The Song(s): ”Safe and Sound”
Capital Cities Over tootling horns and Jazzercise-y synths, these L.A. indie-poppers offer to fill your cup (with beard hairs? Mmm) and persevere through all kinds of emotional weather systems. Turns out nothing turns a ”hurricane of frowns” upside down like a top 10 hit.
WINNER: Taylor Swift Feat. The Civil Wars Okay, fine, punctuation nuts: Taylor & Co. use an ampersand on this atmospheric 2012 Hunger Games soundtrack standout, so the titles aren’t identical. But they actually have a legit reason to frown: Panem is killing the children! For sport!
The Song(s): ”See You Again”
WINNER: Carrie Underwood Pop-country’s golden girl chest-pounds her way through another stand-by-your-man ballad so powerful that bells literally chime in her wake.
Hannah Montana Return with us to the halcyon times of 2007, when the phrase ”She’s just bein’ Miley!” (originated in this slinky thumper) meant something so, so different.
The Song(s): ”The Way”
Ariana Grande A sleepy rap cameo by Mac Miller, gymnastic vocal cooing by Ariana via vintage Mariah, and charm courtesy of the Nickelodeon pop-industrial complex.
WINNER: Fastball A ’90s alt-radio mainstay, dressed dapperly in saloon piano and post-grunge sincerity. Not that Ariana would know, since she was 4 when it came out.
The Song(s): ”Roar”
WINNER: Katy Perry Pop’s cutest kitten goes full-on Bengal tiger to make the case for high self-esteem, then tops it off with Rocky references for an extra protein boost.
Axwell & Sebastian Ingrosso From kitties to Pixar beasts: This hyperactive 2013 Monsters University jam is 100 percent cardio.
The Song(s): ”Miss Jackson”
Panic! At the Disco Mid-aughties emo-scene survivalists return to the rock charts with a handclappy oh-whoa-whoa ode to a bad-news vixen. (”Are you nasty?”)
WINNER: Outkast Atlanta’s hip-hop heroes used the polite ”Ms.” to address Andre 3000’s baby mama’s mama and their drama back in ‘01. She was not having it — but we are.
The Song(s): ”Radioactive”
WINNER: Imagine Dragons An end-of-days anthem with a hook so nuclear, its blast radius extends to approximately 10,000 TV dramas, movie trailers, and sports-show bumpers.
Kings of Leon What’s in the water, according to the Kings circa 2010? A cold fusion of U2 guitars and gospel chants… Also: barrel-aged whiskey. (Dude, they’re from Tennessee.)
The Song(s): ”Fire”
Big Sean A fantastic autobiographical track from one of rap’s best new names — but most known so far for the video, starring Miley Cyrus (yep, that wallflower again) in cutoffs and seriously complicated bras.
WINNER: The Jimi Hendrix Experience Forty-six years ago, Jimi had only one burning desire: to stand next to your fire. And bust out one of the most copied guitar riffs of all time.