One encouraging trend that ran throughout 2012 was the egalitarian nature of hit singles. Whether you were a Joni Mitchell-loving Canadian Idol survivor, an Australian with a bruised ego, or a bunch of Florida emo survivors high on Queen, the music world fully embraced you as long as your inescapable earworms continuously delivered thrilling results.
Check out EW’s list of the 20 greatest singles of the year below (as they appear in the current issue of EW, which is on newsstands now), and be sure to check out this specially-curated VEVO playlist that takes you through the year that was one glorious pop hook at a time.
1. Carly Rae Jepsen, ”Call Me Maybe”
Before the countless YouTube lip dubs, the nine weeks at No. 1, and the 1,000th time you heard it at a BBQ, there was just a song: a purple-ink love letter with a tiny voice whispering about wishing wells and ripped jeans like it was a secret she wanted you to keep forever. It might have been the soundtrack of your summer, or you might’ve rolled your eyes at parties but then secretly put it on your workout mix. But every time it played, life sounded just a tiny bit different. Better maybe. —Adam Markovitz
2. Gotye feat. Kimbra, ”Somebody That I Used to Know”
When a funny-named Aussie and his New Zealand sidekick first emerged with a quirky, minimalist breakup ballad, it seemed like the least likely candidate for a Hot 100 No. 1 since “Macarena.” Yet ”Somebody” connected with everybody—as covers by artists from Kelly Clarkson to prog-metal band Coheed and Cambria (and you in the bathroom mirror; don’t lie) proved. —Ray Rahman
3. Japandroids, ”The House That Heaven Built”
Fueled by a closed-fist intensity and approximately one thousand oh-oh-ohs, this fiery punk manifesto does everything a great guitar band is supposed to do: rally the troops, disturb the peace, and make some ?#@!ing noise. ”If they try to slow you down/Tell ’em all to go to hell,” frontman Brian King shouts. Consider it the most badass fortune cookie you’ve ever come across. —Ray Rahman
4. fun., ”Some Nights”
While ”We Are Young” spread its show-choir pop gospel to every corner in 2012, ”Some Nights” stealthily found the glee club all grown up. Earnestly asking the hard questions, the fun. boys tapped into that particular cocktail of joy and melancholy that sets in between last call and the snooze button. —Kyle Anderson
5. Taylor Swift, ”I Knew You Were Trouble”
In classic Swift style, she didn’t just jump on the dubstep bandwagon—that thump-a-whumping, suddenly-everywhere jalopy that already had Britney and Bieber in the backseat—she grabbed the wheel. Backhanding a no-good ex, Taylor never loses her country-strong edge even when she’s singing over beats that would shake the rafters off the Opry. —Adam Markovitz
6. Solange, ”Losing You”
Over shimmering synths, a crisp handclap beat, and what sounds like a looped sample of a very surprised toucan, Beyoncé’s baby sister pleads: ”Tell me the truth, boy, am I losing you for good?” If this sweetly intoxicating breakup jam can’t win him back, nothing can; it’s like the best of ”Lucky Star”-era Madonna and totally 2012 avant R&B distilled into four perfectly transportive minutes. —Leah Greenblatt
7. Meek Mill feat. Drake, ”Amen”
While tax-sheltered MCs paced their gold-plated penthouses, Philadelphia’s Meek Mill took everybody to church. This was no fire-and-brimstone sermon, though—Mill testified not to the hat-wearing ladies in the front pews, but to the sinners in the back. That buoyant Sunday-school piano loop even made a woe-is-me Drake bow at the altar of bad behavior, taking bottle-popping rap out of the club and back to the sweaty, low-ceilinged basement where it belongs. Preach! —Kyle Anderson
8. Alex Clare, ”Too Close”
Who does Alex Clare think he is? That serious beard and newsboy cap say ”semiotics grad student,” the lyrics belong to a soul-searching singer-songwriter, and the block-rocking beats sound like they just got airlifted in from Ibiza. Turns out, Clare contains multitudes—and all in just one song. —Ray Rahman
9. Schoolboy Q feat. A$AP Rocky, ”Hands on the Wheel”
Welcome to the hip-hop house of mirrors, in which a blog-rap breakout lifts a left-field folkie cover of a 2009 Kid Cudi hit for his own woozy ode to ”weed and brews”….And it’s awesome. While indie songstress Lissie raspily coos the chorus of Cudi’s ”Pursuit of Happiness,” Schoolboy and A$AP deliver a rapid-fire chronicle of YOLO hedonism so vivid, it will give you a contact high. —Leah Greenblatt
10. The Lumineers, ”Ho Hey”
For a song this roll-the-end-credits epic, the elements are shockingly simple: just a mandolin, a pair of stomping boots, and a whiskey barrel’s worth of post-Mumford majesty. Did you first hear the song in one of a million ads and movie trailers? Probably. But did it inspire just as many suspendered, giddily sincere singalongs in bars and cars and office cubicles? Ho, yes. —Kyle Anderson
11. ”I Love It,” Icona Pop
12. ”Mercy,” Kanye West feat. G.O.O.D. Music
13. ”Cherokee,” Cat Power
14. ”Climax,” Usher
15. ”Baddest Man Alive,” The Black Keys feat. RZA
16. ”Everything Is Embarrassing,” Sky Ferreira
17. ”Die Young,” Ke$ha
18. ”Thrift Shop,” Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
19. ”I Don’t Like,” Chief Keef
20. ”Yet Again,” Grizzly Bear
1. Muse, ”Survival”
You know your Olympics anthem is in trouble when the Phantom of the Opera, Cookie Monster, and the ghost of Freddie Mercury are all like, ”Whoa, dudes. Maybe rein it in a little?”
2. Mariah Carey, ”Triumphant (Get ‘Em)”
”Stay on your toes!” ”Get off the ropes!” ”Reach for the stars!” Sadly, no amount of worn-out metaphors could save this sleepy misfire from no-Mimi’s-land mediocrity.
3. Train, ”Drive By”
Because nothing seduces a lady like a man who compares his love to two-ply Hefty bag. Though in this case, an extended garbage metaphor is…not wrong.
4. Fat Joe, ”Instagram That Hoe”
And you thought your friends’ vintage-filter food pics were annoying. Strenuously topical Internet reference + casually offensive sexism + super- terrible flow = a world of ugh.
5. Chris Brown ”Don’t Judge Me”
Whoops! Too late.
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