As this year comes to a close, I wanted to write this article as a music wrap-up for 2019. Honestly, I never would have thought that I’d do such a thing, but I felt it was necessary because this year was actually pretty solid for music. While albums from this year didn’t necessarily blow me away like Frank Ocean’s “Blonde” did in 2016, or like Saba’s “Care For Me” did last year, there was still a plethora of worthwhile albums from all genres (stay tuned in 2020 for a “Best albums of 2019” list). However, events in the music scene from throughout this year definitely helped make 2019 great, musically speaking.
First, we saw an explosive rise of an artist through TikTok. With a little (nay, a lot of) help from the app, Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” became a household song within five months. First spreading through memes on TikTok and Instagram, “Old Town Road” slowly crept its way up the Apple Music and Spotify charts. Taking influence from Young Thug’s album “Beautiful Thugger Girls” (2017), “Old Town Road” became a pioneering song for the country-rap genre. Eventually, Billy Ray Cyrus caught on, and so did everyone (and their moms). Cyrus remixed the song with his own verse, which helped get the song to top the Billboard Hot 100 for a record-breaking 19 weeks (Young Thug, Mason Ramsey, Diplo, and BTS’ RM also contributed to different remixes of the song). Suddenly, Lil Nas X was not only a star, but also a history-maker.
Not even 18 years of age, Billie Eilish made history of her own. With her debut studio album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?” she became the first artist born in the 21st century to top the Billboard 200 chart. Later, in August, after the “Old Town Road” Hot 100 craze, her song “bad guy” topped the charts, in which she also became the first artist born since 2000 to top the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Another impressive Billboard 200 chart record broken came from rapper A Boogie Wit da Hoodie. With his late December 2018 album, “Hoodie SZN,” the record’s third and fourth weeks marked its chart-topping moments, but they did so in a very unique way. Selling only 823 pure copies the third week, and 749 pure copies the fourth week, “Hoodie SZN” became the lowest-selling number one album of all-time. While unfortunate in some sense, it also goes to show how impactful streaming services have been on the success of artists today.
Throughout the year, we saw several high-profile groups returning to the spotlight. The Jonas Brothers came back together and released their comeback single “Sucker” in March, marking their first song together in six years. Needless to say, there were plenty of eager fans that hoped that day would come, and they made it known. The band’s comeback album, “Happiness Begins” released in June, performed extremely well, selling over 350,000 pure copies in its opening week. After a lengthy and difficult songwriting process, the legendary metal band Tool also came back with their first studio album in 13 years, “Fear Inoculum,” which released weeks after the rest of their discography became available on streaming services for the first time. The album was well-received, as many fans and critics agreed the band stayed true to form. Many other notable artists, like Bruce Springsteen, The Raconteurs, Bad Religion and Hootie & the Blowfish all released their first albums in more than five years. While not releasing any new material this year, My Chemical Romance, Rage Against the Machine, Heart and Mr. Bungle (among others) all announced reunion shows.
Even in the face of sticky situations, both artists and fans this year showed their admirable philanthropic efforts. Over the summer, a hacker broke into a MiniDisc belonging to Radiohead lead singer Thom Yorke, containing unreleased demos of Radiohead’s historic album “OK Computer” (1997). The hacker held the songs ransom for $150,000. So, instead of paying the ransom, Yorke instead decided to release the demo tapes, with all proceeds going to charity. In November, when grindcore band Full of Hell had their van stolen, they reached out to fans to help fund the band’s equipment and instrument replacement cost of $20,000. In mere hours, kind fans raised nearly double the goal, and the band donated the excess money to charity.
Overall, 2019 gave some hope for the future of music, and only time will tell how music will progress from here. Technology will improve, tastes in music will change and music never fails to surprise people. So, cheers to a great year in music, and to many more in the future.