2012-2013: The Year in Review & the Year in Preview

We take stock of the projects, people, and events driving the cultural conversation—now and in the future.

In pop-cultural terms, each year sparks a million cocktail conversations: new faces, unlikely memes, spectacular flameouts, improbable comebacks, and so on, ad infinitum. Some are more compelling than others. That's why, to mark the close of 2012 and the start of 2013, we've created this highly subjective roundup of the most intriguing projects, people, and events of the past year—and the coming one. From the hottest musical genre and the trendiest Hollywood cause to the naughtiest night-table reads and the most smackable lips, here's everything you need to know about the year that was and the year that will be.

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The Buffoon Is Back: Charlie Sheen & Ron Burgundy

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Charlie Sheen in Anger Management and Will Ferrell as Ron Burgundy.

2012: Charlie Sheen

He followed a 2011 full of "goddesses," tiger blood, and #winning by playing a therapist specializing in rage in the FX sitcom Anger Management. Despite meh reviews, it enjoyed a record-setting premiere, was the year's most-watched new cable comedy, and got picked up for an additional 90 episodes in August.

2013: Ron Burgundy

Eight years after Will Ferrell introduced his boorish newsman in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, the actor appeared in character on Conan to announce a sequel. Little is known about Anchorman: The Legend Continues, due next fall, but director Adam McKay has suggested that it may include a custody battle.

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Hyped Pop Stars: Lana Del Rey & The Rolling Stones

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Lip Service: Lana Del Ray had one of 2012's biggest albums, Born to Die. The Rolling Stones are expected to tour extensively in 2013.

2012: Lana Del Rey

When a former choirgirl from the Adirondacks named Lizzy Grant exploded on the Internet as a streetwise fifties-pin-up type called Lana Del Rey, the naysayers questioned her authenticity, pointing to a pout that appeared newly engorged. But despite a disastrous SNL performance, the starlet silenced her critics by becoming one of the most successful—and original—artists of the year. She sold nearly 3 million copies of her album Born to Die, put out a brilliant, 10-minute video for "Ride" about living hard and fast with a biker gang, and became the proudly full-lipped face of H&M.

2013: The Rolling Stones

Yes, the Rolling Stones will charge you an arm and a leg (seriously, they could use the replacement parts), but even haters gonna hate themselves for missing out when the greatest rock band of all time sets forth on the 50th-anniversary celebration tour Keith has promised for 2013. (Though some may protest that 2012 was the real 50th, here's his adaptive logic: Charlie Watts didn't join the band till 1963.) Since you're already paying through the nose, go ahead and shell out for a T-shirt with Shepard Fairey's updated version of the band's iconic lips-and-tongue logo.

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Hit the Books: Chabon, Lethem & the Lit Parade

2012: What You Read

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From left: Author Michael Chabon, The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers, Imagine by Jonah Lehrer

Big Book by a Big Name

Telegraph Avenue, Michael Chabon

Nostalgic multiracial epic set in 2004 Oakland, where an old-school mom-and-pop record shop tires to withstand the challenge of a big-box store.

Big Book by a Next Big Thing

The Yellow Birds, Kevin Powers

Debut novel about a pair of naïve small-town Virginia boys who get exposed to the violent realities of the Iraq war.

Big Book about a Big Idea

Imagine, Jonah Lehrer

An explication of how creativity really works by a journalist wunderkind (since discredited by allegations of fabrication, recycling old material, and plagiarism) hyped as the next Malcolm Gladwell.

2013: What You'll Be Reading

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From left: Author Jonathan Lethem, Wise Men by Stuart Nadler, Contagious by Jonah Berger

Big Book by a Big Name

Dissident Gardens, Jonathan Lethem

Nostalgic multigenerational epic set in mid-20th-century Queens, New York, where a family struggles with the dashing of its utopian dreams.

Big Book by a Next Big Thing

Wise Men, Stuart Nadler

Debut novel about the son of a wealthy lawyer who gets exposed to the social realities of radically stratified 1950s Cape Cod.

Big Book about a Big Idea

Contagious, Jonah Berger

An exegesis on how ideas really go viral (hint: The Internet gets too much credit) by a marketing wunderkind also hyped as the next Malcolm Gladwell.

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Retrospectives: Modern Art's Space Odysseys

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Dots Obsession, Yayoi Kusama, 1996

2012: Yayoi Kusama

Octogenarian conceptual artist whose installations play with viewers' experiences of physical space is fêted with a career retrospective at the Whitney after spending decades in a mental hospital in Tokyo, her base of operations since 1977.

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2013: James Turrell

Sexagenarian conceptual artist whose installations play with viewers' experiences of physical space will be fêted with a career retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Guggenheim, and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, after spending decades in a volcanic crater in Arizona, which he's been transforming into a massive piece of land art since 1979.

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The Wild-Eyed, Long-Haired Comedian of the Year

Russell Brand had a big 2012, launching his stand-up show Brand X on FX and narrating the eighties send-up Rock of Ages. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for another wisecracking, eyeliner-wearing British export on American screens, and 2013 will belong to Tim Minchin. Here's how they stack up.

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2012: Russell Brand

Experience Impersonating a Rock Star

Played the ridiculously named Aldous Snow in the 2010 comedy Get Him to the Greek and its 2008 predecessor Forgetting Sarah Marshall.

Actual Musical Cred

In addition to his memorable performances in Greek, sang "I Am the Walrus" at the closing ceremonies of the London Olympics.

Outspoken Political Stance

Raised awareness about substance abuse with the BBC doc Russell Brand: From Addiction to Recovery and lobbied Parliament to decriminalize drug use.

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2013: Tim Minchin

Experience Impersonating a Rock Star

Play the ridiculously named Atticus Fetch in the sixth season of Showtime's Californication, premiering in January.

Actual Musical Cred

After wrapping up a run as Judas in the U.K. revival of Jesus Christ Superstar, brings his hit musical Matilda from London's West End to Broadway in March.

Outspoken Political Stance

One of his best-known musical bits (which he often performs live) expresses his spiritual skepticism with this line about the Pope: "Fuck the motherfucker."

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Art House Comes to Broadway: Once & Kinky Boots

2012: Once

The 2006 Irish indie about a Dublin busker and a Czech single mom who make bittersweet music together became an unexpected Broadway hit in 2012, taking home eight Tonys.

2013: Kinky Boots

This could be the surprise song-and-dance sensation of 2013: Featuring a score by Cyndi Lauper, it's based on a low-budget 2005 British film about a drag queen who saves a shoe factory by turning the boss on to fetishistic footwear. After a successful trial run in Chicago, it comes to the Al Hirschfeld Theatre, replacing another film-to-stage adaptation, Elf.

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The Show Must Go On(line): Streaming the Small Screen

Cable gets all the praise for original programming, but online platforms are catching up. Hulu dominated 2012, but Netflix will own 2013. Amazon and YouTube are nipping at their heels, but here's how the frontunners' offerings compare.

2012: Hulu

Emmy Bait

In February, released its first scripted series, Battleground—a Parks and Rec–style mockumentary following the campaign team of a long-shot Wisconsin Democratic senatorial candidate— was met with mixed reviews.

Back-From-the-Dead Reboot

Kevin Smith. In June, the flatlining Clerks director, better known recently for his controversial behavior than for his filmmaking, delivered Spoilers, a movie-review talk show.

Indie Cred

In August, the iconic director Richard Linklater (Dazed and Confused, Before Sunrise) made his first foray into episodic television, Up to Speed, a travelogue that visit underappreciated American historical sites.

2013: Netflix

Emmy Bait

Ponied up a reported $100 million to beat HBO and AMC for House of Cards, a thriller developed by David Fincher and Kevin Spacey about a ruthless politician [Spacey] that will premiere next February.

Back-From-the-Dead Reboot

Arrested Development. Seven years after Fox canceled the cult favorite, the on-demand service will air a fourth season of Bluth family high jinks—releasing all 10 episodes simultaneously.

Indie Cred

The torture-porn auteur Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) praised the platform for giving him "creative freedom to go as dark as the story needs" with his own TV debut, the supernatural horror series Hemlock Grove.

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Rebels without a Cause: Anonymous & Yellowism

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Above: Members of the 'Anonymous' group travel on the London Underground system between Scientology's Queen Victoria Street and Tottenham Court Road offices. Below: A Mark Rothko painting defaced in the name of Yellowism.

Time was, social movements stood for things. But now, from the Tea Party to Occupy Wall Street, they define themselves by what they're against. In 2012, the online hacktivist collective Anonymous crashed the Department of Justice website to protest the U.S. crackdown of the file-sharing site Megaupload and defaced the Boston Police Department's website in retaliation for a raid on an Occupy encampment.

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Made for a Woman—But Dirty Enough for a Man: Fifty Shades of Grey & Breathless

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This past year, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy laid the groundwork for a boom in edgy, populist erotica that transcends its unfortunate sobriquet, "mommy porn." Although the overwhelming majority of E.L. James' 40 million readers are women (of all relationship statuses), numerous men—including Ryan Seacrest, Dr. Oz, and the Washington Nationals bullpen—have been devouring her books too. These are the herotica-loving dudes author Maya Banks will attract with her hotly anticipated Breathless trilogy, and all three volumes (Rush, Fever, and Burn) will be published in 2013. Each installment centers on one of a trio of billionaire friends and business partners who "dominate both in the boardroom and the bedroom." First up to bat, in Rush: Gabe Hamilton, a 38-year-old hotel tycoon who acts out a classic male fantasy—seducing his best friend's younger sister. If you've been considering investing in an e-reader so people can't see the cover of your book, now might be the time.

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Sounds: The Genre You'll Soon Be Sick Of

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K-pop hitmakers Big Bang

The propulsive bass lines of electronic dance music (EDM) reached eyeroll-inducing ubiquity in 2012. In June, the Electric Daisy Carnival in Las Vegas drew more than 320,000 fans. DJs like Tiësto (who earns $22 million a year) and Deadmau5 (a high-profile Grammy performer) became pop's buzziest stars. But in July, an insurgent musical movement threatened to encroach when the chubby Korean rapper Psy's dance-filled video for "Gangnam Style" quickly became the most "liked" in the history of YouTube. It introduced many Americans to K-pop (Korean pop), the effervescent genre that has conquered much of the world but suffered from what you could call a soccer problem in the U.S. No longer: Scooter Braun, the Svengali behind Justin Bieber, signed Psy, and the all-female Girls' Generation will follow a Letterman appearance with their first English-language album next year. Mark James Russell, author of Pop Goes Korea, likes the genre's chances for supremacy. "In the YouTube age, you need to be able to go to 11 or more to stand out," he says. "K-pop starts at 11."

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