Published Dec 09, 20145. Ariel Pink
Ariel Pink has always been a bit of an oddball, but in 2014, his alleged misogyny broke into the mainstream. As he went about promoting his new album pom pom, he was quoted as saying that he had been tapped to write songs for Madonna, claiming that she had been on a "downward slide" since her debut album and that he represented a "return to values." This prompted Grimes to accuse him of "delusional misogyny"; his response was that she was "stupid and retarded." By the end of all this, Pink was widely being referred to as the "most hated man" in indie rock, and told The New Yorker, "Everybody's a victim, except for small, white, nice guys who just want to make their moms proud and touch some boobies." Oh brother.
4. Taylor Swift
If there was any doubt as to who held the title of the world's biggest pop star in 2014, country crossover artist Taylor Swift cleared that up with the release of her juggernaut album 1989. It sold an incredible 1.287 million copies in its first week, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making for the biggest debut since Eminem's The Eminem Show's 1.322 million in 2002. The album's high sales were likely aided by Swift's decision to remove her catalogue from Spotify, which reignited debates about whether streaming services devalued music and offered unfair compensation to artists. Of course, it's impossible to become the biggest in the world without making a few enemies along the way: Earl Sweatshirt accused her of stereotyping black people; El-P hated her song "Welcome to New York"; and Billy Bragg dissed her marketing strategy (then quickly apologized when it turned out his information was wrong). But hey, at least Kendrick Lamar is a fan.
In what was the year's worst marketing stunt gone wrong, U2 released their surprise album Songs of Innocence as a free download to anyone with iTunes. While they intended this as a free gift to listeners, many considered it a violation when the album showed up unbidden on their phones (and proved to be difficult to delete). Frontman Bono apologized for the gaffe (but, somewhat bafflingly, also said that he was proud of the campaign). Things went from bad to worse for him when he was injured in a biking accident that turned out to be very gruesome indeed, and the band cancelled some of their promotional plans (as if having glaucoma wasn't already bad enough). Perhaps U2 will be able to console themselves with a Grammy — which they're eligible for, thanks to some rather sneaky planning.
It was another year of Morrissey being Morrissey, as the onetime Smiths singer remained in the headlines all year. This was partly thanks to his new album World Peace Is None of Your Business, his first solo effort since 2009's Years of Refusal. But he apparently wasn't satisfied with the marketing campaign behind the album, since he entered a rather bizarre back and forth with Harvest Records and ended up getting dumped by the label amid stunts that featured his band wearing "FUCK HARVEST" shirts. He also cancelled yet another tour with health complaints, allegedly called out a hit on a blogger, condemned Canada for its seal hunt and feuded with our Minister of Fisheries. Then, sadly, he revealed that he had been treated for cancer.
1. Jian Ghomeshi
The Canadian music world's far-and-away top newsmaker in 2014 wasn't actually a musician (not currently, anyway). Rather, it was former CBC radio host Jian Ghomeshi, longtime host of the popular arts program Q. On October 24, he announced that he was taking some "personal time" away from his show; he was fired a couple of days later, and fans rallied around him when he launched a $55 million lawsuit and posted a message claiming that he was being persecuted for his behind-closed-doors fondness for BDSM sex. The harrowing story snowballed from there, with nine women accusing him of sexual and physical assault, and others alleging impropriety in the workplace. After Owen Pallett wrote a heart-rending letter stating that "Jian Ghomeshi beats women,", many other musicians condemned him (including his former Moxy Früvous bandmates), he lost his lawsuit and he ultimately become the centre of a criminal case when he was formally charged with four counts of sexual assault (and one charge of overcoming resistance). He has claimed that his actions were consensual, but he has mostly remained silent while becoming the focus of a public debate about rape culture. The legal fallout has yet to be determined, but in 2014, Ghomeshi's fall from grace ruled the headlines.