The wildest NME headlines of 2020

It's been a surreal year, and not just due to 'rona. Bizarre baby names, 'WAP' and world's fastest runner Britney Spears offered distraction from the doom

After the last 12 months the world’s had, it feels like, instead of reflect, everyone would rather ran into 2021 as fast as possible, leaving 2020 in the dust. Fair enough! But as we count down the days to – hopefully – a better year, allow us to remind you that there were at least some bizarre, funny and surreal moments (and a few that were just plain mind-blowing) to this annus horribilis. These were all genuine NME headlines in 2020. What a year.

Words: Rhian Daly, El Hunt

“Britney Spears clarifies she isn’t faster than Usain Bolt”

In between calling for “redistribution of wealth” and paying tribute to all her fans “at the LGBTQ community”, as if it was an incredible and highly exclusive nightclub (frankly, spot the lie), Britney Spears has given us a wealth of contenders in 2020. But her finest moment? It has to be when the pop star claimed that she sprinted 100 metres in a mere five seconds – making her substantially faster than the world record holder Usain Bolt. Unfortunately for the US Olympic team, who had probably already started printing running jerseys in preparation for their new sprinting star, she later clarified that the whole thing was a joke. “But you better believe I’m coming for the world record,” she added.

“Dolly Parton donated $1 millon to successful research for Covid-19 vaccine’

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Dolly Parton is a generous legend’ is hardly breaking news – the rhinestone-clad country music hero has a longstanding form when it comes to donating large sums to important causes. Still, learning that she played a major role in potentially rescuing the world from the grip of a huge-scale pandemic remains a fairly unexpected revelation. Back in April, Dolly made a $1million dollar donation to Nashville’s Vanderbilt University, and their research into coronavirus later played a crucial part in helping to develop the successful Moderna vaccine.

“Ian Brown responds to being called ‘conspiracy theorist’ before attracting the wrath of Jedward”

Pre-2020, it’s fair to say that most people remembered Jedward, albeit quite fondly, as those blonde-quiffed twins from an old season of X Factor, who ended up repping Ireland at Eurovision. All of that changed this year. To start with, Jedward spent their lockdown with the American Pie actor Tara Reid in LA, as you do, and were later spotted at a Black Lives Matter protest in the city. Soon they were sending cheerful out-of-the-blue DMs to fans on Twitter, telling anti-mask protesters to “get the fuck inside you selfish low lives”.

They reached their peak, however, when it came to taking down Stone RosesIan Brown; who had previously claimed on Twitter that the pandemic was “planned and designed to make us digital slaves”. “Hi Ian,” they wrote witheringly. “You discredited yourself with your backward views and non logical actions.” A huge ‘not angry but disappointed’ vibe. They later added, fabulously: “Your music and cheekbones are a dream… but your tweets are a nightmare.”

“Dionne Warwick questions Chance The Rapper’s name in amusing Twitter exchange”

Dionne Warwick has been a constant source of joy on Twitter this year, launching a range of hussy branded hoodies, fundraising for the Hunger: Not Impossible initiative, and contacting a series of musicians to question their completely illogical monikers. ”Hi, Chance the Rapper,” she wrote. “If you are very obviously a rapper why did you put it in your stage name? I cannot stop thinking about this.” “I am now Dionne the Singer,” she added, before putting a similar query to The Weeknd (“It’s not even spelled correctly?”). Fortunately Chance The Rapper didn’t take offence: “I will be whatever you wanna call me Ms Warwick,” he replied. “God bless you.” In recent weeks, she’s taken to referring to Billie Eilish as ‘William Eyelash’.

“Puddle of Mudd’s Nirvana cover has gone viral for all the wrong reasons”

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Few things remain sacred on this cursed mortal coil, but nonetheless, it remains common sense that covering the work of icons is a dangerous game. See: the loaded wince that Simon Cowell likes to pull out when his auditioning contestants announce that they’re ‘doing’ a song by Whitney Houston. And so, when Kansas City’s Puddle of Mudd popped up on SiriusXM promising a rendition of Nirvana’s ‘About A Girl’ the trepidation was immediate. Still, it turned out that no amount of foresight could’ve prepared us for the harrowing reality of what was to unfold.

The whole thing might’ve gone off without too much fuss if Wes Scantlin had just cracked on and sung the ‘Bleach’ track in his regular vocal, but instead, the frontman went all in, attempting to enthusiastically harness Kurt Cobain’s trademark gravel. Unfortunately, he ended up sounding like a drunken reveller fired up on approximately nine vodka Red Bulls in the latter stages of an alternative rock club night. Crossed with a hungry cat.

“Grimes and Elon Musk can’t legally name their baby X Æ A-12 in California”

As soon as Grimes announced she was pregnant with Elon Musk’s baby, you knew the happy couple weren’t going to name their offspring something us normies would approve of, like Dave or Brenda. Unfortunately for the new parents, though, their choice of name wasn’t approved by their home state of California either. As it turns out, you’re not able to legally register a kid’s name that has symbols or numbers in it, meaning X Æ A-12 wasn’t flying with those in charge. A small modification later and the baby’s name was official. Welcome to the world, X Æ A-Xii – we still have no idea how to say your name.

“Jared Leto had ‘no idea’ about coronavirus after returning from a meditation retreat”

Oh to be Jared Leto, who, at one point in 2020, was blissfully unaware that COVID-19 even existed while the rest of the world hoarded toilet paper and spent 80 per cent of the day washing their hands. The actor was on a silent meditation retreat when the pandemic hit the States and, when it ended, swapped one world of isolation for another. He called his emergence into the coronavirus-stricken world “mind-blowing, to say the least”, which just about sums 2020 up, really.

“Lady Gaga responds to new single ‘Stupid Love’ interrupting coronavirus crisis meeting”

At the beginning of March, it’s fair to say everyone was very on edge about the worsening pandemic and the news was full of images of very serious people having very serious meetings. One council meeting in Italy got a bit of light relief with the help of Lady Gaga, though, when the grave-faced group were interrupted by someone accidentally playing the star’s single ‘Stupid Love’ on their phone. It broke up the sombre mood, a video of it went viral, and Gaga declared: “this why I make music”.

Milwaukee official apologises for using ‘WAP’ to promote ‘Weatherization Assistance Program’

Song Of The Year™ ‘WAP’ was hard to miss in 2020, dominating the cultural conversation and making a load of Republicans (who should have been worrying about more important things) very mad. Still, it was a surprise to see some in government not only embracing the song but using it to promote something as deeply unsexy (but important) as a “weatherisation assistance program”, which reduces energy costs for low-income households.

A Milwaukee county supervisor, who tried to piggyback the song’s success to hype up the program, was forced to apologise, saying the joke he was trying to make (“there’s some holes in this house”) had “landed badly”. Maybe, but with news coverage across the world, no one could say he failed to promote his WAP.

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