This site was named after a Prince single with alphabet in its title, so if there is to be an end of year review….an A to Z seems a better way than 50 records or the calendar year which would only start with that depressing moment Duncan Jones’ tweet, the Radio 4 programme, 6Music breakfast gave us the grim news. Trying to go through it in order (pointless), in terms of releases (it wasn’t all that, as the Best of/End Of year lists suggested…a list more of brand names in music than album achievement) seems an errand for another fool so without further ado….
Adele won most of the big awards for work she did in 2015, was brave enough to discuss her post-natal depression to Vanity Fair’s Lisa Robinson and announced four summer 2017 dates for Wembley Stadium by singing Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds. A is also for Radiohead’s A Moon Shaped Pool because R, M and P were taken.
Bowie and Blackstar. What a way to leave the stage.
Christine and the Queens: The freshest newest act to hit magazine covers, the TOTP Christmas Day special and endorsement from Sir Elton Hercules John. Heloise Letissier sat regally above all the other pretenders to the French dance music throne who put out music in 2016. As that includes Daft Punk, Justice, Cassius and M83, she’s ruling over some pretty distinguished courtiers.
D is for Down Down. If Kings of Leon or Kasabian did something this good….imagine the music press….except they wouldn’t, would they? RIP Rick.
This whole alphabet could have been musical talents gone forever. Earth, Wind and Fire’s Maurice White and The Eagles’ Glenn Frey were another two lost to us this year.
G is for Mark Giuliana, the incredible drummer on Bowie’s Blackstar. Bowie’s always had good drummers from Woody Woodmansey to Omar Hakim, but this guy…this guy is good.
Hype. Beyonce and Frank Ocean released records in the dark of night without pre-release interviews and hype. Which was the biggest hype they could have given them. Result: in this day and age, the dreaded insta-review, and the rest of us taking stock to figure out how good Blond and Lemonade are. And Beyonce did a new one at the Superbowl which, whoever you are and not withstanding the importance of the Black Lives Matter cause, was just disrespectful.
If You’re Feeling Sinister..anniversary gigs at a packed Royal Albert Hall, the same night at Brexit. Belle and Sebastian had them dancing from the dome to the soundstage on the floor.
Just Change It. Insta-reviews, ticket booking fees, secondary booking agencies buying all the tickets through bots, streamed records finishing top of the charts over songs which have sold more (Drake vs Justin Timberlake) and the BBC only showing two Top of the Pops a year. There are other changes in music it would be nice to make but we’re only in J.
Michael Kiwanuka. Difficult second album syndrome? Not really. This was the year when the man who came be known for the Sound of 2012 poll delivered one of the Sounds of 2016 with Black Man in a White World.
Lemmy died in the Christmas holidays of 2015 so L is for Greg Lake, who left us in December, sadly not leading to a concerted campaign for I Believe in Father Christmas to reach the top of the festive 40. The man who suggested Keith Emerson (also lost this year) should try the Moog and the rest was history (and a tour which cost them a fortune years before the Pet Shop Boys lost £1.5m on the Performance tour. Their dates at the Royal Opera House were exquisite, and presumably didn’t lose them that kind of cash).
George Michael’s death on Christmas Day was sad, inexplicable, miserable, unexpected (maybe not entirely), but a reminder of the fact this man was such a creative fulcrum from Wham! Rap aged 17 to Cowboys and Angels before he’s out his twenties, is staggering.
Nobel Prize. This was the first year they gave one to the guy in Wyclef Jean’s Gone ‘Til November video. Unless Herta Muller or V.S. Naipaul were in it and I missed them.
Lapsley, Operator. Another sound of 2016. And (sort of) 1977, or whenever you carbon date the height of disco.
Phife Dawg and Q-Tip joined forced for A Tribe Called Quest’s We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service, their final album and first for eighteen years. 2016 wasn’t just the year of the musician death, it was the year of the fitting valedictory statement. In place of a last will and testament for the fans, they got to leave a great record without the hassle of probate.
Revolver. Like Blonde on Blonde and Pet Sounds, 50 years young. Anniversary pieces all round, including this one I wrote for Reaction.life. http://reaction.life/revolver-50-beatles-masterpiece-still-hasnt-outstayed-welcome/
Songs In The Key of Life…performed in full at Hyde Park. A magical four-hour night. Critics sniped that it was overlong, but any gig where the setlist actually has the words “Superstition etc” written and Stevie drops a DJ set including When Doves Cry and Kiss into the encore, is not too long for me.
Tapestry was also performed in full at Hyde Park. Carole King tore through that in around 40 minutes. So we had the cast of Beautiful, a selection of her hits for other people like It Might as Well Rain Until September but, above all, we had the unimpeachably great set of songs from 1971. (A book on that year, 1971, by David Hepworth, was probably the music book I enjoyed most in 2016).
Unforgettable. The orchestra pulled together by Jules Buckley performing Soul Bossa Nova in front of Quincy Jones himself for the Quincy Jones Prom. It’s etched on my memory but finding it online means it has to stay unforgettable.
The Vault. With Prince gone, and half-sister Tyka in charge of the estate, the questions remain. He’s made two unseen films. The Crystal Ball triple album. Every live show recorded for posterity, including the Piano and a Microphone shows. All in the mythical vault at Paisley Park, waiting to be opened. When? When? When?
X Factor. Respectfully, it’s over. With two episodes of TOTP a year, and Jools Holland starting Later and Later (gone midnight) and taking the self-indulgent move of heading to Maidstone, the only music show on TV that matters – even if you despise it, it breaks new acts and it’s where the big acts come to perform their hits – is in trouble. The second Christmas single in a row to miss the top three, a lack of big acts (no Beyonce, Justin Timberlake or Adele performing but they did have Honey G, James Arthur and Louisa Johnson, twice) and a feeling that another reinvention may be beyond them.
You Want It Darker. Leonard Cohen says goodbye in just as classy a way as Bowie. A meditation on death, hope, love and unfinished business getting close to being cleared up.
Zoolander. The sequel had Sting. The Original had Bowie. So thank you 2016 for making us remember how good 2001’s Zoolander was by giving us Zoolander 2. For those clamouring for a sequel to a film we love, Zoolander 2 gave us pause for thought.