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Culture

2015 in pop music

What was tops in the past 12 months, and what was abysmal? Who was 2015's most successful pop artist, who won the most prizes and what were the year's most emotional moments? A review of the highlights.

Eurovision Song Contest debacle, vol. 1

Ann Sophie is gifted, attractive and has a strong stage presence: the perfect candidate to represent Germany at the Eurovision Song Contest (ESC). In the televised national finals, she competed with seven others - and lost the tally of call-in votes. Lost it to Andreas Kümmert, who'd seduced viewers with his strong blues vocals.

Ann Sophie performs at Eurovision Song Contest in Vienna

A perfect performance actually. But Ann Sophie didn't earn a single point

But surprisingly, Kümmert didn't accept his victory. Without blinking an eye, the TV host then declared Ann Sophie the viewers' choice. She was utterly perplexed - and so was everyone else, as the result had nothing to do with viewers' votes.

Going on to the

ESC final in Vienna

in May, Ann Sophie did her job well, delivering a solid show despite a mediocre song - and lost again, this time landing at the bottom of the heap with zero points.

After all, it's only an Adele album

To judge from the hype over

Adele's new album "25,"

it must be a rare milestone in pop music. But it's actually just an album by a very talented British vocalist who, with three albums in seven years, has catapulted herself into the upper echelons of pop singers.

Adele in Cologne

Adele performed in Cologne in December

When she started out, she was overweight and not particularly attractive - but she could sing. The pounds have shed with her growing fame, and Adele has now achieved everything there is to achieve: several platinum discs, 10 Grammys, Brit Awards, Golden Globe Awards and an Oscar.

As expected, the new album raced to the top of all the charts after its release on November 20, selling in the millions within days. It's full of sad songs delivered by Adele's powerful voice and accompanied by a perfect pop sound production. Everything culminates in a final song that could have a privileged place in any sentimental Disney cartoon movie. Nothing new - just Adele.

Sludge! Sludge! Sludge!

Europe's biggest metal festival,

Wacken Open Air

, has been going strong for 26 years. Always taking place in late July-early August, at the height of summer, you'd think the weather would play along. Wrong. In the state of Schleswig-Holstein, this is the rainy season. Almost every year.

Watch video 05:06

Wacken Open Air - A Visit to the Full Metal Village

After one strong rainfall, the fields where up to 80,000 people congregate year after year morph into a sea of mud. But in 2015 it rained four days in a row, and the festival was swamped from the very beginning. Thin tents at camping sites had to withstand up to a foot of mud, hundreds of cars were stuck and rubber boots were the most important accessory.

But the rain and mud did nothing to dampen the party atmosphere. For not only was there a lot of mud, but also plenty of beer and very loud music. Wacken has a cult following regardless of the weather - which finally turned sunny on the last day.

Eurovision Song Contest debacle, vol. 2

Enough of these no-name candidates who have to be built up to star status within a couple of months only to lose - that, at least, is the opinion of German public broadcaster NDR, responsible for the country's ESC entry. To come up with the candidate for ESC 2016, they dispensed with tele-voting and directly nominated Xavier Naidoo, one of Germany's best known pop singers,

in late November.
Xavier Naidoo

Naidoo still has loyal fans, despite his embarrassing retraction as ESC candidate

But Thomas Schreiber, the broadcaster's head of entertainment, underestimated the German audience. When he gave his thumbs-up for Naidoo, he was apparently unaware that the singer allegedly holds views most Germans don't appreciate: anti-Semitism and homophobia.

As if that weren't enough, many also don't share Schreiber's enthusiasm for the soul singer's vocal qualities. The result: after two stormy days on social media, NDR withdrew Naidoo's nomination. To date, no one knows who will represent Germany at the ESC in May.

Action 'Arschloch'

Back in 1993, punk veterans Die Ärzte released "Schrei nach Liebe" (Cry for Love) - a song that vilifies right-wing radicals, the kind of people who didn't get enough love and think they can find it among the neo-Nazis.

Die Ärzte

In September, "Schrei nach Liebe" hit the no. 1 spot for the first time

More than 20 years later, anti-refugee sentiment is on the rise. In 2015, thousands of people hostile to foreigners marched through German cities chanting right-wing slogans, among them the PEGIDA movement. The hundreds of thousands of refugees who have come to the country are so loathed that many refugee homes across Germany have gone up in flames.

But late in the summer, a movement called "Aktion Arschloch - Schrei nach Liebe in die Charts!" (Action A**hole, Cry for Love in the Charts!)

erupted in the social media

- and worked: the song reached the top of the German charts on September 11. Sales proceeds were donated to ProAsyl, a refugee aid organization.

AnnenMayKantereit, the best newcomers

The band from Cologne with the difficult name has worked their way to the top in recent years completely under their own steam, playing in pedestrian zones and small clubs, paying their dues like any "credible" band does in its early stages.

AnnenMayKantereit in Berlin

Strange name? The original band lineup was Christopher Annen, Henning May and Severin Kantereit

That persistence has paid off: the group now fills stadiums seating 10,000. Their songs: contemplative, mature, enriched by feeling and experience - and that coming from a band with an average age of about 24.

Band member Henning May sings like a man who's seen it all, tried every whiskey in this world and smoked three packs of cigarettes a day - singing about the father who raised him, about friends and love lost. The four boys pick up on the feelings of all those in their early 20s who are just coming to terms with adulthood. And they enchant the parents, too.

The saddest concert

Eagles of Death Metal could have done without that career boost. No band could want to go through what these three boys from the US did in Paris' Bataclan music club.

Paris - Eagles of Death Metal Bataclan

Jesse Hughes, frontman of the Eagles of Death Metal, returned to the scene of the tragedy in December

On November 13, they were playing for around 1,500 people when terrorists linked to the so-called "Islamic State" stormed the club and took hostages, murdering 89. The musicians escaped unscathed.

The whole world has now heard of this band, formerly known and respected only in indie circles. Respected because the group's music is closely associated with that of the post-grunge band Queens of the Stone Age, and because they work with guests like Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters, ex-Nirvana) and Jack Black (Tenacious D.). And because music - indie-garage-stoner-rock with wry lyrics - is simply cool.

Returning to Paris in December, the Eagles

placed flowers outside the Bataclan

and promised to perform there again when the club is reopened.

R.I.P.

  • January 20: Edgar Froese (70), electronic music pioneer and founder of Tangerine Dream
  • February 16: Lesley Gore (68), chart-topping singer ("It's My Party," "You Don't Own Me")
  • March 15: Mike Porcaro (59), bass player in Toto (the second of the three legendary Porcaro brothers to pass away)
  • April 14: Percy Sledge

    (74), soul singer ("When A Man Loves A Woman" and other songs)

  • April 30: Ben E. King

    (76), soul singer with the Drifters and world famous as a soloist for "Stand By Me"

  • May 6: Erroll Brown (71), lead singer and co-founder of funk band Hot Chocolate ("You Sexy Thing")
  • May 14: B.B. King

    (89), blues guitar god

  • June 9: James Last

    (86), finger-snapping band leader and inventor of the "Happy Sound"

  • June 11: Ornette Coleman

    (85), saxophonist and free jazz trailblazer

  • June 22: James Horner

    (61), award-winning composer ("Titanic," "Avatar," "A Beautiful Mind," "Braveheart")

  • July 20: Dieter Moebius

    (71), elektronic and avant garde musicians (with Kluster, Guru Guru and others)

  • August 15: Max Greger

    (89) saxophonist and band leader

  • November 9: Andy White (85), drummer, the "Fifth Beatle"
  • November 11: Phil "Philthy Animal" Taylor (61), Motörhead's original drummer
  • December 4: Scott Weiland (48), frontman for Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver
  • December 28: Ian "Lemmy" Kilmister

    (70), Motörhead frontman

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