2019: THE TOP STORIES IN POP MUSIC
TAYLOR SWIFT’S LIFE-CHANGING YEAR
Taylor Swift released her record-shattering latest album Lover on August 23rd, and broke all sorts of records. She hit the top spot on the Billboard 200 with Lover, her sixth No. 1 album in the U.S., and is now the first female artist to have six different albums sell over 500,000 copies in a single week.
In addition, all 18 songs from Lover charted on the Billboard Hot 100 simultaneously, pushing her total to 95 career entries and earning her the record for most simultaneous charted Hot 100 titles among women, passing the 14 that Billie Eilish tallied with her album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Last month, Swift delivered a powerful performance at the American Music Awards. Swift won six awards total, including Artist of the Decade and Artist of the Year and made history as the performer with the most AMA career wins of all time with 26.
The album and its singles received three nominations at the 62nd Grammy Awards, including a nomination for Best Pop Vocal Album,
Taylor also took on injustices in the music industry by getting loud about her struggles with her former record label Big Machine over her life’s work after the company was sold to manager Scooter Braun. Swift called it her “worst case scenario.” “For years I asked, pleaded for a chance to own my work. Instead I was given an opportunity to sign back up to Big Machine Records and ‘earn’ one album back at a time, one for every new one I turned in,”
Swift also alleged that they declined the use of her older music and performance footage at the AMAs and as well as a new Netflix documentary. Ultimately, she was allowed to perform her catalog of songs at the AMAs, but it is unclear how things will shake out with the Netflix documentary, Taylor Swift: Miss Americana, which is set to debut at the Sundance Film Festival on January 23, 2020.
Taylor was also recently named one of People Magazine’s People of the Year and stars in the film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, Cats, which hit theaters December 20th.
Britney Spears announced in January that she was indefinitely postponing her new Las Vegas residency show, Domination, because her father, Jamie Spears, was so ill with a ruptured colon he almost died. And that was just the beginning of the year.
In early April, multiple media outlets reported that Britney had checked into a mental health facility after becoming emotionally distraught over her father’s health crisis and was expected to stay for 30 days. But fans started questioning if Britney went to the facility on her own accord, and the #FreeBritney social media movement was born.
Britney later posted a video telling fans, “all is well.” However, in May, she reportedly reversed course and told a judge that her father had sent her to the facility against her will and forced her to take drugs. An attorney for Britney’s mother, Lynne Spears, allegedly made the same allegation. In a closed-court session, Britney asked the judge to end the conservatorship led by Jamie that’s controlled and guided her life since 2008, but her request for that – or at least more freedoms – was ultimately denied. Instead, a judge decided that an independent expert would evaluate the star.
Tensions between Britney and her dad reached a fever pitch late in the summer when Jamie Spears was accused of physically abusing her 13-year-old son with ex-husband Kevin Federline. On August 25th, K-Fed and his attorney filed a police report at the Ventura County Sheriff’s station against Jamie detailing the alleged incident. It was reported that Jamie allegedly “violently shook” grandson Preston after breaking down a bedroom door to reach him.
Just days later, Jamie asked a judge to temporarily replace him as his daughter’s conservator “due to personal health reasons.” He suggested that Britney’s care manager for the last year, Jodi Montgomery, take over the responsibilities until he was ready to grab the reins again in January 2020. A court approved the change. The rest of the year was free of public drama as Britney headed to Miami in December to celebrate her 38th birthday with boyfriend Sam Asghari. However, she has posted some odd videos on Instagram, leading fans to wonder if she really is ok.
BILLIE EILISH BREAKS THROUGH
Billie Eilish has had a rocking 2019. Billie Eilish Pirate Baird O’Connell had her breakthrough with her 2019 single “Bad Guy,” which topped the Billboard Hot 100, making her the first and, to date, only artist born in the 2000s to record a No. 1 single in the US.
The 17- year-old is the youngest artist ever to sweep nominations in the big four categories – Album, Song, record and Best New Artist – at the Grammys. Her debut album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? produced and co-written by her 22-year-old brother, Finneas O’Connell, logged billions of streams, including those for her No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 single, “Bad Guy.” “Bad Guy” alone has been streamed more than 3 billion times.
The album placed 12 songs in the Hot 100 at once, and pulled two older singles along with it to set a new record for simultaneous Hot 100 tracks by a female artist. She’s been selling out arenas the world over, including two dates at the 18,000-capacity Forum in April, and was named Billboard’s woman of the year.
When We Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? was the most-played on both Apple Music and Spotify in 2019, and it topped Billboard’s end-of-year chart. She is close to a deal with Apple TV+ for a documentary about her life that comes with a reported $25 million price tag and was awarded the coveted title of Apple Music’s Global Artist of the Year. Eilish also won the Album of the Year and (along with her brother Finneas) the Songwriter of the Year awards for WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, Apple Music’s most-played album of the year, with more than a billion streams. She also won Variety’s Hitmaker Of the Year and took home Best New Artist of the Year and Favorite Artist – Alternative Rock at the AMAs.
Eilish made her directorial debut with “Xanny,” from her multiple Grammy-nominated album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go.”
Eilish will hit the road for a global arena tour in early 2020. The Where Do We Go tour kicks off in Miami on March 9th and will touch down for 22 North American dates before heading down to Central and South America and then across the pond to Europe and the U.K.
LIL NAS X BREAKS THROUGH AND COMES OUT
Lil Nas X had a whirlwind year in which he broke longstanding Billboard chart records, became the biggest gay pop star in the world and scored seven Grammy nominations (the most among men this year), including Best New Artist, Record and Album of the Year. Taking home any of those awards would make him the first Black, gay man to be awarded in the category.
Lil Nas X, born Montero Lamar Hill, has been going nonstop since his country-rap monster hit “Old Town Road.” Lil Nas X posted “Old Town Road” online last December. Within months, the song was streamed so often it broke onto the Billboard charts. In a matter of weeks, Hill signed to Columbia Records, recorded an “Old Town Road” remix with Billy Ray Cyrus that catapulted the song to No. 1 and quickly turned around his major-label debut EP, “7.” “Old Town Road” spent 19 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100, the longest a song has held that spot in the chart’s 61-year history at the time – and was the top Billboard Hot 100 song for 2019. Lil Nas X, who turned 20 on April 9th, is the youngest male artist with the year-end Hot 100 No. 1, and the second-youngest act ever to lead the year-end tally. He trails only a 19-year-old Lulu in 1967, who claimed the year’s most popular tune with “To Sir With Love.”
After becoming the first gay musician to win Song of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards and the first to be honored by the Country Music Association, the 20-year-old made history yet again by earning a spot on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid country acts. Lil Nas X made $14 million before taxes in 2019, good enough for no. 18 in the magazine’s rankings.
Smithsonian magazine announced that the rapper-singer-songwriteris the recipient of their American Ingenuity Award for Youth.
In addition to being the first out LGBTQ+ person to make Forbes’ list of the highest-earners in country music, Lil Nas X is the first person of color. He’s also the youngest person in the top 20. He was also named to the Forbes 30 Under 30 list for 2020.
In March, shortly after “Old Town Road” charted, Billboard declared it ineligible in the country category.
Lil Nas X came out as gay on June 30th, the final day of Pride Month. He announced the news by pointing to the lyrics of “C7osure” from his 7 EP. “some of y’all already know, some of y’all don’t care, some of y’all not gone fwm no more,” he wrote. “but before this month ends i want y’all to listen closely to c7osure.” Lil Nas X confirmed speculation Monday, tweeting, “just cuz i’m gay don’t mean i’m not straight.” In “c7osure,” Lil Nas X talks about embracing his identity, adding that it’s his “time to be free.” In another tweet, Lil Nas X pointed out a skyscraper that was lit up in rainbow lights on the cover art of his debut EP, “7,” writing, “Deadass thought i made it obvious.”
Miley Cyrus And Liam Hemsworth Split
Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth dated on and off for 10 years, but after officially tying the knot in December 2018, they split only eight months later, in August 2019.
Both sides were busy blaming the other – sources from Cyrus’ side claimed that Hemsworth’s drug use was what ended the marriage, while the actor’s own sources blamed the singer’s infidelity. She denied cheating in a lengthy twitter rant.
Only a day after the break-up was announced, Cyrus was spotted in Italy kissing her new girl, Kaitlynn Carter. But that relationship, too, was short-lived, and Cyrus has since been linked to Cody Simpson.
On October 5th, photos showed the new couple kissing. Just days later, Miley ended up in the hospital with tonsillitis, and Cody showed up to serenade her with a song he wrote for her. He’s since released it. Cody was also by her side for her 27th birthday celebrations in November and the pair even got tattoos together.
SAM SMITH CAME OUT AS NON-BINARY: In March, Smith Smith came out as non-binary to Jameela Jamil in an interview for her show I Weigh. They said: “I’m not male or female, I think I flow somewhere in between.” A few months later in September, Smith shared that they go by they/them pronouns through an Instagram post. They captioned the post: “After a lifetime of being at war with my gender I’ve decided to embrace myself for who I am, inside and out.”
THE BACKSTREET BOYS’ BIG YEAR: The Backstreet Boys released their ninth studio album, DNA, on January 25, 2019. The album topped the Billboard charts – marking the band’s first No. 1 record in almost two decades, and their third total, following 2000’s Black & Blue and 1999’s Millennium. DNA features the singles “No Place,” “Chances” and “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.” During the 20th anniversary of “I Want It That Way,” the group participated in a handprint ceremony to commemorate the end of their two-year residency at Planet Hollywood and was also presented with a check donation to the Boys & Girls Club of Southern Nevada. “I Want It That Way” came out on April 12, 1999.
ADELE AND HUSBAND SIMON KONECKI SPLIT: Adele and her husband, Simon Konecki, split up in April after more than seven years together. The singer and entrepreneur-philanthropist share a 6-year-old son Angelo.
LADY GAGA SPLITS FROM FIANCÉ & NEW BOYFRIEND: Lady Gaga split from her audio engineer boyfriend Dan Horton in October. The pair were first linked when they were spotted kissing in late July. Gaga previously called off her engagement to Christian Carino in February after two years togethe