This year a handful of artists surprised us by up and changing their lanes. There were rap stars gone skate stars, name changes, game changes and bass drops, and (mostly!) better. Four, for example:
The Year Of 2 Chainz; or, The Most Successful Rap Name Change Ever
Nobody was more productive than Tauheed Epps in 2012, who, according to some records, tallied something like 98 singles, a BET Rookie of The Year trophy, a No. 1 album and three Grammy nominations to his new name. To his new name, 2 Chainz, that is. Prior to this year, he was going by Tity Boi, one half of Playaz Circle or “Duffle Bag Boy,” or he was simply hanging somewhere off our radar. So why the name change that wrought this best year ever? As he explained once and for all to Shade 45 — “Every single interview I do they like, ‘What’s up with the name change?’ This is the universal answer,” he said — earlier this year, the motivation for the moniker change was threefold: 1. He likes jewelry; 2. It’s more “family friendly;” and, 3. He was ready for a second act. “You know,” he said, “like 2 Chainz, second chance. So I thought that that would have a little more substance.” And what a substantive second chance it has been. 2 CHAAAAINZ!
When we began compiling our Best Songs of 2012 list, there were many differing opinions, and after briefly toying with the idea of pitting all our staff against one another in a Hunger Games fight-to-the-death scenario against the backdrop of Times Square, we conceded that the most diplomatic and least murderous thing to do would be to each submit our own list. You know, in the name of preserving a civil work environment and whatnot (not to mention our longstanding policy of avoiding contact with the human resources department). So while we didn’t battle it out in a conference room or some such nonsense, each one of us faced an internal battle — choosing our favorite songs of the year.
As far as consensus is concerned, there were 21 songs that appeared on multiple ballots, but only eight that appeared on three or more lists: Carly Rae Jepsen‘s “Call Me Maybe” (4 ballots), Frank Ocean‘s “Pyramids” (4 ballots), fun.‘s “We Are Young” (4 ballots), Gotye‘s “Somebody I Used To Know” (3 ballots), P!nk‘s “Just Give Me A Reason” (3 ballots), Usher‘s “Climax” (3 ballots), Azealia Banks‘ “212″ (3 ballots), and Miguel‘s “Adorn” (3 ballots).
(Btw, before we get into this, we’d like to note that we put together the following Spotify playlist for your listening pleasure: VH1 Staffers Pick Their Favorite Songs Of 2012. It’s sequenced in alpha order by artist first name, so we wholeheartedly recommend you hit Shuffle while listening to this 92 track playlist. Now, on with the show…)
If his recentperformances can be counted as evidence, Usher won’t leave home without a juiced-up fog machine in tow and promise of a laser show waiting for him at whichever stage he’s headed to. And even though most artists tone things down for their day time television performances (Christina Aguilera, for example), Ursh is not one to compromise when it comes to his pyrotechnics. And so today he showed up for Ellen with his calling-card smoke and lasers, a team of dancers and his impressive stamina for another highly athletic performance of “Numb.” His vocals were a bit shaky, but hey! His dance moves were really on point.
Afterwards he hung around and challenged Ellen to a little dance-off. They picked moves off his Dance Central 3 video game and he was almost convincing when he told Ellen that she was beating him. Check out the pretty cute video below the jump.
Shoulda, coulda, woulda they say, and if we were heading up things at these labels, we might’ve done things a bit differently. But alas, we do not so we do what we do best and make a catchy end of year list that points out songs that deserved their run at the pop charts. Even if they never see the light of Billboard glory, they’re certainly some of the best songs of the year and should get your listen. Who knows! Did you know “Starships” wasn’t even on the original run of Nicki Minaj‘s Pink Friday? That’s right, and mostly why there was a “Pink Friday 2″ aka Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. So there’s always a chance for long-lost songs to see new glory. Here are the ones we think deserve it.
Talk about a missed opportunity, Ciara’s “Livin’ It Up”, a tropical romp across a Kid ‘N Play sample, isn’t even included on the final version of her album One Woman Army. Snatched from a Cosmopolitan Magazine sampler CD, blogs went nuts over the track after it leaked across the web in anticipation for the album. Too bad that when Ciara released her first single, the apty-named, and decidedly down-beat “Sorry”, turned out “Livin’ It Up” was more of what everyone wanted.
channel ORANGE received a whole bunch of attention this year, although it was Frank Ocean’s sexuality that managed to steal the spotlight most of the time. The album ended up being a gorgeous collection of songs that perfect flowed in and out of each other–even the 9+ minute “Pyramids” shined. But if any song had a chance at the pop charts, it would’ve been “Lost” a song that tells the tale of a drug-cooking girlfriend atop a catchy pop melody.
You might not have caught The Soul Train Awards on Centric last night. In a flurry of Sunday night programming (plus Liz & Dick Lifetime!) it would’ve been easy to skip the award show dedicated to awarding the best in hip-hop and R&B. If you did choose another route, here’s your tl;dw (That’s “too long, didn’t watch.”) rundown: Cedric the Entertainer hosted, Anthony Hamilton did “Lovely Day”, Leah LaBelle did Teena Marie’s “Square Biz”, Fantasia paid tribute to Aretha with “Don’t Play That Song For Me”. There was a New Edition tribute (in which Bobby Brown failed to thank his departed former wife Whitney Houston?), Keyshia Cole performed “Enough of No Love” from her new album Woman to Woman, and X-Factor winner Marcus Canty did Luther Vandross‘ “Never Too Much”. On the hip-hop side, 2 Chainz was there. Naturally.
Perhaps in the strangest moment, Tyrese‘s “Stay” won Song Of The Year, despite being released independently from his album, Open Invitation. It beat out John Legend, Trey Songz, Estelle, Wale, AND Usher–making it a true underdog. Tyrese most likely knew this, stating in his acceptance speech that today’s R&B is “insecure, since everyone is doing house and techno music” (a weird nod to Usher, perhaps?) But tonight, he continued, “Real R&B is winning”.
This Thanksgiving, we all have something to be thankful for. Just as you’re waking up from your post-meal nap to snag some second-plate leftovers from the fridge, Spike Lee’sBad 25 will hit ABC’s airwaves to make it’s nationally televised debut at 9:30/8:30c. Chronicaling Michael Jackson’s 45-million-copies-sold second album and corresponding tour, I can say with full conviction that the documentary is not to be missed. Trust me, I saw it twice. For those who may not be MJ fans or perhaps need some convincing, I present you with a list of 25 Reasons You Should Be Watching Spike Lee’s Bad 25. Not completely spoiler-free, however, I urge all the purists out there to tread lightly with this list if you’d prefer to see the film without advance info!
1. Mariah Carey makes an LOL-worthy joke about being a fuss-causing diva when she threatens to scold Clive Davis.
2. The film summons nostalgia for an era when music was successfully flourishing and record sales were at their peak. Ah, those were the days.
3. Viewers receive a non-verbal explanation of the infamous “Smooth Criminal” dance-lean.
4. Martin Scorsese watches his old footage and breaks down the making of the “Bad” video short film.
5. Quincy Jones’ wacky 80s sweater during an interview. You’ll see what I mean.
Like Kelly Clarkson did, Usher treated the American Music Awards to a medley, his compete with selections from his recent Looking 4 Myself. Being so nimble and athletic as he is, he studded the three performance with plenty of dance moves and he even took a turn on a treadmill. And none of this, nor his all leather everything outfit, kept him from hitting all the notes as he powered through “Numb,” “Climax” and “Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop,” though. How’s that for fitness?
EDM is the new wave of the future for music. No, seriously. Ludacris is the latest artist to jump on the bandwagon of EDM craze with his latest single “Rest Of My Life” featuring Usher and David Guetta. Usher opens the track with his airy vocals to the house-electro production by David Guetta. Luda raps, “They say what don’t kill me can make me stronger/So two drinks tonight should help me live longer.” The song isn’t exactly innovative. Like any other EDM track, expect to see 20 somethings fist pumping when this drops in the club. Read more…
Any singer can hit a few eight count steps in their video; only Ciara can deliver it with perfection. She makes it look easy. Earlier today we celebrated Ciara’s 27th birthday with an awesome GIF wall featuring 27 of her hottest dance moves. Here we are hours later–amazed, once again–by the R&B singer’s choreography in her latest video for “Got Me Good” from her forthcoming One Woman Army. Forget a boat load of useless props when you’re a true dancer like Ciara. The visual for this party record is minimalist–backup dancers, a few jeeps, a couple guys, all in the middle of a desert. “Nobody can make me feel like dancing all night,” she croons on the uptempo dance track. That’s how we feel while watching her channel a little bit of Usher, MJ and Aaliyah. Read more…
Life has almost got Usher down in the new video for the next single off of Looking 4 Myself, Swedish House Mafia produced “Numb.” But only almost.
Directed by Chris Applebaum and Grace Harry, the duo behind the drenched “Dive” clip, Usher’s “Numb” video begins with pulsing footage of Usher on stage in Berlin, head hung low as an announcer explains that, “he tried because he loves Berlin and he really wanted to give you guys a show, but he just couldn’t do it. Thanks for understanding.” Usher’s show in Berlin last January really did get cut short, and you can hear that he’s still remorseful when he says here that, “I felt like a failure. Hopeless. Paralyzed. Lonely.” The botched show is not the end of his troubles, though, and there are images of him kneeling at someone’s hospital bed and taking care of a little kid.
But “Numb” is an anthem of overcoming, an insistence that you “shake it off, let it go, I don’t care anymore” because “you never know until you let go,” and so Usher doesn’t give in so easy. Rather, he gives the kid a hug, enjoys a dance at the strip club (why not?) and sings out all the rest in a recording booth. There is also a great sequence where he dances in a big glass cube, refusing to let those walls keep him from breaking it all down. Because this is an Usher video, and you know what Usher does? He dances. Read more…