Ohhhh, We’re Halfway There: The Popdust Mid-Year Awards

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Ohhhh, We're Halfway There: The Popdust Mid-Year Awards

Ah, it feels like just yesterday that it was still 2011, with Adele at the top of the charts, Drake and Pitbull showing up on pretty much every song, and Rick Ross continually pushing his album release date back. OK, that all feels like yesterday because it's still happening, but nonetheless, we're nearly halfway through 2012, and at least a handful of things have happened that didn't already happen in 2011, we promise. From Tyga to Tupac, from Carly Rae to Kim and 'Ye, here are the winners, and losers, of the Popdust Mid-Year Awards, 2012 edition—-with a couple picks for our esteemed honorees themselves.
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Best Song: Carly Rae Jepsen, "Call Me Maybe"

We just met her and this is crazy, but there's no doubt that Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" is the song of 2012 thus far. Not since "Since U Been Gone" has a pop/rock song been so rapturously received, not just by regular Top 40 listeners, but by jocks, punks, grown-ups old enough to "know better." And it's no secret why: Carly's US breakthrough has the best instrumental hook (those staccato violins), the most instantly unforgettable chorus (as evidenced by jokes like these), and even the best title of any hit this year. Over eight months after its release, It's still growing in popularity, and that's fine by us. We don't anticipate getting sick of it anytime soon(/ever). —Andrew Unterberger
 
Runners-Up: Usher, "Climax"; Calvin Harris, "Feel So Close"; Justin Bieber, "Boyfriend"; Kanye West, "Mercy"
 
Carly Rae's Favorite Song of the Year: "My favorite song of 2012 would have to be Gotye's 'Somebody That I Used to Know.'The story is so relatable and the chorus just lifts. I love that. The song also introduced me to Kimbra, one of my new favorite female artists!"
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Best Album: Adam Lambert, "Trespassing"

In a slow first half of 2012, it was Lambert's Trespassing that stood out as the most consistent, exciting album, a badass collection of pop tunes that deserves the undivided attention even of non-Glamberts. Boasting top production from the likes of Lester Mendez, Dr. Luke, and Pharrell (!!!), the album also features some of Adam's strongest vocal and songwriting work, from the break-the-door-down yelp of the title track to the ecstatic falsetto of "Kickin' In" to the power-ballad wail of "Outlaws of Love." Trespassing finally showcases a Lambert as in control of his own sound and identity as any major pop star out there, with fantastic results. —A.U.
 
Runners-Up: One Direction, Up All Night, Fun., Some Nights, Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror
 
Adam Lambert's Favorite Album of the Year "Scissor Sisters, Magic Hour. I've heard a couple of tracks online and it seems like it's going to be a really exciting album. They never disappoint with their studio albums or live performances. They are always so high energy. I'm a huge fan."
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Best Catchphrase: Tyga, "Rack, Rack City Bitch"

You don't have to get what it means—something money-related, we're pretty sure—to get it stuck in your head for weeks on end. Repeated endlessly on Tyga's solo top ten debut, and laid on top of a similarly hypnotic three-note synth-bass line, "Rack city, bitch / Rack, rack, city bitch" takes on near-religious mantra connotations, until the words may as well be spoken in an entirely foreign language. (It's also a cinematic-enough segment that Tyga keeps threatening to give us a Rack City movie at some point.) It was enough to inspire dozens of parodies ("Lob, lob city bitch"!), and 10-15 years from now, when '10s nostalgia is in full effect, the t-shirts proclaiming "RACK CITY BITCH" (probably still in the RUN-DMC font for no particular reason) will surely be unavoidable. –A.U.
 
Runners-Up: Justin Bieber, "Swag, swag, swag on you," Karmin, "Cheerio," Nicki Minaj, "Higher than a motherfucker," Drake, "Bitch you wasn't with me shootin' in the gym"
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Best Discussion Topic No One Will Get in A Few Years: Tupac Hologram at Coachella

In 2032, when your kid comes back on a Thursday night from traveling through time to get help on his math homework from Ol' Dirty Bastard courtesy of his iPad 4D, you might be tempted to tell him about the time you saw Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg perform with a Tupac hologram at Coachella. Our advice: Don't. "So what, they just showed him on a video screen?" your kid will respond. "They didn't actually resurrect him or clone him or build a really convincing robot of him or anything? Isn't that basically just a really boring, uncreative computer simulation?" "Well...it was cool to hear him do 'Hail Mary,'" you will meekly respond, as you wonder how how it is you came to raise such a smart-ass kid. —A.U.
 
Runner-Ups: M.I.A.'s Super Bowl bird-flipping, The Rick Ross MMG Press Conference
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Best Video: Drake feat. Lil Wayne, "HYFR"

With Birdman and DJ Khaled in the pews, Drake's "re-bar mitzvah" automatically becomes more important and more exuberant than any party we missed out on during our own formative years. Substituting the awkwardness of adolescence with excess that's made possible when you release two successful albums, his public attempt at Torah-reading is celebrated with bagels, red solo cups and Lil Wayne wearing a panda mask. Drake's decision to revisit an important coming of age moment isn't solely for entertainment purposes, as he continues to explore the increasingly complex relationship with himself and prove he has no qualms about promoting those aspects some believe makes him an "unexpected" success. Mazel tov, Aubrey. You're truly a man now. —Emily Exton
 
Runner-Ups: Melanie Fiona, "Watch Me Work"; Nicki Minaj, "Stupid Hoe," Skrillex, "Bangarang"
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Best Couple Ever: Kim Kardashian & Kanye West

What more could you possibly want out of a celebrity couple than what you're getting with Kimye? There's everything: Pissed-off fanbases, conspiracy theories of fraudulence, disses to exes in song, reality TV line-blurring, and more glorious paparazzi photos (Kanye leaving Kim's house late at night! Kanye and Kim getting out of the car with Kanye's pants down!) than you could shake a stick at. If rumors of the pair's upcoming nuptials are true—and we certainly hope that they are—it will undoubtedly be the most hilarious wedding in pop history. Until Amber Rose leaves Wiz Khalifa and gets hitched with Jack White, anyway. —A.U.
 
Runner-Ups: J.R. Smith & Rihanna, Afrojack & Paris Hilton, Katy Perry & Tim Tebow
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Best Feud: Christina Aguilera vs. Tony Lucca and Adam Levine

Christina's unexpected malice towards her ex-Mouseketeer buddy Lucca—possibly stemming from an unrequited crush Christina had on Tony 20 years ago—was by far the most intriguing subplot of Season Two of The Voice. Christina's subtle jabs at Tony all season—calling him "one note," suggesting he and Adam start a Britney Spears cover band, etc.—exploded in the final performance episode, in which she called him out for his "derogatory to women" song choice ("99 Problems"), bickered with Adam, and referred to her own contestant Chris Mann as a "real man" by comparison. (It was way worse backstage, where Adam Levine reportedly called Christina a very bad word that starts with the third letter of the alphabet, and she demanded he be fired.) The feud fizzled out by the finale, but it still far overshadowed the eventual winner, whose name we've already forgotten. (Just kiddin' Jermaine Paul, we got nothin' but love for ya.) —A.U.
 
Runner-Ups: Black Keys vs. Nickelback, The Wanted vs. Christina Aguilera, Kanye vs. PETA & Theraflu
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Worst Human Being: Chris Brown

It just goes to show you—we're willing to put up with a lot of shit from our most visible pop artists as long as the music is still good. Chris Brown had an awesome 2011 from a musical standpoint, recasting his career with "Look At Me Now" and scoring a couple other fine hits, but when the production slips as it has for Brown in 2012, all we're left with is the vile behavior—whether he's (allegedly) stealing some woman's cell phone for trying to take a picture of him, (allegedly) trying to pick up chicks with the pick-up line "I promise I won't beat you!" or (definitely) recording a bunch of self-pitying, callous and just kinda vulgar rap freestyles. On top of all that, he's pushed back the release of his Fortune to mid-year, giving us only the mediocre rave-up "Turn Up the Music" as a reason to remember him for anything other than his sneering, bilious, "I won't learn from my mistakes and don't you dare fucking ask me" attitude. —A.U.
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Worst Song: will.i.am ft. Eva Simons, "This Is Love"

With all his original ideas either dead or contractually Intel property, will.i.am resorts to ripping everybody off: swiping Coldplay's "Clocks" hook, swiping Calvin Harris's synth buildup/breakdown and his own identikit dance, dressing Eva Simons' belter vocals in Fergie's old clothes and producing what might be the year's single most embarrassing moment: a loud, awkwardly sampled crowd HELL YEAH! that grovels for audience participant so desperately it might as well be an applause sign. Even by Will's old standards -- album named after a hashtag, bribing J. Lo and Mick Jagger to guest on the talcum-hard "T.H.E." -- this is absolutely shameless. —Katherine St. Asaph

Runners-Up: Far*East Movement ft. Justin Bieber, "Live My Life," B.o.B ft. Taylor Swift, "Both of Us," Flo Rida, "Whistle," Madonna, "Girl Gone Wild"
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Best Trend: Boy Bands

By the mid-'00s, it seemed like boy bands had disappeared along with Total Request Live, having nowhere to hold their throngs of screaming fans once MTV became more interested in promoting those 16 and Pregnant, and its former leaders more interested in golfing and hospitality. Yet nostalgia is a powerful force, and the last year has been flush with cute lads who just want to sing you a tune. Whether discovered on a reality show or part of a fictional band within a band, Big Time Rush, Mindless Behavior, One Direction and The Wanted have emerged as heartthrobs for the '10s, with #1 albums and sold-out tours tangible proof of their success. The days of cheesy choreography and matching ensembles may not totally be back—1D and TW don't exactly dance—but the similar ways in which these guys can make girls cry proves that cuteness has even more power in numbers. Sorry, Justin Bieber. —E.E.

Runner-Ups: Superstar DJs in the Top 40 (Calvin Harris, David Guetta), Second-Tier Music Reality TV Competitions (Duets, Q'Viva)
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Best New Diva: Rita Ora

With a major endorsement from Jay-Z and countless comparisons to Rihanna, the British Roc Nation newcomer's debut single "How We Do (Party)" was accompanied by expectation. She's far from balked at the attention since it's release, proving unafraid to borrow the powerful words of Christopher Wallace or incorporate the term "drunk sex feeling" into what aims to be a mainstream summer hit. Throw in a gruff London accentrespect for those who've come before her and rumored romances with both Drake and a Kardashian, and it's clear Ora will be some kind of diva, whether it's a Hov-approved or her own version all together. —E.E.
 
Runner-Up: Sophia Grace Brownlee
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Best Worst Song: Soulja Boy, "Scarface"

"I can't even express the emotions this makes me feel," a friend texted me after I showed him what is either the pinnacle or nadir of Soulja Boy's discography: "Scarface," in which Soulja drones the title 69 times, without many other lyrics, over an, er, soundscape of Casio strings that resembles a hypothetical Windows 95 soundtrack to Mafia Wars more than anything cinematic or fearsome. It's nearly unlistenable, yet we've listened dozens of times. Call it the hip-hop equivalent of Lulu, perhaps: it's either the year's worst song or the year's best piece of found art, and it makes us believe both can coexist. Scarface. —K.S.A.
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Best Likely One-Hit Wonder: Gotye feat. Kimbra, "Somebody That I Used to Know"

Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know" wasn't quite a non-entity before it cracked the states; he was already a star in his native Australia, and the video went viral, as concept-heavy videos with nudity and body paint tend to. That doesn't explain how Gotye and Kimbra got a long-lived No. 1 hit in the States with a pensive, lyrically subtle track that sounds more twee or Sting than anything on the radio, at least before the track got a perfunctory drum-heavy radio mix. Perhaps America is in a breakup mood this year. Perhaps xylophones are the New Sound of Pop, and everyone's going to rush to imitate that sound the way everyone rushed to copy the Beatles' moptops. Or perhaps the song really is that good. —K.S.A.
 
Runner-up: fun. feat. Janelle Monae, "We Are Young,"
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Best Baby: Blue Ivy Carter

Collaborating with her superstar father even earlier than even Miley Cyrus, Beyoncé and Jay-Z's daughter received massive attention months before her worldwide debut this January. Her first interview was a memorable one; her first musical venture enough to make you teary. Between her two mega successful parents, B.I.C. will have a lot to live up to over the years, but right now we're happy imagining her teaching friends the "Single Ladies" choreography at future sleepovers, and combating playground bullies with a confident, "dirt off your shoulder"-esque indifference. —E.E.
 
Runner-Up: Maxwell Drew Johnson (Jessica Simpson & Eric Johnson)
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Worst Smooth Jazz Haircut: Jason Mraz

Let's just put it this way: If it wasn't for that damn Kenny G haircut in the video, Jason Mraz would have himself one of the year's biggest hits right now with "I Won't Give Up." Trust us on this one.  —A.U.
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Best Beat: Nicki Minaj feat. 2 Chainz, "Beez in the Trap"

"Beez in the Trap" is not about bees, but its beat is an auditory pun; produced by Kenoe, it's spare, spacious and made up of dozens of sharp pinpricks, as if you isolated the sound of someone repeatedly getting stung. Nicki and guest 2 Chainz use the beat for their own stinging, but they both know to stay out of the swarm. And if there's any justice, it and not the prefab "Starships" will be the crossover hit Roman's Revenge is remembered for. —K.S.A.
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Best Career Recasting: Sia

Before: The emotive, only slightly off-kilter singer-songwriter behind hits like "Breathe Me," who'd appear every so often in Christina Aguilera album credits or The Voice mentoring sessions but otherwise stay firmly in her niche. After: Someone who manages to sing distinctive hooks even when the song's by the perpetually repetitive likes of Flo Rida or David Guetta. That might not sound like an improvement, but consider this: would you rather listen to somebody try really hard to be Robyn or Ingrid Michaelson? —K.S.A.
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Worst Use of Pop Stars in Advertising: Burger King

We're not even that mad at the ridiculous (and eventually banned) Mary J. Blige commercial, which is too surreal to take even the slightest bit seriously anyway. But feeding into Steven Tyler's tragic narcissism by having legions of impressionable, young, female Burger King customers and employees appear enraptured with his dopey, spaced-out and at-this-point generally creepy jive (and forcing us to watch the results)...that's just not forgivable. Give us Mary J. listing Snack Wrap ingredients any day. —A.U.
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