Music News

The Year in Music 2020: More stars who thrived

Norbert Schoerner

While 2020 was pretty much a terrible year for everyone — especially the music industry, which lost billions due to the shutdown of live events — some artists not only survived, but thrived.  In addition to Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Jon Bon Jovi and Stevie Nicks, here’s a roundup of more stars who dominated music in 2020:

Lady Gaga — After initially delaying the release of her album Chromatica and postponing her tour, Gaga was suddenly everywhere.  After curating the One World: Together at Home benefit event and raising nearly $128 million for COVID-relief efforts, she put out Chromatica at the end of May.  It became her sixth number-one album, while the single “Rain on Me,” a duet with Ariana Grande, debuted at number-one, the first-ever female collaboration to do so. 

Gaga performed at the 2020 MTV Video Music Awards, and won five trophies, including the first-ever Tricon Award, honoring artists who are triple threats.  She performed in Pennsylvania in support of her friend, President-elect Joe Biden, received two Grammy nominations, appeared in a new ad campaign for Valentino’s Voce Viva fragrance, landed a role in the upcoming film Bullet Train, and published a book, Channel Kindness.

Elton John — The music legend started 2020 by winning an Oscar for “(I’m Gonna) Love Me Again,” from his biopic Rocketman.  He had to cancel his ongoing Farewell tour, but made the most of being in lockdown: He guest-starred on singles and albums by various artists, participated in Dua Lipa‘s live-streamed virtual Studio 2054 event, and hosted the Living Room Concert for America benefit event.  He also released an expanded version of his autobiography, the Jewel Box collection of rarities, and even a Barbie doll inspired by his ’70s-era fashions.

Mariah Carey — The diva was everywhere this year, thanks to all the promotion she did for her best-selling memoir, The Meaning of Mariah Carey, not to mention the release of her Rarities album, and her Apple TV+ Christmas special.  She also appeared on numerous virtual events and benefits, launched her own cookie brand, and once again scaled the upper reaches of the chart with “All I Want for Christmas Is You.”

Dua Lipa — The British pop star had one of the biggest albums of the year with her disco-inspired Future Nostalgia.  Released in March, it had people dancing in their kitchens during quarantine with songs like “Don’t Start Now” and “Break My Heart.”  The effort sparked a remix album Club Future Nostalgia — featuring guest stars Madonna and Gwen Stefani — and scored her six Grammy nominations, Dua’s first American Music Award, and Billboard Women in Music’s Powerhouse Award.

The Weeknd — He may have been snubbed by the Grammys this year, but The Weeknd hit career highs with the release of his album After Hours.  It debuted at number one on the Billboard 200 Albums chart and spawned the #1 hit single “Blinding Lights,” which spent a record-breaking 40 weeks in the top 10.  The Canadian singer’s success led to him scoring one of the world’s most coveted gigs: He’ll be the 2021’s Super Bowl halftime show performer.

Honorable mentions:

Harry Styles became everyone’s boyfriend in 2020, from your aunt, to your college roommate to your 12-year-old cousin. He scored his first U.S. number-one hit, “Watermelon Sugar,” and started a conversation about masculinity by wearing a Gucci gown on the cover of Vogue.

Josh Groban‘s new album, Harmony, features several songs he’d selected to reflect the year.  He also did three virtual concerts to promote the record, including his first-ever Christmas concert. Despite having to cancel his Radio City Music Hall residency after only one performance, Josh kept fans entertained by hosting virtual “movie nights” online, posting videos of himself singing fan requests in his shower, and appearing at multiple benefits for the Broadway community.

Shawn Mendes released a new album, Wonder, featuring a duet with Justin Bieber, plus a Netflix documentary and a concert film — all while keeping his romance with Camila Cabello going strong.

By Andrea Dresdale
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