While a few stories had some unexpected twists and turns (such as #1 on our list), the music journalism world had a relatively easy time compared with political news outlets. While there were times our worlds collided (i.e. A$AP Rocky), for the most part we never needed to wade too deep into the cesspool that’s become Washington politics and the reporting that goes hand-in-hand with it. On the other hand, we continued to see fallout from the #MeToo movement, most notably in the case of a certain R&B star who was the focus of a massive exposé on HBO called Surviving R. Kelly. There was the slightly bizarre case of a rapper being held in a foreign country under confusing and less-than-transparent circumstances, the first new album in over a decade by an experimental metal powerhouse, a huge reunion, and unfortunately, a few tragic deaths. Here are the year’s biggest music news stories.
10. Mr. Bungle Announces Reunion with Scott Ian and Dave Lombardo
Mr. Bungle was one of the most unique rock bands in the music history. Combining a wide variety of influences such as funk, punk, avant-garde and hard-rock, the experimental band was one-of-a-kind and helped spawn the career of Faith No More’s Mike Patton and featured Secret Chiefs Three’s Trey Spruance. That’s why folks were so excited when they announced their first live shows in 20 years. Not only that, but joining the lineup that includes Patton on vocals, Spruance on guitar and Trevor Dunn on bass will be Anthrax’s guitarist Scott Ian and current Suicidal Tendencies (and former Slayer) drumer Dave Lombardo.
– Matt Matasci
9. Kim Shattuck Dies After Lengthy Battle with ALS
One of the year’s biggest tragedies was losing the inimtable Kim Shattuck after she finally succumbed in her years-long battle with ALS. She stayed active until her final days, performing with her band The Coolies and raising money for ALS research (their album raised over $15,000). She is best known for her work in The Muffs as well as a short stint in the Pixies, taking the place of the departed Kim Deal. Her upbeat stage persona and ability to craft unforgetable power pop will be greatly missed by the music community.
– Matt Matasci
8. Ryan Adams Has Multiple Album Project Pulled After #MeToo Accusations
Ryan Adams had big plans for 2019, with hopes to release three albums this year, but a series of allegations from former collaborators including Phoebe Bridgers and his ex-wife Mandy Moore put the kabosh on that. Instead, he had the first of those albums, Big Colors, shelved, with little indication that they’ll see the light of day any time soon. Adams has emerged from the post #MeToo fallout to become active on social media in July, though he hasn’t done much to address the various allegations in the months since. ]
– Matt Matasci
7. Keith Flint of The Prodigy Dies at 49
Few performers could command the stage the way The Prodigy’s Keith Flint did: with an air of danger and a load of fun. The singer died at the age of 49 this year in what was presumed but could never be conclusively deemed a suicide. But he left behind a legacy that redefined dance music. With unforgettable alternative-dance singles like “Firestarter” and “Breathe,” Flint and The Prodigy opened the gates to a world of euphoria that would dominate the early part of the new millennium across Europe and beyond. Dance music’s devil-may-care vibe is a product of what groups like Prodigy dared to do, and where leaders like Flint dared to go.
– Rene Cobar
Photo Credit: Marv Watson
6. Rage Against the Machine Announces Reunion
Rage Against the Machine will be back in 2020, ending an eight year hiatus. The band’s unique blend of hip hop, punk, metal and rock, along with their pointed political lyrics helped the band standout throughout the late 1990s and early 2000s, while their return comes during an upcoming, and likely tenuous, election year for the United States. The band’s limited live appearances for next year, which includes a headline spot at the 2020 Coachella music festival, will show the world what the band has to offer going forward.
– Aaron Grech
5. Nipsey Hussle Is Murdered in Front of His Crenshaw Boulevard Shop
The death of Nipsey Hussle on March 31st of this year rocked the hip hop world like few before him. Numerous musical artists from Pharrell Williams to Drake gave their condolences, as multiple artists from across LA raised hundreds of murals in remembrance of the rapper, business owner, entrepreneur and self-professed Rollin 60s crip, who unexpectedly became the new face of his beloved home; South Central Los Angeles. His philanthropic work with his community, which saved numerous youth from from the type of gang violence that took his own life, served as the biggest reminder of what Nipsey meant to Los Angeles: a beacon of hope in a broken city.
– Aaron Grech
Photo Credit: Mauricio Alvarado
4. A$AP Rocky’s Arrest and the Bizarre Fallout from His Incarceration Involves President Trump
As one of the highest profile arrests in the world of hip-hop, American rap artist, A$AP Rocky, spent nearly a month in a Stockholm prison, after an alleged assault in Stockholm. The ground-shaking incident reached millions of fans globally, through social media, eventually leading to President Donald Trump, who reached out to the Swedish government in support of the artist. Trump claims American rapper, Kanye West, influenced his decision in contacting the Swedish government, to aid the imprisoned artist.
– Ashwin Chary
3. Tool Englessly and Mercilessly Teases But Finally Releases First New Album in 13 Years – and It Was Worth The Wait
Tool fans are known as some of the most ardent and dedicated in the music world. The legion of metalheads that fly the Tool flag high and with pride is numerous, and they didn’t really fade despite waiting over a decade for a new album from one of rock’s most enigmatic groups. For months the band would tease small tidbits, like vocals had been done, the mixing process, and then another update on mixing. Finally, fans were able to hear the new music when Tool played some songs from what would become Fear Inoculum live at festivals dates. Then, a release date was set. And believe it or not, the band held fast to that release date and it came out this August as promised. The result? Sure it may not be the best record in the Tool catalog, but it’s damn good and one of the best records of the year. Unlike some artists, who hold out for years because they’re simply out of ideas, Tool proved the wait was simply the result of their (perhaps too) meticulous process.
– Matt Matasci
2. R. Kelly’s Legal Situation Gets More Serious
It was no secret that a dark cloud of rumors and allegations had shrouded the career of R&B singer R. Kelly for the better part of his tenure as a top-selling artist. 2019 was the year these allegations took a serious legal turn. The singer was arrested this year on charges of enticing a minor, child prostitution, child pornography and obstruction of justice – including a charge of bribery from his marriage to the late Aliyah when she was 16 years old.
He also also faced financial issues this year, from not being able to pay the $100,000 bail for charges in Chicago to being held in jail until he paid back over $160,000 in child support. When the R. Kelly story truly broke this year, many of those who had been crying out for justice stepped forward and those who had sounded the alarm for years were recognized. The story will continue as R. Kelly’s case is set for trial in 2020.
– Rene Cobar
1. Woodstock 50 Crashes, Burns and Fizzles Out With Myriad Twists, Turns and False Hopes
Originally announced in Mar. 2019, American music festival, Woodstock 50, cancelled the scheduled weekend festival, in Aug. 2019 after a series of events, leading to the downhill of the event. Starting in Apr. 2019, the organizers of the festival were giving conflicting reports on the status of the festival as a whole, claiming there were issues with productions. In the following month, the partner to the festival, Superfly, backed out of the partnership after the initially fall in Apr. 2019. Woodstock founder, Michael Lang was unsure why Superfly backed out, but still confirmed Woodstock 50 was going to take place. Later in the month, Lang claimed investor, Dentsu Aegis Network, embezzled over $17 million from the music festival. Dealing the final blow to the festival, American rap artists, Jay-Z and John Fogerty, dropped out of the festival in Jul. 2019 after a venue change.
– Ashwin Chary