There will be few year-end retrospectives this month, whether music-based or not, that won’t at least mention the death of British soul virtuoso. There were other heavy stories, namely Steve Jobs’ death and the Indiana State Fair stage collapse, records were broken or tied, thanks to U2 and Katy Perry, and babies were made ( Beyonce!) and not made, in Justin Bieber‘s case. Check out our chronological look at 2011’s biggest news stories and events, and tell us which ones you’ll remember the most in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
February 6 // National Anthem Gets Worked Over
“O say can you…” please get the words right? 2011 saw several top musicians flubbing the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner.” While Christina Aguilera caught the worst of it in February at The Super Bowl (which she says was due to getting “so caught up in the moment of the song” she lost her place). Cyndi Lauper also stumbled at the U.S. Open semi-finals. “American Idol” season 10 winner Scotty McCreery had a mishap at the World Series, as well runner-up Lauren Alaina at a Thanksgiving football game.
February 10 // We We We So Excited
In a year filled with Odd Future, Kreayshawn, Lana Del Rey, and even Heart2Heart, one Southern California teen rose above the rest on ye olde Internets: 14 year-old Rebecca Black. After the aspiring singer’s family paid vanity producers ARK Music Factory $4000 to record the track and film the video for the ARK-written “Friday,” the clip was unleashed Feb. 10 on unsuspecting YouTube users. The song’s unintentionally humorous lyrics (“Tomorrow is Saturday, and Sunday comes afterwards”), brainlessly fun chorus and liberal use of auto-tune captivated fun-seeking viewers and a month later, the video went viral, inspiring parodies on “Late Night With Jimmy Fallon” and sending Black to the talk-show circuit. [#HumbleBrag: Black and family stopped by the Billboard offices in late July where we kicked it in the back seat conference room with some pizza.]
|NEXT: Who Is Arcade Fire?, Gaga’s ‘Greatest’ No. 1, Adele|
February 13 // Arcade Fire, Esperanza Spalding Score Major Grammy Upsets
|It was supposed to be a big night for Eminem and Justin Bieber: the rapper’s critically acclaimed comeback record, “Recovery,” was heavily favored to win the Grammy for Album of the Year, while the teen pop star was the popular pick for Best New Artist. Instead, Esperanza Spalding, a little-known jazz bassist, beat out the Biebs, and Canadian indie rockers Arcade Fire later stormed the stage to collect the Album of the Year trophy for “The Suburbs.” Starting with presenter Barbra Streisand’s confused reading of the winning act, the Internet followed suit with the “Who Is Arcade Fire?” meme. Arcade Fire have since headlined Coachella and Bonnaroo, while Spalding’s next album is due in early 2012.|
February 16 // Gaga Has Billboard’s 1000th No. 1
Perhaps it’s only fitting that Lady Gaga, one of the biggest pop stars ever, scored the 1,000th Hot 100 No. 1 in the list’s 52-year history. “It is a tremendous honor,” Gaga told Billboard back in February. “I would be silly not to say this is the greatest honor of my career.” And for an artist that’s already broken so many milestones and will certainly continue to shatter more, that certainly means a lot here. The video for “Born This Way” hit airwaves a little more than a week later and his since racked up a staggering 85 million views on YouTube.
February 22 // Adele Kicks Off the Year of Adele
Approximately one month after Adele released her sophomore set in her native UK, “21” landed stateside on Feb. 22. One week later, Adele had her first No. 1 in America, fueled by the slow burn of lead single “Rolling in the Deep.” Despite this strong start, virtually no one could have expected the unstoppable chart — and cultural — reign of Ms. Atkins throughout 2011, which continues into 2012. The big-voiced songstress would go on to top the Billboard 200 chart for 13 weeks with her stunning tale of heartbreak, while second single “Someone Like You” topped the Hot 100 for five weeks. More than her incredible chart feats and the 13 million copies of “21” sold worldwide this year, Adele became a part of our cultural consciousness in 2011, showing that pop stars don’t always have to wear next-to-nothing and present choreographed routines. It was of those very rare moments in the music world where an album is as commercially successful as it is critically praised, not to mention beloved by fans across all demographics.
|NEXT: Billboard Beats Trump, Gaga Sells a Million, Reality TV|
May 22 // Beyonce Lights Up The BBMAs
After an absence of nearly five years, the Billboard Music Awards returned in a big way on May 22. Telecast on ABC, the industry smash garnered an average audience of 7.9 million viewers (according to Nielsen), which was enough to “trump” all other programming between 8 and 9:30 PM, including NBC’s “Celebrity Apprentice” season finale. Held in Las Vegas’ MGM Grand Garden Arena, the show featured epic performances from Beyonce, Britney Spears, Neil Diamond, among others.
May 23 // Lady Gaga Sells a Cool Million
Lady Gaga broke records (and servers) being the only artist of 2011 to sell 1 million copies in their opening week — with a huge thanks to Amazon. The winning strategy was selling her “Born This Way” album for 99 cents the day of release from Amazon’s digital download store; which doubled as huge promotion for a newly launched cloud service. The deal was so popular it was repeated a second day leading to an estimated 440,000 copies sold. Interestingly enough, in mid-November Billboard announced a pricing threshold that albums sold for less than $3.49 or singles sold for less than $0.39 would be ineligible on the Billboard’s charts.
June 21 // Music Reality TV Gets Its Mojo Back
2011 brought a refreshing wave of music-based reality television. “American Idol” unfurled a new line-up of judges, swapping Simon Cowell and Kara DioGuardi for Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez. “The Voice” (with Cee Lo Green, Christina Aguilera, Blake Shelton, and Adam Levine) was a ratings monster for NBC and Cowell brought his witty tongue to FOX’s “The X Factor.” The shows’ victors and judges were all winners with “Idol” champion Scotty McCreery becoming the first country act to debut at No. 1 with his debut album and “Voice” coaches Levine and Aguilera earning four nonconsecutive weeks at No. 1 with collaboration “Moves Like Jagger” which premiered on the show’s June 21 episode.
|NEXT: A Big Split, Amy Winehouse Dies, U2 Tour Milestone|
July 15 // J.Lo and Marc Anthony Call It Quits
Where were you when Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony announced they were filing for divorce after seven years of marriage? Living life? Oh, well not the once-golden couple who got to work on controlling the story immediately. “This was a very difficult decision,” they told People magazine in a joint statement. “We have come to an amicable conclusion on all matters. It is a painful time for all involved and we appreciate the respect of our privacy at this time.” The two were married in June 2004 in a private ceremony at Lopez’s Beverly Hills estate and have two children together, three-year-old twins Emme and Max.
July 23 // Amy Winehouse Dead at 27
The loss of a young talent is one thing, but to lose someone with a once-in-a-generation voice like Amy Winehouse was a punch to the gut of fans the world over. Found in her London home on July 23, a coroner later revealed that the hard-partying singer died of accidental alcohol poisoning. Since her death, sales of her albums have skyrocketed (especially in the U.K., where “Back to Black” topped the charts for weeks) and Winehouse’s family soon set up a foundation in her honor and endorsed an album of b-sides, rarities and unheard tracks, titled “Lioness,” that debuted in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 in mid-December. Producer Salaam Remi told Billboard that there is more unheard Winehouse music out there, “But it’s not like there are eight albums worth of material we can continue on for the next 10 years.”
July 30 // U2 Wraps Biggest Concert Tour Ever
Finally concluding in late July, U2’s game-changing “360” tour grossed more money ($736,421,586) and sold more tickets worldwide (over 7 million) than any before it. The globetrotting stadium tour was a massive undertaking that included an initial yearlong setup and daunting upkeep once it began. However, its success is likely to have a huge impact on live music in the future. “This is what drives our business,” said Live Nation’s Global Touring chairman Arthur Fogel. “This is what gets people excited about going to shows, this is what proves that we are the real deal as an industry.
|NEXT: Jay-Z & Kanye, Tragedy in Indiana, Katy Makes History|
August 8 // ‘Watch The Throne’ Beats The Leak
In 2011, album leaks were a frustrating normality for artists — especially superstars, like Jay-Z and Kanye West. But “Watch The Throne,” the rappers’ collaborative album, somehow passed through months of anticipation and multiple listening sessions (including one at the planetarium at New York’s American Museum of Natural History) before emerging unleaked on its release date. Critical adoration, a No. 1 debut and arena tour soon followed for the hip-hop BFFs.
August 13 // Stage Collapses at Indiana State Fair
Powerful gusts of wind brought down the stage rigging at the Indiana State Fair in Indianapolis, resulting in seven deaths and more than 40 injuries during a concert that was only moments away from featuring the Country act Sugarland. The stage collapse, which happened about 30 minutes after “Love Song” singer Sara Bareilles finished her opening set, was caught on tape in dramatic and terrifying video. An investigation into why the stage failed is ongoing, and several lawsuits — targeting the state of Indiana and Sugarland, among others — are in the works.
August 17 // Katy Perry Makes Hot 100 History
It almost didn’t happen. But thanks to one last push with a remix featuring Missy Elliott, Katy Perry’s “Last Friday Night” topped the Hot 100, making it the fifth single from “Teenage Dream” to reach No. 1. Perry is the first woman and second artist overall, following Michael Jackson, to hit this marker. “Ever since I was 9 years old, singing into my hairbrush, I’ve dreamed very big dreams, but today is bigger than my dreams,” Perry told Billboard.
|NEXT: Beyonce Baby, Odd Future Is Now, RIP Steve|
August 28 // Beyoncé’s Having a Baby!
Before performing at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé Knowles announced her pregnancy. The expectant mother was glowing in a long red Lanvin gown, holding her baby bump alongside husband Jay-Z. Later the singer, clad in a Dolce & Gabbana sequined tux, took to the stage to perform “Love on Top,” off her Billboard 200 No. 1 album “4,” before announcing, “I want you to feel the love that’s growing inside me.” It was the feel-good moment of the night, and paired nicely with Adele’s heavy reading of “Someone Like You.”
August 28 // Welcome to The F***ing Future
Wielding dark production, controversial lyrics, and a confrontational attitude, California hip-hop collective Odd Future took listeners by the throat. After leader Tyler, the Creator went viral with his “Yonkers” video, the group became ubiquitous in pop culture: Tyler winning a VMA for Best New Artist (in a rant-tastic moment from the Aug. 28 event, video above), landing a Billboard cover, getting dropped from gigs over “misogynistic” and “homophobic” lyrics, losing key cohort Earl Sweatshirt to mysterious, Samoan boarding school circumstances, and even facing assault accusations after member Left Brain reportedly slapped a female photographer at the Voodoo Festival. The Future is here and man, is it Odd.
October 5 // Rest In Peace, Steve Jobs
Many in the music industry thought of him as a savior for the weakened biz while others remained skeptical of the iTunes model, but one thing’s for sure: Steve Jobs and Apple changed everything — not just for technology but the music business, too. One of the most visionary minds in modern culture, Steve Jobs, Apple founder, passed away on Oct. 5 after a battle with pancreatic cancer, surpassing even Amy Winehouse for the most wide-reaching display of public mourning for a music-related figure in 2011.
|NEXT: Bieber Baby Drama, Conrad Murray Verdict, Dubstep’s Rise|
November 2 // Justin Bieber Officially Grows Up
Ah, Canadian teen pop superstars — they grow up so fast these days! Justin Bieber may have only turned 17 in March, but the singer’s rapid maturation took place entirely in the spotlight this year, and reached a fever pitch when he was hit with a paternity lawsuit by a woman, Mariah Yeater, who claimed that Bieber was father of her three-month-old baby. Although the lawsuit has since been dismissed, it helped cast Bieber as a budding adult in a year in which he started a serious relationship with Selena Gomez, chopped off his boyish bangs, and fired a gun on “CSI.” And let’s not forget Bieber’s musical growth — as his manager, Scooter Braun, put it in Billboard’s October cover story, “Vocally, his balls have dropped.”
November 7 // A Guilty Verdict for Michael Jackson’s Doc
Conrad Murray was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter in the 2009 death of Michael Jackson, ending the latest saga involving the troubled late singer. A jury took less than nine hours to decide the verdict following an oft-confusing six-week trial in which prosecutors painted Murray as a reckless physician who plied Jackson with irresponsible amounts of the powerful anesthetic Propofol. As the verdict was read, a muffled yelp came from the direction of the rows where the Jackson family was seated. On Nov. 29, Murray was sentenced to four years in prison for what the judge called a “horrific violation of trust.”
November 30 // Skrillex’s Grammy Nod Caps Huge Year for Dubstep
Dubstep music has been burgeoning overseas and in patches of the U.S. for years, but the electronic genre emerged into the mainstream in 2011, with Sonny Moore, aka Skrillex, leading the way. After Britney Spears added a pinch of dubstep to her single “Hold It Against Me” and Korn announced a dubstep-heavy new album, Skrillex scored a Best New Artist nomination at the 2012 Grammys, marking the first time an electronica DJ has scored a nod in the category.
|Back To The Start|