2016 had no shortage of major music events: legends were lost, long-awaited albums were dropped, and Beyoncé made some Lemonade. Since the year is almost over, we wanted to reflect on some of music’s biggest moments of the year. So while you break out the champagne and prepare for your New Year’s celebration, rewind back to the beginning of the year and review the Top 10 music events that defined 2016:
(1/10) Death of David Bowie & (4/21) Prince
The year began with the loss of music icons David Bowie and Prince; two individuals who redefined sexuality and broke through gender stereotypes. They taught fans that it is okay to be different and to own your individuality. Their untimely deaths shocked the world as celebrity mortality was brought into perspective. Many mourned but the tragedies brought together fans to commemorate these ground-breaking individuals through city-wide tributes and celebrity concert performances. The music industry will not be the same without Price and David Bowie, however their impact and influence on society will continue to transcend generations.
(3/25) Rolling Stones Perform in Cuba for First Time
March marked a historic month in Cuba when the Rolling Stones took the stage and performed a free concert in Havana for the first time ever. Following the Cuban Revolution, Western rock and pop music were deemed subversive and were banned on Cuban state TV and radio. Within the last 15 years, the Cuban government has begun to gradually relaxing the restrictions on music. 2016 saw the greatest change in Cuba. With over 1.2 million fans in attendance, the Rolling Stone’s performance became the first major concert in Cuba since the 1959 revolution; an event that may foreshadow more freedoms to come to the island.
(4/1) Kanye’s “Famous” Feud
Kanye West made one of his most controversial moves to date in 2016. The year began with the release of his seventh studio album, The Life of Pablo, which struck immediate controversy with the debut of its first single and video for “Famous”. The 10 minute video caught everyone’s attention by depicting the likeness of some of society’s biggest celebrities such as President-elect Donald Trump, Taylor Swift, Bill Cosby, and Chris Brown laying together almost completely naked. While many of the included celebrities approached the situation with humor, Taylor Swift did not. Her inclusion in the video as well as the song’s controversial lyrics, reignited the feud that began in 2009. In the following weeks, the West-Swift controversy would continue to blow up when each artist, and their celebrity friends, took to social to battle it out. Although the outcome of the feud may still be unclear, its occurrence demonstrates the power of social media.
(4/23) Beyonce Makes Lemonade
Queen B slayed the music industry once again with the release of her sixth album, Lemonade. Not only was Lemonade Beyoncé’s most personal piece of work, but it was also one of her most clever marketing strategies. The album itself was a complete surprise for fans; with very little promotion, it was first released as a one-hour film on HBO. As soon as the premiere was over, fans could only access the full album exclusively on Tidal for the first 24 hours. Eventually it was released to iTunes and Amazon, with one minor twist: fans could only purchase the entire album, not individual songs. In an extremely fragmented music industry, Beyoncé successful attempt to bring back the traditional album may be a trend in the upcoming year.
(4/29) Drake’s Views from the Top
After a long-awaited build-up, Drake’s Views proved that it was worth the wait as it became one of the biggest albums of 2016.Views was first announced back in the summer of 2014, when Drake revealed the album name and how it would be a tribute to his hometown of Toronto. Over the next two years, Drake would continue to create buzz by providing small teasers about the album to his fans through his social media and on his OVO Sound Radio show. Views was exclusively released on Apple Music for two weeks, however it had its biggest impact on Spotify. For the second year in a row with over 4.7 billion streams, Drake was crowned the top streaming artist of the year on Spotify. He continued to break streaming records when his single “One Dance” reached over 1 billion streams itself, making it the most streamed song to ever grace Spotify. Thanks to the massive success of Views, Drake has been named Spotify’s top streaming artist of all time.
(6/12) Hamilton Blossoms Broadway
After its late release in 2015, Hamilton continued to trail blaze on and off the Broadway stage in 2016. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical redefined the standard play by successfully incorporating hip-hop and R&B and ethnically diversifying the cast. Hamilton’s dominance this year can be seen by the various awards it has won, including: 16 Tony nominations (the most in Broadway history), 11 Tony Awards (including Best Musical), 1 Grammy and 1 Pulitzer Prize. Hamilton’s success did not stop there. In early December, the Hamilton Mixtape debuted at the top of Billboard’s Top 200. The mixtape brings new life to the already popular soundtrack by featuring stars like Kelly Clarkson, Alicia Keys, Sia, John Legend, and Wiz Khalifa.
(8/20) Frank Ocean Goes ‘Blonde’
After multiple missed deadlines and a three year delay, one of the most highly anticipated albums, Frank Ocean’s Blonde, was finally released. Blonde debuted at the top of Billboard’s Top 200 and was accompanied by the visual album Endless. While the album itself was highly anticipated, did not expect the final product. Frank Ocean introduced an entirely new sound that reflects the several different sides of its creator’s psyche. With key contributions from a range of artists including Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, and Andre 3000, Blonde has become one of the most successful albums of the year.
(9/8) Bruce Springsteen Rocks On (and on and on…)
Bruce Springsteen showed everyone why he is still “The Boss” by breaking records this summer. The 2016 River Tour, which kicked off in January, was a celebration of the 35th anniversary of the release of Bruce’s 1980 album The River and became one of the hottest tours of the year. While he continually performed in front of sold out crowds, his biggest feat would not come until September 8, at Citizen’s Bank Park in Philadelphia. That evening, Bruce Springsteen played for 4 hours and 4 minutes straight, breaking the US record for the longest concert to date (a record he set two weeks prior). The setlist contained 34 songs which included the entire The River album. At 67 years old, Bruce Springsteen continues to solidify his foothold in rock n’ roll history.
(10/21) Lady Gaga Goes Country
Lady Gaga stepped out of the meat dress and into a cowboy hat with her new album Joanne. Joanne’s country under-tones pays homage to some of her favorite artist such as Johnny Cash, Neil Young and Garth Brooks. While she may not seem like the typical cowgirl, her persona “Joanne” reveals a side of Gaga that we have never seen before: herself. The album is named and inspired by her late aunt who died at a very young age. Unlike her previous three albums, the music in Joanne is stripped down feels authentic and raw, illustrating her depth and maturity as an artist.
(11/8) Musicians Got Political
The presidential election of 2016, will go down as one of the most controversial elections in history. Artists from all genres were not shy about sharing their political views. Some artists like Jay-Z, Katy Perry, and Bon Jovi took the stage to show their support through benefit concerts, other artists like Death Cab for a Cutie and Aimee Mann created their own political parodies. Most artists took their views to Twitter. Regardless of the way celebrities chose to articulate their views, their impact on the election was significant.
While 2016 was filled with plenty of music news, we are excited to see what 2017 has in store. Will more mystery albums be dropped? Will Taylor Swift and Kanye West finally resolve their feud? Most importantly, will 2017 be your year? You won’t know until you put yourself out there. Make 2017 about creating content to monetize and distribute. Let us help you get started!