Every major entertainment news story has a life cycle. First it breaks and is inescapable as every detail of the event takes on an aura of significance (think the carat count on Britney Spears' engagement ring). With interest still high but new information scarce, the analysis begins. We reporters look to experts to see what it all means and to fans to find out what they think and how they feel about what's gone down. There are follow-ups and roundups as bright and shiny fresh news bits come together with what we already know to tell the whole story. Then the whole thing kind of dies as interest wanes and everybody moves on to the next big thing.
Most major stories end up feeling like little time capsules and we never forget when they happened. Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" is as tied to 2011 as Beyoncé's baby bump reveal at the Video Music Awards, but other stories — despite being absolutely everywhere for a hot minute — dangle out there in the ether untethered, feeling for one reason or another like they happened in some distant past where Kim Kardashian was a happily married lady and "Glee" hadn't jumped the shark.
Below are the huge entertainment stories from 2011 that for some reason we washed from our collective memories so thoroughly that when we were brainstorming the year here in the MTV Newsroom, we literally couldn't believe they happened this year!
Jennifer Lopez Joins "American Idol," Reigniting Her Career
The idea that Jennifer Lopez's career comeback began less than a year ago seems to defy the space-time continuum, but for all intents and purposes, La Lopez's return to the top began on January 19, 2011 (we can't believe it either), when the 10th season of "American Idol" premiered on Fox. In one fell swoop, nearly six years of box-office flops and album misfires were erased and Lopez was suddenly everywhere again!
In the spring, Lopez's single "On the Floor" debuted on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart at #9 (the highest debut of her career) and went on to peak at #3. It marked her first top 10 hit since 2003's "All I Have." With about 445 million views on YouTube, the video for "On the Floor" eclipsed Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance" in November to become the most watched video by a female artist ever on the video-watching website.
And that's far from all. With Lopez seated at the judges' table, "Idol" posted its first season-over-season ratings gain since 2007, and her album Love? debuted at #5, her highest position on the U.S. albums chart since 2005. Film roles have even starting cropping up again and she's earned millions from her myriad endorsement deals with companies like Gillette, L'Oreal and Fiat.
Lopez also divorced husband Marc Anthony in 2011 (an event that itself seems like it happened forever ago), causing a media stir that continues to this very moment as the tabloids breathlessly catalog her exploits with new boyfriend, backup dancer Casper Smart.
Charlie Sheen's Meltdown
In record time, Charlie Sheen has gone from being at the center of an enormous, completely insane scandal to appearing at the Emmys as a dignified pop-cultural war survivor. And it all went down in 2011! Can you believe it?
In January, Sheen's top-rated comedy, "Two and a Half Men," was put on hiatus while he received treatment at his home for substance abuse. The remainder of the season was canceled the following month after Sheen made some extremely disparaging remarks about series creator Chuck Lorre, and CBS and Warner Bros. officially fired the actor from the series in early March. That was when things really went off the rails. Those interviews! The goddesses! His custody issues with troubled ex-wife Brooke Mueller. Tiger blood! "Winning." The drugs. The warlock nonsense. His disastrous "My Violent Torpedo of Truth/Defeat Is Not an Option" Tour.
It was a nonstop run of self-inflicted indignities that boggles the mind. But when it was over, it was over. Sheen was replaced on "Two and a Half Men" by Ashton Kutcher (is there something about that role?), and in September, he appeared at the Emmy Awards to introduce the Best Actor in a Comedy (his old category) nominees and took a moment to address his ordeal with CBS and "Two and a Half Men." "From the bottom of my heart, I wish you nothing but the best for this upcoming season. We spent eight wonderful years together and I know you will continue to make great television," he said.
And now it's back to work. Less than a year after the most public meltdown in recent memory, FX ordered 10 episodes of "Anger Management," a show based loosely on the Adam Sandler-Jack Nicholson film. A press release for the show describes it as being about "an anger management therapist [Sheen] who may need more counseling than his patients [and] wreaks havoc on the lives of his patients through his unconventional methods." Sounds about right!
The Royal Wedding
Months and months of nonstop media coverage came to a head on April 29 when Prince William married Catherine Middleton, who no matter how much the palace tries to sell her as Catherine, Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge, will always be our girl Waity Katie. The royal wedding had all the makings of a fairy-tale event for the ages, and it definitely was ... probably ... over in England, where the populace actually cares about royal matters. Here in America, beyond Kate's dress and the meme-worthy supporting characters, the royal wedding just wasn't a particularly memorable event. And now, with the pre-manufactured memorabilia and ongoing headlines speculating about the possibility of a royal baby, it's like Kate and Wills have been married for years.
The mainstream media coverage was truly excessive, boring and absolutely exhausting, but the royal wedding did inspire some bits of Internet genius. We were introduced to frequent backside-revealer James Middleton as well as Grace Van Cutsem, the "Frowning Flower Girl" and Princess Beatrice's amazing and absurd hat.
Rebecca Black's "Friday"
Rebecca Black's "Friday" is so far along in its cycle as a song that it was used in Black Friday commercials this year. The song was so ubiquitous by early summer that when we saw Katy Perry in concert at the Nassau Coliseum, she sang it a cappella and the entire arena joined in. It's the sort of attention usually accorded a years-old song that everybody knows and loves. That's about half right: "Friday" certainly feels years old and everyone knows it ... it's the loving-it part that is kind of divisive.
By year's end, all the hype earned Black a spot on the list of Twitter's top trends of the year. But even though she hit the scene less than a year ago, Black already feels like a music industry veteran because, goodness, doesn't it seem like "Friday" came out in 2009 or something?
What stories from 2011 feel like they happened years and years ago? Let us know in the comments!
MTV continues our Best of 2011 coverage by looking back at the biggest pop-culture stories of the year. As we count down the newsmakers that mattered to you most, also check out our Best Artists, Best Songs, Best MTV Live Performances and Best EDM Artists of 2011.