A Dramatic "Climax" and Swans' Comeback: Ann Powers' 2012 Music Survey

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From a cringe-worthy "Roofie anthem" to an emerging Americana artist, NPR Music critic Ann Powers shares her answers to our 2012 Music Survey. 

1) Favorite Album -- Miguel, Kaleidoscope Dream

"This is not just a critics' album. This is an album that sounds great on the radio, that crosses over and that brings so much pleasure and sex appeal and fun, that for me it was the most pleasurable listen of the year."

2) Favorite Song -- Usher, "Climax"

"An amazing single produced by Diplo. You have coming together a veteran classic R&B singer teaming with this very future-thinking producer that makes a song that combines the best of both worlds." 

3) Favorite new band / newcomer -- Hurray For the Riff Raff 

"It's Americana with a very young, fresh youthful sensibility. She's remaking traditions through her own voice. I love her singing voice." 

4) Biggest Musical Surprise -- The comeback of Swans 

"Swans, a longtime favorite of the industrial music community, came back with a record called The Seer that was so intense, so powerful -- it really took a particular world by storm. It's not an easy listen, but I think it's a really substantial record from a band that many thought would never have put out a record like this again." 

5) Biggest Musical Disappointment -- Madonna's MDNA and the fallout from MIA's "obscene gesture" during Madonna's Superbowl performance

"I admire Madonna so much, but this record was trying to keep up with trends that she started years ago. It didn't feel innovative or like a record she should be making at this point in her career." 

6) Music Trend of 2012 -- The R&B renaissance beyond just Frank Ocean and Miguel! 

"So much is happening in R&B beyond [Frank Ocean and Miguel]. There's been a lot of talk that this R&B renaissance is a guy thing -- I think that's totally wrong. Next year we're going to hear from all these women, like Elle Varner and Wynter Gordon, and one of my favorites, Dawn Richard, who is going to put out a record in 2013 that I think is going to be a huge critics' favorite." 

7) Most Memorable Concert -- Bruce Springsteen at Austin City Limits during SXSW

"It was killer -- the new material was incredible, the tribute to Clarence Clemons was beautiful, and seeing The Boss in an intimate space was just a great moment in my life." 

8) Worst music (song or album) -- The Wanted, "Glad U Came" 

"I'm a boy band aficionado. But in this song, there's a line where he offers the girl a drink.... It just feels very unethical and creepy to me. The whole song feels like a really bad date that I hope my daughter never goes on."