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My Madonna Top 40: #10 – #6

Oh I’m a tease aren’t I? Somewhere between busy and lazy is where I am at the moment, squandering what little time I have available, making another dump of 10 songs a little too time-consuming. But I still want to get it sorted soon, I have a backlog that will only get worse when my copy of Animal Crossing: New Leaf arrives. So here’s 5 of the best, with my top 5 following probably on Friday.

[Skip to #40 – 31, #30 – 21, #20 – 11, Top 5]

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My Madonna Top 40: #30 – 21

At the weekend I kicked off the home stretch of Madonna write-ups, having covered all the studio albums over the last few months. But here’s another ten of the best – according to me anyway.

[Skip to #40 – 31, #20 – 11, #10 – 6, Top 5]

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My Top 50 of 2012: #30 – #21

30. Loreen – Crying Out Your Name

From Heal

LoreenThere’s nothing more painful than a missed opportunity sometimes (well not literally). But this is exactly how I feel Loreen’s 2012 went. The first half was triumphant; the salvation of Eurovision (perhaps) via a landslide victory and importantly a massive commercial hit across Europe. You’d think a follow-up would be a piece of cake, wouldn’t you?

Perhaps for a normal act it would be, but this is an artist that took a month to release a video for “Euphoria”, 4 months after it had been released in Sweden (plus it was shit). Her international follow-up would be an unwanted remix to her 2011 Melodifestivalen entry, while Sweden were treated to an original track (still without a video). At this point you might just have to throw your hands up in exasperation.

Fortunately “Crying out your name” is pretty awesome, a dark simmering bit of emotional electropop. She sounds as pained as ever, but her vocals soar over the old-school sounding beats. Imagine a slightly-sped up and miserable version of “You got the love” and you’re not too far off. I fear Loreen might end up losing her commerical appeal in the long-term by insisting on joyless misery pop to further her career, but I’d love to be proven wrong.

29. Reidun Sæther – High On Love

From Melodi Grand Prix 2012

ReidunBack to the Norwegian Eurovision pre-selection, and a joyously dated schlager anthem that sort of made it worth listening to the mixed back of Norwegian hopefuls. A naff Motown-esque verse leads into a sassy bridge, and BOOM – that instantly catchy chorus hits you like a ton of fermented herring.

Sometimes all you need is a curvy woman singing an old-fashioned bit of Scandinavian pop at full belt, and with a deadly key-change in the final act, I couldn’t help but love it.

28. Andreas Lundstedt – Aldrig Aldrig

From Melodifestivalen 2012

AndreasI hadn’t meant to string so much Scandinavian action together, but we must return once more to Melodifestivalen, and one-time member of Swedish power-pop group Alcazar made a push for solo glory once more. It didn’t get very far, but there’s something about this track that just makes me feel a bit warm and fuzzy.

Swedish is an interesting language to listen to, and I don’t have the slightly idea what he’s singing, but that chorus is such a wave of gentle vocals, stabbing disco strings and bubbling synths. There’s also a standard-issue keychange if you were still sitting on the fence. Nothing particularly special about it on paper, but I really love this the more I hear it.

27. Adam Lambert – Never Close Our Eyes

From Trespassing

AdamI’d been aware of Adam for some time, but his debut single “For your entertainment” had put me off from investigating further. After belatedly discovering his amazing “Whataya want from me” on holiday, I had a great time listening to his second album “Trespassing”. This was kicked off by a full-on dancepop onslaught in the shape of lead single “Never close our eyes”.

OK a lot of people are doing the dancepop thing these days, and while many are getting annoyed, I’m having a great time, this is just the sort of thing I love. Adam has a huge voice, prone to oversinging sometimes, but everything is in balance here, and a throbbing full-on pop song is born.

26. Ke$ha – Die Young

From Warrior

Ke$haPity poor Ke$ha, she seems to be the laughing stock of the pop world sometimes, but by sheer brute force she’s been responsible for some of the best trashy pop songs of the last three years. I certainly think there’s a place for Ke$ha, she just seems a bit more free and fun than the painfully self-conscious Katy Perry and her overstyled persona has become.

Her debut album was pretty solid, so I’m intrigued to hear what her followup “Warrior” sounds like. “Die Young” is pretty simple, but it’s really grown on me in the last month. That chorus and pseudo-acoustic guitar works a lot better than it should, and this ends up as a pretty solid return to form.

25. Lawson – Taking Over Me

From Chapman Square

LawsonJust like The Wanted a few years ago, I thought these guys were doomed. Who needs another boyband, let alone one like a latter-day BBMak? I’ve not quite been proven wrong, but they’ve had a clutch of top 10 hits this year, and even better, two of them are really good. In fact I was very surprised to hear that the gorgeously fresh and summery track I heard on the radio was by these guys.

It reminds me a lot of Savage Garden, which is no bad thing really, considering Darren Hayes is doing all sorts of nonsense these days and I’ve gone off him a bit. Plus these guys are quite handsome aren’t they? I’ll have to investigate their album in the new year. I suspect it will be acoustic guitar-based boyband dross, but I’m hoping to be wrong.

24. Usher – Scream

From Looking 4 Myself

UsherAnd on we go with more RnB-turned-dance. Usher saw the potential for his crossover a few years ago with “DJ got us falling in love”, and maybe even with the dance-lite “Love in this club” over 4 years ago. So it was a natural direction for him to go in with his latest album.

Essentially this is another dose of “DJ got us falling in love”, but it’s no less potent. That weird twangy sample is catchy, and his usual huge vocals ride over the top of the chaotic clash of production. Generic as you like, but I like it a LOT.

23. Ivi Adamou – La La Love

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

IviWith the big US stars falling over themselves to be fun for Europe, it’s left to Eurovision to show us that Europe can have just as much fun. The contest in Baku threw up several dancefloor smashes, with one of my favourites coming from the Mediterranean. Cyprus have always floundered in the contest, in the shadow of perenially successful Greece. This year the small island nation managed a narrow victory over its mainland counterpart, the first in 10 years.

The track itself is cheap and cheerful, and not altogether unlike Jennifer Lopez’s monster smash “On the floor”. Ivi was a great performer too, a giantess with legs that went all the way up, and gleefully wearing her best turbo-slut makeup and grabbing her boobs. A lot of fun to watch, and the song’s a cheap thrill of the best kind.

22. Maya Sar – Korake Ti Znam

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

MayaLook at me, I’m all rounded and cultured. It’s not all dance-pop, I’ve got a Bosnian-language ballad now, how’s about that? Truth be told, I don’t think I’d normally like this sort of thing, and indeed at the time of Eurovision I thought this was nice but nothing special. But something clicked for me a little while afterwards.

It’s understated to be sure, but that subtle swell of the string section, and Maya’s gentle vocals really sound beautiful together. Those moments where there are a bit of drama just sound all the better in this otherwise chilled-out environment. By the time you hit the final chorus, it’s really blossomed into something beautiful. I’ll pay more attention to my Balkan ballads in future.

21. Madonna – I’m Addicted

From MDNA

MadonnaOne last showing for old Madge now though, and what is doomed to be one of the hidden gems of the MDNA project. This was a standout track early on, and at least shows us that she can harness this harsh electronic sound when she puts her mind to it.

I was really looking forward to this part of her MDNA show, and it absolutely didn’t disappoint. I can’t wait for the DVD! OK the lyrics are a bit naff as ever, but the production is spot-on, even harking back to some of her earlier material at the turn of the century. That “M.D.N.A.M.D.N.A” refrain at the end just whips me up into a frenzy every time.

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My Top 50 of 2012: #40 – #31

40. Scissor Sisters – Only the Horses

From Magic Hour

ScissorWhile I didn’t really get on with its parent album “Magic Hour”, this lead single was just on the right side of synth-drenched pop, without resorting to the high-camp of earlier albums. Album sales didn’t follow suit, but the album felt a little truer to the act, free from the pressure of following up a smash album.

It may not have the characteristic humour we are used to the Sisters, but it’s alive and well on the album in tracks like “Let’s have a Kiki”. Could have sworn Stuart Price had stepped in for this track, but it was superproducer of the moment Calvin Harris working his magic once again.

39. Owl City – Dreams And Disasters

From The Midsummer Station

OwlI really do love Owl City. I don’t know why, he’s in constant of danger of sounding a bit samey, particularly with three albums out in as many years. But “The Midsummer Station” was an energetic and faster-paced effort than his previous two. This is demonstrated wonderfully with this opening track.

He got a decent hit out of hitching his wagon to Carly Rae Jepsen’s star on “Good time”, but I think this chorus just goes that little bit further for me.

38. Charlotte Perrelli – The Girl

From Melodifestivalen 2012

CharlotteMelodifestivalen time, and former Eurovision winner Charlotte Perrelli threw her hat into the ring one more time after her less-successful comeback in 2008.

It comes out all guns blazing, and borrows heavily from “Mamma mia”, but that chorus is just vibrant pop music that is so often produced in the hotly contested Swedish show. It shockingly didn’t even qualify for the MF final, but she didn’t shame herself with the song (except when she forgot the words).

37. Cher Lloyd – Want U Back

From Sticks + Stones

CherWhen I saw the lavish video I expect a break for the US was on the cards, and I was right. She scored a hit with this track (though oddly a different video), even if it wasn’t the hit it deserved to be on home soil.

A shamelessly jealous track about having second through after dumping someone, superb pop music that doesn’t deserve to be shunned just because of her dodgy credibility here. Wasn’t a bad album at all, either!

36. Minnie-Oh – You And I

From Melodi Grand Prix 2012

Minnie-OhHaving mentioned Eurovision and the Swedish selection show Melodifestivalen, it should come as no surprise to hear a track from the Norwegian counterpart Melodi Grand Prix. I can’t say I loved a lot of the tracks when I listened to it, but there were still some gems to be had. This included this Robyn-esque electropop track that has grown and grown on me.

35. Amelia Lily – You Bring Me Joy

From

AmeliaOf all the X-Factor alumni I expected to hear anything good from, shouty Amelia Lily from last year’s contest wasn’t one of them. Stepping aside from the pop-rock Kelly Clarkson covers she put her name to on the show, this is a surprisingly fresh dance-pop track not unlike something Rihanna might have made.

It remains to be seen if she’ll be an act to watch, but this was certainly a pleasant surprise, and proof that losing doesn’t always mean you’ll never make it.

34. Madonna – Girl Gone Wild

From MDNA

MadonnaMadonna’s back, and she’s bad. Well you can tell Benny Benassi was on production duties here, sharing a sound or two with his “Celebration” remix from 2009. Sounds pretty throwaway and a depressing prospect for a second single. Indeed it tanked pretty much everywhere, but for me it really grew. It’s simple but it doesn’t mean it’s crap.

But what really set it off for me was seeing her perform live on her MDNA tour. OK it wasn’t an amazing concert for me, mostly for practical reasons in a cramped standing area, but this one really came alive on the stage.

33. Chris Brown – Don’t Wake Me Up

From Fortune

ChrisYeah yeah, I know, everybody hates Chris, right? Well as long as I don’t have to speak to him, I’m happy to enjoy some of his music if I like it.

The big European dance feel to it certainly helps, it felt like a perfect summer hit – which it was in several countries – and launched his latest album to a transatlantic #1. That video is a bit OTT though isn’t it?

32. Ne-Yo – Let me love you (Until you learn to love yourself)

From R.E.D.

Ne-YoSpeaking of RnB-goes-dance, if you prefer your crooners to be less abusive, then Ne-Yo is a decent bet, picking up several hits and feature credits during the year. This is probably his biggest hit for a while, scoring a #1 in the UK. It took a little while for it to grow on me, I think it broke through when I was out of the country.

But it keeps the RnB heart for the most part, with a warm and simmering dance beat for him to lay his soaring vocals on top of. It’s a bit of a sickly sentiment but I think I find it quite sweet now.

31. Sam and the Womp – Bom Bom

From

SamEvery year there has to be a holiday hit from mainland Europe. Last year it was that “What the f**k” one from Spain, before that it was “Me no speako Americano”, the list goes on. Except that while this has all the hallmarks of a holiday hit, it was made in London.

But that doesn’t stop it from being a riotously fun bit of heavily-accented nonsense. Flashes of Bjork, flashes of Basement Jaxx, a chaotic production of big beats and trumpets. I’m surprised it made it to No.1 but it’s one of the odder No.1s of the year.

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My Top 50 of 2012: #50 – #41

50. Joan Franka – You And Me

From Eurovision Song Contest 2012: Baku

JoanTo 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

ElliePerhaps 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

LanaSpeaking 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

EmeliWow, 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

From Lotus

ChristinaDon’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

AlexandraTalking 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)

From MDNA

MadonnaOh 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

PinkPink 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

From Halcyon

EllieWe’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)

From Believe

JustinShock! 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.

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