The Best Of 2012
Published: Thursday, December 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 20:01
"Call Me Maybe"/"Gangam Style"
What does an upbeat Canadian teeny-bop song about love at first sight have to do with a South Korean pop single about a trendy new district of Seoul? Both seemed to come from nowhere to light up the pop culture world—mostly because they were hopelessly catchy and more than a little ridiculous. Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe,” released in late February, was that song that lodged its way into everyone’s head and appeared at parties across the country, its sugary pop beats proving completely infectious. PSY’s “Gangnam Style” music video went viral in August, becoming an international sensation and triggering endless memes, parodies, and talk show appearances. With its throbbing beats, hilarious dance moves, and crazily over-the-top video (The horses! The explosions! The awkward booty shakes in the elevator!), “Gangnam Style” transcended the language barrier to become the most unlikely pop hit of 2012, and the most-watched video on YouTube. Love them or hate them, “Call Me Maybe” and “Gangnam Style” were pure 2012.
Parks and Recreation
Parks and Recreation has been around for a few years now, but its brilliant run in 2012 makes a strong case for it being the funniest network comedy currently on the air. Season Four was anchored by the ongoing storyline of Leslie Knope’s run for City Council, with BC’s own Amy Poehler continuing to earn her reputation as one of America’s most gifted comedians. Yet, Parks is truly an ensemble effort, especially with the likes of Nick Offerman as the government-hating, meat-loving Ron Swanson and Aziz Ansari as the super-fly Tom Haverford. Season Five has continued the show’s winning streak, including several episodes in Washington with guest appearances from the likes of John McCain and Joe Biden. But the show will always remain anchored in the eccentric, tiny town of Pawnee, Indiana. What began as an Office-knockoff has blossomed into its own, delivering not only copious belly laughs but also an affectionate portrait of small-town America.
Although his album + was actually released in early 2011, it wasn’t until this past year that English singer-songwriter, Ed Sheeran, with his witty lyricism and mellow, acoustic melodies, left his own indelible mark on the music sphere. His idiosyncratic style blends indie folk subtly with hip-hop elements, and it’s such characteristics that make his songs, such as “Drunk,” “Give Me Love,” and +’s lead single, “The A-Team,” so incredibly popular. Sheeran is known not only for his dulcet, sweet tracks, though. Rather, has has made a name for himself by writing and producing for other big artists as well. He has collaborated with Taylor Swift on her latest release Red, and he even penned a couple songs, including the track “Little Things,” for British contemporaries One Direction. With his many, diverse talents, it’s no wonder that the redhead from across the pond is currently the most illegally downloaded artist in the UK—and probably in the U.S. too.
This July, 25-year-old R&B singer Frank Ocean made a huge splash in the music industry, releasing his first studio album, Channel Orange, less than a week after coming out about the unrequited love he felt for another man at age 19. As a member of OFWGKTA—the hip-hop crew associated with Tyler, the Creator—Frank Ocean has shaken the rap industry entirely, which has long been criticized for its homophobic culture, by bringing his sexuality into the album (“Bad Religion,” “Forrest Gump”). Social implications aside, Channel Orange is widely held as one of this year’s best albums. It refreshed the world of R&B with the downright musicality and emotionally complex storytelling the genre has been lacking for decades. Prior to his studio debut, Frank Ocean developed a considerable fan base of hip-hop/R&B connoisseurs, with his 2011 mixtape, Nostalgia, Ultra. He also made several musical appearances in Kanye West and Jay-Z’s Watch the Throne. Channel Orange marked some great developments in Ocean’s career and endowed him with great promise for years to come.
The sleeper hit of the summer was Wes Anderson’s critically acclaimed, and hugely successful, Moonrise Kingdom. Since his debut in 1996 with Bottle Rocket, Anderson has been one of America’s most distinctive film stylists, establishing a niche reputation with films like Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums. Moonrise Kingdom, a pre-teen romance set against the backdrop of a fictional New England island in 1965, benefitted from a superb ensemble cast featuring the likes of Bruce Willis, Edward Norton, Tilda Swinton, and Frances McDormand. Yet, the most impressive cast members were 14-year-olds Jared Gilman and Kara Hayward as Sam and Suzy, whose precocious romance stands in stark contrast to the cynical adult world surrounding them. Kingdom had all the usual Anderson touches—sweeping camera movements, exquisite dollhouse-like sets, a gorgeous color palette, and a killer vintage soundtrack—but these stylistic elements were perfectly integrated with a story that was truly touching, at once comedic and profound. The result was a unique masterpiece that confirms Anderson’s status as one of the great modern directors.