Worst music of 2012.
This post is about music in general though, and considering just how much crud has been shovelled down our necks this year by all mediums, whether it be the internet, television or radio, you can't help but reach the conclusion that the musical apocalypse is almost upon us. The homogeneousness of the mainstream this year has been something to behold: almost every other song sounds exactly the fucking same, for the reason that they almost are exactly the fucking same. For a while I thought it was age beginning to catch up with me, and I was starting to turn into my father, who likes nothing better than listening to Radio 2 the entire day. Then I realised it wasn't me, it was everyone else. With EDM having exploded in America for reasons that no one can properly ascertain, every pop song must now sound as though it was produced in Europe circa 96 to 99, only with the occasional added screech.
Not that there's anything particularly wrong with the odd slice of Eurocheese, especially when you're between 12 and 14. I quite liked Sash! at that age, alongside the very slightly more credible likes of DJ Quicksilver's Bellissima, with Insomnia by Faithless rating as my absolute favourite. It's pretty incredible then that around 15 years later the Europop formula has returned, been suitably toned down so it doesn't sound completely like trance, and then served up for our delectation over and over and over again.
As with so much else, we have Rihanna to blame: the success of (Only Girl) In the World, written and produced by the Stargate duo, seems to have been the main catalyst. Rihanna is one of those remarkable critic proof artists, not that the critics have ever really monstered her until the release of her latest album, and that seems to have been as much to do with her renewed relationship with Chris Brown as anything else. That she can't sing and can't dance hasn't really mattered when her entire act revolves around her wearing as little as possible and all but urging the listener to imagine that they're fucking her as they do so, or indeed, actively saying that she wants you to.
Into this breach has entered Nicki Minaj, who I will admit from the beginning I simply don't get. Super Bass, one of the biggest hits of last year, was almost tolerable, even if the title doesn't make much sense when there, err, isn't really all that much bass in the track. According to her A&R, Minaj won't simply rap or sing over any old beat, which seems a strange comment considering the number of times she's featured alongside other artists, including with such notable originators as, err, David Guetta. It's even more staggering when you consider that her two main singles of the year, Starships and Pound the Alarm, are so aggravatingly execrable, both by the numbers tracks that would otherwise only be notable for the amount of flesh on display in the videos. That the top comment for Starships on YouTube currently is "this is the weirdest porno I've seen all day" pretty much says it all.
Even if she's delved into the current trend for Europop, Minaj made her name as a rapper, and so it would be remiss if we didn't also take note of "Stupid Hoe". For a start, Minaj doesn't seem to have realised that hoe has a silent e, instead saying how, making it sound as though she's asking an ungrammatical question rather than insulting someone, while secondly the video has picked up more than 600,000 dislikes on YT, more than double the likes. For an otherwise popular artist who isn't Justin Bieber, that's quite the achievement.
The other sign of how dismal a year it's been for pop is the number of one hit wonders the year is likely to become known for. It began with Gotye's Someone That I Used to Know, continued with Carly Rae Jepsen's Call Me Maybe, which seems to be ironically topping some track of the year lists, and ended with the phenomenon of Gangnam Style. Psy's worldwide smash doesn't deserve to be in any worst of the year list, it's true, but it is further evidence of the homogeneity alluded to above. At first I thought it was a parody of the current Europop trend by a savvy Korean artist mocking the Gangnam area of Seoul at the same time, except it isn't. It's simply K-Pop, with a highly amusing video and nothing more. Any life it did have has since been strangled by the sheer number of parodies, each one worse than the last. It's also indicative of Western culture as it currently stands: for anything from outside America or Europe to get attention, it has to become us. Little wonder there was such a lot of sound and fury when it turned out Psy had in the past lambasted the US, leading to a humiliating apology.
In a year when the low moments just kept on coming, there was still one that must have scarred memories across the world. The Olympics closing ceremony was shockingly awful in its entirety, yet there was one moment which suggested irony was something that didn't enter into the producer's equation. Of all the ideas they must have kicked around, how was it exactly that no one objected to the prospect of Jessie J being driven into the Olympic stadium in the back of a gold Rolls Royce while she performed Price Tag? It's not about the money, they didn't want our money, they just want to make the world dance. Except they did take our money, Jessie J must have took the money, and so did Rolls Royce. Also performing was Emeli Sande, who started off last year with a track that co-opted the Funky Drummer break, and ended this one with a song that rhymes night and light and thunder and wonder. How long do you reckon she slaved over those lyrics?
Finally, we must as always recognise the role The X Factor and Simon Cowell continue to play in shaping our cultural landscape. Not only were we treated this year to a video of judge Tulisa slapping herself with her ex-boyfriend's penis, something she later described as an "intimate moment", there was this tear-inducing performance from the three finalists at the switching on of the Downing Street Christmas lights. Silent night indeed.
Addendum: Last year, I said Martin Clark was wrong to suggest there wasn't much life left in "dark 140bpm half-step beats". Straight-up dubstep has duly this year been for the most part dismal. Here then is how the genre has changed, or perhaps a better description is how it's subsequently been sequestered, from 2003 when it was still to be named, up till today.