Mixtapes for Hookers

My Ten Favorite Songs of 2012

10. Ke$ha, “Die Young”
The first, I don’t know, twenty times I heard this song on the radio I expected it to be Flo Rida. Which is to be expected, since the opening of this Dr. Luke/Benny Blanco song is pretty much the exactly the same thing they used for “Good Feeling” a few months earlier. But maybe that shouldn’t be surprising. We first heard Ke$ha, after all, when she and Flo crucified a Dead Or Alive song together.

This is the first song of Ke$ha’s that I’ve actually liked—well, okay, “Blow” grew on me after a few months but not like this—and I’m hesitant to buy into the promotional angling for her new album (which involves a soul-seeking journey to the Galapogos Islands, and The Atlantic calling her new tie-in memoir the new Feminine Mystique.)

The fifth co-writer of “Die Young” is that whiny singer from fun., and if his own dumb band’s songs were remotely this fun maybe I wouldn’t turn the radio off every fucking time “Some Nights” comes on.

9. Chisu, “Kohtalon Oma”
A number one hit around New Year’s in Chisu’s native Finland, “Kohtalon Oma” is so sweeping and pretty that you wouldn’t suspect that it’s a big fuck you about tying someone to a chair and breaking all of his fingers off. (At least, that’s what lyricstranslate.com tells me.)

Of course, I’m also partial to kooky blonde pop singers who are willing to do drag and eat bagels in their videos, and the video for this song is especially great. (As you may know since this is at least my third time posting it here.)

8. Cher Lloyd, “Want You Back”
If I ever had a daughter I’m pretty sure this song would give me nightmares, but the safety of being childless makes me love the bratty growling that punctuates this song so very much.  There’s also the chorus, which sounds like it was adapted from a musical about a space rodeo. (Seriously, can’t you picture ladies in giant skirts square dancing to this song?) There’s also the fact that she says the word restaurant a lot, and I think that’s a really underrated word in songs about relationships. How many dates happen in dining establishments every night of the year? And how many songs can you name that use the word, besides “Nothing Compares 2 U”?

The American version of the single is much better than the original UK version, being that it spares us the pointless verse by a child rapper named Astro.

7.  Thee Oh Sees, “Lupine Dominus”
A childhood friend, who’s in a band that would be appearing on this list were it not for the fact that I didn’t want to rank my friends that way, directed me to this Gimme Tinnitus mix that her band appears on, and that mix ended up being probably my favorite collection of songs this year. (See also: #11 on this list, a bunch of runner-up songs, etc.)

So “Lupine Dominus” was already one of my favorite songs of the year when the video debuted a couple of months later. And what a good video it is!!! If only strip clubs really played Thee Oh Sees and not, you know, whatever they actually play. (The ones in Portland probably do, now that I think about it. But you know what I mean.)

6. Drake feat. Rihanna, “Take Care”
Although he’s frequently kind of a schmo*, Drake has a handful of really good songs, which I like more than I care to admit most of the time. Because there’s only so much interest I can muster in someone’s need to constantly exert their realness. On the other hand, I like hip-hop songs that sound like the XX. (I thought this just sounded like the XX, but didn’t realize until now that Jamie XX actually co-produced it. And Wikipedia is now telling me that it samples a Jamie XX remix of a Gil Scott-Heron record from 1959. The more you know.)

[*And I’m pretending that “Enough Said” didn’t actually happen.]

5. Nelly Furtado, “Parking Lot”
My general rule when making year-end lists is that I won’t include more than one song from an album, because otherwise I’d fret even more than I do already about positioning these things. I made an exception for Nelly Furtado’s The Spirit Indestructible, though, because a) the singles from it are each uniquely awesome, and b) nobody knows this for some reason; in its first week it debuted at #79 on the Billboard Chart and quickly moved downhill from there.

“Parking Lot” is a lot of silly words—”Take me to your favorite barn / We can dance in the mud!”, she says at one point, and the chorus starts with the hilarious couplet “Meet us in the parking lot / Then ride around ’till you get a spot.” But it’s really, really great for mindless dancing, which explains why the only success it’s had at all is in clubs.

4. The Wanted, “Chasing The Sun”
Aimed at an audience too young to know what an actual club ought to sound like, “Chasing The Sun” manages to turn a squeaky-clean backing track into a song that’s not completely corny. It’s my favorite boyband song this year, and possibly my favorite boyband song since I was actually in the target audience for this stuff. (The girl groups are always better, I think.)

Sure it’s silly, and lacks the hypnotizing drums that the pre-chorus promises, but I’d take silly sea-sand-and-sex-or-at-least-courtship over earnest heartfelt goop any day.

3. Javiera Mena, “Luz de Piedra de Luna”
So: Chile is apparently some sort of pop mecca. Who knew? I first encountered “Luz de Piedra De Luna” on The Singles Jukebox, where the assorted critics there have currently ranked it their favorite song of the year. The album it’s on, Mena, was released in 2010, but that doesn’t matter. This completely perfect disco epic made my fall, and will probably make my winter as well, from its tingly “West End Girls” opening through the glitchy piano finale. (It helps that on Mena it comes right after a wonderfully cheesy ballad reminiscent of Howard Jones.)

2. Taylor Swift, “State of Grace”
So, yeah, two songs from Red, too. But where “We Are Never Getting Back Together” is disarmingly strange teen-pop, “State of Grace” is very adult and more familiar, being produced as it was by Nathan Chapman and not Max Martin. The lead track for the year’s most heavily hyped album, “State of Grace” reminds me more than anything of Joshua Tree-era U2, in its sprawl and also, you know, its Christian undertones. (Loving through hardship, “the worthwhile fight” being the internal fight where you want to love someone even when they’re not a saint… In less epic hands it might have been kind of obnoxious.)

I’m also a sucker for a good set of uh-oh, whoa-oh, ooh-oh-oh-oh backup vocals.

1. Solange, “Losing You”
This remarkably laid-back song features elements of the Twin Peaks soundtrack, an abundance of synthesized handclaps, and something that may or may not be a bird squawking every few seconds. All of which are things that I like on their own, but which in theory ought to sound terrible together. Luckily the voice of New York’s Most Eligible Single Person is there to tie them all together, with a rather sad song about a relationship gone awry.

When she starts dancing partway through the video it’s almost kind of jarring, because it doesn’t seem like it should be that sort of a song. It is, though, and its underlying ability to sound happy despite itself makes it even better. Even if it does sound like someone’s going to turn into a drawer pull at the end.

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