Music 2012: Gangnam Style over substance

OPPAN Gangnam Style!

Never heard those words before? You might just be from Mars. 

Even then, there’s a chance Korean sensation PSY invaded your red-hued planet with his energetic dance craze.

He told us to “dress classy and dance cheesy”, and we obliged. 

We viewed his ludicrous video more than a billion times on YouTube. 

I’ll say it again: One. Billion. Times. 

It’s the most viewed clip in the history of the internet.

And as annoying as PSY’s breakout hit might have become, it was hard not to be impressed with the good humour and manners the K-Pop star constantly presented.

Back home, we had our own global sensation in the unstoppable Gotye.

His hit song has been YouTubed just 356 million times — but who’s counting.

That song, the No.1 smash Somebody That I Used To Know featuring Kimbra, picked up six ARIA awards — including three Artisans — in 2011 and topped our charts for a near-record eight weeks.

Amazingly, 2012 was even bigger for the man known to his mum as Wally de Backer.

With his album Making Mirrors finally eligible, Gotye made this year’s ARIA awards a clean-sweep.

The polite and humble Melburnian added another six pointy trophies to his collection, including sharing a gong with his dad Frank for Best Artwork.

“Gosh I’ve been standing up here a lot,” he said, when collecting the Best Album ARIA.

It doesn’t even stop there. 

Somebody That I Used To Know hit No.1 on the US charts in April, the first Australian act to do so since Savage Garden more than a decade earlier.

And, as of a fortnight ago, it was revealed that Somebody That I Used To Know was in fact the biggest song in the US for 2012. 

Oh, and it’s been nominated for three Grammy Awards.

What’s next? A boy band-style pop record? I’m sure One Direction hopes Gotye stays right away from its genre.

The British quintet was this year’s N*Sync, Backstreet Boys, New Kids On The Block or Bros (insert appropriate act relating to your generation).

Formed on X-Factor after auditioning separately, 1D was plastered on just about every pre-teen’s wall and their sugary smashes You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful, One Thing and Live While We’re Young invaded radios everywhere.

They cop the usual boy-band brush-off by those too-cool-to-care but as respected The Age music journo Bernard Zuel wrote in his review for the group’s Up All Night: “I’d rather hear this for 42 minutes and 25 seconds than Nicki Minaj for a minute.”

Amen. Minaj’s tunes Starships, Va Va Voom and Pound The Alarm collectively make Gangnam Style look like Bohemian Rhapsody.

Other artists to enjoy success this year included Rihanna, who delivered her seventh album in as many years, Taylor Swift, Ke$ha, Delta Goodrem, Mumford and Sons and Maroon 5, whose frontman Adam Levine apparently doesn’t own a shirt.

David Guetta was at it again, nicking old 1990s samples (Alice DeeJay anyone?) and luring unsuspecting rappers into the clubs. Calvin Harris did much of the same, but the Scot just did it a little better.

Ed Sheeran also proved that you could love a ginger. His thoughtful songs and film-clips with drunkard cats certainly tickled our fancies this year. He also penned One Direction's current hit Little Things. Pretty obvious now eh?

Sadly we lost some quality musicians and singers in 2012 with troublled soul superstar Whitney Houston the biggest news of the lot. The I Will Always Love You singer was found dead in a hotel bathtub in February aged 48.

It was also a sad farewell to Beastie Boy Adam Yaunch (aka MCA) in July and Bee Gee Robin Gibbs and disco queen Donna Summer in May.

Aussie legends INXS finally pulled the pin some 15 years after the death of original lead singer Michael Hutchence. 

Swedish House Mafia, The Butterfly Effect and The Beautiful Girls also called time as did Chumbawumba. Apparently they got knocked down for good ...

Aussie-favourite P!nk watched her album The Truth About Love zoom straight to the top of the Aussie charts and the charismatic US star will peform close to 50 shows on our shores next year.

Having played in the vicinity of 100 shows in this country in the past, the number of people who haven’t yet seen P!nk in concert almost pales with those who have.

Speaking of gigs, Coldplay’s recent Aussie tour was a knockout, with the British superstars playing just four stadium shows — to an estimated 200,000 people — but provided a spectacle few bands could match. 

The nifty LED wristbands given out to punters at the shows made the crowd part of the impressive light show — imagine 50,000 people lit up like a Christmas tree.

Aussie act The Temper Trap supported Chris Martin and the boys during that tour and more than held their own on the big stages of Etihad, Alliance and Suncorp stadiums respectively.

It capped off a year to remember for Dougy Mandagi and his boys. Their sophomore album rocked the pointy end of the charts upon its June release, proving the success of  their debut CD Conditions was no fluke.

The hits Trembling Hands and Need Your Love became firm radio favourites and the band had another successful jaunt at the ARIAs, picking up the coveted Best Group award, along with Best Rock Album.

They even starred as the half-time entertainment at this year’s AFL grand final, correcting the horror that was Meatloaf in 2011.

Guy Sebastian, consistently one of our best pop acts of the past decade, had his breakout year and, like Gotye, made inroads into the tough US market after years of trying.

His collaboration with respected US rapper Lupe Fiasco, Battle Scars, was huge. It became Seb’s sixth Australian No.1 single — a feat achieved by no local artist before him.

It charted strongly in the US — released as Lupe featuring Guy — coming in at No.1 on Billboard’s R&B/Hip-Hop Digital chart.

It was a big year personally too for Sebastian, who welcomed his and wife Jules’ first child, Hudson, into the world in March.

“(Parenthood) broadens your aspect on the world, you tend to look at it a bit differently,” he told me earlier this year.

“I think it made me write just a little bit deeper just about life and about the current state of the world.”

Sebastian took that approach on his current hit Get Along, which, along with the album Armageddon, is paving the way for a strong showing at next year’s ARIA awards.

Rapper 360 shone on the homefront as well with his eclectic variety of rap. A collab with former Wodonga girl Gossling (Boys Like You) caught the attention of the ARIA folks, collecting the award for Best Breakthrough Artist.

His second album Falling And Flying was a chart smash despite the 26-year-old being one of the country’s most divisive talents. 360 will release his third record in 2013.

On the reality front, Karise Eden was our Voice and Samantha Jade had the X-Factor.

Both released “best-of-the-show” CDs and can be expected to release official debut CDs next year.

Their fellow contestants, including Darren Percival, boy band The Collective, Bella Ferraro, Rachel Leahcar and Sarah De Bono, all hit charts and radio with their various recorded efforts.

We copped plenty of newbie acts too this year, including Lana Del Rey, The Rubens, Birdy, fun, Frank Ocean and, of course, The Black Keys whose track Lonely Boy was the most played on Australian radio for the year.

And then there was Carly Rae Jepsen and the smash Call Me Maybe. The song was so joyous, it was like Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go and Walking On Sunshine hooked up!

US rapper Macklemore (and his producer mate Ryan Lewis) are the current flavour of the month thanks to their catchy ode Thrift Shop

But, as evidenced on their excellent album The Heist, Macklemore and Lewis have a deeper agenda for human rights, including same-sex marriage. 


Korean star Psy.

Korean star Psy.



One Direction.

One Direction.

The late Whitney Houston.

The late Whitney Houston.



Dougy Mandagi of The Temper Trap.

Dougy Mandagi of The Temper Trap.

Guy Sebastian.

Guy Sebastian.

Gossling and 360 at the 2012 ARIA Awards.

Gossling and 360 at the 2012 ARIA Awards.

X-Factor winner Samantha Jade.

X-Factor winner Samantha Jade.

Seattle rapper Macklemore.

Seattle rapper Macklemore.