Defend Your Ballot: Rob Sheffield, Pazz and Jop 2012 Contributor

Where do you stand on the "I don't know about you / but I'm feelin' 22" issue?

To be honest, "22" was the only song on the record that had to grow on me. It seemed too cutesy and cheeky at first, but once I stopped thinking about it, I came to love it. My favorite song on the record has got to be "We Are Never Ever," though. Such a jam. I was at a party this past fall, a couple months after going through a breakup, and -- needless to say -- dancing to that song and singing along was a very cathartic moment. She really knows how to write a hook.

"22" totally cracks me up. Taylor sounds like she's taking an extremely blah weekend and treating it like this trippy adventure. Of course, when I was 22, my summer jam was Morrissey's "Suedehead," which is kind of the same song as "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together."

Your Future-to-Japandroids connection is interesting, and I can't say I've heard that. Future's growth in popularity over the past year was one of the most fascinating. "Turn on the Lights" is such a sexy song. Did you love Future immediately, or grow into it? What about Future appeals to you?

Future kept killing me softly over the radio. Every time he'd come out with another hit, I'd think, how the hell does this guy get away with it? "Turn Out The Lights" was the first, but I came to love "Astronaut Chick" even better. And it looks like I was the only critic to vote for "Astronaut Chick," so it's possible I just have uniquely dubious tastes.

"Astronaut Chick" is such a jam, and I love that you have a Future deep cut on your ballot. Do you think he'll continue to appeal, or will the weirdness factor run out?

I have no idea where Future will go from here -- anywhere he wants, I guess. I mean, this is a guy who actually recorded the line "You got me wishing I speak Spanish / You got me feeling real mannish," and kept it on the record. That's an artist with zero inhibitions.

Speaking of "weird," Kanye West, even though he just released a "mob" album (can we call it that?), still managed to pretty much define 2012 with "Mercy," your number five single. How awesome is that song? But with that in mind, do you think Kanye will continue his reign? People seemed to have a blah response to GOOD Music (not me -- put it at number 10). Are we starting to see the end of Kanye?

People have been predicting the end of Kanye for years now, but I just don't see it happening. He loves music even more than he loves being famous, and even if he weren't famous anymore he'd keep making music. He doesn't need to be the star on his own records (think of "Mercy" or "Monster") -- he's happy to hang in the background if that makes it a better record. That's a rare quality in any kind of pop star. I think whatever his fame level is, he'll adjust to make music on that level.

I can't get over how great "Mercy" is. Are there songs on GOOD Music you think people are snoozing on?

My issue with people's beef with GOOD Music is that, if we hadn't gotten "Mercy," "New God Flow," "Clique," or "Cold" throughout the year, prior to the release, people would've lost their shit when that hit, just like they did when Watch the Throne dropped at midnight on a Sunday.

I know you're a busy guy, so I don't want to take up too much more of your time. So, with that in mind, what sort of music trends do you see continuing into 2013? Do you have any predictions for Pazz & Jop 2013?

You're 100 percent right about "Mercy." It got better with time. It took months for that song to fully sink in and take its place in people's central nervous systems. That's usually how music works, I guess. people get so excited about the whole event-release social-media first-ism aspect of a record like Watch The Throne or King of Limbs. But it takes time to absorb music (i.e. Watch the Throne still sounds great, King of Limbs gets good in the second half). Human bodies respond to music over time in different ways, and that's part of where the surprises are. Kanye understands that, which is one of my favorite things about him.

All I know about 2013 is that nothing I predict will happen the way I think it will, and I will hear all kinds of surprises I never could have imagined possible. Music is always full of surprises.

Fantastic. Man, I love Kanye. I think we're gonna get another solo Kanye record this year. It seems like it's time. But, that's something we could talk all day about, and time is precious. Thanks for your time, Rob!

Thanks again, Eric! I really appreciate your patience in setting this up and making it happen. Always a blast hearing what you are thinking about music and everything else. It cracks me up I remember exactly where I was and what I was doing the night after you were born. I will now blast "Kids Won't Follow" in your honor!

Interview by Eric Sundermann.

See Also:
- Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Albums
- Pazz and Jop 2012: Top Singles
- Pazz and Jop 2012: Critics' Ballots
- Pazz and Jop 2012 Table of Contents

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