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Review of entertainment in 2012: The lords of the dance

'Gangnam Style is the biggest dance craze since the Macarena'
  • @willydean

As British pop culture's innocence was largely Saviled in 2012, perhaps it's for the best that some of the biggest cultural happenings were less threatening than a WI autumn fete.

Forget "God Save the Queen"; 35 years on from The Sex Pistols we had, er, "God Save the Queen" and the nation's pop stars – curated by Gary Barlow OBE – saluting 60 years of hereditary rule by singing "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" in front of millions. It made the Olympic Closing Ceremony look like Altamont, with G4S a more shambolic Hell's Angels.

Meanwhile, Adele continued to sell albums like it was 2011 and Mumford & Sons proved that you can be wildly popular despite no one ever actually admitting to liking anything you've ever done. As if to reiterate the meek point, the Turner Prize was won by someone who used to be in Eighties indie band Talulah Gosh.

It wasn't all good clean fun, though; the year's two most talked-about TV shows of the year were morally (Homeland) and sexually (Girls) grubby. And all the better for it.

Homeland, which has crammed two series into 2012, is infuriating and implausible in equal measure. And, with its sub-atomic mass of cliff-hangers and implausible plot shifts, it was the most easy-to-spoil TV show since 24. And, with the second series airing here just a few days after the US, spoiled indeed it was. Thanks, users of Twitter everywhere!

Girls, meanwhile, set records for the amount of newsprint expended on a TV show that had not yet been broadcast in the UK. That was thanks to an ongoing debate about the show's incredibly white cast which ensnared everyone from Girls' creator Lena Dunham to Times columnist Caitlin Moran, whose reaction to being asked about the issue before interviewing Dunham was "I literally couldn't give a shit about it". Which of course led to further internecine squabbling about the merits or otherwise of the Brooklyn-set hit. The debate was worth having, but for anyone over the age of 23, the more obvious reaction to watching the warehouse parties of Girls wasn't, "Why are all these people white?", it was, "When did I get so old?".

Elsewhere in Brooklyn, the borough lost its reputation as the world's coolest neighbourhood with the arrival of the Barclays Centre. Built by property developer, Bruce Ratner, with investment from Russian billionaire, Mikhail Prokhorov, the arena's rise may mark the official end of Brooklyn's domination of 21st-century hipness. Despite Jay-Z's "co-ownership" (he actually owns 1/15th of 1 per cent), the stadium and its NBA team, the Brooklyn Nets, has marketed itself on Brooklyn's modern iconography, from hip-hop ("Brooklyn – go hard" T-shirts) to local street-food favourites made under licence by a huge catering firm. It doesn't help that the new rival for Madison Square Garden is named for a bank whose biggest contribution to 2012 was adding 'Libor' to the modern lexicon.

Mr Zed also lent his mass appeal to a more worthy cause – the re-election of Barack Obama. Jay teamed up with Bruce Springsteen to campaign alongside the US President in crucial swing states in the days before the election. The rapper's cool and Springsteen's mass appeal combined in a sort of pan-demographic ankle-lock to help deliver Obama a second term. Though the third rock star of the election, New York Times stats wonk, Nate Silver, could have probably told you that result before the second chorus of "I Got 99 problems but Mitt ain't one".

Meanwhile, the year's biggest pop hit – like Justin Bieber, The Wanted and others – was from the stable of his 31-year-old mini-mogul manager, Scooter Braun, whose tentacles reach deep in the pores of the pop cultural year.

Braun helped make Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" huge, simply by getting Justin Bieber to tweet about it. The song spent a month at number one, but the real proof of its ascendance to the pop pantheon comes in a different form – lib-dubbing. "Call Me Maybe" was lib-dubbed (where people mime along to a choreographed routine on YouTube) by everyone from the US Olympic swimming team to Crystal Palace's cheerleaders via Katy Perry, Harvard students and even US Air Force personnel in Kandahar. Braun also represents PSY, the man behind "Gangnam Style", a satirical poke at a wealthy Seoul district which has become the biggest dance craze since the Macarena. People who ought to know better spotted doing PSY's horsey jig include Eric Schmidt, Ban Ki-moon, Ai Weiwei and – according to Boris Johnson – our Prime Minister. Well done, all.

The defining moment in popular culture this year was one of the most unpleasant – the belated outing of Jimmy Savile's crimes and the subsequent fallout. Not only did the Savile affair work its way through the BBC's top brass quicker than a caffeinated management consultant, but it also ruined I Love 1967-through-1984 clip-show repeats for the foreseeable future. Instead of cheap nostalgia, telly addicts instead spent the past few weeks of the year paralysed by fear that their cuddly childhood favourite will soon be entertaining colleagues not on Dave+1, but on D-wing. Like it or not, we'll remember 2012 primarily for the fact that a man previously most famous for sending a pack of ice-cream-eating cub scouts on a rollercoaster almost caused the downfall of the entire BBC. Beat that, 2013.

@stephenfry I do so wish that every reference to Downton Abbey didn't make me want to puke. Nice talented people involved but… is it just me?

Stephen Fry, TV presenter

@SallyBercow Even Asda radio is playing Whitney. Lots of sad faces here by the frozen peas…

Sally Bercow, columnist

@Number10gov Congrats to Meryl Streep on her # Oscars win. Read more about Margaret Thatcher and other past PMs on our website

UK Prime Minister's official Twitter account

@MrsLRCooper its amazing how well One Direction are being received across the pond, no? Good luck to em I say, seem like good lads

Lily Allen, singer

@StuartAndrewMP Brilliant. Many congratulations to Pudsey the dog on Britain's Got Talent!!! #BGT

Stuart Andrew, Conservative MP for Pudsey

@StevieVanZandt English cops may be the only individuals left on earth that wouldn't want to hear one more from Bruce Springsteen and Paul McCartney!

Steven Van Zandt, actor and guitarist in Bruce Springsteen's E Street Band

@MrNickClark Thinking of cutting off own head to stop Gangnam Style from bouncing around my head. Nothing else has worked

Nick Clark, arts correspondent for The Independent and i

@lenadunham Taylor Swift's album is triumphant. If she'd been here when I was in college I would have written papers on her, not Sylvia Plath

Lena Dunham, creator of Girls

@lindasgrant I have seen The Master. Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman will be made to mud wrestle for Best Actor

Linda Grant, novelist