If this ends up being the last year of human existence, it is safe to say that the music industry went out with a bang. 2012 brought about fresh faces, controversies, the resurfacing of classic acts, and the loss of unforgettable influencers in music. Here is a recap of what shocked you, what inspired you, and what you may have missed in music during the year of 2012…
The English-Irish boy band, consisting of members Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Liam Payne, Harry Styles, and Louis Tomlinoon, formed in 2010 on the British television series The X Factor. After finishing in third place on the highly publicized show, the band signed to Columbia Records. Wasting no time, the boys released their debut single, “What Makes You Beautiful,” in September of 2011 to the UK and in February 2012 to the U.S. The single reached practically instant success in both countries, as well as internationally. As their hit skyrocketed in terms of sales and popularity, it also earned the band numerous awards, including a BRIT award for Best British Single. As of August 2012, One Direction’s first album, “Up All Night,” had sold over 3 million copies worldwide. The debut album’s rapid success allowed the band to headline their first concert tour in the UK, prior to the release of their first single in the U.S. TheUp All Night Tour was rumored to have sold out of tickets in less than ten seconds. Released in late September of 2012, One Direction’s “Live While We’re Young,” placed inside the top ten in almost every country it charted. This lead single off of their second studio album, Take Me Home, sold 544,000 copies in the U.S. during its first week. The band has announced their plans for a world tour in 2013, kicking off in February. Their Twitter page has already amassed over 8 million followers, Harry Styles hair is gaining a cult following comparable to an early Beiber, and romantic gossip has already began to target the boys (linking Payne to Leona Lewis and Styles to Taylor Swift.)
An American rock band with southern soul and a lead singer Rolling Stone described as “one part Janis, one part Robert Plant.” Formed in 2009 in Athens, Alabama, the Alabama Shakes consist of lead singer Brittany Howard, guitarist Heath Fogg, bassist Zac Cockrell, and drummer Steve Johnson. The band released the four-song EP Alabama Shakes in September of 2011, which gained the attention of media outlets, most pivotally NPR. The group’s single “Hold On,” released in early February of 2012, introduced the world to the uniqueness and power behind Howards’ voice, which fuses rock with gospel and blues. The Alabama Shakes quickly jumped into the touring circuit, playing internationally and making frequent festival appearances. In April of 2012, their album Boys & Girls came out peaking at #8 on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and #3 on the UK Official Record Store chart. There is a consensus surrounding this band amongst music critics: they are not an act anyone wants to see fade away; their potential is monumental.
Ed Sheeran is the 21-year-old singer, songwriter, and producer who broke through in the U.S. in 2012. Born in England, Sheeran moved to London in 2008 to pursue a music career. In 2009 alone, he played approximately 312 gigs in and around London. In early 2011 he released an independent record called No. 5 Collaborations Project, opening the door for him to be signed to Asylum/Atlantic Records. In early summer of 2011, Sheeran reached music star status in the UK with his hits “The A Team” and “Lego House,” both off of his debut album +. Released in September of 2011 in the UK, and later released in June 2012 in the U.S., + secured Sheeran BRIT awards for Best British Male Solo Artist and British Breakthrough of the Year in 2012. In the U.S., Sheeran’s lyrically poetic, yet haunting acoustic hit “The A Team” was released in late February. The single peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts. Perhaps most igniting to Sheeran’s latest progression in the world of fame has been his collaboration with American country-pop princess, Taylor Swift. Sheeran and Swift duet in a song off of her latest album, Red, which sold over one million copies in the U.S. during its first week.
Lana Del Rey
Born Elizabeth (Lizzy) Woolridge Grant, the 26-year-old singer-songwriter from New York is introducing the music world to a new and different kind of artist, and her name is Lana Del Rey. While studying at Fordham University in New York City, Del Rey began her music career performing throughout the city under pseudonyms (one being Sprinkle Jump Rope Queen). Her first album, Lana Del Ray a.k.a. Lizzy Grant, was released digitally in January of 2010 by the independent record label 5 Points Records. The album had little success and Del Rey quickly bought out her contract with the label. In October of 2010 she signed with Interscope, Polydor, and Stranger Records, leading to the release of her debut single “Video Games” in June 2011. Two months later, a music video for the single, directed and edited by Del Rey herself, was posted to YouTube. The video introduced the world to a fresh talent: the 1960s-esque, pouty-faced, noir siren Lana Del Rey. The songstress’ second studio album, Born to Die, was released in January 2012 and peaked at #1 on the UK and U.S. charts. The album has four singles, including “Born to Die,” “Blue Jeans,” “National Anthem,” and “Summertime Sadness.” The respective music videos for each of her singles remain the cinematic praise first achieved by the music video for “Video Games.” Aside from the success and positive responses to her abnormal approach to pop, Del Rey also landed a campaign with H&M as the face of their Winter 2012 collection. Negative publicity around the singer has included her January 2012 Saturday Night Live performance, which had critics deeming it the “worst SNL performance ever,” and her alleged romance with Guns N’ Roses front man Axl Rose, 25 years her senior.
Budweiser’s Made in America Festival
This year’s inaugural Made in America Festival ignited headlines when announced in May of 2012. The festival, curated by none other than the illustrious Jay-Z and held on the main parkway of the City of Brotherly Love, promised a blend of rock, R&B, hip-hop, and electronic dance music. The juxtaposition of the festival’s two heavyweight headlining acts, Jay-Z and Pearl Jam, sparked rumors that spread like rapid fire of the other artists to join the line-up. Between the dramatic, community-building festival commercials in which Jay-Z narrates – “We’re all trading off each other’s culture, so no matter what lines you put – country, indie, rock, rap – we’re all somehow gonna find a way to come together.” – and Ron Howard’s announcement of his intention to create a documentary on the festival, there was no loss of hype surrounding the event. With the arrival of September 1st, against the backdrop of Philadelphia’s iconic Museum of Art, acts such as Skrillex, Odd Future, Passion Pit, Drake, and Rita Ora, among many others, performed for over 80 thousand people. The highlighted performances came from Janelle Monae, Gary Clark Jr. (who received such positive feedback on his first day, that he was asked to play again on the second), and the reunion of hip-hop superstars RUN-DMC. The festival’s crowning moment was when Jay-Z joined Pearl Jam on stage to perform “99 Problems.”
iHeartRadio Music Festival 2012
The second annual iHeartRadio Music Festival took place September 21-22 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. Hosted by Ryan Seacrest, performers included Taylor Swift, Usher, Bon Jovi, Rihanna, Green Day, Aerosmith, Brad Paisley, Pitbull, Linkin Park, Lil Wayne, Pink, Jason Aldean, No Doubt, Swedish House Mafia, Miranda Lambert, Mary J. Blige, Deadmau5, Enrique Inglesias, and Calvin Harris. But, believe it or not, that’s not all. PSY, Prince, Gerard Way of My Chemical Romance, Ne-Yo, and rapper Sammy Adams also made guest performances. But still, that’s not it. Brittney Spears, Olympian Ryan Lochte, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, indy car racer Arie Luyendyk Jr., LL Cool J, the Jonas Brothers, and Kathy Griffin also all made appearances. The magnitude of each star’s fame and success left no artist on the byline for this event. Tickets were sold out in less than ten minutes, however for those who could’nt get their hands on a ticket, the festival was streamed live over the Internet – a testament in itself to iHeartRadio’s platform. With the help of Macy’s, iHeartRadio sponsored a nationwide search where people could vote for what rising acts they wanted to see given a shot to the share the stage with the world’s biggest musical stars at the festival. The American pup duo Megan & Liz won the sweepstakes, allotting the fraternal twins from Michigan the opportunity of a lifetime.
Rihanna’s 777 Tour
To promote her seventh studio album released November 9th, Unapologetic, Rihanna announced her borderline kitschy 777 Tour. Seven shows, seven countries, in seven days. To add to the hysteria, the pop megastar also invited journalists and contest winners to become part of her entourage for the trip. The tour touched down in Mexico City, Toronto, Stockholm, Paris, Berlin, London, and New York City where a reported identical set list and performance was given in each city. Although bringing the press along was with the intention that the journalists would generate positive feedback about their experience, the general response from those aboard was the tour was more of a 666 tour from hell. Despite a brief greeting, champagne toast, and obvious photo-op, Ri-Ri’s guests complained of the scarcity of the star’s appearances off of the stage. Restless and aggravated, journalists skirted along the verge of mutiny. One Australian reporter took his frustration out in nudity by streaking across the airplane’s cabin aisles. Even with the backlash from the 777 Tour, Unapologetic debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart, becoming Rihanna’s first #1 album in the U.S. The moral of this story therefore being any press is good press.
Hurricane Sandy: Coming Together & 12.12.12: The Concert For Sandy Relief
In late October of this year the tropical storm Hurricane Sandy devastated the Mid-Atlantic and Northeastern regions of the U.S. Tolling 131 deaths and an estimated $63 billion in damages, Hurricane Sandy shook our nation. In response to the destruction, NBC broadcasted a benefit to raise funds for Red Cross disaster relief. On November 2nd, Matt Lauer hosted the one-hour, commercial-free telethon in New York City. Bruce Springsteen, Christina Aguilera, Sting, Billy Joel, Jon Bon Jovie, Mary J. Blige, and Steven Tyler all performed. 12.12.12: The Concert For Sandy Relief was broadcasted live to two billion people worldwide on December 12th. Presented by Chase to benefit the Robin Hood Relief Fund, Madison Square Garden filled its capacity for an unbelievable musical event. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, Paul McCartney, the Who, Dave Grohl, Bon Jovi, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Roger Waters, Eddie Vedder, Billy Joel, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, and Chris Martin all performed.
It comes with no surprise that this year’s biggest pop culture fad has been Gangnam Style. Straight from the #1 spot on South Korean charts, to the computer screen of close to a billion viewers via YouTube, the song and its outlandish dance moves have spread more quickly than the plague. The man responsible is South Korean singer, songwriter, rapper, dancer, and record producer, PSY. Gangnam style is the lead single off of his sixth studio album. The song’s immensely popular music video has crowned PSY the “King of YouTube,” earning the Guiness World Record for “Most Liked Video on YouTube.” Aside from constant radio play, numerous parodies of the hit, and appearances on The Today Show, The Ellen DeGenerous Show, and Saturday Night Live, Gangnam Style has sold over 2.5 million copies in the U.S. alone, as well as charted at #1 in over 30 countries.
Billie Joe Armstrong’s Meltdown
In an explosive moment during their performance at the iHeartRadio festival this year, Green Day front man Billie Joe Armstrong lost his cool resulting in a massive public rant. During the performance of their classic hit, “Basket Case,” Armstrong abruptly ceased the music to point out that the timer for their set read that only one minute remained. In his tirade, Armstrong shouted into the microphone to festival organizers, “Give me a [expletive] break. One minute left. One minute [expletive] left? You’re gonna give me [expletive] one minute? Let me [expletive] tell you something. Let me tell you something. I’ve been around since [expletive] 1980- [expletive] 8 and you’re going to give me one [expletive] minute? You gotta be [expletive] kidding me. [Expletive]. I’m not [expletive] Justin Bieber!” In true rock n’ roll fashion, the rant concluded with Armstrong smashing his guitar and storming off stage. The onstage meltdown was just the surface of a personal catastrophe for the rocker, which landed him in rehab for substance abuse less than 48 hours after the incident. In response to the breakdown, Greenday issued a statement of apology saying, “We would like everyone to know that our set was not cut short by Clear Channel and to apologize to those we offended at the iHeartRadio festival in Las Vegas.” The event happened between the cancellation of a show in Italy earlier that month due to the “gastric problems” of Armstrong that put him in an Italian hospital, and the release of Greenday’s first album, UNO!, of their much anticipated trilogy of albums. The band was also forced to pull out of their headlining slot at New Orleans’ Voodoo Music and Arts Experience Festival held at the end of October.
Randy Blythe’s Arrest
2012 has been a tumultuous year for lead singer of the heavy metal band Lamb of God, Randy Blythe. Blythe stars as the main character in a twisted, and almost unbelievable, real life story that involves death, foreign law, and rock music. The circumstances, which have come to haunt Blythe, spawned at a May 2010 Lamb of God show in Prague where Blythe pushed a fan trying to get onstage back into the crowd. The fan, 19-year-old Daniel Nosek, fell and eventually died after being in a coma due to the head trauma he sustained from the fall’s impact. Fast-forward two years to June 27, 2012. Blythe was arrested upon landing in the Czech Republic with intentions to play a June 28th show. On the grounds of suspicion of manslaughter, Blythe spent five weeks in a Czech prison. The singer was permitted to leave after posting $400 thousand bail. On November 30th Blythe was indicted on manslaughter charges in the Czech Republic. Blythe, who has remained in the U.S. since his release, claims that he will defend himself in court. Larry Mazer, the band’s manager, stated in Blythe’s defense, “We believe that Randy responded professionally to the numerous amounts of fans rushing the stage that day, a number of them captured videos that have been posted on the Internet. We have testimony from the venue operator that acknowledges lax security and an improper barricade being used that evening. Numerous testimonies from fans also were contradictory as to the actions of the multiple fans that tried to access the stage.”
Madonna’s MDNA Tour Controversies
Madonna kicked off her 88-date MDNA World Tour on May 31st of this year. Described by the Material Girl herself as a “journey from darkness to light,” each performance was to take the audience along a spectrum of different themes and the emotions attached to them. This was accomplished all through the music and theatrics of Madonna. Innovative, sexual, and robust, Madonna’s performances have been known to tread along a thin line of artistry and offensiveness. However, to phrase it in laymen’s terms, the MDNA Tour had Madonna doing a lot of weird shit. To begin, controversy arose over the videos incorporated into her performance of “Nobody Knows Me,” where the president of France’s right-wing Front National political party, Marine Le Pen, was portrayed with a swastika on her forehead. Le Pen threatened to sue Madonna if the video was not removed by the time Madonna reached her scheduled show in France. Madge refused to fully succumb to the threat of Le Pen, only replacing the swastika with a question mark in time for her French dates. Le Pen sourly said of Madonna, “We understand how old singers need to get people talking about them go to such extremes.” Madonna was also booed at her show in Paris for condensing the show to be only 45 minutes without telling concertgoers. Madonna’s performance in Edinburgh, Scotland caused some unrest because of choreography involving the parade of pistols and AK-47s across the stage. Standing her ground and refusing to remove the guns, her camp replied to the controversy stating, “Madonna would rather cancel her show than censor her art.” Denver, Colorado’s performance brought about similar sentiments regarding the act where guns are pointed into the audience. Fans were disappointed at Madonna’s lack of censorship in this circumstance due to the Aurora theater shooting in July of this year. Madge’s professed support of the Russian feminist punk band Pussy Riot allotted her harsh criticism during her performances in Moscow and St. Petersburg. Members of the masked activist group, who oppose President Vladimir Putin, were imprisoned this summer for “premeditated hooliganism performed by an organized group of people motivated by religious hatred or hostility” after performing a “punk prayer” inside a Russian church. Madonna’s outspoken support of these women prompted Russian Prime Minister Dimitry Rogozin to tweet, “With age, every ex-slut tends to lecture everybody on morality. Especially during world tours and concerts.” Terrorist threats prompted the U.S. Embassy to issue a warning to concertgoers at the second Russian MDNA date. The entertainer herself was threatened with arrest if she spoke in support of gay rights during the show. After distributing wristbands in support of LGBT rights prior to her St. Petersburg show, it’s alleged that anti-gay Russian campaigners plan to sue Madonna for over &10 million. Rebuke surrounded Madonna’s decision to flash her nipple to the audience in Istanbul, Turkey where the population is predominantly Muslim. And on the topic of Islam, crowds were left confused when Madonna, while onstage in Washington D.C., preached urging audience members to vote for Obama, concluding by calling the President a “Black Muslim.” By the time the tour wraps, it is expected that 2.1 million fans will have had a first-hand experience with Madonna’s outlandish onstage antics.
The Rolling Stones
2012 marked the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones, and what better way to celebrate than with two new songs, a new compilation album, a new documentary about the band, and a new tour. The Stones’ latest greatest hits album GRRR!, released in November of this year, was made available in five different formats ranging from a 3-CD version including 50 tracks and a 24-page booklet, to the Super Deluxe Edition Box Set with a 4-CD version including 80 tracks, 7’ vinyl, a hardback book, 5 postcards, and a poster all within a presentation box. The album features “Doom and Gloom” and “One More Shot,” two new singles recorded by the Stones this summer. The Stones also announced that they would be playing five anniversary shows, two in the UK and three in the U.S. The first of these shows took place on November 25th at London’s O2 Arena. The performance lasted two and a half hours, covering 23 songs and featuring special guests Mary J. Blige, Jeff Beck, and former band members Bill Wyman and Mick Taylor. Their second performance in London featured special guests Florence Welch and Eric Clapton. “Crossfire Hurricane,” whose name was taken from the opening line of the 1968 Stones’ single, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash,” premiered on HBO November 15th. The 111-minute documentary covers the band’s unmatched career and the turbulent journey that defines it. The film’s director, Academy Award nominee Brett Morgen, described the film saying it, “invites the audience to experience firsthand the Stones’ nearly mythical journey from outsiders to rock and roll royalty. This is not an academic history lesson. Crossfire Hurricane allows the viewer to experience the Stones’ journey from a unique vantage point. Its an aural and visual roller coaster ride.”
In July of this year The Who announced their return to the stage with a planned 36-date North American tour. The tour, which kicked off on November 1st in Florida, will center around the Who’s sixth studio album and rock opera, Quadrophenia. The Quadrophenia and More Tour also features other Who classics. The band has taken the rock opera’s tracks on tour collectively before, the last time in 1996 and 1997. Townshend, in a press conference, cited the reasoning behind this 2012-2013 tour stating, “We’ve been anxious to work together before we drop dead.” Townshend also published his long awaited memoir, “Who Am I,” early this fall, receiving rave reviews.
Aerosmith released their first album of all new material in eleven years on November 6, 2012. Music From Another Dimension! is the fifteenth studio album from the Boston rockers. The first single, “Legendary Child”, was debuted on the season finale of American Idol in late May. The album, which peaked at #1 on the Billboard rock chart, includes other singles “Lover A lot,” “What Could Have Been Love,” and “Street Jesus.” Reviews of the album commend Aerosmith for sticking to their own classic style while vamping it up to still be something fresh. This could be due in part to the decision to bring on board Jack Douglas as a co-producer. Douglas worked with and produced the band throughout the 1970s. Aerosmith also enlisted in a two-leg, over 40-date Global Warming Tour. Having kicking off on May 30th, the rockers have spanned North America accompanied by Cheap Trick, and plan to conclude their tour December 30th in Nashville. Aerosmith also made music headlines this year when they played a free outdoor concert on a Boston street in early November.
It had been over a decade since No Doubt released new music when their single “Settle Down” dropped on July 16th of this summer. The hit was their first single off of their sixth studio album Push and Shove, which hit stores two months later in September. The album debuted at #3 on the Billboard 200 chart, beating out their last album, 2001’s Rock Steady that peaked at #9. No Doubt performed at this years iHeartRadio festival in Las Vegas and performed a 7-night stint at Los Angeles’ Gibson Amphitheatre. We are still anticipating a tour announcement.
Guitarist and musician nicknamed the “Godfather of Go-Go Music,” Brown passed away on May 16th from pneumonia. Brown is best known for his hit, “Bust’n Loose,” which was also sampled by rapper Nelly in his single “Hot in Herre.” He was 75.
The American jazz and rock drummer passed away from cancer on December 6th. Cassidy was a founding member of the band Spirit, which was known for its fusion of jazz into rock and their hit “I Got A Line On You.” He was 89.
The founding member of the psych-pop band Olivia Tremor Control passed away on July 31st. Doss was at the epicenter of the “Elephant 6” community of musicians and continued to contribute to other psych-pop bands involved in the community. He was 44.
Lead singer of the disco group the Trammps, known for their single “Disco Inferno,” Ellis passed away on March 8th. He was 74.
Founding member, along with his two brothers, and singer in the disco mega group the BeeGees, Gibb passed away on May 20th after a long battle with cancer. The BeeGees reached worldwide success with their countless singles. The Gibbs also penned hits for artists such as Diana Ross, Barbara Streisand, Olivia Newton-John, Celine Dion, Kenny Rogers, and Dolly Parton. He was 62.
Lead singer and drummer of The Band, Helm passed away on April 18th. With the Band, Helm had hit singles with “The Weight,” “Up on Cripple Creek,” “Ophelia,” and “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” In 2008 Helm made a comeback, earning the Grammy Award for Best Traditional Folk Album for his Dirt Farmer. His follow-up album, Electric Dirt, took the win for the Grammy’s first ever Best Americana Album award in 2010. Helm followed with a consecutive win in that category in 2011 with his album Ramble at the Ryman. He was 71.
The pop diva that sold over 55 million records over the course of her life, passed away on February 11th. She was the only artist to chart seven consecutive #1 Billboard Hot 100 hits and, as a multitalented act, she starred in the films Waiting to Exhale and The Bodyguard. Although frequented in the tabloids because of her struggles with drug addiction and her tumultuous marriage to pop artist Bobby Brown, Whitney’s death was hailed as a tremendous loss, deeply affecting the music community. Houston was found dead in a room at the Beverly Hilton Hotel where she had drowned in the bathtub due to the effects of chronic cocaine use and heart disease. She was 48.
Iconic singer-songwriter whose style incorporated a variety of genres including rhythm & blues, jazz, rock & roll, gospel, and soul. Etta James passed away on January 20th after a long battle with Leukemia. Winner of six Grammys and ranked #22 on Rolling Stone’s list of 100 Greatest Singers, James is credited for having bridged the gap between rhythm & blues and rock & roll. James has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Blues Hall of Fame, and the Grammy’s Hall of Fame. She was 73.
The Monkees’ lead singer passed away on February 29th after suffering a heart attack. Originally formed to star in their own sitcom in the 1960s, the band became known for their hits “I’m a Believer,” “Daydream Believer,” and “Last Train to Clarksville.” He was 66.
Known as the “Godfather of Rhythm & Blues,” Otis passed away on January 17th. The songwriter, musician, and producer discovered and produced the timeless Etta James. He was 90.
The Mexican-American singer passed away on December 9th in a fatal plane crash in Mexico. Known for her work within the banda music genre, and to many called the “Queen of Banda,” Rivera demanded a presence in a traditionally male genre. She was 43.
The front man for the Northern California punk band No Use For a Name passed away on August 1st. The band, singed on Fat Wreck Chords record label, was known for their hits “Soul Mate,” “Dumb Reminders,” and “For Fiona.” He was 41.
Five-time Grammy winner and the first artist to ever have three consecutive double albums reach #1 on the Billboard charts, Donna Summer passed away on May 17th. The disco songstress’ hits included “Last Dance,” “Love to Love You Baby,” and “She Works Hard for the Money.” Summer passed away after battling cancer. She was 63.
Former member of Fleetwood Mac, Welch passed away on June 7th. He also had a successful solo career in the late 1970s with hits “Sentimental Lady,” “Hot Love, Cold World,” “Precious Love,” and “Ebony Eyes.” The cause of death was a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. He was 65.
The singer-songwriter passed away this year on September 15th from bladder cancer. Audrey Hepburn first performed his hit song, “Moon River,” in the 1961 film Breakfast at Tiffany’s. The song received an Academy Award Best Original Song for the film. He was 84.
Known as “MCA” from the iconic hip-hop group the Beastie Boys, Yauch passed away on May 4th from salivary gland cancer he was first diagnosed with in 2009. The Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nearly one month prior to Yauch’s death. Yauch also found success as a film director and founder of Oscilloscope Laboratories, an independent film production and distribution company. As a human rights activist, and a Buddhist, he was involved in the Tibetan independence movement having organized the Tibetan Freedom Concert. According to his will, Yauch prohibited the use of his music and “artistic property” for advertising purposes. He was 47.