Was 2010 The Best Year For Music Ever? The Final Chapter: Katy Perry Is A Bad Feminist But We Are All Vulnerable Somehow

This has been Sound of the City's year-in-review rock-critic roundtable, an amiable ongoing conversation between five prominent Voice critics: Rob Harvilla, Zach Baron, Sean Fennessey, Maura Johnston, and Rich Juzwiak. We're sad to see it go.

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Sleigh Bells frontlady Alexis Krauss, you deserved your own Dr. Luke co-write this year. Photo by Rebecca Smeyne.
My friends.

What might I be sick of 12 months from now? Rich, are you teeing up that "I Hate Katy Perry" piece that Rob was agitating for a few days ago? Even if you're not, let me (briefly) take the bait. To me, the Christian singer-turned-Betty Boopster is a shining example of how pop feminism has pretty much failed -- her career arc since "I Kissed A Girl" first blessed my ears a mere 19 months ago reminds me more than anything of those sex bloggers who decide to settle down and blog about their husbands and/or their offspring, and who are adamantly "MY LIFE CHOICES ARE THE BEST LIFE CHOICES" about every decision they make. She's kissing girls... but waking up with a boyfriend in the video where she bleats about her exploits! She's subjecting her cleavage to meek little Elmo... then telling anyone who'll listen that her husband's last name will take the place of her own! She's singing an empowerment anthem about being a California gurl [sic, RIP Alex]... but the perpetually leering Snoop Dogg is the song's true star! I could go on.

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Was 2010 The Best Year For Music Ever? House Music vs. Hashtag Rap

Welcome to Sound of the City's year-in-review rock-critic roundtable, an amiable ongoing conversation between five prominent Voice critics: Rob Harvilla, Zach Baron, Sean Fennessey, Maura Johnston, and Rich Juzwiak. We'll be here all week!

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The most important artist of 2010.
Hi everybody!

To completely gloss over the Taylor Swift effect (I listened to 30 seconds of Speak Now and thought, "Uh, no," and never looked back), and get to what actually matters: despite Sean's prediction, I don't even care enough about Dr. Luke to defile him. His is the sound of now, and that means so much more than what's actually going on within most of his producing. I think most of Teenage Dream is ingenious, though. It's an album of power ballads with house beats and rave sounds and blood-curdling yelping. We know the ingredients of this frothy girly drink well, but they've never quite been blended like this. Objectively, it rocks and knocks harder than Robyn's output this year, which may be precisely why those people who enjoy Body Talk would avoid it. Wimps.

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Was 2010 The Best Year For Music Ever? Throw Taylor Swift In A Well

Welcome to Sound of the City's year-in-review rock-critic roundtable, an amiable ongoing conversation between five prominent Voice critics: Rob Harvilla, Zach Baron, Sean Fennessey, Maura Johnston, and Rich Juzwiak. We'll be here all week!

Pay Rich Juzwiak what you owe him, Jay Leno. Twitpic by Dave Itzkoff.
Pals,

I spent this year trying to be a more empathetic and broad-minded critic, so it hurts me to open with acrimony. But since Zach teed it up so delicately, let's look back by looking to the future: In 2011, someone needs to put Taylor Swift, and her guitar, in a well and seal it shut. Because while the case that 2010 was The Greatest Year For Music Ever is a fun one to make, it cannot be denied that even as others were more acclaimed, no one was more popular or more present than Swift. How quickly she beat back Kanye West's surge to chart glory, by leapfrogging him just a week after his epically anticipated and then slobbered-over My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy's debut. I spent some time in these wintry days trying again with Speak Now, seeking her precocious wisdom, her plaintive but pretty way with melody, her winsome charm. Turns out, she still sings out of key, tramples you with cliché, and grossly overplays the sympathy card. I came away thinking that Swift's "Not her, pick me" brand of songwriting is its own worst enemy. If all these silly boys keep making the wrong decision, at what point do we think maybe something is actually wrong with the girl? (Look dear, you quest for John Mayer, you get John Mayer.) I know, I know, why I gotta be so mean?

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The 10 Biggest Music Stories of 2010

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Ah M.I.A., it just wasn't your year, was it? Photo by Rebecca Smeyne.
In 2010, Vampire Weekend and Arcade Fire both had #1 records. LCD Soundsystem, Spoon, MGMT, the National, M.I.A, and Sufjan Stevens all had albums debut in the top ten. Kanye West joined Twitter. Drake started a riot in New York. Converse opened a recording studio in Brooklyn. M.I.A. went to war with the New York Times. Pavement reunited. Juggalos went mainstream. From our vantage point, this year in music was one of the most lawlessly entertaining--purely ridiculous, even--in a long, long while. So in the spirit of the deluge of year-end lists even now beginning to rain down upon us (don't forget to vote in Pazz & Jop!), we figured we'd look back on our ten favorite storylines of 2010. They weren't necessary the biggest, but they were the ones that SOTC had the most fun with, and the ones we cared most about.

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"Why Don't We Ask The Girls What They Think?": New York Magazine Spends Some Quality Time With Dr. Luke

Please enjoy the excellent Adam Sternbergh's in-depth analysis of Dr. Luke -- NYC native (though "'The New York I grew up in is gone,' he says bluntly"), Saturday Night Live alum, and, yes, alchemist behind any current radio-dominating pop smash you'd care to name. In addition to quoting two fine friends-of-SOTC, Maura Johnston and (rightly so!) Sean Fennessey, the piece is rife with useful details: Dr. Luke drives a Prius, was once pepper-sprayed by Avril Lavigne at his request ("It's actually not as bad as you'd think . . . getting tased is a little different"), sold Flo Rida on his preferred version of "Right Round" by appealing to a useful nearby pack of ladies, and, as has become standard in pop-phenomenon profiles such as this, admits that he doesn't so much write songs as assemble/curate/etc. Luke seems to regard Taio Cruz' "Dynamite" as potentially his biggest hit yet: "When I gave it to Taio, I told him, 'Listen. This song is not yours. You have to earn it.'" Soon it will be everyone's song, as usual.

Surveying the Dr. Luke Moment: A Critical Look At Lazers, Glitter, and the Un-Sexing of America's Pop Stars

On May 7, Katy Perry debuted "California Gurls," the first single from her forthcoming album, Teenage Dream. It was a cleverly-engineered, synchronized piece of pop craft--a classic no-chances move--and it had to be: there were things riding on this song. Things like the viability of Perry as a bona fide superstar, Snoop Dogg's continued (ir?)relevance, and an early bid for the title of Summer Anthem. So Perry and her label, EMI, did the thing that labels do when it's no-chances time: They called Lukasz Gottwald, better known as Dr. Luke.

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