1. Video Games – Lana Del Rey
The finest song released this, or perhaps any year, newcomer Lana Del Rey’s dark, heartbreaking ballad caused a stir when it debuted on YouTube in August. Much of the attention focused on everything but the music — namely those suspiciously bee-stung lips, and the fact that Del Rey was previously an unsuccessful blonde singer-songwriter going by the less alluring name of Lizzy Grant. “Fake! Fake!” cried hipster blogs, while the rest of us got along with the business of enjoying the song. Video Games is yet to take off in Australia, peaking at the lofty heights of number 75 last month, and it remains to be seen if such a subtle, swoonsome song will ever be a hit in our LMFAO-lovin’ country. Regardless, the imminent release of her debut album Born To Die means 2012 should be Lana’s year.
2. Beat Of My Drum – Nicola Roberts
Who expected such a brash, confident solo debut from UK girl group Girls Aloud’s resident sulky ginge? Produced by Diplo, a schizophrenic mix of bratty schoolyard chants, clattering beats and Roberts’ Cilla Black-esque vibrato made it the year’s maddest pop single. Even Madonna took note, nicking the song’s cheerleader chants for her underwhelming newly leaked demo, Give Me All Your Love.
3. Motivation – Kelly Rowland
While Kelly’s oft-delayed third album was an unfocused mess, Motivation is pure sex: a glacial bump’n’grind slow jam with lyrics to match. Rowland, never one to veil her meanings in metaphor (“work, put it in!” indeed), goads her man to shag her senseless from the opening, filthy lines: “Oh lover, don’t you dare slow down/ Go longer, you can last more rounds/ Push harder, you’re almost there now/ So go lover, make mama proud.” It remains to be seen whether Mrs Rowland really does well up with maternal pride at the news her daughter’s getting comprehensively pounded. One thing’s for sure, though — gay or straight, you’ll be wanting to give her a seeing-to by the end of this song.
4. I Wanna Be Your Man – Willy Moon
One minute and 50 seconds: that’s how long it took for little-known UK newcomer Willy Moon to cement his star status with this addictive, distortion-heavy throwback to ’50s pop. And those moves! Swoon.
5. Born This Way – Lady Gaga
Cynical types baulked at Gaga’s earnestly clunky lyrics (although I’m sure her beige, chola and Orient fans appreciated the not-at-all-condescending shout-outs) and fixated on the musical similarities to Madonna’s Express Yourself (a pop song that sounds a bit like another pop song? The horror!), but Gaga’s all-important lead single for her second(ish) album was more than just a song; it was a pop culture event. Watch her debut Born This Way at this year’s Grammys, emerging from inside a giant egg and just about exploding with excitement by the song’s climax, and just try to deny the sheer inclusive joy of it all.
6. Kate Middleton – Nadia Oh
By the time it got an official release, Nadia Oh’s tongue-in-cheek ode to England’s newest princess had reverted to the rather-more-vanilla title Taking Over The Dance Floor. It’ll always be Kate Middleton to us. The song itself is a blistering examination of social climbers and royal excess, with a dead-eyed Nadia extolling listeners to “throw your wallets in the air” over a cacophony of sirens and whistles for six frenetic minutes. Hilarious, thrilling, and exactly the sort of music M.I.A. should be making instead of that unlistenable third album of hers.
7. Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye ft. Kimbra
This surprise number one hit really kicks into gear exactly three minutes in. Gotye having given his side of the story up until that point, Kimbra launches into an attack on her whingeing male counterpart, swiftly eviscerating him with her final, cathartic, “somebody that you USED to know!” GIRL POWER!
8. Someone Like You – Adele
Sadly, this timeless break-up ballad has become a victim of its own success, its emotional pull lessened thanks to the Rowlandesque pounding it’s received on commercial radio, TV talent shows and (retch) Glee throughout the year. But cast your mind all the way back to November 2010, when a pre-ubiquitous Adele premiered the then-unheard new song on Later with Jools Holland, and be blown away all over again.
9. Jealousy – Will Young
This Richard X-produced dancefloor ballad delivered the openly gay pop star his biggest hit in years, and deservedly so — it’s a graceful, shimmering song with a soaring chorus. Check out the unashamedly queer video, too, for a bit of same-sex love triangle action.
10. Put Your Hands Up – Nerina Pallot
Rumoured to have been left off Kylie’s Aphrodite, singer-songwriter Nerina Pallot (who penned that album’s title track and Better Than Today for Our Kylie) salvaged this for the lead single to her stunning fourth album, Year of the Wolf. Positively anthemic, it even came with a PWL-esque remix, Put Your Hands Up (Like It’s 1987), giving a strong indication of what it would’ve sounded like in Minogue’s hands.
And a seductively sexy special mention goes to:
11. Don’t Put It On Me Girl – Courtney Stodden
The (allegedly) surgically enhanced child bride became a viral hit this year after a string of incoherent TV interviews given to justify her marriage to 51-year-old TV actor Doug Hutchison. When she’s not busy writing nonsensically alliterative tweets, keeping it ‘rill’ and gurning like she’s just dropped her fifth pill, Stodden’s a budding pop starlet. Don’t Put It On Me Girl is a strident feminist riposte to those whose own insecurities blind them to the talented singer’s stunning natural beauty.
Are we being sarcastic? *Sigh* We don’t even know any more.
Video of the year, by the way — who needs a big Hollywood budget when you’ve got a motorboat, an alopecia-ridden poodle covered in food dye and unfettered use of your uncle’s swamp?