Jay-Z

Big Sean has had a rough couple of years. If it weren’t for his support from big name rap artists such as Jay-Z and Kanye West, Big Sean wouldn’t even be releasing a third album like Dark Sky Paradise. Commercially, his records haven’t performed well since 2011, but Big Sean’s recent features have given him the jump start he needed. If Dark Sky Paradise becomes a success, Big Sean could make a comeback from near obscurity.

The name of the album, Dark Sky Paradise, reflects the duality of Big Sean’s situation. “Dark Sky” represents the first half of the record, in which Big Sean contemplates his career and how far he still has to go. “Paradise” reflects Big Sean’s pursuit of his own personal nirvana. Big Sean is in a peculiar position. His fame is at just the right level where he can’t be humble, but he still needs to avoid appearing like an overly ambitious up-and-coming rapper.

Throughout the album, Big Sean fails to establish a consistent identity. His lyricism has improved drastically since his first album in 2011, but Big Sean throws the album down the drain with horrible deliveries in songs such as “Win Some, Lose Some.” He raps about the classic topic of how fame has changed him and how fame has stretched him so thin — but his lack of inflection and emotion makes it sound as if he’s reading off a teleprompter. 

Big Sean would be a great poet if he didn’t have to vocalize his own work, but when it comes to rapping and making the listener feel emotion, Big Sean flops.

Production quality is where this album shines — but no thanks to Big Sean. “One Man Can Change the World,”  which pays tribute to Big Sean’s grandmother, avoids being the cliché track the title suggests because of the production work from Amaire Johnson. 

This high level continues throughout the album. DJ Mustard’s work on “I Don’t Fuck With You” and “Deep” stand out with their fluid beats and great use of drum machines. The production throughout is consistently well done and stands out as some of the best in the business, equal to production on albums by Kanye West, Drake and Jay-Z.

In addition to the production work, the features on this album also outshine Big Sean’s own contributions. Drake does a great job on “Blessings,” but Kanye West steals the show with his work on “All Your Fault.” At times, it feels as if Big Sean wants to be Kanye West and adopt his style. Instead, Kanye West nearly swipes this album out of Big Sean’s hands and leaves Big Sean dwarfed by Kanye’s ego and delivery. Mentorship has proven to be an effective tool in rap, but, if Kanye West is supposed to be Big Sean’s mentor, he fails at improving Big Sean’s vocals.

This album featured some great verses by Kanye West, Drake and E-40, but nothing on this album made me believe Big Sean is on their level. Big Sean’s delivery and style make liking him a struggle, and, from what I can hear, it’s not worth the effort.

Rating: 5/10

Welcome to Austin — the live music capitol — home to more hipsters than real people and chock-full of natives who know of music you won’t find on the top-40 countdown. Below is a list of song suggestions of music to listen to based on other popular songs:

If you like “99 Problems” by Jay-Z, then try listening to “99 Problems” by Hugo.

This is the type of song you’d listen to as you jump a shark tank on your motorcycle. Jay-Z’s rap version is very different from Hugo’s fusion of folk, rock and R&B. With a banjo playing the melody, this song has some twang, but it is very far from popular country music on the radio. If you’re looking for something that pushes genre boundaries, this is definitely something to check out. Maybe Beyoncé should reconsider her choice of a man here. 

“99 Problems” — Jay-Z

“99 Problems” — Hugo

 

If you like “GDFR” by Flo Rida, check out “Big Spender” by Theophilus London featuring A$AP Rocky.

Do you like to party? Of course you do. This song is great for going hard and throwing down — whether you’re throwing a house party or just want to dance in your room. This song starts a little soft but builds energy quickly and will have your friends asking for the name in no time. London combines an energetic beat with the nostalgic song “Big Spender” from the Broadway show “Sweet Charity.” This song sets the tone for any dance party or pregame.

“GDFR” — Flo Rida

“Big Spender” Theophilus London ft. A$AP Rocky 

 

If you like “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars, listen to “Down the Road” by C2C.

Yes, “Uptown Funk” is pretty funky, but Bruno Mars may need to take a step back. “Down the Road,” featuring sounds that could not be achieved with instruments alone, is more electronic than “Uptown Funk.” C2C mixes together old-school instrumentals and vocals with a driving beat into a song fit for any summertime car ride. The singer in “Down the Road” lacks the Mars’ vocals, but the remix holds its own in any upstanding playlist.

“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson ft. Bruno Mars

“Down the Road” — C2C

 

If you can never pick what to listen to, try Girl Talk or Super Mash Bros.

So some of us are pretty indecisive. After all, making choices is hard. Girl Talk and Super Mash Bros master the mash-up. If you have ever wondered what your favorite ’60s song sounds like with your favorite rap song, now is your chance to find out. If that’s not your cup of tea, there are plenty of mixes to choose from. Bonus — both groups offer their stuff FOR FREE from their web site. Who can say no to free stuff?

“Let it Out” — Girl Talk 

 

Photo Credit: Mengwen Cao | Daily Texan Staff

The music portion of South By Southwest is the most unpredictable aspect of the festival. Unlike traditional music festivals such as Austin City Limits or Fun Fun Fun Fest, where schedules are solidified months in advance and seldom change, the schedule given out by SXSW is more of a general guide. There’s no telling when and where Kanye West, Lady Gaga or De La Soul might show up, and half the fun of the music festival is being in the right place at the right time when a surprise guest appears. 

This year’s festival had its share of surprise performances and hyper-exclusive sets that SXSW has become known for in recent years. For the lucky Samsung Galaxy owners and winners of a ticket lottery, Kanye West performed with Jay-Z at Austin Music Hall. Those who made it to The Mobile Movement showcase caught a glimpse of Lady Gaga running the light show. 

The Daily Texan made a list of the best shows of each day of SXSW.


Monday

AT&T Interactive Music Showcase at The Mobile Movement

Arguably one of the most rumor-filled nights of SXSW, AT&T hosted DJ Shadow, Machinedrum and Reggie Watts. The venue featured several nights of music in the interactive warehouse on Cesar Chavez Street, all leading up to Monday’s rumors of a secret Lady Gaga or Kanye performance, both of which were just that: infamous SXSW rumors. The lineup kicked off with the always innovative comedian-musician Reggie Watts beat boxing his way through a lively set, leaving room for one-liners between each song. DJ Travis Stewart, performing under the name Machinedrum, followed Watts in what felt like the longest but most cohesive set at SXSW as Twitter was flooded with pictures of Lady Gaga in the building. The rumors were dissuaded altogether just before DJ Shadow’s energetic set, leaving the audience dancing through an impressively artistic, beat-heavy performance.  

 

Tuesday

Pitchfork Show No Mercy Showcase at Mohawk

Mohawk hosted a showcase that displayed the full potential of what SXSW can be. Highlights included the slow-churning Indian from Chicago and Los Angeles’ Youth Code, a dark electronic act that put on a highly energetic set that resembled a much better version of Sleigh Bells. The best of the night were Brooklyn’s Sannhet, who won over a small crowd with striking visuals and grand and sweeping instrumental black metal, and Texas’s own Power Trip, who delivered the most intense set of the entire week. Vocalist Riley Gale opened the set by announcing that he had just found out a close friend passed away, but that the band was just going to play through it and try not to think about it and, in turn, delivered an extremely heavy and emotional set that easily had the most energetic pit that’s taken place at an official showcase. 

 

Wednesday

Kanye West and Jay-Z at Austin Music Hall

The first joint performance in two years from rap’s biggest stars made for one of the biggest sets of the week, but, because of poor planning, it was almost a disaster. Samsung, which put on the show, gave out wristbands that “guaranteed entry” to more people than the venue could hold. Hundreds outside left in anger when the fire marshal announced a “one in, one out” policy before half of the people in line with wristbands had entered. Kanye and Jay-Z essentially played greatest hits sets. At one point, each stood on large installations on opposite sides of the venue and went back and forth, playing hits such as “Runaway” and “Dirt Off Your Shoulder.” The two reunited onstage together at the end for fan favorites such as “Gold Digger” before launching into “Niggas In Paris” three times in a row. The fans that made it in were treated to an incredible, rare show from Kanye and Jay-Z. 

 

Thursday

Future Islands at the 4AD Showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s

Like most bands at SXSW, Future Islands played several sets throughout the week. Their show as part of 4AD’s showcase at Cheer Up Charlie’s was their last for this year’s festival, and lead singer Sam Herring announced that it would be their “most punk-rock fucking set” yet. This prompted the audience at Cheer Up Charlie’s to launch into a thrashing mosh-pit that lasted the entirety of the performance. Herring’s on stage energy was not only matched, but maybe even topped, by the vivacious crowd. The band played songs off of early albums as well as their newly released single, “Seasons (Waiting On You).” Future Islands’ set at Cheer Up Charlie’s was quite possibly their best set of the entire festival.

 

 

Friday

Pitchfork Official Showcase at Central Presbyterian Church

Friday at SXSW hosted one of the biggest showcases in the world of independent music. Pitchfork’s 2014 SXSW showcase at Central Presbyterian Church started with an up and down set from synth rockers EMA. Angel Olsen followed, delivering a powerful performance with songs off of her newly acclaimed album, Burn Your Fire for no Witness. The surprise of the night was a wonderful set from Hundred Waters, combining beats and synth lines with piano and soaring vocals from frontwoman Nicole Miglis. The electronic beats and raw emotion of Mas Ysa and the ethereal textures of Forest Swords complimented each other well, setting the stage for an impactful set from Sun Kil Moon frontman, Mark Kozelek. The ringing guitars of Real Estate closed out the night as they combined hits from their previous works as well as tracks from their newly released Atlas.

 

Saturday

Phantogram at the Guitar Center Rooftop Sessions

Phantogram’s Saturday rooftop jam session was easily one of the most authentic acts of all the official SXSW showcases, but due to some technical difficulties and a lack of audience participation, it was also vastly underappreciated. The duo owned the stage with a killer vocal presence, despite a microphone malfunction midway through their set, after which vocalist Sarah Barthel yelled offstage, “I guess we’ll just take care of it, all by ourselves.” The noticeable lack of energy from the audience could be blamed on the performance being taped for television. The looming TV cameras and restrictive boundaries around the stage made any sort of excitement, outside of an occasional cheer, almost impossible. Regardless, Phantogram delivered with a powerful, punchy set heard across the rooftops of downtown Austin.   

For the rest of the Daily Texan’s SXSW music review, see the Daily Texan Life & Arts website.

Those who didn't get into the monstrous Jay-Z/Kanye West reunion Wednesday night were most likely at the NPR Showcase. At Stubb’s Bar-B-Q, arguably the headquarters for live Austin music, a strong lineup of bands of every persuasion came together to put on an entertaining night of music.

To open the night, Syracuse noise-rockers Perfect Pussy brought their unmatchable intensity to the stage. Though the lyrics were mostly indiscernible over the sound of the band, the visible emotion on singer Meredith Graves’ face left no doubt in the audience’s mind about the sincerity of their songs.

Following Perfect Pussy was UK post-punk five-piece Eagulls. Embracing the “wall-of-sound” technique that many rock acts use, the fullness of Eagulls’ sound was never in question. Although, after three songs, the formula that they use to write their songs was very evident. A driving beat would start, and both guitarists would play nearly the exact same thing, creating plenty of sound, but cutting off opportunities for the band to create a more complex sound.

Kelis, the nationally-renown R&B/hip-hop singer famous for her provocative single “Milkshake,” brought her full band to the stage. Horns, back-up vocalists and keyboards created grooves and beats that had the entire crowd dancing along to the undeniably infectious music. She covered “Feeling Good,” returned to it several times throughout the set, and of course, brought all the boys to the yard with “Milkshake.” 

The last act I stayed for Wednesday was the artistic yet precise St. Vincent. As the only show she would play for the entire festival, the crowd was fittingly electric with anticipation. Her purposefully robotic choreography paired with her impeccable guitar playing abilities showcased her undeniable talent. Full of energy and confidence, the beautiful set was a fitting way to end my SXSW Wednesday.
 

Photo Credit: Crystal Marie Garcia | Daily Texan Staff

On the evening of Dec. 12, most students were preparing for finals, completely unaware that the world of pop music would be changed before midnight. 

Around 11 p.m., Beyonce Knowles released her fifth studio album on iTunes with no advance notice. It was a landmark cultural moment for the music industry in a year that contained surprise announcements and creative marketing campaigns from heavyweights such as Justin Timberlake, Daft Punk and Jay-Z. 

Presented as a visual album, the digital package came with elaborate music videos for every song on the album. The simply-titled Beyonce broke sales records and created controversies involving Target and NASA. Beyonce debuted at number one, making Knowles the first female artist to have her first five albums all debut at the top spot. While her 2011 album, 4, sold close to 1.4 million copies and garnered critical acclaim, it sold less than half the amount of each of her first three records. Consequently, no one would have been surprised if she had decided to play it safe with more radio-friendly songs on her newest release. Instead, Beyonce’s self-titled surprise was a stunning masterpiece, an exercise in exploring alternative styles of R&B and pop and the most cohesive and personal album that Queen B has put her iconic name on.

Beyonce weaves between many different styles and sounds throughout her latest record, which is a sign of the team of collaborators she worked with for Beyonce. She works with some of the best in the business on this album — which features a collection of superstars such as Jay-Z, Drake, JT, Pharrell and Timbaland, alongside rising stars such as Frank Ocean, Miguel, The-Dream and Caroline Polachek of Chairlift. The record finds the star exploring her past, containing references to her youth in Houston and recorded samples of talent shows and singing competitions she participated in as a child.

She covers all kinds of R&B, from the doo-wop of “Superpower” to the funk of “Blow” and the D’Angelo-inspired soul of “Rocket.” She even delves into the indie R&B her sister Solange perfected on “No Angel,” as well as the dark and electronic-heavy R&B of The Weeknd on “Haunted.” Even with all of these different styles, Beyonce never sounds like she is copying or imitating anyone, always remaining distinctly Beyonce, like only Queen B can do.

Beyonce opened up like never before. The themes of the record are intensely personal, with songs touching on her relationship with Jay-Z, her miscarriage and the birth of her first child, Blue Ivy. Beyonce received criticism for how explicitly sexual it is, from the already infamous “surfboard” references on “Drunk In Love” to “Partition,” which describes a particularly eventful limousine ride. Even more than ever before, Beyonce is taking charge of her sexuality and proving that a monogamous relationship can be as thrilling and enticing as the sexual exploits of those who remain single.

A large aspect of this confident sexuality comes from how Beyonce delves into feminism in a new way. While the singer had her fair share of empowering anthems for women before this record, the clear album highlight, “Flawless,” is her most blatantly feminist track yet. The song establishes her superiority before featuring a sampled speech from a TED talk given by renowned feminist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. While the song has sparked debate among some critics over whether Beyonce is a true feminist, the song and the views expressed in it come across as very progressive, especially within the realm of pop music.

The album turned out to be a commercial success as well. It sold nearly 829,000 copies worldwide in the first three days, making for iTunes’ fastest-selling record ever. Within four weeks it sold 1.43 million copies, outpacing the sales of her previous album, 4. These results came in spite of Target and Amazon announcing that they would not be selling physical copies of the album because of the fact that it was offered exclusively in a digital format beforehand. Beyonce responded by visiting a Wal-Mart in Massachusetts, where she met with fans and gave out about 750 $50 gift cards to show her support for the store that was selling her physical album. 

As a whole, Beyonce is the artist’s most engrossing, varied and rewarding album to date. It opens itself up to multiple listens and includes some of Bey’s best work. Beyonce is a spectacular album that has only grown stronger in the month following its release. The unconventional album drop got people talking about the record, but the music is what made it one of the best albums of 2013. 

Love him or hate him, it can’t be denied that Drake has changed the rap game. 

In the past few years, he has become one of the biggest rappers, not by claiming to be a gangster or bragging about how much crack he used to sell, but by consistently opening up about his feelings and insecurities. Sure, most of us don’t have to deal with making millions of dollars or going out with models, but who can’t understand the shame that comes from over-sharing or rehashing old demons with an ex from time to time? On his third album, Nothing Was The Same, he follows up 2011’s massively successful Take Care with his most insular, emotional and polarizing record yet. 

Fans of the slow and reflective second half of Take Care will find much to love here from the confessional “Too Much” to the relationship-obsessed “Wu-Tang Forever.” Drake responds to allegations of being “soft” by making one of his softest cuts yet on the incredibly catchy “Hold On We’re Going Home,” the perfect summer tune that is essentially an update of many light R&B hits from the '70s. 

Drake still brings up his swagger and bravado on cuts like the single “Started From the Bottom” or the endearingly repetitive trap song “Worst Behavior,” but those prove to be more the exception than the rule. The true gems are ones such as “Furthest Thing,” where Drake sings about his struggles with fame over a deliriously smooth and soulful beat. 

Much of the credit for this album can be attributed to executive producer and longtime Drake collaborator Noah “40” Shebib. 40 delivers on high points from the simple repetition of “Started From The Bottom” to the twisted Whitney Houston sample on opener “Tuscan Leather,” which prompts Drake to accurately compare 40 to Martin Scorsese.

In terms of guest stars, there are very few compared to his last album. Rhythm and blues up-and-comers Jhene Aiko and Sampha provide beautiful choruses on two of the album’s strongest tracks. Besides that, the only noticeable guest is Jay-Z, whose purpose is to deliver a subpar verse on the album closer as Drake lyrically runs laps around his mentor.

True to his nature, Drake is endlessly quotable here, spewing plenty of lines that will undoubtedly be quoted on social media by everyone. This album seems crafted specifically for the generation that spends most of their time on Twitter talking about their emotions. He doesn’t make many concessions on this record, and he is not really trying to win over any skeptics at this point. 

Apart from a few awkward lines that stick out and a couple slightly underwhelming tracks on the back half, Drake creates a great record that fully subverts the idea of what a mainstream rap album should sound like. Time will tell of its legacy, but for now, Drake has succeeded on his “mission to try and switch up the culture” with one of the most engrossing rap albums of the year. Maybe nothing will be the same after this. 

Just when you thought the life of back-to-back NBA champion LeBron James couldn’t get any better, he went out and proved us all wrong again.

Over the weekend, King James married his longtime girlfriend, Savannah Brinson, in a — relatively — small but lavish ceremony at the Grand Del Mar Hotel in San Diego. The guest list included NBA stars Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony, as well as teammates Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. Some other famous personalities like singer Ne-Yo and actress Gabrielle Union also made an appearance, but the wedding’s musical act blew these other guests out of the water.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé surprised and dazzled the crowd with a special performance of their 2003 hit “Crazy in Love.” Not bad for a wedding band, huh?

James outdid himself again, pulling the music world’s greatest couple away from their busy lives to perform a single song for the newlyweds. Beyonce flew in all the way from Brazil, where she had a concert on Thursday. Oh, and she flew all the way back to South America for another show the very next day.

Man, it’s good to be King.

But it’s not like James is undeserving of these luxuries. With four MVP awards in the last five years and two rings to his name (three if you count his new wedding band), James is at the height of his powers and may be the best player the NBA has seen since Michael Jordan.

So I guess that’s what it takes to warrant Jayonce’s wedding services. Where can King James go from here? Here’s a list of a few things James could do to in the next year to enhance his reputation.

 

Suit up for both the Miami Heat and the Cleveland Cavaliers. Might as well try to make everyone happy.

 

Become player-coach. Do you really think current Heat coach Erik Spoelstra understands the game as well as James? And while he’s at it, James could probably put on a pretty good halftime show, too.

 

Use his incredible athleticism for good: Become a superhero, combining Hulk-like strength with Flash-caliber speed to fight crime.

 

Emulate his pal Jay-Z and release a rap album.

On second thought, bad idea.

Maybe James doesn’t do everything all that well, but his past two years have come as close to basketball perfection as it gets.  So congrats, King and Queen James, you’re the new first couple of basketball.

Committed Caroline runs every Thursday evening in Life & Arts.

Photo Credit: Daily Texan Comics | Daily Texan Staff

Editor's note: This is the third in an ongoing series about sex and sexuality. Our four columnists represent four very different sexual experiences. Committed Caroline is the third installment.

Hello there, my name is Committed Caroline and I'm here to take this sexual conversation in a different direction. I too believe that sex and sexuality are important, exciting and sometimes confusing. But I've been in a relationship longer than Beyoncé and Jay-Z have been married.

I'm the high-school sweetheart that never got turkey-dropped, the girl who has only been with one man and the only one of my friends in a relationship. My column is here to breathe a breath of consistency (or maybe boredom?) into this thriller of a series.

Relationships aren't all "Revolutionary Road," "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" or even "The Notebook." In fact, I'm positive that my relationship doesn't have half of the plot points in any of those stellar movies about love or lack of it. I took the Flexuality test because, frankly, I was told I had to.

"What even is flexuality?" asked the man I'm with.  

"It's to tell me where I fall on the sexual spectrum," I responded.

Luckily, or maybe unluckily for him, the results were just as we suspected.

I'm straight! And sadly kind of conservative in my sex life. According to the Flexuality test, I have a tiny blue bar worth of sexual exploration with other genders which might account for my kissy nature with both men and women after a few drinks. Overall, though, I'm just straight and boring. But for some people, and some genitalia, straight and boring isn't necessarily all bad.

Sure, I'm the "conservative one," the Charlotte of our Sex and the City quartet, but I have something my counterparts don't a consistently high level of intimacy that normally pans out pretty well for me if you know what I mean. Sometimes it pans out well for me many times over.

In the weeks to come, I'll provide the settled perspective. I'll be the one to champion for a steady partner and assure you that things don't have to get boring just because your partner doesn't change. In fact, sometimes being committed can make things a lot more interesting.

Check out the next column in the series — Virgin Veronica explores her Flexuality Test results tomorrow.

 

Beyonce is the new Pepsi girl, and she's not in bad company

Yesterday, love of our lives, pop icon and queen of the world Beyonce Knowles Carter released a very short clip featuring a comeback of the robotic hand, and a couple of hairflips. More importantly, it prepared us to anxiously click a reload button today at 8 a.m. 

Beyonce and her husband Jay-Z are known for their love (read: obsession) with the number 4. She is known to have said to The Telegraph, "We all have special numbers in our lives, and four is that number for me." Beyonce's fourth studio album is titled 4. Her birthday is September 4. Jay-Z's is December 4, and the two were married on April 4. Happy anniversary, you two! 

So on the fourth day of the fourth month, when Beyonce's video went live, the world was abuzz with rumors. Would it be a music video? A full new song? A public service announcment? 

It was a Pepsi commercial. 

I was initially furious. Where was "Bow Down Bitches"? Where was the new song for me to listen to on repeat for months? Why was I being handed what seemed like a strangely similar video to the also disappointing Justin Timberlake music video for "Mirrors?" But then I remembered something.

I have been complaining for years that Pepsi commercials don't feature pop stars anymore. As a loyal Britney Spears fan, I've always loved Pepsi pop commercials. And, honestly, so has America.

Remember Cindy Crawford in that tight tank? 

And Michael Jackson?

Remember this iconic Britney Pepsi commercial? 

And this girl-power one with Britney Spears, P!NK and Beyonce singing "We Will Rock You?"

Remember Shakira dancing with a grocery store clerk?

Sure, this new Beyonce Pepsi commercial may not be a music video, or a full new song, but it is something. It's the return of the pop star Pepsi girl, for better or for worse. 

We could make a feminist critique on how scantily clad these women are in their Pepsi debuts. Or we can follow Beyonce's instructions at the end of the video, "Embrace your past, but live for now," and consider this her induction into a sort of pop-star hall of fame. 

Photo Credit: Ploy Buraparate | Daily Texan Staff

From memorable hit singles to important moments in music, 2012 has given us a lot to be thankful for. Here are the top eight music-related things we should be thankful for this Thursday:

8. Snoop Dogg’s “Reincarnation”:

Most fans thought Snoop Dogg renaming himself Snoop Lion was some elaborate joke or publicity stunt when he announced the change back in July. Although the latter is highly plausible, Snoop stated the name change was the result of being rechristened “Snoop Lion” by a Rastafarian priest in Jamaica. Although fans will always remember Calvin Broadus Jr. as Snoop Dogg, Snoop’s reincarnation is an indicator that the hip-hop icon will continue to bring good vibes for years to come.

7. Frank Ocean’s “Courage”:

In July, hip-hop singer and rapper Frank Ocean revealed on his Tumblr that he had a love affair with a man four years ago. The publicity of Ocean’s coming out letter was the result of his place in a genre known for being hypermasculine and homophobic. But once Ocean came out, a handful of rappers (50 Cent, Jay-Z, T.I.) voiced their support for him and brought a conversation about sexuality to the forefront of hip-hop. The genre remains very heteronormative, but Ocean’s courage has
improved that.

6. The Beastie Boys:

Earlier this year, Beastie Boys co-founder Adam “MCA” Yauch died of cancer. With Yauch’s untimely death came praise and remembrance for his long-lasting influence. From Radiohead’s Thom Yorke to rapper Eminem, multiple artists voiced their thankfulness for Yauch’s musical impact. The Beastie Boys’ future is still uncertain: fellow Beastie Boy Michael “Mike D” Diamond stated in an interview with Rolling Stone in May that the group may disband.

5.Thomas Gabel, of Against Me!:

Having dealt with gender dysphoria since childhood, Against Me! frontman (now front-woman) Thomas Gabel, came out as transgender in May. The move was a courageous one for Gabel, now known as Laura Jane Grace. Against Me! will continue to perform with Grace in the lead, and most recently performed at Fun Fun Fun Fest.

4. The birth of Blue Ivy Carter:

Excitement has been brewing since singer Beyonce Knowles revealed her baby bump at the MTV Music Video Awards last year. Blue Ivy Carter was born in January, resulting in many congratulations for Beyonce and rap mogul Jay-Z. The best part of it all? Jay-Z dedicating a song (“Glory”) to his newborn child.

3. “Call Me Maybe”:

Carly Rae Jepsen’s hit single originally dropped last year but did not premiere in the U.S. until February. Whether listeners liked the song or not, its pop cultural relevance was inescapable. From radio stations and YouTube to “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” — Jepsen was everywhere. Jepsen recognized that no human can ignore relatable lyrical content and catchy and upbeat melodies. People can pretend to dislike “Call Me Maybe” as much as they want, but they can’t deny that it’s catchy.

2.“Gangnam Style”:

A memorable beat and an easy-to-learn dance move propelled Korean pop artist PSY to worldwide popularity earlier this year. His song “Gangnam Style” has been called a “force for world peace” by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. And it makes sense: no matter what, whenever “Gangnam Style” comes on, people cannot help but gallop around and simultaneously yell, “Hey, sexy lady!” With its formulated commentary on the dangers of flaunting wealth, “Gangnam Style” is much more than just a catchy pop song.

1. Pussy Riot’s Protest in Moscow:

When several members of Russian punk rock group Pussy Riot staged a protest in opposition to Russian President Vladimir Putin and the Russian Orthodox Church, the outcome was catastrophic. Three of the group’s members — Yekaterina Samutsevich, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina — were arrested, with Samutsevich eventually being freed, but Tolokonnikova and Alyokhina will be serving two years in prison. Pussy Riot’s bravery incited activism on a global scale, with people banding together not only for the members’ freedom, but for justice for all.

Printed on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 as: Music moments stand out in 2012