It’s been one heckuva year, with the coronavirus pandemic upending seemingly every aspect of our lives.
In the music industry, album releases were pushed back and surprise quarantine tunes dropped. Awards shows were postponed and concerts came to an abrupt halt as live music venues were ordered closed. Many long-standing venues were forced to shutter for good.
As an alternative, a number of performers including Pitbull turned to livestreaming to keep fans entertained. Garth Brooks and wife Trisha Yearwood even managed to crash Facebook Live on multiple occasions during their virtual concert in late March. “Garth, did you break the internet?” was a frequent fan comment amid the breakdowns, as 3.4 million viewers tuned in.
Here are some of the other biggest music moments of 2020:
‘Blinding Lights’ tops Billboard year-end charts
Yet the singer/songwriter was snubbed when Grammy noms were announced last month. He tweeted about the shutout, writing, “The Grammys remain corrupt. You owe me, my fans and the industry transparency…”
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Billboard says “Blinding Lights,” which spent four weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart, set a new record for the most weeks spent in the top five and the top 10 in the chart’s 62-year history.
Here’s the rest of the top 10 from Billboard’s Hot 100 year-end list:
- Post Malone, “Circles”
- Roddy Ricch, “The Box”
- Dua Lipa, “Don’t Start Now”
- DaBaby, “Rockstar” (featuring Roddy Ricch)
- Harry Styles, “Adore You”
- Future, “Life Is Good” (featuring Drake)
- Maroon 5, “Memories”
- Maren Morris, “The Bones”
- Lewis Capaldi, “Someone You Loved”
Kanye West runs for president
Rapper Kanye West took to Twitter on Independence Day to announce he was running for president.
“We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future,” he tweeted. “I am running for president of the United States!”
The news was received with memes of disbelief and (sometimes) endorsement, including from his wife, Kim Kardashian West, who tweeted an American flag emoji, and Tesla CEO Elon Musk, who tweeted, “You have my full support!”
“WELP,” West wrote on Twitter the morning after the election, posting a picture of himself in profile against an election map. “KANYE 2024.”
Taylor Swift drops surprise music
Swifties worldwide squealed with delight in late July when Taylor Swift announced a surprise new album, “Folklore,” on Twitter. It dropped less than 24 hours later.
Reviews were extremely positive. USA TODAY’s Patrick Ryan called it her “most introspective and emotionally raw album yet.”
The red-hot pop star’s eighth album debuted atop the Billboard charts. It was her seventh to debut at No. 1, following in the footsteps of “Lover,” “Reputation,” “1989,” “Red,” “Speak Now” and “Fearless.” Lead single “Cardigan” claimed the No. 1 position on Billboard’s Hot 100 songs chart, dethroning DaBaby’s “Rockstar.”
Swift’s ninth album, “Evermore,” was released Friday.
BTS drops first song in English
K-pop super group BTS blew up the music world in late August with the release of “Dynamite,” its first song recorded completely in English.
Members RM, Jin, Suga, J-Hope, V, Jimin and Jungkook had dropped some English lyrics in songs before, but “Dynamite” was a first — and fans were quick to respond. It debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart, unseating Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP” after a two-week run.
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In an interview with USA TODAY, RM explained the song’s intention.
“The goal of ‘Dynamite’ is really simple … to explore the world with positive vibes and energy,” he said. “We’ve been through all the sadness and desperation, but with this song and performance we just hope the world gets more positive.”
Battle of the bands: Lady A vs. Lady A
Lady Antebellum changed its name to Lady A in June – and things quickly got very messy.
Members of the country band (Hillary Scott, Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood) renounced the group’s original name, explaining that when they formed 14 years ago, they didn’t consider the pre-Civil War “associations that weigh down this word,” including its ties to slavery.
There was just one problem. Seattle-based singer Anita White said she’d been going by Lady A for nearly three decades.
White, who is Black, blasted the country group in an Instagram post, saying: “How can you say Black Lives Matter and put your knee on the neck of another Black artist? I’m not mad … I am however not giving up my name, my brand I worked hard for. #GodWillFightMyBattle #TheRealLadyA #LadyABluesSoulFunkGospelArtist #TheTruthIsLoud”
The two sides initially said they’d work together to reach a compromise. But those discussions deteriorated and White and her attorneys reportedly asked for a $10 million payment, according to the band’s publicist, Tyne Parrish.
In July, Lady A (the band) filed a trademark lawsuit against White in U.S. District Court in Nashville. “Reluctantly we have come to the conclusion that we need to ask a court to affirm our right to continue to use the name Lady A, a trademark we have held for many years. It was a stirring in our hearts and reflection on our own blindspots that led us to announce a few weeks ago that we were dropping the word ‘Antebellum’ from our name and moving forward using only the name so many of our fans already knew us by,” the statement said.
‘Rockstar’ named song of the summer
To the surprise of pretty much no one, DaBaby’s “Rockstar” was crowned the 2020 song of the summer by Billboard.
From Memorial Day to Labor Day, “Rockstar” (featuring Roddy Ricch) held the top spot for 13 of 15 weeks on Billboard’s song of the summer tracking list. For seven of those weeks, it was also No. 1 on the Hot 100 chart.
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Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” was 2019’s winner.
“You can’t overlook the star power of DaBaby and Roddy Ricch,” Billboard senior director of music Jason Lipshutz told USA TODAY. The song has “a really catchy hook and a video that was eye-popping and spoke to the moment. This is a case of the right artist with the right song at the right time,” he added.
“Blinding Lights” took the second spot, followed by Jack Harlow’s “Whats Poppin” featuring DaBaby, Tory Lanez and Lil Wayne. Megan Thee Stallion’s “Savage” featuring Beyoncé clocked in at No. 4 and SAINt JHN’s “Roses” rounded out the Top 5.
“Rockstar” was streamed 514.6 million times this summer, according to Nielsen Music/MRC Data. “Blinding Lights” was the most-heard song on radio with 1.2 billion audience impressions.
Katy Perry announces pregnancy in music video
Pop superstar and “American Idol” judge Katy Perry revealed a baby bump in the final moments of the music video for single “Never Worn White,” her first song of 2020.
During the dreamy video, Perry donned an elegant white gown fit for a bride and wore a literal bouquet of flowers while singing a love song to fiancé Orlando Bloom. The singer opened up about overcoming her apprehension to love and marriage in the ballad:
I’ve never worn white, no
But I really wanna try with you
Yeah, I’ve never worn white
But I wanna get it right
‘Cause you really wanna say “I do”
‘Cause I do
Her angelic glow was amplified when she cradled her stomach with both hands and sang, “See us in sixty years with a full family tree (I do).”
‘Floating with love’:Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom welcome baby girl Daisy Dove Bloom
Perry gave birth in late August to a baby girl named Daisy Dove Bloom.
“We are floating with love and wonder from the safe and healthy arrival of our daughter,” the proud parents said in a statement to the United Nations Children’s Fund.
Eminem performs ‘Lose Yourself’ at the Oscars
Eminem? At the Oscars? In 2020? Yep, that happened.
The rapper surprised fans by turning up at the awards show at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre to perform his track “Lose Yourself” – earning a slew of reactions from celebs in the audience and people watching at home.
The 2002 track was featured in the film “8 Mile” and won an Oscar for best original song the following year. Eminem skipped that awards show and missed out on performing it at the time.
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On Twitter, he quoted from the song’s lyrics following the head-turning performance that left some fans wondering why he was on the Oscars stage.
“Look, if you had another shot, another opportunity… Thanks for having me @TheAcademy. Sorry it took me 18 years to get here,” he tweeted with a video clip of Barbra Streisand presenting the award years ago.
Billie Eilish wows at the Grammys
At 18, Billie Eilish won the four biggest Grammy Awards in one night, becoming only the second artist to do so — and the youngest.
She won the album, record and song of the year categories as well as best new artist — the first singer to do so since Christopher Cross in 1981. She also took home the gilded gramophone for best pop vocal album.
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Eilish performed “When the Party’s Over” during the awards ceremony, among the last before the pandemic shutdown in March.
Eilish’s rise continues: She was tapped to perform the theme song for the upcoming James Bond film “No Time to Die,” due in April, a full year later than planned.
Shakira and Jennifer Lopez co-headline Super Bowl halftime show
The 2020 Super Bowl halftime show featured two music superstars: Shakira and Jennifer Lopez.
“Two Latinas doing this at this time in this country … it’s just very empowering for us,” Lopez said at a news conference previewing the performance. “I’m very proud to be able to help set and push for that message.”
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Their set, featuring Top 40 hits, was a celebration of Latin culture. Shakira kicked things off with “Empire,” “Hips Don’t Lie” and “Whenever, Wherever.” Lopez treated fans to “Jenny From the Block,” “Get Right” and “Waiting for Tonight,” among others. (For “Waiting for Tonight,” featured in the film “Hustlers,” a stripper pole was brought on stage.)
Contributing: Bryan Alexander, Cydney Henderson, Andrea Mandell, Sara M Moniuszko, Patrick Ryan, Jenna Ryu, Charles Trepany, Brian Truitt and Hannah Yasharoff, USA TODAY
Follow Gary Dinges on Twitter @gdinges