It’s been another wild year in the music industry — this one dominated by deaths, fights, meltdowns and surprise superstars. Here are the Top Five music stories of 2009.
1. Michael Jackson’s death: For someone who lived such a bizarre life, who knew it would be drugs that would kill him? Sure a doctor was injecting an anesthetic to help him sleep, but still, the King of Pop died just like many other significant musicians before him — with a needle in his arm. And like those artists, he’s been more popular in death than he has been — at least for the last few years — in life. He dominated the Billboard charts for weeks after he died, claiming all Top 10 spots, and he’s sold millions of albums this year, too. Jackson’s death was a huge shock, but clearly, his music lives on.
2. Chris Brown’s downfall: Until this year, Chris Brown was R&B’s mensch. His cute baby face endeared himself to millions of teen girls and his relationship with Rihanna was straight out of a storybook. But, that image was destroyed when he beat his girlfriend up in February. The news was shocking — but not nearly as appalling as Rihanna’s bruises. He should have laid low, but instead he made excuses, blamed the victim and released an incredibly offensive record, with one song being about a “famous girl” who breaks hearts. Who knows if Brown will ever truly bounce back?
3. Susan Boyle: If there’s anyone who summed up our relationship with celebrity culture this year, it was Susan Boyle. She went from no-name, unemployed Scot, to international superstar in one night. After singing I Dreamed A Dream on Britain’s Got Talent, and blowing away the audience, everyone wanted a piece of Boyle. The attention literally drove her nuts — she became erratic, had violent outbursts and checked into a mental health clinic. But everyone likes a comeback, and when Boyle released her debut album, they got it. I Dreamed A Dream has sold 6.2 million copies worldwide, making it the bestselling album of the year.
4. Adam Lambert: In recent years American Idol has become a boring, staid affair. That was until the eccentric, makeup-wearing Adam Lambert came a long. While everyone took a shining to the California-born artist, it wasn’t until he lost the Idol crown that his journey really took off. He came out in the pages of Rolling Stone and then kissed his male keyboardist during the American Music Awards, sparking a firestorm of criticism. Not only did Lambert’s antics do wonders for his career — he sold 225,000 copies of For Your Entertainment in the U.S. during the first week of its release — he also rejuvenated the Idol brand and proved that rock ’n’ roll shenanigans are still alive and well.
5. Lady Gaga: Lady Gaga wasn’t a new phenomenon in 2009, but it was the year Gaga fever really exploded. It’s hard to know where to start — she shot fire out of mechanical nipples at the MuchMusic Video Awards, she was never without an outrageous costume, she headlined her first tour this year, her album The Fame is the second bestselling disc of ’09 with 5.8 million copies sold, and, to cap things off, she is nominated for five Grammy Awards.