Music: The Best (and Worst) Singles of 2012

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These singles may not have been the “best” of the year in some cases, but hey, I can’t listen to every song in every genre, and quite frankly, I don’t really want to. I’m sure there were “better” songs out there than some of these. Hell, I know where were worse songs than the ones I picked. I’m not perfect, damn it. These are the “best” and “worst” songs of 2012. The songs that defined (or destroyed) the year, with a few personal favorites, too.

Top 10

10. Gotye feat. Kimbra-“Somebody That I Used To Know”-Remember this little gem? The “little song that could” of 2012, Gotye (Goat-yay? Goat-ee-eh? Got-ya?) reminded every teenage girl ever of that one friend or ex-boyfriend that isn’t in their life anymore. And if you can make all of them post your song lyrics to their Facebook walls, then you know you’ve got a hit on your hands. More than that, though, I think this video expresses just how we all felt about this song:

9. The Weeknd-”Wicked Games”-If Frank Ocean is the best new thing to come to R&B then the Weeknd is a close second. Admit it. His music makes you wanna have sex. And really, isn’t that what R&B is supposed to do? Okay, maybe not quite. But the guy has a voice to die for and a style all his own.

8. Psy-”Gangnam Style”-Oh, Gangnam Style. Honestly, the video is the best thing about the song and introduces us to a dance that is at least better than that Soulja Boy Superman shit, but no one can deny the impact Korean pop star Psy had on this year with this juggernaught. It’s bound to get old, but for now, the video is the most watched on Youtube and who knows when it’ll slow down.

7. Carly Rae Jepsen-”Call Me Maybe”-I still don’t exactly know how one can miss someone before meeting them, but I’ve learned to just accept it and enjoy the pop sensation that is “Call Me Maybe.” Because there’s no escaping it. Go ahead. Try. You won’t. And Carly Rae Jepsen is fucking adorable. So I feel no shame. Sue me, maybe.

6. Kendrick Lamar-“Swimming Pools (Drank)”-Kendrick Lamar is the breakout hip-hop artist of the year, with his first studio album, “good kid, M.A.A.D City,” being called the best rap album since Kanye West’s “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.” It’s for good reason. Lamar paints a vivid picture of his home town and crafts a beautiful dark twisted story of his own.

5. Taylor Swift-”We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together/”I Knew You Were Trouble”-I couldn’t really decide which single off of Taylor Swift’s new album, “Red,” should make the list. I just knew the list wouldn’t be complete by today’s standards if Swift wasn’t on it. So I chose both of them. They’re pretty much the same song, but equally catchy as fuck. Go ahead. Judge me.

4. The Killers-”Here With Me”-Okay, so this isn’t exactly one of 2012’s “biggest hits” but I couldn’t resist. Of the three singles released off of The Killers’ new album, “Battle Born,” “Here With Me” makes the list for its emotion, especially as the song reaches its end: “And instead of walking toward you, I ran away.” Damn.

3. Adele-”Skyfall”-It wouldn’t be a “best of” list without Adele these days it seems. This elegant theme for the latest James Bond flick of the same name puts a cap on an already brilliant opening sequence in the movie, and foreshadows the dangers to come when we didn’t even know what Skyfall meant at the time (“We will face it all, together, at Skyfall”). Go ahead, win that Oscar for Best Original Song, Adele. You need to add to your collection of awards.

2. G.O.O.D. Music feat. Kanye West, Jay-Z, & Big Sean-”Clique”-Remember “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy?” The album where Kanye West crafted a masterpiece in hip-hop? Well, “Cruel Summer” wasn’t exactly like that. Here, Kanye and friends (wouldn’t that have been the best title?) just have a grand ol’ time, and it’s all G.O.O.D.

1. Frank Ocean-“Thinkin’ Bout You”-When Frank Ocean came out about his sexuality and his first love, people may have been wondering who exactly Ocean was thinking about. But it doesn’t really matter. The man is a musical genius, and the best new face of modern R&B. Not only that, but his “Channel Orange” is the best album of the year.

10 More (Best of the Rest)

11. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz-”Thrift Shop”

12. Alex Care-”Too Close”

13. Bruno Mars-”Locked Out of Heaven”

14. Ellie Goulding-”Anything Could Happen”

15. Eric Church-”Springsteen”

16. Meek Mill feat. Drake-“Amen”

17. Swedish House Mafia-”Don’t You Worry Child”

18. The Lumineers-”Ho-Hey”

19. Skrillex feat. Sirah-“Bangarang”

20. Imagine Dragons-”It’s Time”

Worst

1. Train-”Drive By”-Train is the cheesiest band to grace radio stations in recent memory. They’re the Nickelback of pop rock…okay, so Nickelback is the Nickelback of pop rock, but you get my point. Just listen to the lyrics. Listen real close. Have them in front of you even if you have to. And if you hear “when you move me, everything is groovy” and still like the song, then there’s no help for you.

2. Nicole Westbrook (feat. that creepy black guy)-”It’s Thanksgiving”-I put “that creepy black guy” in parenthesis because putting all the blame on an innocent 12 year old girl doesn’t really seem right. That creepy black guy is the same guy who gave us “Friday,” so he seems intent on feasting on the souls of young girls and making them the laughing stock of the internet. What an ass. “It’s Thanksgiving” sounds exactly the same as “Friday” except in this video the creepy black guy shows up in a turkey outfit and eats dinner with a bunch of middle schoolers.

3. Nicki Minaj-”Va Va Voom”/“Pound the Alarm”-I assume they’re interchangeable. Whichever song I like least doesn’t matter, though. I just hate Nicki Minaj nowadays. So pick one.

4. Justin Bieber-”Boyfriend”-”Swaggy.” End of discussion.

5. Maroon 5-”Payphone” feat. Wiz Khalifa/”One More Night”-I didn’t really know which of these Maroon 5 singles was worse, so I put them together. Like the Taylor Swift songs above, they’re pretty much the same thing, except these are bad. When the hell did Maroon 5 try acting all tough and badass? Wiz Khalifa? Really?

The Road to the 2013 Oscars: Les Miserables – Review

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As someone who was unfamiliar with the 1862 novel-turned-musical “Les Miserables” until word spread about this film adaptation from “The King’s Speech” director Tom Hooper, I didn’t really know what I would be witnessing walking into the theater. I knew it was a musical, I knew it had something to do with the French Revolution, I knew the basic plot, and, from what I had read, I knew that Anne Hathaway gave a stunning performance. But one unfamiliar with the source material can’t merely hear or read about such things. They have to witness it. Les Mis, as it’s referred to, is a story told in text and on stage but worthy of the cinema, a sensation barely contained on the big screen.

Now, after witnessing it, I can say two things with certainty: that cinematic worthy story is really long. And Anne Hathaway will win the Oscar for best supporting actress. If she doesn’t, chairs will be thrown. Pertaining to the first certainty, the film clocks in at a little over 2 and a half hours and it feels like it. It spans a time of nearly 20 years from the time we are introduced to Hugh Jackman’s character, Jean Valjean, to the epic climax, so there’s a lot to be taken in. But while it’s such a long film, in the end, I felt satisfied because I felt like I experienced a journey.

Now, as far as Hathaway is concerned, I really can’t think of a performance that has moved me so much this year and the Oscar is calling her name. As stated, I wasn’t familiar with Les Mis at all before this film so I’m not an expert in her character, Fantine, or the songs she sings. But I don’t think anyone can beat her rendition of “I Dreamed a Dream,” a harrowing but beautiful and moving exclamation of a woman who’s lost everything, including her will to live. It’s powerful beyond belief and if I had to have one flaw about it it would be that it doesn’t last longer. Even in the midst of other beautifully sung songs, “I Dreamed a Dream” will stick with you until the end credits roll and even long after. These few minutes alone are worthy of cementing her Oscar win, but every other time she’s on screen prepare for chills as well.

What makes the song so much more powerful is Hooper’s decision to A) have the actors sing live as opposed to the usual lip-syncing over pre-recorded tracks and B) to focus tight on Hathaway’s face for the entirety of the song. Because of this, Hathaway gives raw, in-the-moment emotion while singing, and we feel every moment of it. Every pause in her voice to grasp herself, every tear streaking down her face, all the anger and sadness in her eyes, it’s all right there in front of us, and this can be said of any of the performances because of Hooper’s bold choice that spectacularly pays off.

While Hathaway steals every moment she’s in, it would be unjust to not mention some of the other actors in this large cast. Hugh Jackman is almost guaranteed a best actor nomination. Ultimately, this is his character’s story. As a man who learns to once again have faith in humanity after losing it many years ago, Jackman brings forth every emotion in his arsenal to give the best performance he possibly could to portray Valjean’s haunted journey to salvation. Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter provide some good comic relief among an otherwise serious storyline. Rusell Crowe is the weakest link here as the obsessive officer Javert, who’s made it his life’s duty to bring Valjean back into custody. But the breakout star is Samantha Barks, who I think may be my new celebrity crush. Apart from the Hathaway, Barks’ performance is the next closest one in the movie that may move you to tears. As a young woman longing for a man she can not have, her character’s struggles may not be as distressful as Fantine’s, but Barks displays plenty of raw emotion in her own right.

There’s two concerns I had with the plot. 1) Crowe’s Javert is impossible to like. Yes, he’s the villain of the story, so you’re not exactly supposed to like him. But even when there’s an obvious time for Javert to learn the error of his ways and stop being such a douche, he’s still an obsessive cry baby. His fate is inevitable, but I wish I could have liked him for just a minute. 2) Love, even young love, does not happen that fast. I suppose suspension of disbelief is in order here. and that’s all I’ll say about that. But despite these little critiques, at the heart of the film is a story of redemption, faith, and revolution. Les Mis highlights that anyone can turn their life around if they so choose and at the end, you will be rewarded for the good you’ve done. It’s a respectable message and a powerfully executed one.

You may laugh, cry, or clap during or after “Les Miserables.” I heard all three in my theater. While it can profit from a tad shorter run-time and there’s a couple annoyances within the plot, the film is a worth the price of admission for its boldness and emotion. I don’t know what your resistance to crying is, but bring tissues just in case.

9.25/10

The Road to the 2013 Oscars: Django Unchained – Review

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“Django Unchained” could quite possibly be Quentin Tarantino’s best film since “Pulp Fiction.” It’s definitely his most accessible to a wider audience, but even then, the Tarantino way is ever so present throughout the film and fans of his work will not be disappointed. “Django” is every bit as “Tarantino” as his other films, but it also possesses a certain appeal that is hard to touch upon. Maybe it’s the setting of an “Old South” where a black man riding into action on a horse like a cowboy of the Old West feels somewhat new and exciting; maybe it’s the witty chemistry between Jamie Foxx as Django and Christoph Waltz as the dentist-turned-bounty hunter Dr. King Schultz; or maybe it’s Leonardo DiCaprio’s brilliantly devious villain, Calvin Candie. Whatever it is, this film screams Quentin Tarantino with ever persistent fun and excitement. And lots of blood.

Tarantino fans undoubtedly notice a certain style that the director infuses into all of his films, and yet there is also two methods to this man’s genius. The director often gets lost in his own dialogue and characters will often pronounce long monologues within his films. These boasts of creativity, however, often have something to say and are no doubt awesome to listen to. For example, the beginning of “Inglorious Basterds” features a perfectly uttered speech from Waltz, and in that movie, there’s a lot of talking. And so, this is one aspect of Tarantino’s style, one side of his method of madness: lots of talking, but brilliant dialogue. The other side to his method is pure adrenaline pumping, bloody violence and quick one-liners, seemingly the opposite of what I just explained. For instance, Kill Bill Volume One is the second method. Volume Two is the first. You can’t really go wrong with either, because Tarantino is a master at both.

“Django Unchained” embodies the second method. At nearly 3 hours, it felt like it flew by. I was never bored. You won’t find many long stretches of dialogue in this movie, at least not at the capacity of some of his other films. It moves at a quick pace, never really slowing down. That’s not to say the writing isn’t brilliant. Tarantino’s dialogue is always a breath of fresh air. But this film is very action oriented; a lot happens, and it’s hard not to enjoy every minute of it. Tarantino never really holds back from outrageous use of blood and violence, and he certainly doesn’t let up any for this film. But it works, because it’s Quentin Tarantino. One can argue that there’s an excessive amount of violence in this movie, but at the end of the day, it’s Quentin Tarantino, and it doesn’t matter. Besides, the countless shoot outs remind me of the good ol’ westerns of the ol’ days…if those included black bounty hunters shooting white men in the crotch.

Really, I think that’s what Tarantino wanted to embrace in this film. He’s an avid fan of “spaghetti westerns” and the film is an over-the-top Western set in the South two years before the Civil War…so a “Southern.” But while it may be over-the-top and sometimes random (as only Tarantino can perfect – take the KKK-esque raid featuring Jonah Hill as an example to see just how out-of-nowhere the film can be, and it works in hilarious fashion), at the heart of the story is a man going to great lengths to rescue the love of his life from slavery. You’ll root for Django and that’s what’s at the heart of any good Western: a hero you can root for who’ll ride in on his horse and save the day.

The actors bring to life Tarantino’s chaotic vision perfectly. Foxx, as stated, is a hero you can root for. You want him to win and in the midst of so much hysteria he remains the most serious throughout the film (he doesn’t lack his fair share of great lines, though). Waltz is again brilliant in a very different role than of what we saw him as in “Basterds.” Leonardo DiCaprio is perfect as the main villain of the story, perhaps worthy of a best supporting actor nod. And Sam Jackson is basically playing an elderly version of himself, which is fine with me.

“Django Unchained” is that special kind of film that gets you in the Christmas spirit…okay, maybe not. But it is the kind of film that I walked out of the theater saying “I want to see that again right now.” Forget any controversy surrounding it: enjoy the film for what it is, because Quentin Tarantino doesn’t make films he doesn’t want you to enjoy. He wants you to be entertained. So enjoy it, damn it.

9.75/10

The Road to the 2013 Oscars: Amour – Mini Review

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What do you get if you take the first 10 minutes of “Up” and turn it into a French drama set in an apartment building? You kind of get “Amour” (meaning “Love”), a terrifying portrayal of an elderly couple’s last moments together and how far one will go, and is pushed, in the name of love. While the performances from Jean-Louis Trintignant (Georges) and Emmanuelle Riva (Anne) are undoubtedly powerful, the problem I had with the film is that I didn’t exactly feel any emotional connection, or even sympathy for that matter, towards these two main characters. The film feels cold and distant, and the only real reaction it got from me is towards the end of the film in a scene that is obviously meant to garner a reaction, whether that be shock, or anger or sadness. But then again, I’m not exactly this film’s target audience. An elderly couple will connect with these characters much better than I can. What the film does extremely well, however, is set a certain tone and maintain that throughout the film, a tone that really exploits our own fragility and helplessness as human beings, especially in our older years. And the film tests our own morality and commitment by making us think of what we would do in Georges’s situation.

8.5/10