- Fri, 2010-12-17 11:27
Music is an ever-moving mass, pulled this way and that by currents and riptides that can neither be predicted nor easily defined. As such, the idea of a neatly-drawn line separating the musical happenings of one calendar year from that of the next is something of a nonsense. Nonetheless, for all the blurry lines and lack of delineation, every year sees a small handful of events that stand out as being in some sense landmarks. Here are some of 2010’s…
Lil Wayne Goes To Jail
The inexorable rise of hip hop has continued in 2010, with both US and UK emcees dominating the airwaves throughout the year. However, even as the genre continues to conquer charts and hearts - its cast increasingly regarded as respectable artists rather than the thugz they may once have been branded - it cannot completely escape from the controversy that has haunted it almost from day one.
Apart from Kanye West maintaining his standing as a bit of a numpty, the main talking-point this year was the imprisonment of one of hip hop’s, if not music’s, hottest artists: Lil Wayne. Sentenced in March to a year in prison for criminal possession of a weapon, he was released in November after just eight months inside. Determined to maintain his ubiquity even whilst behind bars, Weezy filmed an astonishing 30 music videos prior to starting his sentence as well as the album I Am Not A Human Being, not to mention the verse he recorded over the prison phone for Drake’s track Light Up.
Received back into free society with rapturous delight from his fans, his brief prison stint may not have harmed his own career, but it can’t have helped the reputation of the genre that he loves.
Paul Gray Passes Away
On May 24th the world of heavy metal lost one of its heroes with the death of Slipknot bassist Paul Gray. As a key songwriter and a founding member of one of the most important metal bands of a generation, his passing shocked and deeply saddened fans of the group, and of heavy music in general.
Unsurprisingly and understandably the remaining members of Slipknot initially expressed doubt as to whether they could or should continue without their friend, generating speculation that a hugely significant chapter in metal music had come to a close. However, it was confirmed at the beginning of December that Slipknot are to tour Europe in 2011, with the band making the statement: We’re looking forward to spending our summer in Europe. This tour is about us and our fans. It’s about celebrating the life of our brother Paul, and his legacy.
Despite this announcement the future of the band remains uncertain, frontman Corey Taylor commenting on the tour: It was a big decision. There’s still a part of me that’s kind of on the fence about it. It all comes down to the band at the end of the day, and how we handle it. And if we can come together as men and handle it the right way and do it for the right reasons – do it for the fans, do it for the family – it could be the first of baby steps to see what happens in the future.
Dubstep Scores Its First Top Ten Hit
True though it increasingly is that music does not have to be bought to be consumed, the best yardstick against which to measure the mainstream popularity of a certain band, artist or type of music remains the charts. Once something has appeared in the top forty – or better; the top ten – it can justifiably be considered to have crossed over from the world of specialist musical interest into popular culture.
Ten years after a small group of producers started to push UK garage in new and darker directions, that is exactly what has happened to the movement that they spawned: dubstep. Its star has been on the ascendant for a long time now, particularly since Skream’s remix of La Roux’s In For The Kill caused such a stir in 2009, but it was only with the release of Magnetic Man’s I Need Air in July, which charted at number 10, that dubstep scored its first official hit.
As ever with a genre once the preserve of a small scene, the attainment of mainstream success was as much a cause for consternation among some as it was a cause for celebration among others. It’s important to remember, however, that far from being hijacked by bandwagon-jumpers, dubstep was taken to the top ten by three long-standing pioneers of the genre; Artwork, Skream and Benga.
The latter of the three repeated the trick a few weeks later when his collaboration with Katy B and Geeneus – Katy On A Mission – went to number 5 in the singles chart towards the end of August, and it seems inevitable that 2011 will see the trend continue and dubstep’s assimilation into the mainstream confirmed.
Lady GaGa Surpasses One Billion YouTube Views
There has been no shortage of hullabaloo and hyperbole generated by and surrounding the still young career of pop’s newest queen, Lady GaGa. From winning Grammys and being named as one of the most influential people in the world by both Time and Forbes to causing a stir or two with her eccentric fashion statements, she has never been far from the public eye.
Undoubtedly one of the most talked-about aspects of GaGa’s output in 2010 have been her videos, particularly those for Telephone and Alejandro. Both clocking in at an around the nine minute mark, they have raised the bar of what a music video can and needs to be in the new decade.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, that in October of this year Lady GaGa became the first artist to be able to claim the astonishing accolade of having had more than one billion views on YouTube. With a new album set for release in 2011 we can be sure there will be plenty more outlandish and outrageous videos to come, and plenty more YouTube views with them.
The Return Of The 1990s
With the disbandment of Oasis at the end of 2009 we may have witnessed the split of one of the biggest bands of the ‘90s, but the era of which they were an iconic part nonetheless refused to become bygone in 2010, as we were awash with many of its key artists reuniting and re-entering the fray.
Oasis themselves may no longer exist in name, but Liam’s new outfit Beady Eye, who kicked things off in early November with their first single Bring The Light, appear to be a pretty convincing facsimile of the band. Their old nemeses, Blur, also made a return to recorded music in April, with their one-off single Fool’s Day, and have hinted since on several occasions that more singles will follow, though no mention has been made of the possibility of an album.
Nor can we forget the triumphant return of Robbie Williams to Take That after fifteen years, or the recent announcement that 2011 will see the Britpop triumvirate completed as Pulp take to the festival circuit. The stage looks to be well and truly set for a re-run of 1995, with Liam slagging off Robbie and Damon as a disinterested and disdainful Jarvis looks on from the sidelines!
The Beatles’ Music Becomes Digitally AvailableDespite being the biggest band in the world, the Beatles’ music only became digitally available this November, when at long last they licensed their back-catalogue to iTunes. Granted, prior to the deal it would have required but a moment’s work to take to the internet and illegally acquire any of the Beatles’ work, but there was no legal alternative for those who couldn’t in good conscience bring themselves to do so (or couldn’t be bothered to work out how!).
Prior to the event one might have questioned whether, as one of the biggest-selling artists of all time, there was much of a demand for the Beatles to be sold digitally; surely every home owns at least one Beatles greatest hits album in some form or another? With two million tracks and 450,000 complete album-bundles sold in a mere ten days, it was very quickly made very apparent that there was indeed a demand, and a big one at that.
Though by no means an exhaustive summary of a phenomenally busy twelve months in music, these strike us as some of the more tangibly significant moments. No doubt hindsight will reveal many others besides as 2011 unfolds, and when - as ever - we'll be here to guide you through.