A great pop song either helps you remember or makes you forget everything around you for three minutes or so. In this year of economic and cultural uncertainty, there sure was plenty we wanted to forget. Here are some of the songs we are definitely going to remember:
1. Nicki Minaj, “Super Bass” (Young Money/ Cash Money): Give Nicki Minaj three minutes, and she’ll pull you into her wild world of pelican-fly, sailors-of-the-ship and that boom-badoom-boom-badoom-bass. Her pull is so addictive, it’s no wonder people get stuck in this song for hours at a time.
2. Adele, “Rolling in the Deep” (XL/ Columbia): Somehow she manages to make her bluesy kiss-off sound simultaneously triumphant and wounded, not to mention simple enough to be unforgettable.
3. James Blake, “The Wilhelm Scream” (Universal Republic): As much a dubstep meditation as an actual song, but the way he submerges the vocal into the mix, making it sound like he’s “falling, falling, falling, falling,” is nothing short of brilliant.
4. Drake featuring Rihanna, “Take Care” (Young Money/ Cash Money): Of all the things this dance floor ode to love after breakdowns does right, the best is what it doesn’t do. When Rihanna sings, “I’ve loved and I’ve lost …” they simply let the line hang for a few measures, letting the silence tell the story.
5. The Static Jacks, “Mercy, Hallelujah” (Fearless): There is always a need for young rockers who rifle through their older brothers’ record collections and build their own anthems, singing as if their souls are on fire.
6. Lloyd featuring Lil Wayne and Andre 3000, “Dedication to My Ex (Miss That)” (Interscope): This year’s soul revival single with the unprintable sing-along chorus goes a step farther than Cee Lo Green, but makes up for it with Andre 3000’s complex rhymes that dis his ex for not having enough self- esteem.
7. Belle Brigade, “Losers” (Reprise): The Gruskas — siblings Ethan and Barbara — opt out of the rat race with this stunning folk-rock anthem built around their Simon-and-Garfunkel-esque harmonies that grows into a massive “No more.” They win.
8. The Throne, “Otis” (Roc-a-Fella/ Roc Nation): You can almost hear Jay-Z and Kanye West find inspiration in each other, pushing them both to become even better.
9. Beyonce, “Countdown” (Columbia): While her ambitious “4” album was uneven, this love song, packed with stacked vocals, marching band horns and crazed synths, is irreplaceable.
10. The Black Keys, “Lonely Boy” (Nonesuch): Blues rock that’s part deep-fried Southern boogie and Northeast Ohio earnestness.
Honorable mention: Frank Ocean, “Novacane” (Def Jam); Lady Gaga, “Born This Way” (Interscope); Twilight Singers, “She Was Stolen” (Sub Pop); Rihanna, “We Found Love” (Def Jam); Beastie Boys featuring Santigold, “Don’t Play No Game That I Can’t Win” (Capitol); Foo Fighters, “White Limo” (RCA); Taking Back Sunday, “Faith (When I Let You Down)” (Warner Bros.); Bon Iver, “Calgary” (Jagjaguwar); The Vaccines, “Wreckin’ Bar (Ra Ra Ra)” (Columbia); Jason Aldean featuring Kelly Clarkson, “Don’t You Wanna Stay” (Broken Bow)
See music writer Ashely Dean’s top 10 tracks of the year in Friday’s Daily.