Best Music of 2012
|R&B/Hip Hop singer Frank Ocean whose debut album|
"Channel Orange" is the most critically-acclaimed of 2012
I'd like to think that it's all about the music and nothing else, but I can't help but feel like the two's personal lives informed the critical responses. Therefore, it might be difficult to parse one from the other, but perhaps not. Chris Brown released his album Fortune on July 3rd. Its Metacritic score was 38. This score was based on 14 reviews. Frank Ocean released his album Channel Orange two weeks later on July 17th. Its Metacritic score was 92, based on 46 reviews. Clearly, music critics love Frank Ocean more.
Chris Brown has not much love loss amongst his peers or the music-buying masses. This year, Chris Brown won Best Male R&B Artist and the Fandemonium Award at the BET Awards. He won Top R&B Artist at the Billboard Music Awards. He won Best Male Video and Best Choreography at the MTV Video Music Awards. To cap it all off, he won Best R&B Album at the 54th Grammy Awards. His records sell a lot and got a lot of radio airplay, but if you look at the reviews only, you'd think Chris Brown were the worst person on Earth.
Brown doesn't have the most negative reviews than any artist this year. That distinction goes to The Ting Tings for their latest album Sounds From Nowheresville. The Ting Tings got six outright negative reviews, in other words six reviews with a score below 40. Those reviews come from major publications too like Spin magazine, The Los Angeles Times and Pitchfork, which absolutely hated the record. Brown, to his credit, only got three outright negative reviews. What kills him though is that one of those reviews has a score of absolute zero.
That review comes from Mic Wright of musicOMH, a web site that was created in 1999 and is based in London that contains independent reviews and features. In Wright's review, he says, "Fortune is the kind of record that will please Brown's many deluded female fans, but we cannot with good conscience give it a single star. The music and the man cannot be separated. Having violently assaulted someone he was meant to care about and repeatedly acted in an aggressive manner in public, Brown is a danger to himself and others."
|Chris Brown scored his first #1 album this year.|
He also won the Grammy for Best R&B album.
This got me thinking. If a music artist's private life could hurt him in the critical community, could it do the opposite? Could an artist's private life also help him in the critical community? Frank Ocean might just be a case in point. If you read the many positive reviews about Ocean's latest album, you'll find a common thread. Alex Petridis of The Guardian newspaper talks about the letter that Ocean posted online revealing his same-sex attraction and in fact his love for another man, as well as the resulting heartbreak from it.
Steve Juon echoed sentiments that Petridis makes. Regarding the letter, Juon, of RapReviews.com, states, "Others suspect it to be nothing but a publicity stunt." Petridis continues, "And yet, if it is a publicity stunt, it's an incredibly risky one. However brave his stand, you patently don't sell R&B albums by becoming a liberal cause celebre." In saying so, Petridis is most likely correct, but, you patently can get what's most considered a liberal media to champion you if you work it correctly.
Most of the critics including Petridis blatantly state that Ocean's sexuality or his heartfelt letter has nothing to do with their positive reviews. Most of them try to dismiss the letter by saying as much. Yet to me, it's like the lady doth protest too much. If the critics wanted to dismiss the letter, then they should have done just that. In other words, they shouldn't even brought it up at all. Except, nearly all of them do. They say the letter had no effect, but the fact that all of them mention it seems to suggest it did. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune in his review went on about the letter for three paragraphs not even talking about Ocean's music.
Christine Werthman, the managing editor of CMJ magazine, says undeniably, "As a performer existing in the hyper-heterosexual worlds of R&B and hip-hop, even suggesting that he’s something other than a women-wanting male is impacting." This is exemplified in Melissa Maerz of Entertainment Weekly who writes, "On the gorgeous 'Bad Religion,' he pours his heart out to his taxi driver, crying over a relationship he’s sick of hiding. Considering that he just recently admitted he was once in love with a man, it’s an especially poignant moment." Here, Maerz basically admits she liked the song more because she knows that Ocean is gay.
I suppose that I implicitly did the same thing, but I suppose that's the world in which we live. We can't parse things like that out. We can try and others do, especially those fellow artists who run the risk of having it boomerang back on them. But, regardless of whether you're a Chris Brown fan or a Frank Ocean fan, there's plenty of good music out there, if you're sick of either. Here are the ones that stand-out to me.
Best Music of 2012
Best Folk / Country
JAKE BUGG by Jake Bugg
MARAQOPA by Damien Jurado
WHO'S FEELING YOUNG NOW? by Punch Brothers
BLOWN AWAY by Carrie Underwood
A CHURCH THAT FITS OUR NEEDS by Lost in the Trees
Best Rock / Alternative
BLUNDERBUSS by Jack White
BOYS & GIRLS by Alabama Shakes
SWING LO MAGELLAN by Dirty Projectors
MAKING MIRRORS by Gotye
ARROW by Heartless Bastards
MILK FAMOUS by White Rabbits
CONFESS by Twin Shadow
Best Pop / Electronic
THE IDLER WHEEL... by Fiona Apple
DJANGO DJANGO by Django Django
COLOURS by Graffiti6
DEVOTION by Jessie Ware
LOVE THIS GIANT by David Byrne & St. Vincent
VOWS by Kimbra
LATENESS OF THE HOUR by Alex Clare
TOTAL LOSS by How to Dress Well
Best R&B / Soul
CHANNEL ORANGE by Frank Ocean
LANDING ON A HUNDRED by Cody Chesnutt
IS YOUR LOVE BIG ENOUGH by Lianne La Havas
OUR VERSION OF EVENTS by Emeli Sandé
WRITE ME BACK by R. Kelly
MIRRORWRITING by Jamie Woon
TRILOGY by The Weeknd
Best Hip Hop / Rap
LIFE IS GOOD by Nas
THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS [OST] by Various Artists
FIRST OF A LIVING BREED by Homeboy Sandman
GOD'S FATHER [Mixtape] by Lil B
AWE NATURALE by THEESatisfaction
VICIOUS LIES AND DANGEROUS RUMORS by Big Boi
Best Singles from Non-listed Albums
1. "Losing You" by Solange
2. "Time to Move on" by Monica
3. "Peace and Love" by Cat Power
4. "Talking Empty Bed Blues" by Jim James with Jay Farrar
5. "It Hurts Every Time" by Good Old War
6. "A New Town" by Field Music
7. "The Remedy" by Karima Francis
8. "Same Love" by Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
9. "Only You" by Ellie Goulding
10. "Bashful" by Kwes.
11. "Just a Touch" by AlunaGeorge
12. "Breathing Tigers" by Yukon Blonde
13. "Your Eyes" by Bombay Bicycle Club
14. "97 Heart Attack" by Earlimart
15. "Drifters" by Paul Weller
16. "Hood" and "Normal Song" by Perfume Genius
17. "Hard To Be Close" by Here We Go Magic
18. "Climax" by Usher
19. "Toxic" by Gift of Gab
20. "Afternoons with David Hockney" by Miniature Tigers
21. "Tee Pees 1-12" by Father John Misty
22. "Wrenning Day" by Ava Luna
23. "Mean Spirits" by Silversun Pickups
24. "Words in the Fire" by Patrick Watson