Jay-Z, PSY, and Pussy Riot Join Heads of State as 'TIME' Person of the Year Nominees

Other notables: Barack Obama, Kim Jong Un, Mars Rover

jay-z, psy, time person of the year
Jay-Z and PSY / Photos by Getty Images
Kyle McGovern WRITTEN BY
Kyle McGovern

Jay-Z, PSY, and Pussy Riot are among the 38 nominees for TIME's 2012 Person of the Year. The hip-hop mogul, South Korean pop sensation, and Russian punk band keep quite the company — Barack Obama, Jon Stewart, Paul Ryan, and the Mars Rover are just some of the other candidates. (Our pick for biggest oversight? Death Grips.)

Hova's up for the annual TIME honor after a year marked by the birth of his daughter with Beyoncé, Blue Ivy Carter; his sold-out eight-night residency at Brooklyn's Barclays Center (which is also home to the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA team Mr. Carter partially owns); the debut of his very own music festival, Philadelphia's Made in America; and his "99 Problems" dis to failed GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, which pissed off conservative blowhards. And he's not even through with 2012 yet: On New Year's Eve, the King of New York will close out the Year of the Dragon by co-headlining a gig with Coldplay at the Barclays Center.

PSY's 2012 was a bit more one-note, but no less notable. The K-Pop star appeared from nowhere with his relentless hit, "Gangnam Style," which sky-rocketed to the top spot on Billboard's Rap Songs chart (we don't know how it happened either), and held the Hot 100's No. 2 position for seven weeks. The smash single's accompanying (and exhausting) video inspired parodies from prison inmates, influenced gang violence in Thailand, and earned the Best Video trophy at MTV's European Music Awards. PSY even made MC Hammer briefly relevant again during the American Music Awards. But the biggest victory came recently, when "Gangnam Style" became the most-watched video on YouTube with more than 820 million views and counting. "The über-ambitious Seoul music industry watched in amazement as the eccentric 34-year-old hip-hop artist, gleefully skewering the music machine that made him, managed to go where no Korean performer had gone before," TIME writes. "The rest of us just danced."

Three members of feminist punk collective Pussy Riot earned a nod from TIME after getting caught in an international debate over political and artistic expression. The group's February protest of Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral brought on a two-year jail sentence for Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, and Yekaterina Samutsevich. The latter's prison time was suspended, but the other two Pussy Riot rockers were shipped off to distant colonies to serve out their respective sentences. The controversy prompted another two members of the band to flee Russia, sparked support from musicians around the world, and landed a mention on South Park.

Last year's pick for Person of the Year, "the Protester," triumphed over a pool of nominees including Steve Jobs, Seal Team 6, and Kim Kardashian. The issue announcing this year's honoree hits newsstands on December 12. TIME is also hosting a reader's poll, which is open until 11:59 p.m. on December 12. That winner will be revealed on December 14.

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