As the old journalistic adage goes: ‘Tis the season to be lazy, fa-la-la-la-laaaa la-la-la-la. And in journalism it doesn’t get much lazier than end-of-year lists… Another year has nearly passed, and while 2013 may not have quite lived up to its predecessor in terms of sheer drama, that’s not to say that it has been without incident.
Sure, there has been nothing quite as mad as the Olympics, but as long as we Brits have something to celebrate that’ll do us just fine. In place of Boris’s barmy carnival, we had the birth of a future king (provided the three generations in the queue before him don’t seriously outstay their welcome), the end of a long wait for a Wimbledon Champion (77 years – in case you have been living in a cave) and… erm… the first papal resignation in 600 years. Yes, it’s been a cracker.
Stupidest Fad of The Year
Scraping the barrel to begin with, and first up is the award for Stupidest Fad of 2013. Yes, a new award which is in no way an attempt to disguise the fact that I haven’t seen any good films at the cinema…
In third place on this pantheon of imbeciles is the craze that started the year as “2013’s Gangnam Style” – The Harlem Shake. I’m really not sure why it started, but over the course of a few weeks in early February, when no-one had anything better to do with their time, it went completely mental. Then, as soon as it started, it just buggered off (see below). An extraordinary phenomenon which will surely go down as a global blip in the history of sanity.
The runner up in this category is Twerking. To our older readers, this is the act of rubbing your arse in the direction/crotch of a gentleman as a form of dance manouvre. The phrase had bizarrely been around for well over a decade before Miley Cyrus decided to culminate one of the most extraordinary performances in history by doing it to Canadian crooner Robin Thicke. The word took off, people went to ridiculous lengths to get it into everyday conversation (think about it, how many times have you said the word twerk this year? And how many times previously had you wished you knew the word for that action?) and a chapter of lunacy was completed when the OED acknowledged its existence in October.
The winner in this category however is another word that not only skulked its way into the language, but actually won the Oxford Dictionary’s Word of the Year… Selfies. The word, according to this graphic charting the rise of the selfie, originated in Australia (surprise, surprise) but has gone bananas in the Instagramy, Twittery narcissism of today’s world.
There is something rather sad about watching a person taking a picture of themselves, something that probably points to a wider philosophical issue as to whether technology is making us all more insular… But why would I possibly want to talk about that when, at Mandela’s memorial service, Barack Obama, David “Dave” Cameron and Danish PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (or “an unidentified official” as USA Today brilliantly referred to her – got to love America’s attitude towards global awareness) all got stuck in and embarrassed themselves. Michelle Obama’s face essentially summed up the feelings of the globe… Although the question remains as to when the picture taken is going to be uploaded to Barry’s Twitter account.
Biggest Let-Down of the Year
Two awards in and already the air of disappointment is creeping in, so we’ll try to harness that feeling with the Let-Down of the Year award.
Of the three contenders, the first to come to mind was Christopher Nolan and Zach Snyder’s Superman reboot Man Of Steel. Following a trailer campaign cleverly designed to make it look like the most epic film of all time, and riding the coattails of Nolan’s superb Batman trilogy, this looked like it would be the summer blockbuster to end all blockbusters. Only it wasn’t. The film was essentially a two hour repetitive fight scene interspersed with mind-numbingly poe-faced dialogue. As experiences went, it was like watching two pretentious poseurs with illusions of grandeur playing Mortal Kombat all evening. No thanks.
Also disappointing us to epic proportions was The Ashes part 2: the Colony Strikes Back. Despite the berkish 5-0 predictions of Ian Botham, and an enormously unflattering final scoreline, the Aussies had made a real contest of the summer’s Ashes. The same though cannot be said of the touring England side this winter. At time of writing, Australia have just retained the urn by winning the first three tests so easily that they could have had Blinky Bill opening the batting and still won. There has hardly been a morning so far where England fans back home haven’t woken to abject disappointment. It doesn’t bode well for the final two tests.
The winner, somewhat harshly, in the category of the damp squib is the trial of Oscar Pistorious. In what was probably the most intriguing story of the year, Paralympics/Olympics legend and double amputee Pistorious shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp through a bathroom door on Valentines Day, thus unleashing an impressive number of totally original “Who hasn’t come home legless on Valentines Day and blown their load in their girlfriend’s face” jokes on Twitter. The press went into meltdown as news graphics were knocked out with such regularity that most people could draw the blueprints to Pistorious’s bedroom and bathroom from memory, right down to the dimensions and position of the bidet. Everyone seemed to have an opinion as to whether it was murder or manslaughter, everyone that was except the judge. Then, after what seemed like an eternity in court, the whole thing was delayed until March 2014. Which, despite probably being in the interests of achieving the correct sentence, seemed like a bit of a cop out.
Sports Personality of the Year
Pressing on though, and the presentation of our next award is the ‘unsung’ Sports Personality of the Year award. As with last year, where the joint winners had 8 legs and were nowhere near the Olympics, this is going to fly in the face of conventional wisdom, where the thoroughly deserving Andy Murray would cruise to victory.
The man on the bottom of the podium in our minds is the man who was single handedly responsible in winning the Ashes this summer, Ian Ronald Bell. Belly had previously almost been a figure of fun down under, where his quiet demeanour and likeness to an American Pie figure of fun had seen him derided as The Sherminator. He had also been somewhat of a bunny to the likes of McGrath and Warne, not that there was much shame in that. 3 match-winning centuries later and they were no longer laughing… Until December, but that’s another story.
In second place was Ben Ainslie. We quite wanted to honour Ben last year, after the sheer brilliance of his “You won’t like me when I’m angry” comeback victory, but sadly others impeded his quest for silverware. This year, in an admittedly weaker competition, his time has come. Another year, another comeback, this time masterminding Oracle’s 8 race comeback in the Americas Cup.
However we are a sentimental lot, and as such want to again award top spot to two outgoing legends: Sir Alex Ferguson and Sachin Tendulkar.
In the case of Fergie, he has won the award in spite of the fact that I have, as an Arsenal supporter, utterly despised him for over 20 years. He was manipulative, aggressive and permanently looked on the verge of popping in a shower of burst blood vessels. However he was also a very, very good manager. It almost seemed fitting that, as David Moyes has discovered, he won the league in his last season with a pretty ordinary bunch of players. A final display of his genius. Well done on a fantastic career and please stay in retirement.
The little master, on the other hand, could not be more different. Quiet, calm, and flamboyantly brilliant. 40 years of age and with over 34,000 international runs to his name (by means of comparison, Kevin Pietersen has roughly a third of that figure), his last few century-less years in the test arena might have seemed more like a valedictory tour, but as his final innings of 74 against the Windies proved, he was far from over the hill. I doubt there was a single man, even on the opposition, who could have begrudged him an extra 26 runs that day. It will be some time before the milestones he has set will be passed.
Non-Sports Personality of the Year
I must confess that this year has been a little trickier to judge in terms of people doing memorable things. Well, for the better at least. Several influential characters have shuffled off this mortal coil though, so it seems appropriate to make this a posthumous award this year.
Kicking off what is going to seem like the most eclectic collection of names to be grouped together for a while, is actor James Gandolfini, loved by the cultish fans of The Sopranos but much more than that as superb recent turns in Zero Dark Thirty and In The Loop proved. Elsewhere in the arts, miserable genius Lou Reed also checked out. While the likes of Walk On The Wild Side and Perfect Day are the most universally acclaimed epitaphs to his career, from a personal point of view, I can still today remember the time I first listened to the seedy brilliance of The Velvet Underground and the impression it left on me.
The world of British politics also lost a familiar face in April when Margaret Thatcher passed away. It might be pushing understatement to the extreme to suggest that Maggie was not everyone’s cup of tea, but what is undeniable was that she got shit done and changed the face of UK politics for ever. Furthermore, in the modern age of spin and spineless X-factor politicians, her dedication to sticking to principles and beliefs, irregardless of unpopularity, seem all the more admirable. Politics to her was more than how you performed in that week’s opinion poll. She would have despised the idea of a “WebCameron” or other populist claptrap and was therefore a proper leader.
The winner in this category though has to be Nelson Mandela. Now, it is well beyond me to write a satisfactory eulogy for a man who overcame such hardship and suffering to achieve what he did. The outpouring of condolence at his death should speak volumes as to the global reach and status of the man. Alright, at times it got a bit OTT, as middle-class white people went nuts on Facebook about how “inspired by Madiba” they felt. However underneath the hyperbole, here was a man whose journey and sunny, gentle demeanour had clearly touched the world. A fitting winner of almost any award.
Album of the Year
The award this year was a much closer-run affair than last time around, largely due to the lack of anything truly exceptional being released. Much-hyped and anticipated releases by the likes of Arcade Fire and Daft Punk were good, but not truly great. Smaller bands like Vampire Weekend and Foals also increased their fanbases and burgeoning reputations with decent efforts, while Haim and Willy Moon posted impressive debuts and there was even a surprisingly strong comebacks from Franz Ferdinand (remember them?) and Eminem.
The top three though were all coincidentally by acts for whom this was their fifth studio album. Quite what this says about the merits of sticking around, I’m not sure, but for these three at least, it was more of an affirmation of their quality than a flash-in-the-pan stroke of genius.
In third place is AM by Arctic Monkeys, who are now almost certainly the biggest band in the UK. After headlining Glastonbury and opening the Olympics, it seemed time that Sheffield’s finest really took centre stage and AM seemed to reek of a band realising that this was their time.
In second place was Kanye West’s Yeezus. It is a measure of just how good Kanye is that he manages to rise above the abhorrent absurdity of his own personality. Ignoring the laughable video for Bound 2, this was an album that was coursing with power, energy and fresh ideas. Conveniently released around the same time as Jay-Z’s lacklustre Magna Carta Holy Grail, the comparison between the two only served to highlight just how much more inventive the younger man was.
The winner this year though is Queens Of The Stone Age and their album … Like Clockwork. QOTSA have been floating round the peripheries of the rock scene for what seems like an eternity, every now and then threatening the mainstream with releases like 2002’s (God, I feel old) brilliant Songs For The Deaf. Since then though they have struggled to channel their undoubted talent into a cohesive collection of songs, until now. Like Clockwork was a storming, menacing brute of an album which showed a surprisingly tender side in parts too. Culminating in the power of I Appear Missing (complete with sensational outro), this was the LP the band had been trying to make for over a decade and is a worthy winner of our Album of The Year award.
Single of the Year
In the more disposable world of the single an honourable mention must go to future Chesney Hawkes-esque one-hit wonder John Newman for his song Love Me Again, which ensured that he was involved in most sports montages on the television over the summer. Haim’s insanely catchy Fleetwood Mac impression Falling deserves praise too, as does Rap God by Eminem, not least for containing one of the quickest verses of rapping in history.
This award however was all about collaborations with one man. That man was Pharrell Williams.
The runner up in this award goes to his single with French mystery men Daft Punk, Get Lucky. The song that was literally everywhere for at least three months earlier this year. The song that single handedly relaunched the career of Chic. The song that everyone knows at least one of their friends who ruined it by putting it on repeat for three hours at a house party. Ah well, fuck it, it was pretty decent.
The winner though, on so many levels, is Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines. Firstly, it was an insanely catchy song. Secondly, it was the catalyst for one of the more laughable moments of the year at the VMA awards (more on that below). Thirdly, it managed to annoy all of the sort of people who are really fun to annoy. You know, the sort of lefty moral-outrage brigade who love nothing more than to jump on a complaint bandwagon. It was subsequently and absurdly banned at about 15 student unions, which served to highlight why only the biggest gimps at university actually went to their student union for a night out… Lastly, its video (not least the unrated version) managed to straddle the fine line between art and soft pornography. No mean feat. Bravo Robin, you doe-eyed Canadian genius.
Dickhead of the Year
The final award of this prestigious ceremony is celebrating the person who, much like Gary Glitter in prison, has had an annus horribilis…
Kim Jong Un has been nothing short of astonishingly impressive in his quest to outdo his ‘dear father’ for total lunacy. It seems like only yesterday that the US were licking their lips at the prospect of this reasonable man with a Western education taking over the murky reigns of North Korea. However, lately the charming and handsome ‘Un’ has been really excelling in the time-honoured North Korean political traditions of being totally batshit crazy. Whether it’s launching nukes into the ocean, executing family members or becoming friends with Denis Rodman, the man they call Outstanding Leader (no, really) has had a busy time of it in 2013. Indeed only yesterday, while touring a fish factory, he compared the piles of produce to “an ammunition factory full of artillery”. Given his fondness for talking up his country’s arsenal, this could just be a red herring, however it’s clear that long team he needs to be put in his plaice…
Another strong candidate for the award is former teen icon and Disney Club star Miley Cyrus. For 6 years or so, Cyrus played teen heroine Hannah Montana on the Disney Channel, rising to international prominence in the process. Then Hannah Montana ended, she entered her twenties and all hell broke loose. A performance at the VMA Awards in August saw her having a mid-life crisis on stage. She entered the stage all innocent, surrounded by dancing teddy bears, and exited 10 minutes later looking like a $10 whore, having stripped down to a few bits of skin-coloured latex and ‘twerked’ Robin Thicke while pulling an expression that resembled a drunk teenager posing for a photo.
Unsatisfied that people were buying into her new ‘adult’ image, she then released Wrecking Ball, a not altogether bad song, but hampered by one of the most laughable and parodied videos of all time. As Miley swung topless on the titular object and licked sledgehammers, you could practically hear father Billy Ray’s Achy Breaky Heart shattering. Rehab beckons for 2014…
The undisputed winner of the 2013 Dickhead of the Year award though is a man who has to struggle valiantly against great musical talent to make himself as unpopular as he does…
For some years now Kanye West has been acting like a prick. There is simply no other way to put it. 2009’s performance at the MTV Music Awards, where he tried to grab the award from Taylor Swift was pathetic. His constant pseudo-political ranting is tedious beyond belief. But it was in 2013 that he really decided to take it up a notch.
Altercations with paparazzi, tick. Hilariously misled delusions of grandeur, tick. Spats with TV hosts, tick. Comparing his career to a war veteran, tick… It spoke volumes that when a hoax interview in which he allegedly said “I am the next Nelson Mandela. I’m only 36 years old, and when I look at everything I’ve accomplished, it’s the only comparison that makes any sense. By the time I’m 95, I’m going to be a bigger hero than he ever was” went viral, everyone just took it as gospel. It was that in character for a man of his self-opinion.
Then, just as the world was waiting to see what his next move was, he released this absurd video with dreadful reality TV star fiancé Kim Kardashian. Thank you Kanye… The circus never stops.
Have a good Christmas and a Happy New Year everyone, and we’ll be back to drag you into the wastelands of 2014… Here are last year’s awards to tide you over in the mean time…
by Harry Harland