“Zeitgeist: the general intellectual, moral, and cultural climate of an era.”
According to their own statistics, Google had 1.2 trillion searches in 2012, with over one billion queries from around the world per day. Worldwide, we're 'googling' in 146 languages, and clicking 'search' almost every second of the day. The complete 2013 statistics haven't been released, but Google trounced the US search engine market in terms of number of searches last month, with a whopping 66.7% of the total searches originating from Google, according to comScore. It's fair to guess the global percentages would be similar. In the search engine playground - or battlefield, if you will - Google is the uncontested leading giant of our time. Google is a household name - a noun and now a verb, too - and what we search there provides valuable insights into global trends, culture, politics and even human psychology.
Making it into Google’s top trending searches for the year can mean it was a very good, or very bad year depending on context of the trend. Either way, a person’s fame or infamy is assured if they trend on Google. In fact, when they publish the year’s trends, Google uses the header “Zeitgeist” - aself-aggrandising noun, or an honest representation of just how significant Google's statistics are in modern culture?
You decide, as you read about the ten performing artists who trended most significantly during 2013 - and the always-interesting story behind each trend.
10 Dakota Johnson
We sat up and took notice of the 24-year-old daughter of Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith when she was given the starring role as Anastasia Steele in the steamy film adaptation of the novel 'Fifty Shades of Grey'. Dakota wasn't even on the 'trend' radar until the third week of August, when her name began floating around as a possible choice for the role. It became official in early September and her trend saw an enormous peak, falling towards mid-September and making minor waves since. Google are quick to point out that a trend's downturn doesn't say anything about the number of results, for example, cropping up from that search - it only tells us there was a decrease in search popularity for that term, or in this case, name. Dakota Johnson was one of the biggest trends of the year and, equally, her winning the coveted role of Anastasia Steel was certainly one of the major breaking entertainment stories of the year. Google trends reflect reality accurately, at least in this case.
9 Daft Punk
Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo and Thomas Bangalter make up this electronic duo popular in France since the late 1990s. They mix house music with synthpop and give performances combining storylines with elaborate visuals. Of the ten top-trending performers, the graph for Daft Punk’s Google is the one with the least obvious individual peak, showing more varied activity throughout the year. Their biggest peaks were in April, when several songs and videos were pre-released, and in the third week of May with the release of their album, “Random Access Memories.” The duo themselves? Nowhere to be seen. They make few public appearances. On stage or in public, you’ll often find these shy guys in costume; clearly the mysterious angle works for them, as curious fans have been keying their name into Google all year.
8 Mindy McCready
On February 17th Mindy McCready tragically took her own life, shooting her late boyfriend’s dog and then herself. Horrific, but it gets worse: A month earlier, David Wilson - McCready’s record producer and father of her ten-month-old child - had taken his own life the same way. After a long history with mental illness and drug addiction the country singer succumbed to her pain, leaving two young sons. Google searches for McCready began trending in January when her boyfriend shot himself. The trend peaked with her own death in February. Just as McCready's name disappeared from headlines by March, so search activity for the singer - who sold more than 2 million copies of her first album and put several songs on Billboard charts - has been very quiet since the same time.
7 Miley Cyrus
Twerk it! This newsworthy former child star is pretty consistently highly searched, with a higher baseline trend than most on our list. But it was a year of high-profile attempts to shake her Disney image that made Miley a universal 'trend'. The actor/singer, named Destiny Hope at birth, had a steadily increasing digital buzz between mid-and end-August. The peak almost certainly had something to do with her notorious MTV Music Video Awards performance, when she wore a questionable leotard and 'twerked' with controversial songster Robin Thicke, as well as her release of the video for single 'Wrecking Ball', in which she swings naked from - you guessed it - an enormous wrecking ball. And if you're still wondering what impact Google has on our culture, you might be interested to know that “twerk” made it into the Oxford English Dictionary shortly after Miley’s trend peaked. Look it up.
6 Lea Michele
This Golden-Globe/Emmy-nominated singer/actor is best known for her role as Rachel Berry in the hit show 'Glee'. Before that Lea Michele had performed on Broadway as Cossette in 'Les Miserables', and in 'Fiddler on the Roof' and 'Ragtime'. Despite her star-lined career, she began trending this year only in April, after her boyfriend Cory Monteith checked into rehab. After that, searches for her name were low until the second and third weeks of July when peak activity unfortunately coincided with the drug-and-alcohol induced death of Monteith. Michele was trending again after Glee began production in August, and after the airing of the October episode which honoured Monteith.
5 Robin Thicke
This singer/songwriter, musician and actor has worked with many noted musicians and singers - he has written or co-written songs for some of the most famous singers of our time, including Christina Aguilera. In March Thicke released his fourth album, “Blurred Lines.” Thicke’s Google search activity, insignificant earlier in the year, steadily increased from the release of his album through to August 18th, and peaks through the last week of August. This coincides with our earlier sneak peek: Thicke’s involvement in the twerking debacle with Miley Cyrus. Thicke is controversial in his own right, too, and a lot of the trending action may be less to do with the musical talent on his album and more to do with THAT music video for the single, 'Blurred Lines'. Though there has been some decline in Thicke's search popularity, the Google graph still shows more interest now than before the release of his album this year.
4 Charlie Hunnam
The movie Pacific Rim was released on July 12th, and Hunnam, whose Google activity was quiet for the first half of 2013, began trending at this point. Roughly six weeks later -when it was announced he would portray Christian Steele in 'Fifty Shades of Grey' - his trending peaked, declining since. He's still notably more searched than pre-July however, due in part to his role in Pacific Rim and also perhaps because he ended up quitting Fifty Shades before production began. Official reasons given include a scheduling conflict, but unofficially it's rumoured he wasn't granted the right to more creative input in the screenplay. Perhaps we’ll see more of him though, on the big screen and on the Google trend-ometer, as his own screenplay 'Vlad' is in production by none other than Brad Pitt.
3 James Gandolfini
What fan of HBO will ever forget Tony Soprano; the oddly endearing, obese mob boss? Whether ordering a hit on some unsuspecting dupe or hanging out with the guys at Bada Bing, Gandolfini will be fondly remembered, despite his best-known character’s worst flaws which included overeating, adultery and murder. The late actor’s 2013 Google stats show little activity until May, when the HBO miniseries 'Criminal Justice' - in which he was to feature - was picked up after having been dropped three months earlier. Gandolfini’s trend began to rise, and peaked significantly upon his much publicized death of a heart attack while in Rome. “Enough Said.” RIP, Mr. Gandolfini.
2 Amanda Bynes
This 27-year-old has been making headlines with bizarre behaviour and controversial tweets all year, and she's been trending on Google throughout 2013. Search activity for her name picked up in early March and continued through early October, with highest peaks in May and July. What was Ms. Bynes doing to warrant all this attention? The Los Angeles born actress, in the limelight since age seven and once a Nickelodeon Darling, had a year filled with mental illness, drug use and arrests. On May 23rd she was arrested at her home, where she was observed throwing a bong (which she later claimed was a vase) from a window. On July 22nd Bynes caused a very public scene when she lit a fire in a stranger’s driveway and almost set her pet dog alight in the process. After this incident her parents sent her to a rehabilitation facility and now, apparently recovered, she's registered to study fashion design.
1 Cory Monteith
After some time in rehab, this Canadian-born star made his first red-carpet appearance on June 8th at a private function known as the Chrysalis Butterfly Ball. Between this date and August, the actor most people thought of as Glee's Finn Hudson had trended on Google, peaking in July. The reason for the peak? Monteith tragically died on July 13th from a toxic mixture of heroin and alcohol in a Vancouver hotel room, soon after the 'Glee' season ended.