Contrary to popular belief, rock music continues to mutate and evolve, opening up into a kaleidoscopic panorama where the aggressive, politically-minded anthem-rock of Rise Against peacefully co-exists with the soulful, alternative R&B of Alex Clare right alongside the neurotic but hopeful call-and-response choruses of Passion Pit.
2012 was the year of the campfire song, the kind of uplifting harmonies that sound best sung in a group over an acoustic guitar. Of Monsters And Men, Grouplove, the Lumineers and one of the year’s biggest acts, Mumford & Sons, all hit the jackpot with campfire songs over the last 12 months.
Rock so successfully ran all over the map in 2012 that this year’s GRAMMY nominations are overrun with artists of the genre, as the Black Keys, fun., Mumford & Sons all garnered multiple nods in major categories.
This list of rock’s top songs of the year covers a lot of territory, and points towards an even more eclectic 2013. Will easygoing campfire tunes continue to rule the roost, or will EDM finally get a toehold with a bonafide hit song? With the advent of acts like the Black Keys and Jack White, will blues-rock be the defining sound next year? Only time will tell. In the meantime, here are the top 10 rock songs of 2012.
1. fun. featuring Janelle Monet, “We Are Young” – The biggest song of 2012 took the world by surprise, as relative newcomers fun. blended classic pop songwriting (think Elton John) with indie sensibilities and the year’s biggest chorus which perfectly summarized 2012’s push towards the next wave of generation-defining songs and artists. A slew of GRAMMY nods only crystallizes the group’s domination this year, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for “We Are Young.”
2. Gotye featuring Kimbra, “Somebody I Used to Know” – Unlike the year’s similarly viral-based surprise hit songs, Gotye took a far more subtle approach with this seemingly ubiquitous tune. Between the eye-catching video, countless parodies and a savvy sample from obscure Luiz Bonfa song “Seville,” the song was catchy and clever enough to still sound fresh after endless spins everywhere from radio to high-profile TV shows like Glee to being covered by a litany of artists, including Paramore’s Hayley Williams and alt-metal heroes Coheed & Cambria.
3. Alex Clare, “Too Close” – Thanks to the song getting picked up to soundtrack TV ads for Microsoft’s latest version of Internet Explorer, this UK singer’s soulful and heartfelt song with dubstep undertones (produced by superstar producer Diplo, under his Major Lazer moniker) blew up into one of 2012’s biggest hit, showing up in hit TV shows (The Vampire Diaries) and movies (Taken 2) alike.
4. Linkin Park, “Burn It Down” – Linkin Park hit 2012 hard, cranking up the electronics in their rap-rock hybrid sound to craft this hit song, which enjoyed a huge boost as the theme song for the 2012 NBA Playoffs on the TNT Network, garnering the tune countless TV spins as the Miami Heat marched on to win the NBA Finals.
5. The Lumineers, “Ho Hey” – This emerging folk-rock outfit out of Denver, CO, struck pay dirt with the year’s top campfire song in a year littered with acoustic sing-along hits. Benefitting from splashy features in a Bing TV ad as well as popular shows like The Vampire Diaries and Hart of Dixie, the tune has catapulted the group to a pair of GRAMMY nominations, including the prestigious Best New Artist category.
6. Muse, “Madness” – The bombastic UK prog-rock power trio took some bold stylistic chances on their latest album, The 2nd Law. Among them was this stripped-down, heavily EDM-influenced tune. Much like one of the band’s main influences, Queen, circa The Game album, Muse has found a way to incorporate current trends and make them their own.
7. Neon Trees, “Everybody Talks” – After breaking out on the strength of the 2010 hit “Animal,” this Utah-based band of avowed Mormons really hit the big-time with this outrageously catchy high-energy pop tune that launched into the Billboard Top 10. The song gained even more momentum thanks to it (and the band) being featured in a massive Buick TV commercial campaign.
8. Mumford & Sons, “I Will Wait” – No new band broke out in a bigger way this year than these British folk-rockers, who after building a core audience through relentless touring hit the mainstream with a vengeance upon the release of their sophomore full-length, Babel, which featured this immediate hit song that earned the band two of their six GRAMMY nominations this year (Best Rock Performance and Best Rock Song)
9. Grouplove, “Tongue Tied” – This feel-good scream-along song was impossible to avoid this year, with the addictive, shouted chorus on heavy rotation everywhere from the radio to a glitzy Apple iPod Touch TV spot that pushed the song from the Los Angeles band’s debut album, Never Trust a Happy Song, even further into public consciousness
10. M83, “Midnight City” – This long-time underground favorite from France built a sizable worldwide cult audience with dreamy, synth-saturated new wave songs that referenced ‘80s teen flicks. M83 exploded into the rock world with the release of Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, the band’s sixth full-length album in 2011. Topping critical charts that year, the song went on heavy radio rotation, as well as showing up in glitzy TV commercials for Victoria’s Secret and Gucci to make it one of the year’s most popular songs. It also boasts the coolest sax solo this side of 1985.
-Scott T. Sterling, CBS Local