Naturally we can’t reveal our No.1 pop single of the year (tomorrow) without glimpsing briefly at those tracks that had us moving, shaking, feeling and generally convulsing throughout the course of the year. As with previous years, 2012 served up some rather brilliant pop moments; some of them big hits, some of them totally ignored locally, but here are those we thought were the pick of the bunch in the pop year that was.
A*M*E : Play The Game Boy
Quite possibly the only reason that this one didn’t make our list of the top ten best pop songs of 2012 is the fact that it (rather stupidly, in our opinion) didn’t get released here in Australia. British starlet A*M*E burst onto the scene with the insanely infectious ‘Play The Game Boy’ back in October and immediately captured our attention and our hearts. It was super-polished Norwegian-produced pop that was fun, fresh and impossibly vibrant. Pop’s got a new starlet and it’ll be interesting to see where she heads in 2013.
CHERYL : Call My Name
Ditching the surname and teaming up with Calvin Harris made it a trio of UK No.1s for the former Mrs Cole. Just Cheryl also spend the tiniest amount of time in the ARIA top 50 with the dance-stormer that was ‘Call My Name’. She decided to put the solo career on hold in the latter part of the year so that she could reunite with her Girls Aloud bandmates for their ten year reunion and greatest hits, but on ‘Call My Name’, she shone in her own right. Cole or no Cole.
PALOMA FAITH : Picking Up The Pieces
In our mid-year interview with British singer Paloma, she revealed to us that ‘Picking Up The Pieces’ was about “that feeling you get – that insecurity you have about your partner’s past”. And of course, we’ve all been there. Super-stylised, effortlessly cool alt-pop laced with sweeping strings and old-world charm, layered beneath Paloma’s emotive vocals. A fine pop offering from Ol’ Blighty that deserved a hell of a lot more attention than it received.
FANTINE : Perfect Strangers
Admittedly, we were a little behind the eight ball on this release for Sydney-based singer songwriter Fantine earlier this year. Though the track (and its clip) had dropped in February, we hadn’t got wind of it ’til early April. The Russian-born songstress delivered a track we described as “a fresh, bright and breezy international-sounding song, that explodes with a string-filled, sweeping chorus that’s impossible to ignore”. We said it deserved attention, it certainly got ours and deserves its place here.
FLUME FTG. JEZZABELL DORAN : Sleepless
What a year it’s been for 20 year old Sydney producer Flume. Live performances and support from the community radio sector saw his debut self-titled album debut at No.2 on the ARIA albums chart (right behind One Direction, no less) and sell gold (35,000 copies) after just six weeks on the shelves. It seems Aussies couldn’t get enough of his super-slick production, loops and beats. ‘Sleepless’ is but one stellar example of a local pop supernova blasting into existence. Flume is here.
ALICIA KEYS : Girl On Fire
US songstress Alicia Keys was back with a vengeance with the lead single and title track from her most recent studio album – and what a track it was. Impressively smooth and undeniably classy, ‘Girl On Fire’ was the female power anthem of 2012 and Alicia’s biggest Australian hit to date, but naturally radio didn’t want a bar of it unless Nicki Minaj came and poked her nose in unnecessarily. It wasn’t needed because in its own right, ‘Girl On Fire’ was sublime.
LANCELOT : Spoken Word
We were left a little devastated in the middle of last year when one of our favourite up and coming Aussie pop outfits Aeons decided to call it a day, with both gents deciding to tread the road alone. Brilliantly however, one of said duo (Lancelot) came out this year with this funky-assed instrumental number called (somewhat ironically) ‘Spoken Word’ that was etched with feel-good disco vibes, licks of guitar, sunshine and good times. The perfect accompaniment to a summer martini, we loved its retro electro disco cool.
LOREEN : Euphoria
Fact : Sweden produces great pop. In fact, we’d go so far as to say that Sweden produces arguably the best pop in the world. And this year, it would appear that the rest of Europe agreed, collectively voting Loreen’s trance-like stormer ‘Euphoria’ as the winner of the 2012 Eurovision Song Contest. If ever a song lived up to its title, this was it. Euphoric chorus, goddess-like vocals and stylish production had Australia dancing through the winter months. Roll on Malmö!
EMMA LOUISE : Boy
This gem came across our desk in May this year. Brisbane native Emma’s single ‘Boy’ was quite simply divine – and given the entree was so mouth-wateringly flavoursome, we can’t wait for the LP main course to drop sometime in the new year. Elegant, sweeping, organic production met with gorgeous, soft, breathy vocals to create an intoxicating, classy piece of home-grown pop that had overseas labels sitting up and taking notice.
KYLIE MINOGUE : Flower
2012 was a big year for Australian Pop Princess Kylie Minogue. Celebrating her 25th anniversary in the industry via her so-called ‘#K25’ celebrations, she delivered our favourite ever Kylie concert in Anti-tour (worth the price of admission for ‘Tightrope’ alone), innumerable visual treats across the year, a new pop single in ‘Timebomb’ and a stripped back ‘Abbey Road’ album. It was said LP that finally allowed never before released Kylie fan favourite ‘Flower’ to unfurl in all its glory. As a touching tribute to what Kylie herself describes as a “child I may or may not ever have”, yes its bloom was long overdue, but gosh it was worth the wait.
JASON MRAZ : I Won’t Give Up
Released just three days into 2012, ‘I Won’t Give Up’ proved that US singer Jason Mraz is very much still on top of his songwriting game. The track afforded him more top ten success in his homeland, a close call on the UK top ten and here in Australia? Well that’d be nothing. No chart position. Radio refused to play a ballad from the same artist who just four years prior had graced the Aussie top five with ‘I’m Yours’. Just daft. Is it any wonder why we don’t listen to the commercials anymore?
EMELI SANDÉ : My Kind Of Love
We were incredibly torn at the end of last year as to whether or not to award Emeli with our single of the year for her stunning debut single ‘Heaven’. We instead gave it to Aussie pop god Darren Hayes and his ‘Bloodstained Heart’, but it’s the former we still can’t get out of our heads. Emeli’s third single ‘My Kind Of Love’ was a stunning ballad about the pits of despair and the love she’d deliver in your time of need. It deserved local love at media. Instead they chose whatever was next from David Guetta.
EMELI SANDÉ : Next To Me
Yes, we loved Emeli’s album ‘Our Version Of Events’ and the singles that came from it so much that we’re gifting her a second entry into our ‘Honourable Mentions’ list. ‘Next To Me’ was the perky follow-up to ‘Heaven’. A soul-infused, feel-good tune that sang about Emeli’s man and his loyalty to her. ‘Cause while all the other chaps are out down the pub, getting into trouble or flirting with other women, hers (rightly so) is next to… You get the drift…
GUY SEBASTIAN : Gold
Truthfully, we reckon we could also afford to put Guy’s latest single ‘Get Along’ on this list too. But given that everything Guy’s touched throughout 2012 has turned to ‘Gold’ (and later to platinum and then some, it seems) and the fact that this single is a rollicking fine gospel-fuelled soul number, we can’t let our Honourable Mentions board go by without including this tune. Super-fine, super-bright, feel-good, up-tempo pop sunshine that we willingly ate up. Of course, this release also brought about the downfall of ‘The Voice’ contestant Carmen Smith.
SWEDISH HOUSE MAFIA : Greyhound
How were we to know that the superstar DJ trio of Sebastian Ingrosso, Axwell and Steve Angello were about to go their separate ways when they dropped their penultimate single ‘Greyhound’ back in March? The instrumental club stormer came complete with a brilliant futuristic video clip where sinister-looking mechanical greyhounds raced each other across desolate salt flats. They later dropped the four times platinum smash ‘Don’t You Worry Child’, but for our money, it’s their ‘Greyhound’ that remains ahead of the pack.
TOKYO DENMARK SWEDEN : When It Breaks
Delicious electro-pop out of Sydney… After beguiling us with their single ‘Lights Off’ back in August, dance/pop outfit Tokyo Denmark Sweden knocked our socks off with their altogether brilliant single ‘When It Breaks’ at the end of last month. We’re seriously impressed by their sound and can’t understand why they haven’t been snapped up by a major label yet? Perhaps that will come sometime in 2013. In the meantime, just check out their video (HERE).
TUNE IN TOKYO FTG. NATALIE GAUCI : Ray Of Love
You’ve got to hand it to 2007 ‘Australian Idol’ winner Natalie Gauci. Insistent that she wanted to do her career her way, she shunned the Sony post-show spotlight and instead set about building her career organically. Here she teamed up with Melbourne-based producer Paul Brandoli for a spectacular piece of Euro-inspired local dance/pop remixed for single release by Denzal Park. In our opinion, ‘Ray Of Love’ was right up there among the best in global dance tracks throughout 2012 and deserved a lot more attention than it received.
USHER : Climax
When R&B superstar Usher burst onto the radar with his single ‘Climax’ earlier this year, we thought our urban prayers had been answered. No more soulless dance/urban collaborations and back to stylish, edgy soul-infused tunes like this gorgeous piece from Mister Raymond. Alas, though it hit the top five in the UK and top 20 Stateside, it didn’t gel as much as it should have and from there, it was back to generic dance-pop with follow-up ‘Scream’. Shame, ’cause ‘Climax’ was swoonsome and sexy.
VAN SHE : Jamaica
Right from the moment we heard the Van She single ‘Jamaica’, we loved it. Hook-laden summery electro alt-dance/pop from the Sydney outfit’s latest album ‘Idea Of Happiness’ that dropped in the middle of the year in the hope of no doubt spicing up the cool depths of the Aussie winter. We can’t help but feel that the timing was what worked against this – it would make much more sense if it was on the airwaves now. We said it was “hot enough to melt your cheese sandwich from ten paces away”. We’ll be on the first flight to ‘Jamaica’, thanks.
CHRISTOPHE WILLEM : Starlight
We have the amazing Mister Steve Anderson to thanks for introducing us to the disco-pop delights of French pop star Christophe Willem. He shared the glory of his most recent album ‘Prismophonic’ with us late last year and we’ve loved it since, but an English language version of the Freemasons-produced ‘Starlight’ tipped us right over the edge. Combine Freemasons production with a sample of Chaka Khan’s ‘Ain’t Nobody’ and everything we had before was overrated.
ROBBIE WILLIAMS : Candy
And finally Robbie Williams returned to planet pop towards the end of this year hell-bent on taking back his pop star crown from the pretenders. And while he didn’t quite succeed with his sweet ‘Candy’ here in Australia, the bright-as-a-button pop track snatched the top spot in the UK at the same time as his album ‘Take The Crown’. Co-penned by his Take That bandmate Gary Barlow, ‘Candy’ was sugar-sweet pop with an addictive centre that got stuck in your teeth (see : head) and tickled you in your happy parts.