It’s time for the year end accolades. Check out EW’s awards for the best in music below!
Best Son of Mumford (American Idol Edition)
Phillip Phillips, “Home”
In the past, a stand-up comic basically had one career path: Build up some solid minutes on the club circuit, get yourself on late night TV, and hope that somebody with a check book comes calling with a sitcom deal or an HBO special. But while technology seems to be crushing a lot of other entertainment universes, it’s allowing more and more comedians to thrive thanks to podcasting, self-released albums, crowdsourced tours, easily-produced web series, and more opportunities for singular voices on risk-taking cable networks.
No matter where you like to get your yuks, it was a great year for comedy—and for pushing the envelope of what stand-up comedy could be. The albums below represent a small cross-section of the greatness that flowed from the minds of some of the most brilliant creators in entertainment today, and each one takes a wholly unique approach to the craft.
1) Tig Notaro, Live
Notaro’s Job-like narrative has been well documented, but Live (as in “Live Forever,” not Live At Red Rocks) works just as well even if you’re not intimately aware of Notaro’s health struggles. That’s how powerful and honest it is: Over the course of a half hour, she lays out her story with equal parts clinical pragmatism (her genuine insistence that the audience take probiotics whenever they are put on antibiotics) and “Can you believe this?” wonder. Notaro’s dry, deadpan style makes for quite a tightrope walk, as it’s always hard to tell whether or not she’s going to laugh or cry. The audience doesn’t know either, and that what makes Live a brilliant, thrilling listening experience. And despite all the doom and gloom, it’s also fantastically funny, like when a technician asks her what her secret to being skinny is, and she gives the gallows reply, “Oh, I’m dying.” It’s a testament to both the style and the substance of one of the best performances by anyone in any venue in 2012. READ FULL STORY
One encouraging trend that ran throughout 2012 was the egalitarian nature of hit singles. Whether you were a Joni Mitchell-loving Canadian Idol survivor, an Australian with a bruised ego, or a bunch of Florida emo survivors high on Queen, the music world fully embraced you as long as your inescapable earworms continuously delivered thrilling results.
Check out EW’s list of the 20 greatest singles of the year below (as they appear in the current issue of EW, which is on newsstands now), and be sure to check out this specially-curated VEVO playlist that takes you through the year that was one glorious pop hook at a time.
1. Carly Rae Jepsen, ”Call Me Maybe”
Before the countless YouTube lip dubs, the nine weeks at No. 1, and the 1,000th time you heard it at a BBQ, there was just a song: a purple-ink love letter with a tiny voice whispering about wishing wells and ripped jeans like it was a secret she wanted you to keep forever. It might have been the soundtrack of your summer, or you might’ve rolled your eyes at parties but then secretly put it on your workout mix. But every time it played, life sounded just a tiny bit different. Better maybe. —Adam Markovitz READ FULL STORY
But since I’m already primed to hop onto a plane and head home down South for the holidays, I thought it might be fun to take let my music tastes do the same and take a deep-dive into the country music world. Here’s my take on the year that was — country music style:
BEST: Little Big Town The hard-working quartet has always had the respect of Nashville for their on-point harmonies and sumptuous live performances, so it was nice to see them find true mainstream success in 2012. “Pontoon” was a fresh, tongue-in-cheek summer smash that motorboated all the way to No. 1.
BEST: Eric Church With a sand-papery voice, a trademark baseball cap (which have now officially replaced cowboy hats), a drink in his hand, and some genuinely great melodies, Eric Church joined country’s A-list this year. “Springsteen” was a wide-open crossover hit that gave his confidently country disc Chief the mainstream appeal it deserved. Of course, it didn’t hurt that Chief won the CMA Award for Album of the Year, either. READ FULL STORY
It’s the music battle of 2012: “Call Me Maybe” versus “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Or perhaps your personal pick is “Some Nights” or “It’s Time.”
Now is your chance to make your voice heard. We’ve told you some of our choices for our favorite music of the year. Now we want to hear what you think. Vote below in our poll and tell us what was the very best tune you heard this year, and then check out the results — as well as a ton more music picks from the EW staff — in Entertainment Weekly‘s Best & Worst 2012 issue, on stands Dec. 21.
Vote below: READ FULL STORY
If you were anywhere near a screen that had the potential to play music videos over the summer, chances are you cast your gaze at Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe” more than once. The clip, which helped catapult Jepsen from Canadian Idol also-ran to chart-topping international superstar and Grammy nominee, starred Jepsen, the hunky model who stood in as the object of her affection, and one of the great classic twists in the history of music videos. Below, video director Ben Knechtel spins the story of the making of the video for the official song of summer 2012. For more stories behind this year’s top TV, movie, and music moments, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes) coverage.
As told by: Ben Knechtel
Me and Carly go back a few years now. I work at 604 Records, which is Carly’s Canadian record label. I’ve known her since 2008, and this has been the same team all along. It’s cool to see everyone still together and working on such a large scale now. I’ve actually directed her last four videos. I did the first video with her on a shoestring budget, and that got me in the door with her management and label and with her, and ever since then we established a great working relationship. She trusts me.
I heard the song for the first time [in August 2011], which is pretty crazy. The song wasn’t out yet, and they asked me if I wanted to write a treatment. So I got to listen to it really early, and I remember saying to my wife, “This song is going to be huge.” But I was thinking it’d be big in Canada. You can’t really gauge or anticipate it being such a giant song worldwide. But I remember saying to my wife that it was going to be a huge song, and it’s been incredible to see her go on this journey to pop superstar.
I wrote the treatment [for "Call Me Maybe"]. When I was in college, I made this little video for a school project where I was washing a car like Jessica Simpson in The Dukes of Hazzard. I was in these Daisy Duke shorts, and I had borrowed a bikini top from a girl in one of my classes. It was just a ridiculous over-the-top parody of the classic car wash scene. It’s super embarrassing, but I think you can still find it online somewhere. I always thought that was funny, and people got a kick out of it back then, and I always wanted to find an outlet to do that sort of thing again. “Call Me Maybe” ended up being that outlet.
The dude’s name is Holden Nowell, I think everybody just calls him “Hot Dude.” He’s a model and actor, and a rapper as well. We put up a casting call, and I think we saw 10 guys. Carly was at the casting call with me, and one by one, a guy would come in, and we’d meet him, and he would take his shirt off. And then Holden came out and took his shirt off and Carly was just like, “Uh, yeah. That one.” He’s just naturally ripped. It’s crazy.
It was a relatively small video shoot. We shot it in 12 hours in Langley, British Columbia, which is about 40 minutes outside of Vancouver. It was the day before Halloween, because I remember we had to take down some Halloween decorations because we wanted it to be a summer video. It definitely was not summer — it was freezing cold. I think it was raining four days beforehand, and it stopped raining one day and that’s when we shot the video. Then it rained for the rest of the week. That’s Vancouver for you. I was wearing a winter jacket, some of the crew were in parkas, and poor Holden couldn’t wear a shirt.
I’ll probably never experience anything like this. I remember calling my mom when it hit a million views, and I called home and got really excited about one million views. And now it’s over 300 million and everything is just kind of gravy now. But I was impressed when it hit a million views!
Read More on EW.com:
Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): The story behind Green Day’s ‘¡Uno!’ album art
Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): Director Alex 2Tone explains the child pageantry in Iggy Azalea’s ‘Murda Bizness’ video
Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes): How Phillip Phillips’ song ‘Home’ was chosen for the Olympics
EW’s Complete Best & Worst of 2012 coverage
Graphic designer Chris Bilheimer has an impressive track record. In addition to working as REM’s full-time artistic director, he created the cover art for Neutral Milk Hotel’s indie classic, In The Aeroplane Over the Sea. He’s also designed every Green Day album cover since 1997’s Nimrod. This year, he produced the grungy neon artwork for the punk rockers’ latest trilogy, ¡Uno! ¡Dos! and ¡Tré!. From his new home in the music-obsessed Austin, Texas, Bilheimer talked about the inspiration for the aesthetic, and revealed the lo-fi, yet surprisingly contemporary process involved in its creation.
For more stories behind this year’s top TV and movie moments, click here for EW.com’s Best of 2012 (Behind the Scenes) coverage. READ FULL STORY
Some of those songs are truly great, and you’ll find more than a few of them on our official Year End Top 10 list in the upcoming Best and Worst issue of EW on stands Dec. 17.
But this is a separate list: One that our staff put together to celebrate the dozens of other artists — from Japandroids and Jessie Ware to Meek Mill and Avett Brothers (and yes, some Taylor and Ke$ha and Kanye, too) — who stayed on repeat in our offices and on our iPods these past 12 months.
It was a great year for music on the silver screen in some ways — mainstream flicks featuring hot new artists; and weaker in others — favorite singers being massacred in cover-land. Here are our picks for the best soundtracks of 2012, complete with a Spotify playlist to rock you through it — and a few of the worst (we spared you the playlist for that one).
Best of 2012
Pitch Perfect – Fresh and inspired, with mash-ups that Glee would kill for, this ode to collegiate a cappella gave us – and anyone who enjoys harmonies – something to sing about.
Katy Perry: Part of Me – The pop album that just wouldn’t quit got a nice compliment with the 3-D concert film. The Part of Me soundtrack gave a new listening experience to everything from “Firework” to newer stuff like “Wide Awake.” Not to mention, it’s just plain fun.
Skyfall – Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard Adele’s slow-burner of a Bond theme. But the soundtrack is more than just that hit single – thank goodness.
Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part 2 – The Twilight soundtracks are always an eclectic mix of musicians and genres, and the fifth and final is no exception. Standouts include Green Day’s “The Forgotten” and “Bittersweet,” by Ellie Goulding.