarkable feat for a young rock band over the past couple of years: they graduated from clubs to basketball arenas. It's all the more amazing when you consider that they're a two-man blues rock band from Akron, Ohio. They did it by teaming with producer Brian "Danger Mouse" Burton, expanding their lineup and writing songs as insanely catchy as "Gold on the Ceiling." It somehow manages to sound like a lost gem from 1967 and very modern at the same time. It never rose higher than number 94 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it got airplay during the summer Olympics and Nascar events. One Direction even covered the song in concert, a surefire way to know your song has officially made it big. 

Play video

4. Jack White – ‘Sixteen Saltines’

You never know when a great song title will fall in your lap. For Jack White, it happened when he asked his young daughter what she wanted to eat. Her response was very specific: 16 saltines. It was such an odd request that he turned it into a song, and then made it the second single from Blunderbuss. He must have been listening to The Who's Tommy around the time he wrote the song, because the riff sounds a lot like "I'm Free." The editors of Rolling Stone named it the eighth best song of 2012, but our readers felt it should be four slots higher. 

Play video

3. The Rolling Stones – ‘Doom and Gloom’

When the Rolling Stones decided to launch a new tour this year, they didn't have time to record a new studio album. Instead, they released a 50th anniversary compilation album with two new songs. The lead single, "Doom and Gloom," is surprisingly strong. It would have been a standout moment on any of their recent albums. Oddly enough, the opening guitar riff is played by Mick Jagger. "I don't give a damn," Keith Richards said. "He'd never have learned how to play that without me teaching him how to do it."  

Play video

2. Gotye – ‘Somebody That I Used to Know’

As Adele well knows, it's always a good idea to write a song about a nasty breakup. It's a topic most everybody can relate to. For Australian-Belgian artist Gotye, "Somebody That I Used to Know" was his ticket to international fame. He wrote and produced the song in his parents' barn in Australia, then brought in New Zealand singer-songwriter Kimbra to sing a verse. Appearances on Glee and American Idol helped it fly up the charts in America, and soon enough teenagers all over the country knew how to pronounce Gotye. It's one of the biggest-selling digital singles of all time.  

Play video

1. The Killers – ‘Miss Atomic Bomb’

The Killers are genuine rock & roll survivors. The group took a long break after they wrapped a tour behind 2008's Day and Age. During that time frontman Brandon Flowers focused on his solo career and mourned the loss of his mother. Some fans feared the break was going to become permanent, but last year they started doing overseas shows and begin work on their long-awaited fourth album. They pulled out all the stops for the disc, working with many of the biggest producers in rock, including Brendan O'Brien, Daniel Lanois, Steve Lillywhite and Stuart Price, who worked on "Miss Atomic Bomb." The track was inspired by a famous photograph of a Nevada woman who was named "Miss Atomic Bomb" in a pageant held after a nuclear bomb was tested.