For the Fourth Time in Six Albums, Kanye West Takes the Top Pazz & Jop Prize

Categories: Pazz & Jop

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Louisa Bertman

You don't have to ask. Kanye West will do it for you.

"How much do I not give a fuck?" he wonders just over a minute into the grinding, bombastic first track off his 2013 victory lap, Yeezus, which is bubbling with answers to that very question. "Let me show you right now . . ."

See also: Kanye West - Barclays Center - 11/19/13

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Kacey Musgraves Makes Country Music You Can Use

Categories: Pazz & Jop

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No matter how pop it gets, country remains a stubbornly utilitarian music, its hits often built to perform specific functions in listeners' lives. Hate your boss? Play Johnny Paycheck. Having a party in a parking lot? Luke Bryan's got the song for you. Tired of the fact that the traits that distinguish you, your friends, and your family just don't seem to be valued by the new American economy? Spin Blake Shelton's "Boys 'Round Here" or any of 1,000 other audience-mythologizing hits that truck in trucks, beer, prayer, and reassurance. After all, anyone who likes hearing about the all-American greatness of Skoal and red-dirt roads must by rights be pretty great, too.

See also: With "Merry Go 'Round," Kacey Musgraves Starts Writing the Future of Country

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Why Are People Finally Paying Attention to R. Kelly's Many Crimes?

Categories: Pazz & Jop

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Louisa Bertman

Sometimes great art is made by despicable people. Does that matter? Should it?

These questions inevitably confront anyone who thinks seriously about popular music — so, needless to say, they've occurred to every voter contributing to this poll. On December 6, R. Kelly dropped one of the most anticipated releases of 2013, his 12th studio album, Black Panties, which arrived after months of hype that found him duetting with Lady Gaga, headlining the Pitchfork and Bonnaroo music festivals, and popping up beside Phoenix at Coachella. It was his year as much as anyone else's.

See also: Read the "Stomach-Churning" Sexual Assault Accusations Against R. Kelly in Full

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The Year's Most Acclaimed Hip-Hop Artists Transcended Backpack Pasts

Categories: Pazz & Jop

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Louisa Bertman

"In this season, the man of goodwill will wear his heart up his sleeve, not on it." —W.H. Auden

"Wu-Tang forever." —Drake

There are only so many ways to conceal your backpack past. You can auto-tune your voice to sound like an answering machine or submerge it in a chopped-and-screwed solution. You can brag about bargain-hunting for Gucci goggles and geriatric cruise wear. You can coo sad falsettos about sexting the wrong contact. After all, styles and sounds are mutable, but memories of adolescent music obsessions live forever.

See also: Drake's New Album Reviewed Using Sex and the City GIFs

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We Can't Stop: Our Year With Miley

Categories: Pazz & Jop
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Louisa Bertman
Is there a scribe among us — save for Wire writers and those whose bylines eagerly accompanied reviews of that Larry Coryell reissue — who didn't pull down at least $40 for Miley musings in 2013? Perhaps a shocked and awed news item, a post-VMAs reaction, a pondering of that preponderance of tongue? If not, I hate to break it to you, but you got ripped off. It was her year, whether we liked it or — well, yeah.

See also: Miley Cyrus Isn't "Hurting Women," The Patriarchy Is

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Bow Down: Beyoncé Finally Lets Us In

Categories: Pazz & Jop

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Louisa Bertman

Beyoncé fans began 2013 believing they wanted, even deserved, a certain kind of truth from their pop idol. As is the case when a celebrity begins sparkling too brightly, we had gotten curious (if not outright suspicious), after 10 years of überstardom, about the diva's bulletproof, halo-ringed public image, and about her faults — the unattractive "normal" stuff we imagine stars must hide from us while we're busy falling hopelessly in love. What was ugly Beyoncé like? We needed an answer.

See also: What We Can Learn From Beyonce's Feminism

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Emo Is Back! Maybe. Probably Not. No, Totally.

Categories: Pazz & Jop
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Luke O'Neil
At the risk of offending everyone involved in the scene, I must report that 2013 was a stellar year for emo. In most genres, that might be cause for celebration, but as any emo fan will tell you, declarations of affection for and appreciation of that music are never straightforward. So while 2013 saw great releases from the likes of Their/They're/There, You Blew It!, Have Mercy, The Story So Far, Dads, Man Overboard, Balance and Composure, and dozens of others, you won't find any of them in the Pazz & Jop poll results. That's in part because the genre has always flown under the mainstream radar, but this year that isolationism was largely self-imposed; every time the word "emo" was mentioned by the music press, most of its fans and practitioners stubbornly refused to acknowledge the man behind the curtain in the Cap'n Jazz hoodie.

See also: Emo is Dead, Long Live Emo: 30 Bands Making it Safe to Hurt Again

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The Guitar Will Never Die (Says Henry Rollins)

Categories: Pazz & Jop

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Louisa Bertman

Is the day of the guitar band over, or at least on hiatus? It's a good question. It is hard to think of a single contemporary musician who is considered a "guitar hero."

Music is always moving, always changing. Perhaps not as noticeably in the mainstream, where it seems to be about the singer, the choreography, and "the show," but in the tributaries, where the real work is being done, music is in a constant state of redefinition and evolution. As an avid listener, I try to keep an open mind. This has served me well. I can't keep up with all the records I buy these days, both new and on cool re-issue.

See also: Free Energy, Ty Segall and the Problem Facing Guitar-Based Music

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My Bloody Valentine, Mazzy Star, and the Year in '90s Indie Rock Revivals

Categories: Pazz & Jop

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Louisa Bertman

No one expected a new My Bloody Valentine album in 2013. There were a few signs pointing to its pending arrival — the shoegaze pioneers had announced that the follow-up to their seminal 1991 record, the stunning and ethereal Loveless, had been mastered. They didn't provide a release date, tracklist, or any other pertinent details. Given the band's history, namely frontman Kevin Shields's meticulousness, most fans and critics weren't holding their breath.

See also: The Case Against My Bloody Valentine's mbv

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2013 Pazz & Jop Tabulation Notes

Categories: Pazz & Jop

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View this year's full Village Voice Pazz & Jop music critics' poll.

In 2010, this poll had a high voter-count of 712. In 2013, only 457 critics filed ballots (offset slightly by the percentage of completed ballots rising from 66 percent to 75 percent). The results, however, are rather similar. In both years Kanye West won handily, appearing on more than a third of all ballots, which was half again as many as anybody else. Of the 104 Yeezus boosters who also voted in 2010, 79 of them supported that year's My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Vampire Weekend and Janelle Monáe made both top 10s. LCD Soundsystem's 2010 dance slot went to Daft Punk in 2013 and Big Boi's 2010 non-Kanye rap slot to Chance the Rapper; Beach House's breezy pop morphed unradically into the Fleetwood/Mann-erisms of Haim; we swapped Sleigh Bells for My Bloody Valentine, the Black Keys for Kurt Vile, Robyn for Sky Ferreira. Arcade Fire and the National both had albums in both top 25s. The biggest changes in 2013 are probably Beyoncé's No. 4 improving on, roughly, Erykah Badu's No. 23, and Kacey Musgraves winning over a few more adults than Taylor Swift in 2010.

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