Chart Watch Extra: Top Songs of 2012

If you were anywhere near a radio last year, you don’t need me to tell you the titles of the top three hits of 2012: “Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra, Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” and “We Are Young” by fun. featuring Janelle Monae.

There are three main things you should know about them. First, none of the five artists involved had ever cracked Billboard’s Hot 100 before. Second, all three hits are nominated for Grammys as Record and/or Song of the Year, which shows an unusual degree of fan and industry agreement. Third, each of the three songs sold more copies than any song had sold before in a calendar year in digital history.

“Somebody That I Used To Know” sold 6,801,000 copies during the year. The smash is the front-runner to win the Grammy for Record of the Year. If it does, this will be the second year in a row that a song has both been the year’s top-seller and walked off with the top Grammy. Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” achieved both feats last year.

“Call Me Maybe” is #2 for the year (6,472,000). It’s nominated for a Grammy as Song of the Year. Jepsen has a second song in the top 40. “Good Time,” her cheery collabo with Owl City, is #31 for the year (2,249,000)

“We Are Young” is #3 for the year (5,948,000). It’s nominated for Grammys for both Record and Song of the Year. fun., a trio from New York, has a second song in the top 10 for the year. “Some Nights” is #7 (3,839,000).

Maroon 5 also has two songs in the year’s top 10. “Payphone,” featuring Wiz Khalifa, is #4 for the year (4,757,000). This matches Maroon 5’s showing last year, when “Moves Like Jagger” (featuring Christina Aguilera) was #4 for the year. “One More Night” is #10 for the year (3,461,000).

fun. and Maroon 5 are the first groups to have two songs in the year-end top 10 since the Black Eyed Peas scored in 2009 with “Boom Boom Pow” and “I Gotta Feeling.” (Three solo artists have achieved this feat in recent years: Lady Gaga in 2009, Eminem in 2010 and Adele last year.)

“Rolling In The Deep” held the previous record for greatest calendar-year sales in digital history. It sold 5,813,000 copies in 2011. To find a song that sold more copies in a calendar year than each of this year’s top three hits, you have to go back to Elton John’s pre-digital smash “Candle In The Wind 1997,” which sold 8,111,000 physical copies in the last 14 weeks of 1997, according to Nielsen SoundScan.

Nicki Minaj’s

“Starships” is #5 for the year (3,979,000). This is the second year in a row that Minaj has a song in the year-end top 10. “Super Bass” was #9 for 2011. Minaj had five million-sellers during the year (combining lead and featured credits), which puts her in a tie with Adele and Rihanna for the most by any artist.

One Direction’s effervescent “What Makes You Beautiful” is #6 for the year (3,881,000). It’s the best-selling song by a boy band in digital history.

Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” is #8 (3,823,000). It’s nominated for Grammys for both Record and Song of the Year. It’s the first hit by an American Idol alum to receive a Record of the Year nomination. In addition, it’s the best-selling song by an Idol alum. (More on that in a minute.)


loopy “Gangnam Style” is #9 for the year (3,592,000). It’s the year’s best-selling novelty song. It tops LMFAO’s 2011-2012 smash “Sexy And I Know It” (2,552,000) and Toby Keith’s “Red Solo Cup” (1,293,000).

Flo Rida has two songs in the year’s top 15, though neither made the top 10 for the year. “Wild Ones,” featuring Sia, is #11 (3,444,000). “Whistle” is #13 (3,372,000). (fun., Maroon 5 and Flo Rida are the only acts with two songs that each sold 3 million or more copies in 2012.)

The Wanted’s “Glad You Came” is #12 for the year (3,388,000).

Phillip Phillips’

“Home” is #14 (3,289,000). It’s already the fourth best-selling song by an American Idol alum, following Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” (4,010,000), Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats” (3,662,000) and “No Air” by Jordin Sparks & Chris Brown (3,503,000). This makes it the top-seller by a male Idol alum. The old record was held by a different song, also titled “Home,” by Chris Daughtry’s band Daughtry, which has sold 2,328,000 copies. (The old record by a male Idol alum who remained a solo artist was held by David Archuleta’s “Crush,” which is up to 2,090,000.)

Justin Bieber has two songs in the year’s top 40. “Boyfriend” is #15 (3,216,000). “As Long As You Love Me” (featuring Big Sean) is #32 (2,240,000).

Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” is #16 for the year (3,143,000), followed by Jason Mraz’s “I Won’t Give Up” (3,113,000).

Taylor Swift’s

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” a Grammy finalist for Record of the Year, is #18 for the year (3,055,000). It’s the year’s best-selling country crossover song, though many would say it’s more “crossover” than “country.” Here are the rest of the year’s top five country songs: Hunter Hayes’ “Wanted” (2,170,000), Luke Bryan’s “Drunk On You” (2,089,000), Eric Church’s “Springsteen” (1,959,000) and Little Big Town’s “Pontoon” (1,786,000).

A record 18 songs sold 3 million or more copies during the year. The old record for a full calendar year was 14, set in 2011. Digital song sales have been steadily increasing. There were just two 3 million sellers in all of 2008; seven in 2009; 12 in 2010 and 14 last year.

How does this compare to the latter years of the physical era? Very favorably. There was just one 3 million-selling single in 1992 (Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”), none from 1993 through 1995, one in 1996 (Los Del Rios’ “Macarena”), two in 1997 (“Candle In The Wind 1997” and “I’ll Be Missing You” by Puff Daddy & Faith Evans featuring 112) and none after that.

The year also set a record for the number of 2-million-sellers (41). The old record was 38, set in 2011.

Katy Perry

has two songs in the year’s top 30. “Wide Awake” is #20 (2,792,000). “Part Of Me” is #25 (2,513,000). “Wide Awake,” which appeared in the movie Katy Perry: Part Of Me, is the year’s best-selling song that originated in a movie. It’s eligible for an Oscar nomination as Best Song. Nominees will be announced Jan. 10.

“Titanium” by David Guetta featuring Sia is the year’s top-selling dance/electronic song, with sales of 2,493,000. Here are the year’s #2 and #3 dance songs: Calvin Harris’ “Feel So Close” (2,172,000) and “Turn Me On” by David Guetta featuring Nicki Minaj (2,055,000).

Two rock icons appear in the titles of million-sellers. As noted above, Eric Church’s “Springsteen” sold 1,959,000 copies during the year. “Moves Like Jagger,” the 2011 smash by Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera, sold 1,713,000 copies this year. (Bruce Springsteen’s own song, “We Take Care Of Our Own,” sold just 88K digital copies during the year.)


“Skyfall” from Skyfall sold 1,277,000 copies during the year. It’s the first Bond theme song to sell 1 million digital copies. In the pre-digital era, two Bond themes were certified gold by the Recording Industry Assn. of America, signifying sales of 1 million copies: Paul McCartney & Wings’ 1973 hit “Live And Let Die” and Carly Simon’s 1977 hit “Nobody Does It Better.” Both of those songs were nominated for Oscars for Best Song. “Skyfall” is expected to follow suit.

As noted above, Adele, Nicki Minaj and Rihanna each had five million-selling songs during the year. Big Sean, Flo Rida, Pitbull, and Taylor Swift are tied for second place, with four each. (Maroon 5 is the top group or duo, with three million-sellers in 2012.)

Whitney Houston’s

1992 classic “I Will Always Love You” sold 973K copies during the year. The song sold 3,086,000 physical singles in 1992; 1,431,000 in 1993, per Nielsen SoundScan.

Two other old songs appear on Nielsen SoundScan’s list of the 200 best-selling songs of 2012. Eminem’s 2002 classic “Lose Yourself” sold 806K copies during the year. Journey’s 1981 perennial “Don’t Stop Believin’” sold 607K.

“Danza Kuduro” by Don Omar & Lucenzo is the year’s top-selling Latin song, with sales of 542K.

Mariah Carey’s

1994 classic “All I Want For Christmas Is You” is the year’s top-selling holiday song, with sales of 351K. It was also the year’s top holiday seller in 2010, but was bumped down to #2 last year by Justin Bieber’s “Mistletoe.”

Happy new year, everybody.