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Hipster snobs may be inclined to write off any indie band that gets a substantial profile boost after being featured in an iPod commercial. For the rest of us, Grouplove's goofy-yet-euphoric dance jam is a resilient party-starter that is indeed best enjoyed as a group rather than in solitary earbuds. Bonus points for that messed-up backwards video.
This late-breaking jam is something kinda different from Nicki: dark, reflective and seemingly ambivalent about her own success. And we love it. The Pink Friday purveyor spits each line with a level of skill that's just as captivating as her kookiest wardrobe maneuvers. While she once might have been considered the Lady Gaga of hip-hop, she's finishing out a very fine 2012 as something closer to the Jay-Z of dance-pop.
Every year deserves its own signature whistling hook. Last year it was Foster the People. This year it's the tattooed sunshine stater who moved countless bodies and raised a few eyebrows with this Top 40 earworm. Whether the concept is truly a tutorial on how to carry a tune by putting your lips together or a metaphorical nod to another kind of oral pleasure, that sweet little melody gave beachfront lotharios an infectious new catcall to use throughout the summer.
There's nothing all that revolutionary about this defiant dance-floor anthem, especially coming from a power-diva who's always been happy to flaunt her romantic independence. Maybe it's her masterful use of the S-word, maybe it's the so-bad-it's-awesome double entendre in the title, maybe it's just that irresistible almost-disco groove. Whatever it is, it's usually on repeat.
It's all but a scientific fact that Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" was the multimedia pop smash of the year. Rather than restate the obvious, we turn to the Sesame Street gang, who not only landed at the center of the 2012 presidential campaign but also hatched the most ingenious Jepsen cover yet. And we quote: "You took you time with a bite / Me trying to stay polite / Me start to really freak out / Please someone call the Girl Scout!"
Be they precious gems or Lucky Charms cereal elements, we're stoked to hear Rihanna sing about ‘em any damn day. Her vocal performance on this midtempo stunner edifies every ounce of attention she's gotten since she first came out from under that um-ber-ella (ella, ella). In 2012, Ri was raw and magnetic as ever.
The wormhole back to Nashville has now completely closed, leaving the real Taylor Swift to be accepted for exactly who she is: a fully self-aware bubblegum pop star. With "WANEGBT," as the Twitterverse is wont to call it, you might say she finally out-Katy Perry'd Katy Perry. Is this the most literal, unabashed and unpretentious piece of music of the last decade? Be still and know that Tay's trail of exes is littered with sweetly harmonized repetitions of the word "ever."
The bar was extremely high for musical kiss-offs, barbs and breakups this year, and if you trace the line far enough you'll see it leads back to this mostly acoustic pop masterwork. Belgium-via-Australia songster Gotye has yet to prove himself more than a one-megahit-wonder, but even if we never hear word from him again, he's delivered a timeless classic of she-loves-me-not songcraft.
There's loads to love about Ocean's rightfully hyped Channel Orange LP—so much that it's hard to pick a favorite track. What pushes this one toward the top is how it instantly and succinctly showcases his less-is-more aesthetic. As his voice floats effortlessly over the tune's retro guitar stabs and keyboard squiggles, we truly can't believe it's not butter. Note to Grammy voters: If you don't drop that Best New Artist prize on Ocean this winter, you're doing it wrong.
If you've been to a wedding reception or school dance the last few months, you've seen firsthand how well this thing actually holds up in the world beyond YouTube. Speaking of which, Psy's thermonuclear hit is closing in on 1 billion views. Not bad for an obscure foreign-language banger whose lyrics roughly translate to "I love a lady who is warm and compassionate by day / A classy girl who knows how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee."
NEXT GALLERY: Top 10 Biggest Stories of 2012