As the Grantland staff looks back this week on the highlights of the year in music, TV, film, and sports, we would obviously be remiss if we left out the one medium to rule them all: the Internet. Here are our picks for the best (and worst) of the Information Superhighway in 2012.
Billy Joel, “Miami 2017” — Then & Now
Bill Simmons: Here’s YouTube at its best
Two different Billy Joel performances of one of his greatest songs, 34 years apart, that mean two totally different things. The ’78 clip represents Billy at his absolute apex — one of the three best stage performers with a piano who ever lived (depending on how you feel about Elton John and Stevie Wonder). He’s never been better than he was in 1978; he will also never get enough credit for how good he was in the late-’70s, but that’s another story. Fast-forward 34 years and there’s Billy sitting in that same spot, belting out that same song — much heavier, much older and much sadder, and with a much more meaningful context. Like every other true Billy fan, I worried about him performing at the Sandy concert — he’s had a rough last few years, and the thought of Billy bombing in his hometown during a charity concert was especially depressing. Instead, he ended up stealing the show at 63 years old. I like living in a world in which Billy Joel can still crank out “Miami 2017.”
A Bad Lip Reading of Rick Perry’s “Strong” Ad”
Dan Fierman: Look. I get it. We all want to block it out. The dreadful ads. The horrible debates. The mindless shrieking of MSNBC and Fox and hospital banana pudding that CNN served up every night. But as much as we want to, we can’t ignore the fact that 2012 was dominated by an election. And not just any election! Perhaps one of the single dumbest elections of our lifetimes!
And nothing quite captured the moment — the pure absurdity of the moment — like the Bad Lip Reading meme. It peaked sometime during the Republican primary and stopped being funny once the third debate had concluded. But don’t underestimate the importance of these dumb little videos: Nonpartisan, ridiculous, alternately Seussian and Pythonian, they did precisely what political comedy was supposed to do: reveal the total nonsense that is our national discourse for what it is simply by rendering it, you know, total nonsense.
And remember: I’ll fight a chicken with hands. A real chicken.
RUNNER-UP: Key & Peele, “East/West College Bowl”
Me in an e-mail to my dude friends this year: “Hey so, uh, guys, are Key and Peele unbelievably fucking funny and no one told me?”
Response five seconds later: “Yes. Also, you are an idiot and 90,000 years old.”
Trinidad James, “Popped a Molly I’m Sweating” for Six Minutes
Andy Greenwald: The best thing about the Internet is the constant access to just about everything in the universe that could possibly make you smile. The worst thing about the Internet is its Iago-like ability to turn you against your love. To test that hypothesis, I present YouTube user “stoophedfresh.” Mr. Fresh took the hookiest line from one of the year’s best songs — Trinidad James’s “All Gold Everything” — and simply ran it back for six straight minutes. At first, as James struts down the street, his friend riding in a shopping cart to his side, it’s sort of giddy to hear nothing but his exuberant talk of Molly popping and serotonin sweating. Come on: Who wouldn’t want only the best part of the best part? It’s as if science had successfully bred a pig made of nothing but bacon! But soon, fatigue sets in, followed by a vague feeling of gluttony and sloth. Eventually it becomes abstract, a tone poem about pleasure signifying nothing but noise. Then it becomes aggravating. After about four minutes, it actually becomes good again. How far you make it is up to you. But just know that the Internet did this to us, just like it does all things. Woo!
Felix Baumgartner Free-falls From Space
Mark Lisanti: Have we already forgotten how, just two months ago, a guy jumped from space? Have we become so spoiled by man’s boundless ingenuity that, on a daily basis, we’re not pausing for a moment in our workaday lives to reflect upon how, with nothing but balls the size of weather balloons and millions of dollars in energy-drink support, a human person hurled himself at the Earth from 128,100 feet up in the atmosphere, free-falling for four minutes and 22 seconds, and reaching a speed of 833.9 miles per hour? What does one have to do to hold the public’s winnowing attention span for more than the duration of a YouTube video — bungee-jump from heaven on a rope made of rainbows dangling from God’s extended finger? Build a real-life Wall-E, send it to Mars, and gape at the majestic images of a gorgeously desolate extraterrestrial landscape it beams back to Earth? You already forgot about that one, didn’t you?
Anyway, drink Red Bull. They make miracles, even if they’re the kind we can’t be bothered to enjoy for longer than a taurine-induced heart palpitation.
Driving in Russia
Katie Baker: In early December, this supercut of Russian car crashes made the rounds, appearing on Jason Kottke’s website, NPR, and all over my Twitter feed. The footage is honestly mesmerizing, and not gruesome: farm animals chilling in the road and being all “what?,” slow-speed swerves, construction vehicles taking out entire lots of parked cars, pedestrians being struck at stoplights and continuing on like it ain’t no thang, choppers landing on highways, cars disintegrating with no warning — all while club music pumps (or talk radio drones) inside the vehicles whose dashboard-cams are recording the whole sequence. (As for all the dashboard cams, they’re apparently so prevalent in Russia thanks to what was once an epidemic of insurance fraud and other staged accidents.) There’s so much footage of this stuff that one YouTube account has taken to uploading monthly compilations, each of them upwards of 10 minutes in length, though the video embedded above is the best (and also the least-worst) one that I’ve seen. Buckle up, comrades.
Ella Henderson, The X Factor U.K.
Juliet Litman: Somehow, this gal did not win The X Factor U.K. Maybe that entire country lost the ability to hear? Regardless, look for Ella Henderson to storm the U.S. sometime in 2014 with all the attendant Adele comparisons.
Cooking With Christopher Walken
Dan Silver: This is an homage to/play on the more homespun video my colleague Mark Lisanti highlighted back in October, but I’m still pretty sure that when Al Gore created the Internet, this is the video he was hoping would be made one day.
Celine Dion’s Salute to Whitney Houston at the 2012 Grammy Awards
Jay Kang: Least favorite:
This also could have been a favorite, but my cat is being a real bitch this morning.
Lil B, “3 Stacks (Life is Like a Titanic)”
Rembert Browne: This may have been the no-brainer viral classic gem of the year only to myself and 10 of the people on my Gchat list that write about “things” on the “Internet,” but it made enough of an impact on my year to easily be my choice. I mean, Lil B + Titanic instrumental + that sauna + two minutes of him taking pictures with fans + the line “if you’re in Iraq, under a rock” = the greatest gift YouTube.com has ever bestowed upon me.
If we learned anything in 2012, it is that, as the BasedGod said, life truly is like a Titanic. Thank you, Brandon, for being brave enough to remind us of that.
OK, Lil B. I won’t. For you. Never.
Emily Yoshida: Everyone knows the story. The viral explosion. The exposé. The nude meltdown. In fact, you are probably all so familiar with the story of Kony 2012 that it would make a pretty good punchline to a joke about someone being late to a similar cultural event! No, just kidding, it would not. Please do us all a favor and just start quoting every line from Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me in a Borat voice the next time you even think about making another Kony 2012 joke. Thanks.
BONUS PICK: Skrillex Quest
Emily Yoshida: Look, I don’t need to back this up. Just go play the actual game and be prepared to take back anything bad you ever said about His Skrillness.