Year In Review: Pop in 2012

With the Queen’s jubilee and a well-publicised Olympic games, music may have felt a little left out in the UK this year. Massive numbers flocked to the tv screens and even out into fields to celebrate and engage in this thing called sport that so many had never heard of before this summer. Back at home, in a lonely kitchen, a radio played to itself. Fearne Cotton introduced nobody to her new favourite unheard act. Music, as a form of entertainment, had become redundant. Now, ofcourse, that isn’t true. It’d take a lot more than that to silence pop music. Music saw that it was being under appreciated this year and decided to just become even more amazing. Pop music is elitist, it wants to be the best. It wants to infect your brains and it wants to be overplayed. 2012 was, in fact, the 2012th year in which pop became even better.

It’s good practise to get your point out there quickly, so I’d like to give you the title of one of the most brilliant things that happened to our ears this year – a perfect example of music fighting to be the best. It happened around May, maybe a little before or perhaps a little after, depending on your tendency to tune into Europe music festivals. The first song you need to hear to discover just how amazing pop music was on 2012 is a song called Euphoria by Loreen. Yes.

So, now we’re in agreement that music is still incredible, we can have a look at what else happened this year. Whether it be on the mainstream or bubbling under, there has been so much excitement to talk about – unexpected flops and even more unexpected hits. It was a year that pop continued to become cool but also bathed in it’s own uncoolness at times too. Then, ofcourse, we had Psy that doesn’t easily fit into either of those categories.

2012 saw Emeli Sande everywhere. Her album, originally a shock due to it’s heavy reliance on ballads, became the best selling of the year and earned her tracks a place in every housewife’s subconscious mind for the entirety of the 12 months. The only thing that went wrong in the campaign was the almost-disastrous ‘Daddy’, easily her best tune thus far and sadly a pretty dismal chart placing. It’s okay Sande, things got better. Much better.

Marina and the Diamonds has always been pitted against Ellie Goulding since their breakthrough over the last two years and 2012 found them at a pretty level pegging. Whilst Ellie maintains her popularity on both sides of the Atlantic, Marina has furthered hers significantly and with magazine covers-a-plenty, numerous sell out tours and a rather successful sophomore album, it seems that one blaring difference is Ellie’s willingness to accept her current success whilst Marina’s ambition finds her thirsty for more. Either way, both artists produced gorgeous records dealing with a very similar issue – heartbreak; the atmospheric and dark ‘Halcyon’ is moody pop at it’s best and Diamandis’ ‘Electra Heart’ is bubblegum to the core, but with plenty more exciting layers to uncover than your usual popstar.

The USA has been eating up our British talent this year as well – One Direction, incase you hadn’t heard, are just as huge overseas as they are here in the UK. Their ginormous debut single has finally been eclipsed thanks to the immense ‘Kiss You’ a song that brings them into 2013 with their best material yet. The Wanted have achieved a pretty fine following as well – something The Saturdays have been desperate to swipe for themselves. 2013 should see us find out how they fare but, given a slot on E! is a pretty major starting point for the girls and during this British invasion is as good a time as any.

So whilst it may be the year of the British export – what has the USA offered back in the form of American talent other than a certain ‘Call Me Maybe’? Taylor Swift made her comeback with a dynamite single in the form of the fantastically titled ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ and Bruno Mars made his return with the undeniable ‘Locked Out Of Heaven’ which proves he isn’t out of genius ideas just yet.
2012 didn’t go as well as Christina Aguilera had hoped, however. ‘Lotus’ achieved poor sales, causing the ‘Stripped’ era to turn in it’s pop grave, alongside the ‘Loose’ era that had named Nelly Furtado as one of the biggest popstars on the face of the earth. Sadly, her 2012 offering ‘The Spirit Indestructible’, despite being a solid collection alike Christina’s, made hardly any impact on the charts at all. At least she got booked by Loose Women though, eh?

Probably to the dismay of her rivals, P!nk, as is her style, made a comeback without much fuss but still managed to shift big numbers and produce the type of pop that few are able to equal. Parental advisory, guitar-heavy and attitude-soaked, her latest record ‘The Truth About Love’ exemplified all that we love about Alicia, but as fans will know, it’s the live show that will bring it all together – ‘Walk of Shame’ had better make that setlist, or heads will roll.

Alicia Keys straddles the line between success and failure at the moment, with ‘Girl On Fire’ not selling in the massive numbers many expected. It seems to be the case with Keys in general, however – she doesn’t have a solid fanbase to contend with her peers, but when she gets it right and a hit is let out of the bag, the era should be back on track and I am confident that, regardless of sales, she’ll retain the high regard that many hold for her.

Let’s not forget the mammoth music show X Factor; a show that is currently considered a flop as it only draws in eighteen billion viewers as opposed to it’s usual twenty. Little Mix made their mark on the music scene this year, if not quite as dramatically as we might have hoped. ‘Wings’ and ‘DNA’ are two of the best singles of the year though, so no complaints on the material, let’s just hope we  get a video for ‘Madhouse’, ok?

If you’d told me last year that Amelia Lily would have a number one single, i wouldn’t have believed you and if you’d told me that Xenomania were turning her into a one-woman-Girls-Aloud then I’d slap you for treason. Amelia, however, has turned into the most promising and exciting popstar to come out of the X Factor and possibly the country. We’ll keep this paragraph short though, as we’re only two singles in and it could all go wrong from here on in. But let’s hope not.

Tulisa released her debut album this year, so she did. It wasn’t very good though, and if you’ve got it for Christmas, rip ‘Visa’, ‘British Swag’ (yes, really) and ‘I’m Ready’ before thoughtfully giving it to a much younger cousin. Nicole Scherzinger decided to focus more on being a brilliant judge than popping out a new single, but we have that to look forward to next year. Perhaps James Arthur can give her some credibility? Ofcourse not, it’s going to be the campest release of the year as long as 2 Shoes don’t put something new out.

Guest judge Rita Ora must be frustrating Tulisa with her ability to produce swag-pop of the highest degree – ‘R.I.P.’ was a tune and a half to make her name with, and Katy Perry-a-like ‘How We Do (Party)’ took her back to the number one position and marked her down as a force to be reckoned with. The album was a little iffy, but there are a handful of hits that will go on to make her the British Rihanna, whether Rihanna fans like it or not.

Doing it for the boys, Olly Murs hit the top spot with the brilliant ‘Troublemaker’ and single-handedly proved that you don’t have to be an X Factor failure if you’re male, you just have to manage to avoid being boring. Then again, someone that can never be described as boring, yet still managed to flop this year, is the legend in the making named Alexandra Burke. Whilst you tuck into your Christmas dinner, she’ll be pondering a move into TV so spare a thought. We aren’t all as lucky as Leona who managed to do pretty well, despite managing to make ‘Collide’ not reaching number one seem like the end of the world.

It wasn’t a good year for retrospectives though. McFly’s sizable amount of hits weren’t enough to shift the units, nor was ‘Chapter 1’ of Kelly Clarkson’s biggest tunes much of a seller. They did go to prove that both acts have had a pretty fantastic career so far though, as did ‘Ten’ by Girls Aloud, a considerably more successful release that displayed just how brilliant the five-piece were and are – ‘Something New’ is a comeback like no other and the ingenious ‘On The Metro’ gave all the spunk we’ve come to expect from the fiesty ladies as they celebrate a whole decade of amazingness.

Bat For Lashes put together a brilliant seasonal record that ties together her warmth and chilly atmospheres perfectly and newcomer Jessie Ware got pretty much every critic onboard with her dreamy debut ‘Devotion’. Aiden Grimshaw shone with his gorgeous debut ‘Misty Eye’ which received little of the acclaim and success that it richly deserved – a genuinely sensational record, it deserves a listen. Despite all this, the queen of critically acclaimed pop-that-indie-fans-can-listen-to is easily Lana Del Rey. Declaring herself, brilliantly, as the gangster Nancy Sinatra, her record ‘Born To Die’ produced hit after hit, showing off her eye for pop culture and an unforgettable hook. She summed up her record perfectly by claiming that it was centred around the trinity of ‘Born To Die’, ‘Video Games’ and ‘Blue Jeans’, but served to prove herself wrong by releasing the defining ‘Ride’ months later, her greatest single to date and an example of exactly why Del Rey is going to have a very long career. Timeless.

2013 will see the return of some pretty hefty popsters – Mutya Keisha Siobhan will make their return, much to the excitement of ‘One Touch’ fans everywhere. The obligatory Rihanna album should have dropped by the end of the year too, if she plans on continuing his punishing work regime and Lady GaGa is about to put the final touches to her latest experience – ‘ARTPOP’, something that is surely going to make the pop world sit up and take notice. So lets not be sad that 2012 is over, let’s get ready to go into the new year and hope we have an Amelia Lily record this time next year. That would be a good thing. Happy new year!

Photo: Heiko Laschitzki
Words: Simon McMurdo


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