[11] Wilco, ‘I Might’

Wilco

“English?” This countdown is becoming less about the music, more about the provenance. And Junior’s got it horribly wrong this time because Wilco are completely, unshakeably American – even if they would like to salute the ashes of American flags. She’s also wrong in her verdict: “It’s cool.” Wilco aren’t cool. Although, confusingly, it is quite cool to say you hate them, which suggests they actually are cool but cool people don’t want to admit it. Or they’re yesterday’s cool thing so can’t be cool now. We’ll continue this conversation over at Pitchfork.

This, for Wilco at least, is straightahead pop. As it pumps the organ and hammers the beats it reveals a Northern Soulness that’s quite delightful. I’ve liked Wilco for – ooh – lots of years, but they don’t often make singles. You know, singles as opposed to singles. This is a single. And it features the best “hooooo” of the year courtesy of Jeff Tweedy. Try it, end of the second bridge.

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[12] Keren Ann, ‘My Name Is Trouble’

We’re still guessing nationalities. “I like this one. Is she French?” That’s close enough for me – Keren Ann is indeed French, despite being Dutch/Israeli. She’s lived in France since she was 11, which is the tipping point in anyone’s young existence. I first heard Scritti Politti when I was 11 so it stands to reason. This means I have five years to get Junior out of Kent.

‘My Name Is Trouble’ is smooth, sleek and a velvety warning not to get up to your neck in it with Keren Ann. Which seems a pity because she looks lovely and makes the kind of classic, deceptively drivetime pop that John Grant would make if he was a girl. And indeed does make as a boy. It also understands the importance of solid pop components like verses, bridges, choruses (sort of; the bridge does the heavy lifting) and middle eights, so we all come away feeling pretty satisfied with our lot.

[13] Rihanna featuring Calvin Harris, ‘We Found Love’

Rihanna

“We’ve got this on our DSes!… ‘We found love on a hooooolidaaaayyy’…”

I barely need to add to that – and it would be faithful to the vague, abused ethos of this place if I didn’t – but these are the things I love about ‘We Found Love’:

Rihanna appears to be trying
Calvin Harris doesn’t sing
The sleeve looks like it was made on a xerox in 1979
I could probably cover it despite having no musical talent whatsoever
That’s not a dig at Calvin
But hey, it could be
It’s a dark harbinger of things to come
Junior loves it

[14] Cults, ‘You Know What I Mean’

Cults

Like, yeah. In the 2011 battle of the vintage girl groups that aren’t really, Cults beat Cat’s Eyes for me. This drifts dreamily before shaking your shoulders, a nice delay and release that’s just this side of overwrought. And like everything else Cults do it’s a pocket-sized drama that never gets too heavy. A pulp fiction.

“Are these Indian?” is the inevitable question. No, American. “I was going to say that.” Those swaying verses are accompanied by slow-motion running, then sulking that the alien in an egg on the kitchen table is a present for someone else.

[15] Cornershop featuring Bubbley Kaur, ‘Don’t Shake It (Let It Free)’

Cornershop featuring Bubbley Kaur

Bubbley meets Jimmy Webb on Sesame Street.

That’s about the size of it, that irresistible thought. Cornershop returned this year with a lovely album rooted in friendly funk and Punjabi lyrics I don’t understand. There is nothing bad about The Double ‘O’ Groove Of – unless it’s a 10-song celebration of George Osborne’s dynamic economic skills and the joys of drowning kittens. I don’t know, I don’t understand.

Junior cuts to the chase: “Is she Indian?” She doesn’t stick around for the answer; just plays ring-a-roses with her sisters before finishing with the splits.

[16] Nicola Roberts, ‘Beat Of My Drum’

Nicola Roberts

From the steampunk intro (“I like the start”) to the little synth wiggle (“I like that bit”) to full recognition at the bridge (“Oh, I LOVE this song”), ‘Beat Of My Drum’ pushes Junior’s buttons. She has hand signals (polite ones) for each letter of the chorus and even past the point of attention she’s still mouthing the words as she sketches a picture of Ben and Holly.

So we’re pleased with Nicola’s ‘Freedom 90’. Sure, there’s a scent of ‘We Are Your Friends’ but I’m in no mood to give Simian Mobile Disco any credit after those run-of-the-boring-mill albums and James Ford’s stewardship of those crappy Arctic Monkeys records. So there. It’s unfair, yeah, but so is life. That’s why this squiggling flash of pop magnificence got to No.27 in a land where Taio Cruz has had two – count ’em, TWO – No.1 singles. Doubleyou. Tee. Eff. Questionmark.

[17] Maroon 5 featuring Christina Aguilera, ‘Moves Like Jagger’

Now this one’s all about ESP. Junior has her own special routine for this, a kind of backwards chicken dance that involves swinging her elbows behind her then bringing them forward in a clap. It’s either that gauche chap in the opening credits to The Young Doctors or it’s uncannily Jagger, and she’s not even seen the video. I can only assume it’s some freaky spiritual dancing osmosis from learning ballet at Dartford Grammar School’s Mick Jagger Centre. Seems plausible.

They’re a bit plain, aren’t they, Maroon 5? Adam Levine’s an ultra-buff Mick Hucknall leading an anonymous Simply Reddish collection of assured nobodies, turning out sleek germ-free pop-soul you can admire but never love. Um, except Simply Red are light years better, but the cold-eyed professionalism’s there anyway. I do like this one though, obviously; it’s so… so… VIP area. Slinking about behind a velvet rope while Christina glows like an amazing neon Stevie Nicks.

[18] Purity Ring, ‘Ungirthed’

Purity Ring

To quote the great philosopher and sage Aristotle, this is dubstep’s Sweet Female Attitude. A commercial repackaging then, except for it not fuelling any commerce. All that WUB WUB BRRRR has been coaxed into a cute little ditty that has something of the Sugarcubes if they’d locked Einar in a box like they always should have.

This year’s Björk and Bragi are Megan James and Corin Roddick, who come from Edmonton (Canada, not the Tottenham Ikea), and have some sort of shared history in fringed and floral electropop bands. James’s hiccuping vocals carve a bubbly tune out of Roddick’s popping electronics and it all has the icy clarity of Chairlift. And yeah, earlyish Björk. Lovely.

Junior claims to like it without much conviction but realises it “sounds like Daddy running in the snow and bumping his bum.” Again, lovely.

[19] Cher Lloyd featuring Mike Posner, ‘With Ur Love’

Cher Lloyd

Soft, cuddly Cher. That’s not what we divvy shits signed up for. Still, it works and she keeps that fruity attitude in her vowels just in case we thought she was getting too silky. Frankly, I’d prefer some upfront rolling beats to boost the “FIGHTING… LIKE IT” bits in the verse – muscle it up, give it some brassy punch – but otherwise ‘With Ur Love’ is compact and sweet, a pop song crammed with ideas.

Junior’s pleased to see it beat Surkin: “This gets *thumbs up*. The one before gets *thumbs down*. I like the sound.” Mind you, Junior 2 says, “I don’t like this one, I like the one when we went to swimming.” If you don’t know what she’s talking about, you weren’t there. I don’t think I was.

Quite what Posner’s doing there though, I’m not sure. “First date, first base, second date, second base, third date… heeheehee…” Heeheehee? HEEHEEHEE? The least we expect is “third date, hefty kick to the balls from a size 5 Reebok hi-top”. Sort it out, Cher.

[20] Surkin, ‘Ultra Light’

Surkin

PEOPLE OFTEN ASK ME, who chooses the year-end Top 20s – you or Junior? Well, there’s a long and a short answer to this. Short answer: me. Long answer: Junior’s getting more influential because she’s fast becoming the captain of the stereo, but no, really, it’s me.

That’s how young Gallic techno revivalist Surkin can sit pretty in the Top 20 of the year without Junior really liking him. I should know, I asked, and all I got in return was a shrug. Which goes some way to enforcing a French stereotype but isn’t a ringing endorsement for a banging retread of some jumping house that sounds like it comes from a time when I was young enough not to put my back out to it.

Don’t worry, there’s plenty of six-year-old-friendly pop to come in the final 19. You know this place.