What have we been loving from January to June? We’ve got it down to a dozen — Hot 100 smashes and indie-rock anthems alike. (Unfortunately, two of our picks aren’t on Spotify, so we’ve included YouTube videos of those songs below.)
Carly Rae Jepsen, “Call Me Maybe” When was the last time a Canadian wrote a pop song so universally appealing that it’s beloved by Justin Bieber and New York Mets shortstop Justin Turner? If everything up north is as great as its giddy chorus, let’s all move to Canada.
Chiddy Bang, “Handclaps & Guitars” “I just came to party,” say the Philly hip-hop duo. But their Guitar Hero-riffing jam -suggests that even when they’re just making a liquor-store run, smoking in the car, and listening to “emotional R&B,” they’re having more fun than you.
Nicki Minaj, “HOV Lane” “Starships” may be catchier, but this SUV-size banger gets all the best brags. Like this one: “Holy moley/G copped me a rolly/I ain’t catchin’ the puck/But iced out like a goalie.” Stay cold, lady.
Gotye feat. Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know” Okay, so it’s about a guy who screwed over his ex-girlfriend. (“I’ll admit I was glad it was over”? Thanks, dude.) But Gotye’s so smooth telling his side of the story, nuzzling up to you with his lightly plucked strings and his ahhh-ahhhs, it’s hard not to fall for him all over again. Jerk.
Meek Mill feat. Drake and Jeremih, “Amen” Hearing the cool church-organ groove that powers “Amen,” you might think you’re listening to Kanye. But the deadpan humor is all Meek. After thanking God for blessing him with women and Benjamins, he makes his first confession: “She a devil in that dress/But if she knock, I let her in.”
Icona Pop, “I Love It” Some things are just better when they’re Swedish (see also: meatballs, Muppet chefs). Thanks to the Stockholm duo’s thumping Daft Punk-grade rave-up, you can add dance music to that list.
Fun. feat. Janelle Monáe, “We Are Young” Just when it seems like this -Broadway-musical rocker is heading over the top, singer Nate Reuss sits down at the piano and delivers the best burn-down-the-bar sing-along since Semisonic’s “Closing Time.”
Maroon 5 feat. Wiz Khalifa, “Payphone” Swoony falsetto? Earworm melody? Significant coolness boost, courtesy of Wiz Khalifa? It’s all here. Between this landline-loving hit and “Call Me Maybe,” there’s no reason to text anymore.
Best Coast, “The Only Place” The dreamy surf-pop anthem makes L.A. sound like the perfect palm-tree fantasy, the kind you’d see airbrushed on a van. “We’ve got the ocean, got the babes/Got the sun, we’ve got the waves,” sings Bethany Cosentino. “Why would you live anywhere else?” We’d answer, but we’re too busy packing our beach tote.
Sleigh Bells, “Comeback Kid” If cheerleading squads recruited only Slayer fans, they’d practice their backflips to this Brooklyn duo’s stadium-pounder all day long. With power-shredded guitars and massive pop hooks, it’s 30 percent metal, 60 percent bubblegum—and 120 percent awesome.
First Aid Kit, “Emmylou” Two young sisters pay tribute to Laurel Canyon romance with plaintive slide guitar, bright-eyed harmonies, and a promise so sad and lonesome it’s meant to be played in your pickup truck: I’ll be your Emmylou Harris if you’ll be my Graham Nash.
Cloud Nothings, “Stay Useless” A pure blast of lo-fi Cleveland angst with a chorus—“I need time to stay useless”—Kurt Cobain might’ve worn on a T-shirt. It’s the ultimate slacker-rock anthem for the young, suburban, and bored.
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