The world is getting weirder. If you want proof then look no further than the stories below, which suggest we might have slipped into an alternative reality where everything we know has been turned on its head. Surrealists rejoice! Here are 10 of the weirdest music news stories of 2018.
'Woke' Axl becomes a thorn in the side of the Republicans
Anyone who thought Axl Rose was having a funny turn when he tweeted positively about International Women's Day last March could think again - in 2018 he proved the W in W. Axl Rose stands for woke. The controversial Guns N' Roses frontman proved he'd been keeping up with the US election/Russian interference story when in January he fired off a terse four-letter missive on Twitter at California Congressman Devin Nunes, the House Intelligence Committee chairman who'd been accused of alleged surveillance abuses.
The Appetite for Destruction singer reserved most of his ire for Donald Trump, though. When the president ripped into Jeff Sessions in September complaining that "we don't have an Attorney General", Axl retorted, "and we don’t have a President"; when Trump blamed poor forestry management for the California Wildfires, Axl tweeted: "Um, actually it's a lack of federal funding that's at the 'root' of the purported forest mismanagement. Only a demented n' truly pathetic individual would twist that around n' use a tragedy to once again misrepresent facts for attempted public/political gain at others' expense."
It was all a far cry from the besmirching of minority groups on the band's 1988 song One In A Million; in fact, as the Guardian reported [warning: contains adult language] Guns N' Roses pulled the offending track from a reissue of Lies in May because of racist and homophobic language.
Kanye becomes a MAGA player
If Rose was Trump's biggest detractor, then the US President's biggest advocate surfaced in the unlikely shape of hip hop superstar Kanye West, who was photographed wearing a Make America Great Again red baseball cap in April shortly after a flurry of tweets expressing "love" for his "brother" Donald. "Thank you Kanye, very cool!" tweeted the President, which prompted a wild exchange of following and unfollowing of West, oddly reminiscent of the conclusion of the movie Trading Places.
Ye appeared on Saturday Night Live in late September wearing the hat, using the platform to rant about his political views. That was followed up by a visit to the Oval Office in October, where he was filmed proselytising in front of the leader of the free world, also in the now familiar cap. By the end of October he seemed to have had a change of heart, tweeting: "My eyes are now wide open and now realise I've been used to spread messages I don’t believe in. I am distancing myself from politics and completely focussing on being creative!!!"
Grimes and Elon Musk start dating
There are celebrity relationships that fall towards the Nick Cave/Polly Harvey "but aren’t they the same person?" end of the spectrum, and some that enter the Gabriela Cheeky/Lembit Opik omg?! end of the spectrum. Grimes and Elon Musk, who emerged together at the Met Gala in May looking like a pair of extras from Beetlejuice, were nearer the Touch My Bum/former Liberal Democrat MP interface end. It was such a surprise that nobody in the media thought to give a cutesy portmanteau to the indie star and Tesla CEO, like Grusk, or Muimes. Then rapper Azealia Banks started hanging out with the couple and claimed that "staying at Elon Musk’s house [is] like a real life episode of Get Out", as Bilboard reported. Naturally we all covered our eyes in faux indignation before falling down a Google rabbit hole for the next 45 minutes trying to figure out exactly what went on.
Sharks go crazy for Count Basie
May got weirder still when reports came from Australia that sharks dig jazz. The amply-gilled big fish reputedly have to keep moving to stay alive, though now it looks as though it's less about survival and more to do with the fact they're bopping to Mingus Big Band's Haitian Fight Song. The Macquarie University Fish Lab set up tests where the animals were rewarded with food, and the underwater jazz station got plenty more action than all other forms of music.
Dr Dre v Dr Drai
May ended badly for Dr Dre, when the legendary hip hop producer was informed by the US Trademark Office that Dr Drai, a Pennsylvanian gynecologist, could continue to practice under his nearly identical moniker. The former NWA man had tried to stop Dr. Draion M. Burch - author of the book 20 Things You May Not Know About the Vagina - from trademarking the name. Dre said the public could become confused given the similarity of the names, while Burch countered that the public would be just fine "because Dr Dre is not a medical doctor nor is he qualified to provide any type of medical services or sell products specifically in the medical or healthcare industry" (reported by the Guardian). The trademark office agreed. It might have been bad news for the rap entrepreneur, though at least now courtrooms won't be filled with the likes of Dr. Alban and Dr. Hook demanding exclusivity on their names. After all, Doctor and the Medics could have the entire NHS over a barrel.
Screamadelica v #Sadmanonatrain
If looks could kill then Andrew Neil and Michael Portillo would be six feet under by now, martyred to the cause of dad dancing. Primal Scream's Bobby Gillespie cut an incongruous figure on the BBC This Week sofa in November. There to share with Neil, Portillo and Caroline Flint MP his fears regarding a hard Brexit, Gillespie opined that politics was going backwards and drew comparisons with the 1930s. Then, quick as a flash, Bobby G was encouraged to get to his feet for a Skibidi dance off, as the credits rolled. Never one to be told what to do, Gillespie sat stoney-faced, refusing to get his rocks off. Neil, Flint and the man Neil likes to call #sadmanonatrain, threw shapes while snake-hips Gillespie projected venomous stares at the political classes. One presumes he didn't hang around when they cracked open the Blue Nun either.
Threatin the back of the van
Perhaps the weirdest story in a weird year, which somehow epitomises 2018, is the one about a European tour by emerging act Threatin. The US metal singer flew into the UK in order to rock out in venues populated by absolutely no fans whatsoever. So how did that happen, you might ask?
Jered Threatin, the brains behind "the band" Threatin, created for himself an online presence that conveyed popularity, thanks in part to nearly 40,000 Facebook likes, thought with hindsight to have mostly been paid for. Threatin also pre-paid the bookings for shows on his Breaking The World tour for venues such as the London Underworld, the Bristol Exchange and the Belfast Empire. The story soon broke around the world, though the only people who will be able to say in future that they were at these infamous gigs are the duped support acts, the bar staff and the bouncers who were awaiting a busy night when the Threatin tour rolled into town. Oh, and the odd straggler too. "What happened to the 291 advanced ticket sales your agent said you'd sold?" the London Underworld posted on Threatin's Facebook page. "THREE PEOPLE turned up."
What Jered Threatin hoped to achieve with this stunt is still open to conjecture. Was it a jape straight out of the KLF handbook of art pranks? Was it hubris? Or is he just a bored and dastardly criminal genius with no moral compass? "What is Fake News?" tweeted Threatin, not helping matters. "I turned an empty room into an international headline. If you are reading this, you are part of the illusion."
Ce-line of fire
The world's best-selling French Canadian singer, Céline Dion, caused a surprising amount of kerfuffle when she launched a children's gender-neutral clothing line in November. Dion had opposition on two fronts: firstly from conspiracy theorists suggesting the designs are a clear indication she's in league with the Illuminati; and secondly from fundamentalist Christians who believe she’s doing the devil's work.
The National Catholic Register in Alabama consulted a real life exorcist to canvas his opinion on Celine's kiddie clothing range. Msgr. John Esseff, an exorcist in the Diocese of Scranton, Pennsylvania for more than 40 years, said: "When a child is born, what is the first things we say about that child? It's a boy, or it's a girl. That is the most natural thing in the world to say. But to say that there is no difference is satanic."
Msgr. Esseff added: "People behind this are influencing children to disorder. This is definitely satanic. There is a mind behind it - an organized mindset. The devil is a liar and there are huge lies being told. This is being done for money, and there is divisiveness that comes from this - marks of the devil."
Last year the Irish Herald was forced to apologise when it used a picture of the double Brit award winning rapper Stormzy in a Manchester United top instead of Manchester United's actual £75 million signing, the Belgian striker, Romelu Lukaku. But the Daily Mirror arguably went one better in November when announcing the headliners for the Reading and Leeds Festivals. Rapper Post Malone is one such headliner, though as the Independent writer Roisin O'Connor pointed out on Twitter, the image the Daily Mirror used to represent Post Malone wasn't in fact Post Malone at all, but actually Rita Ora dressed up as Post Malone for Halloween. To be fair her costume won lots of plaudits!
Ariana Grande v Piers Morgan
Twitter can be a tempestuous place, and as an open platform it can throw up the odd surprise when celebrities from seemingly different worlds tussle in public. Perhaps the most gob-smacking spat of the year came in November when Billboard's Woman of the Year, Ariana Grande, squared up to Piers Morgan. The Good Morning Britain host had taken a pop at Little Mix for a picture in which they posed nude.
"I use my talent AND my sexuality all the time because I choose to," Grande tweeted at Morgan. "Women can be sexual AND talented, naked AND dignified. It's OUR choice & we will keep fighting til people understand."
"Of course women can do what they like," Morgan responded, "but if they/you use nudity to sell their records to impressionable young female fans, I'll continue to call them/you out on it."
Then came the knockout punch from Ariana. "I look forward to the day you realise there are other ways to go about making yourself relevant than to criticize young, beautiful successful women. I think that'll be a beautiful thing for you and your career, or what's left of it."
Just as Piers ran to find some ointment to treat the burn, Grande posted a picture of Morgan in a loincloth for a 2009 burger chain promotion, and wrote: "When you do it, it's ok tho, right?"