An obvious choice to start off with, but a very important one all the same. It’s not unfair to say that 2018 has been yet another unimaginably difficult for Ariana Grande, following the death of ex-boyfriend Mac Miller and end of her engagement to Pete Davidson, who has since spoken candidly about his own mental health struggles in the wake of the break-up.
True to form, Ariana has handled every obstacle thrown her way with dignity and strength, but has also been unafraid to speak out about her vulnerability, never hiding her emotions or pretending she’s found any of life’s hurdles easy.
She’s also been able to channel her hardships in her music, not just on her fourth album ‘Sweetener’, where she sings about the aftermath of the 2017 Manchester attack, but also on follow-up ‘Thank U, Next’, which all signs indicate will be her most powerful and personal work to date.
Want to see more? Check out the ‘No Tears Left To Cry’ music video here.
It might seem like an understatement, but Donald Glover - also known by his musical alter-ego Childish Gambino - has been a busy boy in 2018.
In addition to near enough breaking the internet with his unsettling and thought-provoking ‘This Is America’ music video, which spawned a million and one think-pieces about race, police brutality and the state of the Western world, he’s also been working hard as an actor, playing Lando Calrissian in ‘Star Wars’ origin story ‘Solo’ and starring in the second series of his acclaimed sitcom ‘Atlanta’.
He’s ended the year on a high, with a Golden Globe nomination for ‘Atlanta’, as well as five nods at the upcoming Grammys, including Record Of The Year and Best Music Video.
Want to see more? Check out the ‘This Is America’ music video here.
Hannah Gadsby’s Netflix special ‘Nanette’ was undoubtedly the comedy moment of 2018, which is impressive, given she spends the entire thing talking about why she’s no longer pursuing comedy.
Sure, there are laughs, but ‘Nanette’ is so much more than your run-of-the-mill stand-up show. Over the course of her relatively short set, the Australian comic tackles a number of important issues, from gender identity and sexuality to societal complacency towards sexual abuse and prejudice.
It isn’t always a comfortable watch, but it is an important one, with Hannah sparking conversations about prevalent themes in 2018 that often go overlooked and undiscussed.
Want to see more? Check out the trailer for ‘Nanette’ here.
Even some ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ fans were surprised at just how well Courtney Act came across during her stint on ‘Celebrity Big Brother’ at the beginning of 2018.
During her time in the house, Courtney won over both her fellow contestants and the viewing public with her frank discussions around topics like gender and sexual identity, tackling the subjects in an articulate, informative way, always being approachable while never verging on patronising or pandering.
Following her deserved win, Courtney has gone on to speak out about important social issues in interviews, as well as fronting the E! dating series ‘The Bi Life’, which is no small feat, given just how many similar shows don’t feature members of the LGBT+ community.
Her own variety series is coming to Channel 4 in 2019, so she won’t be going anywhere just yet.
Want to see more? Check out Courtney’s interview on ‘BUILD’ from earlier this year here.
Throughout her music career, Lizzo has always been all about body positivity and self-empowerment, and in 2018, her message reached a bigger audience than ever before.
With more eyes on her, Lizzo doubled-down on her mission statement, in her song ‘Fitness’ as well as its accompanying music video, in which she attempted to represent as many women of different races, shapes and sizes as possible.
“This is my Declaration of Independence from the bullshit!” she tweeted, of the ‘Fitness’ video. “I hope to inspire women all over to put themselves first. And next time someone has a critique about you or your body, say ‘I don’t do this for you’!”
As always, though, Lizzo brought the fun factor with her follow-up singles ‘Boys’ and ‘Karaoke’, her guest judging spot on ‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ and her various festival appearances in 2018. Fingers crossed 2019 will be an even bigger year for one of our musical faves...
Want to see more? Watch the ‘Boys’ music video here.
All eyes were on Declan Donnelly this April when, for the first time in his co-presenting career, he was forced to fly solo for the final two episodes of ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’.
Everyone had questions: how would Dec fare by himself? Would he address Ant’s absence? Would their presenting style stand up with only one of them?
As it turned out, Dec quickly garnered praise for his presenting style, and reminded anyone who had begun to take for granted how capable and talented he and Ant are at what they do just how strong they are as TV presenters.
He later went on to win plaudits for his solo hosting stint on ‘Britain’s Got Talent’, as well as co-presenting ‘I’m A Celebrity’ with Holly Willoughby.
We’ll be happy to see Ant and Dec reunited in 2019, of course, but we have to applaud the latter for rising to the occasion and not caving under pressure.
Want to see more? Check out Dec flying solo on ‘Saturday Night Takeaway’ here.
Christine And The Queens
You hear a lot about the so-called “difficult second album” when it comes to successful singer/songwriters, but when it came to her sophomore effort, chanteuse Héloïse Letissier picked up where she left off in 2014 and ran with it.
Reinventing her Christine And The Queens persona as the shortened “Chris”, her second album saw her exploring prominent and relevant themes of gender and identity, with her more masculine alter-ego making its debut in the collection’s stunning visuals like ‘Girlfriend’, ‘5 Dollars’ and ‘The Walker’.
Already known for her live performances, Christine also totally upped her game in that arena too, delivering choreography that harked back to 80s superstars like Janet and Michael Jackson, while also alluding to her album’s key themes.
With some of her biggest gigs yet already in the diary for 2019, we can’t wait to see what she pulls out of the bag next.
Want to see more? Check out the music video for ‘The Walker’ here.
Admittedly, Stormzy’s strong 2018 came off the back of what had already been an impressive preceding 12 months, but even without a new album to promote, he was untouchable this last year.
Take his show-stopping Brit Awards performance, for example. He didn’t just give a stunning and moving rendition of ‘Blinded By Your Grace’, including the night’s most elaborate staging, he also lampooned Theresa May’s government for what he felt was a lacklustre effort in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Indeed, away from his musical career, he’s one of a handful of stars who has done their bit to try and keep Grenfell in the headlines as much as possible, while also collaborating with Cambridge University on a new scholarship deal for aspiring black students.
And with a headlining slot at Glastonbury 2019 and new music supposedly on the way, he’s showing no signs of slowing down.
Want to see more? Check out ‘Blinded By Your Grace’ and ‘Big For Your Boots’ live from the Brit Awards here.
This seems almost flippant to say about a true crime drama, but Kathleen Zellner was unquestionably the star of ‘Making A Murderer Part 2’.
Not only is she an incredible established lawyer – she’s overturned 19 convictions in her career, more than any other attorney in America – she also makes for excellent television, whether she’s deadpanning about the flaws in the Steven Avery trial, picking apart the prosecution’s argument with impressive precision or even just going about her business, perfectly coiffed and manicured, in Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
Even now that ‘Part 2’ is over (and ‘Part 3’ is, we hope, starting to come together), Zellner is still protesting Steven Avery’s innocence, both in her frequent social media posts and her behind-the-scenes work.
And frankly, if Netflix isn’t already lining her up for a spin-off, they’re missing a trick.
Want to see more? Check out the ‘Making A Murderer Part 2’ trailer here.
‘The Fab Five’
It’s hard to imagine that when Netflix’s ‘Queer Eye’ reboot was first announced, we actually questioned whether it was really necessary in 2018.
At a time of political unrest and social divisions, we did not anticipate that ‘Queer Eye’ would be such a ray of light, showing unlikely friendships and important conversations, but the true success of the show lies in the chemistry of the new Fab Five, who carry each episode.
A viral tweet this year compared the Fab Five to One Direction, but we think they’re more like the Spice Girls, with everyone who loves the show having their one favourite, often based on which of them they relate to the most. Within the group, there’s the worldly and knowledgable Karamo, the chilled-out (and very handsome, it should be noted) Antoni, the effortlessly cool Tan, the always-effervescent and insightful Jonathan and Bobby, the one who basically shifts the planet on its axis without breaking a sweat.
The five-piece represent so much to a lot of people, but we’ve loved seeing a such a diverse group from within the LGBT+ community (even if, it should be noted, all five are cisgender men) getting along so well and having fun together.
Long may they reign.
Want to see more? Check out the Fab Five’s interview on ‘BUILD’ here.
Oh, it was all going so well, wasn’t it? She sounded great, her staging was impressive without being OTT and even the Eurovision crowd were singing her song right back at her. What could go wrong, eh?
Well, one stage invasion later, and that question was answered. But where countless would have caved under the pressure, ran off stage or broken down in tears, SuRie channelled the chaos and confusion she felt in the moment into finishing her song, and delivering a great performance.
Sadly, the rest of the world didn’t quite get behind this display of great strength and resilience (the UK eventually finished third from bottom of the overall leaderboard), but even when though she wasn’t able to land Britain our first Eurovision win in more than 20 years, SuRie still got a much-deserved hero’s welcome when she touched down at home.
Want to see more? Check out HuffPost UK’s interview with SuRie here.
Like the aforementioned Stormzy, Kendrick Lamar is a rapper whose big 2018 was preceded by an already-huge 2017, but the accolades he managed to scoop for last year’s ‘DAMN.’ are seriously impressive.
As well as taking home Grammys, Kendrick opened the show with another of his typically-elaborate and surreal performances, which included political commentary and a guest appearance from comedian Dave Chappelle. He went on to be named Best International Male at the Brit Awards (during which he delivered another big performance, though this one was met with a more mixed response), and took ‘DAMN.’ on tour around the UK.
Oh, and did we mention his Pulitzer? Because 2018 was also the year ‘DAMN.’ earned Kendrick an actual Pulitzer Prize for the album, the first non-classical or jazz artist to do so for a musical offering.
And don’t think he was resting on his laurels this year, either. Kendrick also put together the soundtrack to one of the year’s biggest films, ‘Black Panther’, which featured contributions from the likes of The Weeknd, SZA, Travis Scott and Jorja Smith.
Want to see more? Check out the ‘All The Stars’ music video here.
Janelle Monáe has always been ambitious when it comes to her musical output, but her 2018 collection ‘Dirty Computer’ was unquestionably her biggest project to date.
Accompanied by a short musical film, the album explored prevalent themes like race, feminism and Janelle’s own sexual identity (she came out as pansexual shortly before the album’s release, while her rumoured girlfriend Tessa Thompson features heavily in the visuals).
There’s so much to celebrate on both the album and the ‘Dirty Computer’ short film, but special mention must go to ‘PYNK’, a celebration of womanhood that saw Janelle donning some much-discussed vulva-esque trousers in the music video, which she later brought on tour with her – and what a tour it was.
Janelle rounded off her year with the announcement she’d received two nominations at the 2019 Grammys, including the coveted Album Of The Year for ‘Dirty Computer’ and a Best Music Video nod for ‘PYNK’.
Want to see more? Check out the ‘Django Jane’ music video here.
His debut ‘Blue Neighbourhood’ was already well-received upon its release three years ago, but 2018 felt like a real arrival for Troye Sivan.
Right off the bat, when he dropped the euphoric ‘My! My! My!‘, followed by a total 180 in the form of the sombre and introspective ‘The Good Side’, it was clear Troye did not come to play this time around.
His full album ‘Bloom’ came later in the year, and while many picked up on the sexual aspects of the lyrics (particularly in the title track, in which she alludes to an anal sexual experience), what we were particularly impressed by was his ability to sing not just about sex, but romance and intimacy, in a way we’d never heard other queer singers of his generation pull off before.
Still just 23 years old, Troye’s voice is definitely one we expect to hear more from in the future, and given what he’s already been able to pull off so early in his career, we look forward to hearing more from him in the future, not least when he arrives in the UK in 2019.
Want to see more? Check out the ‘Dance To This’ music video here.
We don’t wish to dwell too much on the negative in what’s supposed to be a celebratory reflection on the year, but 2018 has certainly been a bleak one. In troubled and divided times such as these, it’s important to be switched on and clued up on what’s going on in the world... but it’s also important to look for moments of joy for a bit of an escape.
And we can honestly say that no one has made us laugh in 2018 quite like Alison Hammond.
Despite having now come toe-to-toe with more A-list celebrities than we can count, Alison has never lost her down-to-earth charm or sense of fun when it comes to interviews. She’s also always there for a bit of comic relief on ‘This Morning’, whether she’s accidentally pushing a model in a river during a weather segment, serenading the stars of one of the year’s biggest musicals or, indeed, inadvertently terrifying an old woman by paying her an impromptu house visit.
Alison’s star has continued to rise in 2018, recently joining forces with comedian Joe Lycett on the BBC gameshow ‘The Time It Takes’. The pair are work brilliantly together, and we can only hope this is the start of a more mainstream TV career for the former ‘Big Brother’ contestant.
Can a talk show really be that far off..?
Want to see more? Check out HuffPost UK’s interview with Alison Hammond here.