CMU Review Of The Year 2012: The artists and the music
By Andy Malt | Published on Friday 21 December 2012
CMU Editor Andy Malt picks and reviews the big ten stories in the music world in 2012, from the major artist stories to the key musical trends.
Electronic dance music (or EDM) – which is apparently how we’re all supposed to refer to any form of dance music these days – continued to boom in 2012, particularly in the US, where such genres have historically gained less traction. Much of this success Stateside, though, was down to one EDM sub-genre in particular, dubstep, and specifically its more aggressive, less nuanced form often termed ‘brostep’ (aka dumb-step), and even more specifically the outpourings of its most famous producer, dumb-stepper in chief Skrillex.
That said, in the charts (on both sides of the Atlantic) it was the continued infiltration of EDM-pop by David Guetta that helped really drive commercial success for the dance genre. This year the French template-pusher has released tracks with artists including Chris Brown, Lil Wayne, Kelly Rowland, Ludacris, Flo Rida, Jessie J and Sia.
This Guetta-led chart success and the rise of dumb-step has seen the more corporate end of the American music business take an interest in EDM for the first time (led by Live Nation’s acquisition of Creamfields), which in turn has further helped boost the pay-packets of superstar producer/DJs like Guetta, Skrillex, Deadmau5 and Steve Aoki, especially when playing ‘live’. Though there remains much debate about what they’re actually doing up there on stage.
The number of defunct bands who have resisted the temptation to have another go gets ever smaller by the day; soon bands will have to start reforming before they’ve even split if they want to keep up. The Stone Roses, of course, announced in October 2011 that they were getting back together, but it was this year that they actually stepped out again in public, playing three shows in Manchester’s Heaton Park in June, before moving around what seemed like every festival in Europe.
The other big reunion of the year, I suppose, was Girls Aloud (even though they technically hadn’t ever officially split), who reunited for their tenth anniversary. Returning with a new single, aptly titled ‘Something New’, they also released a greatest hits compilation this month and next February and March will head out on a tour of UK arenas.
As well as that little lot, the surviving original members of The Beach Boys recorded a new album to mark their 50th anniversary and headed out on tour (though not without controversy), Blur and Pulp continued their reunited status, plus the original Sugababes, Run-DMC, At The Drive-In, Refused, Atomic Kitten, 5ive, Liberty X, B*Witched, 911, The Honeyz and even Ugly Kid Joe all announced reunion plans of one form or another. Hopes for full original line-up reunions of Black Sabbath and Guns N Roses were less successful though.
2012 saw the music world lose more than its fair share of big names, perhaps most shockingly Whitney Houston, who drowned in a hotel bath over Grammy weekend in February following a blackout caused by the long-term effects of habitual cocaine use and heart disease.
One year younger than Houston, at 47, Beastie Boys’ Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch also died somewhat unexpectedly this year. Although diagnosed with cancer in 2009, the prognosis had been positive. Though concerns about Yauch’s health were raised after he pulled out of a planned performance to celebrate the group’s induction into the Rock N Roll Hall Of Fame three weeks prior to his death.
Some of the other music people to pass away this year include Donna Summer, Andy Williams, The Bee Gees’ Robin Gibb, Etta James, The Monkees’ Davy Jones, Dave Brubeck, Ravi Shankar, Men At Work’s Greg Ham, lyricist Hal David, Marshall Amplification founder Jim Marshall and American TV presenter Dick Clark.
04 PAP ATTACKS
Run-ins between the paparazzi and the celebs they stalk are nothing new, though some did stand out this year. While on his skateboarding hiatus, rapper Lil Wayne was accused of being involved in two very similar attacks in April and May after he and his skater buddies were photographed against their will. And fellow rapper A$AP Rocky was charged with attempted robbery, attempted grand larceny and assault following a fight with two photographers in June, later pleading guilty to the larceny charge after the other two were dropped.
Is there something that can be done about snappers enraging celebs, though? Well, possibly not if a case involving young Justin Bieber is anything to go by. And despite Californian legislators passing new laws that they thought might help the celebs who life in the state. After receiving a speeding ticket, Bieber argued that he’d only broken a speed limit because he was being chased by a photographer at the time. Said photographer, Paul Raef, was subsequently charged under a new piece of Californian law that states that paps who put people in dangerous situations in search of profit can be prosecuted. However, last month a judge dismissed the case saying that the law was too broad and contravenes the First Amendment right to free speech.
05 PUSSY RIOT
Although only formed in summer 2011, Pussy Riot created some of the most shocking headlines of the music year, and not via their designed-to-shock performances, but by reminding us of how much music and art can scare a paranoid establishment, and the risks protest musicians take in such circumstances. In February this year three members of the ten-strong band, who began performing protest songs in unusual places last year, were arrested after playing a ‘punk prayer’ at the Russian Orthodox cathedral in Moscow calling on the “Holy Mother, Blessed Virgin” to “throw Putin out”.
With the arrested three charged with and later found guilty of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred or hostility”, the Russian government was accused of colluding with the national church to put pressure on the country’s judicial system in a bid to ‘make an example’ of the Pussy Riot members for anyone else thinking of speaking out against the regime of President Vladimir Putin. It was hoped that negative attention internationally might result in a more lenient verdict in court, but despite global protests all three were sentenced to two years in jail. One, Yekaterina Samustsev, secured release on a suspended sentence in her appeal, but the two others, Maria Alyokhina and Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, end the year in Siberian prison camps.
While artists worldwide condemned what they saw as a brutal attack on the freedom of expression, Putin was quoted as observing that the women simply “got what they asked for”.
06 MICHAEL JACKSON
More than three years after his death, Michael Jackson is still generating plenty of headlines – or rather the legal fallout surrounding his ill-fated O2 Arena residency is.
Promoter AEG Live this year settled its battle with insurer Lloyds Of London over the latter’s refusal to pay out on the former’s insurance claim on the cancelled ‘This Is It’ shows. However, AEG still faces trial next year in the Jackson family’s claim that the company is liable for the late king of pop’s death due to it hiring Conrad Murray, the doctor convicted last year of causing the singer’s death in 2009. AEG denies liability, saying that Jackson himself hired and managed the doctor, though leaked emails from 2009 published earlier this year did show that execs at the company were concerned about the singer’s health in the months before his untimely demise. As well as all that, Jackson’s PA filed a rather optimistic class action lawsuit against AEG for his lost income relating to the O2 shows.
There was in-fighting amongst the Jacksons themselves too, when the singer’s nephew TJ was given temporary guardianship of Michael’s three children – Prince, Paris and Blanket – amidst reports that their grandmother, their existing guardian, had gone missing. The Jackson matriarch returned, however, and an agreement was struck that she should share responsibilities over the children with TJ. Though not everyone in the Jackson clan was happy about that arrangement.
On the up side, the Cirque du Soleil show featuring Jackson’s music was the fourth highest grossing tour of the year, and the 25th and 30th anniversaries of the release of ‘Bad’ and ‘Thriller’ respectively were celebrated.
07 AMANDA PALMER
Proclaiming that “this is the future of music”, Amanda Palmer launched a Kickstarter project to raise money for a new album, book and tour in April this year. Initially asking for $100,000, she reached her target two days in, going on to raise almost $1.2 million by the funding deadline of 31 May. Lucky really, as along the way she revealed that she’d already spent $250,000 getting the project up and running.
Despite much applauding of Palmer’s success as a DIY artist, and interest in her proving that major-label level budgets could be secured through fan-funding and pre-ordering, the project was not without controversy.
Some fans simply disliked the fact that she opted to work with a label, albeit indie Cooking Vinyl, on the album release in Europe. Though the most negative feedback came after she asked fans to come and play for free at her live shows. Although said fans gladly participated gratis, many felt that after raising so much cash, Palmer could probably afford to hand a little of it over to her guest musicians. In the end, and after being branded an “idiot” by Steve Albini, she reworked her budget and found the cash to pay them.
In less than six months Psy has gone from being some guy in South Korea you’ve never heard of to genuine international phenomenon. In fact, while it’s now almost six months since his ‘Gangnam Style’ video first hit YouTube, his progression to household name came even quicker than that.
Already a well-established performer in South Korea, since the release of said track and accompanying promo vid in July, Psy has scored the most viewed video ever on YouTube, been signed by Justin Bieber’s manager, topped the charts, taught Britney to dance, addressed the Oxford Union, and had to apologise to a whole nation of new fans about some anti-American performances he gave a decade ago.
Few people will achieve any of that in their entire lifetimes. Though whether Psy can maintain the momentum in 2013 remains to be seen.
09 ONE DIRECTION
Well, haven’t One Direction been just about everywhere this year? Though particularly America, where they released not one but two albums in 2012. Their debut long player, unleashed last year in the UK, arrived Stateside in March. And those American teeny boppers went crazy for the boys from ‘X-Factor UK’. Not even a legal tussle over who, exactly, had the American rights to the name One Direction could spoil the fun. Legal papers were filed by the previously little known One Direction USA, but an out of court settlement duly followed.
Back in the UK there was controversy too, though not of the legal kind. When accepting the Best Single award at the 2012 BRITs, the group’s Harry Styles remembered to thank Radio 1, but not the award’s sponsor Capital FM. Unimpressed by this accidental snub, the commercial radio station banned the group from its airwaves for three whole months in retaliation. Though there too resolution followed – possibly because Capital couldn’t afford to be boycotting the world’s most popular boyband as a new album approached, and possibly because of the frequent mentions in the press that the station’s owners also managed 1D rivals The Wanted, so the ban could be seen (albeit wrongly) as commercial bias.
Squabbles aside, there was no stopping that One Direction boyband machine. Not only did new album ‘Take Me Home’ top charts on both sides of the Atlantic (and in nineteen countries overall), they found time to sell dolls, announce plans for a perfume and film, develop a TV show, headline Madison Square Garden, and jam with Johnny Depp.
What has Adele done this year? Nothing. And yet she’s still been more successful that every one of you. Take that, try hards.
Throat surgery in November 2011 and then pregnancy meant that touring was off the menu for Ms Adkins this year, but her second album ’21’ (a year old in January) needed no extra promotion. Last month it passed ten million sales in the US alone, having shifted more than four million copies Stateside this year – making it by far the best selling album there in 2012. All of which helped to increase the profits of her label, UK-based Beggars/XL, ten-fold.
Of course, Adele didn’t do absolutely nothing musical this year. Teaming up again with producer Paul Epworth, she co-wrote and sang the theme tune to the new James Bond film ‘Skyfall’. Oh, and she flipped the bird at the BRITs.