From Ed Sheeran’s arm-breaking, record-smashing, chart-changing third album to Taylor Swift’s riveting Reputation return, 2017 has been a interesting year for some of the world’s biggest stars. Rising prospects such as Stormzy, Dua Lipa and Rag’N’Bone Man have all come to fruition while music united in the wake of the Manchester attack and the Grenfell Fire tragedy.
Here we take a look at some of the biggest music stories in 2017.
Armed with just his guitar, the red-headed singer-songwriter has broken all sorts of records in 2017. His third album, Divide, has topped the charts on no less than seven separate occasions – setting a new record for the most spells at the summit by a male solo artist. A whirlwind year has also seen him bag nine of the top 10 spots in the singles charts following the release of Divide as well as headline Glastonbury, break his arm after falling off a bike, pick up an MBE at Buckingham Palace, collaborate with Beyonce for a Christmas number one, collect his first Mercury Prize nomination, and single-handedly force a shake-up in the way streams are counted towards album sales due to his popularity. Whatever he does next, all eyes will be on the 26-year-old.
The rise of Stormzy
While everyone expected Stormzy’s debut album to be a hit, few backed him to end the year as one of Britain’s biggest stars. His reputation has been bubbling for three or four years and the south London MC managed to refine the grime rawness flaunted on Shut Up whilst developing a riskier gospel sound for his debut album, Gang Signs And Prayer. The album’s balance is exquisite, ranging from the angry Big For Your Boots to the worship-esque Blinded By Your Grace parts 1 and 2. A Mercury Prize nomination, memorable performances at the Brits and MTV EMAs, an X Factor cameo, bags of Mobo Awards, offering to perform at Prince Harry’s wedding, and a semi-collaboration with Bradley Walsh all followed. Cheeky with a massive amount of talent, this guy is the real deal.
Manchester and Grenfell: Music Unites
After Ariana Grande’s Manchester concert was targeted by a terrorist attack in which 22 people died, few people would have blamed the pop star if she had retreated from the public eye. She did the opposite, visiting injured fans in hospital and throwing a truly tear-jerking concert just weeks after the attack. One Love Manchester saw her joined by some of the world’s biggest stars in Little Mix, Katy Perry, Coldplay, Take That, Robbie Williams, Liam Gallagher and Justin Bieber for a celebration of the power of music, Manchester, and life itself.
The reaction to the Grenfell Tower fire was similar. Adele was spotted during rescue efforts, Marcus Mumford helped keep youngsters occupied with football sessions and there was also a celebrity match at nearby Queen’s Park Rangers. A charity single, organised by Simon Cowell, was also released featuring the likes of Stormzy, Rita Ora, Robbie Williams and Roger Daltrey, among others.
Go Your Own Way
2017 was the year the 1D boys went their own way. Whether it was a brief hiatus or a longterm arrangement, success was mixed on their respective solo ventures. The heaviest expectations rested on the shoulders of Harry Styles. Billed as a Bowie and Jagger wannabe, his debut solo album is a nod to LA classic rock, mish-mashing Elton John and Eagles influences. There’s little room for his own identity but as one-fifth of the world’s biggest boyband, it may take time for Styles to find his niche. Elsewhere, Niall Horan had some success with Slow Hands, while Louis Tomlinson slipped under the radar as his collaborative partners often took centre stage. Meanwhile, Liam Payne found himself in the news more for his relationship – and child – with Cheryl, than his music.
Criticised for a lack of political commentary, the country star-turned-pop icon returned in September armed with a big box of metaphors. Reputation is obsessed with lust, loss and revenge. It is not only intriguing, but, like Sheeran’s album, record-breaking. Streaming records fell apart when faced with first single Look What You Made Me Do, while the album itself was the biggest seller of the year in the US. It means Swift became the only artist to have four albums sell more than a million copies in their first week since Billboard began tracking data in 1991.
Those Who Came Before Us
Just as important as marking the successes of 2017 is remembering those we lost. Rock and roll pioneers Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, grunge rocker Chris Cornell, Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington, entertainment all-star Bruce Forsyth, the dynamic Tom Petty, and French music hero Johnny Hallyday are among those performers who passed away in the previous 12 months.