2011 was a year of general unrest and uncertainty — rioting and political upheaval throughout the world, a possible start to the collapse of the Eurozone, and on American soil, the Occupy Wall Street movement. On the arts front, the arrest of Chinese contemporary artist and political activist Ai Weiwei on charges of tax evasion sparked international protest. Despite the universal tensions on political and economic fronts, however, the entertainment industry somehow managed to maintain its golden world of sugar-coated pop and blockbuster films.
The music scene of 2011 was a dynamic one. In the sphere of pop, Lady Gaga continued to impress and intrigue, and Katy Perry, the first woman to have five songs from a single album come out as #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 List, also showed us that she has a bit of a more serious side with “The One That Got Away.” Fresher faces like Adele wowed us with her soulful sophomore album 21 (and tearjerker song “Someone Like You”); on the opposite end of the talent spectrum, Rebecca Black’s “Friday” went viral on YouTube. Later in the year, the music world was rocked by the death of Amy Winehouse. Her album Back to Black almost immediately became bestselling in the UK, and a posthumous compilation album, Lioness: Hidden Treasures, was released at the end of the year.
The highest-grossing movies of the year were almost all sequels or parts of series. At the top of the list was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, which raked in $381 million at the US box office. It was followed by Transformers: Dark of the Moon, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn Part 1, The Hangover Part 2, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. If films were not incredibly innovative this year, however, television made up for that. Notable new shows on the scene included American Horror Story, Revenge, New Girl, Game of Thrones, Homeland, and British import Downton Abbey.
Excitement in the realm of high fashion kicked off with John Galliano’s fall from grace, as his alleged anti-Semitic rant at a Paris bar caused him to lose his position at Christian Dior. The late Alexander McQueen caught the eyes of the world in a few different ways: Kate Middleton marched down the aisle in a Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen-designed gown, and the summer exhibition Savage Beauty, a retrospective on the designer’s work, brought in hundreds of thousands of visitors to the Metropolitan Museum of Art over the course of three months. Fashion for the average consumer, on the other hand, remained unremarkably static, as flare jeans tried to make a comeback but never really succeeded in getting past the supermodel market.
2011 in arts, comfortably following in the footsteps of an equally comfortable 2010, was business as usual.