Welcome back for le creme de le creme of this past year’s hits. Well, no point in waiting, let’s get stated! Number five could be one song, and one song only…
5. Jay Z and Kanye West – Ni**as in Paris
Over a year past Watch the Throne, and I’m still a little surprised at how well that album went; normally big budget, big name collaborations goes down in flames. But yet, the combination of Kanye West and Jay-Z–two guys whose egos are so strong I’m surprised they have willed themselves into physical manifestations–produced some quality stuff, especially “Ni**as in Paris”.
Normally, rappers talking about how much wealthier they are than you gets kind of boring, but instead of the usual “What’s it like to have as much money as Kanye or Jay?”, the song’s premise is, “What’s it like to be Kanye or Jay?” And the answer is “Fucking awesome!” This is probably Jay-Z’s 1,245th time talking about how rich he is, but the guy brags about stuff so absurd, that you can’t help but fall for the escapism of it. Like, when Wiz Khalifa brags about getting good weed, or how his car is push to start, you know what he means, but it’s not really an entertaining concept. When Jay-Z talks about being so rich that he doesn’t give a shit how his NBA team does, you really understand not only how stupid rich that is, but how to have fun with it. Kanye’s verse is already the stuff of legend: the “Haaaaaah”s, “that shit cray”s, and “What she order, Fish Filet?” are so inane but so Kanye they can’t help but work. Add in some great production, a baffling but awesome Blades of Glory sample, and a kickass outro, and “Ni**as in Paris” knocks it out of the park. That shit cray.
4. B.o.B – So Good
2010 pop rap phenomenon B.o.B showed that you could be fun in rap without it being “authentic”. On the singles from his major label debut, the guy was seldom serious while making pop songs with rap verses, but he was damn likeable. The only complaint with those singles was that B.o.B sounded like he was the guest on his own material.
But he’s center-stage for the world traveling “So Good”. Strange Clouds mostly eschewed electronic music in favor of live instruments, and here B.o.B is only backed by a bouncing piano and drum combo. The music’s light and happy, and so is he; his verses sound like a guy who just got to see the world, and he’s even got some decent punchlines about it in there. The happiness in the verses is infectious, which makes the strong, bright chorus even better. The sheer joy and “anything’s possible” vibe carries over to the hands-in-the-air “Na na na”s, which smile from ear to ear. Whenever I wanted to feel happy or celebrate that things are good, “So Good” was the song I turned to.
3. Carly Rae Jepsen – Call Me Maybe
Nope, not even sorry.
What do you even say about “Call Me Maybe” at this point? Everyone’s already talked about those “nothing on the radio like’em” strings, how it’s teen pop at age 26, and the sheer rush of it. And I mean everyone; “Call Me Maybe” might have been the second biggest song of the year, but it was easily the most inescapable. During the summer, it seemed like a day wouldn’t pass without some big-name group doing their own take on the song (this one, of Jepsen singing it with Jimmy Fallon and The Roots playing classroom instruments, is my favorite). It’s just a super happy, obscenely catchy pop song, what’s wrong with that? And, while I’m pissing away music snob credit, “Oblivion” blows.
2. Neon Trees – Everybody Talks
When I heard “Animal”, I couldn’t think of a band that had “One Hit Wonder” written on them more than Neon Trees. From what that song told us, Neon Trees were basically a hodgepodge of indie/alt. rock trends from the 00s warmed over a little; it wasn’t my least favorite song, but I had no desire to hear anything by them again.
Then, out of nowhere, came the power pop rush of “Everybody Talks”. It’s still coming from the same post-New Wave space that “Animal” did, but feels way less tied to the 80s than that song every did. There’s also an energy and sense of abandon on “Everybody Talks”; the verses are downright fun, and the full-throated chorus begs singing along. Neon Trees sounds a little more formed as a band, and the playing in “Everybody Talks” is more dynamic than the band’s old material. Check out the second verse, where the bass and drums do a slick breakdown with a synth slipping in and out of it; you wouldn’t hear that on “Animal”. And maybe it’s just the little dance that happens in the video, but I always want to get up and move to this one. Apparently, the album that had “Everybody Talks” on it didn’t do that well, but hey, two hits are better than one, right?
1. Gotye feat. Kimbra – Somebody That I Used To Know
I’m kinda surprised by this one, too.
I know it’s kind of predictable to put the number one song of the year in the number one spot, but shit, it fits. I love the production, the instrumentation, the lyrics, the singing…it all just works. But it wouldn’t have hit number one without Kimbra’s verse. Before her verse, “Somebody That I Used To Know” plays out like most overdramatic break-up songs: you cut me off, glad we’re over, I was miserable around you, the norm. But her verse gives the song a nice human element by calling Gotye’s bullshit out about being victimized, and that he was rough on her, too. It’d be ugly to watch in real life, but the song’s so well done that it’s compelling. The melody in the chorus is great, and the harmonies at the last one add even more. At least for me, “Somebody” wasn’t a song that I immediately fell in love with, but one I kept coming back to more and more. It’s a great song, the number one for the year, and in my opinion, the best hit of 2012. Here’s to great looking pop charts in 2013!
Ranting About Music Listmas Schedule
Dec. 16th: Worst Hits (10-6)
Dec. 17th: Worst Hits (5-1)
Dec. 18th: Best Hits (10-6)
Dec. 19th: Best Hits (5-1)
Dec. 20th: Best New Music
Dec. 21st: Best Albums
Dec. 22nd: Odds ‘n Ends