Year In Review Part 1



alanho_2012By Alan Ho

Alan is the co-founder, chief head and chief editor/publisher at

The music year of 2012 has been one wild ride.  It has been a year where indie bands exploded some more, pop music underwent yet another quick and catchy revolution and the major-label industry itself again consolidates, bidding farewell to a nearly 150 year old record label. 

So much music, so many issues that abounded in the industry and so little space.  So without further ado…my year in review in music in 2012!

My Top 6 albums of 2012 (in no particular order):

1.  fun. | Some Nights
fun. may be the last great act to come out of the John Janick era at Fueled by Ramen as he moved on to bring his magic to Interscope on October 3, 2012.  Janick’s fingerprints and mojo is evident in Some Nights as he has a knack for breakout magic and fun. was his latest and unfortunately last for Fueled By Ramen (which he founded) and Elektra (where he did the same for Bruno Mars).
2.  Phillip Phillips | The World From the Other Side of the Moon
Make no bones about it, Phillip Phillips is a name to stay whether you like American Idol or not, mostly not.  His debut album is magnificently crafted, albeit mostly written and conceived during his pre-Idol days and brings back a fresh take on what made Dave Matthews Band such an enduring act in the mid 90s to mid 2000s.
3.  Civil Twilight |  Holy Weather
I love this album.  I don’t care what people say or whether or not they know who this uber-talented South African pop/rock outfit is.  They are worth every bit of this album checking out.  You might even say “holy cow” when you’re done with this gem.
4.  Kendrick Lamar | Good Kid
We are unfortunately in an era of watered down major label hip-hop, which is nothing more than a good beat and rapping random words for the next 330 seconds.  Kendrick Lamar could actually be the beacon to save major-label hip-hop from itself.  We’ll see.  His debut album certainly shows the true believers in hip-hop some hope.
5.  SafetySuit | These Times
SafetySuit is the latest major label veteran to decide to go their own way and “These Times” is a less slick but masterfully put together followup to their 2009 major label debut.  Universal Republic’s loss becomes one of indie’s biggest gainers in this one.
6.  Haley Reinhart | Listen Up!
Every critic has to have that one album people go, “Huh?” and Haley Reinhart’s debut album is my “Huh?” of 2012.  She brings an old school charm and flair to an otherwise increasingly stale pop world and her reward is getting booted from Interscope.  So I am very sure she will make sure next year that her debut album title is EXACTLY what this apparently underrated talent will make people do on her sophomore effort.

My Top 5 songs of 2012

1.  SafetySuit | These Times
The title track to the Nashville-based pop/rock foursome is undoubtedly in my mind the year’s most powerful song (that no one is likely to ever talk about).  It is definitely fit for these tough times here and around the world but the track reassures in quietly profound fashion that you will rise above “These Times.”
2.  Go Radio | Go To Hell
No matter how many times you listen to this Go Radio hit, you wonder how a song can be so acid-tongued (about a cheating ex-girlfriend) but yet so…HAPPY.  Could be one of the year’s most ironic tracks.
3.  Gotye ft. Kimbra | Somebody I Used to Know
Face it, I’m a big time sucker for catchy pop music and this is definitely among the year’s most catchiest.  And to really get into the song itself, one needs to see the music video that accompanied it.
4.  Maroon 5 ft. Wiz Khalifa | Payphone
See above.  Enough said.
5.  Jason Mraz | I Won’t Give Up
Very rarely do we get deep into the soul of Jason Mraz but on this track that may be ostensibly about ex-fiancee and fellow singer-songwriter Tristan Prettyman, we do indeed see Mraz bare every single part of his soul for the entire world to see.  It proves his vast versatility and that he isn’t just about exploring the off-beaten path.

Top 3 New Acts:

1.  One Direction
Love ‘em or hate ‘em, they are most certainly one of the pop music’s biggest gamechangers, if not the biggest one of them all.  But keep in mind, this fivesome has a long way to go before they reach the level of the Backstreet Boys in terms of accolades and even longevity (BSB has been around since 1993, making 2013 their 20th year together).
2.  Frank Ocean
The New Orleans native is one of the best and underrated talents we have seen in the last decade or two.  And in that timespan, there’s always one game changer in the twin arenas of urban and hip-hop.  2 decades ago, it was Usher.  In 2012, it is Frank Ocean.
3.  Hunter Hayes
Every once in a blue moon, there is someone that takes their genre by storm and itself by the horns.  Hunter Hayes does exactly that.  He has the kind of credentials most in country spend years to burnish but at the young age of 21, he has already garnered such credentials.  He already has a pair of singles reaching the Top 20 and he still has yet to release what should be one hell of a major label debut album sometime next year.

Top issue facing the music industry:

Once again the top issue facing the industry is what it ultimately defines itself as far as selling music.  The explosion of Spotify, the continued growth of iTunes and the emergence of Amazon Music furthers cuts into the divide of the industry.  Will the major labels fully embrace what the indies have long already and de-emphasize album sales as their primary goal or will they continue to waffle the line between selling singles like hotcakes and trying to shove albums down the throats of a music-buying public that clearly has made it’s mind up (ask Apple how their single sales are doing on iTunes as opposed to sales on albums outright).  It is time for the ENTIRE industry to make up it’s mind.  One sector has already, will the others finally decide to follow suit?

What I am looking forward to in 2013:

1.  Can alternative and rock get back into the mainstream?  Already we have All Time Low and The Summer Set return to the indie ranks after arguably failing in their exploration of what its like on the mainstream.  Neither were anywhere close to what they had experienced with indie labels and ultimately went back to what worked so well for them.  In 2013, we have The Cab moving into the mainstream at Republic and the incoming release from Paramore.  It will be interesting to see what the one-time labelmates will do and I hope they are among the vanguard that brings both genres back in the front.
2.  This is going to be absolutely cheesy, but I am actually looking forward to the next Backstreet Boys release, which will be their first indie effort in what has been a long career for the reformed pop quintet following the return of co-founder Kevin Richardson late this year.  Expect the unexpected but I am looking forward to hearing what they have in store for their next chapter in their careers!

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