It’s that one time of the year where I trawl Chinese horoscope and astrology sites to see what my fate and fortune holds for the year – and then invariably forget about them by lunchtime.
It’s no different in the music world with predictions flowing in from industry types now on the impact of streaming and how it’s changing the whole music business, and hot-takes from tastemakers about what the top trends and ‘sounds’ of 2017 will be. Now that streaming is king and the consumer’s attention span is getting shorter and shorter, how will this affect the way hitmakers create songs? It’s a good time for jingle writers… that’s all I can say!
The music industry is a fascinating beast because at the heart of it, music is such a huge part of our personal life and our culture, but at the same time the business itself is constantly bending and adapting to challenges posed by tech and consumers’ changing behaviours. It’s amazing to observe and be a part of.
Here’s basically how I see it for us in 2017.
Sound of the underground: sombre vibes and alternative sounds to the front
Pure pop is over – or at least, it’s taking a backseat. I was listening to my RedOne playlist on the way home from work this week and it really hit me that the optimistic and hopeful days under Obama’s ruling, which saw RedOne, Dr Luke and will.i.am‘s party rocking pop to flourish has well and truly passed.
As I highlighted last year in reference to Tove Lo and Alicia Keys‘ new albums, in this time of great divide and political unrest triggered by Brexit and Trump’s America, people are looking for something real to connect with. So for me, 2017 is going to see the re-emergence of ‘realer’, more left-field sounding music and harder-edged sounds. Hip hop, grime, neo-soul, indie and icy, moody electro-pop will make a deep impact. Pop as always will evolve to adopt these genres’ qualities. When Evanescence and Linkin Park were really huge… so was rock-tinged pop in the shape of Avril, Kelly Clarkson and P!nk.
Pop in 2017 will feel more urban yet minimalist. Gone are the ostentatious big bubblegum melodies, thrashing synths and excessive productions of ‘Till The World Ends’, and in comes something a bit more sombre, stripped back and bootleg – it’ll be most noticeable in dance music. Vocals and songwriting with earthy qualities of soul and indie-folk music will be highly sought after. Simplistic, effortlessly chic styling and 90s streetwear influences will become your main popstar looks. It’ll be less about the glamour and flashiness in pop, but more about ‘what have you got to say for yourself’, ‘what is your message?‘ and ‘what do you stand for?’. More so than ever the empowered and free-thinking popstar with attitude is needed, so look at the likes of Zara Larsson, Anne-Marie etc.
I’m also throwing all my love to South London R&B/hip singer Ray BLK (pictured above), who I first came across when I worked on the MOBO Awards last year. Her seven-track debut Durt is incredible, I will say it again. This week we found out she won the BBC’s prestigious Sound of 2017 so I’m totally looking forward to all the great things she’ll be doing and – hopefully – prolonged industry support she will also receive this year.
Check out her incredible freestyle track ‘Patience’:
Nostalgic re-issues of classic, 90s albums on vinyl will be a thing.
FINALLY IN MY POSESSION. 🙌🏽 pic.twitter.com/ESFlyzqKDj
— David Lim (@feedlimmy) November 14, 2016
News broke this week that in 2016 vinyl sales were at a 25-year high, which is pretty incredible but also very telling looking at the top vinyl sellers itself. It’s dripping with nostalgia and a haven for legendary musicians – dead or alive – with die-hard fans.
I’m not surprised that in 2017 – as my generation gets a bit older, more nostalgic for our teens and perhaps even start getting into serious record collecting – we will see re-issues of massive pop albums by our childhood faves like George Michael, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys, Michael Jackson, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Shania Twain, Alanis Morrisette, Destiny’s Child etc.
We’ve seen Kylie‘s Stock Aitken and Waterman back catalogue re-issued with great finesse, featuring comprehensive biogs and thorough assembly of recorded material. Why can’t the same be done with the aforementioned artists? I’d imagine they’d be snapped up pretty quickly by sentimental fans, which is all of us. Imagine if Britney did the same with unreleased tracks, demos, rare b-sides and unseen photos and videos?!
Expect unexpected collaborations
Start the year as you intend to go on… and topping the UK singles chart (for the ninth consecutive week) is Clean Bandit featuring Anne-Marie and Sean Paul‘s ‘Rockabye’, an infuriatingly infectious hybrid of dance music with pop and reggae, created by a classical crossover band, a rising popstar with plenty of Essex swagger and charm, and a Jamaican rapper. Brilliant!
In 2017 we’ll see genres continuing to erode and meeting of vibes will be king. We’ve already seen pop songwriter and bonafide British girlband royalty Nicola Roberts co-writing songs for alt-R&B siren Tinashe (that’s Tinasha, if you’re Britney) and K-pop siren TIFFANY from Girls’ Generation (pictured above) last year. Sam Hunt, an American country singer with the classic Abercrombie college jock looks, who is sings and rap and is probably closer related sonically to Drake than Keith Urban. It probably won’t be long until grime weaves its way into K-pop too. I’m seeing all these grime artists already touring internationally to places like Australia where I really didn’t think it would be a thing.
Albums I’m looking forward to in 2017?
Zara Larsson, MNEK, Rita Ora, Dua Lipa, Christina Aguilera, Fergie, Britney, Lorde. I was gonna say Mutya Keisha Siobhan/Sugababes for the third year running or something but then I thought, best leave this open wound to heal, yeah?