I have to say that this has been the worst year ever in terms of my personal musical taste. Since I really started following pop/rock music in the mid-80's, 2012 would probably rank last in terms how many songs really struck my ear, and how many albums I would sit listening to beginning to end. With that having been said, it was relatively easy to come up with my Top 15 Songs of the Year...just sad that it was only 15. Here are the tracks that made this year in music somewhat listenable for me...
15. "45" by Gaslight Anthem - a good one to turn up loud while driving.
14. Domino by Jessie J - not a big fan of her other stuff...particularly the annoying "Party in the U.S.A.," which she penned for Miley Cyrus, but this was one of the catchier songs of the year
13. Silenced By the Night by Keane - these guys seem to have one or two great tracks on each album, and that's it. This is the one that stood out for me on their most recent effort.
12. This Moment Now by Tyrone Wells - discovered this amazing singer at the SXSW festival a few years back. He churned out two albums and an EP this year - and I must say, I don't think much of it stands up to his prior work, but this was one of the songs that captured my attention.
11. Days Go By by The Offspring - about 20 years in to their career, these guys are still churning out great rock songs. Not a bad feat.
10. I Miss the Misery by Halestorm - the one album of the year that blew me
away, largely because Lzzy Hale is simply unrivaled as a singer in the
world of hard rock right now...if there is still such a world. That's
also why this is not their only appearance on my list.
9. Rise by Ed Kowalczyk - the former lead singer of the band LIVE continues to be one of the best songwriters out there. I was sad to see the band break up, and his solo stuff is not quite as good top to bottom as the group stuff was, but chances are, he'll end up on my year-end list every year he releases anything.
8. Burn it Down by Linkin Park - Linkin Park is what I would describe as a "Greatest Hits" act for me. I've pretty much liked every single they've ever released, but not much of the rest of their album material. And that's fine...a few great rock tunes on every album.
7. Love Bites (So Do I) by Halestorm - and here they are again. How appropriate that one of my favorite modern bands tips their caps to my favorite band of all-time, Def Leppard. This song has nothing to do with the Leps' only number one hit (that fact is unreal as it is), except that they are both awesome. By the way...I don't think I'd wanna mess with Lzzy.
6. Stars by Grace Potter and the Nocturnals - I only discovered this song a couple of weeks ago...in the most unpredictable place: on "The Voice"! I don't normally watch these banal TV "talent" contests, but I happened to flip to this when nothing was on, and caught contestant Amanda Brown singing the hell out of this, which of course led me to look up the original. I dare say that Brown practically outdid Grace Potter, but the original definitely stuck with me. I can't really get into Potter's other stuff, so this will have to do. Also, it should be said that the next time I accidentally came across a performance on "The Voice," the results were entirely different - one of those dreaded group performances (which are always horrific) - this time a certified mauling of Journey's "Any Way You Want It." Yikes.
5. I Won't Give Up by Jason Mraz - this one surprised me. Mraz is always trying to do that rhythmic lyrical gymnastic thing like he did on his original hit, "Remedy" years ago. This one is just a simple love song. No frills...just a great melody. I'm sold.
4. Headlights by Morning Parade - I suspect this is the only song I'll ever like from these guys. A real standout track on an otherwise forgettable album.
3. Everybody Talks by Neon Trees - as soon as this came out, I declared it the catchiest song of the year, and I think that has held up through the end of 2012. As with many of the songs on this list, it was the only track on their album that did anything for me. I guess the pressure on artists to put out a "hook"-y single is alive and well...and apparently it works in a lot of cases.
AND THE WINNER IS...
Wait, did I forget number TWO?
For the first time in the celebrated history of my blog, I could not make a decision between my top two songs. Yes, there is, in fact, a TIE!! I know, I know. You're all jumping out of your seats in disbelief. But it has happened. What can I say...the ladies ruled this year. And two ladies with incredible voices at that. Not shocking, but one of these artists put out my favorite album of 2011, and the other released my favorite album of 2012. So it's only fitting that they share the crown this year. So read on to find out who they are, and sample almost all of the songs from the list in the widget below if you'd like to decide for yourselves just how crappy my taste in music is :-) Thanks for reading...
1. (TIE) Here's to Us by Halestorm/Dark Side by Kelly Clarkson
"Here's to Us" is one of those songs that you could imagine singing along to with a bunch of strangers in a bar (think: "Closing Time" by Semisonic)...if you were a character in a cheesy movie. Yes, these are not the deepest lyrics in the history of rock music, but sometimes an amazing vocalist, great melody, and cheerful sentiment is all you need. And Lzzy actually makes the word "Fuck" sound not dirty. One other incredible thing to note about this song - the cover of it done by the cast of the show "Glee" marked the only instance I have ever heard where the FOX TV characters didn't completely destroy the track they chose to remake. It was actually a serviceable (yet nowhere near the original) version.
The title track to Kelly Clarkson's fifth studio album, "Stronger," was, remarkably, the biggest hit of her career. Almost as remarkably, the next single, "Dark Side," fell with a thud, as it missed even making the Billboard Top 40. Following suit with my track record of going against the grain of popular opinion - even when involving a multi-million album selling artist - I had pegged this as my favorite track on the album as soon as I listened to it the first time. This is saying something, considering how much I like the entire CD. That's OK...I continue to like Kelly's dark side, and every other side of her as well.