We’ll appreciate substance over surface in music.
If you’ve got an open mind and an omnivorous soul, this was a fantastic year for music. Just a cursory glance at 2011’s slew of impressive debut albums is enough to prove that. So why is it that so many of the conversations we’ve had about music in the past 12 months have been so exhausting? We’ve debated the ratio of offensiveness to artistic validity in musicians like Lana Del Rey and Tyler, the Creator. We’ve groaned over the terribleness that is Lou Reed and Metallica’s unholy alliance. We pretended that Rebecca Black deserved our attention. The critical discourse got so icky that Maura Johnston at the Village Voice felt compelled to invent a new genre: trollgaze, “a media-agnostic genre name for those pieces of pop culture as designed for maximum Internet attention as they are pieces of art that can stand (or at least wobble) on their own.” In 2012, we’d like to turn our attention away from the musical equivalents of that kid in your third grade class who thought peeing his pants was a great way to get people to look at him, and back to the thousands of artists out there who are truly worthy of notice. And we sure hope the rest of the rest of the music world is as ready to ignore the trolls as we are.
Hollywood will invest in originality.
Prequels. Sequels. Reboots. Unnecessary American adaptations of perfectly wonderful foreign films. 2011 has been particularly awful for original filmmaking — at least in mainstream Hollywood-studio fare. No fewer that seven of the year’s top 10 grossing movies were franchise films — and that doesn’t even include Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This stuff may be working wonders at the box office, but the holiday season’s disappointing ticket sales numbers may mean that audiences are growing weary of the same old shit. And there are practical considerations here, too: If Hollywood doesn’t start rewarding original ideas, then it will eventually find it’s completely run out of material to mine from past successes.
TV will end its retromania.
Like Hollywood, TV tends to get stuck on what’s worked in the past. And recently, with the success of Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, the current obsession is 20th-century nostalgia. But that doesn’t mean that viewers are stupid enough to confuse laughably unbelievable story lines and awful characters for great programming, just because a copycat show also features vintage wardrobes, daytime drinking, mid-century set design, and retrograde gender and racial politics. That’s why NBC’s terrible Playboy Club had to be nixed a few episodes into the season, and why the fate of ABC’s disappointingly mediocre Pan Am still hangs in the balance. Meanwhile, the BBC series The Hour was fantastic — not because it was set in a ’50s newsroom, but because the story and characters it placed there were so well crafted and compelling.
2011’s flashy art shows will bring the public back into museums in 2012.
In an end-of-year piece that spread like wildfire through the art world, New York magazine critic Jerry Saltz dismissed the recent vogue for museums booking gimmicky shows to drive up ticket sales. Calling out everyone from Marina Abramovic to Allora & Calzadilla, he focused his critique on the New Museum’s wildly popular Carsten Höller show — which famously features a slide, a carousel, and a sensory deprivation chamber. “It’s arty junk food,” he wrote, calling the trend “a vacuous vicious circle, ostensible populism masquerading as collectivity.” Although we think most of the artists Saltz mentions have merits beyond entertainment, we agree that he’s pointing out something real and troubling. But we’re also optimistic about the power of these shows to bring art to people who wouldn’t normally go to a museum. In 2012, we’re hoping that folks who were drawn in by these crowd-pleasing exhibitions will be inspired enough by the experience to delve further into the world of contemporary art.
Great literature will come out of the Occupy movement.
We’ve been inspired by 2011’s new, worldwide economic justice movement. But although there’s been great art created around it, endless talk of music’s role in it, and occasional rumors that it will turn up in such films as The Dark Knight Rises, we’ve yet to read any great literature that has come out of Occupy. And that’s absolutely fine: it takes time to write fiction and poetry, and the movement is still only a few months old. But we can’t wait to see what kinds of stories will come out of this largely youthful uprising — which has already garnered a great deal of support from high-profile writers — and hope that we’ll catch our first glimpses of it in 2012. Hey, it’ll be a great antidote to all the overeducated, middle-class problems we’ve been reading about in most recent, critically acclaimed literary fiction.
The indie-rock mainstream will re-embrace experimentalism.
In 2009, we were endlessly optimistic about indie rock. It seemed that its obsession over precious bands with literary pretensions was over and a new experimentalism was taking precedence. Wild and strange acts like Animal Collective and Dirty Projectors weren’t just winning over music critics — they were topping end-of-year lists and selling more albums than their more conventional contemporaries. But in the two years since then, their influence has been diluted, resulting in countless soundalike, chillwave AC wannabes (even Panda Bear’s 2011 album fell into that category) and too many bands that think Dirty Projectors’ thoughtful culture-hopping is an excuse to plunder global music without adding anything of their own. There’s nothing revolutionary about any of that — which perhaps explains why the indie-rock mainstream has wandered back to the belabored, faux-rustic, quasi-literary troubadour stuff that we thought had passed its expiration date. Dear music world: We don’t want more Bon Iver in 2012. We’d be happy never to see Bruce Hornsby’s name again. The Bruce Springsteen impressions are getting tired. It’s time for a challenge.
We’ll live next year as though 2012 really is the end of the world.
Maybe you believe that 2012 will bring about the apocalypse or the savior or a great period of enlightenment. Perhaps, like us, you’re a bit more skeptical and hypothesize that, besides the added drama and high stakes of a presidential election, it will be a year like any other. Either way, why not live 2012 like it’ll be your last year on Earth? If you’re like us, you procrastinate — not just at work or in school, but in your cultural life, too. You keep meaning to get to a certain art show, but it closes before you’ve made time to check it out. You want to see a certain band play, but you forget to buy tickets. There’s a book you’ve had on your to-read list for ages, but you’re too busy on Facebook and Tumblr to pick it up. In 2012, we’re going to challenge ourselves to really take advantage of the cultural riches around us and end the year with no regrets about what we didn’t see or do. We hope you will, too.