Monday, December 31, 2012

The Top 50 Songs of 2012

Dave’s Music Database:

Top 50 Songs of 2012

These are the top 50 songs of the year based on their overall performance in Dave’s Music Database, which is determined by combining chart data, sales figures, streaming, video views, and aggregates from 39 year-end lists (see sources at bottom of page).

Check out “Top Songs and Albums of the Year” lists here.

    DMDB Top 1%:

  1. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Wanz “Thrift Shop
  2. Psy “Gangnam Style
  3. The Lumineers “Ho Hey
  4. Bruno Mars “Locked Out of Heaven”
  5. Imagine Dragons “Radioactive
  6. Passenger “Let Her Go
  7. Florida Georgia Line with Nelly “Cruise
  8. Pink with Nate Ruess “Just Give Me a Reason”
  9. Rihanna “Diamonds

    DMDB Top 2%:

  10. Maroon 5 “One More Night”

  11. Maroon 5 with Wiz Khalifa “Payphone”
  12. Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”
  13. Bruno Mars “When I Was Your Man”
  14. Imagine Dragons “Demons”
  15. Taylor Swift “I Knew You Were Trouble”
  16. Adele “Skyfall”
  17. Mumford & Sons “I Will Wait”
  18. Rihanna with Mikky Ekko “Stay”

    DMDB Top 5%:

  19. Nicki Minaj “Starships”
  20. Icona Pop with Charli XCX “I Love It”

  21. Fun. “Some Nights”
  22. Flo Rida “Whistle”
  23. with Britney Spears “Scream & Shout”
  24. The Neighbourhood “Sweater Weather”
  25. Frank Ocean “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You”
  26. Phillip Phillips “Home”
  27. Bruno Mars “Treasure”
  28. Jason Mraz “I Won’t Give Up”
  29. Katy Perry “Wide Awake”
  30. Miguel “Adorn”

  31. Alicia Keys “Girl on Fire”
  32. Swedish House Mafiar with John Martin “Don’t You Worry Child”
  33. Lana Del Ray with Cedric Gervais “Summertime Sadness”
  34. Katy Perry “Part of Me”
  35. V.I.C. “Wobble”
  36. Capital Cities “Safe and Sound”
  37. Pink “Blow Me One Last Kiss”
  38. Muse “Madness”
  39. Train “Drive By”
  40. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis with Mary Lambert “Same Love”

  41. Justin Bieber “Boyfriend”
  42. Emeli Sandé “Next to Me”
  43. Taylor Swift “22”
  44. Alabama Shakes “Hold On”
  45. Disclosure with Sam Smith “Latch”
  46. Usher “Climax”
  47. The Lumineers “Stubborn Love”
  48. Kanye West with Big Sean, Pusha T, & 2 Chainz “Mercy”
  49. Kongos “Come with Me Now”
  50. Imagine Dragons “On Top of the World”

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First posted 1/2/2013; last updated 1/18/2023.

2012: Top 25 Albums

First posted 12/31/2012; updated 1/8/2021.

Dave’s Music Database:

Top Albums of 2012

Based on a combination of year-end lists (see sources at bottom of page) and overall status in Dave’s Music Database, these are the top 25 albums of 2012:

  1. Frank Ocean Channel Orange (Grammy nominee for album of the year, #1:, Billboard – critics’ picks, DMDB, Entertainment Weekly, The Guardian, Paste, Pop Matters, Spin)
  2. Kendrick Lamar Good Kid m.A.A.d. City (#1: Consequence of Sound, Pitchfork)
  3. Taylor Swift Red (#1: best seller of the year, Squidoo)
  4. Mumford & Sons Babel (Grammy nominee for album of the year, #1: NPR)
  5. Lana Del Rey Born to Die
  6. Fiona Apple The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (#1: Spinner, Time Magazine)
  7. Bruno Mars Unorthodox Jukebox
  8. Imagine Dragons Night Visions
  9. Bruce Springsteen Wrecking Ball (#1: Rolling Stone, my favorite of the year)
  10. Jack White Blunderbuss (Grammy nominee for album of the year, #1: Mojo)

  11. Nicki Minaj Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded
  12. Emeli Sandé Our Version of Events
  13. Pink The Truth About Love
  14. Tame Impala Lonerism (#1: Obscure Sound)
  15. Fun. Some Nights (Grammy nominee for album of the year)
  16. The Weeknd Trilogy
  17. Rihanna Unapologetic
  18. The Lumineers The Lumineers
  19. Florida Georgia Line Here’s to the Good Times
  20. Zac Brown Band Uncaged

  21. Alabama Shakes Boys & Girls
  22. One Direction Take Me Home
  23. Justin Bieber Believe
  24. Bob Dylan Tempest
  25. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis The Heist

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Friday, December 21, 2012

“Gangnam Style” passed 1 billion views on YouTube

Gangnam Style


Writer(s): Park Jae-Sang/ Yoo Gun-hyung (see lyrics here)

Released: July 15, 2012

First Charted: September 9, 2012

Peak: 2 US, 10 RR, 32 A40, 11 UK, 17 CN, 16 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 1.3 UK, 12.89 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 4704.25 video, 351.54 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

South Korean singer and rapper Park Jae-sang, better known as Psy, was no stranger to the music scene when “Gangnam Style” took over the world, landing at #1 in more than 30 countries. WK In the U.S., it peaked at #2 for 7 weeks behind Maroon 5’s “One More Night.” Psy had released five albums and 17 singles WK and become a big name in Korea, where his fans had huge expectations about his dancing. Psy told the New York Times he stayed up late about 30 nights to come up with the dance, testing animal-inspired moves with his choreographer before settling on what he called the “invisible horse dance” where he pretends to hold the reins of a horse, spin a lasso, and move his legs in a side-shuffling gallop. WK

Psy’s dance moves in the video became a phenomenon, driving multiple parodies and spawning a dance craze unlike anything seen since “Macarena” in the 1990s. It was so successful that it became the first YouTube video to reach a billion views. WK Deborah Netburn of the Los Angeles Times called it “one of the greatest videos ever to be uploaded to YouTube.” WK MTV’s James Montgomery said the song “is either the track we, as a culture needed right now, or the track we, as a culture, deserved.” WK The Washington Post’s Maura Judkis said Psy “has made an extraordinarily stupid-looking dance move suddenly cool.” WK Psy himself said the point of the dance is “to dress classy and dance cheesy” WK and that for the video the intent was “to be ridiculous as possible.” SF Even NASA weighed in, calling it “a dance-filled music video that has forever entered the hears and minds of millions of people.” WK’s Bill Lamb praised the song for “spreading smiles and pure fun around the world in record time.” WK He called Psy a “powerfully charismatic…showman.” WK Digital Spy’s Robert Copsey criticized the song for being monotonous and The Guardian’s Paul Lester knocked it as “generic ravey Euro dance with guitars.” WK The Village Voice’s Robert Myers dismissed the song as an “inspired piece of silliness.” WK Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, called the song the greatest cultural masterpiece of 2012. WK

“Gangnam Style” is a Korean phrase referring to a trendy and lavish lifestyle associated with Seoul’s Gangnam District. WK Psy compared the area to Beverly Hills in California. Psy said the video and song mock “the posers and wannabes that put on these airs and say that they are ‘Gangnam Style’ – so this song is actually poking fun at those kinds of people who are trying very hard to be something that they’re not.” WK


Last updated 10/20/2022.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Popular Music Hall of Fame

image from

This Hall seems to be defunct now. Web searches only turn up the more recent America’s Pop Music Hall of Fame and the link is now dead. The Hall had 25 inductees from the pre-rock era:

  • Andrews Sisters
  • Tony Bennett
  • Irving Berlin
  • Hoagy Carmichael
  • Rosemary Clooney
  • Nat “King” Cole
  • Perry Como
  • Bing Crosby
  • Dr. Lee DeForest
  • Walt Disney
  • Tommy Dorsey
  • Thomas Edison
  • Judy Garland
  • George Gershwin
  • Benny Goodman
  • Al Jolson
  • Jerome Kern
  • Glenn Miller
  • Mills Brothers
  • Patti Page
  • Cole Porter
  • David Sarnoff
  • Frank Sinatra
  • Kate Smith
  • Ed Sullivan


Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 12-12-12 Hurricane Sandy Benefit Concert

image from

The nearly six-hour concert to raise relief funds for victims of Hurricane Sandy was held 12/12/12 at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Tickets ranged in price from $150 to $2500. More than $30 million was raised just on ticket sales. HP Millions in the New York and New Jersey areas were left without heat or electricity for weeks and more than 300,000 homes were destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. HP

The show was televised, streamed, and aired on radio all over the world. It was shown on 37 television stations in the U.S. and over 200 worldwide. HP Producers said as many as 2 billion people might tune in. HP Locals dominated the show with performances from Jersey’s Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi and New Yorkers’ Billy Joel and Alicia Keys. Live sets consisted of about 30 minutes with celebrities, including Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Adam Sandler, and Brian Williams, making pleas for pledges and introducing acts.

Springsteen opened with a set including “Land of Hope and Dreams,” “Wrecking Ball,” “My City in Ruins,” and a cover of the Impressions’ “People Get Ready.” Jon Bon Jovi joined him for “Born to Run.” Bon Jovi returned later with his band for a set with another hook-up with Springsteen on “Who Says You Can’t Go Home.”

Roger Waters, whose tour for The Wall is the highest grossing of the year, performed a scaled down version of that show with a set featuring classics like “Another Brick in the Wall Part II,” “Money,” and, with Eddie Vedder as a guest vocalist, “Comfortably Numb.”

Eric Clapton was up next with a three-song set of “Nobody Loves You When You’re Down and Out,” the obscure Derek and the Dominos’ song “Got to Get Better in a Little While,” and “Crossroads.” The Rolling Stones, in the midst of celebrating their 50th anniversary, followed with just two songs – “You Got Me Rocking” and “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Mick Jagger joked about it being “the world’s biggest collection of aged British rock stars,” BB a reference to other legendary performers on the bill such as Clapton, The Who, Paul McCartney, and Roger Waters.

The Stones’ Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, image from

Alicia Keys performed a more intimate two-song set with new song “Brand New Me” and “No One.” She returned at the end of the show with a performance of “Empire State of Mind,” originally a #1 song she recorded with Jay-Z.

The Who, currently touring behind their classic Quadrophenia album, did a limited version of that tour and included favorites like “Who Are You,” “Pinball Wizard,” “Baba O’Riley,” and “Love Reign O’er Me.” It was one of the weaker performances of the night as Roger Daltrey’s voice was not in stellar form. By the way, Mr. Daltrey, you are in great shape for a 68-year-old man, but please button up your shirt.

The Who’s Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend, image from

Kanye West seemed out of place, being “stuck representing youth and the hip-hop community on the bill.” BB His shortened versions of his songs didn’t allow his “music to develop a dynamic quality on par with the rock acts.” BB

Billy Joel performed a set of several favorites, including the appropriately-themed “Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway),” and “New York State of Mind” before Coldplay’s Chris Martin took the stage. He performed a couple songs solo and brought out R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe as a surprise guest on a duet of “Losing My Religion.”

In the most anticipated performance of the night, Paul McCartney performed a set heavier on Wings-era material than Beatles before being joined by former Nirvana members Dave Grohl, Krist Novoselic, and Pat Smear for a new song, “Cut Me Some Slack.”

The full set for all the night’s performers is available at

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Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 2013 Inductees Announced

clockwise, from top left: Public Enemy, Albert King, Randy Newman, Rush, Heart, Donna Summer; image from Billboard

The 2013 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees were announced on December 11, 2012 by Flea, the bassist of the Red Hot Chili Peppers (a 2012 inductee). The announcement was made at Los Angeles’ Nokia Theater where the induction ceremony will be held April 18. The inductees are Lou Adler, Heart, Quincy Jones, Albert King, Randy Newman, Public Enemy, Rush, and Donna Summer.

Lou Adler Induction category: Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement

Adler was an American record producer (Sam Cooke, Carole King, The Mamas & the Papas), manager (Jan & Dean), director, and an owner of the famous Roxy Theater. He founded Dunhill Records in 1964 and Ode Records in 1967. He helped produce the Monterey International Pop Festival and cult classic The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Carole King’s Tapestry, which he produced, won the Grammy for Album of the Year and rates as one of the top 100 albums of all time. See DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for more.

Heart Induction category: Performer

Heart was a rarity in the male-dominated world of classic rock in the ‘70s – a band led by women – sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson. Ann said, “Some people have an idea of what the shape of rock & roll is supposed to look like. We’re not really it. Personally that’s why I think it’s taken quite a while…So this kind of acknowledgement is really sweet.” RS The band made a name for themselves with classic-rock staples like “Magic Man,” “Crazy on You,” and “Barracuda” before getting a second life in the mid-‘80s as a mainstream pop group with #1 hits “These Dreams” and “Alone.” See DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for more.

Quincy Jones Induction category: Ahmet Ertegun Award for Lifetime Achievement

Jones started as an R&B/jazz musician and bandleader, but made his name as a producer. He ranks as one of the top 50 producers of all time. His most notable work was with Michael Jackson on Thriller, which tops the list of the best-selling albums of all time. That album, as well as Jones’ own Back on the Block, snagged Grammys for Album of the Year. See DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for more.

Albert King Induction category: Performer

One of two posthumous inductees (the other is Donna Summer), King already ranked as one of the top 100 blues acts of all time and one of the top 100 greatest guitarists. He was previously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. His 1967 album Born Under a Bad Sign ranks as one of the top 1000 albums of all time. See DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for more.

Randy Newman Induction category: Performer

Newman is already an inductee in the Songwriters Hall of Fame and ranks as oe of the top 100 songwriters of the rock era. Of his induction into the Rock Hall, he said, “I thought maybe I’d have to die before they let me in.” RS He also said, “They’re always a little doctinate about what’s rock & roll and what isn’t rock & roll. It’s nice they opened up a little to let me in.” RS His albums 12 Songs (1970) and Sail Away (1972) rank in the top 1000 albums of all time list. See DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for more.

Public Enemy Induction category: Performer

They are the fourth hip-hop act to be inducted into the Hall, following Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five (2007), Run-D.M.C. (2009), and the Beastie Boys (2012). Their songs “Rebel without a Pause” and “Fight the Power” both rank in the top 100 rap songs of all time; the latter is also in the top 1000 songs of all time list. Their 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back ranks as one of the top 100 albums of all time. See DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for more.

Rush Induction category: Performer

Fan loyalty for this classic prog-rock Canadian trio is rivaled only by KISS fans when it comes to lobbying for enshrinement into the Hall. This year, fans were allowed to vote and the results were counted as one of the six-hundred-something ballots. Rush was the overwhelming favorite. Geddy Lee, th band’s singer and bassist, expressed gratitude to the band’s hardcore fans. “It was a cause they championed. I’m very relieved for them and we share this honor with them, for sure.” RS Alex Lifeson, the band’s guitarist, said, “It’s a privilege to be able to play music…and it’s an even greater privilege to have such a fantastic audience.” BB The band’s albums 2112 (1976), Permanent Waves (1980), and Moving Pictures all rank in the top 1000 albums of all time list. Among their best-known songs are “Closer to the Heart,” “The Trees,” “Freewill,” “Limelight,” and “Tom Sawyer,” a song ranked as one of the top 100 classic rock songs of all time. See DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for more.

Donna Summer Induction category: Performer

Sometimes known as the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer was hugely successful in the ‘70s and early ‘80s. Her songs “Last Dance” and “Hot Stuff” rank in the DMDB’s top 1000 songs of all time. When she died last May, the DMDB blog featured a tribute to her in which her top 20 songs were ranked (“Last Dance for Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco: May 17, 2012”). See DMDB music maker encyclopedia entry for more.

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Saturday, December 8, 2012

Music Lessons from The Pit: The Playlist

Music Lessons from The Pit is my in-progress novel set in the 1980s. The story follows Gil through college as he navigates the trek from youth to adulthood, accompanied by the era's burgeoning college-rock movement. In fact, Gil's life is so tied to music that each chapter is named after a song and the subsequent reflections that ensue in that chapter are inspired by that song.

What follows is a playlist of songs referenced in the book. You can watch the video, buy it via Amazon, or check out the lyrics.

Chapter 1: Should I Stay Or Should I Go

The Clash “Should I Stay Or Should I Go” (1982) went to #45 in the U.S. and #17 in the UK in the summer of 1982. In 1991, the song was revived in the UK thanks to a Levi’s commercial and went to #1. In the U.S., “Rock the Casbah,” another cut from the Combat Rock album, gave The Clash mainstream American success, going top ten. However, the group only released one more album before calling it quits.

U2 “40” (1983) was never released as a single, but became a concert favorite for U2. It hails from their War album which became the group’s American breakthrough and one of the early staples of the burgeoning college rock movement.

Chapter 2: Blue Monday

New Order “Blue Monday” (1983) was first released in March 1983 in the UK. It reached #12 despite exceeding 7 minutes in length and being available only as a 12” single. The song reached #68 in the US and was rereleased multiple times in the UK. The 1988 remix got to #3. With sales exceeding 1 million in the UK, the song became the biggest 12” single of all time.

Chapter 3: Like a Virgin

Madonna “Like a Virgin” (1984) was the song that lifted her to the ranks of superstardom and spawned Madonna-wannabes everywhere who copied her style. She’d built a following with her eponymous debut from 1982 to ’84 on the strength of her hits “Holiday,” “Borderline,” and “Lucky Star.” However, “Virgin” became her first of many #1’s in the U.S. and peaked at #3 in the U.K.

Psychedelic Furs “Love My Way” (1982) was a minor hit in both the U.S. and UK, peaking at #44 and #42 respectively. However, the group was one of the early favorites of the college-rock movement, also having success with songs like “Pretty in Pink,” “The Ghost in You,” and “Heartbreak Beat.”

Violent Femmes “Add It Up” (1983) did not chart, but was a favorite in dance clubs and on college-rock radio. The group’s debut album, from which this song comes, also produced the college-rock staple “Blister in the Sun.”

Split Enz “I Got You” (1980) was another college-rock favorite which failed to chart stateside. It went to #12 in the UK. The group was an early MTV staple with their wacky and colorful videos. The group’s leader, Tim Finn, went on to a solo career and his brother and bandmate, Neil Finn (who sings lead on “I Got You”), went on to form Crowded House.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Rolling Stones released Beggars Banquet: December 6, 1968

Released: 6 December 2012

Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Sympathy for the Devil / No Expectations / Dear Doctor / Parachute Woman / Jigsaw Puzzle / Street Fighting Man (9/7/68; #48 US, #21 UK) / Prodigal Son / Stray Cat Blues / Factory Girl / Salt of the Earth

Sales (in millions): 2.0 US, -- UK, 3.0 world

Peak: 5 US, 3 UK


Review: “Despite the series of drug-related arrests that had plagued the group,” RS Beggars Banquet"marked the return of the Rolling Stones.” RS “Their previous LP, Their Santanic Majesties Request, had been mired in psychedelic experimentation of a sort for which the band had little genuine feeling,” RS but Beggars Banquet “was immediately acclaimed as one of their landmark achievements.” AMG “The Stones had stopped following trends and were back at full force” RS “playing fast and loose.” RS

Beggars Banquet was “rooted in rhythm & blues” RS as evidenced by the “strong acoustic Delta blues flavor [that] colors much of the material, particularly ‘Salt of the Earth’ and ‘No Expectations.’” AMG However, the album was also a return to “basic, hard-edged rock & roll,” RS especially apparent on “propulsive tracks like ‘Street Fighting Man,’ ‘Sympathy for the Devil,’ ‘Stray Cat Blues,’ and ‘Parachute Woman.’” RS

“The album signified ‘the Rolling Stones’ coming of age,’ says Glyn Johns, who engineered the record and had worked with the Stones since their earliest days. ‘I think that the material was far better than anything they'd ever done before. The whole mood of the record was far stronger to me musically.’” RS

“Producer Jimmy Miller describes Keith Richards as having been ‘A real workhorse’ on the album, largely because Brian Jones rarely made it in to the studio and when he did, he behaved erratically, due to his drug use and emotional problems…Miller says. ‘He'd show up occasionally when he was in the mood to play…He'd walk in with a sitar, which was totally irrelevant to what we were doing…The others, particularly Mick and Keith, would often say to me, ‘Just tell him to piss off and get the hell out of here.’” RS

Street Fighting Man

“Richards’ record collection led the Rolling Stones back to their version of America: country music on Dear Doctor, the blues on Prodigal Son and urban riots on Street Fighting Man” (Rolling Stone 500). As he said, “‘When we had been in the States between 1964 and '66, I had gathered together this enormous collection of records, but I never had any time to listen to them…In late 1966 and '67 I unwrapped them and actually played them’” (Rolling Stone 500).

In regards to the latter song, ‘Street Fighting Man’ was “a reflection of the political turbulence of 1968 [and] one of their most innovative singles.” AMG “The driving basic track…was recorded on a cassette deck at Keith's house, with Keith on acoustic guitar and Charlie Watts on a toy drum kit.” RS “The political correctness of [the song] – with its ambivalent lines ‘What can a poor boy do/'Cept sing in a rock and roll band’ – was debated intensely and at great length in the underground media.” RS

Sympathy for the Devil (live at Altamont)

Sympathy for the Devil, “with its fire-dancing guitar licks, leering Jagger vocals, African rhythms, and explicitly satanic lyrics, was an image-defining epic” AMG – “an anthem for the darkness in every human heart.” RS500

Despite Brian Jones’ problems, No Expectations “features some beautiful slide guitar work” AMG from him, as did “‘Parachute Woman’ and ‘Jigsw Puzzle’ His sitar – and tamboura, as well – can be heard on ‘Street Fighting Man.’” RS

“On Stray Cat Blues, Jagger and crew began to explore the kind of decadent sexual sleaze that they would take to the point of self-parody by the mid-'70s. At the time, though, the approach was still fresh.” AMG

“The album's original cover art, depicting a bathroom wall covered with graffiti, was banned. The Stones attempted unsuccessfully to fight their record company's decision – and from today's perspective, the cover seems quite harmless. Nevertheless, the dispute held up the album’s release for months.” RS

With their return to raw and raunchy blues-rock and “the lyrical bite of most of the material,” AMG the Stones had redeemed themselves as the world’s greatest rock & roll band. Their next three albums would be gems as well, but Beggars Banquet will stand as “one of the top blues-based rock records of all time.” AMG

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Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Grammy Nominations 2013

image from

The nominations for the 2013 Grammy Awards were announced in conjunction with a live CBS broadcast in Nashville, Tennessee, which featured performances from Maroon 5, The Who, Fun., Hunter Hayes, The Band Perry, Dierks Bentley, and Luke Bryan. Taylor Swift and LL Cool J hosted. The Grammys will be awarded February 10, 2013. Here were the nominations for the biggest categories:


  • The Black Keys El Camino
  • Fun. Some Nights
  • Mumford & Sons Babel
  • Frank Ocean Channel Orange
  • Jack White Blunderbuss

RECORD OF THE YEAR: (goes to the performers)

  • The Black Keys “Lonely Boy”
  • Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
  • Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe “We Are Young”
  • Gotye featuring Kimbra “Somebody That I Used to Know”
  • Frank Ocean “Thinkin’ ‘Bout You”
  • Taylor Swift “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

Somebody That I Used to Know

SONG OF THE YEAR: (goes to the songwriters)

  • Kelly Clarkson “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”
  • Fun. featuring Janelle Monáe “We Are Young”
  • Carly Rae Jepsen “Call Me Maybe”
  • Miguel “Adorn”
  • Ed Sheeran “The A Team”

We Are Young


  • Alabama Shakes
  • Fun.
  • Hunter Hayes
  • The Lumineers
  • Frank Ocean

Frank Ocean, Mumford & Sons, fun., Jay-Z, and Kanye West each scored six nominations. The Black Keys landed five and member Dan Auerbach also got one as producer. Miguel and Chick Corea each nabbed five noms. Among other artists scoring more than one nomination are Kelly Clarkson (4), Taylor Swift (3), Gotye (3), Jack White (3), Bruce Springsteen (3), Hunter Hayes (3), Alabama Shakes (3), Carly Rae Jepsen (2), Maroon 5 (2), Coldplay (2), Muse (2), and the Lumineers (2).
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Monday, December 3, 2012

Kennedy Center Honors: December 2, 2012

image from

On December 2, 2012, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts held its 35th annual Kennedy Center Honors gala to celebrate contributors to the arts. Actor Dustin Hoffman, TV show host David Letterman, and ballerina Natalia Makarova were honored alongside blues musician Buddy Guy and rock band Led Zeppelin. Chairman David M. Rubenstein said of the honorees that they “have contributed significantly to the cultural life of our nation and the world.” KC

Rubenstein said, “Buddy Guy is a titan of the blues and has been a tremendous influence on virtually everone who has picked up an electric guitar in the last half century.” KC President Barack Obama teased Guy making his first guitar strings from the wire from a window screen, saying, “That worked until his parents started wondering how all the mosquitoes were getting in.” AP

Led Zeppelin’s John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page (two on left), and Robert Plant (far right) with Buddy Guy (center); image from

In regards to Led Zeppelin, Rubenstein said the band “transformed the sound of rock and roll with their lyricism and innovative song structures, infusing blues into the sound of rock and roll and layering the foundation for countless rock bands.” KC Obama jokingly thanked them for being on their best behavior at the White House considering their history “of hotel rooms trashed and mayhem all around.” AP Actor Jack Black called them “the greatest rock and roll band of all time.” AP

The honors, given to those who have made significant lifetime contributions to American culture and performing arts, have been an annual event since 1978. They are awarded by the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This year’s gala will be broadcast on television on CBS on December 26, 2012.

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Sunday, December 2, 2012

Rock Memoirs Aren’t All About the Rich and Famous

Originally written for my "Aural Fixation" column, but not published.

image from

Summary: This fall several superstars added their autobiographies to the ever-increasing market of rock memoirs. However, there’s a lesser-told story deserving of an audience as well: the life of working-class musicians who travel by van instead of private jet, tour clubs instead of stadiums, and are staying in dives instead of suites. Here’s one of their tales.
Music fans salivating for self-penned tales of debauchery and stardom from their favorite rock gods can dive into recent autobiographies from Pete Townshend (Who I Am: A Memoir, Harper), Neil Young (Waging Heavy Peace, Blue Rider Press), and Rod Stewart (Rod: The Autobiography, Crown Archetype). There’s an understandable appeal to getting a (hopefully) unguarded glimpse into the life of a legend. These are musical giants who have lived lives we mere mortals cannot imagine and likely could not have survived.

The bigger the star and the more sordid the life, the better. It shouldn’t be a surprise that Keith Richards’ Life did as well as it did. The guy personifies rock-n-roll at its baddest and best – arguably better than anyone else in history.

When unpacking the personal accounts of a superstar, however, fans aren’t just curious about how these legends achieved immortal status. Readers also want to peak behind the mask to see larger-than-life superheroes drop their oversized personas and reveal their humanity. People want to know that those who have attained unfathomable success have been plagued by fear and failure along the way.

A few months ago, Rob Sheffield put together a list for Rolling Stone on the best rock tomes (“The 25 Greatest Rock Memoirs of All Time,” 13 August 2012). Sheffield acknowledged the all-too-familiar rags-to-riches (and sometimes back to rags) blueprint of the rock memoir.

Unsurprisingly Sheffield’s list is populated with books on Bob Dylan, Paul McCartney, Keith Richards, Chuck Berry, and David Bowie. The more intriguing titles, however, are those about more unfamiliar names like Nick Kent and Kristin Hersch. As Sheffield says, “Great rock memoirs don’t always come from great artists: sometimes it takes one-hit wonders, losers, hacks, junkies, crooks.”

In that spirit, the book which caught my attention was Black Postcards (Penguin Books, 2008) by Dean Wareham.


Exactly. Readers keyed in to the indie-rock scene of the 1980s and ‘90s may know him as the frontman of Galaxie 500 and Luna, but if you’re like me you’d heard of him or his bands.

This seemed like more fertile soil than digging through the conventional bio of one of rock’s elite. For every superstar living a life of stadium tours, private jets, and hotel suites, there are hundreds of working-class musicians gigging in dives, traveling in cramped vans, and crashing in cheap motels.

Wareham actually achieved a measure of success many would be overjoyed to have – albums with tens of thousands in sales, appearances on national talk shows, and videos aired on MTV, even if only on a limited basis.

Still, there’s something which differentiates the Dean Warehams from the Keith Richards of the world. What motivates the musicians who have to keep their day jobs to keep slogging it out? Do they still believe they’ll make it big someday? Did they never dream of stardom in the first place?

For the uninitiated, here’s a brief overview of Wareham’s career. He tells how in the summer of 1987 he was in New York playing with Speedy and the Castanets. “There I was under the lights at CBGB for the first time in my life, just now realizing that I was onstage with a fool and that I needed to quit the band immediately” (p. 32).

After a summer of moping over a lost girlfriend and listening to Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers’ Back in your Life, he hooked up with Damon and Naomi, a pair of Harvard grad students who had dated since high school. As Wareham says, “You can spend your time placing ads…and sifting through messages left on your answering machine by idiot musicians…but the best thing is to start a band with your friends” (33). Galaxie 500, named after an old car, was born. As stated in their All Music bio, “their minimalist dirges presaged the rise of both the shoegazer and slowcore movements of the 1990s.”

However, when Wareham tired of butting heads with the voting block of his coupled rhythm section, he dissolved the band in 1990. After a solo EP in 1991, he formed Luna. With musical influences like Wire, Joy Division, New Order, and Sonic Youth, Wareham wasn’t exactly going to overcome what he cited as one of the dream-pop outfit’s biggest obstacles: they weren’t grunge. Nonetheless, Luna survived personnel changes over a twelve-year career which saw the release of seven studio albums.

I sought out a compilation and was a click away from buying it before opting to explore YouTube first. With apologies to Wareham disciples, I was unimpressed and the album remained on the virtual shelf.

The book left me with a similar dissatisfaction. Wareham chronicles nearly two decades of a life of touring small clubs in the U.S. and Europe. While there are the requisite tales of sexual conquests and drug binges, they are delivered with an aloofness suggesting nothing really excites him. The book cover says it all – a head shot of Wareham with a blank look on his face.

He reports celebrity run-ins with rapper Flavor Flav and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ lead singer Anthony Kiedis with a ho-hum detachment and a mere paragraph or two when seemingly a chapter’s worth of insight could be offered.

There’s also a quality of self-absorption. He was in New York in 2001 when terrorists brought down the twin towers. However, instead of offering moving insight into the immense tragedy happening right in front of him, he focuses on the personal turmoil of leaving his wife for Britta, the bassist in Luna.

The distance Wareham puts between himself and his lifestyle does provide the benefit of preventing this book from becoming a why-didn’t-we-make-it-big whine fest. Wareham confesses he’d “never lain awake at night dreaming of being a big rock star” (106) and that he wasn’t interested in shoehorning catchy choruses into his songs in return for radio airplay. He relayed a meeting in which he said, to the disappointment of the record executive, that he just wanted to make records. “It never occurred to me to want to be a household name.”

Dean Wareham lacked the necessary ambition and possibly talent to ever make it big. He was never destined to be a Pete Townshend, Neil Young, or Rod Stewart. He never dreamed of stardom, but Black Postcards offers an account of someone who succeeded. His life wasn’t necessarily one filled with passion, but Wareham seemed to live the life he wanted – and that’s all anyone can hope for.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rihanna notched 12th #1 with "Diamonds"



Writer(s): Sia Furler, Benjamin Levin, Mikkel S. Eriksen, Tor Erik Hermansen (see lyrics here)

Released: September 27, 2012

First Charted: September 30, 2012

Peak: 13 US, 27 AC, 114 RB, 11 UK, 14 CN, 6 CN, 12 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 7.0 US, 1.35 UK, 9.34 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2556.2 video, 1200.17 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Unlike her usual themes of unhealthy relationships, “Diamonds” finds the Barbadian singer crooning about love. She has said, “It gives me a great feeling when I listen to it. The lyrics are hopeful and positive.” SF She told MTV News, “I think a lot of people are afraid of being happy..They’re afraid to embrace that…and love themselves…and do what makes them happy.” SF

Norwegian production duo Benjamin “Benny Blanco” Levin and Stargate produced the track. Blanco had never worked with Rihanna, but Stargate collaborated with Rihanna on hits such as “Don’t Stop the Music,” “Only Girl in the World,” “Take a Bow,” “Rude Boy,” and “What’s My Name?” SF They were looking for something different and tapped Australian singer/songwriter Sia Furler, who hit the top ten with David Guetta on “Titanium.” She wrote the song in fourteen minutes and when Rihanna recorded it, she so closely mirrored Sia’s demo that when Sia heard the recording she thought it was still her voice. WK Sia later hit #1 on her own with “Cheap Thrills.”

The video, directed by Anthony Mandler, showcases Rihanna in a variety of settings representing the four elements: earth, air, fire, and water. Rihanna told MTV News the clip “concentrates more on emotion than any tangible storyline.” SF Mandler told MTV News, “We tried to bring up these deeper questions that relate to the song and her life and finding beauty in chaos.” SF

The song topped the charts in over twenty countries, and in the U.S. marked Rihanna’s 12th trip to the top of the Billboard Hot 100, tying her with Madonna and The Supremes as the female acts with the second-most #1 songs (behind Mariah Carey’s 18 #1’s). SF As the lead single from her seventh album, Unapologetic, the song also meant giving up another record. Rihanna had landed more #1 songs than anyone without ever having a #1 album. Unapologetic finally gave her a #1 album. SF


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Last updated 2/10/2023.