2011 was a good year for music. It got weird at times (LuLu anyone?), and sometimes things were just plain bad (LuLu anyone?), but in 2011 there was always something to talk about in the world of music…like Lulu. There are a few among many moments that I’ll remember the most – the first time I saw the music video for “Yonkers”, the death of Amy Winehouse, the new Radiohead album suddenly being released and then all the extra drama over its quality, and many more.
Here’s what I’ll remember the most about music in 2o11.
2011: The Year of Adele
No one had a bigger year than Adele in 2011. She was inescapable, and her mega hits “Rolling In The Deep” and “Someone Like You” played everywhere and at all times. Her second album 21 is America’s best-selling album since Usher’s Confessions back from 2004, with 5.28 million copies sold and counting. Many, including myself, got cynical about this Brit sensation and how big she got, but nobody can deny her talent. Just listen below to her cover Bob Dylan, and realize the power that is Adele.
The “Yonkers” music video, and the arrival of Tyler The Creator and Odd Future.
The first time I saw this music video I didn’t know what to think, but I knew it would get big soon. Sure enough, Tyler the Creator and the rest of his rap group Odd Future became famous, or infamous depending on the person. If you’ve never seen this video then you’re in for a treat.
The End of R.E.M., The White Stripes, and LCD Soundsystem
Nothing last forever, even great bands have to end eventually. This year, three major acts called it quits, each leaving a huge void in the music world where they made their impact. R.E.M. basically invented what we call “Alternative” and “Indie” music (sorry for the bold claim, but it’s hard to dispute it). The White Stripes were the leaders of the back-to-basics rock revival of the early 2000s, and Jack White is a modern-day guitar hero. LCD Soundsystem, the creative vehicle of James Murphy, was to me the modern day David Bowie, an artist who combined various genres and creative unique music that refused to compromise commercial success for artistic value. Each of these acts will be greatly missed.
Arcade Fire Wins A Grammy
Back in February Arcade Fire, the biggest band nobody knew, won the Grammy for best album for 2010’s fantastic The Suburbs. The win came as a shock, mainly because most people had never heard of this little big band from Canada. The win was huge for the indie world, and showed that the Grammys weren’t totally out of touch with the world. The video below is fun to watch, neither the announcers or the band could believe what had happened. For the article I posted the day after the Grammys, click here.
The King of Limbs: Proof That Radiohead Can Do Anything And Still Be Loved
Radiohead have been known for pulling some big stunts, and this year’s shenanigans ranks up near the top. Let’s backtrack to pre-King of Limbs. Radiohead hasn’t released a proper album since 2007’s In Rainbows and have been hush-hush about their plans for an upcoming album. Then all of a sudden, they tell the world they’ll release an album within the week! Fans were freaking out, the Internet exploded, and both Radiohead fans and haters were curious. This was a truly an event, and it just goes to show how popular Radiohead truly are, that they can get the world excited over an album in a time where the value of an album has gone dramatically down.
I remember counting down the days, waiting for what I was hoping to be the album of the year. Then, in another crazy move, they released the album a day early! I woke up to the news and within the hour I had the new Radiohead album. I stopped everything, downloaded the album, began playing it on my iTunes, and I listened. Thirty-seven quick minutes later the album was over, and a realization came, something I didn’t think I would ever hear myself say.
The new Radiohead album…kinda sucks.
The songs all sounded the same and I felt there was much left to be desired. I was shocked that, after four years of nothing, this was the best the band who brought us The Bends and OK Computer could give us. There was no way that Radiohead could have done this, that they put so much hype behind, what I truly thought at the time, a piece of crap. I thought there had to be more, this was a cruel joke, there would be more music coming out. More music never came out. What followed was a huge division among fans and critics – you either loved or hated the album, no middle group. I was apart of the latter, and I was bothered by how many people were raving about the album.
Much time has passed, and though I still don’t think it’s that great, I have come to appreciate some of The King of Limbs. It’s art, and Radiohead have always created great art that is challenging. I thought Kid A sucked when I first heard it, but over time it grew on me and now I love that album. The King of Limbs is nowhere near as good as Kid A, but it’s not a piece of crap. Plus the album gave us my favorite music video of the year.
If anything, this event showed to me that Radiohead could do anything they want and still be loved. Thom Yorke should released an album of him of just farting, just to see how well it does. I’ll end this rant with a link to a Spin article released in 2009 about Radiohead. It’s very interesting, and it might change your perspective about the band. Read the article here.
Spotify: A Game Changer
Spotify finally came to the US, and it caught fire fast. Spotify’s popularity could very well put an end to the MP3, with strictly all-digital music becoming the way of the future for music. Good for fans, bad for the artist and labels, but it’s truly an evolution in the music industry.
The Death Of Amy Winehouse, And Other Great Losses
No death this year was as shocking as the death of famed British soul singer Amy Winehouse. She died so young and unexpectedly, and her death at twenty-seven added her to the infamous twenty-seven club. She was a true talent, a kind of artist with a voice and personality that comes only so often, and a promising career was cut tragically short. This year we also lost Clarence Clemons, saxophone player and founding member of the E Street Band with Bruce Springsteen, famed musician-poet Gil Scott-Heron, and Steve Jobs, whose iPod technology changed how we listen to music. All these and more talented people were taken from us in 2011, and they will be greatly missed.
And Of Course…Lulu
A bad idea that was even worse when realized. Lou Reed and Metallica came together and created a piece of crap. This album had so much buzz behind it, it was already one of the most talked about collaborations in recent time. The backlash it has received only cements this album more into music history as the greatest WTF moment of 2011.
I’m sure I forgot some big events, but these are the events that defined 2011 for me. It was a crazy year with many ups and down, but some fantastic music was released. I’m excited to see what 2012 has in store for us. Enjoy the rest of the holidays and have a fun and safe time bringing in the new year, and make sure to continue keeping up with Headphone Nation for all that is music.
Tune in. Tune out. Live on.
Brady is the founder of Headphone Nation. He’s responsible for all this mess. Sorry about that. He’s also on Twitter @BradyWGerber