Just a Click Away: The Most Downloaded Songs of 2012

Gotye Ft .Kimbra
The Internet has brought us many wonderful things (ninja cat!) and many horrible things (see any episode of Tosh.0) but undoubtedly one of the most controversial aspects of the internet is the ability to download music. From Napster (flashback!) to The Pirate Bay, our ability for instant-musical-gratification is unparalleled. These five songs are, according to Nielsen SoundScan (“the official method of tracking sales of music and music video products throughout the United States and Canada”), the most downloaded of 2012. Thank you, Internet.

5 Starships – Nicki Minaj (3,158,000)

I am loathing to put Nicki Minaj on this list, but Nielsen SoundScan doesn’t lie. Closing out the list —Starships. Nicki Minaj is the worst thing to happen to pop music in the last ten years. Despite the fact that the entire song is auto tuned(who knows what her voice actually sounds like) the lyrics are indecipherable, but undoubtedly disgustingly raunchy. Unless you’re blasted out of your mind at some bizarre underground club, there is nothing positive to be gleaned from the four-plus minutes of bizarre electronic pop vomit that is Starships. How it wound up on this list is beyond me. Apparently that percentage of people who really love going to crowded, sweaty, dance clubs and doing shots of Patron had enough passion for this “song” that there was a surge in the amount it was downloaded; I wish there was a study to see how many people promptly deleted it.

4 Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) – Kelly Clarkson (3,324,000)

Adele was probably only 15 when Kelly Clarkson shook the world with her powerful voice. Despite rising to fame via American Idol, Kelly Clarkson does undeniably have talent. And as one of the few American Idol stars to not fade into oblivion, her song Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) managed to break through to the top five most downloaded of 2012. Besides ripping off Nietzsche (not to mention Daft Punk and Kanye), Stronger is a great showcase of what made Kelly Clarkson so appealing in the first place – her vocal prowess. The song is your typical female-power-pop song, but when you take a closer look at the lyrics, it’s apparent that the message behind the music is actually real feminism. Being alone doesn’t make you lonely, and a woman doesn’t need a man to fill some non-existent “void.” While what doesn’t kill can also leave you traumatized, scarred, and bitter – in this case, Clarkson prefers to take the better option, and Stronger will probably help many young women overcome rough break ups for the next few years.

3 Call Me Maybe – Carly Rae Jepsen(4,064,000)

I’m not quite sure why this song made this list – maybe there was an uptick in Taylor Swift-wannabe-tween-girls downloading music during these last few months. Viral radio play caused Call Me Maybe to be “the song of the summer,” which is sort of sickening when you read the lyrics. If it were a love song, a la Taylor Swift, it would at least have an element of sweetness to it. But, as it stands,Call Me Maybe falls short of that. Onecould argue it sets the stage for a new era of feminism – young women who aren’t afraid to give their number out to someone they’ve just met, based on a gut whim (who wouldn’t fall in love at first sight in ripped jeans with skin showing?). After all, we are reclaiming the word slut. But in reality,Call Me Maybe, besides being your quintessential pop song, holds no real merit beyond its tween-pop appeal (one point for Call Me Maybe – more funny memes).

2 We Are Young – Fun. ft. Janelle Monae(5,087,000)

I’m pretty sure the first time I heard this song was on a commercial. Or maybe it was the radio? Or, maybe a friend played it. That’s the beauty of We Are Young. It’s a song you feel like you’ve heard a million times before, and when you listen to it, the epic quality of the chorus feels familiar – it feels like it’s part of who you are already. It is your typical radio song, but even so it has a certain uniqueness to it. In five years it’ll probably be a great karaoke song – I mean, what group of 20-y-somethings doesn’t want to drunkenly sing at the top of their lungs “we are youuuuuuuuung!” I mean, that is what we all do when we’re young, right? We set the world on fire! Or, puke all over our friend’s shoes.

1 Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye ft.Kimbra (5,501,000)

One upside of this song was all the hilarious meme’s that followed (again, thank you Internet). The inherent problem of this song was the amount with which it was overplayed. The opening of the song manages to grab your attention with the floating quality of Gotye’s vocals, highlighted by the music. The song meanders through in this way, where you’re not quite paying attention what he’s saying, but you’re aware of the soft, pretty melancholy of the song. Reminiscent of Sting’s style, Gotye’s vocals have an ethereal quality that float easily as you listen. The repetition and simplicity of the chorus makes it quite catchy. Kimbra’s powerful vocals harmonize beautifully with Gotye’s, making the song feel pretty, and easy to listen to.

The amount that a song was downloaded does not necessarily equate to the amount of cultural weight it should be given. With some of these songs, there is an obvious merit to the music beyond its pop culture solvency. With the others, it is quite the opposite. But, like most pop music, things come and go – hopefully some of these songs were wiped from hard drives almost immediately, while others should linger on in our pop culture memory as funny, sweet and nostalgic.

Gabriella Geisinger is a 23-year-old human, born & raised in NYC. Most think she’s always been human, but the truth is she started out as a lion cub & recently completed her transformation into female form, after working one full year at SPIN.

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