In the year that a certain South Korean song ruled the airwaves, we asked a collection of our correspondents to tell us what tune rocked their part of the world. This is what they had to say:
• Until 2012, Florence and the Machine had never had a number one single. Then Calvin Harris got his hands on an album track called Spectrum, turning the art-pop original into a house-inspired club anthem. Retitled Spectrum (Say My Name), it went straight to the top spot in July and stayed there for three weeks. With that massive voice, Florence had been a dance diva in waiting all along.
* Nick Levine
• In Turkey, an up-tempo dance number by one of the nation’s biggest stars has been the biggest hit of the year, scoring about 12.5 million views on YouTube since its release in June, a massive number for Turkish standards. Ask Gitti Bizden (Love has gone away from us) is a song about separation produced by Ozan Colakoglu, a well-known DJ and producer, and sung by Tarkan Tevetoglu, the Turkish king of pop.
* Thomas Seibert
• Each time Egypt hits another roadblock on its rocky transition to a new democracy, one song is brought out to remember the revolutionary unity of Tahrir Square in early 2011: Ya El Midan by Cairokee and featuring Aida Al Ayouby. The true hero of the soft-rock anthem is Ms Al Ayouby, a 1990s pop star who came out of retirement to croon hopeful ballads about the January 25 uprising against Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
* Bradley Hope
Israel, Palestinian Territories
• There are few topics in Israel and the Palestinian Territories that make for suitable dinner table conversations. So-called “honour crimes” is one such topic, but that didn’t stop Palestinian hip-hop group DAM from tackling the issue head on with their hit single, If I Could Go Back In Time. Through free-flowing acerbic lyrics that challenge the listener, DAM used its artistic talent for a good cause and in the process created a surpassingly danceable track.
* Joseph Dana
• An electrifying, bluesy rendition of Nikki Minaj’s plastic hit Super Bass propelled Khaya Mthethwa into the record books as the first black winner of South African Idol. The dearth of black winners had long been seen as another legacy of apartheid: whites have been reluctant to vote for black contestants, while, until recently, relatively few blacks could afford the satellite TV subscription required to watch Idol. Mthethwa’s rousing performances made South Africans forget about race and enjoy the music.
* Vadim Nikitin
• Before Tunisia had revolutionaries, it had rappers. Subversive lyricists have been popular for decades, and even in the democratic new system they spit provocation. In Waqtesh? (When?), Klay BBJ and Hamzaoui Med Amine made the year’s anthem of disillusion. The video shows the euphoric crowds who expelled the president in 2011, while the lyrics lament the stubborn problems of unemployment and bread prices.
* Alice Fordham
• Khaleeji artists continue to shine in the Arabic pop landscape. Dubai’s Mansour Zayed has been leading the charge this year with extensive touring, in addition to high profile slots at Abu Dhabi’s Yasalam Beats on the Beach concerts last month and the du World Music Festival in Dubai in March. His latest hit, Hukum Hobak, takes an Arabic poem and dresses it up with modern Khaleeji pop arrangements.
* Saeed Saeed
• Tum Hi Ho Bandhu (You Are My Friend) from the film Cocktail turned out to be the most shared song on Facebook in India, a song that apparently dominated more than just the airwaves. Sung by Kavita Seth, known for her Sufi renditions in Bollywood, the chorus was taken from a well-known Hindu devotional song about the interchangeable role of God, family and friends. This version has been remixed into a tribute to friendship.
* Suryatapa Bhattacharya
• Because most music is pirated in China, there is no Billboard or Top 40 system to tell which song was the most popular in any year. Yet if one was to calculate it on the basis of mentions on social media, I Love You China would win. Sung by Liang Bo, the winner of the Chinese version of The Voice, it generated millions of mentions on China’s Twitter-like service Weibo. Sociologists posited that people got so involved in selecting the winner because it acted as substitute for democracy.
* Hannah Gardner
• R’n’B singer and inaugural Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian has recently made himself an artist of international pedigree with the hit single Battle Scars. Teaming up with the American rapper Lupe Fiasco, the Aussie delivers a universal rallying cry for the brokenhearted. With the song climbing the charts in both Europe and North America, coupled with his presenceon Fiasco’s new album Food & Liquor II: The Great American Rap Album Part 1, the song has become Sebastian’s global calling card.
* Saeed Saeed
• Germany’s most famous punk band may be middle-aged now, but Die Toten Hosen (The Dead Pants) proved they can still knock out a hit. The Düsseldorf-based, five-man act released a new album this year (its first for ages) with the chart-topping Tage wie diese (Days Like These). Though there’s nothing much punk about its sound, the feel-good anthem became the unofficial theme song for the summer’s European football championship, its beat resounding across biergartens from Hamburg to Munich. The song was written to coincide with the band’s 30th anniversary, as an antidote to the nostalgia of looking back. Days Like These, namely today’s, are every bit as good as those past. Not exactly a punk sentiment either.
* Paul Hockenos
• Amazing how one little pronoun can feel like the ground shifting under the feet of the pop world. “I could never make him love me,” Frank Ocean croons in Bad Religion, and the resulting lack of controversy was like the dog in the Sherlock Holmes story Silver Blaze, notable primarily for not barking. In a year when the president of the United States endorsed gay marriage, the arrival of Frank Ocean felt like anything but bad religion.
* Saul Austerlitz