As 2012 draws to a close, VH1’s Creative Music Integration department took some time to reflect on the artists that released music this year that made a significant impact on us. As music supervisors, managers, coordinators, and assistants part of our day to day is to sift through massive amounts of newly released tracks from a variety of different artists. We are always looking for the perfect track that’s going to beautifully highlight a pivotal moment in a show or that’s going to demand your attention when a VH1 promo plays on your TV screen. Since we’re such music lovers it’s only natural that we’ve developed a few musical obsessions along the way! Here is our CMI Passion Playlist, complied of artists we have had the privilege of placing this year and others that on our wish list. Enjoy!
Jennifer, VH1 Creative Music Integration Vice President
- Imagine Dragons – Night Visions
This band is catchy, catchy, catchy.First time I heard “It’s Time” I just couldn’t get it out of my head. Loved the EP and wasn’t sure if the full album would live up to it, but it sure did. Every track is solid!
Recommended Tracks: “Radioactive” & “On Top of the World”
For Fans Of: Young the Giant, Walk the Moon
- The Gossip – A Joyful Noise
Beth Ditto is the coolest. She owns it and she is a powerhouse vocally. I truly adore every track. More ladies like her in music, please.
Recommended Tracks:”Get Lost”, “Get A Job”, “Perfect World”
For Fans Of: Siouxsie and the Banshees, Le Tigre
- Gary Clark Jr – Blak And Blu
What can you say about this guy? Pure, raw, authentic talent. Fell in love with him when he came in to play for us and I literally had to pick my jaw up off of the floor afterward. I believe we were his first big sync (with vocals) and I’m so proud of the fact we were able to use his music for a high profile image spot and in Mob Wives. I had The Bright Lights EP playing non-stop.
Recommended Tracks: “Bright Lights”, “I Don’t Owe You a Thang”
For Fans of: The Alabama Shakes, Jack White
- Emeli Sandé — Our Version of Events
If she doesn’t break through in 2013 there is something very, very wrong. When she came to perform for us in the office I got non-stop chills and actually cried. Visceral responses tell you everything you need to know. The whole album is fantastic and the fact that we licensed her MANY times in our shows (Basketball Wives LA, Hollywood Exes, Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta, Basketball Wives) is further proof of how her songs can really resonate with people.
Recommended Tracks:”Daddy”, “Heaven”, “Clown”
For Fans Of: Massive Attack, Nina Simone
- Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE / Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
It’s a TIE, and yes I’m cheating!Frank Ocean is the re-invention of R&B and Macklemore is a breath of fresh air for Hip Hop. I truly love them equally because they brought change to their genres on their OWN terms. You can’t help but stop what you’re doing and pay attention to their music for not only the content lyrically and musically, but because they are fantastically interesting human beings with unapologetic perspectives so needed and necessary in music right now. I’m sure we all can agree they should take over in 2013. Oh, and Macklemore – the song about Jimmy Iovine? Talk about BRAVE!
Recommended Tracks from channel ORANGE:”Pyramids”, “Fertilizer”
Recommended Tracks from The Heist: “Can’t Hold Us”, “Same Love”
Frank Ocean For Fans Of: OutKast, Odd Future
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis For Fans Of: Tyler, The Creator, MGK, Childish Gambino
Isaac, VH1 CMI Music Supervisor
- Gotye – Making Mirrors
Yes, the U.S. debut for Australian, Wally DeBacker, sits somewhere near the top of my favorites for this year and NOT just because of the ubiquitous single, “Somebody That I Used To Know”. There’s no denying the single is the strongest song on this album. An album that, to some, may feel a little disjointed with the mélange of genres he’s channeled (rock, soul, electro pop) but it holds up as a whole and the result is some really fantastic pop.
Recommended Tracks:”Eyes Wide Open”, “Bronte”, “I Feel Better”, “Smoke and Mirrors”
For Fans Of: Peter Gabriel, Beck, Sting
- Jake Bugg – Two Fingers EP
Eighteen year-old Jake Bugg (unfortunately not his real last name) is a singer-songwriter out of Nottingham, England who delivers an impressive, late ‘50s inspired, self titled album [out now in the UK]. The 14 song effort is a collection of concise engaging tunes drawing from rock ‘n roll, folk, blues, and a bit of country. Folks in the US can pick up the EP via digital retailers now but a date for the album is still TBA.
Recommended Tracks:”Simple As This” (my favorite track), “Lightning Bolt”, “Taste It”
For Fans Of: Arctic Monkeys, Oasis
- St. Lucia – St.Lucia (self-titled EP)
South African born Jean-Philip Grobler, otherwise known as St. Lucia, blends eighties influences on his electro pop debut drawing on inspiration from early Madonna, Fleetwood Mac, and Peter Gabriel as well as African music. The St. Lucia EP is a collection of synth pop tunes full of infectious melodies. A near perfect contender for a spot on your summer soundtrack. The full album is scheduled for release in 2013 on Neon Gold/Columbia Records.
Recommended Tracks:” Before The Dive”, “Closer Than This”, “All Eyes On You”
For Fans Of: Duran Duran, Phil Collins
- Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again
On Home Again, Michael Kiwanuka would have you believe he’s someone much, much older than twenty four. The album, a combination of soul, folk, and jazz, can’t help but remind you of Otis Redding and Bill Withers. While the album is great, it’s his live show that helps cement him on my favorites list for 2012. The instant his set begins, all of the day’s worries go right out the window as the music and soothing vocals are able to captivate the, often loud, NYC audience and reduce them to a whisper.
Recommended Tracks: “I’m Getting Ready”, “Home Again”, “Worry Walks Beside Me”, “Tell Me A Tale”
For Fans Of: Curtis Mayfield, Otis Redding
- Civil Twilight – Holy Weather
VH1 friendly Civil Twilight [you may have heard songs in Rehab With Dr. Drew, Couples Therapy, and Mob Wives] follow up their debut record with Holy Weather. A beautifully produced and dynamic album with its share of radio friendly jams ["Fire Escape", "Shape Of A Sound", "River"], the intricately layered title track “Holy Weather”, and introspective ballads ["Please Don’t Find Me", "It’s Over"] .
Recommended Tracks: “Highway Of Fallen Kings”, “Fire Escape”, “Holy Weather”, “Church On Fire” (Bonus Track)
For Fans Of: Radiohead, Muse, U2
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis - The Heist
This absurdly awesome debut LP from Ben Haggerty, aka Macklemore, and producer Ryan Lewis was released late this year and I can easily put it atop my 2012 favorites list. Awesome hooks and excellent production paired with insightful lyrics covering addiction, same sex marriage, and materialism on this completely independent release make it a new obsession. The album is solid front to back…and I’m even talking the 18-track Deluxe Version.
Paul, VH1 CMI Music Manager
- Emeli Sandé – Our Version of Events
The top album of the year for me, and one of the few albums out there where every single track is worthy of being a single. I literally can’t pick one song as a favorite over the others, but four tracks I used in shows were “My Kind Of Love,” “River,” “Lifetime,” and “Read All About It (Part III).” And best of all, after studying neuroscience at Glasgow University, Emeli is qualified to give Isaac his long overdue lobotomy.
- Elle King – The Elle King EP
Elle has every quality you’d want in a girlfriend but you’re not sure if you want to bring her home to your conservative parents – she’s pretty, cusses, and will drink you under the table. Just listen to her cover of Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” on The Elle King EP. And “Playing For Keeps” was a perfect fit for the Mob Wives theme song. Expect more big things from her in 2013.
Recommended Tracks: “Playing for Keeps”, “My Neck, My Back” (cover)
For Fans Of: Carla Thomas, Joey Ramone
- ZZ Ward – Til the Casket Drops
I’ve had both “Last Love Song” and “Til the Casket Drops” stuck in my head for most of 2012. It’s no surprise a bunch of networks (including VH1 on both Mob Wives and Couples Therapy!) featured her songs in shows this year.
Recommended Tracks: “Put the Gun Down”, “Til the Casket Drops”, “Last Love Song”
For Fans Of: Elle King, Fitz & the Tantrums, Gin Wigmore
- Macklemore & Ryan Lewis – The Heist
I seriously do the Bernie every time I hear “Thrift Shop.” Here’s another album in which every single track is a single, including “Make The Money,” which out-Kanye’d Kanye.
- Gary Clark Jr. – Blak And Blu
All I want for Christmas is to be Gary Clark Jr. The dude makes guitars his bitch. And when you hear “Bright Lights,” don’t you picture yourself in black & white walking slow-motion through the streets of NYC? Just me? (Editor’s note: I do too! Except that you probably look like a huge dork doing so. -Monse)
Tracey, VH1 CMI Music Coordinator
- Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
“Adorn” was one of those songs that I had on repeat as soon as it came out. When Kaleidoscope Dream was released, I was blown away by the diversity. Not all tracks are as hooky as “Adorn”, in fact most are much grittier. Each catches you off guard, but is equally as enjoyable as the next. I think Miguel and Frank Ocean’s channel ORANGE clearly win best R&B albums of 2012.
Recommended Tracks: “Adorn”, “Do You…”, “Candles In The Sun”
For Fans Of: Frank Ocean, Usher
- Daley – Alone Together EP
I first heard about Daley earlier this year via various tweets from one of my favorite artists, Maxwell. One of the many reasons I love Maxwell was what also drew me to Daley, his falsetto. You can’t help but get the chills on “Those Who Wait” and “Alone Together”. His soulfulness has me dancing along to “Remember Me”, “Blame the World” and “Game Over”. I can’t wait to hear a full album in 2013!
Recommended Tracks:”Alone Together”, “Those Who Wait”
For Fans of: Maxwell
- Melanie Fiona – The MF Life
Out of the handful of female R&B releases in 2012, “The MF Life” was by far my favorite. It’s a great mix of upbeat tracks and gut-wrenching ballads, with appearances from J. Cole, John Legend, Nas and B.o.B. My favorite track is a ballad that received very little attention, “Gone And Never Coming Back”.
Recommended Tracks: “4AM” , “Wrong Side of a Love Song”
For Fans Of: Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott
- Emeli Sandé – Our Version of Events
Emeli delivers powerhouse vocals every time she sings. The emotion she exudes through her voice and lyrics, make all of her songs easy to relate to.
- Ed Sheeran – +
I think this came out at the end of last year, but still an album I spent a great deal of time with in 2012. Half of Ed Sheeran’s album “+” can be listened to on a rainy, melancholy day, the other half shows off a soulful, urban side which you wouldn’t initially expect from him.
Recommended Track: “Lego House”
For Fans Of:Jamie Foxx, James Morrison, The Script
Monsé, VH1 CMI Production Assistant
- Ellie Goulding – Halycon
I want to be Ellie Goulding but alas I don’t think I can pull off leather shorts and half a shaved head with the same flair – I also don’t have an ounce of musical talent so there’s that. Her first album Lights caught my attention after hearing remixes of “Starry Eyed” and “Lights” done by almost every hip prominent DJ out there. Her high pitched vibrato just begs to be looped and manipulated but she can bring it down to a low and raspy level too. It feels almost primal, raw, and even a bit desperate as though she’s been up crying all night. Halycon is a solid sophomore album from the stampeding beat of “Anything Could Happen” (reminiscent of Passion Pit) to the dark and dramatic “Only You”.
Recommended Tracks: “Only You”, “Anything Could Happen”, “JOY”
For Fan Of: Florence + the Machine, Passion Pit, La Roux
- The Lumineers – The Lumineers (Self-titled)
The Lumineers came in to perform a short three song set in our offices earlier this year and I could easily tell that these three individuals just loved making music together. It’s folk-rock/Americana done right: simple yet infectious foot stomping instrumentation and rich storytelling. I found the comparison between boxing and ballet ( violent men who dance the blood ballet) in “Big Parade” particularly striking when I took a first listen to the album. It isn’t often that I’m struck by lyrics these days but the images drawn in this album are so vivid they almost feel tangible.
Recommended Tracks: “Big Parade” “Ho Hey” “Flowers in Your Hair”
For Fans Of: Old Crow Medicine Show, Mumford & Sons
- Of Monsters and Men – My Head Is An Animal
Of Monsters and Men was introduced to me by a friend/coworker who had heard of them at a music festival in Iceland. I listened to their EP, Into the Woods, and I understood what she had been raving about. I could have just listened to the same four songs on repeat the whole year ( and I did for sometime) but thankfully they released My Head Is An Animal, a full length album just a few months later. The album reminds me of a children’s fairytale book with tall tales of mythological animal wars told by children living in enchanted woods, it just gave me a feeling of youth and exuberance.
Recommended Tracks:”King And Lionheart”, “Yellow Light”, “Dirty Paws”
For Fans Of: Arcade Fire
- Mumford and Sons – Babel
There isn’t much to say about Mumford and Sons that hasn’t already been said so I’ll keep this brief. I listened to this album on repeat while I was sitting in a dark bus on a four hour ride to a mini weekend vacation. I don’t fancy four hour rides but it felt more like one with this album on repeat. Marcus Mumford’s voice has this uncanny ability to kick down the door to my soul.
Recommended Tracks: “Lover’s Eyes”, “I Will Wait”
For Fans Of: Edward Sharpe, Arcade Fire
- Frank Ocean – channel ORANGE
The album is a masterpiece. I was blown away by the descriptive storytelling and the cast of heartbreakingly beautiful characters he conjured. “Pyramids” was the winning track off this album for me where we’re presented with Cleopatra in all her ancient glory and pomp and her reincarnation as a downtrodden stripper literally “working at the Pyramid”. Beautiful. Bold. Brilliant.
Avantia, CMI Department Assistant
- Miguel – Kaleidoscope Dream
This my favorite album of the year. I think Miguel single-handedly brought R&B back.
Recommended Tracks:”The Thrill”, “Where’s The Fun In Forever”, “How Many Drinks?”
For Fans Of: Prince, Frank Ocean
- Solange – The True EP
It was a great comeback for Solange. Her last album was 60s/70s inspired, so it’s only right that this would be 80s inspired. Although there are only 7 tracks, it’s a good mix of upbeat love songs.
Recommended tracks: “Sleep In The Park”, “Lovers in The Parking Lot”, “Losing You”
For Fans Of: Theophilus London, Miguel
- Santigold – Master of My Make Believe
This a strong sophomore album. You can literally play it from start to finish without skipping through.
Recommended tracks: “The Riot’s Gone”, “The Keepers”, “Freak Like Me”
For Fans Of: Sleigh Bells, Little Dragon
- Justin Bieber – Believe
I know I will be judged for this but Believe was actually a pretty good album. (Yes, I listened to the entire thing) I’m a Belieber.
Recommended tracks: “As Long As You Love Me”, “Right Here”, “Boyfriend Remix”
For Fans Of: One Direction, Chris Brown
- Kendrick Lamar – good kid, m.a.a.d city
I think what separates good kid, m.a.a.d city from other rap albums is that it’s literally a rap audio book. Kendrick tells very interesting stories about what it was like growing up in Los Angeles. He even used his parents’ voicemails as interludes.
Recommended tracks: “Sing About Me (I’m Dying of Thirst)”, “The Art of Peer Pressure”, “Backseat Freestyle”
For Fans Of: Childish Gambino, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q