2012’s Guilty Pleasures

As a site, we’ve brought you lists of our favorite National Albums and Nashville Albums of 2012. Those picks are a pretty balanced representation of the diverse taste of our principal contributors. We’ve also got a Best Nashville Concerts of 2012 list going up shortly, which is a compilation of our favorites (since we go to many, many different shows and since our individual take on concerts is even more personal than our album rankings).

If you read my weekly record reviews (and some of my show previews), you might have pegged that I have an occasional soft spot for pulpy, top 40 bands (if you haven’t read my weekly record reviews, don’t worry, I listen to lots of “good music” too- I give everything a fair shot). Since we’re not collectively ranking a singles list and since I think I’m the only contributor who seems to really give in to my worst mainstream radio impulses from time to time, I wanted to throw to together a list of my Biggest Guilty Pleasures of 2012.

Bear in mind, these are just my picks, not ours as a site. Our lists herehere, and here are the official site picks for 2012. Also, bear in mind that just because I’m calling these songs “guilty pleasures” doesn’t mean I don’t think they’re worthy of artistic merit. Everything is subjective, and even measured on a semi-established barometer of artistic quality, some of these tracks hold up. Even the ones that don’t, still serve some function, and they’ve all inarguably achieved pretty astounding commercial success (an increasingly more and more difficult feat in this day and age).

These songs might not be the best of 2012, but they’re certainly the ones I couldn’t get out of my head:

1. “Call Me Maybe” – Carly Rae Jepsen – You’d be hard pressed to find a catchier song released in 2012. You’d also be hard pressed to find a song more people covered. It’s preteen-aimed throwaway pop, it’s predictable, and, yet, it works so, so well. This might just be the best Top 40 pop song of the decade not co-written by Max Martin or Dr. Luke and, love it or hate it, I bet you still can’t get it out of your head. 

2. “Somebody That I Used to Know” – Gotye (feat. Kimbra) – Poor Gotye. The insane success (and subsequent extreme over-saturation) of his breakout hit almost certainly has dammed him as a one-hit-wonder (even moreso than other freshman artists on this list). It’s a shame too, because the guy’s got a hell of a set of pipes. You can really tell this one got overplayed just by looking at how much it dropped off everyone’s radar in the second half of the year.

3. “Good Time” – Owl City & Carly Rae Jepsen – Gotye might be destined for one-hit-wonder status, but Carly Rae Jepsen has already proven she’s got more up her sleeve than just “Call Me Maybe.” It might be more Owl City’s doing (that guy’s pop sensibilities are the definition of guilty pleasure), but with “Good Time,” the duo produced what is inarguably the summer of 2012’s official pop anthem.

4. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift – ‘Red,’ as an album, is definitely not a guilty pleasure. I ranked it among the best of the year and fully believe it’s Swift’s strongest. I also believe “WANEGBT” is a masterfully crafted pop song (thanks to Max Martin), though it serves a much more superficial and lighthearted function than any of the record’s other tracks. The song was designed for radio, however, and really showcases Swift’s ability to further genre-hop while retaining her voice.

5. “Die Young” – Ke$ha – If you read part 1 of my December Music Spotlight, you already know I love ‘Warrior.’ It has a distinct dichotomy of radio engineered pop songs and more adventurous rock songs, “Die Young” the principal example of the former. It’s far from the record’s best offering, but with the help of Dr. Luke and fun.’s Nate Ruess, it’s still one of Ke$ha’s strongest pop radio efforts yet.

6. “Some Nights” – fun. – It’s still wild for me to wrap my head around just how huge fun. have become in 2012. ‘Some Nights’ (the album) is one of my favorites of year, but it’s still the product of fun.’s narrowing of focus to maximize mainstream success. They’re excellent at pop with artistic merit, but as a fan of their previous work (and previous bands), I can’t help but feel a bit guilty for loving this song so much.

7. “Everybody Talks” – Neon Trees – The biggest guilty pleasure song from the biggest guilty pleasure album (a lot of these pop singles are from pretty weak albums; not this one) from the biggest guilty pleasure band of 2012. There’s some weird, intangible quality to Neon Trees that keeps them in the pop realm, not quite awarded the merit of similar bands like The Killers. But they’re so much fun to listen to regardless.

8. “Madness” – Muse – I think Muse is a really, really good band. This track (and album), however, screams radio grab. It blurs the line between Queen influence and Queen ripoff, features arbitrary dubstep bass drops- yet, on a lot of levels, it still works well as a pop song. I expect more artistic integrity from Muse at this point, but I still can’t stop listening to this one.

9. “Ready or Not” – Bridgit Mendler Despite being a Disney artist, Bridgit Mendler is probably the least commercially successful artist on this list (releasing against Taylor Swift certainly couldn’t have helped). But, surprisingly, despite being a Disney artist she can also *really* sing and has a distinctly mature artistic voice. This track is one of the catchiest, most underrated on mainstream radio this year.

10. “Gangnam Style” – Psy – Ok, so the guilty pleasure (and real appeal) here isn’t so much the song, as it is the ridiculous video. That’s not to say “Gangnam Style” isn’t catchy in its own right, but the over 1 billion views for the video can’t be denied- it’s a certified cultural phenomenon. I seriously doubt Psy has even the slightest chance of a successful followup, but 2012 will forever be remembered as the year of “Gangnam Style.” 

Honorable Mention: “Hot Cheetos & Takis” – Y.n.RichKids – I’m not sure if I can, in good conscience, count a song as a “guilty pleasure” if I don’t feel even remotely guilty about loving it. “Hot Cheetos & Takis” blew up towards the end of the summer (mostly because of its video, featuring adorable and surprisingly skilled kids rapping) and I genuinely rank it among the best rap songs of the year. The production is professional, the rhymes are top-notch, and the kids are the real deal. Here’s hoping to more from the Y.n.RichKids in 2013!

What did I miss? What were your guilty pleasures this year? Let me know in the comments!

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