Like The Source used to be for hip-hop, Cliffs Notes have been the "bible" for slacker students since 1958, when Clifton Keith Hillegas founded the company with a series of study guides for Shakespeare plays. You know the type: the perma-late-passer who spent all semester on party patrol and so, rather than actually reading an entire book, cops one of the distinctive yellow-and-black pamphlets for a quick cram session the night before the final exam. You've probably been the type.

Nowadays, in our hyper-competitive information era, everything can get to feeling like school. Even something as ostensibly non-school-like as following pop music. There's so much stuff out there, so much to keep up with, it sometimes feels like you're being tested by your peers when they ask your opinion of a song at a party.

Plus, the Internet has made everything so hyperbolic. To a point where everybody talks in terms of LOVING something or HATING something, even when we're often too cynical to honestly give a fuck either way. (Generation X? More like Generation "Eh.") But what if you're too busy to care about actual music but, because you're sort of a poser, you care about looking like you know about music? Welcome to Complex Cliffs Notes! Here's a cheat sheet for chatting about the year's most important music at parties, considering that New Year's Eve is like finals week packed into a single night.

If you were too busy or ADD to really go deep with any albums this year, this is a sort of choose-your-own adventure for one-liner opinions you can drop authoritatively before the ball drops—ideally impressing potential midnight make-out partners and definitely provoking animated arguments between your friends while you slip away and grab another drink. Behold: your official cheat sheet! And for the love of Blue Ivy, remember to study next year.

Intro by Dave Bry. Written by Julianne Escobedo Shepherd (@jawnita)

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