Special year-end, best-of edition! Listen to the songs below.
1. Japandroids: “The House That Heaven Built”
The Canadian duo wins 2012’s Titus Andronicus Award for crafting a brainy, brawny punk rock anthem that’s equal parts hooks and heart.
2. Juicy J featuring Lil Wayne and 2 Chainz: “Bandz A Make Her Dance”
The Three 6 Mafia don’s breakout solo hit is definitely the best strip club banger ever done by a former Oscar winner - unless F. Murray Abraham has a side career we don’t know about.
3. Tanlines: “Brothers”
This understated synth-pop track is one of countless standouts on the Brooklyn duo’s official debut, “Mixed Emotions.”
4. Tomas Barfod featuring Nina Kinert: “November Skies”
The Danish producer’s signature song is a great example of electronic music’s potential for warmth and expansiveness; it’s also one of the most remixed tracks of the year.
5. A.C. Newman: “I’m Not Talking”
Seamless ‘70s A.M. pop from the New Pornographers co-founder.
6. Big Boi featuring Kelly Rowland: “Mama Told Me”
In its original form, this was a wavery experiment in video game funk featuring Swedish electro group Little Dragon. Rowland pinch hits on the official version, which sounds like a crunk experiment conducted by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis in 1986.
7. Chairlift: “I Belong in Your Arms”
Pure narcotic goodness from Brooklyn’s best ‘80s synth-pop revivalists (and that’s saying something).
8. Usher: “Climax”
Who knew Usher’s velvet-gloved R&B would lend itself to such a Weeknd-style tweaking? This Diplo-produced track mixed together a little bit of everything — strings, techno, quiet storm, that underwater thing the Weeknd does — and emerged as a seamless slow jam.
9. Kanye West featuring Jay-Z and Big Sean: “Clique”
’Ye didn’t match his heroic 2011 output this year (he hardly even tweeted), but when he did show up, he made every second count. In his best verse of 2012, he shouts out George Tenet and handily smokes both Sean and Hova.
10. The Lumineers: “Ho Hey”
Simple and sweet folk, less self-consciously rustic than Mumford & Sons, and catchier than almost anything else on the radio.
11. Killer Mike: “Reagan”
A pitiless indictment of gun runners, rappers and several recent presidential administrations, this was the best politically-minded song of the year.
12. Miguel: “Adorn”
Hiccupy, dreamy electro-R&B that ties with “Climax” as the year’s slinkiest slow jam.
13. Lord Huron: “Time To Run”
Sweeping throwback folk from the L.A. band’s grower of a debut, “Lonesome Dreams.”
14. Torche: “Kicking”
Sludge metal at its most accessible, from Miami’s stoner kings.
15. Kacey Musgraves: “Merry Go ‘Round”
The Texas singer-songwriter’s debut single was a nifty (and very unofficial) “Little Boxes” update.
16. Icona Pop: “I Love It”
We predicted that this impressively pedigreed (it was written by British up-and-comer Charli XCX), crazy catchy Swedish import would be a Song of the Summer contender when it was released last spring, and lo, it came to pass.
17. Frank Ocean:“Bad Religion”
It’s just as you suspected: There is no such thing as a bad Frank Ocean song. This wrenching love song may be the best of the best, though.
18. Teen Mom: “You and Me”
Gentle but mighty pop from the District’s greatest living fuzz trio.
This year was kind to shadowy bedroom producers (see: Burial, and Weeknd, the), and while reclusive Brit Brolin got less love than his counterparts, this eerie and beautiful track - which comes attached to the year’s best video - was just as masterful.
20. Katy B featuring Geeneus and Jessie Ware: “Aaliyah”
Britain’s reigning pop goddesses pay (probably unintentional) tribute to country classic “Jolene.”
21. Goat: “Run to Your Mama”
Here’s the deal with Goat: They’re Swedish, they wear masks, their music is a weird, muddy mix of funk/folk/psych/whatever, they like to sing about themselves (”Goatman,” “Goatlord,” etc.) and they are utterly and entirely awesome. This is the group’s most listener-friendly track, but that’s not saying much.
22. Kendrick Lamar featuring Gunplay: “Cartoon and Cereal”
How great is this track, which didn’t make it onto Lamar’s breakout album, “good kid, m.A.A.d city,” even though it probably should have? Great enough to make Gunplay, a rapper for whom America had previously held no affection, into a star by association.
23. Brad Paisley: “Southern Comfort Zone”
One of Nashville’s biggest stars leaves no country constituency un-insulted, from churchgoers to gun owners to NASCAR fans, on this deceptively subversive ode to internationalism.
24. Sabi featuring Wale: “Where They Do That At”
The pride of the DMV teams with next year’s Nicole Scherzinger for what would have been the best banger of 2006.
25. Carly Rae Jepsen: “Your Heart is a Muscle”
Oh, Carly Rae Jepsen. THIS was your second single.
PHOTOS | Best of pop culture 2012