2015 – a look back at news, politics and popular culture

Defined by a long-awaited Star Wars sequel and going for a cheeky Nandos, 2015 was year of exciting new releases in music and film and hysterically relatable lexical trends. But it wasn’t all Justin Bieber and Netflix and chill: 2015 was also a year characterised by political turmoil, war and heightened fear of global warming. News of terror and destruction dominated the media, seemingly without a day off. With the good, bad, and the downright ugly, I’ve taken a look back at what I think defined 2015.

2015 also bought with it a general election, and saw David Cameron re-elected with a majority Conservative government, winning 331 seats to Labour’s 232. Anti-austerity protesters stormed the streets of central London against the Prime Minister’s re-election, and we saw dispute over the fairness and accuracy of the UK’s voting process being based on seats and not votes. We subsequently witnessed the resignation of Ed Miliband – much to the disgust of teenage girls of the #Milifandom – and, later, the election of new Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn.

Also last year, we witnessed the worsening of the refugee crisis, as many families were forced to flee the war-torn Middle East. Not long after his re-election, Cameron announced that the UK would accept up to 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020, whilst France announced that it would welcome 24,000 over just two years.

More attention was later brought to the welfare of Syrians as the media showed increasing activity of Islamic State (Isis). On the 13th November, the reality of the extremist group was bought to the Western world when a series of terror attacks took place in Paris. The most deadly attack on France since the Second World War, Isis gunmen left 130 people dead, 89 of whom were shot at the concert of American rock band Eagles of Death Metal at the famous Bataclan Theatre. Despite the terror, the attacks united the world, with famous landmarks lighting up in the colours of the French flag. Eagles of Death Metal, who survived the attacks, have since announced their Play It Forward campaign, a plea for musicians of all genres to cover their song I Love You All The Time to express unity and solidarity, with all proceeds going towards the victims.

Although we can look back at 2015 as a year of devastation for many reasons, we should not forget the positive news stories and the societal developments that have been made. In June, same-sex marriage was finally legalised nationwide by the US Supreme Court. Barack Obama referred to it as a “victory for America”; and minutes after the decision was announced, couples were lining up in the state of Georgia in order to be wed. Later on in the year the Republic of Ireland also legalised gay marriage, becoming the first country to do so through popular voting.

Another year, and the news presents us with further reasons to fear the imminent threat of global warming. Towards the end of 2015 we witnessed the start of severe flooding in Cumbria and parts of Yorkshire, devastating homes and local communities, resulting in tens of millions of pounds’ worth of damage, as well as heart-rending fatalities. But there were many other natural disasters around the world. In April, Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital, was hit by a deadly 7.8-magnitude earthquake, killing thousands of citizens and injuring thousands more.

With many environmental disasters considered as a direct result of global warming, December’s Paris climate change conference was much anticipated, with the agreement on global action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, in an attempt to limit worldwide temperature increase to below 2°C. No doubt the topic of climate change, and further discussion on how we can reduce our carbon footprint, will continue to be a key media talking-point throughout 2016.

Popular culture
In 2015, for reasons beyond our comprehension, we carried on Keeping up with the Kardashians, and in doing so the world joined Kylie Jenner as she bought herself a $2.7m property, and received a Ferrari for her 18th birthday. Casual. Drake release his hugely popular music video for his hit Hotline Bling, featuring some dad dancing, allowing for a whole new trend in social media with the creation of hilariously mocking spoof Vines. Last year was a year of cheeky Nandos, and later on in the evening, invitations for Netflix and chill. Our eye brows were on fleek, group photos were simply #SquadGoals, and for the first time ever, an emoji made word of the year.

Hello… it’s Adele, returning for a third album and breaking pretty much every record that there is to break. Her comeback saw her single, Hello, smashed records for the most Spotify streams globally in a week, and her album, 25, was the fasting-selling release of 2015. The Tottenham-born soul singer also announced a UK and European tour for this year, her first since 2011. Surprisingly, though, there was debatably competition for the title of the year’s most successful artist, of the blonde-haired, tattooed kind…

Who would have thought 2015 would be the year of the Belieber? With number one singles What Do You Mean, Sorry and Love Yourself, Canadian singer Justin Bieber went from strength-to-strength last year, converting your hipster boyfriend into a hard-core Belieber, and breaking chart records for the most ever simultaneous entries in the UK top 40: eight tracks from Purpose, the pop artist’s fourth studio album. A favourite for Christmas number one, the 21-year-old gave us even more of a reason to give in to our guilty pleasure with his heartfelt Twitter appeal for the public to get behind the NHS Choir’s charity single, also in the runnings. With their track A Bridge Over You, the choir made up of working NHS staff deservedly won the title of UK Christmas number one. But Bieber? I think he may have just won 2015.

For those of you just too cool to give in to give in to the brown-eyed boy whose first hit was titled Baby (vomits), the end of last year bought better news for music. At 12:01 on Christmas Eve, The Beatles finally became available for listening on a wide range of streaming services, including Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play. After publishers initially denied the availability of the band’s catalogue to such services due to worry of potential damage of reissue sales, it was eventually decided that making it available to stream was vital in a modern industry where streaming is a highly significant part of the listening experience. It is thought that the availability of The Beatles’ music on such services will protect their legacy, allowing younger listeners to discover the original rock n’ roll. Long live the Fab Four!

The past year was a truly exciting one for sports fans. For us Brits, Lewis Hamilton won the Formula One World Championship, and Andy Murray won Sports Personality of the Year following his victory with Team GB in the Davis Cup. In football, we saw big names in ex-players put their skill and fame to positive use with a charity match. Driven by David Beckham, the match was designed to raise funds for Unicef, the world’s largest charity for children.

Football was also the winner last year when Fifa’s Women’s World Cup saw record-breaking viewing figures, topping 750 million viewers. Broadcasters greatly increased their coverage, showing 31% more than in 2011. Fifa’s flagship competition resulted in 2015 being a breakthrough year for women’s football, and a big step towards gender-equality in sport.

Towards the end of the year, Premiership football saw Leicester Football Club rise to the top the league table, the previous year maintaining a space firmly at the bottom, whilst previously successful Chelsea Football Club saw the sacking of their manager of two consecutive years, José Mourinho.

For film, the year of 2015 was all about Star Wars hype. The first of a long-anticipated sequel trilogy, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, was released in the UK on 17th December, and grossed a figure of $1,228,349,526 worldwide by the 30th, breaking records in the US for the highest-grossing film of all time. Also big in film in 2015 was the release of the 24th James Bond film. Spectre, the direct sequel to 2012’s Skyfall, featuring the fourth performance of Daniel Craig in the role, grossed over 800 million worldwide.

When it came to award season, Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman walked away with the highly sought after Best Picture Oscar. The film told the story of former cinema superhero Riggan Thomson, played by Michael Keaton, putting on a Broadway production in pursuit of critical acclaim. This year we’re set for even more cinematic excitement with the expected release of films such as Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Finding Dory, the sequel to kids favourite Finding Nemo.


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Alice Mortimer

February 2021
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