Believe it or not, the music industry is ending 2015 on a high note. After a decade of doom and gloom, the music business is cautiously optimistic heading into 2016 as profits across the board are up for the first time in years. This is due, in large part, to the success of albums and singles from artists such as Taylor Swift and Adele, which out-sold even the most ambitious forecasts. Nevertheless, 2015 still saw a number of bad moments for the music industry, singers, bands and even music television shows. So, with sales up and optimism high for 2016, we take a few moments to look back on the 10 worst moments in music from 2015.
10. U2 Has to Apologize for Giving Away Its Latest Album
When U2’s latest album, Songs of Innocence, was given to everyone with an Apple iTunes account at the end of 2014, it was billed as a Christmas gift of sorts from both the band and executives at Apple Music. Unfortunately, the public saw the gesture more as a crass publicity stunt and were having none of it. The backlash against U2 for giving their album away for free was so intense that the Irish rock quartet was forced to start off 2015 by apologizing for the gift. This seemed truly bizarre as it was the same people who, for years, had been illegally downloading music online that were now complaining about being given an album for free. Dissenters seemed to be complaining more about the corporate involvement of the album giveaway than the fact that the music was being made available for free. They also didn’t like the fact that Songs of Innocence appeared in every iTunes account automatically whether people wanted it or not. Nevertheless, seeing U2 frontman Bono state in television interviews “Sorry for the free music” was cringe worthy.
9. Ryan Adams Records a Version of Taylor Swift’s Album 1989
Ryan Adams is a truly independent artist who has always marched to the beat of his own drum. He constantly follows his own muse and pursues his own passions—whether the public is interested or not. However, the mercurial singer-songwriter made a truly bizarre move in 2015 when he, out of nowhere, released his own version of Taylor Swift’s massively popular album 1989. Ryan Adams literally did his own cover version of every song on the album—a country twangy version of each song at that. Was this a joke? Was it meant to be taken seriously? Is this really a country rock version of “Shake It Off?” Music critics and fans alike had no idea what to make of the Ryan Adams’ album. It didn’t help that Ryan Adams did no publicity for the album and Taylor Swift had no comment about it. The music review website Pitchfork summed the whole thing up best in their review, stating: “Ryan Adams’ cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 is a lot of fun to think about and talk about, but not much fun to listen to.”
8. “Uptown Funk” Becomes the Annoying Song That Is Everywhere
While not quite reaching the annoying heights of “Gangnam Style” or “Call Me Maybe,” the Bruno Mars song “Uptown Funk” has the distinction of being both the top selling single and most played song on the radio in 2015—putting the upbeat dance number firmly in the category of most overplayed song of the year. Not only is everyone familiar with “Uptown Funk,” but the catchy tune can be damn hard to get out of your head once you hear it. But with Bruno Mars belting out the chorus in shopping malls, banks and elevators everywhere, it is the one song that will likely be most remembered when people think back on 2015. And it is likely to become even more annoying over time. Thanks a lot, Bruno Mars.
7. The Kurt Cobain Murder Theories are Resurrected
On the heels of the 20th anniversary of Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s death, 2015 saw the release of not one but two documentaries about the singer-songwriter who allegedly committed suicide in 1994 by taking a lethal dose of heroin and then shooting himself. Or did he? The documentary Soaked In Bleach, released this past year, raised new questions about whether Cobain really committed suicide or was murdered. This played right into the hands of conspiracy theorists who have been claiming for 20 years that Kurt Cobain was murdered. And the documentary theorizes that the murder plot was hatched by Cobain’s then-wife Courtney Love. This is the same speculation that was rife in the mid-1990s but had seemed to die down in recent years. The second documentary that bowed in 2015, Montage of Heck, was more of an inside look at Kurt Cobain’s entire life. It clearly showed that Kurt Cobain was a drug addict with major personal problems. Nevertheless, it was the more sensational Soaked In Bleach that seemed to get the majority of attention and dredged up a lot of unfounded speculation about Kurt Cobain and his death.
6. American Idol Announces the Show Is Ending
It never really survived the departures of judges Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul, and so it came as little surprise when the Fox television network announced this past year that American Idol would be ending after the next season in 2016. With flagging ratings amid a glut of other shows that are basically singing competitions, American Idol goes out a pale shadow of its former self. The show that seemed so unique, quirky and fun when it started back in 2002 now seems tired, uninspired and lacking any real heart. Without Simon Cowell there to drop some harsh truth on the contestants, American Idol has been spinning its wheels for the past three seasons as current judges Jennifer Lopez, Keith Urban and Harry Connick Jr. sugar coat their criticisms and grinning host Ryan Seacrest does his best to make small talk with everyone. Surpassed by competing music show The Voice, American Idol is going out with a whimper when it should have ended on a high note four or five seasons ago.
5. Mumford & Sons Go Electric
Alienating music critics and their fans, British folkies Mumford & Sons ditched their banjos and ukuleles for electric guitars and a sound reminiscent of Coldplay and U2 on their 2015 album Wilder Mind. And, as is always the case when a folk music act plugs in, the backlash was pretty severe. Not since Bob Dylan went electric in the mid-1960s has there been more flack thrown at a music act for setting aside their acoustic guitar. And while Mumford & Sons have remained defiant in their decision to go with a new sound, hard core fans have taken the move badly. It remains to be seen if the suspenders and fiddle crowd will eventually return to the fold and embrace Mumford & Sons again. But it seems that the sound that once made Mumford & Sons popular and the darling of the music press is sorely missed by everyone.
4. Lady Gaga Sings a Duet With Miss Piggy
Yeah, this happened. Lady Gaga sang a duet with Miss Piggy on a version of the song “Santa Baby” for the Muppets’ Thanksgiving special this year. Not only that, but in the lead up to the special, Miss Piggy and Lady Gaga staged a feud over Kermit the Frog for the media. The whole thing didn’t work and seemed like the latest terrible attempt by a fading Lady Gaga to draw attention to herself and try to return to some semblance of relevance. The Miss Piggy duet was almost as bad as her duets with crooner Tony Bennet from a few years back. Here’s an idea: Try putting out some good music rather than one shameless publicity stunt after another. Enough already.
3. Katy Perry’s Super Bowl Halftime Show
Probably the only thing worse than the Lady Gaga/Miss Piggy duet was Katy Perry’s Super Bowl halftime show from this past year. While Super Bowl halftime shows are notoriously bad, the Katy Perry one seemed particularly awful. The production value was decent and there were no wardrobe malfunctions to speak of, but Katy Perry’s brand of bubble gum pop music just didn’t seem to fit the hard-hitting action of football going on before and after her show. And a guest appearance by Missy Elliott of all people just didn’t work. While it might not have been the worst Super Bowl halftime event of all time (that honor goes to Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson), it was a performance that missed the mark and caused the television audience to leave their TV sets to get a refresh on their drinks and some more snacks from the kitchen.
2. Kanye West Interrupts an Awards Show—Again!
We think it’s fair to say that pretty much everyone is tired of Kanye West and his crap. So it was especially irritating this past February when Kanye West interrupted the Grammy Awards. Beck deservedly won Album of the Year for Morning Phase and was on stage at the microphone to give his acceptance speech when Kanye West walked out and interrupted the proceedings. This was the same stunt Kanye West pulled back in 2009 when he stormed the stage at the MTV Video Music Awards to interrupt Taylor Swift who was then accepting her award for Best Female Video. On both occasions Kanye West proclaimed that Beyoncé should have been the winner of the award. And on both occasions Kanye West was removed from the stage and had to later apologize. This time, he went so far as to send roses to Beck—which is so lame, it’s pathetic. Rather than make music of his own, why doesn’t Kanye West just work as a full time publicist for Beyoncé?
1. The Death of Scott Weiland
Sales might have been up in 2015, but the music industry ended on a sad note this past year with the death of former Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver frontman Scott Weiland. Found dead in a tour bus on December 3rd, it was a sad end for the rock star who had battled drug addiction for most of his adult life. Cocaine, booze and sleeping pills were found on Weiland’s tour bus by police who were investigating the death. Apparently clean and sober for the past several years after kicking an addiction to heroin, Scott Weiland’s death sent a chill through the music and entertainment industries, and served as yet another cautionary tale of the damage that can be caused by the rock and roll lifestyle. It was a tragic end for a frontman who was amongst the biggest stars of 1990s and early 2000s rock. R.I.P.