Best of 2012

The 40 Best Songs of 2012: Fuse Staff Picks

On heavy iPod rotation, these are the songs that defined 2012 in the Fuse office
 / December 24, 2012

2012's Ultimate Playlist

1 / 41

UPDATE: Check out our picks for the 40 Best Songs of 2013

If you're lucky enough to play music out loud where you work, as we are at Fuse, you know there's inevitably that moment when your favorite song (say, for example, "Call Me Maybe") is your coworker's most detested. Tension simmers, tempers flare, some shouts of "shut that f--king thing off!!" just might be heard. 

Songs are very personal. It's a touchy subject.

We already had massive disagreements over our Best Albums of 2012 picks, so we knew this one would hurt feelings even if no punches were thrown. 

To reduce the chaos, we limited each staff member to five top picks. If the album choices were a surprise, the song picks really shocked some of us into silence. Who knew not one but two songs from the Twilight soundtrack would get picked? Not one but two tracks by Carly Rae Jepsen? What. The. Hell.

Looks like the staff agreed on more than we thought. 

We ordered according to popularity again, so click through for the tracks that brought peace and harmony to the office. So from Solange's knockout track to Diplo prodigies both old and new, read on to find out what we were singing out loud by the copy machine this year.

Gotye, "Somebody That I Used to Know"

2 / 41

The first time I heard this song I didn't even listen to it all the way through. My reaction was "meh," and I didn't give it a second thought. But then there was the video. And wow, did it change my feelings. 

It's like every word suddenly felt real and impassioned all because of an eyebrow lift and a heavy sigh. It builds and builds and bam, just like that it all fizzles out. Even if you've never felt love or heartbreak, I'm convinced this song is all the education you need. 

—Shannon Stewart, Web Content Manager / Cat Whisperer

Rihanna, “Where Have You Been"

3 / 41

Rihanna has become pop music’s shapeshifter, able to morph from wounded balladeer to island-hopping, hedonistic partier to defiant urban contemporary belter. But she sounds the most confident in classic house music diva mode, as on the Talk That Talk hit “Where Have You Been.” 

Produced by Dr. Luke, Cirkut and Calvin Harris, the song builds on the success of other rave-suitable tracks “We Found Love” and “Don’t Stop the Music,” and proves that Ri could have a career purely as a dance music goddess. 

—Jason Newman, Senior Writer / Compact Disc Collector

M.I.A., “Bad Girls”

4 / 41

I was surprised to learn M.I.A.’s 2012 single “Bad Girls” was produced by one-time Timbaland protégé, and more recently Britney Spears hitmaker, Danja. Sonically it makes sense, but I wouldn’t expect the outspoken Sri Lankan (via  London) emcee to work with such a mainstream producer. Afterall, M.I.A. was working with (and dating) Diplo way before he was cool.

 Danja’s hip hop-meets-Middle East beat creates the surprisingly perfect soundtrack for Maya’s laidback flow, bringing a certain sexy swagger to the track like only she could. It doesn’t hurt that the kick-ass “Bad Girls” music video is possibly the best of 2012. 

—Mark Sundstrom, Web Content Manager / R&B Connoisseur

Drake ft. Lil Wayne, “HYFR”

5 / 41

In the year's most unexpected music video, Drake stages a second bar mitzvah while Lil Wayne runs around wearing a panda head. But that would mean nothing if the song wasn't one of the year's best, strangest celebration songs.

—Joe Lynch, Staff Writer / Ms. Congeniality

Future, “Turn On the Lights”

6 / 41

Atlanta rapper Future already had a club staple with the pounding, ubiquitous “Same Damn Time,” but “Turn on the Lights,” his fourth single from his debut album Pluto, established the rapper as more than a one-trick-pony. 

The haunting, swirling synths of producer Mike Will Made It anchor Future’s spoken word raps and surprisingly effective singing voice. The song was a Top 5 hit on both the R&B and Rap charts and while it’s gotten regular spins in Atlanta strip clubs, there’s a mournful quality in the track that makes this one depressingly beautiful. 

—Jason Newman, Senior Writer / Compact Disc Collaborator

The Raveonettes, “Young and Cold”

7 / 41

It's like the Danish duo relocated to Appalachia. Known for their gritty, black leather-clad garage rock, the Ravonettes get all country on us with the opening track from their new album, Observator. The only hint of the regular Ravonettes is in the fuzz-toned rhythm guitar, but otherwise "Young and Cold" could pass for an old country standard thanks to its simple pop structure and Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo's gorgeous vocal melodies. 

—William Goodman, News Editor / Chocolate Junkie

Calvin Harris feat. Florence Welch, “Sweet Nothing”

8 / 41

2012 was Calvin Harris' year. Following his incredible success with Rihanna's "We Found Love," the dude redefined the term “blowing up.” He got everyone ever to guest on his third studio album, 18 Months (Kelis, Ellie Goulding, Tinie Tempah and Ne-Yo, to name a few), but his sparkly, disco-tinged collaboration with Florence Welch is the most addictive. 

—Nicole James, Staff Writer / Future Mrs. Harry Styles

Carly Rae Jepsen, “This Kiss”

9 / 41

Just thinking about this song makes me want to grab a mic and climb onto a bar counter. Not only will it get stuck in your head for days, but it's the perfect jam for a girls' night out. Where's that karaoke machine?!

—Tina Xu, Web Content Coordinator / Ultimate Drake and K-pop Fangirl

The Wanted, “I Found You”

10 / 41

The Wanted, incredibly, changed my previously iron-clad indifference to boy bands. “I Found You” follows the same pattern as some of their previous singles, yet feels like a step above in maturity. Which is great, because I hope The Wanted keep changing my mind about pop acts, and don’t just go off in one direction. 

—Kevin Tully, Web Video Coordinator/ 2nd Lieutenant of the Kiss Army


A$AP Rocky, “Goldie”

11 / 41

“Extraordinary swag and a mouth full of gold.” Pretty Flacko pitch-shifts his voice down, scaring the crap out of us and complementing producer Hit-Boy’s eerie, reverb-heavy beat. 

Like frequent A$AP collaborator Clams Casino, Hit-Boy’s “Goldie” would fit in well on your Halloween mixtape or soundtracking some horror film. But damn, it still thumps enough to blast very loud. 

—Jason Newman, Senior Writer / Compact Disc Collaborator

King Tuff, “Alone and Stoned”

12 / 41

Like Wavves before him, King Tuff, aka Kyle Thomas, onetime frontman of stoner-metal outfit Witch (featuring Dinosaur Jr's J Mascis on drums), loves weed and catchy guitar hooks. 

Thing is, Thomas' hooks have larger, sharper barbs. It's the catchiest track off his self-titled debut on Sub Pop, and it's bounce-on-your-bed, throw-a-pillow-fight fun. The backbeat drives a climbing vocal melody that's pure dopamine-rushing bliss.

—William Goodman, News Editor / Chocolate Junkie

Flying Lotus, “Getting There”

13 / 41

The first 20 seconds of "Getting There" are amazing; 10 seconds of something that sounds like a wind chime followed by an almost perfect beat. At just over a minute and a half, the track, which features Niki Randa on vocals, will leave you wanting more. 

—Taylor Berman, Staff Writer 

Norah Jones, “Happy Pills”

14 / 41

This jazzy, vibrant number somehow blends feelings of weariness and lethargy with images of driving with the top down. Unexpected but oddly comforting, "Happy Pills" just might be one of Norah Jones' best. 

—Tina Xu, Web Content Coordinator / Ultimate Drake and K-pop Fangirl

Kanye West, Big Sean, 2 Chainz & Pusha T, "Mercy"

15 / 41

Kanye and the G.O.O.D. Music crew ruled rap this year, thanks in great part to this inescapable song. Backed by a warped vocal hook, Big Sean delivered incredible puns about asses while 2 Chainz dropped a verse that put him on the A-list for 2012. 

—Joe Lynch, Staff Writer / Ms. Congeniality 

Foster the People, “Houdini”

16 / 41

It’s hard to follow a massive hit like "Pumped Up Kicks," however Foster the People’s “Houdini” is just as good, and twice as magical. The song’s vocal arrangements are hypnotizing and haunting. Don't take my word for it. Just listen.

—Kevin Tully, Web Video Coordinator/ 2nd Lieutenant in the Kiss Army


Cat Power, “Nothing But Time”

17 / 41

Who knew Cat Powerthe emotionally-damaged, booze-hound known to cry onstagewould deliver 2012's anthem of perseverance? Her latest album, Sun, was written and recorded when Chan Marshall was at a particularly happy, settled point in life, living in Los Angeles with her boyfriend, actor Giovanni Ribisi. 

All has since come crashing down: Marshall and Ribisi split, she moved to Miami and started drinking again, and just canceled her European tour due to health reasons. But "Nothin' But Time" stands as a monument in her career. 

A homage to Bowie's "Heroes," it's an 11-minute-long piano epic built around a simple structure, synths and guitar dissonance rising like the tide on all sides. She pleads about self-worth and perseverance in life, cooing "never, ever give in!" 

And then Iggy Popwho has picked himself up and turned his life around a few times too—shouts, "You wanna live! You wanna live!" It's a stirring, soul-barring moment.

—William Goodman, News Editor / Chocolate Junkie

Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"

18 / 41

It's a testament to this joyously melodic song that I heard it approximately 100 times a week and it still brought a smile to my face. In a year that found Katy Perry and Rihanna getting a little bit melancholy and Justin Bieber growing up, Carly Rae Jepsen delivered on effortlessly fun pure pop. 

—Joe Lynch, Staff Writer / Ms. Congeniality 

Deadmau5 ft. Gerard Way, “Professional Griefers”

19 / 41

For My Chemical Romance fans, Deadmau5’s “Professional Griefers” may be the gateway drug into EDM. Deadmau5 does an amazing feat of blending Gerard Way’s style into electronica, turning out a danceable sci-fi inspired hit.

—Kevin Tully, Web Video Coordinator/ 2nd Lieutenant in the Kiss Army


The Lumineers, "Ho Hey"

20 / 41

In the vein of Mumford & Sons or Edward Sharpe, these acoustic loving kids cut through the monotony of pop music arising with a beautiful, heartfelt plea of a hit. The kicker of course is that the melody sounds carefree and chipper, but if the lyrics are any indicator, the writer is coming from a not-so-happy-place. 

Maybe that's the secret combination for the unexpected chart toppers ("pumped up kicks," anyone?)—something for everyone. The people that just like a good hook get it and those of us who prefer our hooks with a splash of melancholy are satisfied too. 

—Shannon Stewart, Web Content Manager / Cat Whisperer

Kendrick Lamar, “Backseat Freestyle”

21 / 41

The standout track from an excellent album, "Backseat Freestyle" shows Kendrick Lamar at his most playful as he rhymes over an absurdly fantastic beat. Sample lyrics: "I pray my d-ck get big as the Eiffel Tower / So I can f-ck the world for 72 hours." Need we say more? 

—Taylor Berman, Staff Writer 

Beck, “Looking for a Sign”

22 / 41

Beck just released Beck Hansen's Song Reader, sheet music for 20 new Beck songs that the bo-ho songwriter hopes will encourage his fans to pick up instruments and play the songs. After all, Beck didn't record them himself (yet...), so playing 'em is the only way to hear 'em. But Beck did release two recorded songs in 2012, and one of 'em is a gem. 

Beck has been writing and recording more and more movie soundtracks (Eternal Sunshine, Twilight, Scott Pilgrim) lately, and contributed "Looking for a Sign" to Jeff, Who Lives at Home. It's a acoustic ballad in the vein of his classic LP Sea Change, but with the atmospheric, nu-psychedelic sounds of his last LP, Modern Guilt. Just another reminder that Beck is perhaps alt-rock's most enduring and interesting artist.

—William Goodman, News Editor / Chocolate Junkie

Jane’s Addiction, "Underground"

23 / 41

Veteran rockers Jane’s Addiction have a deep catalog of great songs, but “Underground” captures JA sounding their best in years. Maybe ever. Perry’s vocals shine and Navarro’s guitar is epic. It's one of the best rock songs to come out this year.

—Kevin Tully, Web Video Coordinator/ 2nd Lieutenant in the Kiss Army


Alex Clare, “Too Close”

24 / 41

"Oh, it's that song from that Internet Explorer commercial," said everyone ever about Alex Clare's epic The Lateness of the Hour single. The song put the British singer-songwriter on the map and makes yet another case for dubstep’s unexpected longevity. 

—Nicole James, Staff Writer / Future Mrs. Harry Styles

Bruno Mars, "Locked Out of Heaven"

25 / 41

When I first heard Bruno Mars’ "Locked Out of Heaven," I thought it was an amazing Police song I never heard before. Then I found out it was Bruno Mars… then I realized I liked Bruno Mars more then The Police. Seriously, Bruno Mars is the most talented man in this industry and I hope Unorthodox Jukebox is a monster hit.

—Kevin Tully, Web Video Coordinator/ 2nd Lieutenant in the Kiss Army


Frank Ocean, "Bad Religion"

26 / 41

Frank Ocean debuted this Channel Orange cut via a moving live performance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon on the eve of his album release. While I was feeling the other tracks Ocean had released leading up to the album, it was that performance of this song that sealed the deal for me. The next day I was in Best Buy picking up a physical copy of Channel Orange. Enough said. 

—Mark Sundstrom, Web Content Manager / R&B Connoisseur

Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble”

27 / 41

Taylor Swift discovered dubstep, y'all. By far the most exciting track on her fourth studio album Red, Taylor’s “Trouble” helps explain why we all love a bad boy (with help from genius songwriters Max Martin and Shellback). The song debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but it's still No. 1 on my "Most Played" list. 

—Nicole James, Staff Writer / Future Mrs. Harry Styles

Kanye West, Big Sean & Jay-Z, “Clique”

28 / 41

Kanye West, Big Sean & Jay-Z: Choosing between "Clique" and its Cruel Summer co-single "Mercy" is impossible; both are near-perfect hip hop songs. But since "Mercy" is already getting the lion's share of the year end love,  I'll give "Clique" the nod. 

—Taylor Berman, Staff Writer 

Rita Ora, "How We Do (Party)"

29 / 41

Initially intrigued by the Biggie big up on the hook, this song was instantly stuck in my head after just one full listen. Despite its heavy rotation on my iPod all summer, it still kills me every time it comes on. This might just be that rare example of the perfect pop song. 

—Mark Sundstrom, Web Content Manager / R&B Connoisseur

Japandroids, "The House That Heaven Built"

30 / 41

This is your fighting song, your go-out-into-the-world-and-kick-ass song. The chorus is the ultimate pep talk from your hero, your lover, a ghost—whatever you want. If Rocky Balboa was just a little bit punk rock, he would have been running up those stairs to this song. I mean seriously, if you just played this song on repeat to your unborn child in the womb, I think they're practically guaranteed to grow up to be president or the next Chuck Norris or better. 

—Shannon Stewart, Web Content Manager / Cat Whisperer

Drake feat. Rihanna, “Take Care”

31 / 41

Maybe it's the drums. Or the rawness of the lyrics. Or the way Rihanna's throaty voice blends effortlessly into the song. Or maybe I'm just a huge Drake fangirl who absolutely had to include this pick. 

—Tina Xu, Web Content Coordinator / Ultimate Drake and K-pop Fangirl

Sleeping At Last, "Turning Page"

32 / 41

Don't discount this song because it's on the Twilight soundtrack. Honestly, I don't think Edward and Bella even deserve a song this epically beautiful.  Sweeping strings and delicate piano, poetic lyrics, glorious crescendos—this song really is tailored for us hopeless romantics. Girls everywhere are praying this song plays when their boyfriends propose to them. Guys, don't let them down. 

—Shannon Stewart, Web Content Manager / Cat Whisperer

Major Lazer, “Get Free”

33 / 41

This one is tough to separate from its fantastic video, but even on its own, "Get Free" is wonderful. Featuring Dirty Projectors' Amber Coffman on vocals, the reggae/dancehall tune is, at once, mournful, hopeful and impossibly catchy. 

—Taylor Berman, Staff Writer 

Pond, “Fantastic Explosion of Time”

34 / 41

The rock rule of thumb is that side-projects generally suck, or at least don't compare to an artist's "main project," but 2012 flipped that idea on its head. Spoon's Britt Daniel and Wolf Parade's Dan Boeckner produced one of the year's best albums as Divine Fits, and Australia's Pond, featuring the touring members of Tame Impala (sans leader Kevin Parker), did the same with Beard, Wives, Denim

Tame Impala's bassist Nick Allbrook, who exudes the mental patient chic of Thom Yorke circa 1993, takes lead vocals, while keyboardist Jay Watson shreds guitar. The album's best track, "Fantastic Explosion of Time," is like Tame Impala's flowing psychedelia high on Bath Salts, flooring the pedal of a '70s Firebird. It all comes crashing down at the :44 second mark; drums snap and a screeching guitar riffs hits the gas, leaving shrapnel in its dust.

—William Goodman, News Editor / Chocolate Junkie

Big Bang, “Bad Boy”

35 / 41

This R&B-heavy single off Big Bang's fifth EP essentially represents an amped up, more polished version of the veteran group's debut sound. The unique mid-tempo track is richly urban, set against a nostalgic '90s hip hop beat while still remaining soft, elegant, refined. 

—Tina Xu, Web Content Coordinator / Ultimate Drake and K-pop Fangirl

Chromatics, “Back from the Grave”

36 / 41

Chromatics's Kill for Love is one of the better albums of 2012. Like that album, "Back From the Grave" is melancholic and strange but so damn listenable. It's easily my favorite song off an excellent album. 

—Taylor Berman, Staff Writer 

Christina Perri, “A Thousand Years Pt. 2”

37 / 41

This sappy Christina Perri song is the best thing to ever come out of a Twilight film, although Kellan Lutz is a close second. Its stunning chorus alone is enough to make even the manliest of men weep, I guarantee it. 

—Tina Xu, Web Content Coordinator / Ultimate Drake and K-pop Fangirl

Passion Pit, “Take A Walk”

38 / 41

Upon first listen, this song seems like an upbeat anthem of good feelings. The chorus just exudes vitality. I mean if a song is right for a Taco Bell commercial, it’s gotta be pretty harmless, right? Well, not exactly.

One look at the lyrics and a dark story unfolds. Even lead singer, Michael Angelakos told Rolling Stone “Take A Walk” is the “most overtly depressing and pathetic song on the record.” I’m not gonna lie, that’s kind of why I like it. Emotions are complicated. Happiness is constantly tinged with sorrow. Music is only good when it paints a picture of real life and “Take A Walk” nails it. 

—Shannon Stewart, Web Content Manager / Cat Whisperer

Michael Angelakos' gift for melody is astounding. Here, he takes a first-person narrative about a working class man's misguided anger and turns it into a stomping synth-pop anthem. 

—Joe Lynch, Staff Writer / Ms. Congeniality

Miguel, "Adorn"

39 / 41

"Adorn" seemed to have come out of nowhere, but it really came from L.A. native Miguel, whose second studio album, Kaleidoscope Dream, is the best thing to happen to R&B in a minute. The sexy ode to his sexy woman earned Miguel three Grammy nominations—looks like Miguel might be the "adorned" one soon. (Sorry, had to.) 

—Nicole James, Staff Writer / Future Mrs. Harry Styles

When Miguel dropped “Adorn” (originally off his early 2012 mixtape Art Dealer Chic Vol. 1) R&B fans hungry for a new, credible male R&B artist, ate it up. The song’s slinky production and sexy vocal styling aren’t too left-of-center for radio, but Miguel’s quirky spin (he wrote and produced the entire song) gives the song a credibility that transcends the genre. Miguel added a bridge and the new version became the lead single off his critically-acclaimed sophomore album Kaleidoscope Dream. The song recently nabbed 3 Grammy noms, including Song of the Year. 

—Mark Sundstrom, Web Content Manager / R&B Connoisseur

Solange, “Losing You”

40 / 41

This song was on repeat for weeks in the Fuse office. Solange’s straight forward-yet-innocent vocals fit perfectly over Dev Hynes' unmistakable synths and percussion. With this song (and her entire True EP) Solange has definitely found her own place in pop music. 

As 2012 comes to a close, it’s perfectly acceptable and believable to say I love Beyonce AND Solange... for two completely different reasons. 

Mark Sundstrom, Web Content Manager / R&B Connoisseur

Beyonce's younger sister is the unsung R&B hero of the year on this seductive, lovely heartbreak ballad. Special props go to her collaborator Dev Hynes, a New Wave-meets-R&B producer whose sound just may end up dominating 2013. 

—Joe Lynch, Staff Writer / Ms. Congeniality 

Usher, “Climax”

41 / 41

When Usher's Diplo-assisted sex jam "Climax" dropped in early 2012, anticipation for his seventh studio album, Looking 4 Myself, was at an all-time high. While the album itself was a bit of a disappointment, "Climax" reminded us why Usher's still in the game after 18 years. 

—Nicole James, Staff Writer / Future Mrs. Harry Styles

It’s no secret Usher’s been (successfully) riding the dance wave as of late. When DJ/producer Diplo tweeted a link to “Climax,” he had worked on with Usher, I honestly expected another Major Lazer rehash beat a-la Beyonce’s 2011 “Girls (Who Run The World).” Boy was I wrong, but when it comes to “Climax,” I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. 

The song utilizes Usher’s longing falsetto, with the sparse and moody Diplo beat taking a back seat to the vocals, a rare occurance in pop music these days. Forget the name-dropping-worthy production credit, this is one of Usher’s most poignant singles since his Confessions era.

—Mark Sundstrom, Web Content Manager / R&B Connoisseur

With help from producer Diplo, Usher took a familiar-sounding bedroom swerve song and created a future-pop masterpiece. The sparse drums and understated production, anchored by repeating synth stabs, puts Usher’s voice in the front of the mix. Diplo said that Usher wanted to “take the strip club to the stadium." Done. 

—Jason Newman, Senior Writer / Compact Disc Collector

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