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Best Songs of 2012 (So Far): Jay-Z, Usher, Rihanna, Kirko Bangz & More

The halfway mark of 2012 is upon us, and the world hasn’t ended yet. That’s pretty good news, isn’t it? Meanwhile, some of our favorite artists have added to the soundtrack for two of the four seasons this year. These songs move through hip-hop and R&B, while circling the pop realm as well. As we enter the summer months and inch even closer to closing out the year, The BoomBox highlights 10 hot songs that have carried us through the first six months. Most of these songs came from artists we already know and love. However, some newbies slid onto the list — and even an artist from a totally different genre. Everyone’s invited to this party, so plug in your expensive headphones and check out our picks.

Many years ago, a rap poet by the name of Akinyele dropped a song called “Put It in Your Mouth.” While some could perceive the song as misogynistic, it snuck into the clubs, car radios and mouths of women everywhere. Along that same vein is LoveRance‘s “UP!” a club-happy jam, which features none other than 50 Cent. He and LoveRance talk about eagerly working a woman’s lower half, by beating it up, up, up.

It seemed like pixie pop folkster Sia would never be caught dead on a track like this. But, with the rhythmic beat and optimistic tone to the song, perhaps Sia saw this as a good opportunity to rock with musclebound musician Flo Rida. The song reflects that in betweeny hip-pop that mixes dance with rap, and the result is shamelessly jumping around your room like the opening scene of a bad ’80s movie. Bad meaning good.

Even if you’re too young to drink liquor, this song makes you want to fill a red Solo cup with apple juice and raise it like you’re toasting to the good life. This Houston, Texas rapper adopted his moniker through a phonetic interpretation of Kurt Cobain’s name. Everyone knows the late Nirvana frontman rocks, and so does Kirko Bangz. His introductory track became a surefire hit. Dare we say, he Bangz, he Bangz?

Think of one song Rihanna‘s released since “Pon de Replay” that hasn’t been a total hit. Go ahead, we’ll wait. After “We Found Love” closed out last year with a bullet, RiRi goes ahead and drops this mainstream monster on us. Then she turns around and adds her controversial ex-boyfriend Chris Brown to the remix. Why is Rihanna so damn successful? Because she simply doesn’t care. She knows how to start a party, and it’s not even her birthday.

The R&B Prince of Controversy is another consistent hitmaker. As C. Breezy ventures further and further into the dance scene, he bridges the gap between the U.S. and overseas by making an accessible combination of sounds. This song opened 2012, and will probably close it too. People rarely get sick of Chris Brown songs when by now they should be. Come on, you know you still bump “Run It” from time to time. Admit it.

Rawse always crafts tracks that make your inexpensive car transform into a Maybach once it hits the highway. The hook sounds like it was sung by a contestant on “American Idol” who didn’t make it to the second round. That’s a win though, because everyone who can’t sing can surely sound like a star with this ditty. This song was also the gateway drug for the infamous beef between Common and Drake this year, when the Chi-town MC dissed the Young Money rhymer over this same beat. Whoops.

Leave it to Ursh to get right back on the hobbyhorse of quite the explicit lyrics once the ink on his divorce papers finally dried. Wait, then again, when isn’t Usher singing about sex? This seductive track brings Mr. Raymond to brand new falsetto heights while he sings about the never-ending cycle of makeups to breakups in some relationships. Sure the breakups suck, but we all know how good the makeups can be.

We spent the latter part of 2011 riding off the high of Watch the Throne in all of its intense designer label name-dropping goodness. Then Kanye West comes with the unexpected “Theraflu” — whoops, we mean formerly “Way Too Cold” and now titled “Cold.” Right after that track, he drops this bomb of “Mercy” on us. With reflections of chopped-and-screwed sounds, plus some graphic lines from Kanye and friends, this song could get any girl on the stripper pole.

The day Nicki Minaj dropped “Starships” was the same day more than half of the human population started to hate her. Two days later, that same half couldn’t stop singing the song. That’s the beauty of Nicki Minaj; she makes you love her. While “Starships” brought the Nickster into a totally pop direction, it was way too infectious to deny. The effort set the stage for Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded and added another notch on Barbz’s belt.

One of the bigger songs of 2012 was about one of the biggest events in 2012. Jay-Z and Beyonce brought their first child, Blue Ivy Carter, into the world. Jay was so overjoyed that he wrote a song about it. For the first time, he let his emotions out on paper. Maybe “Glory” doesn’t have the replay value of the aforementioned club anthems, but it was by far the most heartfelt.

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