Nicki Minaj
As well as being the fifth most amazing song of the year, this RedOne-produced romp is also one of 2012's most spec­tac­u­larly stupid, but we always hoped that the "starships were meant to fly" line had something deep 'n' mean­ing­ful to say about the feelings of failed potential we all, as humans, exper­i­ence from time to time. When we even­tu­ally got to ask Nicki about that line in the autumn she told us that yes, that is exactly what the line is about. We think she was just telling us what we wanted to hear, to be honest, but you don't argue with Nicki Minaj, do you?

Lana Del Rey
Not just one of the singles of the year but the soundtrack to one of 2012's best videos 'to boot', 'Ride' is everything we love (and others might hate, but they can piss off) about Lana Del Rey in one exquisite miniature mas­ter­piece. The only bad news is that because 'Ride' ticks every single Lana Del Rey box, she'll need to change her act when she comes back for the next album, or risk des­cend­ing into self-parody. But what use is a popstar who can't or won't change, right viewers?


David Guetta feat Sia
Sometimes we wonder what it would be like to live in a world where this modern classic had been released not by David Guetta feat Sia, or David Guetta feat Katy Perry (which was the original intention) or by David Guetta feat Mary J Blige (which happened but was never properly released), but by David Guetta feat Whitney Houston. What a pop moment that would have been.

Little Mix
'Wings' was great, of course, but it's 'DNA' that Little Mix will need to top when it comes to their second album. There's lots to love about this song — the squeaky door effect, the bonkers choir bit, the music box and so on — but it's really the final 90 seconds that earns 'DNA' such a high placing on the Top 45 countdown. All in all, though, this is piece of pop art so exquisite and so important to this gen­er­a­tion and all gen­er­a­tions to come that it should be stored in the V&A, V-V-V-V&A.

Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)
Kelly Clarkson

The explosive chorus. The rocket-fueled pro­duc­tion. The mag­ni­fi­cent vocal per­form­ance. “JUST ME MYSELF AND I.” Rewrite your last will and testament: this is the song you want played at your funeral.

Stronger’ was written by Ali Tamposi (who gives some inter­est­ing back­ground to the song in this interview), David Gamson (Ke$ha, Adam Lambert) and Jorgen Elofsson (Britney, Westlife, a million others) then — in need of a thun­der­ous hi-NRG pro­duc­tion sound — delivered to Greg Kurstin (27% of all amazing pop music from the last eight years). There’s no ‘i’ in ‘teamwork’ ladies and gentlemen, but there are three in ‘bloody hell this song is amazing’.

Is Kelly’s involve­ment incid­ental? No it is not and you should feel ashamed of yourself for even enter­tain­ing the notion. While most songs with a similar pedigree could fall into any singer’s lap, make immediate sense and storm the charts around the world regard­less of vocalist, we’re strug­gling to think of anyone but Kelly Clarkson who could have pulled off this tune. Don’t say Pink — she would have thrown in some swearing or moodiness and ruined this song’s BEAUTIFUL PURITY.

Speaking of purity: Kelly Clarkson is not cool. Kelly Clarkson will never be cool. There was probably a point in the mid-2000s when there were con­ver­sa­tions at her label about how to make her cool, to keep her relevant and all that sort of stuff. And they probably gave up, because some popstars are just supposed to be amazing on their own terms, and for Kelly Clarkson those terms are vividly brought to life on ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’, a song that finds Clarko at the peak of her powers after ten years in the job.

We thought this would be the our top single of 2012 the first time we heard it at the end of 2011, but when we saw the video we knew the top spot was sealed. Everything about the video is so quint­es­sen­tially Clarko: the dodgy wind machine-strewn studio per­form­ance shots that have typified her career, the flashmob dance routine two years after even the most pathetic marketing strategist on earth gave flashmobs the elbow, the bril­liantly naff dusting-off-your-shoulders dance move. Best of all, the bit where Kelly is seen at an edit suite, as some sort of omni­scient being observing humanity’s endeav­ours. Is this a depiction of Kelly Clarkson as God? Perhaps Kelly Clarkson is God. We see no evidence to the contrary. Certainly, they say God moves in mys­ter­i­ous ways, and there is no more mys­ter­i­ous movement than the impro­vised (how would one cho­reo­graph it?) demented kung-fu debacle at 2:47.

Either way, the humanity Kelly/God sees from that edit suite is unusually honest for a pop video. Most popstars present their fanbases in a way that suits their agenda. Gaga wants us to think that all her fans are freaks who need her like they need oxygen; Ke$ha wants us to think her fans are all party animals who shit glitter. It’s a dis­tor­tion of reality (you don’t sell millions of albums without most of them being to people who are, in the best possible way, com­pletely normal) that borders on dis­hon­esty. This is not true for Kelly. Look at the fans she’s not just showing but showing off in this video. She’s proud of the people who buy her records. We suppose being normal is Kelly’s thing just like being super-normal is Gaga’s thing, but it’s striking just how much of a breath of fresh air it is to see a pop superstar not attempt­ing to be a breath of fresh air.

Kelly seems very relaxed in her own popstar skin, just as 'Stronger' itself is very relaxed about what it is. Loads of tracks on this Top 45 list — Justin’s ‘As Long As You Love Me’, Little Mix’s ‘DNA’, AlunaGeorge’s ‘Your Drums, Your Love’ — are brilliant partly because they could only have existed in 2012. That’s not true of ‘Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)’, a song that doesn’t follow any trends. It might not even know those trends exist. Anyway, big tunes are always fashion, and this song is timeless in its amaz­ing­ness.

So there you go. Yet another above average year for pop. Well done everyone.