Life

Music: 2015 had us all listening at Hello

From Katy Perry's Superbowl show and Taylor Swift's stage buddies, to the decline of The X Factor and Adele's return to world dominance, it's been a long, eventful year for music. Andy Welch selects his highlights

Ed Sheeran with his awards for Best British Male Solo Artist and British Album of the Year

THE way Adele has dominated the latter part of the music year, it's easy to forget there was life before October 23, when she released her comeback single, Hello.

There were rumours all year that she was going to be releasing her third album, and she formally announced 25's existence by placing a snippet of the lead single during an ad break on The X Factor.

It was a typically no-nonsense approach from the singer known for her vocal prowess; that powerful voice playing against a black backdrop, the opening line – "Hello, it's me" – speaking directly to the few people still watching ITV's ailing talent show.

2015's might have been the least-watched X Factor ever (with the career of eventual winner, Louisa Johnson, perhaps likely to last as long as that initial Adele TV spot), but using it as a platform to announce her comeback hasn't stopped Adele releasing the fastest-selling album in UK history, breaking the frankly ridiculous record set by Oasis' Be Here Now back in 1997.

No one had come close to surpassing the Gallaghers' tally in the intervening years, let alone an artist like Adele, and in the internet age – where, allegedly, no one buys music any more.

Just think what she could have achieved if she was 15 years older. Just imagine how many records Adele would've sold if she'd chosen The Great British Bake Off, the UK's most-viewed show, to signal her return. Perhaps the thought of having her creation reviewed by Paul Hollywood made The X Factor seem a safer offer?

Back in January, when 25 was but a rumour, it was Mark Ronson grabbing all the headlines. Coming off the back of soundtracking every 2014 Christmas party with Uptown Funk, he released Uptown Special, which saw him collaborate with an army of other artists. The album was dedicated to the memory of another of his great collaborators, Amy Winehouse, who was the subject of one of the year's most excellent documentaries; Amy, by Asif Kapadia.

February saw Ed Sheeran and Sam Smith clean up during awards season, taking home two Brits each, while Smith, who saw out the year by becoming the first artist to take a Bond theme to UK No 1, also picked up four Grammy wins.

February also gave birth to one of the biggest internet memes of the year, when Katy Perry performed during the half-time show of the Superbowl and one of her dancers, forever known as 'Left Shark', decided to improvise the moves rather than learn them, as the more diligent 'Right Shark' had done.

In March, One Direction fans were shocked when Zayn Malik announced he was leaving the band. Reports soon started circulating that he was working on solo material, and not long after, he posted on Twitter his intention of making "real music", whatever that is. The move - while understandable - seemed somewhat premature; the rest of the band announced in August that they wanted to take at least a year off when they've finished outstanding commitments, come February 2016.

Fans and the media have speculated that this will turn into a permanent split, although the quartet insist it's merely an 'extended hiatus' of around a year. How long they're gone probably depends on how successful the respective members' solo careers are – if Harry Styles were to do a Justin Timberlake, it's unlikely we'll see them back together any time soon.

In May, around six months after releasing 1989, Taylor Swift set off on the accompanying world tour, which lasted until mid-December. Each night on the eight-month jaunt, she brought out a different star, sometimes more than one, to perform a duet with her and strut around the stage. Everyone from the cast of Friends, various Victoria's Secret models, Mick Jagger, Carly Simon and Alanis Morissette appeared in what was a treat for both fans and journalists, thus ensuring Swift was one of the most written about people of the year.

Not everyone was impressed, however, with prominent feminist author Camille Paglia labelling Swift an "obnoxious Nazi Barbie" for parading her popular pals. Needless to say, several trillion of TayTay's online army leapt to her defence, while Swift herself, responding to similar criticisms in an interview with Zane Lowe, said: "It scares me how valuable it is to find something problematic about me."

Talking of Zane Lowe, after leaving BBC Radio 1, he helped Apple launch their first radio station Beats 1 in June, kick-starting something insiders at the Beeb apparently dubbed the 'Apple crumble', due to the way the technology giant was poaching all of the corporation's best staff. George Ergatoudis, Radio 1's long-standing head of music, recently announced his defection to Spotify, showing that streaming is not the passing fad some still think it might be, but serious business.

That same month, Florence + The Machine were promoted to headline Glastonbury's Friday night, after Dave Grohl - originally set for the slot with Foo Fighters - broke his leg. Kayne West and The Who headlined on the Saturday and Sunday respectively.

August saw the surprise release of Compton, a new album by Dr Dre, some 16 years after his previous album 2001 (released in 1999). Even more of a surprise than the fact the billionaire rapper – who was sitting on a new pile of cash after selling his headphones company, Beats, to Apple for 3 billion US dollars – made an album at all was the fact that, aside from a few ill-advised lyrics and skits, it was actually very good.

Prince also released a surprise album, continuing his knack for being the most brilliantly unpredictable artist on the planet.

The year's biggest-selling album was, without question, Adele's 25, which, after just 29 days on sale, had sold some two million copies (her second album, 19, took 13 weeks to sell that many).

2015 was also the year we said goodbye to a number of famous faces; Visage's Steve Strange; John Renbourn, formerly of folk band Pentangle; Errol Brown of Hot Chocolate; easy listening crooner Val Doonican; Chris Squire of Yes, and singer-turned-presenter Cilla Black.

We said hello again, however, to Bay City Rollers, Black Grape, The Bluetones, Busted, The Corrs, Daphne and Celeste, Lush, Simply Red and Supertramp, who all decided to reform, while The Black Crowes, Klaxons, Noah And The Whale, Odd Future and Rise To Remain were among the bands who decided to call it a day.

At times, it looks as if music is repeating itself - and Marvin Gaye's family, who won a lawsuit against Pharrell Williams and Robin Thicke this year for their song Blurred Lines' perceived similarities to Gaye's Got To Give It Up, would likely agree – but when there are artists such as Adele around exceeding expectations, and Prince, still marching to his own tune after all these years, that seems far from the mark.

2015 was a belter.

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