Some Predictions for The State of Pop in 2017

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.

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 OraDua LipaChristina Aguilera, FergieBritneyLorde. 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?

ICYMI – here are my 40 Favourite Songs of 2016. Why don’t you tell me about your favourite moments in Mariah’s World here at @feedlimmy?

 

Advertisements

Feed Limmy’s 40 Songs of 2016

In keeping with this annual tradition that stretches back to a land before Snapchat and Gigi Hadid, I am here to present you Feed Limmy’s Songs of The Year.

Over the years it has become more of a documentation of songs released in the past 12 months that I have really enjoyed or have soundtracked a special memory. I think for that reason, these lists of the more intimate nature perhaps carry a bit more meaning and weight, as they’re not critically-inclined but are measured by the standard of one’s enjoyment and personal connection. Which after all, is what music is all about.

Continue reading

BBC Sound of 2017, Kylie’s Retro Hits Suddenly Appear on Spotify, and New Tunes by MUNA, Nicole Millar and Girls’ Generation’s Hyoyeon

It’s barely lukewarm let alone been a hot take, so I reckon let’s not jazz it up too much around here. For the past few weeks I’ve been getting my ass into the habit of blogging once a week (because I really miss doing it). I couldn’t think of a proper catchy way to package this whole weekly pop opinion piece/ round-up of things that caught my eye shebang, so my brain in a hungover state farted ‘Limmy’s Hot Take‘, which let’s face it… wasn’t all that great or accurate. So scratching that title. That title is cancelled. She is done.

A lot has changed in the pop blogging world since I started Feed Limmy in 2008 (I had another pop blog on Blogspot for like two or three years before that). Lots of people from when I started aren’t doing it anymore – real life happens, they end up getting very good jobs and you know, you get too busy to keep it up.

In the last 10 years I’ve met so many amazing people through doing this. I found my tribe on Twitter. People who were into this stuff as much as I was. Growing up in Melbourne suburbia, I didn’t come across very many people who were as passionate about pop music as I was. Pop was frowned upon as ‘guilty pleasure’ and somehow it was made even more unbearable for me to express my love for it when people started calling me ‘faggot’. I’d dread every single time Geri‘s ‘It’s Raining Men’ or Christina Aguilera and co.‘s ‘Lady Marmalade’ came on the radio after the lunch time bell. So after leaving high school and having my own little corner on the internet to write about all the great stuff I was listening to and being able to share it with like-minded Twitter friends was a real game changer for me.

Now that I guess I actually am part of this industry, I do see things a little differently and have to obviously, you know, gurl’s gotta eat and gurl’s got bills to pay so he’s gotta be careful of how he frames his opinions. I also now see hype and media coverage very differently. I appreciate it more, of course, knowing how much goes into it. I am more sympathetic to artists as well and I am also increasingly aware that the more I see the less I know. And I’m OK with that. It keeps me on my toes. This is such a rapidly evolving industry that it’s now more important than ever to question what is really important and relevant.

Everyone in the music industry is going crazy over ‘ones to watch’ type lists right now -i.e. the BBC’s Sound of 2017, Brits Critics’ Choice Award, MTV Brand New, VEVO dscvr, … *Shirley Caesar voice* YOU NAME IT! They are all huge targets for label marketing and music PR types because they are, of course, a really big stamp of approval for any emerging artist and it’s what separates them from other newcomers. It’s the difference between getting booked to play Wembley or a dive bar as the fourth support act, shopping at Selfridges vs. living on Lidl vouchers – you get the picture. The success story that gets wheeled out a lot: Adele. Her career started with a bang when she won the BBC’s Sound of 2008 and then her debut album 19 went on to win the Brits Critics’ Choice Award and then came a Grammy nomination and so on and so forth.

You also tend to notice the same names being hyped and thrown back and forth around this season. Sometimes people still talk about them after a year, sometimes they barely get a mention after three months. The hype can fade as quickly as it rose. As the years go by, however, it seems increasingly difficult to call who might actually their way to the top as the true rising star of the next 12 months.

BBC Sound of 2017: Could an urban artist win it – and actually dominate the year?

This week the BBC announced their Sound of 2017 longlist, informed by tips from 170 critics, DJs and music writers. You know, people in industry who really know their shit. While it’s obviously a practice of self-fulfilling prophecy, I do find it quite exciting to discover new artists this way and see who is tipped for big things.

These are the ones tastemakers are not only predicting will shape the sonic trend of 2017 but also represent what will be most commercially successful. It’s actually incredible that the list is dominated by urban music acts. MTV UK also released their shortlist of Brand New 2017 acts with the same handful of urban music rising stars AJ TraceyNadia RoseRay BLK and Stefflon Don.

It would be great to have a real and raw British R&B star like Ray BLK reaching Adele and Sam Smith level of mainstream dominance. Hailing from a working class background in South London and proudly embracing her roots (‘My Hood’ is basically her ‘Hometown Glory’ but less vanilla and tea cakey), I so want to believe the UK is ready to really big up an artist like her instead of another prosaic guitar noodling substitute for Ed Sheeran, but from what history has informed us that is rarely the case. It’s been years since we’ve seen a super real and distinctly British R&B act embraced by the mainstream. Seriously, please name me one. Whoever it is that ends up taking home the Sound of 2017, I hope we don’t see a repeat of what happened with this year’s lot.

Jack Garratt, who won Sound of 2016 was literally everywhere at the start of the year. After being announced as the Sound of 2016, he went onto collect the Brits Critics’ Choice Award and then wasted no time in releasing his debut album in February, which entered the charts and peaked at #3. It only stayed in the Top 20 for two weeks and then he sort of vanished. By summer, the name seems like a vague memory. Runner-up Alessia Cara, a soulful teen Youtube sensation from Canada, didn’t manage better either. While the brilliant breakthrough hit ‘Here’ flexed for a really bloody long time, her album only managed to peak at #14 and subsequent singles missed the Top 50 altogether. She was nominated for New Artist of The Year at the American Music Awards but lost to ZAYN. I only remembered I had bought her album when I saw her pop up as a feature creature on a Troye Sivan single a few months ago.

Maybe part of why Garratt’s hype wasn’t sustained was because there are literally hundreds of artists doing the type of electronic-R&B fusion with scratchy soulful, folk singer vocals. The market was already saturated by the time he came into primetime attention. But perhaps maybe why it didn’t work was because the tunes just weren’t memorable at all. They go to great lengths to stress he is a multi-instrumentalist, which you know, instills a level of authenticity, and his work is very immaculately produced but where are the tunes? Where is the song that makes people feel something?

Sometimes I think people in our industry forget that all these accolades and lists don’t really matter to the vast majority of the record buying public. Most people don’t care. People will buy records they connect to. People will support artists people they like.

Every single one Kylie’s retro hits are now on Spotify

On Friday, without formal warning, all of Kylie‘s Stock Aitken and Waterman era releases (her first four albums, which were all bloody huge) suddenly appeared on Spotify. I am talking not just all the albums but all the remixes, the B-sides, you name it. I am literally gagging.

This is sort of a nice reminder of one of the many highs in Kylie’s long pop career. While the Christmas stuff she’s doing now is a very clever and savvy business decision, I can’t stress how much I need for her to return to making brilliant pop for the other 11 months of the year.

Check out my 30 favourite ‘retro’ Kylie tunes:

Top tunes of the week

MUNA ‘I Know A Place’

L.A. girl band MUNA has delivered a shimmery, feel good song for the LGBT community. According to Time, ‘I Know A Place’ is “meant to be a rallying cry and a reminder that safe spaces can exist”. If you’re into HAIM, you need to get into this.

Nicole Millar ‘No Bad Vibes’

Smoky-voiced Australian singer Nicole Millar definitely should be on everyone’s pop radar. ‘No Bad Vibes’, taken from her new EP Communication, is a calypso pop treat with trap beats about blocking out negativity.

Decco featuring Mapei ‘Shooting Stars’

It’s good to hear from Swedish-American soul pop singer Mapei. Can’t believe ‘Don’t Wait’ came out three friggin’ years ago. This twinkly radio-ready club pop tune is possibly the most commercial sounding record she’s done and I’m here for it. Part of me wishes Alexis Jordan would come back with something like this right about now.

Hyoyeon (from Girls’ Generation) ‘Mystery’

I’m still shook from Tiffany‘s “I Just Wanna Dance” earlier this year so it’s great to see that K-pop’s longest running girl band Girls’ Generation has yielded yet another solo star. Hyoyeon‘s debut solo single ‘Mystery’ (“Miss Terry” if you’re nasty and singing along) is much more rhythmic, giving you Bhangra beats that nod to Selena Gomez‘s ‘Come and Get It’ but much spicier.

And finally…

On this day 10 years ago, Emma Bunton released her last solo album Life in Mono. I’d be quite happy if she banged out another Free Me, which I guess was what Life in Mono was meant to be but not quite on the same breadth of excellence. Although I still enjoy the title track, ‘Wasn’t Looking (When I Found Love)’, ‘All I Need to Know’ and ‘Take Me To Another Town’.

The album features her cover of ‘Downtown’, as you might remember. It was the BBC’s Children in Need charity single that year and reached a peak of #3 on the UK charts.

Limmy’s Hot Take: Tove Lo’s sweariness, Destiny’s Child “reunion” and Paulini on The Bodyguard

This week on Limmy’s Hot Take, while you embark on the annual adventure of reaching into the back of your closet to fish out that Poundland shake-and-go wig that looks like it should be read its last rites but is still holding on to some fake blood from three Halloweens ago, we are recapping shit that went down in pop.

Some people can’t help but notice there is swearing and real shit going on in Tove Lo’s new album.

The Guardian summarises in the title of their review: “Joyful sexual liberation and lots of swearing”. The Evening Standard muses, “could do with fewer F-words and more bulls-eye choruses”. “Once more, she flaunts words that would be bleeped on the radio,” pointed out the New York Times. “There’s one in the first line of the album’s opening song”, the reviewer gasped. Blimey! Won’t somebody think of the children?

I mean, you’d think they were clutching their pearls at some BBC children’s show presenter, but no, this is Swedish pop sensation Tove Lo who has made her mark for being wonderfully real and uncensored about sex, drugs and fuck-ups in irresistible electro pop feasts. Where she comes from, they don’t censor nudity or swearing on television. The realism and emotional honesty she bares in her work continues to make some people slightly uncomfortable – and dare I say, I’m slightly more intrigued by that than this album.

“We’re so terrified of emotions,” she tells GQ. “We live on top of each other in cities like this [The chat took place in New York but you get the picture]. We all make ourselves smaller so that we don’t annoy each other. You can say ‘Oh, we’re being respectful of each other’ but why is it so? ‘Don’t laugh too loud. Don’t lash out. Don’t be angry. Don’t be sad.’ I think it hurts us. I think it makes us sick, really. To be able to have your lash-outs or crying, being an emotional person, that’s what a real, strong person is.”

I think we’re entering a new phase in the pop cycle right now and 2017 is going to look a whole lot more like Tove Lo than you’d think. Not saying swapping ‘O’s for vaginas on album covers are gonna be the new thing, but more like, we’re gonna experience more realism and rawness in mainstream art, and it’s not just because we’re in a post-Lemonade world. People are going to respond more to records that are honest, that reflect the pain and confusion they’re trying to calmly mask while they carry on their 9-to-5. We’re in a bit of a shitty place right now – there is a lot uncertainty particularly with people in our generation, Brexit is looming, there is financial turmoil and a tide turning with conservatism.

And that was probably a touch too deep for a Saturday afternoon from someone who wrote about Little Mix last week, but if I haven’t lost you…

 

Destiny’s Child is officially on Instagram and people are losing their shit

For some reason, there is now a verified Destiny’s Child Instagram account and people, INCLUDING MYSELF, are getting flustered at the slight chance of a reunion. Beyoncé’s is probably thinking, ‘I did not sign off on this. Who let my father on Instagram?’.

Honestly, whatever reunion there is will probably never happen on the scale we want (album of new material, world tour, HBO documentary, another McDonald’s advert, merch, line of wigs) but, like, there’s probably some contractually-obligated ‘best of’ in the pipeline.

If we had a brand new Destiny’s Child single, it better be a sultry, urban low-key banger in the vein of Tinashe/DJ Mustard production/’Motivation’-meets-‘Drunk in Love’-meets-‘2 On’.

 

Paulini is doing The Bodyguard Musical in Australia!

The musical theatre production has already done wonders for reviving Beverley Knight and Alexandra Burke’s careers here in the UK, so I’m bloody excited to see what it’s going to do for Paulini.

I mean, I really hope Australia gets behind our girl in this exciting new role, but not so much that it gives her the courage to release some strawberry daiquiri Eurodance covers album of Whitney’s hits. We mustn’t let it go to her head because, remember, somebody let this happen.

 

Top tunes of the week

Ray BLK ‘Baby Girlz’

South London singer-rapper Ray BLK is 100% compulsory listening for every single one of you. I was immediately won over when I heard her singles ‘My Hood’ with Stormzy and ‘Chill Out’. Her seven-track album Durt, which hears her pair velvety vocals that would sound at home on American urban music airwaves with truthful lyrics about her life, relationships and struggles in London, is my favourite new release this week.

‘Baby Girlz’ sets the scene telling a story of a girl named ‘Keisha’ who fell pregnant in her teens and turns into a wider commentary on the cycle of hardship Ray sees in her community.

“You know the Tories wanna trap you in the cycle, either you’re carrying a baby or got a rifle. And you know the streets always looking for disciples to follow the roads and have your growth stifled.”

 

 

Ralph ‘Busy Man’

Rocking a slightly more laid-back groove this time is electropop chanteuse Ralph, who of course dazzled us all with the rather brilliant ‘Cold to The Touch’. There is something quite alluring about her desire and steely determination to get her message through to this bloke. I can imagine myself trying to slow dance my way out of the Friend Zone with this one.

 

Alex Maxwell ‘Ghost’

London alt-pop singer songwriter Alex Maxwell is giving me throwback to the dreamy 90s psychedelica of Mazzy Star here with ‘Ghost’. It’s totally one for laying on the grass in the countryside with a joint, definitely not wearing a flower crown because that shit is lame, and staring at the stars. The track, which Alex co-wrote with Carey Willett from Athlete, is on her debut EP Signs.

 

Ryland Rose ‘Polaroids’

Independent Australian rapper Ryland Rose sounds ready for prime time slot after the 7 o’clock news on this polished production of swishy synths and urban beats.

 

For more of my favourite tunes, check out my NEWEST playlist.

And finally…

Turns out, the Sugababes were #1 on this day 13 years ago with ‘Hole in The Head’ (Mutya’s look in this video is so Halloween goals) and nine years ago with ‘About You Now’. What. Major. Tunes.

If you haven’t already lost hope <insert Titanic ‘It’s Been 84 Years’ gif>, apparently very early 2017 will finally bring us the long awaited new album by Mutya Keisha Siobhan.

Let’s talk shit and share playlists on Twitter. Follow me on @feedlimmy.