There are many things we can focus on when looking back at 2016; we can focus on the loss of some pioneers of the industry, we can focus on the closure of some of the world’s best clubs, we can focus on the political turmoil of the world; or we can focus on the amazing achievements from artists across the globe throughout the year. So much happened in 2016, it’s going to be hard to sum it all up in a single blog post, but I’m going to give it a go, here are the most significant events for me.
The Queen bee, the mother, the inspiration. The return from Beyonce wasn’t a huge shock to us all, in fact, we were more than ready for it. What we weren’t ready for was the change in Bey, the album that had us all in shock. We said goodbye to a Beyonce who was filled with love and hope and introduced to a Beyonce who had suffered heartbreak and was filled with rage. The visual album was so beautiful and haunting, we didn’t quite know what was causing the goosebumps and shivers up our spines. Of course, the internet blew up almost instantly after the album was released, with questions of “Who is ‘Becky with the good hair?'”, “Did Jay-Z cheat on Beyonce?”, “Are they going to get a divorce?”. Bey kept everyone guessing though, she didn’t put any of the rumours to bed, just inspired women to speak out about their relationships and of course, has now made the sassiest, strongest break up album to date.
Frank Ocean Returns
When you type Frank Ocean into google, the first question that comes up is “Is Frank Ocean dead?”, that’s certainly how it felt when we had to wait a painful four years for his follow up album after his flawless debut, Channel Orange. Blond is certainly a grower, it took me a few listens for me to completely fall head over heels in love with it, but once you get there, you will never want to listen to anything else. Each song is captivating, even the spoken work interludes, it addresses love, heartbreak and everything surrounding it. He worked with so many people to make this album perfect, James Blake, Jamie xx and Rostam Batmanglij to name a few. It is without a doubt the album of the year for me. Not only did Frank treat us with Blonde this year, a few days before it was he released, he dropped a visual album that was as stunning as the album that followed. Next year Frank plays Lovebox and I’m lucky enough to be part of the crowd for his live comeback; excitement doesn’t even come close! Well done Frank, you did good.
Justin Martin’s ‘Hello Clouds’
As usual, it was a huge year for America’s heavyweight label, Dirtybird and Justin Martin’s album was another proud addition to their catalogue of successes. The pizza-loving producer has proven, once again, that his knowledge and talent prevails among other producers, not only in America, but across the world. His friendship and collaboration with Barclay Crenshaw, a.k.a Claude Vonstroke, has allowed him to be openly experimental with his music and has managed to release an album that travels across the spectrum of dance music. The title track, ‘Hello Clouds’ sends shivers down my spine, the build up and the vocals are stunning, with a drop that adheres true to the Dirtybird style. His collab with other Dirtybird players, Ardalan and Kill Frenzy on ‘Wet Cat (Sooo WET)’ is huge and definitely the most underrated track on the album and finally, ‘Back To The Jungle’ with Will Clarke is Dirtybird’s dark take on the 90s genre.
Anyone who knows me at all will know that I’m not a huge fan of Grime, however, it is a movement that cannot be ignored and is certainly a genre that blew up in 2016 and deservedly so. BBK headlining Wireless was a huge achievement, as was Skepta playing the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury, not to mention Drake making an appearance at a Section Boyz gig back in February. While Grime isn’t really my thing, the energy and humbleness of these artists is something to be admired and something that is surprisingly hard to find in this industry. That’s why Skepta winning the Mercury Music Prize was one of my favourite moments of this year, it a long time coming for an underground genre to be recognised in a national award and I think it made Skepta realise how appreciated he is as an artist; even when he was receiving the award he was humble and down to earth about it. A huge achievement for himself and for the genre.
The closing and re-opening of Fabric
I think every raver in the country, whether you’re a part-time or an avid one, felt solemn heartbreak when the news about the closure of Fabric was revealed. After a long, tireless battle between Islington council and the club, the council sadly won the bid to revoke the licence of Fabric and closed the doors of a nightclub that kickstarted so many artist’s careers, for what we thought was the last time. Feelings of outrage, shock and heartache swept through the nation, we mourned the loss of a club that gave so much love and life to the house music scene. I wrote a whole post about the ordeal as it was happening, which you can read here. However, after perilous and continuous campaigning we finally heard some good news in October that Fabric will be re-opening with a strict new licensing conditions, which include banning entry to anyone under 19 on main nights, monitored CCTV, ID Scanners and lifetime bans for anyone caught asking for drugs. It’s not ideal, but it’s something and a great example of the power of the people against the government.
While we’re on the subject of clubs closing, Ibiza also suffered a great loss this year when Space closed its doors for the final time. The club has won multiple awards for “Best Global Club” and seeing it go moved thousands of people across the globe. Sadly I never graced the dancefloor of the mammoth club, but tickets for the closing Fiesta sold out in seconds despite prices reaching up to and beyond €100, the party was 19 hours long, so definitely not for the feint hearted and most importantly, made it all about the music, because at the end of the day, that’s what brings us all together. Mixmag wrote a beautiful piece about the event, which you can read here.
2016 has been an emotional rollercoaster for all of us, if it has shown us anything, it’s shown us that the industry is forever growing and changing, but also needs to catch up with emerging artists and captivating genres that sweep the nation in a heartbeat. I think 2016 has taught me that we are in control of this scene, we keep it alive with support for artists, support for clubs, support for festivals and most importantly support for each other. Who knows what 2017 will bring, but lets make sure that we’re the ones in control, that we keep the scene alive and keep oozing love into a world that is quickly breaking at the seams.