20 Best Songs of 2012: Critics' Picks
20 Best Songs of 2012: Critics' Picks

10 "What Makes You Beautiful"
One Direction

The boy band resurgence of 2012 would not have been half as fun if its crown jewel, 1D's "What Makes You Beautiful," hadn't been so delectable. And yes, hair flips get us overwhelmed, too.


9 "Everything Is Embarrassing"
Sky Ferreira

An out-of-nowhere sensation stuffed as the last song on an EP, "Everything Is Embarrassing" captures the sensitivity of flirtation through unabashedly warm hooks. Look out for Sky Ferreira.


8 "Thinkin Bout You"
Frank Ocean

Mr. Ocean landed on this list last year with "Novacane," but the first song on "Channel Orange" switched up the tempo by featuring soaring falsetto in between white lies told to an object of his affection.


7 "Somebody That I Used To Know"
Gotye feat. Kimbra

Sure, the words "Peter" and "Gabriel" will always be cynically tied to this unexpected No. 1, but Gotye and Kimbra synthesized forgotten styles and turned them into something fresh and unforgetta -- sorry, didn't mean to cut you off.

6 "Begin Again"
Taylor Swift

"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" was the Max Martin-helmed pop celebration, but the quiet moments of this follow-up single -- from the restrained chorus to the James Taylor shout-out -- allowed Swift to reach a heretofore unheard level of maturity.


5 "Adorn"

"Fresh" is the word best used to describe "Adorn," a song that was originally released in Miguel's "Art Dealer Chic" series and elongated for maximum radio enjoyment. The sound is wildly original for R&B, but the romantic sentiments are strictly old-school.


4 "Some Nights"

A song that unfolds like "We Are Young" on steroids, "Some Nights" legitimized fun. as fearless, with absolutely absurd lyrics, no real chorus and an Auto-tuned breakdown. Somehow, it all works.


3 "Mercy"
G.O.O.D. Music

The summer's biggest hip-hop beat is a bull in a china shop, smashing through Big Sean ass puns, seething Kanye rants and the Michael Jordan similes of Mr. 2 Chainz. This hip-hop summit still knocks.


2 "Call Me Maybe"
Carly Rae Jepsen

What, you've never heard of this one? Well, it's a charming pop ditty from Canada that imagines a world where people still use telephones and strings should be included in every Top 40 refrain. "Call Me Maybe" took over everything in the summer of 2012, and it deserved to.


1 "Climax"

Teaming up with Diplo freed Usher's mind and falsetto, as "Climax" reminded the pop universe just how adept Mr. Raymond is at concocting slow jams. "Climax" is about a breakup, of course, but its immaculate production and tender vocal performance washed away any sadness from listeners.


text by Jason Lipshutz

VIDEO: Katy Perry, One Direction & More Pick Fave 2012 Songs | 10 Best Albums of 2012: Critics' Picks

• Q&As: One Direction, 5 Interviews
• COVER STORY: One Direction
• OVERVIEW The Year in Pop
• YEAR-END ISSUE: Order It Here

• HUB: The Year In Music 2012
• 2012 CHARTS: Hot 100 Songs
• 2012 CHARTS: Billboard 200
• 2012 CHARTS: Top Artists

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