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With the first days of July upon us, 2012 is officially half over. The first half of the year gave us many pop songs that got stuck in our heads, loaded into our iPods, or went on to become hits on Billboard's Hot 100 singles chart. From the return of Madonna, the rise of One Direction, or Adele announcing her pregnancy, pop music has definitely given us moments to remember in 2012. Here are some highlight tracks you'll probably remember (or should look up if you're just hearing them) from each month, starting with January 2012.
Music is usually the slowest in 2012 when artists are burned out from pushing their albums and singles released during the holiday season. It's usually new acts that breakthrough in January, but an already well-established singer made her mark that month. While naysayers were doubting Kelly Clarkson's return to the music scene from the slow burn success of “Mr. Know It All,” she released “Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You).” And stronger she was when the empowering pop anthem went on to hit No. 1 on Billboard's singles chart. Paired with its adorable flash mob video, “Stronger” was just the beginning of Clarkson's successful year with her 2011 Stronger album.
February is the commercial month of love in the U.S. with Valentine's Day, but the next track on this list is less about keeping love and more about trying to avoid heartbreak. YouTube stars Karmin – comprised of engaged couple Amy Heidemann and Nick Noogan – released their first buzz single in late 2011, but the duo wouldn't find major success until unleashing “Brokenhearted” in February. The chipper, disco-influenced pop track would later get a boost on the charts with its Heidemann-waiting-by-the-phone music video, which has an unfortunate ending. The song was lifted from their debut EP, Hello, and is currently sitting at No. 16 on Billboard's singles chart.
A lesser known pop gem was released digitally in March by U.K. singer Marina Diamandis, widely known by her Marina and the Diamonds stage name. Diamandis' social commentary in her lyrics paired with the throbbing house beats supplied by hit-making producer Dr. Luke made “Primadonna” a March standout. In the song, Diamandis lampoons the Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of Hollywood as she sings about celebutante life with lyrics like: “Get what I want 'cause I ask for it / Not because I'm really that deserving of it.” Though not released to radio stateside, the song is receiving some airplay by stations. “Primadonna” previews Diamandis' Electra Heart album, due next week in the U.S.
A current breakout pop hit was beginning to make waves in the U.S. in April. A tweet by Justin Beiber and a few lip-sync Youtube videos by Beiber and Selena Gomez, Katy Perry, and others led this inescapable song to prominence in recent months. “Call Me Maybe” by Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen is an infectious and poppy dance track, which features the singer trying to make love happen by giving away her phone number to a boy that catches her eye. While Jepsen is hopeful in the song for the guy to call her, the hilarious music video shows otherwise in a surprise twist. Fellow labelmate Bieber has yet to hit the top of Billboard's singles charts in the U.S., but Jepsen beat him to the punch with “Call Me Maybe,” currently enjoying its third week at No. 1. She hopes to have her debut album released in the states by September.
Late May saw the radio release of Katy Perry's single “Wide Awake,” from her Teenage Dream: The Complete Confection expanded album. Aside from the tragic “The One That Got Away,” Perry's wildly successful Teenage Dream saw the singer releasing many up-beat pop tracks as singles. The electronically mellow “Wide Awake” was a great change of pace for Perry to end the Dream album era. The song's introspective lyrics about coming down from a break up offer a new and vulnerable side to Perry. She later unveiled the stunning music video, which has aided “Wide Awake” in reaching its current No. 4 peak on Billboard.
Indie pop singer Lana Del Rey released a cinematic masterpiece in late June for “National Anthem.” The jubilant track features Del Rey rapping about the excesses of fame and serving up lyrics like, “You said to ‘be cool,’ but I’m already the coolest / You said to ‘get real,’ don’t you know who you’re dealing with?” The queen of cool may not be a U.S. radio fixture, but she's definitely an artist to listen to with her debut album, Born to Die. The memorable clip for “National Anthem” features Del Rey as Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O. with fellow indie act A$AP Rocky playing her JFK. Del Rey's dramatic dialogue and the video's tragic ending should definitely make the seven-minute clip a contender for Video of the Year at MTV's Video Music Awards in September.
What were your favorite tracks from the first half of 2012?