50. Joan Franka – You And Me
From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku
To kick off, I knew we would have to talk about Eurovision at some point, so I might as well get the ball rolling. 2012 was a pretty special year for Eurovision, with many people commenting on the marked improvement in overall quality. Sweden grabbed their responsibility of hosting 2013’s contest with both hands, and I’m cautiously thinking that the only way is up (up up uuuup).
But for the Netherlands, things still didn’t quite go to plan as they failed to qualify for the grand final for an 8th successive year. Understandable given the rather unusual – and at many times, off key – performance from Joan. Kitted out as a native American for reasons unknown to the casual viewer (it’s from the video), she performed this gorgeously sweet ballad about lost childhod love. It wore a little thin after I totally overplayed it, but still it deserved honourable mention in a musically solid 2012.
49. Ellie Goulding – Lights
From Bright Lights
Perhaps a bit of a cheat, as it appears on Ellie’s 2010 reissue of her debut “Lights” album, but it’s my chart so I don’t care. My justification is that it inexplicably broke through in the States this year, handily laying groundwork for her second album “Halcyon”. I had written her off as a bit of a boring singer-songwriter with too much critical acclaim. But this is different to a lot of music I’ve heard from her.
It’s a gently twinkling electro ballad, with multiple layers and hooks to get it stuck in my head, as well as a pretty swish but cheap video. It’s almost enough to get me to inspect her music closer, but I think I need a little more convincing first.
48. Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
From Born To Die
Speaking of critical acclaim – usually a bit of a poisonous thing for me, I want to make up my own mind – Lana Del Rey made waves at the start of the year with her debut album. It was a slow burner but ended up one of the bigger hits of the year. I’m not overly fond of her laconic singing style, it’s all a bit try-hard. I never quite saw what everyone else did. But I rather like this title track from the album.
Not to say that I don’t think her singing voice isn’t very intriguing, I just think I need to make a connection to the music. I did enjoy the Tumblr of “Lana del Rey dancing” animations though, tee hee.
47. Emeli Sande – Read All About It (Pt. III)
From Our version of events
Wow, what a worthy set of singers to kick off with! It wasn’t intentional, maybe it’s just the trashier stuff floating to the top. Anyway as everyone is so fond of saying, Emeli Sande was “the voice of 2012”. Possibly due to her omnipresence during the year, promoting the shit out of the various singles at every available opportunity.
Notably the huge exposure she got repeatedly at the Olympics was a bit much, Christ knows how the label made that happen! She’s a misery guts, and she dresses like an old lady. But occasionally I see the appeal, and maybe it’s some of the reflected afterglow from the Olympics closing ceremony that securing this track its place in my countdown. I never liked the duet version she did with Professor Green – a clear copy-paste job ‘inspired’ by the Eminem/Rihanna smash the previous year. But this ballad version really works for me. Just as well as it is nigh-on unavoidable.
46. Christina Aguilera – Your Body
Don’t call it a comeback! I think you need some degree of reaching former highs for it to count, and that’s something “Lotus” really didn’t manage. I haven’t heard it myself (yet), but I did really enjoy this trashtasticaly brazen song about sex with strangers. Are you empowered yet? She’ll be sure to scream you down if you aren’t, HEY BOOOY!
It’s an unusually mid-tempo electro track, with a pulsing beat throughout it. She does shout quite a lot, particularly towards the climax, but I think the real saving grace is the astonishing video. White trash Xtina brutally murders her casual partners with symbolism (ish), it’s worth watching if you’re not sure that just hearing a new Xtina song is enough of an enticing prospect. SAY!
45. Alexandra Burke – Elephant (ft Erick Morillo)
From Heartbreak on hold
Talking of disasterous comebacks, here’s an X-Factor alumnus down on her luck. I don’t know where her appeal disappeared to, she did pretty well with her original “Overcome” album, and hasn’t done anything particularly awful since then (though the jury might be out on forgotten No.1 “Start without you”, I still can’t belieave it happened).
Either way, Lex wanted to take it to the clubs big time, and the fun but disposable album was heavily influenced by 90s dance sounds. That suited me fine, but not the public, and it duly tanked. But she got a hit out of it, the No.3 dance track “Elephant”. Under the surface of this big and bombastic dance track, and aside from the unusual title, I think there’s a decent song here. It all comes together for me, I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but so what. I genuinely think she’s making music that she likes, for what it’s worth.
44. Madonna – Give Me All Your Luvin’ (ft Nicki Minaj & MIA)
Oh what the hell, let’s just keep those failed comebacks coming. In some ways Madonna’s had a good 2012: her new album “MDNA” was No.1 in many countries, she played the interval show at the Superbowl, and became the biggest-grossing tour act of the year. And yet in other ways it feels like it’s been a bit of a disaster.
I suppose I’ve always grown up with Madonna the chart force, and enjoyed her late 90s rennaissance period when it felt that she was the biggest artist on the planet. But what the hell is she doing? The public just aren’t buying her singles, and while she’s got enough of a fanbase to get No.1 albums still, her overall sales are in a tailspin.
Part of me thinks that she should make the music she wants to make rather than what “a woman of her age should be making”. Pandering to fans and critics is not what she’s ever been about. Maybe it’s just a skewed view I hear from the bitchy internet gays, incapable of opinions that aren’t extreme. I just wonder how long she can go on in this direction. “MDNA” was supposed to be the new start, with a new label. But right now it feels like her music career is just a means to tour.
“Give me all your luvin” was nominally her biggest hit from the campaign, and I love the cheerleader motif and the video. It might have worn a little thin now, but she can still make solid pop songs at least. She just needs to get people to give them the time of day.
43. Pink – Try
From The truth about love
Pink also returned with a new album in 2012, though much more successfully than the artists I’ve just listed. I might not have been into the album very much when I reviewed it, but the two lead singles were solid. “Try” is a more downbeat, downtempo MOR track than we are often used to from Pink, but there’s a powerful video to go along with it.
She dances/fights with her lover, in some hair-raising scenes that blur the line between heavily choreographed dancing and domestic violence. The bulk of the chorus is pretty repetitive, which is what counted against it in the end, but it has a great hook that nicely counters the gentle piano-led verses. It feels like a bit of an evolution for her as a performer, even if the album perhaps didn’t.
42. Ellie Goulding – Anything Could Happen
We’ve seen a bit of Ellie already, but I don’t think the people who didn’t really like her (me included) were quite prepared for this comeback single. Heavily produced, with an eerie sample that makes up most of the chorus. It’s a joy to listen to, and comes with a hi-gloss pop video to mesmerise viewers.
It’s drenched in electronic production, which masks the shortcomings in her vocals quite nicely. This doesn’t quite pan out in the live performances I’ve seen, which broke the spell a little for me. But as far as a radio single goes, it sounds fresh and interesting. I wonder if she’s got anything else up her sleeve…
41. Justin Bieber – Beauty And A Beat (ft Nicki Minaj)
Shock! A male vocal! I’m well aware my end-of-year countdowns are quite oestrogen-fuelled, but I do have an open mind about it. Goodness knows lots of people don’t have that when it comes to Justin Bieber. He re-issued his solid hit 2nd album “Believe” recently, teaming up with serial collaborator Nicki Minaj for this. A generic dance-pop track sure, but one of his best.
The video was pretty cool too, and on occasion made me wish I was young, American and invited to a pool party. Aspirational viewing! And that’s before Nicki sings “buns out, wiener” with as straight a face as she can manage.