Monday, December 24, 2012

Fave Songs Of 2012

It's the end of the year again, which means it's time to list down my favourite songs of the year. Actually the order of the songs in the list doesn't really matter - how do you quantify how much more you liked song #14 vs song #15? There is no formula to calculate how much you liked a song, so at best, I can only say the Top 5 songs are ranked in order of preference. The rest of the 15 songs are those I have enjoyed a lot this year. Whenever they are being played on radio, I made sure I turned up the volume and sang along with them.

But I am quite sure about my #1 song of the year - "Titanium" by David Guetta feat. Sia. It's such a powerful song and a lot of it is because of Sia's vocals. She really soars with the song and brings it to another level. Of course, the production is very good too. Some people don't like David Guetta because they think he's a fake DJ and lets the computer do everything.

It's true that these days, the software is so advanced you can create every sound digitally using computers, but there is still a lot to be done in terms of creating the song structure, building up a song to achieve a satisfying climax, layering and using different sounds and beats to elicit different emotions, and also the matter of extracting a good performance out of an artist. That's what a producer does. And Guetta is a very good producer and he uses all the tools at his disposal to make these hit songs. Yes, some of his songs are overproduced and sound alike, but many of them are still very good.

The rest of my list consists of more organic-sounding songs. David Guetta is great, but 90% of Top 40 airplay is dominated by songs that are from a factory line of similar sounding beats and sounds. As a result, I get fatigued when I listen to the radio for too long. That's why it is always a breath of fresh air to hear an artist with a voice like Adele, or music that is created with real instruments, not made by a computer.

Album Of The Year
In terms of albums, my album of the year is Green Day's "¡Dos!", which I loved the first time I put the disc into my CD player. It is strange because I thought the first album of the trilogy "¡Uno!" was underwhelming, so I wasn't expecting much from the second installment. But it just blew me away. Every song is so catchy and concise. There are no big messages or concepts, just all out party and rock & roll. I dare say it's even better than their previous studio album "21st Century Breakdown".

It's a hugely under-rated album, mainly because of the unfortunate timing of frontman Billie Joe Armstrong checking into rehab two days before the release of "¡Uno!", throwing all promotional plans for the second and third albums out of the window. It's hard to pick a favourite track from the album, as everything is so good, so I have just picked the lead single "Stray Heart" as its representative in my list of favourite 20 songs.

Without further ado, here are my top 20 favourite songs of 2012!

#1 David Guetta feat. Sia - Titanium
Only Sia can pull this one off. Great vocal delivery.

#2 Regina Spektor - How
This song didn't receive any radio airplay but it holds special meaning because two of my close friends lost someone very dear to them this year. I think this is a beautiful song and Regina Spektor performed it brilliantly at her concert at Esplanade Theatre last night.

#3 Phillip Phillips - Home
I don't watch American Idol so I didn't know this song was the coronation song until radio started playing it. As always, melody is very important for me, and this song had a great melody that I can sing along to.

#4 Katy Perry - The One That Got Away (Acoustic)
Katy first performed a solo acoustic version of this song on the American Music Awards, and this studio version was recorded and included in the "Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection" album repack. I prefer the acoustic version to the original album version, which I felt its tempo was too fast and the arrangement too upbeat for its subject matter. The acoustic version conveys more emotion and Katy wisely doesn't oversing it, keeping a tinge of vulnerability and heartache.

#5 FUN. feat. Janelle Monae - We Are Young
This song was released late in 2011 but it only exploded in 2012. To me, this song deserves the Record of the Year Grammy Award, narrowly edging out Gotye and Kimbra's "Somebody That I Used To Know". The Gotye song is good, but it got sooooo overplayed I got sick of hearing it and it became repulsive, hence its low position on my list. "We Are Young" received a ton or airplay too, but luckily I didn't get too sick of hearing it. It's the anthem of the year for all youths, and reminded everyone that we are still young.

#6 Muse - Madness
I love the wah wah bassline played by Chris Wolstenholme, using an instrument called the kitara. It's brilliant. I also love the arrangement of the song, leading to a very satisfying and emotional climax at the end. One of the best songs ever.

#7 Ed Sheeran - Lego House
Ed Sheeran has been tipped by Billboard to be the breakout star of 2013. Well, America is a little behind because the ginger-haired bloke has been breaking out just about everywhere in the world in 2012. But better late than never. Ed Sheeran is a master songwriter and he's all about simplicity. He doesn't complicate things, keeping the arrangements very simple, allowing his lyrics and emotions to shine through. So he comes across as a very genuine and personable guy, which he is. His debut album "+" has gone quadruple platinum in his native UK (over 1.2 million copies sold), and he is about to take the US by storm, earning a Song of the Year Grammy nomination and touring with Taylor Swift. Well deserved.

#8 Corrinne May - Just What I Was Looking For
Corrinne May is one of Singapore's most beloved singers and she further demonstrated her popularity with the release of "Crooked Lines" earlier this year. The album kept Madonna's "MDNA" album from the top spot at HMV for four weeks. This is perhaps the most upbeat song she has ever recorded, with its catchy "Na na na na na" chorus, making it a big singalong session.

#9 Karmin - Brokenhearted
This song came out at just about the same time as Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe", and both songs sound a little similar. While I felt that "Call Me Maybe" was super irritating, this song by American duo Karmin worked for me. I don't know why, but it just struck a chord.

#10 Green Day - Stray Heart
I was worried that Green Day had lost its mojo after the lacklustre "¡Uno!", but thankfully "¡Dos!" came and changed all that. As mentioned above, it's hard to pick out a favourite track from the album, but "Stray Heart" is my pick because it's radio-friendly and nice to sing along to. Hope Billie Joe Armstrong recovers and tours soon. I'd love to watch Green Day live again.

#11 Adele - Turning Tables
Adele had such a massive year in 2011 and it carried on to 2012, where she scooped up six out of the six Grammy Awards she was nominated for. I still feel it is a waste that she didn't release more official singles or shoot more videos. She could definitely have gotten even more massive and reached "Thriller" levels. But well, it's her decision and I respect that. "Rumour Has It" was the fourth and final official single promoted by the label, and it failed to reach #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, peaking at #16. The previous three singles "Rolling In The Deep", "Someone Like You" and "Set Fire To The Rain" all hit #1.

I feel that the "21" albums still had at least two singles in it, and one of them is "Turning Tables". Despite not being an official single, it received airplay and charted at #62 on the Billboard Hot 100. It's in a similar vein to "Someone Like You", in terms of being a bare and stripped down piano vocal song, but there's much more anguish and raw emotions here.

#12 Jason Mraz - 93 Million Miles
Some people didn't like Jason Mraz's new album "Love Is A Four Letter" as much as his older ones. It's not as instantly likeable for sure, but it grows on you. I like a lot of songs from the album, like "Be Honest", "The Freedom Song", "Everything Is Sound (La La La)", the hidden track "I'm Coming Over" and even the first single "I Won't Give Up", but "93 Million Miles" stands out the most for me.

#13 Robbie Williams - Candy
Robbie Williams switched labels from EMI to Universal, and in the process, seems to have regained his mojo. His last three albums with EMI ("Intensive Care", "Rudebox" and "Reality Killed The Video Star") didn't exactly flop but didn't set the world on fire either. So it was surprising and a relief to hear his latest single "Candy", a very catchy, upbeat and playful song, like the Robbie of old. The swagger is back.

#14 No Doubt - Settle Down
No Doubt are one of my favourite bands and they've been away for too long - 11 years, as Gwen Stefani pursued a successful career and became a mum. Their comeback album "Push And Shove" has some good songs and the lead single "Settle Down" is one of them. It took me a few spins to like it though. Can't wait to watch them live in concert again.

#15 Beyonce - End Of Time
This song wasn't officially released as a single, as Beyonce gave birth to her first child Blue Ivy and put all promotions on hold. She launched a remix contest for this song but I don't remember the results being published or anything. I would have thought the winning remix would be released as a single or get a video shoot. This live performance video includes footage from her Roseland concert as well as triumphant Pyramid Stage performance at Glastonbury. Great choreography and dancing.

#16 Bruno Mars - Locked Out Of Heaven
It's always going to be tough following up on a massively successful debut album like "doo-wops & hooligans". For his sophomore effort, Bruno Mars decided to pursue his artistic side. While not as commercial friendly, the album showcases his incredible song-writing and singing talent, and it's really a jukebox of sounds, blending retro disco ("Treasure") with Motown blues ("If I Knew"), and reggae ("Show Me") with R&B ("Young Girls"). First single "Locked Out Of Heaven" has been described as being influenced by Sting and it's a good comparison. It took a while to grow on me, and I think it's good that he decided to take some risks rather than churning out the same old hits, which he has proved he is perfectly capable of doing.

#17 Rihanna - Diamonds
Rihanna is the hardest working artist in the music industry today. She has released her seventh album in eight years, and scored an impressive string of hits along the way. "Diamonds" continues her streak of hit songs and has topped the Billboard Hot 100 charts, becoming her 12th chart #1 single. Her singing style is slightly different on this song, maybe it's because she's channeling Sia, who co-wrote the song.

#18 Gotye feat. Kimbra - Somebody That I Used To Know
A good song that got ruined by overexposure, such a pity. But I shall remember it for its merits. It's actually a very simple song, with a very sparse arrangement. The genius part for me was incorporating the "Ba Ba Black Sheep" melody into the song. And the clincher for me is Kimbra, not Gotye.

#19 Rita Ora - How We Do (Party)
Rita Ora is a 22-year-old British singer-songwriter signed to Jay-Z's Roc Nation label. She's making it big and is one of the stars to look out for. The song borrows its refrain from the late Norotious B.I.G.'s 1993 single "Party And Bullshit", but the version you hear on radio is 'Party and bullsh', which is kinda funny.

#20 Rihanna - Where Have You Been
This is another great dancefloor stomper from Rihanna. In fact, I wanted to include "We Found Love" but I realised I already had it on last year's list. "We Found Love" is still as hot as when it was first released. But for this year's list, I shall settle on "Where Have You Been", making Rihanna the only artist to appear twice.

Honourable mention: PSY - Gangnam Style
For being the phenomenon that it is, and conquering the world over with one billion YouTube views and counting. Amazing.