Prominent passings, nuptial news, stars behaving badly and literary phenoms were among the arts and entertainment stories that captured our collective attention in 2012.

Looking back over the past year, many of the most-read A&E news stories fell into five categories. CBC News looks into the stories that piqued our readers' interest in 2012.

1. Celebrity passings

As always, the deaths of prominent arts and entertainment world figures — whether surprising passings or the loss of aged celebrities — pulled readers in. Shocking deaths such as those of singer Whitney Houston and former Degrassi star Neil Hope as well as the loss of those who shaped popular music (like Davy Jones, Donna SummerAdam Yauch and Dick Clark), had online audiences poring over every detail.

2. Nuptial news

The marital plans — and woes — of celebrities remained a fascination in 2012. Top contenders included the collapse of the Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes marriage, chiming wedding bells for performers Justin Timberlake and Jessica Biel ,and an impending walk down the aisle for surprising Canadian pair Chad Kroeger and Avril Lavigne.

3. Superstars at sporting events

Headlining the halftime show at a major sporting event can provide a signicant boost to an artist's career — or it can be a high-profile platform for controversy. Both Justin Bieber and Madonna got a taste of the latter in 2012. The Stratford, Ont. pop sensation sparked much chatter after being booed by some hostile CFL fans at the Grey Cup. Meanwhile, Madonna offered up a high-energy and entertaining Super Bowl halftime show, but her gig was ultimately tarnished by an on-camera, middle-finger salute from one of her invited guests: British rapper M.I.A. 

4. Apologizing for bad behaviour

Perhaps it's schadenfreude or just plain curiosity, but readers are often lured in by stories of stars behaving badly and their subsequent mea culpas. Among this year's top-read examples? Actress Kristen Stewart's public apology to her Twilight co-star and boyfriend Robert Pattinson for infidelity and the foot-in-mouth fiasco that saw Angus T. Jones blasting Two and a Half Men, his vehicle to stardom, but backing off days later.  

5. Blockbuster books

Post-Harry Potter, author J.K. Rowling proved she could still pique interest, this time for her first-ever book for adult readersThe Casual Vacancy. Meanwhile, a saucy new literary phenomenon took over the western world, as E.L. James became a household name for Fifty Shades of Grey, the first instalment of her erotic trilogy.

The 20 most-read stories from the arts world in 2012:

  1. Degrassi's Wheels death announced, over 4 years later 
  2. Bieber booed, Lightfoot lauded during splashy Grey Cup halftime
  3. Whitney Houston hailed as 'sweet miracle' at funeral
  4. Green Mile actor Michael Clarke Duncan dies at 54
  5. Pop queen Whitney Houston dies at 48
  6. Katie Holmes, Tom Cruise head for divorce
  7. Celebrity chef, author Anthony Sedlak dies at 29
  8. Tom Cruise, Katie Holmes reach divorce settlement
  9. Monkees singer Davy Jones dies at 66 
  10. Spy experts rate the best Bond villains
  11. Ice Pilots' Arnie Schreder dies
  12. Whitney Houston's body headed home to New Jersey
  13. Madonna thrills Super Bowl halftime crowd 
  14. Top Gun director Tony Scott dead in apparent suicide
  15. Disco queen Donna Summer dies at 63 
  16. Avril Lavigne to marry Nickelback's Chad Kroeger 
  17. J.K. Rowling reveals 1st post-Potter novel details 
  18. Kristen Stewart, Rupert Sanders apologize for affair 
  19. Beastie Boys' Adam Yauch dead at 47 
  20. Slash says Rock Hall of Fame overlooked Rush