NOTE: 2021 in Music and books
As we continued to navigate the pandemic and maintain a semblance of normal life, the music provided much of the much needed escape. Playlists and even sell lists continued to grow throughout the year in a more porous environment where the latest releases peaked after release and then found a comfortable lower position to reflect ongoing sales and consistency of streaming.
Surprisingly, the year opened with two of her biggest releases, Jasmine Sullivan and Morgan Wallen (both Jan. 8.) Sullivan took home album of the year honors from NPR, Entertainment Weekly, LA. Times and Pitchfork. Wallen rode the crest of a huge wave of support for him during the fall until his No.1 debut for six weeks – the first time this feat has been accomplished since the days of Garth Brooks (” The Chase “in 1992), then controversy led to its withdrawal from streaming and four more weeks at the peak of physical / download only sales. In other words, it has been a strange year.
The dominant force in streaming and sales remains hip-hop and female pop singers. Fourteen different Hip-Hop albums peaked in 2021, highlighting the importance of web coverage (Playboy Carti), longevity (Drake, Kanye West, J. Cole, DJ Khaled) and a new wave of artists. consistent with multiple No.1 numbers (Youngboy Never Broke Again, Summer Walker, and Young Thug.) Even radio has proven it can help Yo Gotti get Moneybagg Yo to the top.
Between the trend of a huge first or second week followed by a controlled decline, Pop music continues its reign. BTS showed no signs of slowing down their army as the singles “Dynamite” and “Butter” reigned supreme over the summer. However, below the surface, England’s Glass Animals have carefully used streaming, radio (across genres) and physical sales to keep their 2020 album “Dreamland” and their 2020 single “Heat Waves” sold. in the charts where he finally reached the Top 10 in his 42nd week there.
However, the year was dominated by Olivia Rodrigo. When her single “Driver’s License” dropped again on that lucky January 8, 2021 date, she was a relative unknown. What they thought probably started with a small promotion in his base (like Glass Animals) immediately caught fire. In one week, “Driver’s License” broke the record for most streams in the world in a single day (15.7 million) – only to break that record two days later (17 million).
The result was a worldwide No.1 single from January 23 through March 13. While this charter rule month phenomenon became a trend after Lil Nas X’s “Old Town Road” (he also topped the charts this year with his quantum leap “Montero (Call Me By Your Name.)” Song de Rodrigo became a cultural moment. Fortunately, the critically acclaimed “SOUR” followed in late May and his separate four weeks at No.1 (June, July and September) kept his time in the limelight, at least until that Billie Eilish’s “Happier Than Ever” was released in the summer.
Finally, no one was prepared for the battle royale which would end the year. Vinyl factories have been working overtime with albums pressed overseas to keep up with demand. Labels have been forced to delay releases until 2022 and the burden is best illustrated by the releases of Taylor Swift’s “Red (Taylor’s Version)” on November 12 and Adele’s “30” on November 19. It was rumored that Adele had squeezed 500,000 copies of her LP version of “30” – a number that has not been seen since Wax’s heyday.
The release of Taylor Swift’s “Fearless (Taylor’s Version)” on April 24 has become the 21st century’s biggest-selling week-long vinyl record. Eight weeks later, the long-awaited LP release of “evermore” broke that record, selling 102,000 copies in a single week. In November, the 4LP re-registration of “Red” pushed that number to 115,000 copies in its first week. As Taylor had her own cultural moment with the 10-minute version of “All Too Well” topping the singles charts (dethroning Adele), sales of all other albums increased as well.
However, the best-selling album of the year remains Adele’s “30”. For a project she almost gave up, “30” displays the same holding power that “25” had in 2015. “30” easily became the most pre-added album in Apple Music history. His single “Easy On Me” was only on Youtube for eight hours before breaking all records. Its first and second weeks of sales broke all previous records to become the first US album to sell a million physical copies this year.
Is this where the music goes? One can only hope. TikTok has emerged as the major player of the year in the industry, although artists are only really able to use it for promotion. As songs were used on the app by the millions, they suddenly translated into streaming success, radio demand, and even (but still in very rare cases) increases in physical sales. The best example of TikTok would be Italy’s Maneskin, who rode a five-year performance of a lesser-known Four Seasons cover to top the charts around the world. After topping the charts in nine countries (and reaching the Top Five in nine more), their success on TikTok has propelled them to surprising streaming success. With their singles (now including their current 2021 release “I Wanna Be Your Slave” with Iggy Pop) leading the group on the global streaming charts with all the artists you’ve read above, the label licensing their music – the newly revamped Arista Records – aptly serviced them across all formats in the same week. This possible new era of full-frame assault earned them a Hard Rock Top 10 (“Zitti e buoni”), an alternate Top 10 (“I Wanna Be Your Slave”) and “Beggin ‘” to finish the year in the charts. in six other formats including a platinum single in the Billboard Top 20.
The biggest beneficiary of all of TikTok’s success continues to be Walker Hayes, who made TikTok videos of his family dancing (capitalizing on their main trend) and ended up with so many likes and memes as Applebee. brought back the Oreo Cookie Shake mentioned in his song. However, its late July release on Country Radio saw it climb to No. 1 on the Hot Country Songs chart where it remained until November 20. And where it remains this week.
So be on the lookout for these early weeks of 2022, you might find what we read around this time next year.
As print continues to be overtaken by electronic reading, audiobooks and the continued growth of informational podcasts, the graphic novel is slowly making a comeback. With its brilliant combination of image and story, the best method for a graphic novel to make an impact is in your lap.
While the novel is extremely important for its ability to allow you, the reader, to paint the author’s world however you see fit, the graphic novel is at its best when it creates a fanciful new world that cannot it simply does not exist in words or that it releases emotionally based illustrations of the new existentialism of everyday life.
The drawings that artists like Didier Kassai make for Marc Ellison’s “A House Without Windows” are literally humanity in the spotlight. Watching poverty ravage the lives of young children in Central Africa is heartbreaking. Reading about it would prove to be even more difficult. However, Kassai’s earthy watercolors make it seem like these people truly rise above everything.
For twenty-seven years, Marvel artist Barry Windsor-Smith has sat on his “Monsters” story. The giant 300-page tome the size of a tabletop book is fascinating as a story. As he follows the typical arc of the superhero creation myth, he comes to life through his subversion of the clichés that now threaten to destabilize the Marvel Empire. However, Windsor-Smith’s old classic style of hand-drawn illustrations is what keeps you coming back for more. Even in its most frightening and grotesque forms, Windsor-Smith draws with a romantic sense of beauty.
There is nothing inherently romantic about Simon Hanselmann’s “Crisis Zone”. Dirty and filled to the brim with disgusting and alarming humor, “Crisis Zone” is not for everyone. However, like this year’s subversive comedy shows (“Monty Python,” “Mr. Show” and the triumphant “I Think You Should Go”) this year, the humor is here to keep you laughing in the present. There is an underlying message even amidst the madness of its exploded view based on the pandemic of friendships, relationships, bad habits, peccadilloes and illicit consumption – we identify with living in situations that we cannot. not control. Perhaps the Australian illustrator is showing us all throwing ourselves into the same great unknown.
If you want to roll back the craziness a bit and indulge in a short, illustrated book that looks like a Sunday comic book version of “Sex And The City,” look for Miranda Tacchia’s brilliant and dazzling “Unimpressed”. Her illustrations are warm, earthy, and beautiful. Each page is like a painting with its characters existing both as “animated” and “artistic” creations. “Unimpressed” is the story of the daily life of women in the big city. He does not fire any punches. It doesn’t filter anything either. Tacchia only needs a short sentence to decimate a whole wall of modern conversational myths.
Finally, with all the success of looking at the present, graphic novels even beautifully take up the past. Norwegian illustrator Jason uses his spartan drawing style and classic use of the four-panel design to tell three chapters in the life of Ernest Hemingway. The fact that Jason dissociates his drawn characters from what the original coterie around Hemingway looked like (except maybe the clothes or hairstyle) – automatically makes you see the whole experience in a new light. Covering Hemingway in Paris in 1925 and 1944, and Cuba in 1950, “Good Night, Hem” links Hemingway’s life to his writing. This year’s Ken Burns documentary was definitely a thing of beauty and eye-opener. However, “Good Night, Hem” does an incredible job of putting his writing about his life back in its sacred place.
The graphic novel is a journey worth repeating. A brief flip can be transformational. Sitting down and reliving the whole experience or just one episode can put the world in a different perspective. While not all of these works are for everyone, the world of the graphic novel is silently developing to bring you something.
Mik Davis is the record store manager at T-Bones Records & Cafe in Hattiesburg.