30. MIKKY EKKO, "PULL ME DOWN"
Like us, you probably first heard Mikky Ekko as the guest vocalist on Rihanna's hit torch song "Stay," but it was his own "Pull Me Down," to be released on his still-upcoming debut LP, that really convinced us of his considerable singing and songwriting talent. A mid-tempo ballad with an incredibly seductive undercurrent, "Pull Me Down" packs a song's worth of feeling and sensuality in just the first two lines of its chorus: "Pull me down if you want to / And I hope that you want to."
29. EMELI SANDE, "NEXT TO ME"
One of the more welcome surprise hits of early 2013 has been Scottish singer Emeli Sande's lush, soulful ode to her man (or possibly her lord - interpretation differs), "Next to Me." Comparisons to Adele and/or Amy Winehouse will be inevitable for obvious reasons, but Sande seems unique and talented enough to make her own lane in pop music, and no less an authority than Simon Cowell agrees.
28. CAZZETTE, "BEAM ME UP"
Certainly one of the more appropriately titled songs of the year, "Beam Me Up" achieves lift-off like few EDM songs of the year have thusfar, with a slamming beat and a rapturous ocean of static-y synths triggered by the titular undeniable directive. You can bet the producers of Project X were pissed the first time they heard this song that it came out too late for them to use in the movie.
27. DESTINY'S CHILD, "NUCLEAR"
No, it wasn't the big comeback single many were hoping for, and no, they didn't even end up playing it at the Super Bowl. Still, months later, "Nuclear" remains an indelible moment for Destiny's Child (as well as producer Pharrell), an intimate, quite lovely little love song throwback to the days of Shai and PM Dawn, the kind of song you imagine the girls grew up loving. It wouldn't have sounded great performed for 100 million people, but listening on your own (or with a special someone), it sounds just fine to us.
26. DRAKE, "5 AM IN TORONTO"
We like Drake when he's angry, and he sounds as incensed on "5 AM in Toronto" as any song he's been on in ages, going in over a spooky, Kraftwerk-meets-Hit-Boy beat(courtesy of the underrated Boi-1da), not even pausing for a hook or a chorus as he rants "A lot of niggas PR stuntin' like that's the movement / And I'm the only nigga still known for the music." Oh, and "That's why every song sound like Drake featuring Drake" is one of the best (and truest) hip-hop boasts in years.
25. JUSTIN BIEBER, "YELLOW RAINCOAT"
The most moving song Bieber's been involved with in some time, "Yellow Raincoat" (the best new track from Bieber's Believe Acoustic collection) sees the teen megastar attempting to turn a blind eye to all the drama and gossip he's been very publicly involved with over the last year or so, hoping in vain that his slicker can keep him protected from the downpour. As much as you can feel bad for a rich and famous 19-year-old with the world at his feet, you really can't help but feel for The Bieb on this one, as he warbles with audible vulnerability over plaintive dueling acoustics.
24. ACE HOOD FEAT. RICK ROSS & FUTURE, "BUGATTI"
Hook man Future and producer Mike Will Made It have proven the most indefatigable one-two punch of early 2013, nowhere moreso than on "Bugatti," in which Future mysteriously yelps about waking up in the recently acquired titular automobile while Will's zooming synths make that sound like the most dramatic occurrence in hip-hop history. Oh yeah, Ace Hood is on the track somewhere too, but you're not all that likely to notice or care that much.
23. ARIANA GRANDE FEAT. MAC MILLER, "THE WAY"
You could very easily forgive Mariah Carey for hearing Ariana Grande's low, breathy singing on the chorus to her debut single and wonder if she herself had recorded the song and just forgot about it. But fact is that Ariana does mid-'90s Mariah far better than 21st-century Mariah has recently, and her Mac Miller-featuring, Big Pun-interpolating pop/R&B jam is so sweet and so much fun that you can easily forgive her the imitaiton. Hey Mariah, don't hate the player, hate the game.
22. BEYONCE, "BOW DOWN - I BEEN ON"
Few of us saw a multi-part, rampage-aggressive, voice-screwed comeback single coming from Beyonce this year, but the Queen has become predictably unpredictable in recent years, and we wouldn't have it any other way. The list of performers who could demand the royal treatment from all listening, then turn themselves into Spring Breakers James Franco bragging about their "gold ass chain," then end things with H-Town parking-lot recollections of listening to UGK and appearing in Willie D videos - all in under four minutes - and not only get away with it, but sound awesome doing it¡well, it's not a long one, anyway.
21. HAIM, "FALLING"
The four-member California outfit - three sisters, one not - has become a deserved underground sensation for their bubbly, sunny sort of dreamy pop-funk, as influenced by the Pretenders as by Fleetwood Mac. "Falling" is probably the best of their handful of singles released to date, a shout-along chorus with a whirring guitar part and a twinkling xylophone hook that combine to make it sound like the greatest lost pop hit of 1986.
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