Arts review of 2011 - Rock: Girls stole the show – even the annoying ones

Katy B, Adele, Lady Gaga – not to mention the late Amy Winehouse – grabbed most of the attention this year

In a spirit of candour, it must be confessed that 2011 was a poor year.

Primark-soul shouter Adele swept all before her, the album 21 outselling everything in sight and the single "Someone Like You" becoming Britain's official sad song for all occasions, until throat problems forced her to cancel her UK tour and even order coffees with a talking iPhone app. Another Brit school alumna, however, quietly stole the show: Katy B's debut, On a Mission, provided the year's finest modern pop.

Lady Gaga's exhilarating lunacy went into overdrive with the Born This Way campaign and a series of startling television performances, of which "Marry the Night" on The X Factor, emerging from a tomb and carrying a decapitated corpse on her shoulders, was the most memorable.

Dubstep continued to seal its position as British youth culture's defining genre. However, the single of the year, perhaps even the century, was Lana Del Rey's effortlessly cool "Video Games", which oozed nouveau-vintage class and temporarily made you forget where, even when, you were.

Annoying teenagers of the year

The year's most-mocked song was "Friday" by Rebecca Black, an over-privileged Californian 13-year-old whose appalling lyric and laughable video sparked a backlash which in the view of many amounted to cyber-bullying. But it was Malvern's own Cher Lloyd who really scraped rock bottom, falling in just 12 months from her stunning X Factor audition to singing a musical war crime called "Swagger Jagger" to the tune of "Oh My Darling Clementine". Unfathomably, it topped the charts.

Comebacks of the year

R.E.M. and The White Stripes officially called it a day, although most assumed they already had. Welsh angst-rock legends Manic Street Preachers went on indefinite hiatus after a marathon one-off at the 02.

In the main, however, 2011 was about comebacks. The year's biggest-grossing live act was Take That, reunited with prodigal attention-seeker Robbie Williams, but the Progress Live tour's squatting robot centrepiece was a dud.

This writer's favourite gigs all came from veterans or reunions. Prince's staggeringly exuberant greatest hits set at Hop Farm. Chic, whose leader Nile Rodgers had beaten cancer, thrilling the Forum. Canadian noiseniks DFA 1979 blowing everyone away at Reading. Suede's stunning gigs at Brixton. The Darkness, who should never have split in the first place, warming up at the 100 Club. Above all, Pulp proving that they, not monobrows or mockneys, were the real heroes of Britpop.

The grim reaper

Perhaps the greatest – and most profligately squandered – talent Britain has produced this century, Amy Winehouse, succumbed to alcohol poisoning in July, joining what her mother called "that stupid 27 Club", a death that was no less affecting for being foreseeable. Other sad losses to British music included folk-rock legend Bert Jansch, and Bond composer John Barry. Punk legend and X-Ray Spex singer Poly Styrene passed away, just weeks after releasing an acclaimed solo album. And Sir Jimmy Savile, presenter of the first and last Top of the Pops shows and the man who claimed to have invented double-decks DJing, departed in a puff of cigar smoke.

E-Street Band saxophonist Clarence Clemons bowed out after one last appearance in a Gaga video, and other departed musicians who made their names as sidemen included Thin Lizzy guitarist Gary Moore, The Shadows' Jet Harris and Japan bassist Mick Karn. The Motown family lost songwriter Nick Ashford, and Miracles guitar great Marv Tarplin, the man who played on "Tracks of My Tears". The soul world also lost Solomon Burke and Dobie Gray.

From behind the consoles and behind the scenes, we lost rock'n'roll songwriter Jerry Leiber, new wave producer Martin Rushent, and pioneering hip-hop executive Sylvia Robinson. Rap originator Gil Scott-Heron passed away just as he was making a comeback, and hip-hop also lost Heavy D and Nate Dogg. Two heavyweights of house, Loleatta Holloway and Darryl Pandy, went to the great Paradise Garage in the sky. Seventies AOR stars Andrew Gold and Gerry Rafferty said goodbye, as did brassy blonde of Sixties pop Kathy Kirby and outsider musician Wild Man Fischer. Porn actress turned disco diva Andrea True was no more-more-more, and Smiley Culture, reggae MC, died in strange circumstances.

Lastly, four weather-related stage collapses at festivals killed 11 and injured many more, the worst incidents at the Indiana State Fair and Belgium's Pukkelpop. A tragic coincidence, one hopes, and not evidence of widespread laxness in safety standards.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Legendary blues and rock singer Joe Cocker has died of lung cancer, his management team as confirmed. He was 70
music The singer has died aged 70
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams looks concerned as Arya Stark
tv
Arts and Entertainment
photography Incredible images show London's skyline from its highest points
Arts and Entertainment
'Silent Night' last topped Classic FM's favourite Christmas carol poll in 2002
classical
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tv 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Rhys says: 'I'm not playing it for laughs, but I have learnt that if you fall over on stage, people can enjoy that as much as an amazing guitar solo'
musicGruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence
Arts and Entertainment
Krysia and Daniel (Hand out press photograph provided by Sally Richardson)
How do today's composers answer the challenge of the classical giant?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
News
Shenaz Treasurywala
film
News
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Watkins as Christopher Jefferies
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Star Wars Director JJ Abrams: key character's names have been revealed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams won two BBC Music Awards for Best Song and International Artist
music
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there