For the first time, we are taking a look at the biggest influencers and shakers of social media and internet waters. Who dropped the most singularly beloved songs, who produced the wildest beef, and who brought down torrents of love, only to reel them back in weeks later. Here are 10 Musicians Who Broke the Internet in 2018.
Donald Glover: “This Is America”
It didn’t matter how fortified you were, how strong your playlists, or how verified Donald Glover’s talent was already, because when he released the Gambino single and music video “This Is America”, the internet simply broke. Everywhere, gentle cries of help, such as “I can’t stop watching this video” and “Who was I before ‘This Is America?” were being heard from the Twitter sphere, while the YouTube views counter just kept on ticking (still, the link to watch “This Is America” sits atop my Google suggestions, as my browser hasn’t forgotten the span of days when I, too, was trapped). Now, upwards of 421 million views later, “This Is America” remains one of the biggest, think-piece, meme generating tracks of 2018.
Cardi B: The Shoe
The feud between Cardi B and Nicki Minaj had been simmering at best, that was, until New York Fashion Week. At an event the two attended, Cardi was reportedly trying to speak to Nicki, to squash some rumors the fellow NY rapper had been spreading about Cardi—supposedly. But what happened?: Cardi THREW. HER. SHOE. at Nicki and her guards. The photos are… not the most flattering towards the “Bodak Yellow” artist, but I have to say, there’s a part of me that hasn’t stopped laughing about it since. Look, we want to be fair: Cardi has broken the internet several times this year, mostly for her music and record breaking chart climbs. This little feud will likely be forgotten over the course of Cardi’s long career. But for now, we can’t help but love the beef.
Pusha T: The Story of Adidon
Speaking of beef! Pusha’s response to Drake’s “Duppy Freestyle” pretty much cratered the internet that day. Not only was the chosen “artwork” for “The Story of Adidon” a photo of Drake in blackface, but Push went straight for Drake’s gut and reputation as an overall good guy, by outing him as a father. At the time, Drake had yet to publicly acknowledge Adonis, his son he had with a French woman named Sophie Brussaux back in October 2017. But because of Push’s diss track, Drake was forced to confront the notion of fatherhood in his most recent LP, Scorpion. “The Story of Adidon” is a crafty, well written and examined piece of music from Push, who managed to layer in his contention, provocation, and the truth. I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again: Pusha T continues to be one of the most underrated rappers of his generation.
Nicki Minaj: Chun-Li on SNL
It’s not an easy time to be a musician, or artist in general, when the spears of political correctness are ever waving, and sharpening—depending on the day. But if anyone is going to try and provoke her fans to question her prowess, it’s Nicki Minaj, who fearlessly strutted upon the SNL stage, with a fleet of Asian warriors behind her, all of them clad in cultural garb, with an Asian-style pavilion as the set. Predictably, it took no time at all for people to beg the question: Did Nicki commit cultural appropriation? Does the famed Queens-MC need to be “cancelled”? Queue her fandom, who reminded the world: Nicki’s grandfather is of Japanese descent! Nicki has always felt a kinship with the Streetfighter, Chun-Li! But what finally shut everyone up? Nicki Minaj must’ve passed some PC bar, as she will be ending this season of SNL as the final musical guest. And that’s all Nicki has to say about that.
Madonna: The Aretha Tribute
Look, the MTV VMA producers didn’t have a lot of time between the death of Aretha Franklin and the airing of the annual awards show, making it pretty difficult to line up a proper tribute. But, it’s MTV we’re talking about, one of the biggest companies in entertainment media: Could they really, not do any better than sending Madonna out there, to simply “wing it”? Well, that will probably be the last time they trust a musician—even one as timeless and respected as Madonna—to deliver a moment of this importance without at least checking her story first. Because what was meant to be a touching moment to honor the late Queen of Soul, became a confusing, self-centered rant about how difficult it was for Madonna to enter the industry. Boo.
We have to hand it to Drake. Even with “The Story of Adidon” drama fresh on everyone’s minds, Drake managed to subvert the narrative, and refocus attention on his lyrical and hit-making ability. Scorpion arrived. And with it, Drake managed to break a few incredible records, the latest being one that was held for over half a century. Drake has now had 12 songs reach the top ten of the US Billboard Hot 100 chart in 2018, the most that one artist has ever had in a single year. Who held this record, previously? The Beatles. Drake topped the charts this year three times with singles “Nice for What”, “God’s Plan”, and “In My Feelings”. Not to mention that Scorpion was streamed over 50 billion times. Still on tour with Migos, Drake even managed to perform one of Adele’s favorite concerts of all time. Despite the drama, people just can’t help but love him.
Oof, where to begin. Bewildered, blonde Kanye in the lobby of Trump Tower? Red, MAGA hat-wearing Kanye, strolling through the streets of Calabasas? Candace Owens-collaborating Kanye? Blexit? It’s been a tumultuous year for Kanye West fans, who’ve had to develop some strong muscles to perform the mental gymnastics of forgiving, or at least being ambivalent, towards his political engagement. Because he is Kanye, we care. We can’t help it. But on Hallows Eve, Kanye Tweeted the words we’ve been waiting for: “I am distancing myself from politics and completely focusing on being creative!!!” Was this all one giant misstep? Or a very long trolling of his fans? Or some twisted PR stunt? I guess we’ll have to wait for Yandhi to find out.
When Ariana Grande and Pete Davidson announced their engagement within weeks of their relationship being public, we decided to believe them, to encourage and swoon over their affectionate acts, the T.V appearances, the Tweets. When Ariana Grande dropped her incredible album Sweetener, there was even a song dedicated to Pete Davidson, further immortalizing their relationship. But then… what?! It’s over?! HOW?! Though we’ve seen Davidson deal with the breakup through tattoo removal and SNL skits, we have yet to hear from the pop princess since their split. But even without word from Ariana Grande, the internet continues to break down for her, for them, those two lovebirds hailing from rival Hogwarts houses. Will we ever learn to trust again?
The NBA All-Star game. A time for festivity, for stunting, for fun. All was well, going as planned, until the very beginning, actually, when it was time for everyone to stand for The National Anthem. This year, former Black Eyed Peas member Fergie was enlisted for the job. No one thought twice about how this performance could go wrong, how it could become complicated, confusing even. Until Fergie began, and we had to helplessly stand by with our hands over our hearts, as she maimed one of our country’s founding songs. By attempting to “jazz” up the timeless tune, the result was something of a tumble dry disaster. But at least it caused this hilarious video of the Golden State Warriors dancing to the “Fergie Anthem Remix”.
It’s as if BTS owns their own machine for breaking the internet, one which remained hidden for quite some time, as its been half a decade since BTS formed as a group. But as BTS continues to break their own records, it’s becoming clear what mechanisms are behind their success, one being their passionate social fanbase, who style themselves as the “ARMY” and eagerly consume anything related to the group. For example, the YouTube views within 24 hours for their music video “Fake Love” almost surpassed Taylor Swift’s and Psy’s all-time records—by no means a small feat. It’s only a matter of time before the “ARMY” has stronger roots in the U.S, bolstering their followers by the millions.