As 2012 winds down and the Top 10 game kicks into high gear, we're all replaying the past year in our heads. Hype recedes as we reflect and the industry begins to check out for the holidays. That doesn't mean the fires are out — Camille Paglia waded into the feminist conversation around Katy Perry and Taylor Swift, Geeta Dayal poked holes in Beck's latest project and a collection of quotes from Pitchfork interviews got under our skin all over again.
Pitchfork made a list of quotes from the musician interviews they published this year, which creates — if you follow their links through to the full Q+As — the longest read. You could spend all day in there, even though you've read some of these quotes elsewhere. Most of the musicians are professional interview-givers; they're answering the questions they've poised in the work they released this year. But the whole package is still fascinating. The vets sound the most free and awake. The freshmen are agitated, which bodes well for next year. The group doesn't include everyone who gave good interview this year, but it's a smart claim by Pitchfork to its involvement in the music world and, as the dust begins to settle on 2012, it's an excuse to think again. And look at those portraits. --Frannie Kelley
Last week, Katy Perry was honored as Billboard's Woman Of The Year for the annual "Women In Music" issue. The singer raised eyebrows during her acceptance speech by stating, "I'm not a feminist." She did go on to say that she believes in the power of women, but the comment reignited ongoing frustrations of all kinds. In the current "Women In Hollywood" issue of the Hollywood Reporter (I don't know why these publications wait until the end of the year to honor women), feminist writer Camille Paglia does not address Perry's remarks directly, but does take her and her pop cohort Taylor Swift to task for killing feminism with their "insipid, bleached-out personas" that recall the man-pleasing, pre-feminist 1950s. The essay is classic Paglia: crackling takedowns ("Swift's meandering, snippy songs make 16-year-old Lesley Gore's 1963 hit 'It's My Party (And I'll Cry If I Want To)' seem like a towering masterpiece of social commentary, psychological drama and shapely concision."), some questionable over-simplifications (particularly around race) and hard-hitting truths. Would Perry and Swift continue to peddle their wide-eyed, teeny-bopper personas if more representations of aging, mature and sexually confident women existed in entertainment? --Amy Schriefer
Next week, Beck's new record, Song Reader, will go on sale. Not as a digital-only release or a limited vinyl pressing, but as a collection of sheet music published by McSweeney's. The artist is encouraging fans to record their own versions of the songs and upload them to his website. In reviewing the "album," Geeta Dayal situates the collection in the current trend of artisanship, craftmanship or anything else mocked on Portlandia. She also grapples with what this step means for an artist who has built a career on the recorded sound, using samples and complex production throughout his catalog. Ultimately, Beck's romanticization of sheet music is not a revolution, but it is a sweet and fun gesture for our current zeitgeist.
Bonus: Take a master course in how to create a classic song with this history of The Flamingos' "I Only Have Eyes For You," including details on how they got the backing vocals to sound so damn good. --Amy Schriefer