Essentially this year boiled down to four names. Robyn, Kanye, Janelle Monae, and Justin Bieber.
Let's run down the list:
Robyn. Dominated this year, releasing two EPs, and then an album made of the best songs from those EPs and five new songs. "Dancing On My Own" is the best fucking pop song released this year, bar fucking none. "Hang With Me", "Call Your Girlfriend", "You Should Know Better", and "Fembot" are slightly below the quality level established by "Dancing On My Own", which means, you know, they're slightly worse than the best pop song of this year. She's also notable for generally being a human being. In a year with Kanye's excess and Lady Gaga's smoke and mirrors art show, the charming and believable enthusiasm Robyn displayed constantly made her stand out. I saw her twice this year and both times she was dancing as unconsciously as everyone in the audience. Pure magic.
Kanye. Released free songs every Friday, produced maybe the album of the year, and made being crazy as fuck an actual art form. I loved the fact that he made an "arty video" with a sense of self-awareness, a sense of humor. "Naw man, I never noticed that," is one of the most clever bits of mythmaking I've seen all year. With one line, Kanye pokes fun at the over-seriousness of his 45 minute long epic, and his rep as a self-absorbed douchebag and in doing so, cleverly laughs off his detractors. It doesn't hurt that "My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy" is revelatory, producing new insights with every listen.
Janelle Monae. Straight-up hailed as the next coming of Prince. Not a far off call, to be honest. Her album "The ArchAndroid" ranges from straight funky jams like "Tightrope" to tension-filled burners like "Cold War" to English Folk-inspired numbers, and man, it's just all over the place and still sounds incredibly cohesive. "I was made to believe there was something wrong with me," remains one of the most powerful lines I heard all year, and the part where she tears up in the music video doesn't seemed pre-planned, or cliche, but an honest emotional reaction, a glance at an artist with their guard down. She's so great, guys. Seriously.
Bieber. I'm amazed at how many people hate on the Biebs, especially since they'll then turn around and talk about how much they love The-Dream. Who helped write "Baby". We also learned that when you slow down Justin Bieber songs quite a lot they sound like angels frolicking and cooing. Seriously, dudes, Justin Bieber got Kanye West to remix one of his songs, and Ludacris to drop an adorable G-rated verse about his first crush for "Baby". What'd you do this year?
Next time around, we'll talk black metal. There will be less videos.