The holidays are a time when we take pause to enjoy the company of family and friends, and reflect on the year gone by. It’s also a time when we kill a massive amount of time reading “Best of the Year” lists on the web instead of working. In the spirit of this new tradition, I spent some time making one of these lists as my gift to you. Let’s check out the 5 biggest music news stories of 2015.
Kanye disses Beck at the Grammy’s
(and then takes it back)
Love him or hate him, Kanye West manages to make himself the center of attention in the music world year after year. Up until 2009, we knew him as the genius producer who became the game-changing rapper.
Then he did this and became forever known as the “musical genius/dude who interrupts people.”
By 2015 it had become sort of an annual tradition to see ‘Ye bum rushing some awards show. So it didn’t shock anyone when he made a move for the stage as Beck was receiving his Grammy for Album Of The Year. What did shock people was that he called Beck out for a lack of artistry in a televised interview following the awards.
The reaction from the industry was explosive. Almost immediately, fans and fellow artists (notably Shirley Manson from Garbage) came rushing to Beck’s defense. Beck himself was gracious and unflustered. Which probably wouldn’t have been my reaction, but that’s why I’m not Beck.
Beck: beatific as usual
What proved to be the biggest shocker of the whole incident was that Kanye apologized. Several times. And he did so with a tremendous amount of honesty and humility. The kind of honesty and humility that made you remember why The College Dropout is such a work of genius. What he did wasn’t cool, but the way he owned up to it was.
I won’t stay with me
Sam Smith claimed not to be familiar with the tune, but acknowledged the similarity. In what became the biggest non-feud of 2015, Smith and Petty agreed to a fair split of the royalties for the song (along with the other co-writers on their respective tunes). Why was a story about two gentlemen working out a deal fairly such big news? Because it’s the music industry.
Taylor Swift Mania
If you don’t recognize who this is by now, get your eyes checked
This was the year the young Ms. Swift went from being a superstar to becoming arguably the biggest pop star in the world. Her album 1989 was an international hit, spending 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard charts as well as becoming the top selling vinyl album of 2015. She even made a few unlikely fans among musicians, most notably Ryan Adams who recorded an entire cover album of 1989.
Ryan Adams gorgeous cover of “Bad Blood”
And she seems to be handling her massive success—and the power that comes with it—beautifully. Her public stance against unfair practices in streaming royalty payments brought national attention to the issue. And her reputation for treating her fans like she actually loves them made even bitterest of cynics reach for their hankies.
A very Taylor Xmas
Adele smashes sales records
(and delivers another masterpiece)
If record sales are still in a slump, nobody bothered to tell Adele about it. Within a week of its release, her album 25 became the biggest selling album of the year. Think about that—one week. But the reason the release of 25 was such big news isn’t just because of all the sales records she set. It’s because it was the first time in recent memory when an artist had built up this much anticipation for a new album and then managed to exceed people’s expectations. How many new records did you and your parents both look forward to hearing this year? For most of us, it was just this one.
Not a Lionel Richie cover: “Hello” by Adele
Terrorists attack Eagles of Death Metal concert in Paris
The tragic and horrific events that took place in Paris on November 13 were, of course, not just a story about music. But in the world of music, this was perhaps the most shocking and tragic event ever to take place. Knowing that one of the things we love the most about music—seeing an awesome band with a crowd of friends and fans—could be the scene of such horror and hatred shook us to the core. That this event that took place at the Bataclan—one of the most cherished music venues in Europe—hit even closer to home for many European music fans.
In better days: The Bataclan, Paris
In November, Eagles of Death Metal sat down with Vice for an interview where they gave a detailed and emotional account of what happened. Their description of the events is deeply saddening, but it was also touching and hopeful. I’ll warn that while there are no graphic images in the interview, it is still a very difficult thing to watch, and contains language not safe for work.
Eagles of Death Metal Discuss Paris Terror Attacks
In a show of solidarity—and less than a month after the tragedy—U2 brought EODM on stage and said “They were robbed of their stage three weeks ago – we would like to offer them ours tonight.” The two bands then jammed together on Patti Smith’s hopeful anthem “People Have The Power”.
Following the show, the Eagles of Death Metal issued a statement saying, “We are incredibly grateful to U2 for providing us the opportunity to return to Paris so quickly, and to share in the healing power of rock ‘n’ roll with so many of the beautiful people — nos amis — of this great city.”
The attackers behind the massacre claimed the lives of 89 people at the Bataclan, and injured 100 more. But rock and roll, and its ability to bring people together, will never die.
In your face, terrorists: U2 and EODM bring the healing power of rock back to Paris.
Music offers us a reflection of who we are as individuals and as a people. When it’s honest, it exposes truths about our selves, and about the culture we live in. The greatest creators of music are held up as icons for a reason. Their ability to channel those unspoken connections we all share with each other seems almost magical, even religious. If music is a mirror, they’re the ones holding it up to us.
So what did we learn from this mirror we call music in 2015? We learned that misunderstandings, when handled gently, result in harmony and even redemption. We learned that while talent and kindness are their own rewards, they also offer the straightest path toward success in any endeavor. Sadly, we also learned that the darkest elements of humanity could try to break our spirit, but that those of us with music in our hearts will not be broken.
So here’s to lessons learned. I wish all of you a peaceful and happy holiday season.
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