[1] Tinie Tempah, ‘Pass Out’

Tinie Tempah

British rappers. They’re such nice young men, aren’t they? No bitches, hoes and bullet holes for them, no sir. No, they want to spit rhymes about beans on toast, making sure you get a decent feed even when you’re raving in Ibiza, and solving their personal clothes mountain by stashing some at their aunt’s house. I just wonder how often Tinie Tempah visits his aunt – you know, to pick up an outfit he’s just remembered – or whether his threads just gather dust. He’d be as well off handing them over to charity. Maybe that’s a problem for the notorious Difficult Wardrobe Decisions Second Album.

“This is my favourite one,” lies Junior, dashing yesterday’s New Pop Order. Still, she flips out to every on-/off-beat, gamely attempting to pin down Labrinth’s riddims, bumping into the problem we all face: just what is ‘Pass Out’? It’s hip hop, sure, but punctuated by dancehall flavours, smeared with grime and – eventually – exploding into drum’n’bass. That leap into hyperdrive for the final chorus always makes me laugh. It’s the only sane reaction to that kind of balls-out self-assurance. But long before the two-step fallout, ‘Pass Out”s swagger has pulled you in with a hopscotch synth line, a flow peppered with bons mots, and a shameless R&B chorus that kidnaps any lingering waverers.

Bang bang bang, idea after scheme after brainwave, ‘Pass Out’ pushes it all together like Play-Doh, stuffs it in a press and squeezes it out again through a best-single-of-the-year-shaped hole. “It sounds like Batman,” is Junior’s final revelation and while I’ve no clue what she means, I know she’s right.

[2] Kylie Minogue, ‘All The Lovers’

Kylie Minogue

Dance. A cosy embrace melding euphoric 80s New York garage and bright-eyed synth pop, Kylie’s best single – or near as dammit – lowers her gently back onto the dancefloor, where she can get you into the groove without being tricksy or slavishly following trend. There are shimmering parallels with ‘I Believe In You’, another overlooked Minogue masterpiece that brims with generosity and unclothed feeling, and both prove how Kylie soars when she relaxes.

It hurts. I think a part of ‘All The Lovers” broad appeal is our heartfelt wish for Kylie to be happy. Yes, this was written for her, yes, pop is a fiction, but take it at face value and this is a sweeping away of disappointment, betrayal and simple not-up-to-scratchness that leaves her with a tip-top man.

Feel. Well, Junior likes it. She knows the chorus already and has some fairly muddled ideas about Kylie’s place in her narrow pop hierarchy. To the selling point that Uncle Tom reckons Kylie the finest thing since sliced shrimp, she offers this: “I think she’s the best too. But the most is Lady Gaga and Girls Aloud. My Number 3 is Kylie, second is Girls Aloud, but the best is Lady Gaga.” I think we can all get behind that.

Breathe. A sigh of relief that Kylie still has the chops to compete with those youngish pretenders – she’s an old dear, after all. Will she be able to carry off a leotard in 10 years’ time? Do we want to know? Hell yeah.

[3] Robyn, ‘Dancing On My Own’


While I appreciate scores of pop fans have crowned this their single of the year, it falls juuuuust short for me. The final two have, in no particular order, a glowing warmth and a hatful of outrageous invention, qualities that just tip the scales. But No.3 isn’t bad place to end up. So what does Robyn have in return? Mad stalking skillz, a hint of menace, a six-note rising/falling synth riff that you could knock out on that rudimentary electronic keyboard you made with your dad in 1982, a bustling buzzy undertone, a classic singalong chorus that invites you to share in her stifling, needy pain, and her well-versed but ever-devastating Swedish sob. Well, that’ll do, won’t it?

Junior’s reaction is, shall we say, gnomic. She dances on her own (yes!), throwing shapes that invoke the malign spectre of Jamiroquai (no!), then sits down to punch starshaped holes in a B&Q receipt. Take that, DIY.

[4] Girl Unit, ‘Wut’

Girl Unit

This is called ‘Wut’, I say. “What?” ‘Wut’. “What?” Well, you get the idea with that. Succumbing to the dreamy, synthy shards, Junior lies starshaped on the rug, slowly rising to play musical statues with her sister before everything descends into tickling. That’s a warm response to an icy record.

It’s a slippery customer, dubstep. I mean, let’s take it on trust that that’s what Girl Unit (Philip Gamble’s somewhat best-not-examined nom de plume) is peddling. You could easily call ‘Wut’ techno (the relaxed variety), pop (that hook is HUGE), even R&B now that categories are so fluid and the best producers are shaping a sound ever more futurist and ever less bassy. Still, yes, this will be pegged as a dubstep exemplar, but let’s shove aside circular arguments about genre because ‘Wut’ stands and falls as a towering, shrill beacon of space-age head-fuckery (sorry, just invented another one). It’s forbidding, nagging, ever so catchy down to its stockinged feet, and festive too – that mysterious four-note chime could soundtrack Kay opening the Box of Delights. In my head. If this is the future, top up my Oyster card.

[5] The Besnard Lakes, ‘Albatross’

The Besnard Lakes

An unexpected shot of gothic altruism from the Montreal band with – is it? It can’t be – Mott The Hoople’s Ian Hunter on co-lead, ‘Albatross’ is a gorgeous wall of sound, steadily battling with the fuzz and squall to make something beautiful. It builds and breaks until synthesised horns signal a sort of triumph at odds with what appears to be a tragedy. “There goes my man” sounds like affection, but it could be regret, loss, or all of it at once.

For Junior it’s just an interruption – “I want Lady Gaga!” – but she soon settles to say what she hears. “A girl singing, a beat, it feels like fun,” but first impressions can fool.

[6] Janelle Monae featuring Big Boi, ‘Tightrope’

Janelle Monae

She looks like the most eager beaver on the block, so it’s little surprise this is the peppiest song of the year, a barrage of pure joie de vivre set to the funkiest sproing this side of the Collins brothers. There’s obviously a huge debt to James Brown, but it’s not as if Monae hides it, and she has the knackering enthusiasm for it, the soul to suit and the suit to soul. I’m chucking these words out, something like a terminator.

The only sane response to ‘Tightrope’ is to fling yourself about the room like you’re five years old. Hey presto! Here’s one I prepared earlier, and she’s got the pen again: “Junior [she wrote her real name – but I have to keep some mystique. Yeah, believe, Junior’s not her real name] likes it.” “Four, three, two, one, zero!” she shouts before tipping on alligators. And rattlesnakers.

[7] Robyn, ‘Hang With Me’


‘Hang With Me’ heralds a new era at Jukebox Junior, with Junior writing down her own comments for the very first time. Hold on to your hats: “She sounds like a princes. Sounds fast.” Let’s make this clear, being compared to a princess (or “princes”) is near enough the shiniest accolade Junior can bestow. Hit!

Or not. Peaking just outside the Top 50, ‘Hang With Me’ is another sorry example of Robyn failing to nail down a UK chart career, even while she releases stone-cold nugget after stone-cold nugget of peerless sad-pop wonder. Is it too clever? Klas Åhlund’s “recklessly, headlessly” is an evocation of abandonment beyond your common-or-garden Pixie Lott, but the fluttering synth-pop is surely irresistible, accessible, mass-appealing – and the heartbreaking rush of the chorus, remembering ‘The Sun Always Shines On T.V.’ while Robyn kisses off in weary style, could bring down governments. Well, hope springs.

[8] Hot Chip, ‘One Life Stand’

Hot Chip

Because I have notes I know Junior said, “It’s beautiful, his voice sounds good,” and really, does anything need to be added to that?

Yes. I get paid by the word. Well, I don’t, but it’s worth maintaining standards just in case. Hot Chip would do well to remember that ethos and then they wouldn’t be thought of (by me) as the archetypal “occasionally good singles” band. I find nothing engaging about their albums and am frustrated by their inability to be the modern flamekeepers for the kind of cerebral synthpop I’ve always loved – they bear some of the chops, but rarely connect with the killer choruses I expect. When they do – ‘Over And Over’, ‘Ready For The Floor’, this – they devastate. ‘One Life Stand’ withholds the transcendent hook, so when it hits it hits hard. In the end, nuzzled by comic synth drama, it’s generous and, yeah, beautiful.

[9] My Chemical Romance, ‘Na Na Na (Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na)’

My Chemical Romance

It’s a rallying call to dunderheaded revolutionaries everywhere, an immense shout to the disaffected which doesn’t necessarily involve eyeliner and moping in a darkened room. My Chemical Romance say ‘Na Na Na…’ rescued the band, which is a mixed blessing however you look at it, but on its own it’s perfectly raucous fun – a breakneck tour around the poppier nethers of punk and psychedelia, with a riff that could slice up a swede.

It’s not a great shock that Junior nails the chorus immediately and flings herself around with un-emo abandon. And, like her dad, she wants to play it eight times in a row.

[10] Arcade Fire, ‘We Used To Wait’

Arcade Fire

How good it was to see the return of Win Butler and his cheery “You spilled my pint and I will have my revenge by means of snide humiliation” countenance. Just when you think you might be overwhelmed by the bombastic brilliance of the occasional Arcade Fire anthem, there’s always time to remember what a boorish bunch of curmudgeons lurks behind the highs. Not you though, Regine, you seem nice. It’s Regine too who comes up with the high here, sustaining the chorus refrain as cuddly Win goes off on his tangent. Elsewhere, ‘We Used To Wait’ is rather trim for an epic, vamping hard on the piano, initially threatening to turn into The Beach Boys’ ‘You Need A Mess Of Help To Stand Alone’ and introducing some hammond swirls that were probably intended to be a bit Doors but end up being a lot Inspirals. It’s a brooding set of thrills that tower over a largely forgettable (and perplexingly highly rated in year-end lists) album.

In tune with the jolly atmosphere, Junior looks glum and determined to read her Roald Dahl books instead.