Last year was all about long-held conventions crumbling—and the music industry was no different. From vinyl outselling digital downloads in the U.K., to genre lines getting blurred beyond recognition, to the most talked-about “album” of the year being an online-only mixtape by a 23-year-old rapper from Chicago, it was clear that old rules no longer applied.
This year, we’re going to see more of that evolution from artists and the music scene alike. We recently sat down with some industry insiders to discuss what trends to look out for and who’s going to make the biggest impression in 2017.
Hide it under a bushel, no?
2016 saw a ton of faith content hit mainstream music—remember when Kanye got “resurrected” during his SNL performance? Was that just a fad or is it becoming more acceptable for artists to wrestle with faith in their music?
Fleurie: People are starting to view the Bible as less of a rulebook or religious thing and more as one of the most famous stories in history. There are universal truths to it, and I think there’s a curiosity among artists there.
Andy: People just have stories they want to tell. I think there are less walls and barriers to different types of music, so it’s just all bleeding together more. The obvious example from last year was Chance the Rapper having worship music on his hip-hop album. I remember it was so jarring first listening to it. I had context for it, but then you think of the kid who just picks it up at Urban Outfitters and didn’t know this stuff was out there. I think it’s pretty refreshing.
Matt: The larger cultural trend is an increase in authenticity and transparency. Artists are exposing what’s really going on on the inside and being willing to put themselves out there in some really compelling ways instead of sticking to cultural norms.
Redefining the industry
Chance the Rapper drops a mixtape online and gets seven Grammy nominations. What things do you see breaking boundaries moving forward that will continue changing the business side of the industry and fan engagement?
Andy: Music is going to focus on touring and the experience people want to have to see their favorite artists. A lot of kids don’t own physical albums anymore and just want to listen to it on their phones, but then it’s about coming together to go to shows or festivals—that becomes the main thing. We all want to have this communal experience together.
Marty: You have Spotify and streaming playlists. If independent artists don’t get on some of those curator playlists, they won’t be successful. There’s always going to be a break-out star like Chance. But it’s one out of a million. It’s hard for an artist right now to be expressive and creative and make the music they want—and get heard.
Matt: Despite the overwhelming amount of music available these days, we’re seeing that those artists who really dig in at a local level are finding their footing if they can match great music with a great work ethic. For artists who just want to sit back and make music, it’s bad news. For artists who got into music to truly connect with people, the sky is the limit. Fans are trusting curators. This is important for indie artists to then find those tribes and contribute to them so that they are then highlighted as a part of them.
What to look for
What projects and trends are you looking forward to this year?
Marty: I’m from Miami. You know how we have such a diverse culture, so I love seeing island music mixed with every type of music. I hope that continues. I love Rihanna. I love Drake. I think a lot more artists will be exploring influences outside of their own world. We [Social Club Misfits] are 100 percent hip-hop, but when we’re touring we hang out listening to ’70s music. We listened to the whole Hall & Oates collection yesterday and The Grateful Dead.
Fleurie: I am obsessed with stuff from the late ’90s lately, and I’m dying to see a rebirth of that time period’s influence. The kind of the songs that just make you feel good like the songs you would hear in the soundtracks of ’90s movies.
Andy: Give me Third Eye Blind all day long.
Fleurie: Yes! And even some more punk-pop. Something Corporate, Taking Back Sunday, some of those really pop-punk bands. The emo revival, I’m so ready for it.
Andy: Make America ska again.
Matt: You know these old bands are getting back together. Like Story of the Year just reunited and Acceptance.
Marty: The artist I’m super excited about right now is Mac Miller. Chance is OK, but Mac is my top guy. Xavier Omar is amazing. I really like Anderson .Paak. He’s gonna be great. I think that’s the new trend—that “soulection” vibe where it’s all trap and soul and that whole audience. They buy vinyls.
Andy: Ryan Adams’ record. I think I just forget how much I love guitars in music. A lot of stuff lately is all synths and electronic stuff. Don’t get me wrong, I love all that, but when I put on Ryan Adams it’s something else. There’s supposed to be a new Fleet Foxes record this year. Father John Misty is playing Coachella, and I’m excited about his new album. Those three I’m very excited about, but especially Ryan Adams because he’s the greatest ever.
Matt: I’m Andy Barron’s missing brother, and I just didn’t know it because I want a Ryan Adams tattoo across my chest.
The new Flaming Lips album dropped in January, and it’s a great album, but my favorite track on it has Miley Cyrus on it. I never thought that would happen, but I love that it’s the world we live in now.
Not only is that collaboration possible, but we’re even getting over what’s hip and what’s not hip. So that there’s not looking down some collective hipster nose of like, “Oh, I can’t believe Flaming Lips had Miley Cyrus on the album.” Instead, it’s “Well, of course they would because it’s 2017 and anything goes these days.”
I think in some ways that works in our favor as music listeners, that artists can blend whatever genres they want.
Andy: Little Dragon is playing Coachella this year, which leads me to believe they’re going to have a new album coming out. They are one of the best live bands I’ve ever seen. Arcade Fire is supposed to have a new one this spring, and I’m always all-in for anything Arcade Fire. And I mean, Katy Perry is in the studio right now, so I’m just ready for when that comes out. The last one was out 2013-2014. I love me some pop music.
Fleurie: I am really excited for Lorde and Paramore’s albums.
What will be the most unexpected collaboration in 2017?
Marty: Chris Martin and Childish Gambino and Migos together all in the same song.
Fleurie:: Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears, the comeback track.
You’re in bed scrolling through Twitter and you see an artist just dropped an album, what artist are you getting up and out of bed for?
Fleurie:: Ellie Goulding
Andy: Sunny Day Real Estate
Marty: Taylor Swift
Matt: Ryan Adams
And to sum it up …
Fleurie:: 2017 is going to be a free-for-all year. You’re going to see really, really talented artists—people who go, “OK, I’ve got to be the best of the best and give it everything I have so the world pays attention”—because an open market is exciting, but it’s super oversaturated. So I think we’re going to see some amazing art rise up out of it.
Matt: What I’d love to see this year is artists who maybe are known for making safer music choose to forgo that platform and kind of get their hands dirty a bit more to speak on what is true and right and good.
Andy: I’m excited for a new era of protest music. I feel like with everything that’s going on, there will be a lot of incredible art that comes out of 2017.
Here are some of the music trends and big releases to look out for this year:
The decade defined by countercultural cool is back—and more earnest than ever. Bands like Foxygen, The Lemon Twigs (above), Melody’s Echo Chamber and Allah-Las are bringing back the unmistakably nostalgic sound, updated for today’s youthful disillusionment. While the bands aren’t shying away from seven-minute riffs, listen for deeper lyrics. The trend is still about big anthems and bigger attitudes, but the poetic, singer-songwriter appeal is defining this new generation.
Atlanta trio Migos, known for hits “Versace” and “Hannah Montana,” had their first No. 1 single this year with “Bad and Boujee.” The song inspired thousands of internet memes and catapulted Migos into the forefront of cultural influence like never before, thanks in part to a shout-out from Donald Glover at the Golden Globes. Migos is part of a new wave of southern trap that will dominate hip-hop in 2017. The likes of Rae Sremmurd, Young Thug and Lil Uzi Vert bring an infectious swagger that’s undeniable.
This year, get out of the house
2017’s festival lineups should give you more than a few reasons.
Music festivals can get a bad rap. There’s the over-the-top corporate marketing everywhere, $8 water and the fact tickets might just cost you a month of rent. But with the amount of artists you get to see in one place, the cost-to-value breakdown for a real music fan is pretty unbeatable. And this year, the lineups are pretty great. Here are a few of our favorites: