Jesse Mayshark
Knoxville, TN

A year after the Flap, Taylor Swift and Kanye West released multimillion-selling albums. The surprise was the unsurprising results. Swift bore down and wrote songs whose wit and detail suggest she either boasts a powerful imagination or is still interested enough in the world outside the VIP room. Since she’s so young, complacency is the sin her imagination must guard against. From Stevie Nicks to Sinead O’Connor, the history of pop music proffers too many examples of misguided talent and narcissism. Every indication suggests she’s going to be one of those talents about whom The Industry is self-congratulatory, a Grammy stand-by like Stevie Wonder. So I’m perfectly fine with Speak Now as her testament. She’s hungry enough to know relationships, like coal, exist as fuel for healthy furnaces, but whose fumes are toxic if inhaled.

Alfred Soto
Miami, FL

Rick Ross, expert liar
Courtesy Island Def Jam
Rick Ross, expert liar

Details

Pazz and Jop 2010
Rise of the Douchebags
Kanye West and James Murphy turn their private flaws into public triumphs
By Zach Baron

Never Forget
Cee Lo Green sums up 2010 in two little words
By Rob Harvilla

Little Pink Polos for You and Me
Wallowing and/or reveling in social anxiety with Arcade Fire and Vampire Weekend
By Eric Harvey

The Wayward Crucifixion of M.I.A.
On the dodgy, opportunistic, truffle-fry-fueled campaign against both Maya and Maya
By Charles Aaron

Leave Chillwave Alone
In defense of the nostalgia-steeped genre Ariel Pink both invented and abandoned
By Simon Reynolds

Attack of the Singing Rappers
On Drake, Nicki Minaj, B.o.B., and the art of the debut-as-pop-crossover
By Clover Hope

The Great Gay-Pander-Off of 2010
Katy, Nicki, Ke$ha, P!nk, and Gaga taste the rainbow
By Rich Juzwiak

The Internet-Rap Atomization
Odd Future, Lil B, Wiz Khalifa, et al. build tiny kingdoms, and rule them
By Tom Breihan

Justin Bieber, Twitter Casanova
The Most Popular Boy in the World rules the only voting bloc that matters: pre-teen girls
By Camille Dodero

The Top Ten
From Kanye West to The Suburbs

The Personals
Industry Woes, Cultural Theories, Polite Suggestions, and Calls of Bullshit

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More About

Titus Andronicus, The Monitor: Patrick Stickles sees Axl’s civil-war-as-social-metaphor and raises it so high it’s not even funny, except it actually is funny. Massive but never plodding, smart but never clever, this is the thing you should throw right in the face of the next person who tells you the album is dying as an art form. If you find a collection of songs that makes better use of the word “excrement” in the lyrics, you should buy it.

Steve Kandell
Brooklyn, NY

If there’s one 2010 artist I feel sure American critics are going to under-rank, it’s Shakira. Sweet, shrewd, and as brilliant as her blond highlights, she leaves me mesmerized, and I harbor no doubts that “Waka Waka” was the masterpiece of 2010. FIFA put the Colombian woman in the impossible spot of having to represent Africa at its World Cup coming-out parade, and she swiveled her way around that fix with an infectious hip dance and intimations of a melting-pot world to come.

Drew Hinshaw
Atlanta, GA

Nicki Minaj and will.i.am, “Check It Out”: This is the second year in a row where will.i.am has topped my list—I must now seriously consider the possibility that he’s a genius on the order of Chuck Berry or Bill James. (Three years ago, I thought he was the Antichrist, or at least one of many Antichrists. My thinking has evolved on this matter.)

Phil Dellio
Toronto, ON

Gas stations, supermarkets, Walgreens—the more functional the environment, the more effectively Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now” broke my heart. Foregoing massed tracked harmonies for the surefire technique of putting an average-voiced man and woman together at the mic, “Need You Now” evoked classic aural psychodramas like Rumours-era Fleetwood Mac. (Too bad its host album isn’t even as good as Mirage, though).

Alfred Soto
Miami, FL

Against Me!’s “I Was a Teenage Anarchist” damn near made me cry into my Kashi cereal. Singer Tom Gabel—the dude who penned the punker-than-thou anthem “Baby I’m an Anarchist” back in 2002—did a 180: He reassessed the fundamentals of punk rock, ultimately concluding it’s all about an individual’s freedom of choice. Hive minds are retarded in the literal sense. Gabel’s dissent from the rigid scene is his most punk-rock achievement, and a reminder that the most terrifyingly punk-rock thing you can do is become who you are.

Jeanne Fury
Brooklyn, NY

The five stages of a 2010 Sufjan Stevens Song:

“What the fuck?”
“No, seriously. What. The. Fuck?”
“Who does this guy think he is?”
“Oh, wait, I get it. Kinda catchy.”
“Hey, can you play that again?”

Jim Connelley
Glendale, CA

Wavves, King of the Beach/Best Coat, Crazy for You: Every generation gets the James Taylor and Carly Simon it deserves.

Steve Kandell
Brooklyn, NY

“Chasin’ venture paper, like what Twitter get/Sick of arguing with white dudes on the Internet”—one line in “You Oughta Know,” and Das Racist were pretty much guaranteed to make my year-end list somewhere. And the line from “hahahaha jk?” that countered/augmented/expanded on that sentiment— “We’re not racist, we love white people/Ford trucks, apple pies, bald eagles”—is acerbic enough to represent their m.o. alongside it, some kind of Br_wn B_st_rds in a Cheech and Chong’s Boutique Trojan horse. Christian Lander should fold up his iBook and go home.

Nate Patrin
St. Paul, MN

Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” is a fantastic song, and not just because I wholeheartedly support pop music with synth riffs that take their cues from early-’90s rave music. After the song became a huge hit, Mike Tompkins’s a cappella version of the song went viral; the Maccabeats then covered Tompkins’s version (albeit with Chanukah-themed lyrics), and that went viral as well. And then, unexpectedly, something strange happened: I found myself liking the song even more, except that “the song” no longer meant just Taio Cruz, but rather his version plus all the other versions, assembled into some multi-headed beast that can’t be broken down into its constituent parts anymore. Maybe this is how the post-Glee, post–American Idol world is going to work: Everyone wants to be a karaoke star, and no song is untouchable anymore. The song recorded in a professional studio and promoted internationally at a cost of millions of dollars ends up on the same pedestal as the cover version recorded in some unknown singer’s bedroom, or the 90-second truncated version sung by a just-discovered teenager on a TV talent show.

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