Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Top music news of 2011

Thinking back on the big music-related happenings of this year, five stories and trends seemed to take center-stage, at least from my perspective.

5. Amy Winehouse, RIP. The troubled “Rehab” singer’s death at age 27 (July 23, 2011) brought immediate comparisons to Janice Joplin, another soulful femme who died of a drug overdose at the same age. Whether the comparisons are fair or not, the news of another talented but troubled musician who left the stage too soon was tragic news for many music fans. But her music lives on, as a new album of unreleased material is coming out just in time for the holidays.

4. Enter the new divas. While Amy Winehouse’s death may have left a void for some music fans, 2011 saw many other female acts step up. Most visible was Adele, a crooner who drew inspiration from Winehouse’s jazzy style. Rihanna never left, and showed up in the oddest places, including a Coldplay track. Lykke Li brought a fresh new voice from Scandinavia, Fiest made a comeback and Florence Welch (Florence + The Machine) came on strong toward the end of the year.

3. R.E.M. calls it quits. “You mean they were still around?” So asked one Facebook friend in her status update upon hearing the news that, after 30 years, one of the greatest rock bands of my generation announced they were breaking up. Unlike many bands, however, Michael Stipe and company left on a high note, on the heels of one of the group’s strongest albums in years, Collapse Into Now.

2. Going Gaga -- for 99 cents. When Amazon decided to offer an mp3 version of Lady Gaga’s latest album, Born This Way, for 99 cents, they discovered that even their servers couldn’t handle the demand of Gaga’s little monsters. And curiosity seekers, like me, who decided it was worth a buck to download the album. But was it really worth the buck?

1. Get on my cloud. But which one? Cloud music services burgeoned in 2011. Amazon’s cloud music service, digital streaming service Spotify opening to the U.S. and the public launch of Google Music all could change the music game. Both Amazon and Google Music allow users to upload their own tunes to the cloud, while Spotify lets you play tunes from your hard drive while also accessing music from the cloudstream. Is cloud music the wave of the future? Some in the music business aren’t enamored of streaming services. One distributor, STHoldings, which represents 200 (mostly small) labels, recently announced it was withdrawing its entire catalog from Spotify, Napster, Rdio and similar services. But that may not mean much to Spotify, which announced today that it was launching a platform for third-party apps. That could be the biggest news of the year for the music business, and could also impact publishing and other sectors.


  1. I think you hit the nail on the head with all of these, especially #1, it's a crazy world for the musically connected now.

  2. I don't know, I've listened to Lykke Li since like... 2008. And Adele since her first record. I guess maybe they just became more mainstream?

  3. @Joel - You're right, of course. I was trying to make the point that the new crop of divas have gone more mainstream in 2011. I liken it, I guess, to the mainstreaming of the so-called Riot Grrls in the '90s.

  4. Adele has gone mondo mainstream now. Yeah, that "21" put her over the top for sure.