As the new year draws closer, we’ve decided to take a look the music that’s gotten us to where we are today. So in an effort to broaden our musical horizons and our understanding of contemporary artists, we’re counting down 2012 by counting up from 1952, taking a look at a handful of songs from a different year every day until January 1st. You can find the full list here. Today we’re heading back to 2012!
Bobby Womack ft. Lana Del Rey -”Dayglo Reflection”
A master of soul in the seventies, Womack’s long-dormant career was reignited after a collaboration on the third Gorillaz album led to Damon Albarn co-producing his comeback LP, along with XL Records’ head honcho Richard Russell. It was a perfect combination, marrying Womack’s still immaculate vocals with Albarn and Russell’s expert, modern arrangements. Lana Del Rey joins the fun on “Dayglo Reflection,” giving a beautiful performance and confirming her talent for many who were otherwise doubtful.
Gotye ft. Kimbra – “Somebody That I Used To Know”
The most popular song of 2012 throughout the entire Western world, and probably some other bits as well. And let’s give credit where it’s due: From a compositional perspective, “Somebody That I Used To Know” is more nuanced and tactful than most #1 hits of the past two decades – compared to Carly Rae Jepsen’s equally ubiquitous “Call Me Maybe”, for instance, this song overflows with creativity and strangeness, neither of which pop music tends to reward. So even though that fucking xylophone riff makes me want to puke now, I think it’s worth saluting an artist that managed to own the mainstream this year, without pandering to it.
Die Antwoord – “Fatty Boom Boom”
When making a music video for the hyperactive “Fatty Boom Boom,” the South African rave-rappers took the opportunity to piss all over Lady Gaga, who had recently asked them to support her on a tour. Bad move, I guess. Along with directly making fun of her, the band beat the Monster at her own game, showcasing costumes and imagery more provocative than any of her I’m-so-out-there bullshit has ever been.
Grimes – “Oblivion”
Grimes’ ethereal electro-pop dominated 2012, earning her millions of fans, a high-profile tour with Skrillex and Diplo, and a Polaris Prize nod. “Oblivion” thrives on simplicity: with little more than a simple bass synth and her cute, lispy vocals, Claire Boucher creates an alluring soundscape that’s equally interesting and accessible.
Angel Haze – “Cleaning Out My Closet”
Angel Haze’s detailed, graphic, and harrowing account of childhood sexual abuse and self-harm is unforgettable. On the Eminem-sampling track, Haze not only describes her past, but takes ownership of it, converting those scars into unstoppable power. One can only imagine the difficult process of writing, recording, and releasing such a song, but there’s no greater mark of her courage and conviction.