The Year in Music 2018: Drake & Maroon 5, Justin, Shawn, country/pop and tragedy

Republic Records, ABC/Randy HolmesHere are a few other stories which made news in 2018:

Drake & the triumph of rap
In 2018, rap truly was the new pop, if you take “pop” to mean “popular.”  Rap songs were #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 34 straight weeks, and 29 of those weeks were taken up by three different songs by Drake: “God’s Plan,” “Nice for What” and “In My Feelings.” 

The Toronto rapper set a new record for most weeks at #1 in a single year, as well as most top-10 hits scored in a year: He had 12, including singles as a lead artist and as a featured artist — 13, if you count Travis Scott’s “Sicko Mode,” on which Drake is featured but not officially credited.

Other rap songs that ruled the #1 spot in 2018: Childish Gambino‘s “This Is America”; Post Malone‘s “Psycho,” featuring Ty Dolla $ign; XXXTentacion‘s “Sad!”; and Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin‘s “I Like It.”

Rappers also dominated the Grammy nominations in December, with Kendrick Lamar getting a leading eight nods and Drake scoring seven.

Maroon 5 & the triumph of pop
In 2018, after 34 weeks of nothing but rap songs holding the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100, Maroon 5 brought pop back by rising to the top with their hit “Girls Like You,” featuring Cardi B.  The song, Maroon 5’s first #1 since 2012, spent seven weeks on top of the chart and earned them a Grammy nomination. 

In addition, the song’s video, starring a bevy of famous and accomplished women, including Ellen DeGeneres, Tiffany Haddish, Gal Gadot, Jennifer Lopez, Danica Patrick, Aly Raisman, Chloe Kim and Sarah Silverman, earned over 1.4 billion views.

Maroon 5 also faced controversy in 2018.  After it was all but confirmed that they’d secured the Super Bowl halftime gig for February 2019, a petition asking them to withdraw in solidarity with NFL athletes who’d chosen to take a knee and protest police brutality drew thousands of signatures.  Amy Schumer also called for them to withdraw, and there were reports that the group was having trouble convincing other artists — even Cardi B — to join them for the performance.  Days before Christmas came unconfirmed news that rapper Travis Scott would perform with Maroon 5 during halftime.

Death & drugs
In April of 2018, The music world mourned the death of EDM superstar Avicii of suspected suicide. In June, rapper XXXTentacion was shot to death during a robbery in Florida; the week after his death, his song “Sad!” jumped to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100.  In September, beloved, critically acclaimed and chart-topping rapper Mac Miller was found dead of a drug overdose.  His death was considered a major factor in his former girlfriend Ariana Grande‘s decision to break up with her then-fiance, Pete Davidson.

In June, Demi Lovato released “Sober,” a song in which she revealed she’d relapsed after six years of sobriety.  On July 24, she was found unconscious in the home and was revived with Narcan, a drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.  She was rushed to the hospital and once out of danger, she posted a statement to her Instagram page that read, in part, “I now need time to heal and focus on my sobriety and road to recovery…I look forward to the day where I can say I came out on the other side. I will keep fighting.”

Following a 10-day hospital stay, Demi entered rehab and emerged in September, roughly 90 days later. She resumed posting to her socials; her mother said at the time that the singer was “happy and healthy.”  In December, Demi received a Grammy nomination for her duet with Christina Aguilera, “Fall In Line.”

The country-pop crossover craze
It was officially released in October of 2017, but in 2018, it took over the world: Bebe Rexha‘s unexpected collaboration with superstar country duo Florida Georgia Line became a record-breaking, award-winning, Grammy-nominated hit.  It also sparked a slew of other country/pop crossover singles including “The Middle,” by Zedd, Grey and Maren Morris; “This Feeling,” by The Chainsmokers and Kelsea Ballerini; “Coming Home,” by Keith Urban and Julia Michaels; and “Say Something,” by Justin Timberlake and Chris StapletonCamila Cabello also released a duet version of her solo hit “Never Be the Same” with country star Kane Brown.

Maren Morris went on to open shows for Niall Horan, while another female country star, Kacey Musgraves, did the same for Harry Styles.  Zedd, Grey and Maren received several Grammy nominations for “The Middle”; Justin and Chris and Bebe and FGL were also nominated for their collaborations.

Justin Timberlake returns
While Justin Timberlake may have ended the year with a Grammy nomination, 2018 wasn’t a complete success for him overall, despite his return to making music. 

In early February, Justin released Man of the Woods, his first new album in five years.  The album debuted at #1 and two tracks — “Filthy” and “Say Something” — reached the top 10.  The reviews were just so-so, however, and neither of those songs, nor any subsequent singles, really made a dent in the public consciousness.

Justin also headlined the Super Bowl halftime show in February of 2018, but it wasn’t without controversy. His return to the stage brought up the infamous 2004 Nipplegate Scandal from Super Bowl 38, and revived hurt feelings over the belief that JT, as a white male, emerged unscathed from the incident, while Janet Jackson‘s career suffered. 

Timberlake’s performance at the 2018 Super Bowl itself drew mixed reviews, with some fans offended that he would dare to pay tribute to Prince in the late star’s hometown of Minneapolis by performing “I Would Die 4 U.”

In April, fans were thrilled when Justin joined his *NSYNC bandmates JC Chasez, Joey Fatone, Lance Bass and Chris Kirkpatrick to receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

2018 ended in disappointment for JT and his fans when he was forced to cancel and reschedule the last few months of dates on his Man of the Woods tour due to bruised vocal cords.

Shawn Mendes shows success is in his blood
Shawn Mendes
continued his winning streak in 2018.  He released his self-titled third album in March and it topped the chart, making him the third-youngest artist ever to have three #1 albums — Justin Bieber and Miley Cyrus were the only ones to do it at a younger age.

Shawn received critical acclaim for his new, more mature music, especially for the single “In My Blood,” which was about his anxiety.  It became his fourth #1 hit on the Billboard Adult Pop Songs chart — making him the  first artist to have four number-one singles on that chart before turning 20.  “In My Blood” and the album earned Shawn two Grammy nominations in December.  Shawn ended the year as Billboard’s #3 Adult Contemporary artist of 2018, behind Ed Sheeran and Pink.

Shawn collected a slew of awards in 2018, including two Junos, an American Music Award, two MTV Europe Awards and several Kids’ Choice and Teen Choice awards.  He was also named Artist of the Year by the Billboard Live Music Awards, despite the fact that his world tour isn’t kicking off until 2019. 

Shawn also performed for Queen Elizabeth in 2018, and sang on the Elton John Grammy tribute TV special.  In May, he performed his powerful song, “Youth” — written in response to the 2017 Manchester terrorist attacks and other tragedies — at the Billboard Music Awards with the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students of Parkland, FL.

Also in 2018, TIME magazine named Shawn one of its most influential people of the year, and he also appeared on the cover of Rolling Stone. In that interview, he admitted that he loves to smoke weed, that he and Hailey Baldwin had dated before she became engaged to Justin Bieber, and that he feels pressure to be seen with a woman in public to stop rumors that he’s gay.

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