So here we are again. Time for the official Chef Diesel Top 10 Songs of the year list. I think 2012 was a decent year for music. It was steady. Nothing blew me away but nothing was a colossal disappointment. Unfortunately, radio is still dying and computerized fake dance pop still reigned supreme in 2012. There were some curve balls (like the wildly-popular-bordering-on-racist-because-we’re-laughing-at-not-with “Gangnam Style”) but new and exciting music was few and far between.
Lyric of the year goes to R. Kelly from the Cruel Summer track “To The World” where Kells declares, “Deuces minus one, middle fingers to the sky tonight/The whole world is a couch, bitch I’m Rick James tonight.” I mean, let’s just dissect that for a second. Somehow he manages to convey the popular YOLO attitude of hip-hop and combine it with an old Chapelle’s show reference to perfectly deliver a sentiment of ‘fuck ya’ll, I’m R. Kelly on a Kanye West track.’ The Chappelle’s Show reference is even more amazing considering the sketch where Chappelle openly eviscerates Kelly in reworking “Ignition” to a slow jam about peeing and pooping on young girls. I don’t think Chappelle could have written a more R. Kelly-esque lyric if he was commissioned to do a sketch about R. Kelly singing a hook on a Kanye West track.
I digress. As much as I love “To The World,” it didn’t make the Top 10 because as a song, I just didn’t think it was a complete idea–one verse from Kanye, a sparse beat and R. Kelly being R. Kelly. For the uninitiated, the following are my favorite songs from the past year, not necessarily the best or most critically acclaimed or the most popular on Billboard. These are the jams that kept me singing, head banging and dancing all year. As always, I welcome your comments and personal lists below.
10. “Somebody That I Used to Know” – Gotye feat. Kimbra
My hatred for YouTube fame whores reached the tipping point with this song. Every fucking person with a instrument and a web cam felt the need to cover this song in the hopes of being “discovered” and it really ruined ‘Somebody’ for me. Once this song blew up there was a ton of press on Gotye and I read he attributed the success of the track to its sparse arrangement and mix, something that created an emotional connection with the listener. Because of the song’s dynamic, you either had to listen closely or turn your radio up when it came on. Naturally, pop radio couldn’t have such an odd hit on their hands so they butchered the track by remixing it and putting a offensive dance beat behind it and altered the arrangement to add a chorus earlier in the song. Sigh. Objectively, “Somebody That I Used to Know” will probably go down as the song of the year, but not because of how Gotye originally intended it.
9. “Hot Cheetos & Takis” – Y.n.RichKids
Grantland did an extensive analysis on this banger back in August. It has everything I love–a great beat, humor and food. It’s also kind of sad that a group of middle school kids put out a better track than anything Lil Wayne did this year.
8. “Some Nights” – Fun.
Another song suffering from gross overexposure now, but I was on the Fun. bandwagon since Aim & Ignite (yea, just let me be one of those people). Great vocals, cool vocoder effect and stellar production. As I said in my review, Queen meets Kanye.
7. “Closer” – Tegan & Sara
Definitely one of my most anticipated records of 2013 comes from my favorite lesbian twin duo from Canada Tegan & Sara. “Closer” is just a fun jam with killer harmonies and nineties Ace of Base groove.
6. “45” – The Gaslight Anthem
I had such high hopes for Gaslight’s album after hearing it’s first single “45.” Driving guitars, solid lead and singer Brian Fallon singing his heart out. Fun fact: Fallon has a very tough time singing this song live. I’ve seen a couple performances where he just can’t hit the notes (even after changing the key) or he just changes the melody completely. The Letterman performance below is the best I could find. Sort of makes me like the album version even more.
5. “Pop That” – French Montana, Drake, Rick Ross, Lil Wayne
Simply my favorite rap song of the year. Nothing fancy hear, just swag. I just watched the video (aka a five-minute Ciroc ad) for the first time and it’s exactly what you’d expect from a song made in 1997. Also, not credited but the MVP of this track is Fatman Scoop.
[Sidebar: if I was a young and hungry rapper my first order of business would be to start beef with Drake and release a diss track solely about how he was on Degrassi and how he played the basketball star who got shot, paralyzed and forced to be in a wheelchair. How has no other emcee thought of this yet??]
4. “Gimme Parole” & “ADT Security” – Masked Intruder
These two tracks are from their First Offense EP and they’re ultimately the same. Fast, super catchy and hilarious.
3. “What Makes You Beautiful” & “One Thing” – One Direction
I do not believe in guilty pleasures and I am perfectly OK in admitting that I like One Direction. These two songs are probably the best pure pop songs I’ve heard in years. I just can’t deny the hooks and addictiveness of “One Thing” and “Beautiful.” What I love most is that they are a boy band. They know this, they’re producers know this and millions of teen girls know this. And they are going to give you exactly what you want from a boy band. I’m going to enjoy it while they last. And come on, look at that hair!
2. “Weekend” & “Mad Love” – Neon Trees
Two very different yet similar songs. I love them equally for their eighties vibes and the amazing production from Justin Meldal-Johnsen. “Mad Love” is all about the synth and “Weekend” is going to be the theme song for unwritten John Hughes throwback teen comedy. Tyler Glenn continues to be the most exciting vocalist in rock.
1. “Sarah” – USA!USA!USA!
I can’t describe how happy this song makes me on so many levels. The return of Frank Pino Jr. singing about girls is my favorite thing to happen in music during 2012.
In addition to the ten (or so) songs above, there were a bunch of other awesome songs I bumped in my stock system this year. Check out Chef Diesel’s Songs of 2012 playlist on Spotify.