Sometimes it's hard to separate the winners from the losers in popular music. If you have the No. 1 album in America, but you're locked up in a federal penitentiary, which category do we mark you off in? And sometimes it's difficult to keep track of who's on whose side without a score card, too. Does Kanye West like Taylor Swift and George Bush right now, or was that 10 minutes ago?
You may have already blocked out the year in music news, but we're here to remind you of every anger-management scandal, every parole violation, and every canceled tour...along with the occasional bits of good news, too. (Which, for 2010, can pretty much be summed up in six words: Lady Gaga Justin Bieber Taylor Swift.)
THE YEAR IN DISNEY
It was not a swell time to be a singer-actor with a show on the Disney Channel. Unless you were Selena Gomez, who somehow avoided the Final Destination-like inevitability of the fates befalling her colleagues (and who even finished up the year being repeatedly photographed in the company of Justin Bieber).
The Jonas Brothers' Disney series, Jonas L.A., was canceled. Nick Jonas's solo album sold fewer than 200,000 copies. The bros rebounded with Camp Rock 2, then saw a number of dates on their summer amphitheatre tour get axed amid reportedly underwhelming sales. After the tour moved to Europe, opening act Demi Lovato punched out a female dancer and left to come back and receive psychological help. Lovato also gave a black eye to her Disney Channel series, which was set to resume filming without her.
Miley Cyrus wrapped up production on the final season of Hannah Montana, then seemed determined to dissuade parents from letting their kids watch the remaining episodes. Her Can't Be Tamed album proved an instant fizzle, in spite of--or more likely because of--a series of racy videos and TV spots. In December, a video surfaced of Cyrus taking giggly hits off a bong, though it was explained that she wasn't smoking marijuana but the (for now) still-legal salvia, an intoxicant with apparent hallucinogenic qualities. Lest dad Billy Ray be seen as a Dina Lohan-style enabler, he tweeted: "Sorry guys. I had no idea. Just saw this stuff for the first time myself. I'm so sad. There is much beyond my control right now." That last sentence could have been Disney's mantra for this year, too.
THE YEAR IN BEEFS
It's hard to know where you stand with Kanye West, whether you're a fellow pop star or a former president. In the case of Taylor Swift, he publicly and profusely apologized to her via his Twitter account a week before the MTV Video Music Awards, even adding her as the one person he was following on Twitter: "She had nothing to do with my issues with award shows. She had no idea what hit her. She's justa lil girl with dreams like the rest of us." Awww. But wait! West turned on her again after she failed to kiss and make up with him at the awards, saying in an interview that Swift didn't deserve her 2010 Album of the Year Grammy. Later, onstage in New York, he accused Swift of capitalizing on the incident, saying she "never came to my defense at any interview" but "rode the waves and rode it and rode it." In the ultimate dis, he unfollowed Swift on Twitter. Burn!
Meanwhile, West spoke sympathetically of George W. Bush, while making Matt Lauer his new nemesis--canceling his "Today Show" appearance via Twitter (naturally), then making good with NBC long enough to keep his date with the Thanksgiving parade.
Swift showed some kindness in song to West, along with exes Taylor Lautner (in "Back To December") and Joe Jonas ("Last Kiss"). John Mayer was another matter. She tore the fellow singer a new...conscience, taking him to task in the eviscerating "Dear John," accusing him of "dark twisted games" and sympathizing with "all the girls that you run dry." Gossip hounds waited for a return volley, but Mayer, freshly chastened from the stir over his descriptions of Jessica Simpson's sexual allure, remained uncharacteristically silent.
Susan Boyle supposedly cried after supposedly being prohibited by Lou Reed from singing his "Perfect Day" on "America's Got Talent." Simon Cowell called Reed's nix "so petty, so pathetic." Reed later called it a misunderstanding and, to make up, co-directed a video for Boyle's recording of the song--apparently not minding that she is the only person in history ever to mistake "Perfect Day" for an inspirational song, much less one that belongs on a Christmas album.
Kid Rock denounced Steven Tyler's acceptance of a judgeship on "American Idol," saying, "He's a sacred American institution of rock 'n' roll, and he just threw it all out the window. Just stomped on it and set it on fire...I think whoever's advising him, we should bring back the guillotine, or whatever they call that thing. And if it was himself, he needs some serious counseling." In return, Tyler counseled Rock to get over himself.
In 2010's most unexepectedly delightful beef, Aimee Mann tweeted that "there is no reason in the world anyone should have ever cast Ice T in a TV show," which resulted in the rapper calling her the B-word and suggesting that she "eat a hot bowl" of substances that cannot be mentioned on a family website. Mann was contrite...sort of. "I forget that Twitter is not just me and four other dorky friends," Mann wrote. "I am sorry, Mr. T! You get out there and DO IT!"
And then there was the run-in between Kings Of Leon and a pigeon in the rafters of a St. Louis amphitheatre, the excretions of which caused the band to quit the show without explanation or apology after just a few numbers. Fan sympathy in St. Louis seemed to be running 9-to-1 in favor of the pigeon after the walk-off.
THE YEAR IN JAIL
March 26: T.I. is released from prison.
May 12: Gucci Mane is released from prison. So far, so good. Then...
June 17: Lil Boosie, already in prison on a lesser offense, is indicted on new murder charges.
August 16: Erykah Badu gets six months of probation for filming a nude music video in public.
October 11: George Michael is released from prison.
November 1: T.I. is readmitted to prison. (His CD No Mercy came out in December and debuted at No. 4.)
November 2: Gucci Mane is taken back to jail, but released without charges the following day.
November 4: Lil Wayne is released from prison. (While he was in Rikers, his I Am Not a Human Being was released and hit No. 1.)
December 14: Jim Morrison is pardoned on an indecent exposure charge, after 41 years, by outgoing Florida governor Charlie Crist.
BUT FELONS MAKE GOOD SAMARITANS, TOO!
Shortly before reentering prison, T.I. helped talk a man down who was threatening to jump off a high-rise building in Atlanta--via video. Seeing the incident on the news, T.I. drove down to the 22-story building and made a video of himself pleading with the man, which was forwarded to the would-be jumper.
GONE TOO SOON: R.I.P.
Jennifer Lopez's recording contract
John Mayer's Twitter account
Joaquin Phoneix's rapper ruse
The original lineup of Paramore
Whitney Houston's voice
Also, in an "in memoriam" of special merit: The Canadian indie-rock band Women broke up onstage, throwing punches at one another at a gig in Victoria, British Columbia before declaring this their last show.
THE YEAR IN STUMBLES
Every time a superstar tripped onstage, it became a YouTube viral video phenomenon. Rihanna fell during a performance in France in April. The same fate befell Mariah Carey in Singapore and Pink in Germany.
Fortunately, there were no fan cameras rolling when cast members of the Bono/Edge-cowritten Spiderman musical on Broadway kept falling victim to accidents in rehearsals and previews.
THE YEAR IN EXTREME YOUTH
Ten-year-old "America's Got Talent" alum Jackie Evancho became the youngest artist ever to have an album reach the top 10 in America, coming out of the box at No. 2 with a Christmas album, which surely made Taylor Swift feel like a very late bloomer.
Another 10-year-old, Willow Smith, took up Dad's dormant music career with "Whip My Hair," resulting in the biggest number of self-induced headaches among the young since the "Bohemian Rhapsody" sequence in Wayne's World re-popularized headbanging.
WINNERS OF THE YEAR
Lady Gaga just barely edged out Justin Bieber to become the first artist to have his or her videos viewed a billion times on YouTube. Gaga took more pride in her crusade to overturn the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, crowing, "We did it!," even though it was unclear just how much influence her efforts had on the Senate floor. In another big win, Gaga's meat dress was unquestionably the fashion statement of the year, unpopular as it might have made her among vegans.
Bieber, meanwhile, actually joined forces with PETA, not to claim that meat dresses are murder, but to campaign for animal adoptions at shelters. In a more quantifable win, Bieber had the single most-watched video on YouTube with "Baby." He was also the most-married polygamist in America, if we are to believe the thousands of would-be Mrs. Biebers who have adopted his last name as their own in their Twitter handles.
Taylor Swift sold a million copies of Speak Now its first week, the highest tally for a debut in five years. The album is currently up to 2.5 million units and--if we-a let her finish--it may ultimately overtake Eminem's Recovery, which is currently the bestselling 2010 release with 3.2 million units.
DUDS OF THE YEAR
Christina Aguilera's Bionic proved she's no six-million-dollar woman on the music charts. On the heels of a widely mocked, self-consciously naughty "Not Myself Tonight" video, the album rapidly descended down the Billboard 200. This followed her tour cancellation, days after shows went on sale, ostensibly to have more time to promote her starring role in the movie Burlesque--a big-budget money loser for the studio.
Some of the hottest artists on the radio couldn't sell albums to save their lives. Bruno Mars's "Just the Way You Are" sold more than 2 million singles. But his album couldn't muster even 150,000 sales.
Taio Cruz met a similarly mixed fate. His "Dynamite" single moved upwards of 3 million. The subsequent album, though, sold only about 135,000.
If you can't remember who won "American Idol" this year, join the club of people who did not buy Lee DeWyze's Live It Up. Since its November 16 release, it's sold 84,000--a record low not just for an "Idol" winner but even a runner-up. The millions of fans who voted for him six months prior are apparently none-DeWyze-er that he still needs their support.
THE YEAR IN MICHAEL
The Grammys rounded up stars to participate in a Michael Jackson tribute-in 3D, which left the vast majority of viewers who didn't have special glasses seeing one fuzzy memorial. It wasn't a good omen. Jackson's posthumous year might have actually peaked with the reopening of the Captain EO ride at Disneyland (also in 3D, but this time with glasses for everybody).
Less well-received: Michael, an album cobbled together from outtakes, which was poorly reviewed and turned out not to be the expected blockbuster. Family members claimed it wasn't really his voice on the teaser single "Breaking News," being possibly just as reluctant as everyone else to believe Jackson could have recorded anything that horrifically solipsistic. The ballad "Hold My Hand" fared better with fans, though it seemed more duet partner Akon's single than Michael's. When the album finally appeared, former associates ranging from Will.I.Am to Ne-Yo urged Jackson followers to boycott it. (And when Will.I.Am is denouncing something as crass commercialization...)