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Friday Riffs: Our Top 10 favorite songs of 2012

If we’re heading toward the end of the year, it must mean it’s time for another list!

Last Friday I asked you to tell me what your favorite songs were for 2012. The responses were scattershot, from Frank Ocean’s “Lost” to Josh Groban’s “Brave” to Green Day’s “Let Yourself Go.” Even Paul McCartney’s “My Valentine” got a mention.

My rundown could have also included The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey,” Bruno Mars’ “Locked Out of Heaven,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pool (Drank),” The Wanted’s “Glad You Came,” Ocean’s “Thinkin’ Bout You,” and The Band Perry’s “Better Dig Two” – but that would start an out-of-control list, so here is my self-imposed limit of 10.

If you didn’t get a chance to weigh in then, now is your chance to share your picks of the year.

10. Matchbox Twenty, “She’s So Mean”: Mock if you will, but this comeback song from the ‘90s hitmakers highlighted Rob Thomas’ knack for crafting goofy-fun lyrics wrapped in a cotton candy melody. Pat Monahan, take note.

9. B.o.B., “So Good”: The first single from the Atlanta rapper’s sophomore album is filled with joyful expressions of wanting to treat a lady right complemented by a chorus that goes airborne.

8. Adele, “Skyfall”: Not only is it the sleekest James Bond theme in years, with a haunting moodiness that adeptly encapsulates the melancholy that drives the film, but it gives us another taste of Adele as torch singer. More in 2013, please.

7. Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Somebody That I Used to Know”: This Sting-meets-Peter-Gabriel homage starts as a whiny boy lament until Kimbra shows up to set him straight. Summer’s second most inescapable song (see No. 4) also contains one of the most graceful lyrics of the year in the line, “You can get addicted to a certain kind of sadness.” But no-go on that hideous dance remix.

6. Grouplove, “Tongue Tied”: Maybe you heard it in an Apple commercial. Maybe you sought it out because you learned that the son of Yes’ Trevor Rabin is in the band. Whatever made you seek out this zig-zagging slice of disco pop (technically released in 2011, but it didn’t scale the charts until this summer), it surely made you smile the first time you heard it.

5. Taylor Swift, “I Knew You Were Trouble”: Say what you want about her fickle love life, but the girl knows how to write a solid pop song. Most of her gazillion-selling “Red” album lands on a new level of musical maturity for Swift, but this current hit, with its hints of dubstep and savvy lyrics, is irresistible.

4. Carly Rae Jepson, “Call Me Maybe”: Admit it. You loved it. And c’mon, at least this Ultimate Summer Song had strings and clever wording.

3. Fun. “We Are Young” (featuring Janelle Monae): You know it’s a good year when your band has two songs worthy of most year-end Top 10 lists, but the nod goes to this breakthrough (over “Some Nights”) mostly for its message of friendship – sort of a “Closing Time” for this generation — off-kilter timing and a chorus so anthemic, it already belongs in football stadiums.

2. Butch Walker, “Synthesizers”: One of these days the world will catch up with the musical brilliance of the Georgia-born Walker. This cheeky pop song throws more than a nod to Dexys Midnight Runners’ “Come On, Eileen” with its slick use of banjo, plus namechecks Duran Duran and Sacajawea and offers some of the best advice of the year: “For once (once) in your life, won’t you do what feels right instead of waiting for the next big compromise.”

1. Imagine Dragons, “It’s Time”: Everything about this song is memorable, from its quirky syncopations and sparse guitar to its call for individualism. A soaring chorus and handclaps mask a lot of raw emotions that are delivered with an ache — yet tinged with hopefulness — by frontman Dan Reynolds.

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By Melissa Ruggieri, Atlanta Music Scene

28 comments Add your comment

Just a fan

December 28th, 2012
3:13 am

Guess I’m getting old but most of this wouldn’t have made my list….and nothing from Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball album? My list would have to include Jack Of All Trades or Death To My Hometown or We Are Alive. Good choice on the Matchbox selection, the album is growing on me with every listen as is the case with MB20 albums. The video looks like Rob’s wife had a blast filming, great comeback.

david c

December 28th, 2012
7:27 am

If this is your “best of”, you have absolutely no credibility as a Music columnist. Great “pop” hooks don’t always equal great songs.

Melissa Ruggieri

December 28th, 2012
10:41 am

David – I primarily write about pop music, therefore it makes sense that my list would primarily be pop songs. Also, I never used the word “best,” but I did ask for people’s “favorites.”
I encourage you to share yours.



December 28th, 2012
11:20 am

My favorite country song of the year was “Merry Go Round” by Kacey Musgraves…it’s a shame most country stations didn’t have the cojones to put it into heavy rotation, I could only hear it on XM. Also, something happened that I never expected…I liked a Taylor Swift song this year, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together….” Yeah, no one’s more surprised than I am.


December 28th, 2012
12:40 pm

I really liked the list. I love #1 and have never heard number #2 so that is okay…. So to David C I believe you are wrong sir.. nice job Melissa


December 28th, 2012
1:04 pm

Never heard any of these songs. Any list including Taylor Swift is automatically disqualified.


December 28th, 2012
1:12 pm

Even though the Walker’s album The Spade came out in 2011, I love the pick. Butch has had an incredibly underrated career and his music is almost impossible to dislike.


December 28th, 2012
1:28 pm

Song of the year for me (I think, pending a change of heart before 12/31) is Slash f. Myles Kennedy “You’re A Lie”. Runner-up Nonpoint “I Said It”.


December 28th, 2012
2:02 pm

Gangnam Style. One billion viewers can’t be wrong.


December 28th, 2012
2:31 pm

Melissa, you are right on about #1. That is an incredible song that frankly does not get enough radio play. As I was scrolling down your list and I didn’t see Gangnam Style, I thought for sure that would be #1 much to my dismay. What a pleasant surprise to see It’s Time there instead!

Political Mongrel

December 28th, 2012
3:30 pm

It’s nice to see that Butch Walker has made a name and is keeping on in the business. He was a guitar genius as a teenager. I’d like to catch one of his shows, but for now there’s Y’allTube.


December 28th, 2012
3:39 pm

The song (CD has same title) White Flag by Chris Tomlin from Passion 2012, where 45,000 kids ages18-25 filled the GA Dome and gave over $3 million to fight human trafficking. CNN, the AJC and even the White House all made reference to it. 60,000 headed there in the next few days and new songs will come forth from there again as well as more awareness being raised. Sad to not see any of this amazing music make the list but that’s what these AJC readers have been listening to.

FM Fats

December 28th, 2012
4:25 pm

Tibetan Pop Stars by Hop Along.


December 28th, 2012
5:39 pm

This is a great list, Melissa, and you were spot on about the chorus in B.o.b.’s “So Good.” You introduced me to a few to follow in the future.

david c

December 28th, 2012
7:47 pm

Melissa, can we then call your column Melissa’s Pop Picks. Because, objectively, your column has nothing to do with Atlanta Music Scene. I would post my top ten for the year, but neither you or your “pop” readers would have a clue.

Melissa Ruggieri

December 28th, 2012
8:40 pm

Actually, David, about 90 percent of this blog is related to Atlanta artists and concerts. If you check out some recent blog posts, you’ll see plenty of Atlanta-related things, starting with a post yesterday highlighting what I thought were the best shows in the area in 2012.

It’s the end of the year, and pretty much every music/entertainment publication crafts a list of “bests” or “favorites,” so location is sometimes irrelevant when it’s a topic with widespread appeal. It’s no different than Adele winning a bunch of Grammy Awards last year – I’m going to write about it because it’s something people are talking about and music that appeals to a large portion of readers, whether it’s explicitly Atlanta or not.
I’m sorry you don’t want to share any of your musical picks with us. As you can see from the comments, most people seem to like being introduced to a song or artist they might not have heard of before, and I’m sure some might appreciate being enlightened by your tastes.
Happy New Year.


December 28th, 2012
11:06 pm

1. Dirty Projectors — Gun Has No Trigger
2. Grimes — Oblivion
3. Kendrick Lamar — B*** Don’t Kill My Vibe
4. Japandroids — Fire’s Highway
5. Beach House — Myth
6. Twin Shadow — Run My Heart
7. Beach House — Lazuli
8. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti — Only In My Dreams
9. Grimes — Genesis
10. Dirty Projectors — Dance for You


December 29th, 2012
12:19 am

Pretty good list, I’m fairly impressed.


December 29th, 2012
3:45 pm

I know about 5 or 6 of the songs on this list. The other songs seem so random. I think it would have been better to add a genre(favorite pop songs) to the list. I did not know you mostly wrote about pop music. SO…No Beyonce Dance for you, no Rihanna Diamonds, No Alex Cross Too Close, no Pink Kiss, no Katy Perry Wide Awake No Kelly Clarkson Stronger , Gavin Degraw Not over you Bruno Mars Locked out of heaven I could go on but I will stop here…you get my point.

Melissa Ruggieri

December 29th, 2012
9:49 pm

Hey Jay – I mentioned Bruno as one I would have included if I did a longer list and Pink was also one that was an almost-made-it. Can’t say I’m a fan of Rihanna’s “Diamonds” or Alex Clare’s “Too Close,” though I liked it much better when he performed it live at Jingle Jam a few weeks ago.
If I were going to do an album list, I’d definitely put Pink’s latest on there…some good stuff on that one.


Jeff Sexton

December 30th, 2012
6:14 am

Cruise by Florida Georgia Line (GREAT summertime song, even better in winter)
Drunk On You by Luke Bryan (Is there a better song for steamy nights?)
Drink In My Hand by Eric Church (Quite possibly a replacement for the classic George Jones Friday song)
A Woman Like You by Lee Brice
Alone With You by Jake Owen
Beer Money by Kip Moore
You Don’t Know Her Like I Do by Brantley Gilbert
Beers Ago by Toby Keith
Pontoon by Little Big Town (Where else can you get away with such blatant innuendo in country radio?)
Take a Little Ride by Jason Aldean

Nowhere near any order on that, but I’d def have to nominate those as the best country songs on the radio this year.

Jeff Sexton

December 30th, 2012
6:34 am

*Note: Just found out Kip Moore is from Tifton. South Ga really did have a pretty dang good year in country radio!


December 30th, 2012
11:12 am

” I would post my top ten for the year, but neither you or your “pop” readers would have a clue.”

The battle cry of the pathetic hipster media snob. Never gets old.


December 30th, 2012
10:47 pm

Does having a top 2012 song require that the singer be un-heard of before 2009.

Dylan Chumleigh

January 1st, 2013
1:01 am

I know Taylor swift is always good, so I think “I Knew You Were Trouble” is a best song in this list!!!!


January 1st, 2013
2:06 pm

Interesting choices Melissa. Especially the top 2. My top 10 is kinda diverse.

10. To Who Knows Where – James Iha
9. Snow Outside – Dave Matthews Band
8. Ain’t Messing Around – Gary Clark Jr.
7. Cut Me Some Slack – McCartney.Grohl.Novoselic.Smear (Go with the Live (SNL) Version)
6. Closest Thing To You I’m Gonna Find – Butch Walker and The Black Widows
5. On Top of The World – Imagine Dragons
4. Love Interruption – Jack White
3. Wish You Were Here – Lee Fields & The Expressions
2. Pyramids – Frank Ocean
1. Hold On – Alabama Shakes


January 1st, 2013
2:08 pm

Forgot to add one.

We Take Care of Our Own – Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band


January 1st, 2013
10:31 pm

To Jeff Sexton, nothing personal, but you actually like the crap country radio plays today. Those songs are what is wrong with modern country music. Cruise is the worst song of the year.

I did hear Kasey Musgraves a couple of times which is very cool. However, the song was too good for heavy country rotation.

Nothing from Gov’t Mule or Slash w/Myles, what gives? Pop music, for the most part, SUX.