Year End: 2008 music news in review
From extended tour plans to multiple court appearances, artists stayed busy in 2008.
One of the most innovative aspects of the year: album drops. Following in the footsteps of Radiohead’s groundbreaking name-your-price digital release of “In Rainbows” in late 2007, a slew of artists unveiled new albums on similar terms, including Paul Westerberg’s 49-cent release and two projects from Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor–one freebie (“The Slip”) and another 36-track collection (“Ghosts I-IV”) with various buying options. Multiple concert sell-outs for some resulted in longer stints on the road, while others nixed shows due to physical aliments and mental health issues. AC/DC returned and notched one of the top-selling albums of the year, despite the fact that it was a Wal-Mart exclusive. Madonna notched the year’s top-grossing North American tour. The cherry on top for many a music fan: the long-waited release of Guns N’ Roses’ “Chinese Democracy,” more than 10 years in the making.
Here’s a month-by-month look at the major news stories of 2008.
Mary J. Blige kicked off 2008 with a No. 1 spot on the Billboard 200 chart with her eighth studio album, “Growing Pains.” U2 unveiled their concert film, “U23D,” which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival before hitting theaters nationwide. Britney Spears [ tickets ] lost custody of her two children following a domestic-disturbance call, which resulted in time spent hospitalized for being under the influence of an unknown substance; three weeks later, Spears landed in the hospital again on a mental-health-evaluation hold. Season four American Idol winner Carrie Underwood embarked on her first headlining tour in support of her double-platinum-selling sophomore album, “Carnival Ride.” Kenny Chesney released the dates for his long-running “Poets & Pirates” tour, taking over stadiums and arenas across the US.
Alicia Keys announced the spring and summer dates for her “As I Am” tour, supporting her hit album of the same name. Teen sensations the Jonas Brothers continued their sold-out tour, tacking on more dates through mid-March. Rekindled pop stars the Spice Girls decided to scrap plans for further reunion shows in spite of soaring ticket sales. Cher unveiled a three-year residency deal with Las Vegas’ Colosseum at Caesars Palace to kick off in May. British soul singer Amy Winehouse swept the Grammy Awards, taking home five trophies, including Song and Record of the Year for her single “Rehab.” Dolly Parton postponed her album, “Backwoods Barbie,” and the subsequent tour due to a “back condition.” Jack Johnson’s fifth album, “Sleep Through the Static,” debuted at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. Emo rockers Paramore pulled out of their European tour, citing “internal issues.” Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony welcomed twins Max and Emme to the family.
Jay-Z and Mary J. Blige sold out several venues on their highly anticipated “Heart of the City Tour.” Van Halen canceled a handful of shows due to an undisclosed medical issue with guitarist Eddie Van Halen, then sidelined the tour until mid-April. Linkin Park also canceled two gigs after lead vocalist Chester Bennington was diagnosed with tracheobronchitis. Rapper Juvenile’s four-year-old daughter was fatally shot along with the girl’s mother in their home in Lawrenceville, GA. Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor self-released “Ghosts I-IV,” a 36-track instrumental album. Teen superstar Miley Cyrus unleashed on DVD her mega-concert outing, “The Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus Best of Both Worlds Tour.” Britney Spears’ father, James Spears, was named co-conservator of the pop star’s estate following her aforementioned hospitalizations. R.E.M. streamed their new album, “Accelerate,” at iLike.com as a preview for fans. Madonna debuted “4 Minutes,” the first single from her April release “Hard Candy,” in a television commercial for Sunsilk hair products. The Raconteurs released their sophomore album, “Consolers of the Lonely,” just a couple weeks after its completion. XM Satellite Radio and Sirius Satellite Radio received approval from the Department of Justice to complete their $4.6 billion merger. Dr. Pepper offered a free soda to everyone in the country if Axl Rose released the long-awaited Guns N’ Roses album, “Chinese Democracy,” anytime in 2008. Rapper T.I. pled guilty to federal weapons charges in an effort for lighter sentencing come March 2009. U2 and Live Nation entered into a 12-year contract covering touring, merchandising and the band’s website.
Eddie Vedder launched his first solo tour in support of his soundtrack for the Sean Penn-directed film “Into the Wild.” Velvet Revolver gave lead singer Scott Weiland the boot after four years with the band. Radiohead asked fans to upload remixes of their single “Nude.” Elvis Costello and Elton John revealed plans to collaborate on a new television series entitled “Spectacle: Elvis Costello with …,” to air on the Sundance Channel. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds hosted a free acoustic performance to show support for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. Word spread that long-time couple Beyonce and Jay-Z tied the knot April 4. Toni Braxton canceled a Las Vegas performance after being hospitalized for chest pains. Alt-rockers Superdrag celebrated the reunion of the original lineup with a string of US gigs. Green Day finally admitted as true the persistent rumor that the rockers also played as the Foxboro Hot Tubs. Matchbox Twenty pulled out of a scheduled appearance at the Cheyenne Frontier Days in Wyoming, citing potential animal abuse as the reason. The four original members of Jane’s Addiction hit the stage together at the inaugural US NME Awards ceremony. Barbara Streisand donated $5 million to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center for a new women’s heart center. Legendary record executive Clive Davis stepped down from his position as the head of the BMG Label Group. Miley Cyrus signed a deal with Disney to write a book about her rise to teen-idol superstardom. The archives of the Grateful Dead found a permanent home at the University of California at Santa Cruz. Kenny Chesney continued on his tour despite an on-stage foot injury sustained at a South Carolina gig.
Stone Temple Pilots reconvened for the first time since 2002 at Ohio’s Rock on the Range Festival. The Police launched their supposed last-ever round of shows together, hitting roughly a dozen US cities. Daryl Hall and John Oats were deemed the BMI Icons at the 56th Annual Pop Awards in Los Angeles. KT Tunstall took her tour acoustic behind her second album, “Drastic Fantastic.” Cyndi Lauper led another edition of the True Colors tour in support of Human Rights Campaign, a gay and lesbian advocacy group. Leonard Cohen launched his first tour in 15 years with a round of Canadian dates. Bryan Adams treated fans to intimate, solo-acoustic performances throughout the summer in support of his new album, “11.” Sean “Diddy” Combs was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his lifelong appreciation of the entertainment industry. Nine Inch Nails released “The Slip,” a downloadable 11-track collection offered to fans free of charge. Mariah Carey wed the much younger Nick Cannon in a secret ceremony at Carey’s private estate in the Bahamas. Kenny Chesney won his fourth consecutive Entertainer of the Year trophy at the 43rd Academy of Country Music Awards, the first year that the prize was voted on by the fans. Ashlee Simpson and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz married at Simpson’s LA home. David Cook took home the crown for the seventh season of “American Idol” after landing 56 percent of the 97.5 million votes cast. Former music mogul Lou Pearlman received a 25-year sentence for stealing more than $300 million from banks and investors. The Eagles began their “Long Road Out of Eden World Tour” in support of their first new studio set in 28 years.
The duo known as Yaz kicked off their first live dates together in 25 years. Ashlee Simpson called off plans for a summer tour due to pregnancy. Pearl Jam reconvened for their first extensive US tour in two years. Deborah Harry and Blondie celebrated the 30th anniversary of the band’s breakthrough hit album “Parallel Lines” with a month-long tour. Rapper Lil Wayne [ tickets ]’s “Tha Carter III” sold more than 1 million copies in the US during its first week in stores. Tom Waits kicked off a rare 13-city summer trek entitled the “Glitter and Doom” tour. Prog-rock icons Yes canceled plans for an ambitious US summer tour, citing frontman Jon Anderson’s recent health problems. Carrie Underwood continued her six-month-long trek through more than 50 US cities on her “Carnival Ride Tour.” The North American launch of Coldplay [ tickets ]’s world tour was pushed back due to production delays. Rapper R. Kelly was cleared of all 14 counts filed against him for allegedly making and starring in a porn video with an underage girl. Kid Rock explained that his music would not be available on iTunes because he believes the Internet retailer does not pay artists enough. Blind Melon hit the road for the first time in over a decade, debuting new lead singer Travis Warren.
Billy Joel played a two-night engagement at New York’s Shea Stadium, the final concert event held at the home of the New York Mets before the venue officially closed its doors. Motley Crue’s inaugural Crue Fest kicked off in West Palm Beach, FL and continued on through 40 US cities. Christian singer/songwriter Steven Curtis Chapman resumed his summer tour plans two months after his five-year-old daughter was struck and killed by a car in the driveway of their Tennessee home. Boy George scrapped his summertime tour after being denied a US visa. Gym Class Heroes frontman Travis McCoy was arrested and charged with third-degree assault after allegedly punching a Warped Tour audience member who made a racist comment toward him. Two music fans died in unrelated incidents at Michigan’s weekend-long Rothbury Festival. Barenaked Ladies singer/guitarist Steven Page was arrested in New York for an alleged drug-related offense. Paul Westerberg issued “49,” a new album with approximately two-dozen songs, on two web-commerce sites for a mere 49 cents. Jessica Simpson made the transition from pop princess to country crooner in support of her latest album, the country-themed “Do You Know.”
British pop-rockers Oasis returned to the US tour trail after a two-year hiatus. The Smashing Pumpkins celebrated the band’s 20th anniversary with a small US tour. Iggy and the Stooges’ rented truck–containing all of the group’s equipment–was stolen outside their Montreal hotel. Sarah Brightman performed the official Olympic theme song at the opening ceremony of the Beijing 2008 World Olympic Games. Clay Aiken became a father when friend and music producer Jaymes Foster gave birth to a boy, Parker Foster Aiken, at a North Carolina hospital. Jackson Browne sued Senator John McCain and the Republican National Committee for using Browne’s “Running on Empty” in a commercial without obtaining a license for use of the song. Ex-Guns N’ Roses drummer Steven Adler was ordered to remain in drug rehabilitation at the Pasadena Recovery Center by an LA judge. Ricky Martin became the father of twin boys thanks to an undisclosed surrogate mother. Barenaked Ladies frontman Ed Robertson survived a floatplane crash in southeastern Ontario.
Donny and Marie Osmond headlined a new variety show at Las Vegas’ Flamingo Hotel, the first time the duo had performed an extended Vegas residency in 29 years. Comedy duo Cheech and Chong reunited for their first standup tour in 25 years. Weezer canvassed the US for the first time in three years behind their latest self-titled studio album. ZZ Top scaled down their fall run from their traditional stadium and arena shows to more intimate performances in nightclubs and small theaters. Britney Spears swept the MTV Video Music Awards, taking home three Moonmen, for Video of the Year, Best Pop Video and Best Female Video. Oasis singer/guitarist Noel Gallagher was attacked onstage at a Toronto concert when an unidentified man charged across the stage and shoved the musician from behind. Travis Barker and DJ AM survived a fiery plane crash in South Carolina that killed four others. Janet Jackson left Island Def Jam for an autonomous situation without restrictions. Clay Aiken confirmed he is gay to People magazine. Metallica sold nearly half a million copies of “Death Magnetic” during its first three days in stores, making it the first band to have five albums debut at No. 1 on The Billboard 200. Many Houston area concerts, including Robert Plant and Alison Krauss’ and Brad Paisley’s performances, were canceled because of the damage done by Hurricane Ike.
Tina Turner kicked off her three-month-long comeback tour, featuring work spanning her four-decade career. The Foo Fighters and ZZ Top co-headlined Love Ride 25, said to be the world’s largest one-day motorcycle fundraiser. Rolling Stone magazine changed their page size to a smaller, standard-sized format. Britney Spears unveiled her first single, “Womanizer,” on an episode of MTV’s “The Hills.” The Portland Jazz Festival was saved from the chopping block by Alaska Airlines, the new title sponsor, following the withdrawal of previous sponsor Qwest. The Foo Fighters condemned the unauthorized use of “My Hero” by Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign. Lisa Marie Presley gave birth to twin girls, Finley and Harper. After postponing nine concerts due to medical reasons, Janet Jackson was finally diagnosed with a rare migraine disorder. Madonna and Guy Ritchie confirmed rumors of their impending divorce. Ticketmaster acquired a controlling stake in Front Line Management Group, home of some of the biggest acts in the entertainment industry, including Eagles, Jimmy Buffett and Guns N’ Roses. The New York Times announced U2 frontman Bono will write an occasional Op-Ed piece for the legendary paper beginning in 2009. Jennifer Hudson’s mother, brother and nephew were murdered in Chicago, allegedly by her sister’s estranged husband.
Scott Weiland stayed on the road after the STP reunion to support his solo album, “Happy In Galoshes.” White Zombie released a career-spanning five-disc set featuring all 64 of the band’s original studio recordings. Bruce Springsteen and Trent Reznor urged fans to vote on the eve of Election Day. Country legend Merle Haggard underwent surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his lung. Deftones bassist Chi Cheng was seriously injured in a car accident that left the musician comatose in a California hospital. Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake made surprise appearances separately at the LA date on Madonna’s “Sticky & Sweet Tour.” George Strait became the artist with the most overall wins in the Country Music Association’s history after taking home two more trophies for Album of the Year and Single of the Year. Rihanna pulled the plug on a performance in Jakarta, Indonesia due to security concerns. The Vines canceled their remaining 2008 and early 2009 concert dates, citing singer Craig Nicholls’ deteriorating mental condition. Nine Inch Nails announced that Ilan Rubin will replace current drummer Josh Freese following their in-progress tour. Kanye West [ tickets ] debuted his new album, “808 & Heartbreak,” in its entirety on MySpace three days prior to its release. Michael Jackson reached a settlement in the $7 million breach-of-contract suit filed against him by the Prince of Bahrain.
Britney Spears unveiled dates for an early 2009 comeback tour following the release of her sixth studio album, “Circus.” Liza Minnelli returned to Broadway with a 12-piece orchestra in “Liza’s At The Palace …!” a production featuring her signature hits. Roy Orbison’s final concert before his December 1988 death was released exclusively at Apple’s iTunes store. South by Southwest officials announced that Quincy Jones will serve as the keynote speaker for the March music conference in Austin, TX. Joe Satriani filed a copyright-infringement lawsuit against members of Coldplay, claiming the band copied portions of his song “If I Could Fly” for their hit “Viva La Vida.” Blur confirmed that the London rockers will reunite for a slew of UK gigs in July. Pearl Jam announced they will issue a reworked version of their breakthrough debut album, “Ten.” Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons unveiled plans to record a new KISS album in the coming year, the first since 1998’s “Psycho Circus.” The Cure played an intimate, celebrity-packed free show in West Hollywood after publicizing it exclusively on MySpace. Country singer Mindy McCready was hospitalized in Nashville following an apparent suicide attempt. The Wall Street Journal reported that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) plans to abandon their long-standing practice of suing people for illegal file sharing of copyrighted music, and hopes to find more effective ways of battling music piracy.
Notable deaths in the music world throughout 2008 included Isaac Hayes, Bernie Mac, Larry Norman, Buddy Miles, Mike Smith (Dave Clark Five), Jeff Healey, Ola Brunkert (ABBA), Sean Levert, Lawrence Lloyd Brown, Sr. (Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes), Danny Federici (E Street Band), Chris Gaffney (Hacienda Brothers), Eddy Arnold, Dottie Rambo, Utah Phillips, Bo Diddley, Johnny Schou (Tickle Me Pink), Jerry Wexler, LeRoi Moore (Dave Matthews Band), Richard Wright (Pink Floyd), Earl Palmer, Aaron Fuller (Plan 9), Alton Ellis, Levi Stubbs (The Four Tops), Shakir Stewart, MC Breed, Odetta, Dennis Yost (Classics IV), Eartha Kitt and Freddie Hubbard.
Happy New Year!!
Year End: 2008 music news in review