Sorry, people. We had wanted to step up and anoint the one, the only, theee song of summer 2012. We really did.
But the more we listened to this season's most bangin' and/or breathtaking jams—riddled with washy synths and bright-eyed vocal hooks—the more we realized it would be a disservice to leave a bunch of awesome tracks by the wayside just for the sake of crowning the coolest kid in class.
And anyway, a mixtape is always a better way to show your love than some quickie dedication, right? So, here you have it: part time capsule, part dancefloor lighter fluid, part shortcut to filling up what little space remains on your iPod.
The ultimate mixtape for the Summer of 2012:
1: "California," Delta Spirit
How Hot?: These raggedy Brooklynites' ode to the Golden State may seem like more of a breakup anthem than a party starter, but its driving, reverb-kissed refrain is enough to keep fists in the air on both coasts and everywhere in-between.
And We Quote: "I want you to wander silent past my outstretched arms / I want you to hide yourself from all I see / and though my heart will fight it till its dying breath, you're not for me"
BBQ Equivalent: Artisanal cheddar-and-sour-cream potato chips
2. "Where Have You Been," Rihanna
How Hot?: Pffft. … do you have to ask? What we love most about Ri's latest weapon of Top 40 destruction one is how it turns a goofy hook from a vintage '60s country song ("I've Been Everywhere") into 21st-century dancefloor gold.
And We Quote: "Where have you been / Cuz I never see you out / Are you hiding from me somewhere in the crowd?"
BBQ Equivalent: The best potato salad on Earth
3. "More Than This," One Direction
How Hot?: Dudes twice these guys' ages wouldn't be able to get away with a ballad this overwrought. But coming from five earnest mini-blokes who are still peeling away the last few cocoon threads of puberty, the unrequited-summer-camp-crush vibes are bloody irresistible.
And We Quote: "If I'm louder, would you see me? / Would you lay down in my arms and rescue me? / Cuz we are the same / You save me, but when you leave it's gone again"
BBQ Equivalent: A slightly melty Dreamsicle
4. "Liquorice," Azealia Banks
How Hot?: Too hot for your family reunion. Ms. Banks' bawdy beats and NSFW lyrics make Fifty Shades of Grey look like Sweet Valley High.
And We Quote: "Pick out ya mans and attack real quick / I'm-a hit him with that venom and that rap girl hip"
BBQ equivalent: Triple-strength Tabasco
5. "Sweet Life," Frank Ocean
How Hot?: Praise for his Channel Orange LP is about as "everywhere" as Rihanna has apparently been (see above). And purely from a statistical standpoint, coming out as bisexual basically doubles your sex appeal.
And We Quote: "Palm trees and pools, the water's blue / Swallow the pill, keepin' it surreal / Whatever you like, whatever feels good"
BBQ Equivalent: Lean all-beef patty
6. "Swimming Pools (Drank)," Kendrick Lamar
How Hot?: Heard of Snoop Dogg? Eminem ring a bell? Lamar is the latest rapper to get the Dr. Dre seal of approval, which tends to work out pretty well. This slow-burning track gets extra points for being a summer jam about why you maybe shouldn't get quite so tipsy.
And We Quote: "If I take another one down I'm-a drown in some poison / abusin' my limit / I think that I'm feeling a vibe, I see the love in her eyes"
BBQ Equivalent: Virgin Mai Tai
7. "Night and Day," Hot Chip
How Hot?: It's right there in the band name, people. On the new In Our Heads album, these beat-savvy Britons flaunt their ability to musically flash-fry the meat dress right off Lady Gaga's body.
And We Quote: "I don't got no ABBA / I don't play no Gabba / I like Zapp not Zappa / So please quit your jibba-jabba"
BBQ Equivalent: Colorful ice cubes in the shape of palm tress and such
8. "Warrior," Kimbra feat. A-Trak and Mark Foster
How Hot?: The sultry New Zealander's guest shot on Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" was just a warm-up. Even the Foster the People front man can't keep from handing over his best trade secrets on this infectious cut.
And We Quote: "What am I thinking? / If you say I'm just an animal / I feel like I'm sinking / You can't explain away the way I feel"
BBQ Equivalent: Exotic seafood skewers
9. "Starships," Nicki Minaj
How Hot?: Just check out the tropical locales, hard bodies and heart-stopping swimwear in the video for this gratuitous pomo-disco track. There's no freak on the planet we'd rather party with.
And We Quote: "Jump in my hoop-dee-hoop-dee-hoop, I own that / And I ain't payin' my rent this month, I owe that"
BBQ Equivalent: Full-strength Mai Tai
10. "Boyfriend," Justin Bieber
How Hot?: The time is nigh to stop writing off the Bieb as Justin Timberlake's eternal intern. Joke all you want about the screaming tweens and teddy bears on the gift table—li'l man can sing, and we're totally feeling his new pouty James Franco vibe.
And We Quote: "Chillin' by the fire while we eatin' fondue / I don't know about me but I know about you"
BBQ Equivalent: Creamy cole slaw
11. "The House That Heaven Built," Japandroids
How Hot?: It takes a little extra deodorant to handle the sweaty, adrenaline-pumping ruckus these two (yes, only two) Canadian indie guys dish out. If every summer guitar anthem needs a shambling shout chorus, this one wins by a kilometer.
And We Quote: "When they love you, and they will / Tell 'em all they'll love in my shadow / And if they try to slow you down / Tell 'em all to go to Hell"
BBQ Equivalent: Ice-cold PBR tallboy
12. "Some Nights," fun.
How Hot?: Crazy hot—like some extra-caffeinated fusion of Fleet Foxes, Freddie Mercury and the theme song for a Pixar movie that hasn't been made yet.
And We Quote: "I found a martyr in my bed tonight / Stops my bones from wondering just who I am"
BBQ Equivalent: Cheddar dog with the works
13. "Good Time," Owl City feat. Carly Rae Jepsen
How Hot?: Enough to push Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" out of our heads for at least three-and-a-half minutes at a stretch. How does something this squeaky-clean and obvious still feel like so much fun?
And We Quote: "Hands up if you're down to get down tonight / Cuz it's always a good time"
BBQ Equivalent: Coke in a bottle