Review of 2012: Pop

Olympics and Jubilee made it a very good year for some stars, but Sandé topped the podium


Olympic winner

The summer of 2012 was dominated by mega-sized showcases such as Danny Boyle's acclaimed Olympics opening ceremony, the somewhat less celebrated closing ceremony, and the Jubilee concert on the Mall. The real medal winners, though, snuck up quietly on the inside track. Muse were much mocked for the typical grandeur of their official Olympic anthem “Survival”, which sounded like ELO regurgitating the works of Friedrich Nietzsche, but it got them talked about, and set the scene for their magnificent sixth album The 2nd Law.

Breakthrough of the year

If you threw a stone at a television in 2012, the chances are that it would hit Emeli Sandé. The Scottish nu-soul singer emerged from the pack of tipsters' choices and insiders' poll-toppers, and edged ahead of more critically adored newcomers to become the ubiquitous new face of 2012. If there was a sporting awards ceremony, music biz launch party, or talent show final that needed a guest star, you could bet Sandé was all over it like a rash.

Comeback of the year

Grown men – in many cases, quite famous ones – were seen to shed a tear as Dexys made a triumphant and semi-theatrical comeback at Shepherds Bush Empire, performing their entire new album One Day I'm Going to Soar (plus a selection of classics) with passion, pathos and self-aware humour. The only return to run Rowland and co close came from Cincinatti soul-grunge legends Afghan Whigs, whose Alexandra Palace show scorched the skin of all who saw it.

Cringe of the year

What was he thinking? A mile-wide streak of twee, homespun sentimentality has always run through Paul McCartney's work, but you'd still think someone might have had a quiet word when he chose the cringe-inducing title for his latest album, inspired by the sign-offs on old-fashioned love letters: Kisses on the Bottom.

Fan-hating fool of the year

You might argue that attending a Guns N' Roses concert at all counts as misadventure nowadays, but that still doesn't excuse Axl Rose for a UK tour in which most gigs barely started before midnight, by which time many fans had already gone home. He probably thinks this is rock'n'roll. He's an idiot.

Concept of the year

Cleverest record of the year was The War Room EP by Public Service Broadcasting, which wove archive sound clips from Second World War propaganda films and newsreels into their own techno-indie soundscapes to astonishingly moving effect.

Innovation of the year

She didn't invent the concept of crowd-funding, but Dresden Dolls leader Amanda Palmer did better out of it than anyone in 2012, raising $1,192,793 towards the recording of her album Theatre Is Evil.

Video of the year

Having made his commercial breakthrough with the sharp-suited retro soul of The Defamation of Strickland Banks, Plan B's next move was a shock: returning to rap, with a brutal dispatch from the front line of the London riots which was accompanied by a thrillingly cinematic video (itself effectively a trailer for his Ill Manors movie).

Single of the year

Azealia Banks's “212”, a sexually voracious and foul-mouthed piece of electro-rap, was the most addictive track of the year, although Tame Impala's thunderous “Elephant”, Sharon Van Etten's bewitching “Serpents”, Plan B's aforementioned “Ill Manors”, Stooshe's exuberant “Black Heart” and Bat for Lashes' haunting “Laura” all ran it close. Arguably, however, the single of the year was actually a release from 2007. Public Enemy's Shirley Bassey-sampling “Harder Than You Think” became, on the back of Channel 4's Paralympics coverage, the biggest hit of the hip-hop heroes' career.

For valour

Bravery in pop is a diminished commodity, but two acts, in their different ways, displayed courage to shame their peers this year. Soon after the Odd Future collective, of which he is a part, had been accused of homophobia, soul singer Frank Ocean came out as bisexual, and released a quite beautiful album which touched upon his sexuality. Meanwhile, Russian feminist punk group Pussy Riot took on the might of Putin's establishment after staging a musical guerrilla protest inside a Moscow cathedral. Despite international uproar, the band were sentenced to two years in a penal colony.

Checking out ...

The premature death of Whitney Houston, in a Beverly Hills bathtub after a cocaine overdose, was as depressing as it was predictable. We also said goodbye to disco queen Donna Summer and soul-blues legend Etta James, Robin Gibb of The Bee Gees and Davey Jones of The Monkees, soul-jazz auteur Terry Callier, Sixties folkie Scott McKenzie, Stax bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn, bluegrass banjo-picker Earl Scruggs, Levon Helm of The Band and Bob Welch of Fleetwood Mac. From the world of easy listening and jazz we lost Dave Brubeck, Hal David and Andy Williams. From the noisier end, we lost Jon Lord of Deep Purple and amplification pioneer Jim Marshall. The death that caused the most widespread shock, however, was that of Beastie Boy Adam Yauch, who lost his battle with cancer, aged 47. Gone too soon.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
DJ Calvin Harris performs at the iHeartRadio Music Festival

Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush

Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Mark Crown, DJ Locksmith and Amir Amor of Rudimental performing on stage during day one of the Wireless Festival at Perry Park, Birmingham

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Peter Capaldi and Chris Addison star in political comedy The Thick of IT

Arts and Entertainment
Judy Murray said she

Arts and Entertainment
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014

Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Paxman has admitted he is a 'one-nation Tory' and complained that Newsnight is made by idealistic '13-year-olds' who foolishly think they can 'change the world'.

Arts and Entertainment
Seoul singer G-Dragon could lead the invasion as South Korea has its sights set on Western markets
Arts and Entertainment
Gary Lineker at the UK Premiere of 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from
Arts and Entertainment
Johhny Cash in 1969
musicDyess Colony, where singer grew up in Depression-era Arkansas, opens to the public
Arts and Entertainment
Army dreamers: Randy Couture, Sylvester Stallone, Dolph Lundgren and Jason Statham
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tvReview: It's not going to set the comedy world alight but it's a gentle evening watch
Arts and Entertainment
Umar Ahmed and Kiran Sonia Sawar in ‘My Name Is...’
Arts and Entertainment
This year's Big Brother champion Helen Wood
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Full company in Ustinov's Studio's Bad Jews
Arts and Entertainment
Harari Guido photographed Kate Bush over the course of 11 years
Arts and Entertainment
Reviews have not been good for Jonathan Liebesman’s take on the much loved eighties cartoon

A The film has amassed an estimated $28.7 million in its opening weekend

Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

    Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

    Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
    eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

    eBay's enduring appeal

    The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

    Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

    Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
    Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

    Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

    After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
    Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

    Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

    After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
    Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

    Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

    Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

    The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home