Hard to believe, but the year is already half over. And between Beyoncé birthing twins, Lady Gaga triumphing at the Super Bowl, and Ja Rule taking the fall for the disastrous Fyre Festival, it’s been a jam-packed year. Let’s look back at some of the biggest winner and losers of the first half of 2017.
Justin Bieber: Once pop music’s most notorious laughing stock, Bieber rose from the ashes with a troika of aces off 2015’s Purpose; currently between albums, his stock continues to soar thanks to vocal guest-spots on DJ Khaled’s first #1 single, “I’m the One,” and Daddy Yankee’s song-of-the-summer, “Despacito.” With rumors of a new album dropping in time for Christmas, 2017 might finally convert the most adamant haters into Beliebers.
The Chainsmokers: Though the NYC duo successfully transformed from kitschy one-hit wonders (2014’s “#Selfie”) into dependable hit-makers, their frat-boy image and simplistic melodies made them the EDM Nickelback: critically-reviled, million-selling populists no one admits to loving. Critics and closet fans be damned, though, as the Chainsmokers spent 2017 planning a Las Vegas residency, modeling for a Tommy Hilfiger ad, collaborating with Coldplay, and basking in the glow of a #1 album.
Drake: How to follow up a commercial high-watermark like “One Dance”? Well, if you’re Aubrey Graham, you lock yourself in the studio to record the critically-appraised, genre-spanning More Life. The album topped the charts and broke single-day Spotify records, solidifying Drake as the King of Streaming. If that wasn’t enough, Billboard announced that a combination of endearing hits and scene-stealing features has allowed Drake to chart at least one song on the Billboard Hot 100 every week for eight consecutive years and counting! It’s Drake’s world, we just live in it.
Ed Sheeran: Everyone’s favorite ginger-haired singer-songwriter released his third album, ÷ , in early March. It stormed to the top of the charts and granted Sheeran his first U.S. #1 single with the dancehall-inspired “Shape of You.” ÷ even necessitated a rule change in the UK charts when massive streaming of the album enabled Sheeran to lock down fourteen of the top fifteen songs that week. Expect him to clean up once award season rolls around, as he’s a critics’ darling.
Harry Styles: Long considered the most talented member of One Direction, Styles’ solo debut was amongst the last out of the gates, as Zayn Malik’s 2016 album initially grabbed all the glory. The wait was worth it, though, as Styles’ epic debut single, “Sign of the Times” perfectly blended the Beatles, Bowie, Blur, and the remaining best bits of British music into five and a half minutes of soaring power pop. An upcoming world tour and a role in Christopher Nolan’s war-drama, Dunkirk, ensure a busy rest of the year for the former boy-bander.
Camila Cabello: Cabello was riding high in 2016 as one-fifth of girl-group, Fifth Harmony, thanks to their slinky hit, “Work From Home.” However, encouraged by modestly-successful collaborations with Shawn Mendes and Machine Gun Kelly, and with an eye on becoming the next Nicole Scherzinger, Cabello struck out on her own. Her bandmates were blindsided by her departure, resulting in an ugly war of words that sapped public goodwill. Subsequently, Cabello’s debut single, “Crying in the Club” has failed to crack the top 40. Time to kiss and make up with her old band?
Miley Cyrus: Cyrus twerked her way into infamy at the 2013 Video Music Awards in a crass, calculated attempt at distancing herself from her Disney past (riding naked atop a wrecking ball didn’t hurt, either). And it paid off in spades as her antics became the talk of the town. The world patiently awaited her next move…sadly, unexpected new single, “Malibu,” is a snooze, the song’s mellow, soft-rock breeziness acting as stylistic sedation. Also, the song’s complete about-face from the hip-hop influences of her last album has not gone unnoticed, with Cyrus having to answer fresh accusations of cultural appropriation.
Gorillaz: Despite positive reviews and an eclectic host of talent that encompassed everyone from Mavis Staples to Grace Jones, the triumphant return of Damon Albarn and Jamie Hewlett’s cartoon band was marred by lack of a hit. While previous songs like “Feel Good Inc” and “Dare” were gloriously ubiquitous, none of Humanz’s six singles took off at radio. Even more damning was the album’s lack of streaming success: innovative, colorful music videos are the band’s endearing hallmark, yet none of the promos found an audience this time.
Katy Perry: Is Katy Perry OK? “Chained to the Rhythm,” the lead single for her fifth album, Witness, was supposed to represent “purposeful pop,” but the song was an awkward, Technicolor hot mess with one too many syllables in its title. Follow-up singles, “Bon Appetit” and “Swish Swish” barely bothered the charts. But it’s her Witness press that’s been most troubling. Perry’s erratic interviews mirror Mariah Carey’s Glitter-era meltdown, culminating in a tearful breakdown during her 72 hour livestream. Get the help you need, girl, and come back, whip cream bra guns blazing.
PWR BTTM: PWR BTTM found out the hard way that not all press is good press. The once-promising queer indie-rock group’s fortunes were torpedoed just before the release of their second album, Pageant, when band member, Ben Hopkins, was accused of sexual assault and making unwanted sexual advances towards a minor. The band denied the allegations, but the fallout was swift and severe: their music was pulled from online retailers like iTunes and Amazon, and they were dropped by their label. The band have also canceled all upcoming performances. Is their career already over?