2012 was a big year for Jay-Z.
First he became a father, welcoming his daughter Blue Ivy with wife Beyonce on January 7. Then he threw his own festival, called Made in America, down in Philadelphia, and raised over $4 million to help Obama get re-elected. Then he was crowned king of his native Brooklyn with an eight-night opening run at the Barclays Center, the arena that he was integral in bringing to downtown Brooklyn, just across the street from his 560 State Street stash spot.
He may have even reunited with his long-lost sister!
Lana Del Rey's arrival on the music scene was fraught with controversy. Was she a hack, cooked up by a savvy music exec? What was up with those big, pouty lips? Can she actually sing?
The latter was addressed with a much-discussed January 14 Saturday Night Live performance, which NBC anchor Brian Williams detested, calling it "one of the worst outings in SNL history." But, still, controversy cashed in. Her song "Video Games" shot up the charts and her Born to Die album debuted at No. 2 on the charts. She hung out with Axl Rose and Marilyn Manson, and later she saved face with a solid American Idol performance and some quality Rick Rubin-produced new songs. Also, that "National Anthem" music video with A$AP Rocky, in which she plays Marilyn Monroe and Jackie O, is totally awesome.
Madge is certainly controversial, but controversial for a purpose, something M.I.A. didn't seem to have when she flipped the bird to millions of viewers. Madonna wasn't happy: "I understand it’s punk rock and everything, but to me there was such a feeling of love and good energy, and positivity, it seemed negative. It’s such a teenager ... irrelevant thing to do."
It was a tragic ending to a turbulent life and succesful singing career. Whitney Houston was discovered dead from an accidental drowning in her Los Angeles hotel room on the eve of the GRAMMYS, February 11. Cocaine, as well as anti-anxiety drug Xanax, muscle relaxant Flexeril and over-the-counter allergy medication Benadryl were later found in the singer's blood.
Her death sparked tributes and plenty drama—her label hiked up album prices to cash in, then apologized, and her family pointed fingers, then received their own reality show. Ultimately, Whitney was one of the most-Google'd people in 2012.
Question: How many people hooked up thanks to Canadian singer Carly Rae Jepsen's "Call Me Maybe"?
The super catchy song became a dating punchline, and its video became a YouTube sensation—it currently has over 361 million views. It became the undeniable song of summer 2012, and set a record for being on the charts for nine weeks in a row. Sadly, though, the song wasn't an inspiration for Ms. Jepsen; she's still never given her number to a guy.
After years playing music with middling success in their bands the Format, Steel Train and Anathallo, singer Nate Ruess, keyboardist Andrew Dost and guitarist Jack Antonoff finally hit pop gold. In 2009 the trio banded together as fun. and this year broke the charts with their second album, Some Nights, and its hit single "We Are Young."
Russia's Pussy Riot became headline news when three women from the punk band were arrested in March and later found guilty of "hooliganism motivated by religious hatred" for staging an anti-Kremlin protest at a Moscow church. They received a two-year prison sentence. Um, so much for freedom of speech, eh?
The music world rallied around the trio—who apparently once had an orgy in a museum as a political protest—before the Russian government gave in, sort of. One member was freed and the other two were sent to serve out their sentences in a prison colony. Now that's compassion.
Kickstarter is changing the music industry, allowing artists to connect directly with their fans, surpassing the financial-superior major label machine. But there are issues, as Boston's drama-lovin' singer-songwriter Amanda Palmer proved in April when she launched a fundraising campaign for her first album since parting ways with a major label.
She aimed to raise $100,000, which she accomplished in just seven hours. By the end of Palmer's month-long Kickstarter campaign, fans had donated a million dollars. Palmer rewarded her fans with private concerts, roller skating parties and special album packaging, but when she solicited free musicians to join her onstage, she went too far. After an investigation into her use of fans' donations, and a big controversy about not paying pro musicians, Palmer agreed to pay up.
Boy, oh boy, did this get the music world a-talkin'. Good idea? Bad idea? Everybody had an opinion. Sure, rumors of John Lennon, Elvis, Michael Jackson hologram tours abounded, but the whole thing didn't last. The company behind the hologram, Digital Domain Media Group, went bankrupt and Tupac returned to his party in the sky.
The White Stripes sold out arenas, won awards and topped charts. But could Jack White do it all by himself? The answer was a resounding "yes," when White's debut solo release, Blunderbuss, dropped April 23 and rocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Then all sorts of weirdness went down. He toured with two bands, pitting boys again girls, then collaborated with Tom Jones and Detroit rappers Insane Clown Posse.
Hip hop mourned the death of one of its founding fathers (ahem, boys) when Adam "MCA" Yauch of the Beastie Boys succumbed to cancer in May.
The music world responded with an outpouring of love and appreciation for Yauch's music and humble, loving personality, and there were tons of badass Boys covers. A few weeks after Yauch's death the remaining Beastie Boys finally broke their silence. Ad-Rock said, "I don't believe Adam was afraid [of death]. Bummed out, yeah. But I can't think when I ever saw him afraid. We got jumped in Brooklyn one time, so we've been afraid in that sense. But, man, he hadn't been afraid in a long time. That gives me peace."
Tom Gabel was the growling, fiery frontman of Florida punks Against Me! Now he's the growling, fiery front woman.
Gabel came out as transgender in May, adopting the name Laura Jane Grace. She told Rolling Stone that after experiencing gender dysphoria for years, she'll begin the process of becoming a woman via hormones and electrolysis treatments. If anything, it only intensified the band's already exploding gigs: "However fierce our band was in the past, imagine me, six-foot-two, in heels, fucking screaming into someone's face."
When Gaga dropped her new single, "Born This Way," many pointed out the similarities between her hit and Madonna's "Express Yourself," including Madge herself, who had a few choice words for Mother Monster: "I'm a very big fan of ['Born This Way']," she said. "And I'm glad I could help her write it." Ouch. Gaga is surely crying about it on her brand new plane...
Madonna launched a world tour on June 1 in support of her new album MDNA, and, of course, she stirred up controversy across the globe.
She flashed her nips onstage; she was booed in her hometown of Detroit for showing Prez Obama support; she was booed again in Paris for leaving the stage early (possibly related to those Nazi images?); she shocked Denver, still reeling from the Aurora shooting, with gunplay during her song "Gang Bang"; she was sued for promoting homosexuality in Russia.
But controversy pays; Madge's MDNA tour was the year's highest-grossing trek. Touche!
It's the beef that just won't die.
At Hot 97's Summer Jam concert on June 3 in New Jersey, DJ Peter Rosenberg took to the stage and said, "I see the real hip hop heads sprinkled in here; I see them. I know there's some chicks here waiting to sing 'Starships' later. I'm not talking to y'all right now. F**k that bulls**t. I'm here to talk about real hip hop s**t." When Lil Wayne heard what Rosenberg said, Wayne pulled his entire Young Money crew, including Nicki Minaj, off the bill and split.
The beef appeared to be quashed, but in December is flamed up again when Hot 97's program director, Ebro, speculated on the air that Pink Friday Roman Reloaded: The Re-Up didn’t sell well after Rosenberg’s comments at the Summer Jam. Minaj then called up Ebro and told him, "Don't ever play my music again." It appears this one won't be solved in 2012.
Flaming Lips leader Wayne Coyne won't let anything get in the way of his artistic vision, not even friendship.
Such was the case with the Oklahoma band's video for their collaboration with Erykah Badu, "The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face." Badu flipped out when the NSFW clip—showing Badu and her sister Nayrok, who sits in a bathtub and gets covered in a syrupy white substance—landed online without her approval.
"I told u from jump that I believed your concept to be disturbing," Badu wrote to Coyne. "U disrespected me by releasing pics and rough vid on the internet without my approval... I never would have approved that tasteless, meaningless, shock motivated video," she wrote. "Just because an image is shocking does not make it art. You obviously have a misconception of who I am artistically. I don't mind that but... By the way you are an ass."
In 2008 R&B-soul crooner D'Angelo was in a bad place. As SPIN pointed out, he'd abandoned music, gained about 40 pounds and was dealing with serious drug and alcohol problems. But in 2012, the six-pack-brandishing sex icon returned with a series of concerts, his first in nearly a decade. He started with a string of well-received European shows, then his big comeback was staged at Bonnaroo on June 10, with Questlove on drums. Read Fuse's review!
Chris Brown just loves to fight, doesn't he?
Brown and Drake (and their entourages) got into a scuffle at a NYC club in June. It all reportedly started around 4 A.M. when Brown sent a bottle to Drake and his crew, who sent the bottle back with a message about Rihanna, Brown's exe who Drake has been linked to. So they settled it with a chat and a handshake and... kidding! The two crews then threw bottles at each other, injuring a bunch of bystanders (and cutting Brown's chin).
It was a case that rocked the hard rock community: Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe was arrested in Prague on June 28 and charged with manslaughter. The charge stemmed from a 2010 concert, when a fan reportedly sustained injuries that lead to his death. The rock community rallied around Blythe, who was denied bail, despite posting $400,000 and spending a month in jail.
In August, after five weeks of imprisonment, he was finally released, and soon returned to American and to the stage. He also said that "If it is deemed necessary for me to do so, I WILL return to Prague to stand trial," Blythe wrote. "I will NOT hide in the United States, safe from extradition and possible prosecution."
The music world simply couldn't wait to hear Frank Ocean's Channel Orange.
Before it dropped July 10, online chatter about its lyrical content reached a deafening volume: Was Frank Ocean gay? On July 4, just days before the album's release, he revealed the truth in a Tumblr blog post, confirming that he'd fallen in love with a man, which influenced Channel Orange.
"I feel like a free man," he confessed. It sparked praise (and some backlash) as a huge leap for hip hop, a genre that often harbors homophobia. Ocean capped his huge year with a bunch of Grammy nominations.
It's the biggest music video ever. Ever. It's at more than 900 million YouTube views, and quickly heading north towards a billion. Wow.
Who knew a horse dance could become so damn ubiquitous? And it's all from a chubby South Korean dude named Psy, singing in a language many of us don't even understand. The YouTube covers/parodies rolled in; even Insane Clown Posse love it, which clearly proves Psy's limitless global reach. Now, about all those anti-American lyrics...
2012 will go down in history as the year that all that weed finally went to Snoop Dogg's head.
In a press conference held July 31, the onetime gangbangin' rapper transformed himself into a peace-promoting raggae star called—wait for it—Snoop Lion, and planned a new album with producer Diplo. The best part: it actually sounds good! He also got caught toking up in Norway, released a book made of rolling papers and blazed up with his pal Willie Nelson.
But weirdest of all: Snoop even helped Foster the People's Mark Foster quit smoking weed. Maybe the world is coming to an end...?
Drug users learned an important lesson in 2012: Avoid Sierra Blanca, Texas at all costs.
Fiona Apple and Nelly certainly didn't. Apple was arrested for possession of hash and weed (producing that amazing mug shot above) on September 20, while Nelly was busted for a loaded .45 cal pistol, more than 10 lbs of weed and .64 ounces of heroin less than a month later. Nelly was briefly detained, but cleared when entourage member Brian Keith Jones took responsibility for all the substances and the weapon.
So, musicians, please take Willie Nelson's advice: Avoid Sierra Blanca.
The biggest surprise on the Billboard 200 chart in 2012 was British folkies Mumford & Sons, whose latest album Babel sold over 600,000 copies in its debut week in late September. It became the second largest album of the year, behind Taylor Swift's Red. But it also started a conversation about the state of music, the album-buying public and rock and folk music's oft-dismissed commercial value. It also nabbed a few Grammy noms.
Oh, and there's more good news: The boys are already at work on their next album.
Still, it seems no one can quite believe it: Rihanna is (sort of?) reunited with Chris Brown, her former boyfriend who beat her to a bloody pulp before the Grammys in 2009. "What is she thinking?" seemed to be on the music world's collective tongue.
Taylor Swift gets what she wants, and she wants hit records galore and boys, boys, boys.
Her album Red became the biggest selling album in a decade, moving over 1.2 million copies in its first week (thanks Papa John's!). But what's all that success without someone(s) to share it with? Swift's love life was front and center all year long. She dated a Kennedy, and even considered moving into the Kennedy's Nantucket stomping grounds, then ditched him for Harry Styles of One Direction. She even reportedly dated a commoner, aka not famous person, in her hometown of Nashville.
It's too hard to keep up, Tay-Tay.
Green Day may be a bonafide pop entity at this point, selling out arenas and record store shelves, but, dammit, Billie Joe Armstrong is an O.G. punk, and he reminded the world just how punk (...or drunk?) he is at Las Vegas' iHeartRadio festival in September.
When the band's set was cut 20 minutes, a clock showing one minute left in their set during a performance of "Basket Case," BJA stopped the show, inexplicably dissed Justin Bieber, smashed his guitar, then stormed offstage. Two days later he apologized and went to rehab. Of course, this didn't derail his appearance on The Voice, but his stint in rehab is apparently "no joke," so there's that...
Rock's most reclusive corn-row wearer, Axl Rose, emerged from his zen den in 2012 for a few rare TV interviews and a even series of shows, a few of which he showed up on time for. No, really. He agreed to a Las Vegas residency, turned down his induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and even found time to play the worst version ever of "Welcome to the Jungle."
In late October hearts could be heard breaking across the globe. Well, excluding one: Jessica Biel's. Her longtime boyfriend Justin Timberlake finally put a ring on it in a fancy ceremony in Italy.
It was the year of the Boy Band.
One Direction, the former X Factor contestants and brainchild of Simon Cowell, ruled the earth, scoring the year's second million-selling album. The Wanted, meanwhile, swept America with their songs "Chasing the Sun" and "I Found You." The difference between the two? Their girlfriends. 1D's Harry Styles is dating (and singing karaoke with) Taylor Swift, while Lindsay Lohan has given up her career to follow the Wanted on tour. You do the math.
The BET Awards became a boxing ring this year when a pair of scuffles broke out at the Atlanta ceremony. It was 50 Cent's G-Unit vs. rapper Gunplay, who got served before he could even enter the venue. Then, inside, Rick Ross' Maybach Music Group and Young Jeezy had words backstage, and shoving ensued. Apparently the brawl moved to the parking lot, where shots were reportedly fired. Guys, can't we all just get along?
Adele didn't even release an album in 2012, but her second release 21, which dropped a full year before 2012 even began, ruled the charts all year, and it ruled them hard. Even while she recorded a Bond theme song and had a baby, 21 was out there selling copies like hot cakes, raking in the cash and eventually reaching diamond status, aka 10 million copies sold.
The Compton rapper returned the hip hop conversation to the West Coast with his new album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, out October 22. He had the support of Dr. Dre and Lady Gaga, who ultimately collaborated with him, and when the album finally dropped it was clear why: dude is a rap-alien genius, blending an Outkast-style art to his up-from-the-street lyrics. It rightfully made Fuse's favorite albums and songs list.
Could there be a more perfect couple? After all, Kim Kardashian is Kanye West's "perfect bitch" (even more so after he replaced her entire wardrobe with a more acceptable one). And they're so cute, guys: they make funny pictures on the computer; Kim named her kitten after Kanye's hit "Mercy"; 'Ye protects his girl from unwanted paparazzi. Awwww. And they support each others careers. Kanye appeared in her reality show, and Kim popped up in his new music video. Match. Made. In. Heaven.
It was a lesson in First World Problems.
Journalists boarded Rihanna's jet on November 14 for a whirlwind 777 tour—seven shows, seven days, seven different countries, all promoting her new album Unapologetic. Sounds fun, right? Wrong. Well, depends on who you ask. It had a promising start, with Rihanna pouring shots for the crew. But soon the mood onboard changed: journalists were restless and deprived from actually interacting with the pop star. Soon there were complaints of no/bad food or water, or even access to bathrooms. It got so bad that one Aussie journo even streaked in protest. Yikes.
On December 30, just as 2012 was about to enter our rear view, Kanye West used an Atlantic City concert to announce that girlfriend Kim Kardashian was pregnant. The Internet exploded. Kardashian wrote, "We feel so blessed and lucky and wish that in addition to both of our families, his mom and my dad could be here to celebrate this special time with us. Looking forward to great new beginnings in 2013 and to starting a family." Guess what everyone will be talking about in 2013.