The 75 Moments That Defined the Decade in Music (So Far)

It's July 2017, which means that we've now officially passed the 3/4 mark of the 21st century's second decade. To commemorate somehow being 75% of the way through the '10s, we at Billboard have decided to look back at the biggest happenings of the decade thusfar -- the Earth-stopping releases, the major industry changes, the biggest live spectacles, and other moments where you could feel the pop landscape shifting underneath your feet.

Read our chronological list below, and let's hope that the decade's last quarter is just as action-packed.

January 22, 2010: The Hope for Haiti Now concert

The '10s kicked off with many of the brightest stars of the previous decade -- Beyonce, Justin Timberlake, Coldplay and Taylor Swift (covering Better Than Ezra!) among them -- coming together to raise over $61 million in charitable donations at the Hope for Haiti Concert telethon, in response to the unthinkable fallout of the catastrophic 2010 Haiti earthquake. Rihanna, JAY-Z, Bono and The Edge even came equipped with a new ballad for the occasion, "Stranded (Haiti Mon Amour)," selling well enough for a Hot 100 debut in the top 20. It was a quick reminder at decade's outset of the healing power (and global influence) of pop music, and most of the talents involved are still relevant as ever today. -- ANDREW UNTERBERGER

Bono, Jay-Z and Rihanna perform together on stage at the Hope For Haiti Now concert, a global benefit for earthquake relief, at The Hospital Club on Jan. 22, 2010 in London.

Bono, Jay-Z and Rihanna perform together on stage at the Hope For Haiti Now concert, a global benefit for earthquake relief, at The Hospital Club on Jan. 22, 2010 in London.

January 25, 2010: Live Nation + Ticketmaster merge to form Live Nation Entertainment

Nearly a year after announcing plans for a $2.5 billion merger -- and amid fierce opposition from industry lobbyists and some members of Congress concerned about anti-trust laws -- the U.S. Department of Justice approved a deal to allow Ticketmaster and Live Nation to join forces, and become one of the most formidable live-music organizations ever created. Since the merger, the touring business has been dominated by the combined Live Nation Entertainment and its main rival AEG Live, as both have snapped up independent promoters and venues to consolidate their portfolios -- an arms race that still continues. -- DAN RYS

February 10, 2010: John Mayer's controversial Playboy interview released

Properly demonstrating the deleterious effect that offering thoughtless provocative comments can have on star careers in the age of social media, John Mayer's infamous Playboy comments about his "hood pass" and "white supremacist d--k" -- not to mention forever sticking ex Jessica Simpson with the "sexual napalm" tag -- were widely criticized and endlessly discussed. Mayer's celebrity arguably ballooned during the new cycle, but his good will shrank, and he hasn't scored a Hot 100 top 40 hit since. Looking back on the incident in a 2017 New York Times interview, he offered, "I was under the impression that I was a bigger star than I was." -- A.U.

March 8, 2010: Lil Wayne sentenced to a year in prison

When Weezy got busted for gun possession in New York City in July 2007, he was on top of the world and inarguably at his creative peak; the next album he would release was Tha Carter III, which sold a million copies in its first week the following year. But the year-long sentence handed down to Dwyane Carter -- of which he would serve eight months, all at Rikers Island -- halted his momentum, as proteges Drake and Nicki Minaj further rose to prominence in his absence. While he's remained a constant figure on the charts this decade, his days of credibly claiming the title of Best Rapper Alive are now clearly behind him. -- DAN RYS

Lady Gaga accepts award from Cher on stage at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Sept. 12, 2010 in Los Angeles.

Lady Gaga accepts award from Cher on stage at the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards held at Nokia Theatre L.A. Live on Sept. 12, 2010 in Los Angeles.

When Lady Gaga attended the 2010 MTV VMAs as its most-nominated artist-- 13, including two nods for video of the year -- expectations ran high as to how the pop star would top 2009, when she ended her performance of “Paparazzi” bloody and dangling arm from a rope. The answer came when Gaga accepted the video of the year award in her third outfit of the night: a dress made of meat that was accessorized with an equally raw hat, purse and boots. PETA was, not surprisingly, outraged. In an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, Gaga said that the outfit, designed by Franc Fernandez and styled by Nicola Formichetti, could be interpreted a number of ways, including “I am not a piece of meat." The meat dress was instantly iconic, cemented Gaga as the world's most boundary-pushing pop star, and was preserved jerky-style by taxidermists, and put on display at Cleveland’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. -- FRANK DIGIACOMO

November 16, 2010: The Beatles put their music on iTunes

Longtime Apple holdouts -- partly due to naming disagreements with the Fab Four's own multimedia corporation -- the biggest band in rock history finally joined the mp3 age with a well-publicized 2010 debut of their catalog on iTunes. The group sold 2 million songs and nearly half a million albums within the first week, and further confirmed the inevitability of all major vinyl-age artists eventually going digital -- though industry prognosticators wonder if they waited too long, as listener habits had already begun to shift towards streaming. (It would be another half-decade still before The Beatles finally came to Spotify.) -- A.U.

November 22, 2010: Kanye West & Nicki Minaj release iconic albums on the same day

One defined a superstar, one announced another's arrival. While it can be debated to eternity, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is widely regarded as Kanye West's magnum opus, a sprawling, ambitious work full of powerful songs and eclectic decisions, such as putting JAY-Z, Rick Ross and Bon Iver all on the same song, and having them all be outshone anyway. The one who shined brightest was Nicki Minaj on that track, "Monster," and the release of her own debut album Pink Friday that same day set her on a course for greatness that has seen her overtake the likes of Madonna and Aretha Franklin, among many many others, in the history books. -- D.R.

January 1, 2011: Lucian Grainge replaces Doug Morris as Universal CEO

When Universal Music International chief Lucian Grainge took over for Doug Morris in the top role at UMG, it marked the end of a long reign at the top for Morris, encompassing one of the most successful eras in the label's history. It also set the stage for Morris -- who moved to the top job at Sony Music later that year -- to make history as the only record executive to run all three major labels. But Grainge proved just as adept as Morris in shepherding the company, particularly in the tricky tangle that the rise of digital -- and in particular, streaming -- presented for the industry as a whole. (How adept? He was knighted by the Queen of England just last year.) -- D.R.

January 29, 2011: Britney Spears' "Hold It Against Me" debuts at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100

Britney Spears' Femme Fatale lead single, helmed by the early-'10s dream team of Max Martin, Dr. Luke, and Bonnie McKee, immediately returned the pop legend to the top of the charts with her first release of the new decade. But the success of "Hold It Against Me" would have implications well beyond the artists involved: The song was one of the first major hits to employ a dubstep breakdown, establishing the largely underground EDM phenomenon within the pop mainstream. Soon, smashes by Justin Bieber, Flo Rida and JAY-Z and Kanye West would drop down the rabbit hole after Britney. -- A.U.

Arcade Fire accepts an award onstage during The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards held at Staples Center on Feb. 13, 2011 in Los Angeles.

Arcade Fire accepts an award onstage during The 53rd Annual Grammy Awards held at Staples Center on Feb. 13, 2011 in Los Angeles.

February 13, 2011: The Arcade Fire become first indie act to win album of the year Grammy

The Arcade Fire had never even notched a hit on the Billboard Hot 100 when they improbably emerged victorious with the biggest award (and the show-closing encore performance) at the 2010 Grammys. But the win was validation for an underground rock landscape that had ballooned in size and scope along with the rise of influential websites like Pitchfork and Stereogum and the shrinking of rock's presence at the mainstream level. Within years, veteran indie acts LCD Soundsystem and The National would be playing arenas without a whiff of mainstream radio play. -- A.U.

April 26, 2011: The Voice debuts on NBC

As American Idol began to dwindle in ratings and influence, a new music reality competition show with nothing to do with Simon Cowell came along to assume the mantle. The Voice brought a softer touch to the format, eschewing the comical embarrassment of Idol's early rounds in favor of endless feel-good stories of triumph over adversity, with its four moderators brought in to serve as non-judgmental "coaches." The first season didn't produce a breakout star -- six years and 11 seasons later, the show still hasn't, really -- but that was OK, because the coaches (and the swivel chairs) were the show's real stars, and two of 'em even produced a Hot 100 No. 1 hit that September. -- A.U.

May 6, 2011: Len Blavatnik's Access Industries buys Warner Music Group

Billionaire Len Blavatnik -- perennially one of the top three richest people in the U.K. -- laid out $3.3 billion via his company Access Industries to take over the Warner Music Group. At the time, the move seemed designed to spur a purchase of the up-for-auction EMI with an eye toward taking out Universal as the No. 1 label in the game. What followed was an executive shakeup that would re-shape the company: CEO Edgar Bronfman, Jr. ceded his role to the incoming Stephen Cooper (Bronfman would remain chairman but resign within a year), which set off a power struggle that ultimately saw the regime of Lyor Cohen, Kevin Liles and Todd Moscowitz leave the company, and a whole new leadership team take over. -- D.R.

July 14, 2011: Spotify arrives in America

When Swedish streaming service Spotify officially launched in the United States, the music business was in dire straights financially and unsure of what to make of the digital app that put nearly every song imaginable all in one place -- and for free, no less. (Those outside the industry, for the most part, barely registered the launch at all.) How quickly perceptions shift: In less than half a decade, Spotify had become the dominant force in a newly ascendant business, sparking a sea change in consumer listening habits and attracting deep-pocketed competitors, while almost singlehandedly changing the model for how artists can get paid, and how the industry moves forward. -- D.R.

Kanye West and Jay-Z performs during the 2011 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Avenue Armory on Nov. 9, 2011 in New York City.

Kanye West and Jay-Z performs during the 2011 Victoria's Secret Fashion Show at the Lexington Avenue Armory on Nov. 9, 2011 in New York City.

August 8, 2011: JAY-Z and Kanye West drop Watch the Throne

Hip-hop has seen its fair share of one-off projects spearheaded by a pair of rappers coming together for a full-length album, but few have been as mighty as Jay Z and Kanye West. The duo, who had worked together in a collaborative capacity stemming back to West’s production on Jay’s 2001 opus The Blueprint, made Watch the Throneone of the most artistically and commercially successful such LPs, an opulent soundscape featuring production from 88-Keys, RZA, Mike Dean, Q-Tip and more. It was a welcome duet album, elevating West from little-brother status to rap titan and playing home to some of Jay’s freshest rhymes in years at that point. -- STEVEN J. HOROWITZ

August 27, 2011: “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” becomes Katy Perry’s fifth Teenage Dream single to top the Hot 100

Katy Perry had already established herself as an artistic force with her 2008 full-length breakout One of the Boys, but ascended to the top pop ranks with 2010’s Teenage Dream. With producers and songwriters like Max Martin, Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, Stargate, Bonnie McKee and more, she hit an historic hot streak, shifting mood and sound with ease as each single release lurched to the top spot on the Hot 100. By the time she released her fifth, “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” (along with a Missy Elliott-featuring remix that pushed it to the chart's apex), she’d made history -- becoming the first female artist to secure five consecutive No. 1s from the same album, and tying her with Michael Jackson for the most Hot 100-toppers off a single album in Billboardhistory. -- S.J.H.

December 6, 2011: fun.'s "We Are Young" appears on Glee

When "We Are Young" first appeared as the closing song to the "Hold On to Sixteen" episode of Glee's third season, it was essentially a commercial non-entity, by a band few of the show's fans had likely heard of. Within a few months, the song was a juggernaut -- regularly selling more than 300,000 copies a week, and topping the Hot 100 for over a month -- and soon after, fun. were big enough for their singer to duet with P!nk and their guitarist to produce for Taylor Swift. Meanwhile, Glee proved it ws a force big enough to not only resurrect old hits but mint new ones, a period of chart and cultural impact so great that the Glee Cast still holds the unlikely record for the artist with the most Billboard Hot 100 hits. -- A.U.

January 19, 2012: U.S. Prosecutors shut down MegaUpload, arrest Kim Dotcom

The music industry's battle against piracy included a series of self-inflicted missteps and short-sighted mistakes, as file-sharing web sites nearly brought record labels to their knees. So when U.S. prosecutors finally shut down piracy hub MegaUpload and arrested its mercurial leader Kim Dotcom in New Zealand, it was seen as a significant coup for their fortunes -- and, alongside the rise of streaming services, largely helped relegate music piracy to an afterthought, following a decade-long struggle. -- D.R.

Withney Houston performs in Las Vegas on Sept. 16, 2004. 

Withney Houston performs in Las Vegas on Sept. 16, 2004. 

February 11, 2012: Whitney Houston dies at 48

Whitney Houston’s death didn’t just come as a shock -- it was a tremendous loss for the music world. As one of the most accomplished vocalists in modern history, she became one of the best-selling artists ever and paved the way for countless octave-scaling singers who came after her. Though rumors of substance abuse persisted throughout her career, Houston seemed prime for a comeback when she released her seventh album I Look to You in 2009, and was on track to produce and star in a remake of Sparkle with next-gen acolyte Jordin Sparks. Though she recorded music for the movie and filmed her parts, she passed before it would be officially released August 2012, discovered submerged in a bathtub hours before Clive Davis’ illustrious pre-Grammy party at the Beverly Hills Hilton. -- S.J.H.

February 18, 2012: Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez and friends release lip dub video of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe”

Lip dub videos may have grown exponentially in popularity since then with the rise of Musical.ly and Lip Sync Battle, but it had early and tangible success in the early '10s with a lip dub video for Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.” The Canadian pop star's breakthrough single got a signal boost when Justin Bieber, who shares the same manager in Scooter Braun, appeared in a lip dub clip alongside stars like Selena Gomez and Ashley Tisdale. The video helped CRJ's earworm single go viral and spend a whopping nine weeks at No. 1 on the Hot 100 -- a truly 21st century way to success. -- S.J.H.

A hologram of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur performs onstage during day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, Calif. 

A hologram of deceased rapper Tupac Shakur performs onstage during day 3 of the 2012 Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival at the Empire Polo Field on April 15, 2012 in Indio, Calif. 

April 15, 2012: 2Pac gets resurrected via hologram at Coachella

Hardly unprecedented for a special guest to capture headlines at festival, but scene-stealers don't come too much more surprising than Tupac Shakur, who was the most buzzed-about performer at Coachella 2012, despite having already been dead for over 15 years. 'Pac was of course summoned through hologram technology to appear as a featured performer in Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg's headlining set, and though the technology wasn't quite good enough to make attendees question their senses, it was good enough to inspire subsequent rumors about hologram live tours from the likes of Elvis Presley and Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes -- demonstrating that death doesn't have to be the end of an artist's live dominance. -- A.U.

June 2, 2012: Adam Lambert becomes first openly gay male artist to hit No. 1 on Billboard 200 chart

Adam Lambert's Trespassing wasn't an event album, neither spawning a single top 40 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 nor ever being certified gold. But it was a very good album by a very good pop artist, and for at least one week, it was a modestly historic album, as the set bowed atop the Billboard 200 with 77,000 in sales, making Lambert the first openly gay male artist to top the chart. It was a quietly landmark moment, and one of many major steps made for the LGBTQ community in '10s pop music -- though top 40 still has a long way to go before allowing for true equality. -- A.U.

June 24, 2012: Swedish House Mafia announce their breakup

Progressive house supergroup Swedish House Mafia had taken over the touring world at the decade's beginning, becoming one of dance's (and pop's) pre-eminent headlining acts, even with just a handful of collected singles to their name. But while their ascent mirrored that of big-tent EDM, their breakup -- which the group explained as having "just decided that we reached a point where we didn't know what the next move would be" -- also portended its eventual downfall, or at least shape-shifting. Before they left us, though, they offered one last globetrotting tour, and one final single: "Don't You Worry Child," the group's lone Hot 100 hit, climbing all the way to No. 6 in early 2013. -- A.U.

June 29, 2012: Sony/ATV Buys EMI Publishing

As part of the dissolution of EMI -- previously the fourth major label, before selling its recorded-music division to Universal Music Group -- a Sony-led group of investors closed the company's acquisition of EMI Music Publishing for $2.2 billion, which gave Sony/ATV oversight of 2 million songs. The move vaulted Sony/ATV to the No. 1 music publisher in the industry beginning in the third quarter of 2012, a title the company has held ever since; to date, the streak has extended to 19 straight quarters of domination. -- D.R.

Frank Ocean performs onstage at The Angel Orensanz Foundation on Sept. 24, 2012 in New York City.

Frank Ocean performs onstage at The Angel Orensanz Foundation on Sept. 24, 2012 in New York City.

July 4, 2012: Frank Ocean publishes open letter about his sexuality

After one British journalist attended a listening session for his proper debut LP Channel Orange in 2012 and wrote a review pointing to the fact that rising R&B star Frank Ocean was using male pronouns in romantic songs, the Odd Future crooner addressed the speculation head on. On Independence Day, the world awoke to an open letter posted to Ocean's Tumblr page where he addressed his sexuality, explaining that he fell in love with a man earlier in his life, but neglected to put a label on himself. Ocean was commended by artists spanning Beyoncé to Tyler, The Creator for his bravery, showing the world who he truly was and reinforcing how important visibility can be for the LGBTQ community. -- S.J.H.

September 28, 2012: Universal Music Group Completes Acquisition of EMI

And then there were three. After a year of talks, a slew of potential suitors and a closely-watched auction -- not to mention anti-trust scrutiny from regulators on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean and across the world -- Universal Music Group finally received approval to complete its acquisition of EMI's recorded-music business for $1.9 billion. When the dust settled, the number of major record labels was reduced from four to three after years of consolidation, while Warner picked up the Parlophone catalog and Sony/ATV took over EMI's publishing wing, deals that shook up the music industry landscape significantly. -- D.R.

October 13, 2012: Mumford and Sons sell over 600,000 copies of sophomore album Babel in first week

In any decade but this one, Mumford and Sons would have fit no one's vision of a blockbuster rock act: Their banjo-led strum-and-stomp had virtually no place in the pop mainstream until 2009, when the group's bloody songwriting and anthemic choruses made them an unlikely first-album sensation. After that debut LP Sigh No More became one of the early decade's sneaky best-sellers, sky-high expectations were met with the stunning 600k-plus first week of sophomore LP Babel, which eventually won the album of the year Grammy. Soon, everyone from Imagine Dragonsto Avicii to One Direction was playing stadium-folk, a niche that few outside of the faux-family band would have ever assumed existed. -- A.U.

November 28, 2012: Adele's 21 certified diamond by RIAA

For a long time, it seemed like diamond-selling albums had gone the way of the dinosaurs -- since Usher's Confessions in 2004, we hadn't seen a new album released that broke eight digits, or even came particularly close to doing so. Enter Adele, who was about to become the exception to every rule we thought we'd learned about 21st-century sales ceilings. Her 21 album, a four-quadrant crossover monster that spawned three Hot 100 No. 1s, topped the Billboard 200 for 24 weeks and won just about every coneviable grammy, got the RIAA's diamond ceritification less than two years after being released -- the last diamond LP released, of course, until her next one. -- A.U.

December 21, 2012: Psy's "Gangnam Style" video hits a billion YouTube views

Though it was recently passed by Wiz Khalifa and Charlie Puth's "See You Again," "Gangnam Style" held the all-time mark for most-viewed YouTube video for nearly half a decade, and will always be the first clip to ever break 10 digits on the streaming service. The amusingly anarchic video, rivaled only by Rebecca Black's "Friday" for the early decade's most viral visual, briefly made Korean pop veteran Psy a legitimate U.S. star, helped make K-pop unignorable Stateside, and turned "Gangnam Style" into the biggest dance craze since Soulja Boy. It was one of the decade's most fun, most global moments -- even if Psy himself didn't intend on any of it. -- A.U.

  Kelly Rowland, Beyonce and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 3, 2013 in New Orleans.

 

Kelly Rowland, Beyonce and Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child perform during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show at Mercedes-Benz Superdome on Feb. 3, 2013 in New Orleans.

February 3, 2013: Beyoncé plays halftime of Super Bowl XLVII

In 2013, both Beyoncé and the Super Bowl halftime show were lagging somewhat -- relatively speaking -- in relevance, the former having come off her least commercially successful LP in 2011's 4, and the latter still struggling to find its identity after The Who's 2010 performance proved somewhat definitvely that the Super Bowl's classic rock era was over. But despite 4's lack of crossover hits, Beyonce absolutely slayed her hyperkinetic set with singles new and old, including a brief Destiny's Child reunion mini-set for punctuation. The performance was unanimously acclaimed, the halftime show was back, and "When in doubt, Beyoncé" has proven a reliable big-event business model for the rest of the decade. -- A.U.

March 2, 2013: Baauer debuts at No. 1 on revamped Hot 100 with "Harlem Shake"

On February 20, 2013, Billboard announced that we were changing our Hot 100 formulations to account, for the first time, for YouTube streaming totals, addressing the unignorable percentage of national music consumption happening via the video streaming site. The impact on the chart was immediate and seismic: "Harlem Shake," previously a minor underground dance hit from Brooklyn-based DJ Baauer, leaped onto the chart at No. 1, thanks to a viral video meme the song soundtracked -- making it the most popular song in the country, even though most top 40 stations still seemed unaware of its existence. From then on, radio would have to compete with the Internet as the primary motor of pop stardom. -- A.U.

April 2, 2013: Nelly hops on the remix to Florida Georgia Line's "Cruise"

Florida Georgia Line was an unsigned band when its single “Cruise” hit No. 16 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2012, and led to a deal with Big Machine Label Group, whose president and CEO Scott Borchetta saw opportunity in producing a remix using the rapper Nelly. Released on April 2, 2013, the hip-hop accented “Cruise” remix re-entered the Hot 100 and, this time, rose to No. 4. In addition to becoming the best-selling country download (more than 7 million and counting) of all time, the “Cruise” remix became emblematic of the blurring borders between pop genres, and symbolized the rise of “bro-country” – a polarizing but commercially successful sub-genre coined by music critic Jody Rosen – in which women in cut-off shorts, pick-up trucks and Yeti coolers dominate. -- F.D.

April 12, 2013: The trailer for Daft Punk's Random Access Memories airs at Coachella

Coachella was the site where Daft Punk's impact originally became truly generational -- with a 2006 set routinely cited as something like the big bang of modern EDM -- so it would made sense that that was where they would make their long-awaited '10s comeback. Not with a performance, though: The Robots' return was heralded with a video teaser that featured the duo jamming with funk great Nile Rodgers and modern-day pop kingmaker Pharrell on an ecstatic disco jam -- eventually released, of course, as the quickly omnipresent "Get Lucky" single -- and ended with credits trumpeting the arrival of the duo's new album, Random Access Memories. The trailer set a new standard for extended intrigue with high-profile album rollouts, and further established Coachella as the FOMO capital of the 2010s music world. -- A.U.

Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center on Aug. 25, 2013 in New York City

Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus perform onstage during the 2013 MTV Video Music Awards at the Barclays Center on Aug. 25, 2013 in New York City

August 25, 2013: Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke shock the world at the 2013 VMAs

If you hadn't been paying attention to developments in the pop career of Miley Cyrus for the first half of 2013, you were in for a treat at that year's VMAs. The former child star had reinvented herself with her Bangerz LP and its provocative lead single, the drug-alluding, hip-hop-influenced "We Can't Stop," and she was set to perform the song in a joint mini-medley with R&B star Robin Thicke -- whose own chart-slaying hit "Blurred Lines" had come with its fair share of controversy, thanks to its ultra-explicit music video and arguably problematic lyrics. Together, the two sent Twitter into a tailspin, with uproar over their twerk-heavy performance -- accused of racial appropriation, among other things -- dominating the news cycle for weeks to come. Miley has since reimagined her career several times over, but Thicke's never quite recovered. -- A.U.

December 13, 2013: Beyonce surprise-releases her eponymous album

Beyoncé has always proved herself to be a pioneer in the music industry, so it came as both a surprise, and not really much of a shock, when she rewrote the rules on how a major pop star -- or anyone for that matter -- can release a new album. At the stroke of midnight on a seemingly random Thursday in December, she air-dropped not just a new LP, but a music video go along with every single track on the project, creating an audio-visual masterpiece that would become a near-commonplace practice in the years that followed. Beyond that, it marked a turning point in her career: Bey had fully embraced the joys of marriage, a brighter counterpoint to the darkness that would permeate through its follow up Lemonade, and once again reclaimed her status as pop's reigning Queen. -- S.J.H.

January 26, 2014: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis beat Kendrick Lamar for Best Rap Album Grammy

At the time that Macklemore & Ryan Lewis won the Grammy for Best Rap Album with Oct. 2012’s The Heist, they were riding the mainstream wave. The Seattle rapper-producer duo had come out of left field with their Hot 100-topping novelty single “Thrift Shop,” and parlayed that into continual success with the LGBTQ-positive anthem “Same Love” and “Can't Hold Us,” which also crowned the aforementioned chart. But hip-hop fans generally felt that good kid, m.A.A.d. city, the acclaimed concept album by breakout rapper Kendirck Lamar, deserved the trophy -- and so did Macklemore, who controversially posted an Instagram of a text he sent to the Compton rapper following the ceremony where he wrote, “You got robbed. I wanted you to win. You should have. It's weird and it sucks that I robbed you.” -- S.J.H.

March 8, 2014: Frozen spends 5th week at No. 1 on Billboard 200

The soundtrack to Disney's animated musical was nearly as much of a blockbuster smash as the movie, moving over 4 million album equivalent units and spawning an iconic hit in the Idina Menzel-sung power ballad "Let It Go." In February of 2014, it even notched a 5th week on top the Billboard 200 albums chart -- more than any movie-accompanying set since the Celine Dion-powered Titanic soundtrack spent 16 weeks on top in 1998. The soundtrack would ultimately spend 13 weeks atop the Billboard 200, proving that after a period of relative dormancy, the OST was back: Within the next three years, soundtracks to Guardians of the GalaxyFurious 7Suicide SquadFifty Shades Darker and more would all top the chart. -- A.U.

Prince performs during the "Pepsi Halftime Show" at Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on Feb. 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. 

Prince performs during the "Pepsi Halftime Show" at Super Bowl XLI between the Indianapolis Colts and the Chicago Bears on Feb. 4, 2007 at Dolphin Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla. 

April 18, 2014: Prince returns to Warner Bros., regains ownership of his catalog In landmark deal

When Prince and Warner Bros. Records announced a historic deal that brought the Purple One back into the fold of the label that had been his home for decades -- before ultimately becoming his nemesis -- it was met with surprise, to say the least, both over the terms of the deal and the reconciliation that came with it. It was also a model for how the labels will begin to deal with copyright reversion as it increasingly comes into play following provisions within the Copyright Revision Act of 1976 -- and the terms of the contract are now at the center of the ongoing legal battle over Prince's recorded music, after a judge recently rescinded Universal's $31 million deal for the assets. -- D.R.

 

May 12, 2014: TMZ releases the Elevator Video with JAY-Z, Beyoncé & Solange

For a notoriously private couple, the scenes from the elevator video heard 'round the world -- in which Solange Knowles physically attacked JAY-Z in an elevator after the Met Ball, while Beyoncé looked on and a bodyguard attempted to intervene -- were nothing less than jaw-dropping. Rumors and innuendo flew for months about what led to the encounter, and why and how it had spilled out so publicly, with the Carters enduring speculation while in the process of finishing up their joint world tour. The public ultimately learned all about it with Lemonade, Beyoncé's critically-acclaimed sixth album that detailed the betrayal, shock, anger, acceptance and forgiveness that she endured after discovering JAY had cheated on her, and was further explored in JAY's 2017 album, 4:44, as well. -- D.R.

May 28, 2014: Apple acquires Beats Music, Beats Electronics in $3 billion deal

By early 2014, the Beats brand had become synonymous with headphones, and Dr. Dre and Interscope co-founder Jimmy Iovine were at the forefront of the newly-trendy audio world. So when Apple stepped up to the plate to purchase Beats Electronics and its then-nascent Beats Music streaming service for a remarkable $3 billion, the world knew that Steve Jobs' company had something big up its sleeve, and bringing Dre and Iovine into the fold made waves across the music landscape. The deal paved the way for the launch of Apple Music 13 months later -- which has since grown to become the second-largest streaming service in the world. -- D.R.

September 9, 2014: U2's Songs of Innocence released as a preloaded album on the new iPhone 6

The 13th studio album from rock gods U2 was given an extremely forward-thinking release: The band partnered with Apple to give the new album away to purchasers of the new iPhone 6, which had the album preloaded into its music library. Though the free LP was intended by Apple as a gift, it was considered an invasion by many customers, who may not have desired the album and found it surprisingly difficult to delete from their new phones. The failed strategy showed the perils of embedding music within technology so deeply (and so quasi-literally), and today, most Apple subscribers couldn't tell you a thing about Songs of Innocence besides the backlash. -- A.U.

October 14, 2014: Kesha files sexual abuse lawsuit against Dr. Luke

The sound of Kesha’s feel-good, shimmery party-pop for her debut album Animal, its follow-up EP Cannibal and her most recent album Warrior could in part be credited to producer Dr. Luke, who helped launch her career at the outset of the 2010s, and signed her to his Kemosabe Records imprint. Things took a sudden and dark turn when Kesha filed suit against Luke for emotional abuse and sexual assault; Luke filed countersuit and years of litigation began, with Kesha claiming that he was stalling her career and that if she wasn’t let go of her contract sooner, her career would come to an end. Luke, once pop's pre-eminent hitmaker, has since been widely shunned by the music industry, and Kesha still hasn’t been let go from her binding contract, but most recently made her grand return to music in anticipation of her comeback album Rainbow, which will see release under Kemosabe. -- S.J.H.

Taylor Swift performs during The 1989 World Tour at Tokyo Dome on May 5, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. 

Taylor Swift performs during The 1989 World Tour at Tokyo Dome on May 5, 2015 in Tokyo, Japan. 

November 15th, 2014: Taylor Swift's 1989 sells 1.287 million in first week

The world's biggest country superstar at the end of the '00s, Taylor Swift set her sights on a full pop crossover in the '10s, culminating in her biggest sales week to date -- and the biggest of anyone in over a decade -- in 2014, for her retrofitted pop blockbuster LP 1989. The set moved 1.287 million units in its first frame, part of a total top 40 takeover that also resulted in each of the set's first three singles topping the Hot 100 and Taylor taking home album of the year -- her second, a first for a female solo artist -- at the 2016 Grammys. By then, Taylor could no longer be considered country's biggest superstar, but she was almost certainly pop's. -- A.U.

February 12, 2015: Drake sneak-releases If You're Reading This, It's Too Late"mixtape"

Dropping on a wintry Thursday night, Drake's first full-length release since 2013's Nothing Was the Same stopped the music-listening world in its tracks like few surprise LPs since Beyoncé. Though the set failed to produce a conventional hit -- "Energy," the highest-charting track, peaked at No. 26 on the Hot 100 -- its lyrics were unavoidable on social media for weeks, as were memes of its iconic handwritten cover image, and debates over its controversial "mixtape" designation (as the set was released commercially for digital sale and streaming). The set sold robustly, and proved how many ways to pop mega-success there were in 2017 -- and that Drake seemed to pretty much know them all. -- A.U.

February 27, 2015: Justin Bieber finds his way onto Skrillex and Diplo's surprise Jack Ü album

In the midst of a 24-hour collaborative DJ performance, superstar producers Skrillex and Diplo unleashed their Present Jack Ü collborative full-length project on an unsuspecting public. Though the set was led by "Take Ü There," a collaboration with pop talent Kiesza featuring rap legend Missy Elliott on the remix, the biggest star appearance was buried towards the end: Justin Bieber, still in pop exile after his years of mini-PR disasters, making an unexpected turn on the set's dramatic climax, "Where Are Ü Now." The song was a slow-building smash, not only resurrecting Bieber's career, but establishing Skrillex and Diplo as A-list pop producers, as much as underground dance heroes. -- A.U.

March 10, 2015: Jury rules against Robin Thicke & Pharrell in 'Blurred Lines' copyright trial

In the summer of 2013, Robin Thicke's "Blurred Lines" (featuring Pharrell and T.I.) was inescapable, spending 12 straight weeks atop the Hot 100 and easily taking the title of Song of the Summer for the year, raking in $16 million. But the estate of Marvin Gaye, which took issue with the song's similarities with Gaye's "Got To Give It Up," sued for copyright infringement, and in a case that could have wide-ranging effects for songwriters down the road -- what is inspiration, versus outright stealing? -- a California federal jury ruled that Thicke and Pharrell owed $7.4 million for the infringement. The judgment is still hung up in appeals, but its effects are widespread: In the years since, artists like The Chainsokers and Ed Sheeran have started pre-emptively adding other artists with potential greivances over their hits as co-writers, lest they also become plaintiffs. -- D.R.

Zayn photographed in 2015.

Zayn photographed in 2015.

March 25, 2015: Zayn Malik leaves One Direction

Ask any Directioner, and they can probably still remember the exact date when the biggest boy band of the 2010s announced that their ranks would be one fewer. "After five incredible years Zayn Malik has decided to leave One Direction," the group's Facebook account announced, breaking hearts worldwide and leading to intense speculation that soon the entire band would be kaputt. 1D released one more album later that year before declaring themselves on hiatus, but have arguably only grown in influence since, with all five members recording Billboard Hot 100 hits -- led, of course, by Zayn himself, whose solo bow "Pillowtalk" debuted atop the chart. -- A.U.

March 30, 2015: The TIDAL launch event

Jay Z’s $56-million purchase of the Norwegian subscription streaming service that is now known simply as Tidal began with one of the most star-studded (but ultimately tone-deaf) press conferences staged over the last decade. Hov, along with 15 musical acts – wife Beyonce, Rihanna, Kanye West, Daft Punk, Nicki Minaj, Chris Martin of Coldplay, Calvin Harris, Deadmau5, Jason Aldean, J. Cole, Madonna, Jack White, Arcade Fire, Alicia Keys and Usher – were introduced as the co-owners of the on-demand streaming platform, quickly sparking criticism that Tidal was a club for music’s elite rather than an artist-backed service that would champion independent and struggling musicians. It was the beginning of a bumpy ride for the streaming service, which has gone through three CEOs since the re-launch and struggled to build its paid subscription base -- at last official count, Tidal had an estimated 1 million paid users, compared to market leader Spotify’s 50 million. -- F.D.

June 21, 2015: Taylor Swift pens open letter to Apple

The pending launch of Apple Music June 30 was widely anticipated, and the company's decision to offer free trials for its first three months of operation was seen as an easy way to test its functionality with users. But Apple's decision to also not pay royalties during that period drew the ire of many -- most publicly, Taylor Swift, who wrote a heartfelt open letter on behalf of her fellow musicians trashing that decision and announcing she would be withholding her 1989 album from the service. Apple's response was, ahem, swift, and before the end of the day the company had reversed course, promising to pay royalties and forging a partnership with the superstar that resulted in a 1989 World Tour concert documentary and a string of humorous commercials for its streaming service. -- D.R.

June 30, 2015: Apple premieres Apple Music, launches Beats 1

Aiming to do little less but totally reimagine radio for the digital age, Apple launched their Beats 1 radio station -- based out of Los Angeles, New York and London, and headlined by star DJs Zane Lowe, Ebro Darden and Julie Adenuga -- to great hype and wide industry interest. At the same time, Apple Music debuted, rocketing past TIDAL in popularity and becoming the first paid streaming service to at least put a dent in Spotify's supremacy -- thanks in large part to exclusive deals reached with megastars like Drake, Frank Ocean, and a recently returned to the fold Taylor Swift. In June, the service boasted that it had reached 27 million paid subsrcibers. -- A.U.

July 10, 2015: Friday becomes Global Release Day

With staggered international release schedules seeming like an increasingly archaic practice in the age of streaming, the worldwide recording industry (represented by the IFPI) announced that July 10, 2015 would mark the first ever Global Release Day, with music releases from all 45 participating countries now debuting on the same Friday at 12:01 A.M. local time. While not all artists have followed the practice to the letter -- with some releasing mixtapes, new singles, or in some cases full albums whenever during the week they see fit -- Global Release Day has done its part to further unify an already inextricably connected music-listening world, and unquestionably made Friday the most exciting day of the music week. -- A.U.

July 21, 2015: Meek Mill accuses Drake of not writing his own raps

In an overnight Twitter spree, Meek Mill responded to a perceived snub from former collaborator Drake by calling him out for ghostwriting: "He don't write his own raps!" The feud was on, with people's champ Meek the early leader -- but Drake surged ahead with back-to-back diss tracks (one literally called "Back to Back"), and ended the discussion by year's end with the gratifying release of full-length Future collab What a Time to Be Alive and viral hit "Hotline Bling," his biggest pop single to date. There were all sorts of takeaways from the saga -- about the relativity of authorship in hip-hop, about the game-changing importance of the Internet in scoring rap feuds, and about street credibility ultimately being outweighed by mainstream popularity -- but most important was that Drake somehow ended 2015 more bulletproof than ever. -- A.U.

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of 'Hamilton' perform onstage during the 70th Annual Tony Awards at The Beacon Theatre on June 12, 2016 in New York City. 

Lin-Manuel Miranda and the cast of 'Hamilton' perform onstage during the 70th Annual Tony Awards at The Beacon Theatre on June 12, 2016 in New York City. 

October 17, 2015: Hamilton makes highest cast album Billboard 200 debut since 1963

The all-but-unprecedented theatrical phenomenon that was Hamilton was fully underway in late 2015, with the musical's cast album debuting at No. 13 on the Billboard 200 -- higher than any cast album since the chart's separate listings for mono and stereo recordings merged in 1963. The album eventually made it as high as No. 3 on the chart, after a post-Tonys surge, and the show would soon make it to No. 1 via The Hamilton Mixtape, which featured a number of popular artists reinterpreting the show's songs, and debuted atop the chart in December 2016. Collectively, Hamilton proved the power theater could still wield in the music industry -- a lesson since reinforced by Dear Evan Hansen, whose cast recording hit the top 10 this February. -- A.U.

October 30, 2015: Kanye West announces 2020 presidential candidacy at the VMAs

"And yes, as you probably could have guessed by this moment, I have decided in 2020 to run for president." Most viewers hadn't guessed, actually, but they were still willing to take Kanye at face value when he ended an epic speech at the 2015 MTV Video Music Awards -- one looking back at his run-in with Taylor Swift at the awards six years earlier, and one pleading with the industry to "Listen to the kids, bro!" -- by announcing his 2020 candidacy. The monologue dominated discussion of the '15 VMAs, brought the cult of Kanye to a fever pitch and increasingly got people wondering -- especially as another celebrity with no political experience found minor success in the 2016 election -- if such a thing might actually be possible, if not outright desirable -- A.U.

November 13, 2015: Eagles of Death Metal concert at Le Bataclan targeted in terrorist attack

The Eagles of Death Metal were on stage at one of Paris' most famous music venues when three terrorists stormed the entrance and began shooting at random, part of a coordinated attack at several locations across the city that ultimately killed 129 people in the French capitol. For several hours, the terrorists at Le Bataclan held hostages and murdered concert-goers before being killed by police; 89 people were killed in the venue, in an attack that sent chills through the concert industry and the world. -- D.R.

December 12, 2015: Adele's 25 shatters first-week sales record

For a decade and a half, 'N Sync's first-week sales record (just over 2.4 million for 2000's No Strings Attached) stood in the Nielsen and Billboard history books like Joe DiMaggio's hitting streak, unlikely to ever again be really threatened, let alone topped. But Adele's third album 25 didn't just take the record down -- it practically lapped it, moving an absolutely astounding 3.38 million in its opening frame. That week25accounted for 41 percent of all album sales in America, or twice as much as albums No. 2-100 on the Billboard 200 combined. The album was the ultimate early Christmas gift to Adele, Columbia records and the entire music industry, proving a TRL-sized blockbuster LP was still possible in 2015, and then some. -- A.U.

David Bowie, in concert, circa 1974. 

David Bowie, in concert, circa 1974. 

January 10, 2016: David Bowie dies at 69

The Man Who Fell to Earth often seemed above such trivial matters as life and death, gloriously shape-shifting so many times throughout his legendary, singular career that we figured his spirit would never be defeated by his body. Sadly, the evidence pointed to the contrary on a miserable Monday morning in January 2016, when the world woke up to news that David Bowie had died of cancer the night before -- just two days, remarkably, after the release of his final album, the darkly spectral Blackstar. The outpouring of grief overflowed from all directions, proving how few corners of the music world the man born David Robert Jones hadn't touched -- and improved -- in some way. -- A.U.

January 29, 2016: Rihanna's ANTI certified platinum (or not)

Though its release -- exclusively via Tidal -- was rocky, Rihanna's ANTI album was hailed as a triumph upon its early 2016 release, one of the artist's most personal, most coherent and most consistently dazzling works. It was also a tremendous commercial success, spawning five platinum-certified singles and going platinum itself in less than a day's worth of commercial availability. Or did it? The RIAA recognizedthe 1.4 million downloads the record moved through Tidal in its first 15 hours, but since the downloads were complementary for fans (and pre-purchased by Samsung), they did not count towards Billboard totals -- a situation closely echoed recently by the Samsung-sponsored Tidal rollout of JAY-Z's 4:44 album. A couple days later, the RIAA added streaming equivalent units to their certification formula. -- A.U.

February 1, 2016: SFX files for bankruptcy, Robert Sillerman forced out as CEO

The explosion in popularity of dance music in the United States at the turn of the decade brought with it enthusiasm, a wave of new artists and a mountain of riches, with Robert Sillerman and his reborn SFX Entertainment at the forefront of the EDM gold rush. The touring business scion spent four years snapping up smaller promoters and festivals into a true dance-music conglomerate, complete with a download/streaming service (Beatport) and an artist-management division, going public in October 2013 at $12 a share. Two years later big-ticket EDM was fading and the SFX dream was dead, its stock standing at $0.05 and the company in bankruptcy with Sillerman forced toward the exit -- a high-profile and embarrassing burst of a bubble that once held much promise. --  D.R.

Prince performs "Lolita" and "Satisfied" on the "American Idol" Season 5 finale.

Prince performs "Lolita" and "Satisfied" on the "American Idol" Season 5 finale.

April 21, 2016: Prince dies at 57

More than a year later, it's still almost unfathomable: the purple icon, one of the most innovative minds of his generation, a person that musical geniuses all looked to as a musical genius, had died suddenly in his Minnesota home at the age of 57. Famously sober and intensely private, Prince had overdosed on the opioid Fentanyl, a drug that was at the center of a budding nationwide epidemic of pain medication abuse, which somehow, in its revelation of his suffering, seemed even more cruel. The outpouring of grief was immediate and total, and the fact that the saga of his recorded-music rights -- still caught up in court -- remains ongoing is sad. -- D.R.

April 23, 2016: Beyoncé premieres Lemonade on HBO

Two days after Prince's death, another once-in-a-generation artist was following his multimedia example with the HBO-premiered visual album Lemonade. If Beyoncé had worlds left to conquer, Lemonade took 'em out with one swing of a baseball bat, never generating a true pop radio hit but still dominating the conversation all year -- iconic enough to be parodied on SNLdiscussed by presidential candidates and essentially staged theatrically at the VMAs. The album raised the standard for pop production -- in the overall sense -- that Queen Bey had set herself with her self-titled album two and a half years earlier, and proved that full-length albums were as vital as ever for artists with a little imagination. -- A.U.

June 12, 2016: Orlando's Pulse nightclub becomes scene of worst mass shooting in U.S. history

A late Saturday night of partying at a popular LGBTQ club in Orlando turned into a horrific scene, and the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, as a gunman opened fire on the crowded Pulse nightclub and killed 49 people, injuring a further 53. Following the harrowing events at Le Bataclan in Paris less than a year earlier, the terrorist attack once again made the concert and nightclub industries look towards security measures, metal detectors and other ways of keeping patrons safe, while a city once more was forced to mourn. -- D.R.

June 16, 2016: Grammy rule changes allow for streaming-only releases to be Grammy-eligible

Before 2016, music had to be made commercially available for sale to be considered for the Grammys, leaving artists who chose to distribute their music primarily through streaming services ineligible. But in 2017, the Academy embraced changing tides by deeming recordings Grammy-eligible if they appeared on at least one of the streaming "majors," such as Spotify or Apple Music. The rule was largely thought to be in response to the recent success of Chance the Rapper, whose universally acclaimed Coloring Book album was streaming-only, though the Academy denied any such connection, claiming "we didn’t make this change for any particular artist." Regardless, Chance profited: The rapper collected three statues at the Grammys, including Best Rap Album for Coloring Book. -- A.U.

Kanye West performs at the Forum on Oct. 25, 2016 in Inglewood, Calif. 

Kanye West performs at the Forum on Oct. 25, 2016 in Inglewood, Calif. 

June 24, 2016: Kanye West debuts "Famous" video at the L.A. Forum

As much as the night of Snapchat-gate is what people will most remember from Round II of the era-defining Kanye-Taylor feud, this was what it was really all about: Kanye renting out an entire basketball stadium to premiere a music video, for his song braying insultingly and absurdly about his chances of still sleeping with his pop nemesis. The video, of course, just doubled down on the celebrity insularity: A ten-minute short, filmed like one of the creepy videotapes from David Lynch's Lost Highway, consisting of eerie doll proxies of pretty much every headline-dominating celebrity of 2016 -- including Bill Cosby, vanquished Kanye foe Ray J, and of course, future president Donald Trump -- sleeping in the same bed together. This was fame as Kanye had come to know it: Incestuous, paradoxical and claustrophobic AF. -- A.U.

August. 20, 2016: Frank Ocean releases Blond on Apple Music, prompting Universal to ban exclusives

It had been four years since Frank Ocean released his beloved Def Jam debut Channel Orange, and the anticipation -- and mystery -- surrounding his next release was palpable. So when he released the "visual album" Endless via Apple Music, fans were confused. Until the following day, when -- freshly free from his Def Jam contract, having fulfilled his obligation with Endless -- Ocean surprise-released a second album, Blond, independently and also via Apple Music, which debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200 and impressed the public as much for its musical achievement as for its clever, almost devious, release. One person not amused was Universal Music Group chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge who, having lost a marquee artist in Ocean to an Apple Music exclusive, banned the practice of exclusive LP releases among his artists, stopping in its tracks a trend that had been picking up steam throughout the previous two years. -- D.R.

Twenty One Pilots

Twenty One Pilots

September 10, 2016: Twenty One Pilots notch simulteanous hits in the Hot 100's top 5

Easily the biggest breakout band of 2016 -- and arguably the entire decade -- was Twenty One Pilots, who scaled commercial heights rarely afforded to rock acts in the '10s, with a trio of Hot 100 top 5 hits. Two of those, "Heathens" and "Ride," even perched inside the top 5 in the same week, making the duo the first rock act since The Beatles to score two such simultaeous hits. Of course, the "rock" part of the equation came with a bit of an addendum: Just as influenced by pop, EDM and hip-hop as rock, and missing any standard guitars, the duo would hardly define themselves so conventionally. Nevertheless, they offered a 21st-century model for rock stardom that no doubt many bands will look to in the years to come. -- A.U.

September 15, 2016: The Chainsmokers explain themselves

In a Billboard cover story released shortly after their world-beating Halsey duet "Closer" had brought them to the top of the Hot 100 for the first time, The Chainsmokers -- first introduced to the world as the act behind novelty hit "Selfie," then the producers behind a variety of female-sung pop smashes -- had their coming-out party. The duo were met with backlash for some of their unguarded comments, embracing their own frattiness, detailing their knowledge of their own social media metrics and bragging about their combined penis size. But one thing was clear from the profile: EDM was entering its Silicon Valley moment, and Drew Taggart and Alex Pall were its leading tech bros. -- A.U.

Oct. 18, 2016: Sony Music announces Columbia chief Rob Stringer will succeed Doug Morris as CEO

In a widely expected move, Columbia Records boss Rob Stringer was named as the new CEO of Sony Music Entertainment, after a massive run of success with artists like Adele, Beyoncé, Daft Punk, David Bowie and One Direction under his watch at Columbia. The move also meant a shift to chairman of SME for Doug Morris, the longtime industry executive who was widely respected as the only person to run all three major record labels -- Sony (2011-2017), Universal Music Group (1995-2011) and Warner Music Group (1990-1995) -- during his career. -- D.R.

November 3, 2016: Rae Sremmurd do the Mannequin Challenge to "Black Beatles"

Rae Sremmurd turned a long-simmering fan-and-Internet favorite into one of the biggest hits of the year seemingly overnight, by literally doing nothing. At a November show in Denver, the duo froze on stage at the beginning of their Sremmlife 2 single "Black Beatles," and instructed their audience to do likewise -- thus participating in the burgeoning Mannequin Challenge craze. Both song and movement exploded from there, as "Black Beatles" shot to No. 1 on the Hot 100, and before long everyone from Michelle Obama to Paul McCartney himself was freezing on video. It wasn't the first meme-driven viral hit, but after "Beatles," they seemed to be happening weekly, with Twitter breaking hit songs by Migos and Ayo & Teo before more conventional curators even got a chance. -- A.U.

Camila Cabello and Machine Gun Kelly perform during The Late Late Show with James Corden on Dec. 1, 2016. 

Camila Cabello and Machine Gun Kelly perform during The Late Late Show with James Corden on Dec. 1, 2016. 

December 18, 2016: Camila Cabello leaves Fifth Harmony

Four years after forming on The X Factor, Fifth Harmony had become America's biggest girl group of the decade, making it all the more shocking to Harominzers when in December, Camila Cabello -- the group's first member to test the solo waters, on hit collabs with Shawn Menes and Machine Gun Kelly -- announced she was leaving the group. Unlike Zayn with 1D, the split was not handled neatly; the group was visibly surprised and disappointed by Cabello's decision, leading to a whole lot of industry innuendo about what actually went down behind the scenes. The group powers on, and Cabello's solo career is off to a strong start, but fans will always be left wondering what happened, and what could've been. -- A.U.

March 18, 2017: Future makes chart history with back-to-back No. 1 album debuts

By 2017, Future was established as one of hip-hop's superstars, with a work ethic that made him both beloved by fans and one of the most prolific artists of his generation. But nobody expected him to roll out two brand new albums in consecutive weeks -- much less see them both debut at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, as he did in March with Future and HNDRXX. Future's back-to-back made history in the process and shattered the album-tour-album-tour convention that had dominated the music industry for decades. -- D.R.

March 30, 2017: Streaming overtakes sales as music industry revenue finally bounces back

The rise of streaming, and music fans' rapid adoption of the format, had already stemmed the music industry's seemingly interminable slide from a $15 billion industry in 1999 to one worth less than $7 billion by 2014. But the RIAA's 2016 year-end report this March noted another huge milestone for the business: For the first time ever, revenue from streaming royalties overtook sales as the single highest source of revenue in the recorded-music business -- accounting for 51 percent of all revenue, and driving the industry to its first double-digit percent growth since 1998. -- D.R.

April 17, 2017: Justin Bieber takes "Despacito" to the next level

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee's mid-tempo banger "Despacito" was already well on its way to being one of the defining Latin hits of 2017, but when Justin Bieber hopped on for the remix, it unnaturally accelerated the song's trajectory, sending it speeding up the charts. By now, after ten weeks at No. 1, it's one of the defining hits of 2017 period, and on its way to being one of the biggest of the entire decade. The effects have already been profound: Hits by Latin artists Maluma and J Balvin are creeping up the Hot 100, through ceilings they would've hit a year or two ago, while just three years after being persona non gratta in top 40, Justin Bieber is now almost unquestionably the current king of pop. -- A.U.

April 27, 2017: Fyre Festival goes down in flames

Destination festivals had become a lucrative market for the live business, with ultra-luxury, first-class experiences the next burgeoning frontier. That's what Fyre Festival co-founders Billy McFarland and Ja Rule had in their sights when promising a one-of-a-kind getaway on Bahamian Island for thousands of wealthy fans -- until they began to arrive at their destination, that is. What they found instead of private suites and five-star catering was a smattering of tents, cheese sandwiches and a nightmare of a production that was ultimately shut down before it even got underway, sparking a slew of lawsuits, a federal investigation and one of the great social media memes of recent memory -- not to mention an onslaught of fantastic puns on its prophetically doomed name. -- D.R.

May 11, 2017: L.A. Reid exits Epic Records amid sexual harassment allegations

L.A. Reid, whose three decades in the music industry saw him rise from funk/R&B drummer to become chairman/CEO of Epic Records, was on an impressive run of success in 2017 with hits from Future, DJ Khaled and Travis Scott, to name a few. But that came crashing down suddenly in May, when parent company Sony Music confirmed that Reid had exited the company, with sexual harassment allegations arising in the immediate wake of his sudden departure -- an ignominious end to an otherwise-successful career as a music executive. -- D.R.

Ariana Grande performs on stage during the One Love Manchester Benefit Concert at Old Trafford on June 4, 2017 in Manchester, England. 

Ariana Grande performs on stage during the One Love Manchester Benefit Concert at Old Trafford on June 4, 2017 in Manchester, England. 

June 4, 2017: Ariana Grande headlines One Love Manchester Concert

Ariana Grande was performing at the Manchester Arena in Manchester, England on May 22, 2017 when, after the show let out, a suicide bomber attacked patrons who were exiting the venue, killing 23 people and causing numerous injuries. Instead of cowering from the spotlight, though, Grande returned to Manchester on June 4, with an impressively assembled showcase of today’s top talent, spanning Katy Perry and Coldplay to Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus. Grande served as a sort of master of ceremonies and performed throughout the event, strong and supportive of all those who attended, helping to raise $13 million to help those who were affected by the tragedy. -- S.J.H.

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