How does a person even pick the song that sums up a year? Sure, every fresh set of months sees a new batch of wildly popular songs that one could conceivably write down in list form and point to as definitive of the best that the year had to offer, but music is more personal than that. Maybe your song of the year is the one that was playing when you met someone special. Maybe it's a song your kid made up and sings under his or her breath, thus proving that he or she is as deranged as you are. Or maybe, dammit, it's a song you wrote. We certainly hope it's not that last thing, but still, it's possible.
What we're getting at, though, is that your song of the year is always correct. If one song above all others makes the people you care about look back and think about what your life was like in 2012, be proud and don't be afraid to tell people it was your favorite that year.
Unless it was something by Nickelback.
Dubstep is the George Lucas of music. Just as Lucas remastered your favorite movies and made them worse, so too has dubstep remixed all of your favorite songs into something that sounds like a Nintendo game freezing when the cartridge is loose. If you are somehow unfamiliar with dubstep, then imagine listening to any song in a rusted-out car where the bass from thousands of songs has rattled the screws loose inside the speakers and you have a pretty good idea. Add in some mechanized whirring and thumping noises on irregular beats and now you've just created the chorus of every single dubstep song in your own mind. Congratulations.
"It's like music, only without all that distracting 'rhythm' and 'coherence'!"
The most recognizable dubstep song is "Too Close" by Alex Clare, which technically came out at the end of 2011, but didn't become ubiquitous until the last few months, when dubstep wholly infiltrated pop culture. If you haven't heard it on the radio, you've heard it in commercials or in movie soundtracks or boring a hole in your temple while wandering around the grocery store. It starts innocuously enough with a verse about breaking up played over muted guitar strums and some clacky-clacky percussion that you'd expect to hear someone pounding out on buckets and metal pans in a subway station. That's not intended to disparage the song -- in fact, I suspect that's the only part of "Too Close" that anyone actually enjoys. The rest is just patience, endless patience.
Now, I'm willing to accept that maybe it's a sign of my age that the signature "wub wub" noise of dubstep sounds to me like an accident. And I will accept that maybe I'm too traditional in my expectation that artists be able to play their own music live instead of just dancing in front of their laptops. I will even accept that I could be wrong in my private suspicions that dubstep creators aren't actually musicians at all but just programmers who are tricking everyone into thinking that they're rock stars. But I refuse to believe that this is a permanent institution in music. After all, I lived through an era of Limp Bizkit selling 34 million records while pretending there was room for a genre between rap and metal. Not every new fad sticks, and I'm pretty confident that dubstep will be remembered as an embarrassment of 2012.
"Next we're gonna drop chainsaws on live orchestras and sample that shit."
It seems like every five years we get another anachronistic pop band sweeping the nation like a bunch of Mary Poppins extras. Theirs is a tragic existence, full of crackly lament, that burns brightly for, like, a year or two, until all of their fans suddenly remember that electric guitars are badass, at which point they will lapse forever into silence. Or at least into a casino on an Indian reservation. Their time in the spotlight is brief, confusing and over before too long: They're like little goldfish in open-collared rough-spun cotton shirts. They're usually folk-based, or pseudo-folk, or some kind of motherfolkin' fusion thing like the Decemberists or Flogging Molly. While their forms may vary, there's pretty much always a comically large bass and some crying white girls in the audience. I'm not saying that they're bad, or good, or emblematic of some great urge to return to a simpler time. I'm just saying that there's one thing you can never take away from an anachronistic rock band: They wear the hell out of those vests.
Wendy Redfern / Getty
Is this Mumford & Sons, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros or Fisby Hobbitbottom's Mustravaganza?
Are those even real bands?
Mumford & Sons is the vest that all of 2012 wore proudly -- out to even the most casual of social gatherings, accessorized by a hat style whose origins have to be explained, at great length, to anybody foolish enough to say "I like your hat."
If you're Internet, you've seen the above video already. It's from the makers of "Friday," and it's about Thanksgiving, and of course it's stupid and terrible. But it's terrible in a way that shows that they're obviously just trying to recreate "Friday" and cash in on some "this is terrible lol"-style viral hits. The girl is younger and somehow more awkward than Rebecca Black, the video starts on a calendar, the song is about a single day, it lists other days and what those days are in a silly, matter-of-fact way, there's an uncomfortable rapping section, she sings "we-we-we" too many times, and a black man shows up and hangs out with tweenage girls for no reason. Even the guy's smile in the video says "I know what I'm doing. This is funny, right? You like this, right? View me. Vieeeew meeeeee!"
This video shouldn't have 10 million views. It should have a few thousand comments saying "Nice try. This is exactly like 'Friday,' which was a hit not because it was bad, but because it was sincerely bad. This new thing you've created is insincere, and it reeks of trying to cash in on something you don't understand. And also, shame on you for ignoring the fact that you're probably ruining another tweenage girl's life. Also? Fake and gay." Or something like that. It seems like people only think that this is great because they're supposed to. Someone on Reddit posts "omg check this hilarious video it's like 'Friday' except no wait actually it's exactly like 'Friday'" and we're automatically like "Yeah, omg indeed." This video adequately represents two things about us and the Internet today: People who don't understand it will always try to cash in on it, and sometimes it works because people like things that they're told they're supposed to like.
Side note: I do think one thing about this video is actually great. When they talk about food in this song, I keep thinking the chanting part is "eggs."
Turkey! (Eggs!)Potatoes! (Eggs!)
And so on.
No food symbolizes Thanksgiving quite like the egg.
But anyway, the real reason I resent this song is because I already wrote it a year ago. As soon as Rebecca Black's "Friday" hit, I knew we were entering the era of Tween Pop Songs Based on What Middle-Aged Songwriters Think Tweens Talk About. So I wrote the megahit "These R the Thingz in My Backpack," and now this "It's Thanksgiving" girl is getting all the free Internet pussy. That was supposed to be my free Internet pussy. Grrrrrrrr!
I'm trying to create the profile of someone who made it through 2012 and never once heard Carly Rae Jepsen's song "Call Me Maybe." This would be someone who doesn't listen to the radio, never looks at online memes, doesn't watch TV and rarely interacts with other human beings outside his or her own household in any capacity whatsoever. The best I could come up with was a sketch of a kangaroo that lived in the Outback during the 1920s. Because "Call Me Maybe" made it EVERYWHERE this year. Like Afghanistan.
And in the skies over the Atlantic Ocean as the U.S. swimming team flew to the Olympics:
On T-shirts you probably never saw in the real world but were clever nonetheless:
This shirt is about 400 percent creepier if you've never seen Arrested Development.
Not to mention on Sesame Street, at NPR studios and in the White House, kind of. "Call Me Maybe" is just a really good pop song. I can't speak for the billions of you reading this, but I've had this song in a loop in my head for a week now. And that's about the third time that's happened this year. Music experts think "Call Me Maybe" struck a chord because of its catchy hook, infectious beat and "lyrical incongruity," something one musical savant noticed way back in June.
They rhyme if you're eating peanut butter or someone cut the roof of your mouth out, but otherwise, not so much. Neither does the Lord's Prayer or the Pledge of Allegiance, and we still let people say them every day. God and Carly Rae must know what they're doing, huh?
Enjoy the rest of your day with this song in your head, suckers.