There was plenty of great music in 2012, and there was more chaff than ever to sort through to find it. While the floodgates of free content that opened last decade began to dry up as labels regained control over their property, new artists rushed to fill the opening. Hip-hop mixtape sites remained a popular way for rap fans to follow their favorite artists, and sudden, viral, word-of-mouth success continued to defy expectations.
This year's list is diverse; few artists or labels could be said to have dominated the results, and rap music from several of the country's major regional centers all managed to throw some songs up on the board. Perhaps the biggest winner was producer Mike Will Made It, who crafted the sound of multiple massive hits, or 2 Chainz, who saw his re-branding efforts come full circle with an onslaught of solo and guest material that helped him become one of the year's dominant forces.
But for the most part, there weren't too many particular trends that really came out on top. Instead, thanks in part to the Internet's increasing space for niche performers, there was a balance between emerging personalities and the continued presence of reliable veterans like Kanye West and Rick Ross. R&B had a strong showing, as did independent artists who played with ideas of electronic composition and texture.
In a way, the expansiveness of the year's soundscape makes it more difficult to place all of the year's best songs into a competitive context. How do you compare the experimental minimalism of Grimes with the abrasive, violence-ridden yelps of Meek Mill? We asked ourselves the same question before sitting down to, track-by-track, listen to the greatest records of the past 12 months and make our final decisions.
All things considered, and debated, these are the 50 Best Songs of 2012.