1. 44 Wonderful Things About Music in 2012
This is our overview of the year in music, including all the best albums and songs as well as videos, websites, movies, TV shows, and cultural moments.
2. Kendrick Lamar and the Post-Hip-Hop Generation
Jeff Chang, the author of Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation, breaks down 2012’s most stunning rap album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, and ponders the next generation of hip-hop culture.
3. Taylor Swift’s Tragic War Against Hipsters
No matter how much of the spotlight she gets, Taylor Swift always portrays herself as a girl on the edge of the crowd. Sady Doyle examines the singer’s obsession with presenting herself as an underdog.
4. 1994 Was the Awesomest Year for Music
While it’s true that every year is good for music, 1994 stands out as one of the all-time greatest years in the history of popular music, up there with 1967, 1971, 1987, and 2003. This playlist is the proof.
5. Why Music Gives You the Chills
Sean T. Collins investigates the phenomenon known as ASMR, which may explain why certain sounds provoke the physical sensation commonly known as “the chills.”
6. “Gangnam Style” and Nicki Minaj Are a Match Made in Heaven
Our first original mashup by Dan Chamberlain turned two of the year’s biggest dance hits into one seamless banger.
7. Bat For Lashes’ Emotionally Devastating “The Haunted Man”
Matthew Perpetua reviews Bat For Lashes’ The Haunted Man, which explores the tension and complexity in a relationship betwewen a distant, sullen, traumatized man and a nurturing, frustrated woman.
8. Blink-182 Made Fun of One Direction 11 Years Before They Existed
Ryan Broderick discovered the bizarre connection between pop-punk icons Blink-182 and the most popular boy band of 2012.
9. On Bruce Springsteen and Disappointing Fathers
Sady Doyle reflects on Bruce Springteen’s classic Darkness on the Edge of Town, an album that taught her how to understand her estranged father long after they stopped speaking to one another.
10. How The Replacements Helped Me Break Up with a Junkie
Amy Rose Spiegel reflects on how The Replacements’ classic album Tim served as both the soundtrack to her teenage romance with a junkie and the catalyst for their breakup.
11. Why I Hate List-Making
Rachael Maddux is a music writer but gets no joy from the constant list-making that’s become a cornerstone of the profession, and music fandom in general. “List-making does such violence to the actual experience of living and listening that I can barely stomach it,” she writes. “I don’t relish a single step of the process — not the parsing, not the ranking, not the final forcing of a list out into the world and not the subsequent defending of all the arbitrarily made decisions that I feel inexplicably defensive about as soon as they’re inevitably questioned.”
12. What PJ Harvey Taught Me About Sex
Sady Doyle looks back on PJ Harvey’s first three albums, which she describes as “an exhaustive chart of what it can mean to be both sexual and a girl.”
13. The Ultimate Ke$ha/One Direction Mashup
No Pets Allowed spliced together Ke$ha’s “Die Young” and One Direction’s “Live While We’re Young” to create the year’s most YOLO jam.
14. How Frank Ocean Transcended the Hype
Eric Harvey reviews Frank Ocean’s exquisite breakthrough album Channel Orange, unpacking its lyrical themes as well as the singer’s skill for managing his image and message in the media.
15. Electronic Musicians Shouldn’t Feel Bad About “Hitting Play”
Electronic musicians have been playing by the rules of rock music for quite some time, to the point of many acts going out of their way to seem as though they’re a live band when they’re mostly using pre-recorded tracks on stage. Matthew Perpetua says that it’s time for artists to start being more transparent about what they’re doing and for audiences to embrace live music outside of the usual “band” setup.
16. How Passion Pit Turned from a Band into a Support Group
Passion Pit front man Michael Angelakos’ music may be defined by his mental health issues, but he’s making the best of it by helping out troubled fans on Twitter.
17. Ke$ha Is the Best Rock Star of 2012
Rock purists will balk at the notion of a pop singer like Ke$ha being taken seriously as any sort of rock star, but if she’s not a rock star, who in contemporary mainstream culture is?
18. How Nicki Minaj Brought Rage Back to Pop
Mike Barthel examines how Nicki Minaj has helped to bring raw aggression back to radio pop after the long reign of Glee at the top of the charts and explains why this makes her an important and inspirational figure.
19. Ben Folds Five Reunited and I Broke Up with Them
Ben Folds Five was Rachael Maddux’s favorite band when she was a teenager, but when she reassessed their songs as an adult, she didn’t love what she heard.
20. Why Rihanna Going Seapunk Is Totally OK
Artists were upset when Rihanna appropriated visuals from web art on Saturday Night Live, but Matthew Perpetua says she’s just the latest in a long line of artists who have brought an underground sensibility to a mainstream audience.
21. How 2012’s Most Miserable Album Helped Me Through Depression
Sean T. Collins explains why Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend! was the only record that made sense to him when it felt like his world was falling apart.