Most Surprising British Music Moments of 2010

Thankfully, 2010 had no shockers on the level of Michael Jackson‘s death, but there were a few moments that raised eyebrows this year. We saw the reunions of Pulp, Suede, and The Libertines and the disbanding of Supergrass. We heard that Glastonbury would be cancelled in 2012 due to the London Olympics claiming all of Britain’s port-a-potties that summer. (Holy crap!) And, of course, we witnessed UK boy band Take That selling an astonishing 1 million tickets in one day for their reunion tour with prodigal son Robbie Williams.

Here are some of our favorite British music surprises of 2010. What were yours?

5. Doctor Who Star Matt Smith Plays with Orbital at Glastonbury

 We knew Matt Smith was pretty cool, but just how cool wasn’t apparent until the new Doctor Who star turned up on stage at the end of Orbital‘s set during this year’s Glastonbury music festival in England. Smith announced to cheering fans that the electronic duo would play one more song, shouting “Let’s make it count.” And make it count they did. Backed by a spectacular laser show, Orbital played a special remix of the Doctor Who theme song with Matt manning the keyboards.

Yes, I’m still investigating where I can get that awesome coat Matt was wearing for his appearance. Watch it here:

4. Amy Winehouse Declares Producer Mark Ronson “Dead To Her” on Twitter

 If Amy Winehouse‘s public life could be summed up in an album title, it would be Jane’s Addiction‘s Nothing’s Shocking. From brawling with fans to wandering London streets half-naked, we’ve seen it all from her. But her Twitter outburst against her quite likeable producer Mark Ronson back in September left even her most jaded followers bewildered.

Winehouse ostensibly took umbrage with Ronson’s seemingly innocuous interview on Live with Jools Holland, in which he discussed collaborating with her on her 2007 album Back to Black: “Working with someone like Amy Winehouse, she would come to me with just a song on an acoustic guitar and then you’d kind of dream up the rhythm arrangements and the track around it, all sorts of things. It’s really different, artist to artist.” Winehouse responded with a spicy, early-morning tweet hours later: “ronson
you’re dead to me; one album i write an you take half the credit — make a career out of it? don’t think so BRUV.” Winehouse later made up with Ronson, but it was still a massive head-scratcher.

3. Mick Hucknall Replaces Rod Stewart in Faces Reunion…To Rave Reviews

 Faces were one of the most fondly remembered British bands of the early ’70s. But when they decided to do a reunion tour without their frontman Rod Stewart, critics wondered who could possibly replace him. On May 25th, it was announced that Mick Hucknall from Simply Red would step in. If you were listening hard enough that day, you could faintly hear the collective global groan from dejected Faces fans. Could Hucknall, with his Bozo ‘fro, shine in the shadow of Rod the walking erection?

But – shocker – Hucknall won over both fans and critics when Faces finally played their shows back in August. The Evening Standard‘s Rick Pearson said, “Unveiling a vocal with more gravel than a driveway, Hucknall’s rock ‘n’ roll makeover was startling. If you closed your eyes — and closing them was recommended given how the group looks nowadays — it could almost have been Stewart circa 1975.” We will never doubt Hucknall again, unless he ever attempts to wear spandex pants. To watch Hucknall’s performances with the band, click here.

2. Singer Cheryl Cole Contracts Malaria

 Pop star and X Factor judge Cheryl Cole has had a rough year. There was the brutal split from her unfaithful footballer husband Ashley Cole, which kept her in the tabloids. In July, after she went on holiday with Dancing with the Stars hoofer Derek Hough in Tanzania, she collapsed on the set of X Factor and was hospitalized with malaria. According to reports, the illness proved nearly fatal.

However, as Dame Elizabeth Taylor will tell you, any starlet worth her white diamonds needs a near-death experience to secure true diva status, and the health scare only lifted Cole’s profile. And in her first post-recovery appearance, Cheryl looked better than ever. (Malaria spa treatments will be the hot new trend in 2011. Watch.) Like her U.S. counterpart Beyoncé, Cheryl’s a survivor, and I suspect she’ll be with us a very long time. When that meteor smashes into Britain, the only things left behind will be cockroaches, Keith Richards, The Sun newspaper, and Cheryl Cole.

1. Sir Elton John Plays the Rush Limbaugh Nuptials

 Sir Elton John is openly gay and an outspoken activist. Radio host Rush Limbaugh is hardly sensitive to LGBT issues, to put it mildly. So when
the Grammy-winning singer/songwriter decided to perform at the right-wing pundit’s wedding in June, many were left a bit confused. Was this comparable to Elton’s 2001 Grammy duet with Eminem, an attempt to break bread with a notorious “homophobe”? Or had he simply become a high-priced “Wedding Singer” — at any cost?

Elton told The Daily Telegraph it was the former: “Limbaugh’s not anti-civil partnerships, so maybe I can have a dialogue about that. I’ve put my foot in the water and so has he. I got on with him very well, got on very well with his wife. I don’t have the same politics, but that doesn’t really matter. And I think this year I can start to put things in motion by trying to get him on my side.”

Elton reportedly took home $1 million for the gig.

What was the most surprising British music moment of 2010?

Kevin Wicks

Kevin Wicks founded BBCAmerica.com's Anglophenia blog back in 2005 and has been translating British culture for an American audience ever since. While not British himself - he was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri - he once received inordinate hospitality in London for sharing the name of a dead but beloved EastEnders character. His Anglophilia stems from a high school love of Morrissey, whom he calls his "gateway drug" into British culture.

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