To avoid a completely rap-centric 2012 recap, here’s the best of the rest of pop culture.
Best Non-Rap Artist
For some reason, people keep lumping Frank Ocean into the hip-hop genre. Personally, I blame his Odd Future connection for that generalization. Anyways, it was an incredible year for Mr. Ocean, who fell under the spotlight (maybe for the wrong reasons) after he explained that his first love was a man. Regardless of Ocean’s sexuality, his first major release, channel ORANGE, was a fantastic album that was very accessible for even people who weren’t R&B fans. Coming off the success of “No Church in the Wild” from Watch the Throne, Frank built some serious momentum, and is now nominated for six Emmys, paving the way for a potentially bigger 2013.
Best Non-Rap Album
In case you weren’t paying attention to the last little blurb, Frank Ocean had an incredible year. It’s hard to be one of the top artists of the year without having one of the best albums of the year. A moving, personal album, channel ORANGE features songs that range from breezy anthems to electronic epics to sweeping orchestral odysseys. The content, as aforementioned, is pretty revealing, but it never takes away from how good the music is. Oddly enough though, channel ORANGE is neither excellent because of its content nor is it excellent in spite of it. Notable songs: “Thinking About You,” “Pyramids,” “Bad Religion”
Song of the Year
It’s incredibly tough to limit this to one song. So I’ll talk about some honorable mentions. PSY’s “Gangnam Style” and Carl Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” broke YouTube and fun. annoyed me way too much with “Some Nights,” after winning me over with “We Are Young.” Frank Ocean had one of the best albums of the year and plenty of great songs. Rihanna and Alicia Keys continued to do their respective things, and provided guilty pleasures via “Diamonds” and “Girl is on Fire.” The Lumineers and Mumford & Sons were folksy and charming. Usher, Miguel, and The Weeknd all provided some heat via “Climax,” “Adorn,” and “High for This,” respectively. That being said…
…Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know” takes the prize. Now, it’s definitely cheating a little to consider this a 2012 song, since it was first released in the summer of 2011, but it never truly made it in the United States until earlier this year. It’s really a song a lot of people can get behind, whether you’re a big indie music fan, want to be reminded of Toto’s “Africa,” like The Police, or can relate to the relationship and break-up issues presented. Despite its content, “Somebody That I Used to Know” isn’t that much of a downer anyways, especially with its cute, quirky composition. Also, props to Kimbra, who was a fantastic feature on the song, adding a great rising action to the song in its final section.
Best TV Show – Drama
“All Hail the King” indeed. For three months, Breaking Bad had a death grip on its fans, refusing to let up, especially with the series finale on the horizon. (Semi-spoilers ahead.) Anyone who was concerned about the formatting that split the season into two parts – eight episodes in 2012, eight in 2013 – can rest easy after this first wave of episodes. What’s worse for Breaking Bad fans, though, is how the season ended, which only makes waiting 9 months that much harder. It wasn’t the closing moments that made the final eight episodes that much more anticipated, however. A wonderfully knit first half of season five is finally converting Walter White backers into Walter White haters, and the writers are really challenging viewers to see how far they’d support the antagonist-protagonist combo. Notable episodes: “Dead Freight,” “Say My Name,” “Gliding Over All”
Best Episode – Drama
At times, Homeland can be very slow, building to an incredible moment that makes all the more tedious moments not just bearable, but justified, and that much better. However, “Beirut is Back” was not one of those episodes, and made for one of the most exciting episodes in the series. (Spoilers ahead) In typical Homeland fashion, the ending moment is what really sells this episode, but the path there is quite the ride. Carrie is back in action and is back in Lebanon to take down Abu Nazir, which involves a failed assassination and ducking through buildings while getting chased by terrorists. Speaking of the failed assassination, one of the best little moments in the series comes from a text Brody sends Nazir to let him know that he is in danger – “May 1.” If you, like me when I first saw this episode, have no idea what that’s supposed to mean, here’s a fun fact: Osama Bin Laden was taken out on May 1. Anyways, Saul finding the tape of Brody is such a great turning point for Carrie and for Homeland as a series.
Best TV Show – Comedy
We have a tie here, folks. Community and Louie both had incredible seasons and are such different shows that it’s hard to truly crown one of them as the champion. Community is a vivid, colorful comedy that might have the most laughs-per-minute than any other show on television. Louie, on the other hand, is a dark comedy that is so bleak, it can sometimes be considered a drama and comes pretty close to reality.While the first half of Community‘s third season was stronger, it still had a very solid second half, though most of those episodes fell on an inexplicable three-episode night on NBC. Unlike NBC, FX didn’t mess around with Louie, and aired a full 13 episode season that saw its share of great guest performances from Parker Posey and David Lynch. Community definitely has the advantage in laughs here, but Louie C.K.’s brilliant storytelling makes the battle too close to call. Notable Community episodes: “Pillows and Blankets (Part 2),” “Virtual Systems Analysis,” “Curriculum Unavailable” Notable Louie episodes: “Miami,” Daddy’s Girlfriend Part 2,” “Late Show Part 3.”
Best Episode – Comedy
The first time Community used the fake clip show via “Paradigms of Human Memory,” it was hilarious and one of the best episodes of the second season. Somehow, using more or less the same formula, “Curriculum Unavailable” takes that idea to new heights. As aforementioned, Community has one of the highest laugh rates on TV, and this episode is a clear example of the show’s remarkable pace. The best jokes here come from the fake classes, which includes lessons on baby talk, things you can fry (pretty much everything, just don’t say fries), and ladders. The plot “twist” is also pretty hilarious, and had fans doubting themselves as long as the characters before realizing how preposterous it was. A solid performance from John Hodgman makes this episode the best in comedy this year.
Best Movie of the Year – Drama
As someone who has not seen Lincoln, I cannot fairly determine the Steven Spielberg epic to be the best film of the year. Though, I probably wouldn’t since I’m hesitant to give traditional Oscar-bait my top spot.
Also, my apologies go to Django Unchained, which I found to be a wildly entertaining movie with amazing performances from Jamie Foxx and Christoph Waltz. It had a wonderfully diverse soundtrack, including a perfectly placed “100 Black Coffins” by Rick Ross and “Unchained (Remix)” featuring Tupac and James Brown. My apologies also go to Argo, which was an incredibly tense film that was incredibly paced, and included fantastic performances from Ben Affleck and Alan Arkin. But let’s get to the winner.
If I wanted to dedicate more words to this category, I’d explain why Argo would be my second best movie of the year and Django Unchained would be third. As for my first…
If you don’t like Wes Anderson, then Moonrise Kingdom will probably, and unfortunately, not be for you. But for all us normal people, it’s a truly fantastic film, and one of the director’s bests. In a Anderson-friendly time, 1965, two kids find an instant connection, falling in love and fighting the people around them who see them as outsiders. Moonrise Kingdom feels at times like an action movie, as the two main characters, Suzy and Sam, are constantly on the run from police, boyscouts, and their family. When things slow down, it’s an incredibly charming film that maintains it’s disctint Wes Anderson feel throughout. The cast is ridiculous, including Bruce Willis, Francis McDormand, Edward Norton, Bill Fucking Murray, Tilda Swinton, and not to mention, the two leads. Great acting, hilarious cameos, kitschy effects, and a perfectly crafted soundtrack makes Moonrise Kingdom the film of the year for dramas.
Best Movie of the Year – Comedy
Rehashing an old TV show seemed like a recipe for disaster, but 21 Jump Street really took a lot of people by surprise. Channing Tatum showed people that he could actually act in this hilarious turn, and Jonah Hill shied away from being the usual…well, Jonah Hill, not to mention a great turn from Ice Cube as the Captain of the division. Whenever confronted with a typical action-comedy cliche, 21 Jump Street throws it out the window. Keeping the audience on their toes and providing genuine, thoughtful laughs is what this film does best. Head and shoulders above a lot of the comedies that came out this year, 21 Jump Street is an easy choice for comedy of the year.
Random things from 2012 to check out:
• The Raid: Redemption – The craziest action movie of the year. From Indonesia, The Raid, was more or less 90 straight minutes of incredible action.
• Briefly mentioned them in the hip-hop categories, but Flatbush Zombies and their album, D.R.U.G.S was a fantastic entrance into pop culture. Check out “Bath Salts” with A$AP Rocky.
• Also, didn’t mention Joey Bada$$. If you like 90s hip-hop and haven’t listened to this guy, you’ve been missing out.
• Key & Peele. Go and watch it. Now.