12 Unexpected Moments From The Year In Music 2023 - Features - Mixmag

12 Unexpected Moments From The Year In Music 2023

Some of the most surprising stories from the past 12 months

  • Words: Patrick Hinton, Megan Townsend, Gemma Ross, Becky Buckle, Tibor Heskett | Design: Keenen Sutherland, Tomi Tomchenko
  • 21 December 2023

The world increasingly makes less and less sense, with stocks in simulation theory on the up in the recent years, given the spate of bewildering true stories we're now regularly exposed to. It's not uncommon that we're met with earth-shattering revelations and then just have to go on about our day like nothing's happened. Other times the stakes are lower, but nonetheless puzzing.

We've already covered the bangers that blew our minds on the dancefloor this year — but what about the stories on our screens? See our picks for 12 of the most unexpected moments from the world of music this year in the list below.

50 Cent sponsoring an under-14 girl's football team in Wales

Known for his rap hits ‘In Da Club’, ‘P.I.M.P’ and many more, 50 Cent has now added another milestone to his career: sponsoring an under-14 girl’s football team in Cardiff, Wales. Joining the likes of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney, 50 Cent has jumped onto an apparent trend of Americans investing in Welsh football. The opportunity for the team - AFC Rumney - came after a parent of one of the players asked the rapper if he would like to sponsor the team. The US rap superstar surprisingly agreed, and the kids saw their kit updated with the rapper's insignia and his rap group - G-Unit - logo embossed. The Cardiff-based team are reportedly “over the moon” with the surprise sponsorship.

André 3000 releases debut solo album (and it’s all flutes)

In fairness, a debut solo album from André 3000 had practically reached mythical status among fans, who’d been waiting nearly two decades for a new full-length release from the Southern hip hop icon, so the fact it’s all new-age flute melodies makes sense in some respect. There had been hints of this coming, with many of 3 Stacks’ public sightings in recent years revolving around him playing a flute in incongruous locations like an airport or Starbucks. But still, when the album dropped in November featuring no raps and a series of pleasant, calming melodies played on a selection of flutes and digital wind instruments, we were still a little taken aback. This is one of the most skilled rappers in history, famous for declaring “The South got something to say”, and it sounded more suited to a yoga studio than Rolling Loud (sample track title: 'I swear, I Really Wanted To Make A "Rap" Album But This Is Literally The Way The Wind Blew Me This Time'). Still, times and people change, and perhaps there’s a lesson there for fans to not clamour too hard or force their own expectations on an artist — build up an album like folklore, you might just get folk music.

Berghain bouncer Sven Marquadt makes a cameo in John Wick 4

Fans of the Keanu Reeves-starring John Wick series were waiting in anticipation for the fourth film to hit theatres in March this year, but there was a special treat in store for the venn diagram of cinema goers who are also partial to a Klubnacht — as Berghain's bouncer, Sven Marquardt appeared on screens for a brief cameo in John Wick 4. With scenes set in German capital, it made sense to include one of Berlin nightlife’s most recognisable figures within the movie, playing an almost caricature of his infamous real-life persona; Sven plays a Ruska Roma gangster named Klaus, who is an associate of John Wick’s adoptive sister Katia in the film, taking John to an underground venue, complete with booming techno — but not before giving him a slap across the face. Sven has just one line in the film, that he mutters repeatedly: “I am Klaus.” While we’re not advising Sven to give up the day job just yet, it was both a surprise and a treat to see him make his silver screen debut. We dare you to say “I am Klaus” to Sven when you next get to the front of the Berghain queue.

Daft Punk release “drumless” versions of ‘Random Access Memories’

Have you ever gotten yourself a cold drink, opened the windows to let a fresh breeze of air into your living room, sat yourself down in your favourite chair for your bi-weekly listen of Daft Punk’s Sound of The Summer 2k13 anthem ‘Get Lucky’ and thought “you know what would make this moment even more perfect? Bin the percussion.” No? Us neither. Yet, as the definitely, 100%, not working together anymore Robots continue their streak of back-catalogue reissues, Guy Manuel and Thomas made the decision to release their seminal last record ‘Random Access Memories’ in its entirety, sans drums. Yes, I’m sure this was a joy for those wanting to download the record and play around with their drum machine, but the ‘Random Access Memories: Drumless Edition’ was met with bewilderment for the other 99.99% of us. Some reviewers commented that the removal of drums from the record adds to the emotional air of the duo’s fourth studio record, while others labelled it “unfulfilling”. While ‘Get Lucky’ retains much of its core in the new edition, tracks like ‘Contact’ - that originally had a booming, rave-adjacent drum solo take up a good portion of the track, is near-unrecognisable — while there’s a quiet irony on the Nile Rodgers-featuring ‘Lose Yourself To Dance’ without its signature hats and bolshy kicks. Regardless of your thoughts, Daft Punk’s decision to release the record in this way was most certainly a choice.

Four Tet, Fred again.. and Skrillex sell out Madison Square Garden in 2 minutes then headline Coachella

We all knew that Four Tet, Fred again.. and Skrillex were superstars when ‘Rumble’ came out in the beginning of this year, but the level of their stardom truly hit when they sold out their headline Madison Square Garden in just two minutes this year. This is the DJ boy band that we didn’t know the world needed, the One Direction for Bangarang bros. Stunts including a surprise Times Square show and follow-up performing the legendary Sunday Coachella closing slot as OMG TBA have only heightened their legend. They're no longer DJs, they're rock stars (just, the polite kind).

Fugees’ member Pras Michel's federal conspiracy trial

Ready Or Not, everyone was in for a shock when they heard the news of Pras Michel’s court case in 2023. The Fugees member made the unusual decision to testify at his own federal conspiracy trial in April where he told the court that he had met and shared information with the FBI voluntarily in regards to China’s efforts to extradite Guo Wengui, a dubious self-proclaimed Beijing dissident who is wanted in his home nation on fraud charges. The 50-year-old hip hop legend was found guilty of conspiracy and acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign government, after he already found himself in hot water for an alleged $4.5 billion money laundering scheme (Fugees reportedly had to cancel their reunited world tour due to the scandal). Pras was also accused of funnelling money from Malaysian billionaire Jho Low into Barack Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, and lobbying Trump’s administration to drop an ongoing investigation into Low and the activity of his 1MDB investment company. But to end such a bonkers case, Pras’ latest lawyer is actually seeking a retrial after being found guilty of all 10 criminal conspiracy charges he was facing because, and he claims, his lawyer used an AI-generated script to write his closing argument, botching the case.

Jai Paul’s live debut

After Jai Paul had fleetingly returned to music with the double single ‘Do You Love Her Now / He’ in 2019, only to slink back from the public eye once more, it was hard to predict or expect when he would come back. In the nine years since works that would’ve comprised his first album were leaked to the public, Paul has cut a covert and mysterious figure, with the aforementioned single one of the only moments when he had broken his silence.2023 has marked a different story, as the cult singer-songwriter has broken out of his mysterious cocoon and blossomed into the pop star live act we’ve been waiting for, making his live debut at Coachella before taking his show to London’s HERE at Outernet and a couple dates in New York. A very welcome surprise, and hopefully a springboard to more Jai Paul in our lives here on out.

Katie Middleton raving at Houghton

Perhaps the most fever dream entry on this list? Houghton, a festival best known for obscure minimal deep cuts and sesh gremlins making the most of its nonstop license, and Kate MIddleton, the future Queen best known for having a meddling mum that engineered her place among the British empire’s violent colonial legacy — a real Beauty and the Beast (respectively) tale. We could take Tyson Fury at Gottwood in our stride, but if someone said they’d spotted Kate Middleton while we were at this very Houghton, we wouldn’t have been having it for a second. It’s exactly the sort of made up nonsense that people spread as rumours for a laugh around a festival site where lack of phone signal and depleting brain cells means you might just get away with it. But lo and behold, proof emerged, and Kate really had wandered over from her mate’s country manor house Houghton Hall, the 1,000-acre grounds of which host the festival, to get in on a piece of the action. If we ever hear Perlon soundtracking a Royal event, we’ll know why.

MF DOOM lived in Leeds

After the shock that we all faced entering 2021 to find that every rapper’s favourite rapper MF DOOM had passed away earlier in the year, the tragic story had some surprising new details emerge this year. It was confirmed in an article from local news outlet Leeds Live that the famously anonymous rap icon, who came up amid the US East Coast rap scene in the '90s, had been living in Leeds at the time of his death in October 2020, where he sadly passed after receiving substandard care in an NHS hospital. In a statement, DOOM’s wife confirmed that the family. including their five children, had moved to the UK from the United States in 2010. Born in Hounslow, DOOM had lived in the US for the majority of his life until he was refused re-entry into the country after travelling on his 2010 European tour. This denial of re-entry meant that DOOM was forced to move to the UK. I guess we’re all left wondering if DOOM ever went to a Leeds United game or had a stroll around Kirkstall Abbey.

Michael Bibi’s surprise appearance at DC-10

Following extensive treatment for a battle with a rare cancer type earlier this year, Michael Bibi made his highly emotional return to Ibiza in September where he joined the cast of Solid Grooves’ closing party at DC-10. Bibi’s surprise return saw him step behind the decks for the first time in almost four months, after he cancelled all upcoming shows in June and spent 100 days undergoing cancer treatment. The teary-eyed moment was first teased with a photo shared from a plane on the same day, later showing up at his beloved Solid Grooves event and into the arms of friends and family. Bibi played out a heartwarming pre-recorded message to fans in which he can be heard saying, lovingly: “Thank you from the bottom of my heart to every single person who’s been part of this journey”, before closing out the night with a pumping hour-long set. Since announcing he's cancer free earlier this month, the moment is even sweeter.

Music enters the AI uncanny valley

We knew the increasing influence of Articial Intelligence on our world has been on the cards for a while now, but we weren’t quite prepared for the jump it took in the music world this year. When listening to a snippet of a new joint by [Insert Popular Artist] on socials these days, you’re never quite sure whether it’s real or not without further investigation. In 2023 there’s been: a track deepfaking the voices of Drake and The Weeknd get millions of plays with rumours of a GRAMMY nod; Grimes openly inviting deepfakes (as long as she gets paid); a problematic AI rapper signed to a major label; other major labels scrambling to block AI from their IP while cutting deals to maintain their industry profit strangehold; even a tepidly received “AI rave”; and surveys indicating a majority of musicians admit they’re using AI while pretending not to. But there’s no pretending that AI in music is a field of theoretical forecasting anymore, we’re through the looking glass into music’s full-blown post-AI era.

Spanish Mayor is extremely pleased by massive six-day long illegal rave near his village

We’ve become so used to stories of overzealous arrests at illegal raves, curtain twitching residents and angry locals admonishing young people for waking them up in the middle of the night. So it was a real treat when we stumbled upon comments from Fernando Álvarez, the Mayor of La Peza - a tiny village in Spain’s Granada region - following a raucous six-day long rave that took place less than a mile from his village. The event, which took place from December 30 2022. until January 4 of this year and was attended by close to 6,000 people - nearly five times the 1,200 population of La Peza - would ordinarily have been met with concern from authorities. Instead Álvarez shared his “amazement” at the organisation of the event, telling The Guardian: “Frankly it was magnificently organised. It was like a small town. They had a bakery, pizzeria, clothing shops, people who would braid your hair – they had absolutely everything.” He added that he was not in opposition to the event, and instead felt that La Peza had received “six days of entertainment out of it,” and “that this incident has given us a bit of publicity and put us on the map.” Álvarez wasn’t the only local intrigued by the rave, with reports detailing that residents took it upon themselves to check out the party at different points throughout its run, with even an 80-year-old villager popping down for a dance.

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