Our last look at 2016

by Kathryn Kyte

January 12, 2017






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A look at the highs and lows (mostly lows) of a tough 2016.

2016 brought us a ton of really low points. While there were a lot of moments where our souls were utterly numbed, or we felt like attacking walls for no reason, there was also a ton of good albums released, as we noted here.

2016 is now put behind us, yes, but before we completely forget about the last 12 months, we’d like to take you through how they unfolded.


2016 started off with a theme that unfortunately continued throughout the entire year: death of music icons. Only ten days into the year, legend David Bowie passed away at the age of 69; Bowie had secretly been battling cancer for 18-months prior to his death. “Lazurus,” which came out days before Bowie’s passing, was the final depiction of the icon, and showed a video of him on what seemed to be his death bed, seemingly suggesting he was ready for heaven (art insinuating real life). The somber song showed audiences his final curtain call. The timing around his Blackstar release and his death was uncannily close, and for those wishing to know about his final years, the documentary The Last Five Years, premiered this month, and featured archival footage, early interviews, and a never-before heard a capella version of “Lazarus.” It’s the follow up to the acclaimed film David Bowie: Five Years and is directed once again by Francis Whately, who noted that he wanted to highlight Bowie’s experimentations, but also “show how the changes were often superficial, but the core themes in his work were entirely consistent—Alienation, Mortality and Fame.”

It was recently announced that Bowie was the best-selling vinyl artist of 2016.

January also introduced the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag, which begun trending after nominations showed a lacked diversity with not one person of colour getting nominated for an Oscar. The N.W.A. documentary, Straight Outta Compton, was nominated for Best Screenplay, however, only its white screenwriters were invited to the Oscars. The Academy soon responded saying: “The Academy invites the nominees only, and each studio gets a limited ticket allotment, based on the number of nominated films, to use at their discretion, a spokesperson told People Magazine. “It has been this way for decades.” Still, this didn’t stop the boycotting of the award show by stars like Spike Lee and Will Smith.


In February, armed with cutthroat, coveted defence lawyer Marie Henein, former Q host Jian Ghomeshi was put on trial in front of the nation (and beyond). It took over a month, but when the judge’s decision finally came, Ghomeshi ended up being acquitted on all charges of sexual assault. This was a huge injustice in the judicial system, as well as a dark time for sexual assault survivors.

February also saw Lady Gaga’s gripping performance at the Oscars alongside a group of sexual assault survivors. The song, “’Til It Happens To You,” was from taken from The Hunting Ground, a documentary surrounding sexual assault on college campuses. The performance brought tears and people to their feet, and was one of the biggest takeaways from the awards show.



April marked the sudden death of another acclaimed artist, Prince, who died at age 57 on April 21. The legendary icon was found unresponsive inside an elevator at his Paisley Park estate,  and an autopsy later revealed The Purple One died of an opioid overdose. Devoted fans were crushed at the news, spawning tributes across the globe. In Ontario, Niagara Falls seemed to pay its respects by lighting up purple, although it was by coincidence, since they were actually scheduled to go purple to honour Queen Elizabeth’s birthday 90th. Prince’s vault, which featured unreleased music, memorabilia and a ton of other essentials quickly became a topic of interest. AUX provided a totally seriously, absolutely vetted list of 99 items found inside his secret vault here.


In April, Beyonce proved yet again why she’s Queen B, releasing her genre-defining album, Lemonade. The album ranked high on many best albums of 2016 lists (Rolling Stone placed it at No. 1) and directed attention to songs about triumph, pain and infidelity. Oh, and who can forget the “Becky with the Good Hair” shout-out? Bey also dropped a visual album of the same name as part of her HBO special, proving that the 35-year-old is on her game and still full of surprises. Beyonce’s candor also reminded us that she speaks her mind, even if it’s against her own husband.

Drake released his fourth studio album, VIEWS, which saw the Toronto-bred rapper sitting on top of the CN tower as part of the cover art. The album art spawned into a bevy of memes that went quickly went viral. Whether it’s his ongoing plugs of Toronto, his “Hotline Bling” overplay, his lady loves, his grin-grunting on the basketball court, or his ongoing snags of awards—Drake knows how to stay in the spotlight.


Celine Dion accepted the Icon Award at the Billboard Music Awards on May 24. The legend stood to the large crowd fighting back tears as she spoke of her late husband and former manager, René Angélil, who had passed away four months prior. Her 15-year-old son, René-Charles, presented her with the award, and was on stage with his mother when she said “the show must go on.” 


June 25th marked the debut of Kanye West’s highly controversial art-music video for his track “Famous.” The video stirred the pot, as per usual, and featured West naked in a bed full of other nude wax figures like Rihanna, Donald Trump, Taylor Swift, Bill Cosby, and the queen of provocative selfies, Kim Kardashian. West talked to Vanity Fair about the video, which was filmed over a three month period. When speaking on himself and Kim K he noted: “Our life is walking performance art.”


July saw the return of Blink-182, sans Tom DeLonge, which had people wondering whether they were even Blink-182 anymore? The album California still kept in stride with Blink’s pop-punk style, although it didn’t feel entirely complete without Tom, who seems to be more into UFOs than reliving his “Damnit” days.

July also saw the release of the song “I Can’t Breathe,” which was released in tribute to Eric Garner, who shouted the words as he was choked to death by New York police officers in 2014. The song became synonymous with the Black Lives Matter movement, and paved the way for over 20 more songs to follow suit.


Talk about an anticipated return, quite possibly the highlight of the year—Frank Ocean dropped a new album after a four-year hiatus. He released two back-to-back  albums this year: Endless (his visual album) and his second studio album, Blonde. His follow up to the creative masterpiece that is Channel Orange was plugged in true Ocean form—with pop-up stores stacked with copies of his zine, Ocean’s Boys Don’t Cry. The zine was full of photos, poems, and the Blonde CD. Ocean’s return gave a fresh exhale to hip-hop, R&B and psych-pop, and was once again celebrated and respected.


The legendary Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October. He was awarded the prize for Literature, and although he didn’t actually venture to Sweden to pick up the award, he did write a speech that was read inside the Stockholm Concert Hall.

In October there were a lot of disgruntled American citizens (to be fair this didn’t happen ONLY in October), and much of the disdain was towards the now President-elect, Donald Trump. Rallies happened, while musicians like The Rolling Stones and Adele demanded that their music not be used at Trump’s rallies.


November marked the month when Canada lost a national treasure—Leonard Cohen. On November 7th, the brilliant troubadour, 82, passed away during his sleep at his home in Los Angeles. His death was noted as “sudden, unexpected and peaceful” by Cohen’s manager. Tributes soon followed, including a handful of notable Canadian artists sharing their memories of the one-of-a-kind artist.



As the year came to a close and our tears finally started to dry, we lost another star—George Michaels, who died on Christmas Day due to heart failure. Unfortunately, some nitwit thought it would be cool to hack into Michaels’ boyfriend’s account and say his death was actually suicide. WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE? RIP.  

On the very last night of this dreadful year, Mariah Carey attempted to ring in the New Year with song, except it went terribly, terribly wrong. But in true Carey form, she simply told everyone to calm down because “shit happens.” Later, Carey’s manager released details on how it all went down.


Is it any wonder that #fuck2016 trended? Here’s to a better 2017.

Tags: Music, Featured, Best of 2016






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