From Stacey Dash's political bellyflop to the box office implosion of "John Carter," 2012 left plenty of fodder for cynics and late night comics. But it was also a banner year for moneymakers and critical darlings, with a number of surprisingly successful musical acts, ascendant comedy TV shows and blockbuster movies.
HuffPost Entertainment sifted through the data to help identify the year's class of winners. In music, those who most pleased pundits (Kendrick Lamar's rap debut may prove to be the year's shining musical accomplishment) and runaway commercial hits (a still-young Taylor Swift had million-unit week) were signs of life in an industry that's been falling apart for over a decade. In television, "The Big Bang Theory" triumphed over talent shows like "American Idol" to put scripted (or, openly scripted) TV back on top. In movies, a small indie film known as "The Avengers" made a box office demigod out of a beloved TV director and James Bond enjoyed a bold return to form.
It was a big year for celebrities, too. Flip through the gallery below to see who -- and what -- had a damn good 2012.
No. 1 Selling Album - Taylor Swift's "Red"
The arrival of a new Taylor Swift album sets off a swirl of activity. There are her fans, who want to know when and where she recorded every shimmering vocal. There are the self-appointed private investigators who mine her lyrics looking for references to her ex-boyfriends. There are the grown-ups with good taste who should probably know better than to rock out to this stuff so un-ironically, yet continue to do so anyway. And then there's Taylor herself -- sitting on a trampoline writing songs with Ed Sheeran, liberally applying red lipstick and practicing her "I'm shocked" face. It's a wild world, and she's the queen. Swift moved 1.75 million copies in three weeks, which is all the time it took for her to outdo any other record launched this year. Her triumph set the stage for a cheeky Grammy Nominations Concert, which Swift co-hosted. It must have been fun for her, announcing Album of the Year nominees like Frank Ocean and Mumford & Sons, both of whom she eclipsed with plenty of room to spare. Though her album was released too late to win every single award, the Recording Academy threw her a nice bone: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is lined up for Record of the Year.
No. 1 Grossing Movie - "The Avengers"
If you didn't see "The Avengers," consider yourself a special kind of hipster. The movie is a global phenomenon and has raked in $1.5 <em>billion</em> at the international box office (a cool $623 million at home, too). The Joss Whedon superhero superflick features Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hiddleston, Gwyneth Paltrow and many more alongside everyone's favorite supersnarker, Robert Downey Jr., as Iron Man. But if you needed us to tell you this, you might as well stop using the Internet.
No. 1 TV Runaway Hit - Honey Boo Boo
TV's biggest star was a free-wheeling youngster with a family that America liked to gawk at. Depending on whom you listen to, TLC either doubled down on exploitation or brought you an endearing, "real" American family. Whatever the answer, "Here Comes Honey Boo Boo" was the most-watched cable show for six of its initial eight weeks and even bested Fox and CNN's coverage of the Republican and Democratic National Conventions, respectively.
No. 1 Selling Single - Gotye's "Somebody That I Used to Know"
"Somebody That I Used to Know" catapulted Gotye from obscurity to a rare level of pop stardom: His song was heard not just in cars and cafes but also nightclubs and festivals, where sometimes inspired, sometimes bleak uptempo remixes of the track urged fatigued ravers to move their bodies. It also earned him a nod from the establishment: "STIUTK" is up for Record of the Year at the Grammys, while Gotye and Kimbre are up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance and "Making Mirrors" is up for Best Alternative Music Album. The man knows how to make a pop record -- even if we're not convinced he'll ever make another. Gotye even topped Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe" on iTunes and Amazon, but that's not all ... (*click to next slide*)
Most Streamed Song - Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know"
Yep. He also aced Spotify's <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/life/music/2012/11/29/breakthrough-gotye-hit-is-spotify-song-of-the-year/1734365/">list of 2012's Most Streamed Songs</a>.
No. 1 TV Show -- 'The Big Bang Theory'
In its sixth season, "The Big Bang Theory" set a new series ratings record en route to becoming the No. 1 comedy of 2012. It even beat out time-slot competitor "American Idol," proving that America really does adore science geeks (even if she has a weird way of showing it).
Highest-Rated Album - Kendrick Lamar's "Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City"
It's easy to be cynical about the state of modern popular music, and boy, do some of you readers take every opportunity to do so. But every once in a while, an artist comes along to puncture the collective snark bubble. Kendrick Lamar is that person. The Compton rapper's debut studio LP, "good kid, mAAd city," stunned reviewers, who were left to argue about whether or not <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3HKfftHJaRo">it was "classic sounding" or an "instant classic."</a> Lamar's flows amount to somber meditations on life and death in L.A. "I woke up this morning and figured I’d call you, In case I’m not here tomorrow," he raps on "Sing About Me, I'm Dying (Of Thirst)." By the end of the song, he's more direct: "And hope that at least one of you sing about me when I'm gone / Now am I worth it? Did I put enough work in?" No wonder "good kid, mAAd city" is <a href="http://www.metacritic.com/music/good-kid-maad-city/kendrick-lamar">sitting at a comfortable 91 rating on Metacritic</a>, the year's highest.
No. 1 Video on YouTube - Psy's "Gangnam Style"
Psy's steadily galloping his way to a billion YouTube hits, easily making him the year's most popular video on the site. Along the way, he's picked up a performance and collaboration with MC Hammer and some representation from Scooter Braun, the meastro behind Justin Bieber and Carly Rae Jepsen. And he did all of that on the strength of a <a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/08/gangnam-style-dissected-the-subversive-message-within-south-koreas-music-video-sensation/261462/">searing piece of social commentary</a>. Not bad for a portly 34-year-old Korean pop star.
Highest Paid Actress - Kristen Stewart
Forbes calculates <a href="http://www.forbes.com/pictures/mfl45kfmk/kristen-stewart-6/#gallerycontent">its highest-paid lists</a> from May to May, so this one is a bit of a hedge. But count K-Stew as your winner. The actress, whose "I couldn't care less" image was shattered following a fling with married "Snow White and the Huntsman" director Rupert Sanders, earned a strong $34.5 million over the 12-month period. That's "Twilight" money, as they say (also, "Snow White" money and maybe even some "On the Road" money, too).
Highest Paid Actor - Tom Cruise
"Now I'm looking at a crib right next to where TC lives," raps Kanye West on "Clique." "That's Tom Cruise." When you're a 50-year-old actor 26 years past the debut of a movie like "Top Gun," it's pretty impressive to be used as rap's standard of success. Like Stewart (actually, way worse), Cruise had his share of personal problems, like a divorce and allegations that Katie Holmes' "contract" with Scientology had expired. But his accountant needn't worry: The actor <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/dorothypomerantz/2012/07/03/tom-cruise-tops-our-list-of-hollywoods-highest-paid-actors/">lined up $75 million in earnings</a>, built in no small part on the back of "Mission Impossible -- Ghost Protocol," a global hit.
And In Books, "Fifty Shades of Grey"
We're not entirely sure that "Fifty Shades of Grey" is the best-selling book of the year, but the E.L. James novel has to be up there (final numbers probably won't be released until early next year). Even if it's not the top seller, the first book in the filthy trilogy taught America a valuable lesson: Don't ever underestimate the sexual curiosity of Puritanical Americans. That some thinly laced-together and halfway lurid fan fiction can so permeate our culture says something about how we view sex. When you figure out just what that is, let us know.
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