2016: The Musical

Across the board, 2016 has been a rough year. For music especially, it was a double-edged sword -...

18.34 21 Dec 2016

Share this article

2016: The Musical

2016: The Musical


18.34 21 Dec 2016

Share this article

Across the board, 2016 has been a rough year.

For music especially, it was a double-edged sword - 2016 proved to be an incredibly strong year for releases, while simultaneously vanquishing the legends that undoubtedly influenced the new kids on the block.

In 2016, Fifth Harmony became four, Ariana Grande became a dangerous woman, and Bon Iver's Justin Vernon emerged from his cabin in the woods with a new love for vocoders.


It was the year that when an X-Factor contestant said 'Honey'. seemingly the only appropriate response was 'G'.

Domestically, We Cut Corners released the stunning The Cadences of Others, Brian McFadden and Keith Duffy formed supergroup Boyzlife, and RTÉ lost its voice in The Voice.

Did we mention that The Blizzards got back together too?

The earth's 2,016th spin closes as it opened - at break neck-speed. Here's the soundtrack to the year that was.

The year heaven got significantly louder

What was to be David Bowie’s last album was released in January. Blackstar was the end to the Ziggy Stardust legacy that he wanted - a nod to the past and a thrust into the unknown. He died three days after its release following a long battle with cancer.

Frequent collaborator Donny McCaslin said that he was working on a new album at the time of his death, calling Blackstar ‘a fresh start, not goodbye’.

Legendary soul and R&B musician Prince passed away in April following an accidental overdose. He was 57.

After telling the world he was “ready to die”, and then taking it back, Leonard Cohen died aged 82 following a fall. Similar to Bowie, he got one more album in before his death - You Want It Darker is “a pristine, piously crafted last testament, the informed conclusion of a lifetime of inquiry”, according to Pitchfork.

Other high profile deaths included Pete Burns of Dead Or Alive, soul singer Sharon Jones and founding member of the Beastie Boys, John Berry.

Saint Pablo’s resurrection, crucifixion and ascension?

Three album title changes later, hip-hop heavyweight Kanye West released his seventh studio album The Life Of Pablo - his seventh consecutive number one album. West toyed with the idea of the traditional long play, continuing to add tracks to the album after its release. Its initial exclusive release on Tidal resulted in a large increase in subscribers to the service and 250 million streams in the first 10 days. The album received over 500,000 illegal downloads within the first three days of its release.

Generally praised by critics, controversy remained central to the Kanye West narrative. The lyrics on lead single 'Famous' featured a pop at long-standing rival Taylor Swift, while the video for the song took it up a notch, featuring naked wax works of Swift, along with President-elect Donald Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin.

West was recently forced to cancel the tour in support of the album, with reports that he is suffering from depression and paranoia. He was temporarily hospitalised, before being released and meeting with Trump to discuss "life".

No tea, no shade, just sweet Lemonade

In 2016, we were introduced to Becky with the good hair and a Beyoncé that didn’t care.

Snatching every chink of spotlight from Coldplay during their Superbowl half-time show, her lead single 'Formation' from this year’s visual album Lemonade sparked protest by police organisations at her concert in Houston, saying her performances could be interpreted as “anti-police”.

Lemonade brought Beyoncé within her Beyhive’s reach, as she told the story of a woman scorned. Putting herself and her marriage under the microscope of the media, she challenged everyone’s idea of what it means to be Beyoncé.

An Endless wait comes to an end

More than a year later, reclusive R&B boy wonder Frank Ocean emerged from whatever dark woodland cabin he’d been hiding in to satiate his fans with new music.

Preceded by a teasing live-stream of Frank building a staircase, visual album Endless and traditional release Blonde came more than a year after Frank’s initial promised release date.

Endless served as a contractual middle finger to Def Jam records as, despite releasing the albums before the deadline, he did not put Blonde forward for consideration for the 2017 Grammy awards. As a visual album, Endless was deemed ineligible.

Rolling Stone magazine called Blonde a “dizzy, druggy, trippy marvel”.

True love waits

There were comeback kids aplenty in 2016, few more notable than Radiohead. After mounting speculation that they were working on new music, they release their ninth studio album A Moon Shaped Pool in May.

In their first post-Pool interview, Thom Yorke said it was a happy time for the band, but was surprised that fans were still interested in what they did.

“He wondered if people would care, given how long it had been since The King Of Limbs,” Niall Doherty wrote in Q Magazine. “There were times when he wasn’t sure if there would ever be another Radiohead LP, but he says that he thinks that every time.”  

‘Creep’ has also slowly but surely made its way back into the band’s recent setlists - a good omen for the upcoming gig in the 3Arena, surely?

The inspiration behind A Moon-Shaped Pool and Yorke's former long-term partner Rachel Owen passed away as the year closed. She was 48 years old.

"I'll drown my beliefs / To have you be in peace / I'll dress like your niece / And wash your swollen feet / Just don't leave / Don't leave ..."

New directions

With X-Factor powerhouse/Simon Cowell’s meal ticket One Direction no more, the boys looked to the future of their careers.

Liam Payne and Harry Styles continue to maintain relatively low profiles musically, with Niall Horan, Louis Tomlinson and abdicator Zayn Malik also releasing solo material.

Malik’s debut album Mind Of Mine was met with a lukewarm response, while Cowell took pot shots at Horan’s solo career following his signing with Capitol Records, tweeting "hashtag loyalty".

Meanwhile, Tomlinson granted his mother’s last wish following her death - giving his first performance as a solo artist at The X-Factor live final with DJ Steve Aoki.

Chance of a lifetime

An independent rapper from Chicago made an international splash with his third mixtape, Colouring Book.

Already well established in his hometown of Chicago and across the United States, Chance The Rapper set out to prove he didn’t need the backing of a major label to make a name for himself.

Colouring Book went to number five on the Billboard Charts on streams alone, and after taking out several billboard advertisements asking the Grammys to consider him for an award, he’s been nominated seven times. If you don’t ask...

He cancelled his scheduled gig at The Helix last month, allegedly following good friend and mentor Kanye West’s hospitalisation.

We still love him though.


What year was it again?

Craig David took 2016 for a drink on Tuesday and…well, you know the rest. The '90s R&B heartthrob was the year’s official comeback kid, scoring his first number one album in 16 years with Following My Intuition.

An improvised cover of a Justin Bieber track in the Live Lounge at the end of last year kicked off a never-before-seen artist resurgence, with a world tour and his album track ‘All We Need’ used as the official Children In Need song of 2016.

Knockanstockan calls time after ten years

One of Ireland’s leading independent music festivals, Knockanstockan hit pause on a 10 year legacy.

The final line-up included Lisa O’Neill, Overhead The Albatross, Booka Brass Band and Sample Answer.

Luke Sweetman of Little Beast Films, who put together a mini-documentary featuring the festival’s key players talking about their time with the festival so far, said: “Knockanstockan has been a part of my life - on and off - for 10 years. 

“The one thing that I can say with complete confidence is that the organisers and volunteers who make Knockanstockan happen to have a deep and passionate love of music, and I think this love is embraced and shared by the audience that attends."

Views from the top of the charts

Drake bulldozed through the record books, riding a wave of streaming success in 2016.

In the US, his fourth studio album Views was streamed 245.1 million times, breaking the first week record for streaming on a platform. It also became the first album to surpass 1 billion streams on a platform.

Most of the thanks can go to 'One Dance,' his summer smash that borrowed its sound heavily from Jamaica’s dance halls, and currently the most streamed song of all time.

However, he retains his moniker of most meme-able rapper in the industry. The photoshopped cover of Views - depicting the 6 God sitting atop the CN Tower - spawned many a crude meme of Drake sitting in on a variety of hilarious situations.




A photo posted by Henry Jiao (@htjiao) on


The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland announced in March that they had received no applications for the music-driven alternative rock sound broadcasting license for Dublin city and county.

With much-loved TXFM not applying to renew their license, a significant hole was left in the landscape of alternative music.

The station's legacy came to a fitting close with Pulp's 'The Day After The Revolution'.

The Boss is back in town

Bruce Springsteen played two back-to-back shows at Croke Park, both lasting a staggering three and half hours.

Some fans queued as early as 10am to secure a space at the front of the stage, with GoldenPlec describing the gigs as “a demonstration of incredibly artistry and perfect instrumentation, and more a once-in-a-lifetime experience of a man, a myth and his legendary band”.

Even Bono turned up for a buzz - because he's Bono.

It’s Adele’s world, we’re just living in it

Adele finishes 2016 in a familiar place: on top.

Nearly five years after her last album — 2011’s 21, which spent 24 weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 — the 28-year-old British pop powerhouse returned as if she had never left, closing out 2016 as Billboard’s top artist for a record third time.

The time spent away only seems to confirm Adele’s adoring fan base, as well as her status as a critical darling. Adele’s up for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Solo Pop Performance and Best Pop Vocal Album. And Best Carpool Karaoke. 

No more monkey business

One of Ireland’s best loved bands Fight Like Apes called time on their legacy after a decade, citing the financial difficulties facing working musicians today.

“Stick a fork in us, we’re done”, they announced on their Facebook page. “There are massive challenges for a lot of bands, mostly financial, that make this a tough job and sadly, those obstacles have become too big for us.”

Their debut album Fight Like Apes and the Mystery of the Golden Medallion (2008) won them a nomination for the Choice Music Prize and landed them a high-profile slot supporting The Prodigy on a stadium tour of the UK. Their most recent album, the eponymous Fight Like Apes, was released last May, following a crowd-funding campaign to finance the cost of production and promotion.

A real crowd pleaser

We may be saying goodbye to Vine, but the micro-vlogging app is proving it still holds influence when it comes to pop culture trends.

The Mannequin Challenge - a viral video challenge in which people are filmed reenacting events while remaining perfectly still - gave Rae Sremmurd’s summer release Black Beatles a new lease of life.

The rap duo’s song went to number one on the Billboard Charts as a result of its popularity, and at their concert in Denver, they even did a challenge of their own.


Share this article

Most Popular