2021 reaches its conclusion this week, which gives us a chance to look back on all the major musical moments that have shaped the year. Some won, some lost. Some faded into obscurity, but we’re not here to talk about them – here are some of the defining musical moments of the year, plus a few honourable mentions:
The Weeknd’s Superbowl Halftime Show
Arguably the biggest artist in the world at the time after his huge album After Hours lit up 2020, the Canadian singer opened his halftime show with rousing renditions of Starboy and The Hills. As Can’t Feel My Face came on the speakers, the Weeknd then disappeared into the stage and was mobbed with dozens of backup dancers with bandaged faces, dressed as his alter-ego “The Character”.
Only 25,000 fans were allowed inside the Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida to enjoy the show, but it proved to be one of the most iconic and meme-worthy performances of the year.
Britney finally freed
The ongoing legal battle between Britney Spears, her father, and the lawyers in charge of her conservatorship reached its conclusion this year, with the 40-year-old pop legend from Mississippi finally winning her freedom.
The #FreeBritney movement gained so much traction that it became impossible to ignore as a Los Angeles judge decided it was time to end the arrangement, much to the delight of Britney’s millions of adoring fans. The big question is, what will she do next?
A tragic yet highly significant musical moment of the year – the stampede at Travis Scott’s now-infamous Astroworld festival in November resulted in the deaths of 10 people. The 30-year-old rapper from Houston, Texas has been the subject of widespread criticism and dozens of lawsuits after he continued to perform whilst the tragedy unfolded.
While the Harris County medical examiner ruled that the 10 deaths and many more injuries were accidental, the event has raised questions about crowd control and security at entertainment mega-events that will likely influence similar performances in the future.
Olivia Rodrigo’s meteoric rise
Olivia Rodrigo’s incredible year is yet to be crowned by a Grammy win at the 64th awards in January, but at least one win from her seven nominations is all but confirmed at this point.
Drivers License and Good 4 U racked up almost 650m views between them and paved the way for her debut album Sour – a melancholy medley of break-up songs and teenage dreams.
Another female singer to have an amazing 2021 was Adele, who made her long-awaited comeback with her third studio album 30. The incredibly personal ensemble of carefully curated tracks about her divorce pulled on the heartstrings of millions.
Her comical struggles with Instagram Live also provided some light relief to her 50 million followers.
Kanye vs Drake album war
Kanye and Drake’s long-running feud has been the subject of so much conjecture and pot-stirring over the past decade and looked like it was all coming to a head with the side-by-side release of Ye’s Donda and Drake’s Certified Lover Boy.
The two albums gripped the music world and sparked endless conversations on radio talk shows and music forums about who was better. In the end, the two rappers set aside their differences and delivered one of the defining musical moments of 2021 at the Larry Hoover benefit concert at the Los Angeles Coliseum in December. Who says a rap beef can’t end amicably?