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Album sales may not be markedly up this year, but there's always one thing that sells in music, and that's celebrity feuds. Happily for gossip fans, 2012 seemed to be a banner year for tiffs between tunesmiths, and not for a moment did anyone have to ask the eternal question: Where's the beef?
For starters, you could craft a healthy list just out of the feuds Nicki Minaj had going (Mariah! Steven Tyler! Stevie Nicks! Lil Kim! Barbara Walters!). In second place, we'd have the eternally embattled Chris Brown and his fellow feuders (Drake! Miranda Lambert! Jenny Johnson! Yo mama!). Madonna might have to settle for third place among pop warriors (Lady Gaga! Elton! M.I.A.! Deadmau5! Her career!).
But how could we leave out such eternal feuders as Axl, Courtney, 50 Cent, and the ever-loving Jacksons? Follow along, wrestling fans, as we recount—in no particular order of feistiness—the 30 greatest music feuds of 2012:
1. THE WANTED vs. ONE DIRECTION
Who can resist when boy bands collide? This late and delicious edition to our list got underway Thanksgiving, when the lads in these two groups took time out from turkey to get beefy. One Direction's Zayn Malik tweeted that the Wanted's Max George was a "wanna-be," which prompted Malik to fire back, "That's not very nice. I was just starting to like you and your RnB hits." (We can assume the "R&B" was meant sarcastically.) Eventually Malik told the Wanted's Tom Parker that "if I had a face like yours my hair would be the last thing I'd worry about," followed by "Let's not even start discussing vocal ability, boys." Retorted the Wanted's Max George. "Stay off the bud… it clearly makes you cranky." Malik tweeted back, "Alright, chlamydia boy." Just as long as it doesn't get personal or anything…
2. STEVEN TYLER vs. NICKI MINAJ
Talking with Yahoo! Recently, the Aerosmith singer talked about the reported feud between Minaj and Mariah Carey and predicted, "It may turn out to be something where one girl goes, 'You know what? F--- you!' That may be the paradigm this year, that both of those girls (will) feud out loud. And they'll bleep it a lot. Maybe that's where it's going." Little did he know that he was about to get caught up in the feud himself. In an interview with MTV News, Tyler said the women would be too busy bickering to nurture a talent like he and his fellow judges had with Phillip Phillips, and added, ""If it was Bob Dylan, Nicki Minaj would have had him sent to the cornfield!" In response, on Twitter, Minaj played the race card: "You assume that I wouldn't have liked Bob Dylan??? why? black? rapper? what? go f--- yourself and worry about yourself babe.... That's a racist comment… let's make him a shirt that says 'No Coloreds Allowed' then escort him down 2 Barbara Walters so he can tell how he was threatened w/ guns" (a reference to Minaj's feuds with Mariah and Walters). Tyler offered a half-hearted apology: "I apologize if it was taken wrong, Nicki. But) I am the last thing on this planet as far as being a racist. I don't know where she got that out of me saying I'm not sure how she would've judged Bob Dylan." Guess we shouldn't count on any official mashup of Aerosmith's "Pink" and Nicki's "Pink Friday."
3. MADONNA vs. LADY GAGA
Madonna worked an interpolation of "Born This Way" into "Express Yourself" on tour this year, pointing up the similarities between the hits. "I thought, 'What a wonderful way to redo my song.' I mean, I recognized the chord changes," she said in an interview with Newsweek. "I thought it was... interesting." In another article, she said, "As for Lady Gaga, I have no comment to make about her obsessions having to do with me because I don't know whether her behavior is rooted in something deep and meaningful, or superficial." She told GMA she found Gaga's imitation/flattery "reductive." When the anchor asked what she meant by that, Madonna growled, "Look it up!" When it comes to the nature-or-nurture question on surliness, we think Madonna might have been born that way.
4. AXL ROSE vs. THE REST OF GUNS N' ROSES
Before GNR was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Rose released an open letter detailing why he wouldn't be coming or reuniting with his old bandmates. He suggested that any calls for the original lineup to play at the ceremony were nothing but "misguided attempts to distract from our efforts with our current lineup." As for his estranged ex-mates, "There isn't room to consider a conversation let alone a reunion." After the ceremony, Stephen Adler released his own open letter: "In Axl's letter, he showed his true colors to the world… He's not for the fans, which is everybody in the world. Basically, he told everybody in the world, 'F--- you, I don't give a s--- what you think.'… Letting go of that was like a huge weight was lifted off my body. I feel f---ing free. Yay!... I'm never mentioning him or talking about him again. That's it. One last thing—God bless him." And the rest of the "current lineup," each and every one, whoever they are!
5. COURTNEY LOVE vs. DAVE GROHL and FRANCES BEAN COBAIN
Frances was said to be newly engaged, which her legally estranged mom, Courtney, took as a good time to spread rumors about her daughter's past sexual history—bringing Kirt Cobain's Nirvana bandmate into the sordid allegation. ""I hear from frannies' roommate that @davegrohl hit on frances, and that she was curious, I'm not mad at her, him I am about to shoot, dead," Love tweeted. "Well if bean did have sex with @davegrohl which I've heard (from) reliable sources… its fine on her part, he's insane." Grohl shot back that Love's "hateful rant" was "upsetting, offensive and absolutely untrue." Frances Bean issued a rare statement: "While I'm generally silent on the affairs of my biological mother, her recent tirade has taken a gross turn. I have never been approached by Dave Grohl in more than a platonic way. I'm in a monogamous relationship and very happy. Twitter should ban my mother." Thankfully for ick-lovers everywhere, that will never happen.
6. MIRANDA LAMBERT vs. CHRIS BROWN
The country star was not pleased at the repeated sight of Brown on the Grammys, tweeting, "I don't get it. He beat on a girl… Not cool that we act like that didn't happen." Brown's Twitter account responded: "Using my name to get publicity? I love it! Perform your heart out! Go buy Miranda Lambert album! So motivational and 'PERFECT'!' Goodnight to all the people who live life and who aren't stuck in the past!" Happily, this one cooled off before gunpowder and lead got involved.
7. CHRIS BROWN vs. JENNY JOHNSON
Some fresher beef. Johnson, a popular comedian, has dogged Brown for a long time, and after he tweeted in the last week of November, about how much he thinks he's aged, Johnson responded, "I know! Being a worthless piece of s--- can really age a person." Brown took up the challenge, telling Johnson to "take them teeth out" while performing sex acts on him, eventually adding that his mother had told him to defecate in her eyes. As for the core issue of contention, he added, "Just ask Rihanna if she mad??????" In a rare moment of self-realization, Brown then deleted his Twitter account—as he has before, and surely will again.
8. MARIAH CAREY vs. NICKI MINAJ
If you haven't heard that these two new Idol judges are not BFFs, welcome back from the space shuttle. Carey allegedly called Minaj a "b---" early in the tapings, according to TMZ, and it didn't get better from there. On the second episode of her My Truth reality show on E!, Minaj said of Carey, "She's admitted that she did not want another female doing the show, thinking somebody's coming to steal her shine. And nitpicking, nitpicking, nitpicking—I don't do well with that passive aggressive s---. I'm not gonna allow it no more. I can't."
9. NICKI MINAJ vs. BARBARA WALTERS
The spillover never ends. Having played the race card on Steven Tyler, Minaj also wondered if the TV host might be racist, for not having asked her side of the "gun" story after interviewing Carey. "I hear that Mariah went to Barbara Walters with some more fabrication that even the producers told her was never said. Telling Barbara I said something about a gun, which everybody knows that I'm way smarter than that. Literally my jaw was just hanging open and I was in shock… Am I not good enough for you to get my side, because I'm a little black girl that raps? Because if I was J. Lo, you would've called J. Lo's camp. But are we not good enough for you, Barbara… I'm only good enough for you to tell people I'm 'unpredictable,' when you don't f---ing know me?" If Nicki were a tree, Barbara, we know what kind of tree she'd be: the kind with a lot of bark.
10. BLAKE SHELTON and MIRANDA LAMBERT vs. ERIC CHURCH
The illusion of Nashville unity—shattered at last. Church went off on reality shows in a highly controversial Rolling Stone interview: "Honestly, if Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green f---ing turn around in a red chair, you got a deal? That's crazy. I don't know what would make an artist do that. You're not an artist... If I was concerned about my legacy, there's no f---ing way I would ever sit there... Once your career becomes about something other than the music, then that's what it is. I'll never make that mistake. I don't care if I f---ing starve." Naturally, Shelton was not pleased—nor was wife Lambert, who got her start competing on just such a show. "I wish I misunderstood this," Shelton tweeted in terse response. Lambert was more barbed: "Thanks Eric Church for saying I'm not a real artist. Or @kelly_clarkson, @carrieunderwood & @KeithUrban. Your (sic) welcome for the tour in 2010," she added, referring to having once taken Church out as her featured support act. Can't the producers of ABC's Nashville turn this into a subplot?
11. DRAKE vs. CHRIS BROWN
The brawl that broke out at a New York nightclub—allegedly having to do with the performers' mutual interest in Rihanna—may have resulted in a million gossip reports, but it didn't finally end up in any charges being filed against either. But the feud between Tony Parker and the club persists, anyway: The NBA star sued for $20 million, saying he was injured in the melee.
12. MIKE LOVE vs. BRIAN WILSON
The Beach Boys' good vibrations during their hugely successful summer reunion tour were too good to be true. They hadn't even done their last show together when word got out that Mike Love was planning to resume touring with a Brian-less edition of the group. "The post-50th anniversary configuration will not include Brian Wilson, Al Jardine and David Marks," Love and Bruce Johnston said in a statement. "The 50th Reunion Tour was designed to be a set tour with a beginning and an end…" The planned cessation of reunion activity seemed to come as news to Wilson, who told CNN, "I'm disappointed and can't understand why he doesn't want to tour with Al, David and me." Fans didn't waste any time dividing the newly re-estranged Boys up into heroes and villains.
13. MADONNA vs. M.I.A.
It wasn't immediately clear in the aftermath of Madonna's Super Bowl halftime show whether the Material Girl had signed off on M.I.A.'s raised middle finger. She hadn't, and Her Madgesty was not pleased. "I actually didn't know until I left," Madonna said on Ryan Seacrest's radio show. "I found out about it in the elevator on my way to go to the car to get to the airport... I wasn't happy about it… It seemed negative. It's one of those things that's such a teenager, kind of, irrelevant thing to do… There was such a feeling of love and unity there. What was the point? It was just out of place." Handing pompons to a revolutionary—who could have expected trouble?
14. DEADMAU5 vs. MADONNA
The EDM hero wasn't in the mood to dance when he thought Madonna was stereotyping his world as a drug culture. The title of her MDNA album was widely perceived as a pun on the Ecstasy ingredient MDMA, and when she played the Ultra Music Festival, she shouted "Have you seen Molly?"—code for Ecstasy. "Very classy there Madonna," Deadmau5 wrote on Facebook. "Such a great message for the young music … Quite the f'n philanthropist. but hey, at least yer HIP AND TRENDY!... cant smack my head hard enough right now… That's your big contribution to EDM?... hipsterspeak for looking for drugs?... you f---ing IDIOT. " Madonna responded by tweeting a photo of herself with Micky Mouse ears and wrote, "From one mouse to another I don't support drug use and I never have. I was referring to the song called 'Have You Seen Molly' written by my friend Cedric Gervais who I almost worked with on my album." They almost kissed and made up: Deadmau5 offered "respect for clearing it up personally" and Madonna wrote, "You should have called me first, we could have cleared it up 'privately.'"
15. ELTON JOHN vs. MADONNA
Elton's problems with Madonna pre-date their competition for the best original song award at the Golden Globes—but that didn't hurt. "Madonna doesn't have a f---ing chance" of winning, he told Carson Daly. When she did beat him, Elton's husband David Furnish lashed out: "Madonna. Best song???? F--- off!!!... Madonna winning Best Original Song truly shows how these awards have nothing to do with merit. Her acceptance speech was embarrassing in its narcissism. And her criticism of Gaga shows how desperate she really is." Later in the year, Madonna coyly dedicated the song "Masterpiece" to Elton, as she did to fellow combatant Lady Gaga.
16. DERYCK WHIBLEY vs. CHAD KROEGER and AVRIL LAVIGNE
Sum 41 singer Whibley dressed as his ex-wife, Lavigne, for Halloween—and his girlfriend dressed as Avril's fiancée, Nickelback frontman Kroeger, in a not entirely flattering costume. In response, Kroeger—using Nickelback's Twitter account—wrote, "Hey Deryck loved the costumes! we were going to dress up as you guys this year but all the parties had celebrity themes haha!" Who to root for? The world is so torn!
17. THE BLACK KEYS vs. NICKELBACK
Nickelback was also taking it on the chin from hipper quarters. "Rock & roll is dying because people became OK with Nickelback being the biggest band in the world," the Black Keys' Patrick Carney said in Rolling Stone. "Rock & roll is the music I feel the most passionately about, and I don't like to see it f---ing ruined and spoon-fed down our throats in this watered-down, post-grunge crap, horrendous s---. " Later, he semi-apologized, saying, "I didn't mean to single them out… There's much worse bands than Nickelback, maybe."
18. LINDSAY LOHAN vs. PITBULL
Lohan sued him for mentioning her in the song "Give Me Everything," claiming it would cause her reputation "irreparable harm." The incredibly defaming lyric in question: "I got it locked up like Lindsay Lohan." We pray to the gods of ludicrousness that this one somehow makes it to court.
19. SHOOTER JENNINGS vs. JOHN MAYER
The offspring of country legend Waylon Jennings really got a bug up his behind when he read Rolling Stone's profile of John Mayer, which suggested that the singer was settling down and going in a new direction with his new album Born and Raised. Tweeted Jennings, "I love how the 'Neil Young of our generation' self-naming king douche grows his hair out + buys a place in Montana just to do article…Claims he's 'done w hollywood game' and has 'roots' and then immediately cuts hair, goes back to hollywood clubs + starts banging Katy Perry…. And don't anybody say he's a great guitar player. Gary Clark Jr & [Lukas Nelson] wipe their asses with this dude… Sorry to s--- talk. Lord knows not everybody likes my ass. But seeing that RS in my friggin bathroom & reading the narcissistic drivel" set him off.
20. JOHN MAYER vs. TAYLOR SWIFT
Mayer was set off by Swift releasing the song "Dear John" about their relationship two years ago, though it took till he was promoting his new album to publicly own up to his irk. The song "made me feel terrible," he told Rolling Stone. "I think it's kind of cheap songwriting. I know she's the biggest thing in the world, and I'm not trying to sink anybody's ship, but I think it's abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, 'Wait till he gets a load of this!' That's bull... I'm pretty good at taking accountability now, and I never did anything to deserve that. It was a really lousy thing for her to do." In response to this, interviewers asked Swift about Mayer's response while she was promoting her album, but she claimed not to have seen it. When one journalist started quoting Mayer to her, she put her fingers in her ears.
21. STEVIE NICKS VS. NICKI MINAJ
Minaj's feud with Mariah continued to trickle down and create lesser feuds. Nicks, a pal of Carey's, said that if she were Mariah, she would have "killed [Minaj] in front of all those people and had to go to jail for it." Nicks later apologized and attributed her comments not just to her friendship with Carey but also her addled state of mind in the wake of her mother's death. "I guess I was just being extremely protective," Nicks told the New York Post. "From the bottom of my heart I would say I am very sorry. I felt, did this really happen? I don't even recognize my words. Could this have been a Law & Order moment? I can't tell you. I don't know."
22. 50 CENT vs. GAME
An old perennial that never goes away. The seemingly diminished beef took on new life when 50 gave Game a hard time again on his single "My Life." Game responded by promising to resurrect an old 50-dissing track he'd written, promising, "There's more to say." As there no doubt will be on their respective deathbeds.
23. JUSTIN MOORE and MIRANDA LAMBERT vs. ASHTON KUTCHER
When Kutcher wore a cowboy hat and jacket to the Academy of Country Music Awards, and used his introduction to sing a few exaggeratedly twangy bars, some attendees felt it was less homage than thinly disguised haterade. "What a douce! I don't care for people making a mockery of the way country artists dress," wrote Moore. Tweeted Lambert, "Was Ashton Kutcher making fun of country or is it just me?" Kutcher tweeted back, "I am one of the biggest country music fans you've ever met. Wasn't making fun at all." At least he didn't tweet a photo of himself on a hay bale.
24. HANK WILLIAMS JR. vs. BARACK OBAMA and ALEC BALDWIN
"We've got a Muslim for a president who hates cowboys, hates cowgirls, hates fishing, hates farming, loves gays, and we hate him!" Williams Jr. told a festival audience in Texas. The trout-hating jihadist president in question did not fire back (apparently he was too busy commenting on Nicki Minaj's Romney endorsement). But Baldwin took on the task, tweeting, "If Hank Williams Jr wasn't such a pathetic, wheezing fossil, I'd have a talk with him," adding that the one-time country hitmaker was "a broken-down, senile, racist coot."
25. ADAM LEVINE vs. THE ROXY
It's not often that someone takes time on a prime-time show to attack a nightclub, so when the Voice coach took on the venerable West Hollywood establishment, it got noticed. When Cassadee Pope sang a Michelle Branch song, Levine started reminiscing, awkwardly. "I remember we opened for her at the Roxy, and they didn't even give us a dressing home. I hate the Roxy. I'll never play there again." Pope piped up that she "loves" the club, promoting Levine to continue, "Oh, the Roxy is horrible. Don't ever go there." Branch clarified for the record that, as headliner, she probably put herself in one dressing room and her band in the other, as is often customary. The Roxy quickly changed its marquee to read: "Adam Levine your dressing room is ready."
26. JOHN RICH vs. CLAY AIKEN
Rich, of Celebrity Apprentice and Big & Rich fame, played the race card in tweeting an objection to one of Aiken's tweets. Wrote the former Idol: "Playing drinking game with my brother now. We drink every time we see a black person on screen at the RNC convention. #soberasamormon." Retorted noted conservative Rich: "CLAY! You should be ashamed for racist comments like THAT! WOW… I thought your charity was for inclusion, not EXCLUSION. What happened?" Aiken fired back: "My charity is. Why isn't your party?"
27. RIHANNA vs. NICKI MINAJ
There was bad blood floating at the MTV VMAs, and it extended to more than just the disinterested looks viewers saw on camera. Trishelle Cannatella from The Real World tweeted: "omg.. Nicki Minaj just told Rhianna to 'sit the f--- down' when she tried to hug her!!! Love it!!!"
28. NICKI MINAJ vs. TARGET
The new release Minaj put out the week of Black Friday, The Re-Up—a modified version of Roman Reloaded—stiffed, selling just 36,000 copies in its first week out for a No. 30 placement on the sales chart. Minaj laid the blame at the feet of big-box retailers. "It's hard to get the album because the stores basically said that the last few re-releases they had put out did not do well and they didn't want to take a chance. So Target and Walmart [are] not selling the album… [Target] sold the most Nicki Minaj albums ever; thank you Target, but I wish you could have sold this one… It kind of sets you up to fail."
29. RIHANNA vs. THE MEDIA ON HER PLANE
Was there any love-gone-wrong this year quite like the one between Rihanna and the initially excited journalists who boarded her 777 for a week of jetsetting? Riri never ventured back to meet the press after pouring champagne shortly after takeoff, and the exhausted journos began filing stories about their lack of access and the fact that Rihanna turned in identically robotic performances each night on the mini-tour. One even had "Missing" posters with her face on it printed to circulate on the plane, and protest chants and even streaking broke out. But awareness created by even the bad press apparently helped spur Rihanna's best first-week numbers ever, and the Hollywood Reporter ran the headline, "How the Disastrous Publicity Stunt Spawned Album Sales." A source close to Rihanna said she was angry about the bad press and that journalists wouldn't be invited back for any week-long plane trips; the hope for avoiding proximity in the future was surely mutual.
30. THE JACKSONS vs. THE JACKSONS
You couldn't tell the related players without a scorecard, or even with one, it sometimes seemed. First, five of Michael's brothers and sisters—Janet, Randy, Jermaine, Tito, and Rebbie—released an open letter of complaint to John Branca and John McClain, saying they were contesting the "fake, flawed and fraudulent" and citing "your heartless pursuit of wealth, fame and power at the expense of our family." But Michael's kids and mothers were on the side of the estate executors, and Paris addressed Randy on Twitter: "Hello, dear family member. I don't appreciate you telling everyone things that aren't true, thank you very much." Paris insisted that Katharine had not had a stroke, leading Jermaine to respond that the matriarch had had "a mini-stroke." Grandmothers were soon being whisked to Arizona under cover of the night, and the rest was not HIStory, but hysteria.