Image created by John Sevi.
By Rick Polo (Editor-in-Chief)
2012 was certainly an interesting year for music. While monster pop hits like “Call Me Maybe” dominated the airwaves, unrelentingly burrowing into our psyches, we jammed our way through an election year, teetered on the edge of the fiscal cliff and organized our playlists for the end of days via the Mayans.
There weren’t too many dull moments in 2012.
Despite ever-decreasing physical album sales across the board, music was among the hottest selling items of the year. In the digital age, downloads of popular singles such as the aforementioned chart topper reached 6,138,000 downloads in the United States alone. Music is thriving, but in a very unconventional way, leaving many to wonder if traditional albums are dead.
This year may have also been a clear indicator of a generational gap between music lovers and how they consume music. For example, classic rock had a big year in 2012. New albums from Kiss, Rush, Aerosmith, Neil Young and the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones box set topped the charts and followed with successful tours. Among the year’s biggest touring acts were also Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen and Foo Fighters. In the alternative realm, Gen-X groups like Soundgarden and Marilyn Manson released new material that did relatively well on the charts. So what does this indicate? That traditional rock music is alive and well, but possibly not due so much to the younger generations.
Often times, a lack of good music is to blame for such scenarios. However, one could argue that great cutting-edge new music exists and thrives, but because of the vastness of the internet, it’s become harder and harder to narrow down. Some may argue otherwise, and claim the internet is a useful tool in discovering new music catered to the individual taste. Enter programs like Spotify and Pandora. 2012 saw these revolutionary, internet-based programs go mainstream very quickly. These programs offer the individual control over what they’re going to hear, based on their choice. They’re revolutionary in the sense that anyone, anywhere, can have a personal radio station designed just to meet their own tastes. They only play similar artists and introduce new music in a similar vein, as opposed to the traditional random playlist radio format that’s either all over the place or corporately programmed.
On the topic of cutting-edge music, one group of artists that truly pushed the boundaries was the experimental hip-hop group Death Grips. After signing a deal with Sony Music early this year, they released their sophomore effort The Money Store in April, to much critical success. The album contained a fresh, new genre-bending sound, pushing the limits of hip-hop, rock and electronic music into new and strange territory. Both the band and label promised a follow-up within the year. Death Grips purposely leaked that album, No Love Deep Web, on their own via Soundcloud. The label had a fit and immediately dropped the band while trying to pull the plug on the album’s streaming. The label may have not been the best fit for the band, but because of the bold statement they made in this instance, it stood as a symbol of where music and the music consumer were in 2012 and will continue to be.
On a final note, it would not be a proper year-end recap without acknowledging the major players the music community lost in the year. Pop icon and one of the greatest voices of all-time, Whitney Houston, left us early on in 2012 as well as rock and roll icon, Dick Clark. The voice of a generation and a pioneer of hip-hop, punk and alternative music, Adam “MCA” Yauch of the Beastie Boys, was certainly among the biggest loses of 2012.
Just weeks after the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Yauch passed away due to a cancerous parotid gland on May 4. He was a key songwriter and musician in the Beastie Boys, who are truly revolutionary artists, considered widely influential blazing a path that has broken down genre walls, influencing everyone from Eminem to the Bad Brains to Skinny Puppy. Their classic albums Paul’s Boutique, Check Your Head and Ill Communication are shining examples of the depth of their creativity.
Yauch was also very well-known for his role as an activist, speaking out for various social and political causes.
As 2013 looms on the horizon, music still remains a force to be reckoned with. People still love their music, but are consuming and experiencing it in a mixture of several traditional and non-traditional formats. For the real music lover, nothing changes. Albums will still be released and consumed in one way or another. Whether it’s from taking a trip to the local independent record store or creating a playlist on Spotify, the music lives on!