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Sunday, January 03, 2016

2015 IN REVIEW: The Year In Music

I know it must seem like a pain to keep talking about 2015 when we're already three days into the new year, but I promise you...we're almost there.

This is the music portion of the blog, and I must say that when it comes to music, 2015 absolutely rocked!

Seriously, I think I've downloaded more songs from 2015 than I have the other years of the 2010s combined!  I think there must be something about the number five, as I love music from 1985, 1995, and 2005 as well.

To begin this swan song of 2015 off the right way, let's have a look at the songs that topped the charts this past year!  A total of nine songs reached number one, which seems a little bit low of a number to me - especially when you consider that 1988 had THIRTY-TWO chart toppers!  But, nine is what we have, and nine is what we're going to focus on.

Can't Feel My Face/THE WEEKND

Seems to be the year of the featured artists, huh?  So, a few notes...

Who knew that "Uptown Funk" would be such a smash hit for 2015?!?  The period between January and May 2015 was such that you couldn't turn on a radio station without hearing this song playing!  And while Bruno Mars lent his vocals to this funk soul classic, the real star of the show was Mark Ronson, who clearly showed his stellar DJ skills.  And you know, this song ALMOST broke the record for most weeks on the top of the Billboard charts...but alas, the song was two weeks short.  Still, fourteen weeks at #1 is nothing to sneeze at.

Say what you want about Justin Bieber's personal life (and many have).  You have to admit that 2015 has been the year of his musical comeback.  He is one of the few artists around to have a single debut at #1.  In fact, his entire album "Purpose" has been critically acclaimed and has earned rave reviews from fans - in fact, I shamefully admit to kind of liking the song posted above.  If Bieber can finally clean up his act, he may find 2016 to be bigger than 2015.

Another artist who I predict will have a stellar 2016 is Charlie Puth.  His debut album isn't set to be released for another four weeks, but if his performance on the song "See You Again" - a collaboration with Wiz Khalifa - is any indication as to what his future holds, I'm sure it's going to be quite fantastic.  The song itself as many of you know was written as a tribute to the late Paul Walker, and is the closing song of the movie "Furious 7".

Can we talk a little bit about The Weeknd?  Much like Justin Bieber, he got his start posting YouTube videos of him performing, and now he's got two of the biggest songs of 2015!  I'll admit, I like "Can't Feel My Face", and as far as the upcoming Grammy Awards go, he is nominated for seven!  Even if he doesn't win any, that's still something to celebrate.

Sadly, Adele's song "Hello" is ineligible for any Grammy Awards this year.  Her album "25" just missed the cut off point for applicants.  Oh, well...there's always 2017.  By then, Adele should have released at least four other singles.  Regardless of awards though, Adele fans have waited at least four years for new music from her.  I think they'd agree it was worth the wait.

Speaking of the Grammy Awards, while the 2016 ceremony is still a month away, let's see who won awards at the 2015 ceremony, shall we?  Again, most of this music was released in 2014, but I have some notes to jot down.

BEST R&B ALBUM:  Love, Marriage & Divorce/TONI BRAXTON and BABYFACE
BEST RAP ALBUM:  The Marshall Mathers LP 2 - EMINEM

So, I think we can agree that Sam Smith had one hell of a year, didn't he?  I think I lost count of how many awards he won.  But you know something?  Good for him!  He has a singing voice that is quite unique and stands out.  And to end his year off on a high note, he was chosen to sing the theme for the newest James Bond movie "Spectre".  He has now joined a club that includes Shirley Bassey, Paul McCartney, Gladys Knight, and Carly Simon!  Now that's a club anyone would be proud to be in!

Unfortunately, Sam Smith's domination at the 2015 Grammy Awards meant that some people were left awardless.  One such person was Ed Sheeran whose album "X" was completely shut out.  Luckily, Sheeran has a chance to make up for it this year, as he's up for four.

Another person who did quite well at the awards last year was Beck.  I've been a Beck fan for many years now (going back to '96's "Devil's Haircut"), and was so happy that he won at least a couple of Grammy Awards.  One thing I was NOT happy with was seeing Kanye West charge up on stage to defend Beyonce once more...but at least this time, Kanye waited until the show was over before badmouthing the whole process.

You know, it's a good thing Paul McCartney and Rihanna teamed up with him on the track "FourFiveSeconds".  Otherwise, Kanye West would just be known as Mr. Kim Kardashian.  And it pains me to admit this...but I like the song.  Though, I think having a Beatle and Rihanna helped out a lot in that regard.

As for Miranda Lambert, I think it's safe to say that she's probably wanting better things for 2016.  The high was that she won the award for Best Country Album.  The low was that she divorced her husband Blake Shelton towards the end of the year, and now Shelton is involved with No Doubt singer Gwen Stefani.  At least both Lambert and Shelton have kept their divorce extremely civil, as have Stefani and her ex-husband Gavin Rossdale.  At least for now they have anyway.

So, who is up for nominations this year?  I've already mentioned The Weeknd and Ed Sheeran, but joining them are Mark Ronson, Taylor Swift, Kendrick Lamar, Little Big Town, Meghan Trainor, Sam Hunt, Ellie Goulding, Wiz Khalifa, Charlie Puth, James Taylor, Alabama Shakes, Florence + The Machine, Foo Fighters, Tamar Braxton, Drake, and Carrie Underwood, amongst others!  But, we'll have to wait until the day after Valentine's Day to find out who won.

Okay, so let's talk about hits and misses of the year.

You know, given that it was one of her most mature and polished efforts in recent years, Madonna was completely shut out of the Grammy Awards this year.  "Rebel Heart" was critically acclaimed and was considered one of her strongest albums since 2005's "Confessions on a Dance Floor".  But the only thing most people seem to remember her doing this year was falling down the stairs during her BRIT Awards performance.  Ouch.  For what it's worth, I do like the song "Living For Love", but were there not any other choices for song releases than "Bitch, I'm Madonna"?

Can we just talk about Drake for a moment?  I'm sure most of you have seen the music video for "Hotline Bling", which I have to admit is an okay song.  But what is up with those dance moves, Drake?  You had better swagger when you were on Degrassi - and half your time there your character was in a wheelchair!  Though, I don't really know why I'm judging so harshly because Drake's dancing is a much better effort than I could ever do!  That's it, Drake!  Keep dancing!

Congratulations to The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Joan Jett & The Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Green Day, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, and Bill Withers for being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2015!  And, while I won't be talking much about the 2016 inductees until a year from now, I will cheat and congratulate Chicago for finally making it in after what seemed like centuries of trying!

Ariana Grande, what the hell happened?  You started off 2015 so well with a hit album, hit singles with "Problem" and "Love Me Harder", and you had sold out concerts.  And then you licked all the donuts and claimed that you hated America.  It's a good thing your fans are forgiving and that your latest song "Focus" is climbing up the charts...else you'd be a flash in the pan.

As for you, Britney may have thought that by teaming up with Iggy Azalea for the single "Pretty Girls" it would be your comeback song after years away from the charts, but it was not to be.  In fact, I think this song was both of your worst performing singles to date - and that's saying something given that Iggy released "Booty" with J.Lo last year!

On the flipside, who knew that keeping your identity a secret would pay off?  Okay, so maybe some people actually know what Sia looks like underneath that funky doesn't change the fact that her 2015 was fantastic!  Riding the coattails of her successful album "1000 Forms of Fear", she will release her seventh studio album "This Is Acting" in January 2016, and word is that it's set to be even bigger than the previous one!

Shania Twain also made a name for herself in 2015, as she announced that she would be going on her final tour, beginning in June.  It would be the first tour that she went on since 2004, and she plans on releasing a brand new album - the first in thirteen years!

Fans all over the world seemingly wept over Zayn Malik's departure from the band One Direction in March 2015, but that didn't stop the remaining four members from continuing on and scoring yet another hit album.  I bet some fans may even be saying...Zayn who?  Though the band has announced that as of January 1, 2016, they'll be on hiatus, who knows how long that will be for?

Sadly, 2015 marked the dissolution of several bands, including The Black Crowes, Motley Crue, Motorhead, and Scott Weiland and the Wildabouts - the last two because of the deaths of Lemmy Kilmister and Scott Weiland.

Finally, as 2015 ended, we had to say goodbye to Natalie Cole, who passed away on December 31 at the age of 65.  The daughter of Nat King Cole, she proved to the world that she could make it as a solo singer.  And while the above single - while originally released by Bruce Springsteen in 1984 - may be considered her most known work, seriously check out some of the other songs she's done.  Very sad news in the music industry as the year ended.

And that closes the chapter on 2015 in music.  Tomorrow...I offer up my own experiences of 2015, and what I hope will happen in the 366 days that make up 2016.

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