Pazz & Jop Comments 2011: The Personals

Feelings, whoa-whoa-whoa

Mark Deming
Ypsilanti, Michigan

A decade after Spin named "Your hard drive" as the best music of its year, we're finally seeing the influence of file-sharing. We already know about Destroyer's eighties necromancy, but look: a Jamie xx-Gil Scott-Heron collaboration sampled on a Drake album! An MGMT sample on Frank Ocean's!

Alfred Soto
Miami, Florida


Pazz and Jop 2011
Joyful Noises
Finding the bright side of 2011
By Maura Johnston

Suffering from Realness
The spotlight shines on Adele's heartbreak
By Katherine St. Asaph

Written on the Body
tUnE-yArds, PJ Harvey, and St. Vincent get physical
By Eric Harvey

Guarding the Throne
Jay-Z and Kanye West try to bring back the group listen
By Mike Barthel

Games People Play
Lana Del Rey lights up the Internet
By Tom Ewing

Riding the Bummer
Drake and the Weeknd wallow in their miseries
By Nick Murray

The Incredible Shrinking Album
Pazz & Jop's album results get Soundscanned
By Chris Molanphy

Confuse the Market
Post-crossover, indie retreats
By Scott Plagenhoef

California Demise
Tyler, the Creator and EMA feel the bad vibes
By Jessica Hopper

Most Valuable Supporting Player
André 3000 has a great year without a single starring role
By Andy Hutchins

Just Dance
The year ravers and pop fans learned to (file) share
By Michaelangelo Matos

Top 10-Plus
The year's big albums, from tUnE-yArDs on down

Singles Going Steady
Rolling down from "The Deep"

Raves and Rants
Making cases for the great and the grating

The Personals
Feelings, whoa-whoa-whoa

In 2011, it felt as if the hip-hop market was just overwhelmed with content. One of the biggest stories this year for the genre is that much of the country is coming online for the first time, outside the traditional channels of New York media and Atlanta's strip clubs. Beatmakers (like Chicago's DGainz) and rappers (like New Orleans resident and Timbaland collaborator Na'Tee) shoot and edit their own videos; in the era of the demo tape, an artist could only communicate through the music, but now an international audience has access to the artist's entire presentation without intermediary media, and the tools to make that presence felt are inexpensive. Artists can do an end-run around the entire music industry; publicity machines, PR people, and managers get on at a later stage than ever before. A side effect of this sudden shift is that the media, at a loss to manage the bottleneck at the top, seems to jump on young and underdeveloped artists because they fit into an expected template. Amateurism isn't an anathema to good music; L'Trimm weren't lyrical miracles but they still made one of the best rap songs of the '80s. But it would be nice if writers started listening to what rappers actually saying, which is where much of the change within hip-hop actually occurs, rather than focusing so heavily on the media-friendly 'movement'—whether sound, fashion or locale—that an artist is supposed to be a representative of.

David Drake
Chicago, Illinois

I didn't obsess over it too much, and I'm not completely paranoid, but I do honestly believe that we are a little bit doomed. The national obsession with zombies, hoarding, scavenging, canning, pickling, brewing, fermenting, trapping, smoking, and self-sustaining local yokelism is half the story. Devastating storms—a foot of snow in our yard in October and a near-miss tornado that wrecked a good portion of Springfield and massive hurricane flooding all around us this summer—and general atmospheric unease abounded. I'm pretty sure I suffered from some sort of outdoor allergy all 12 months of the year this year. And, I also feel like people—not just me and mine—get sicker for longer periods of time now. Am I crazy? For years—OK, maybe I obsess a little bit—I've envisioned a world where people have low levels of environmental sickness 24/7. Kinda like in my fave movie Safe, only for real. The subtle—but real—change in the earth's temperature has to be doing SOMETHING to us, no? Throw in the economy and national and world unrest and people occupying stuff and the surreal public/political atmosphere of avoidance and denial and . . . well, you know. Kaboom. The icing on the cake – even though it was of minor significance – was a lifestyle-y article I saw in the New Yorker this year on the fad of "foraging." Foraging! Something the people on this planet have done FOR LITERALLY EVER. Since the beginning of time, to this very day, for survival!

Scott Seward
Greenfield, Massachusetts

Bon Iver, James Blake, M83, and Girls. Why aren't our heroes pissing more people off? Why are they so polite?

David Shapiro
Brooklyn, New York

I'm now really kind of embarrassed over the just-how-fucked-up-is-Amy-Winehouse? joke I made in the 2009 Pazz & Jop; that sort of thing really stopped being remotely funny after Winehouse proved incapable of showing up in the studio to record the opening credit music for Quantum of Solace. I mean, this was a woman who for all intents had been genetically bred to sing the theme to a James Bond movie, and when she blew the opportunity, we shouldn't have been laughing.

Steve Simels
Hackensack, New Jersey

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