Considering the year ahead, I figured I'd look at some obvious picks for 2012's biggest newcomers. None of these artists have released their official debut albums yet, but they've all been whipping up mad tizzies of hype — expect to be totally fucking sick of them in 12 months.
LANA DEL REY | Allow me to audibly groan for a few seconds before I even try to write anything about Lana Del Rey. Trying to say anything interesting about her — even trying to have an actual opinion of her — is pure folly; nobody knows what's up with this woman, and all the blog-fretting in the world hasn't managed to untangle her mysteries.
The insinuations have murdered her hipster cred: maybe a millionaire dad, maybe a stalled pop career as Lizzy Grant, maybe something fishy about those lips. Maybe her name is just Delroy Lindo backwards. Is she for real, or was she slapped together by suits out of off-the-shelf parts from Urban Outfitters? Is she a serious artist, or a pop star run through an Instagram filter?
Even judging her on the merits of her songs is tough. "Video Games," her debut single, is definitely good; her second, "Born to Die" is a lesser attempt at the same song. She just dropped a new one, "Off to the Races," which is perhaps too weirdy-beardy to judge on a standard good/bad scale. Maybe we'll have to wait for her debut album in 2012 to figure her out; maybe it'll take years for the dust to settle.
AZEALIA BANKS | I'm not saying it's not fantastic, but isn't this shit just a little exhausting? One of the best tracks of the year was "212," and the new "Liquorice" was pretty OK, but a whole record of her filthy, manic, overstimulating flow might give me an aneurysm, or one of those medically dangerous four-hour rodneys the rodney drug ads warn you about.
A$AP ROCKY | This dude had one of the most talked-about mixtapes in 2011, leading to a six-figure record deal with Sony. He's gained some praise for his Harlem/Houston/East Bay hybrid flow, but he basically rose to the top by running one hell of a smart racket: taking Clams Casino beats and matching them with a basic minimum standard of rap acceptability. Previously, gorgeous Clams beats were mostly wasted on based-style frivolity by the likes Lil B and Soulja Boy — hearing even a middling talent like A$AP rhyming on them is a stunning revelation. (Sure, I love Lil B, but let's not pretend he can rap).
JAY ELECTRONICA | Purely by force of habit, I must include hip-hop's least prolific genius. This guy's been rattling around on next-big-thing lists so long that he's managed to lose his newcomer status without ever releasing more than three or four tracks — careers have come and gone in the years since his early hype. In rap years, he's My Bloody Valentine.
His debut album has been lingering at "any day now" since at least 2009, but he's uttered scarcely a peep this year. A decent track called "Call of Duty" leaked online, and he appeared as a guest artist on a few forgettable things. He mentioned on his Twitter account that his album Act II: Patents of Nobility (The Turn) was finished, but that was six months ago.