Music News: Top music stories of 2018 (part one)

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Rami Malek as Freddie Mercury in 'Bohemian Rhapsody.'
'Bohemian Rhapsody' became the highest-grossing music biopic ever. (Fox)
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Top music stories of 2018 (part one)
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Above, listen to an episode of The Current's daily Music News podcast. Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, or wherever else you get your podcasts. You can also sign up for a daily Music News e-mail and join our Facebook group.


This week on The Current's Music News podcast, we're running down the year's top ten music stories. Here are numbers ten through six.

10. Karaoke culture: Singing apps are blowing up

First, there was karaoke. Then, there was Carpool Karaoke. Now, karaoke is everywhere on the internet. Apps like Smule and Musical.ly are everywhere. They're fun, they're interactive, they're allowing musicians to build their fanbases by virtually duetting with their fans, and they're even turning some of those fans into breakout stars in their own right.

In 2019, expect to see more singalong features rolling out on networks like Facebook and Instagram, and expect more opportunities to interact with friends via tools like group singalongs. Smule already has as many paying subscribers as Jay-Z's streaming service Tidal, so artists are certain to keep paying attention to the potential of features like this. (CNet)

9. K-pop reaches new peaks with success of BTS

Before Psy struck gold with "Gangnam Style" in 2012, a lot of Americans hadn't even heard of K-pop. Now, one of America's biggest groups — and among the world's biggest celebrities — are a K-pop boy band called BTS. This year, BTS not only became the first K-pop group to top the American album chart, they hit number one again with a subsequent release. (Billboard) The group are now worth an estimated $3.6 billion to the South Korean economy.

They're not the only K-pop group making it big in the west: K-pop artists are collaborating with major stars, building massive followings on social media, and generating news narratives followed around the world. I-D explains the genre's appeal: "K-Pop is never just about one element of performance, it's a package -- the videos range from kooky and cute to dark and epic, the choreography is razor sharp, the songs are complex, catchy productions, and live shows are meticulously planned spectacles."

8. Springsteen dominates Broadway

By 2017, Bruce Springsteen had achieved just about anything a rock star could hope for. He had blockbuster hits, epic tours, a vaunted legacy, shelves of major awards, even an acclaimed memoir. What more was there?

Broadway. Springsteen on Broadway, a mostly solo show (his wife and bandmate Patti Scialfa made guest appearances) that had the Boss singing and telling stories, opened last year to critical swoons and predictably sold-out houses. Springsteen extended the show's run again and again, until finally it closed for good just this month — with a Netflix special and a live album as souvenirs for fans. He didn't submit the show for Tony consideration, but he was given a special Tony award anyway, leaving him just an Emmy away from an EGOT.

In the end, Springsteen on Broadway turned into yet another major triumph in a career that's already seen plenty.

7. Music movies are huge

It's hard to think of a year when the most popular and acclaimed music was so tightly entwined with Hollywood. In February, Black Panther hit with a Kendrick Lamar soundtrack that could give the Pulitzer-winning rapper his first Album of the Year Grammy.

Then, this fall saw the release of Bohemian Rhapsody, the Queen story that became the highest-grossing music biopic ever and could well land Rami Malek an Oscar nomination for his performance as Freddie Mercury. The movie's success make the title track one of few songs to become a hit in three different decades.

Last but not least, the new version of A Star Is Born made Lady Gaga added "movie star" to Lady Gaga's formidable list of accomplishments. "Shallow" landed Grammy nominations for Song and Record of the Year, and the tragic story of a faded rock star broke hearts all over again.

6. Cardi B's massive year

Hip-hop is dominating the Top 40, but female solo rappers haven't been getting their share of the action. Cardi B, possibly this year's defining breakout star, changed all of that with a string of hits that made her the highest-profile solo female MC since the heyday Missy Elliott — and the first since Lauryn Hill to land a chart-topping single, 2017's "Bodak Yellow."

Then, Cardi topped Billboard's Hot 100 twice more just for good measure. A quick wit and a high-profile personal life — she revealed her pregnancy on Saturday Night Live, later giving birth to a daughter and then splitting with Offset, her husband — made her happily hard to avoid all year long.

What was left, to close out 2018? Carpool Karaoke, of course.


Songs sampled in podcast
Jahzzar: "Comedie" (CC BY 4.0)
Shawn Mendes & Julie Bella: "Treat You Better"
BTS: "Fake Love"
Bruce Springsteen: "Tenth Avenue Freeze-Out - Springsteen on Broadway"
Bohemian Rhapsody OST: "Bohemian Rhapsody"
Cardi B: "I Like It (feat. Bad Bunny and J Balvin)"


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