Disclaimer: I haven't seen Silver Linings Playbook, Zero Dark Thirty or Django Unchained. I'm not caught up on Homeland or Boardwalk Empire. I only read two books that came out this year (Junot Diaz's This Is How You Lose Her and Alan Sepinwall's This Revolution Was Televised -- both awesome) and I didn't listen to all of Jack White's Blunderbuss -- but that was by choice. Having said that, here's the best (and worst) of all the pop culture I digested over the last 12 months.
-- Best YouTube video: "Jurassic Park Theme Song (Melodica Cover)"
- In just 30 seconds, someone with a brand new melodica (basically a keyboard that you blow into) completely ruins the majestic opening to Jurassic Park with a rendition that sounds like a balloon being deflated -- off-key. You'll never be able to listen to the actual theme again without laughing, but it's worth it.
-- Worst phenomenon: "Gangnam Style"
- Still don't really get why "Gangnam Style" is a thing. It's LMFAO's "Party Rock Anthem" in Korean -- seriously, if you copy the lyrics into Google Translator, it's just the lyrics to "Party Rock Anthem." I guess we need a "Macarena"-style song every decade or so, a song that isn't really that good and is in a different language but that causes people to dance like idiots.
-- Best battle: The Battle of Blackwater (Game of Thrones)
- D-Day meets Helm's Deep is apparently what George R.R. Martin envisioned with this rollicking penultimate episode of the second season of Game of Thrones. Stannis Baratheon's attack on King's Landing had everything: Great swordfights, fantastic character development (The Hound and Cersei, especially) and an awesome showcase for Peter Dinklage as the inspirational imp, Tyrion Lannister. The only bad thing was that little twerp Joffrey staying alive, but his day will come... hopefully not too soon though, because he's hilarious.
Best use of a song: "Crystal Blue Persuasion" on Breaking Bad
- It's tough to put something ahead of Take This Waltz, which used "Video Killed the Radio Star" to great effect in a couple of scenes. But what took Vince Gilligan so long to put "Crystal Blue Persuasion" on the Breaking Bad soundtrack? The scene, which shows Walter White and his new assistant Todd taking his operation to the next level, is amazing, but how were Tommy James and the Shondells not calling Gilligan every day saying, "Our song's called 'Crystal Blue Persuasion.' Walter White makes blue crystal meth. Are you thinking what I'm thinking?"
Best beat ruined by bad rapping: "Thrift Shop" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Wanz
- "Thrift Shop" has one of the coolest samples you'll ever hear in a rap song: A saxophone melody that jumps all over the place but gets repeated over and over again, kind of like a shorter, poppier version of "T.R.O.Y. (They Reminisce Over You)." So Macklemore really just has to be serviceable. And he's not. From the first line, you can tell he has no discernible talent. Like I would rather listen to Fred Durst rapping over this beat than Macklemore -- and I haven't loved Fred Durst in years.
Worst beat enhanced by great rapping: "Mercy" by Kanye West, Big Sean, Pusha-T and 2 Chainz
- The beat for "Mercy" is so generic and boring that it's pretty amazing it was ever popular. The snare drum they use is awful, the steel drum sound gets old and there really isn't much going on until Kanye's verse, which is the only cool part of the song musically. But everyone on the song somehow made it quotable, especially 2 Chainz, who staged the most improbable career renaissance of any rapper ever. However, Big Sean is still an awful, corny rapper.
Best election quote: "I went to a number of women's groups and said, 'Can you help us find folks?' and they brought us whole binders full of women."
Best podcast moment: Andy Daly as Don Dimelo on Episode 161 of Comedy Bang-Bang
- If you don't already listen to Comedy Bang-Bang, a talk show podcast where host Scott Aukerman has on many famous comedians who sometimes play characters and do impersonations (Paul F. Tompkins's Andrew Lloyd Webber is particularly good), start with this episode. Andy Daly comes on at around the 44-minute mark as theatrical director Don Dimelo, who tells all the dirty, X-rated details of his new production of Disney's Wizard of Oz, which, as he says (in creepily vivid detail), "has something in there for Daddy."
Best "humblebrag": "So he calls me last night and he's all like 'I still love you'"
- "Humblebrags," a term coined by comedian Harris Wittels to describe a bragging statement that's veiled in false modesty, are all over Twitter these days. But one shameless one is the spoken-word part of "We Are Never Getting Back Together." Wahh, I'm Taylor Swift, I'm so desirable, isn't that awful? The more I think about it, it isn't even really humble, it's just an outright brag. She's a good girl, though.
Funniest line: "I think I may be the voice of my generation... or at least a voice of a generation"
- Say what you want about Lena Dunham, but this line, which her character Hannah said to her parents in the pilot of Girls, was a hilarious and brilliant subversion of her own criticism. Many already see people like Dunham's character and Dunham herself as self-absorbed spoiled brats with absurd delusions of grandeur about their own talent, so this line was a great way to encapsulate that.
Worst commercial: Anything with the Discount Double-Check
- I don't care if State Farm Insurance could help me. I don't even know what the Discount Double Check is or does. All I do know is that I didn't think any ad campaign could be more annoying than 1-877-KARS-4-KIDS. But boy, was I wrong.
Follow Pete McQuaid on Twitter @sweetestpete and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sweetestpete.
Best Albums of 2012
3. The Idler Wheel... Fiona Apple
- With a title too long to fit on this page, Fiona Apple's The Idler Wheel is just as dense, with the same visceral energy she exhibited on "Criminal" more than 15 years ago. At this point, she could probably chill out for her own sake, but for our sake, the more intense, the better.
2. good kid, m.A.A.d. city, Kendrick Lamar
- The new king of West Coast hip-hop has arrived, with a smooth concept album that chronicles a day in the life of a young Kendrick Lamar, who touches on everything from reluctant robberies to alcoholism with his distinctive rapid-fire flow.
1. channel ORANGE, Frank Ocean
- He's Stevie Wonder, Prince, Andre 3000 and D'Angelo rolled into one. Frank Ocean took the music community by storm this year, with channel ORANGE being a neo-soul/R&B album for a new generation. With frank sexuality, amazingly varied vocal lines and a 10-minute centerpiece about a pimp's "Cleopatra," channel ORANGE is a worthy choice for Album of the Year.
Best Movies of 2012
2012 was a ridiculously strong year for film. There were smart, exciting popcorn flicks like Skyfall and Argo, exquisite historical dramas like Les Misérables and Lincoln, and fresh comedies like 21 Jump Street. The indie movies weren't so bad either, some sweet (Moonrise Kingdom, Safety Not Guaranteed), some breathtakingly confusing (The Master, Beasts of the Southern Wild). The biggest surprise though? Tim Burton actually made a good movie.
- 10. Frankenweenie
- 9. 21 Jump Street
- 8. Argo
- 7. Beasts of the Southern Wild
- 6. Safety Not Guaranteed
- 5. Skyfall
- 4. Lincoln
- 3. Les Misérables
- 2. The Master
- 1. Moonrise Kingdom
Best Songs of 2012 -- On Just ONE Compact Disc!
Not in order of best to worst (if it was, Taylor would obviously be closer to the top), but more like if you were going to burn a CD, this is the order it should be in so everything flows well.
- 1. "I Love It" -- Icona Pop feat. Charli XCX
- 2. "Thinkin Bout You" / "Lost" -- Frank Ocean
- 3. "Thuggin'" -- Freddie Gibbs and Madlib
- 4. "Call Me Maybe" -- Carly Rae Jepsen
- 5. "Never Go Back" -- Grace Potter and the Nocturnals
- 6. "The Only Place" -- Best Coast
- 7. "Settle Down" -- No Doubt
- 8. "Backseat Freestyle" -- Kendrick Lamar
- 9. "Constant Conversations" -- Passion Pit
- 10. "Babel" -- Mumford and Sons
- 11. "Encyclopedia of Classic Takedowns" -- A.C. Newman
- 12. "New God Flow" -- Kanye West, Pusha-T, Ghostface Killah
- 13. "Anything We Want" -- Fiona Apple
- 14. "Emmylou" -- First Aid Kit
- 15. "Climax" -- Usher
- 16. "Lazuli" -- Beach House
- 17. "You Ain't Alone" -- Alabama Shakes
- 18. "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" -- Taylor Swift
For more songs from 2012, check out Pete's Spotify playlist at http://open.spotify.com/user/122195902/playlist/1nz2nj6ZGhjlKuJnwZTPcT.