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The top 10 tracks of 2012  

By Ansharah Shakil, December 16 2022

As 2022 draws to a close, it may be comforting to jump back to 10 years ago. Back in 2012, life was simple. Avengers had just come out and One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” somehow still held a number ten spot on Billboard’s Year-End Top 100 a full two years after its release. 

These top ten songs of 2012 all turn ten this year. Tragically, LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” is left out. Though it dominated 2012, it was released in 2011. Some of these songs may not have topped the charts — that honour went to Gotye and Kimbra’s 2011 “Somebody That I Used To Know” — but all of them will live forever in childhood memories and throwback playlists. Are they all objectively good? Probably not. But the following 10 songs of 2012 are still relevant and embedded in our culture today. 

10. “Payphone” by Maroon 5

Maroon 5 had what could now be classified as an alarming amount of moments in the spotlight back in the 2010s, and “Payphone,” a bittersweet love song, was an immediate hit. The chorus is still catchy all these years later, while the mellow guitar manages to be both corny and sincere.   

9. “Thrift Shop” by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Not only is “Thrift Shop” a classic and insanely addictive to listen to, it received admiration for the relatability of the wry and down-to-earth lyrics. The line “Fifty dollars for a T-shirt” is ruefully relevant to today’s current economic and shopping straits and the increasing popularity of thrift-shopping. 

8. “Starships” by Nicki Minaj

Every kid found a profound glee in singing the lyrics to this song despite the fact that it was only the swear-free version that would play in school. Years later, “Starships” can’t be called one of Nicki Minaj’s best songs, but it is one of the ones which has had an impact culturally with recognisable lyrics and an enduring music video. 

7. “Thinking Bout You” by Frank Ocean

“Thinking Bout You,” a dreamlike anthem for lost love, never had a huge moment in mainstream music in 2012, or even in 2022. Its ascent to cultural awareness was slow but still vital. Delicately emotional while retaining a relaxed R&B vibe, it is a love song that broke out of the norm. Named as the 4th best song of 2012 by Rolling Stone, “Thinking Bout You” deserves plenty of accolades and is still deeply moving and universal today.  

6. “Boyfriend” by Justin Bieber

Though I maintain that Big Time Rush did everything Bieber did in this song back in 2010, the cultural impact of “Boyfriend” is immeasurable. Critics might have dismissed it as silly, but “Boyfriend” was a commercial success. Chances are if it started playing on the radio now, there would still be people singing along.   

5. “We Are Young” by fun. ft. Janelle Monae

“We Are Young” strikes the perfect balance between emo and depressing and uplifting and resonant. There’s no denying that “We Are Young” with its distinctive drums was and is an anthem for anyone who feels hopeless or hopeful. Not to mention, it was covered on Glee, and if a song was covered on Glee, it is forever immortalised.

4. “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift

The single to help catapult Swift to fame, “We Are Never, Ever Getting Back Together” is unlikely to ever be forgotten. Its tongue-in-cheek spoken word interlude and musical flexibility only emphasise the irresistibility of singing along, and the music video was absolutely everywhere. Snarky and catchy, it remains one of Swift’s most iconic songs.

3. “I Love It” by Icona Pop and Charli XCX

Liberating, freeing and entirely unapologetic, the bright synth music of “I Love It” made it an unforgettable song in 2012. “I Love It” is exactly like the feeling you get shoulder to shoulder with friends at a concert, screaming the lyrics and getting your feet trampled on. It’s staggeringly easy to keep on repeat and addictively satisfying in its hedonism.  

2. “Gangnam Style” by PSY

Let’s never forget that the staggering popularity of “Gangnam Style” reached such extents that Kidz Bop genuinely did a cover of it. It was an international phenomenon, sparking flash mobs and school gymnasium dances. Ten years later, it remains the eleventh most watched video on YouTube, but no one nowadays needs to watch the video to know why. Not only is “Gangnam Style” eternal, it was the song which tipped K-pop into North American popularity, and the blueprint for the current success of bands like BTS and Blackpink.

1.  “Call Me Maybe” by Carly Rae Jepsen

As a Canadian, it would be entirely remiss of me to give anything else the top spot. 

This song was 2012 — you couldn’t turn on the radio without hearing it. The music video belongs in a dreamy world full of crushes and free of cynicism — at least until that pleasantly surprising plot twist subverts a boy-meets-girl-story. Filled with flirtatious fun and wide-eyed Bambi fervour, “Call Me Maybe” remains one of the most successful singles of all time. Its euphoric disco strings beckon honesty and excitement. However overplayed and outdated it might seem now, Jepsen still plays it at concerts, and the crowds still go wild. If there’s anything that reminds you of 2012 and embodies a nostalgia belonging to years gone by, it’s “Call Me Maybe.”

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