You may be wondering: If the sub-beats are triplets but the main pulse is still a steady 4/4, can't we notate it as 4/4 with triplets everywhere? Of course, you can. And some people do. However, sometimes writing out such a huge amount of triplets becomes visually messy. This is why 12/8 notation was born.
12/8 allows you to instead write out 12 straight eighth notes without losing anything from the groove, as 12/8 automatically implies that the eighth notes are grouped in sets of threes. See the above comparison of the same melody notate in 4/4 vs 12/8. As you can see, 12/8 makes notation easier to write and read as you don't have to write everything in triplets.
Who has written songs in 12/8?
Many artists have performed songs in this time signature. It's one that sounds incredible on ballads, but also can be the basis for some awesome grooves in mid- and up-tempo songs. The easiest way to recognize 12/8 is if the main pulse is a nice steady 1-2-3-4, but the sub-pulse of each beat consists of a 1-2-3.
Here are some songs that were written in 12/8:
Michael Jackson - “The Way You Make Me Feel”
R.E.M. - “Everybody Hurts”
Gwen Stefani - “The Sweet Escape” ft. Akon
Rihanna - “Love on the Brain”
Ed Sheeran - “Perfect”
Whitney Houston - “I Have Nothing”
Whitney Houston - “Saving All My Love for You”
Sam Smith - “One Last Song”
Backstreet Boys - “I’ll Never Break Your Heart”
Alicia Keys - "Fallin'”
The Beatles - “Norwegian Wood”
Toto - "Hold The Line”
Tears For Fears - “Everybody Wants To Rule The World”
James Brown - “It’s a Man’s World”
Etta James - “At Last”
Charlie Puth - “Dangerously”