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The Future of Music Online 2017

2017 Album Releases2017 Music TrendsFuture of MusicFuture of Music OnlineMusic Industry+-

2016 was quite the mixed up / messed up year. I spent the first probably 2/3rds of the year listening to Bowie and Prince back-catalogs - every recording made, over and over - to reminisce and celebrate their greatness. The remaining months were occupied mainly by Icelandic Hip Hop and American Hip Hop inspired by the American Honey movie soundtrack.


I don’t think there were any main themes last year, most of my predictions failed to materialise, although we did see another music video-led album from Beyoncé which I predicted would become a more frequent occurrence. Even though I still love it, the album format is alas very much in terminal decline - the music industry is almost entirely now determined by singles and playlists / curated collections.


Too many fledgling bands fail to make the grade as they are unable to write more than one proper catchy single. Within a correctly constructed album arc though you can get away with more experimentation and less all out top 40 chart fodder. My last few notable artist selections have failed to mature properly too. The most recent - Jack Garrat had so much potential, but kind of faded away with inconsistent and insufficiently catchy songwriting - it really did not meet the earlier promise he had shown. Dua Lipa was all over 2016, yet her long awaited album does not get released until February this year.


In many ways the year belonged to Beyoncé - her latest album is my favourite of hers, and it is strongly underpinned by the smart visuals of her extended album videography. New artists need to be more attuned to the commercial demands of the industry and take heed of how the big leaguers do it. It’s not about splashing the cash necessarily, it’s about being visually appealing and consistently interesting and catchy. There is simply too much competition now, too much output for an artist to get somewhere merely on the back of their core artistry - they need to be multi-taskers and multi-disciplined, and in this day and age - visually and social media savvy too.


In previous years certain fledgling artists have stood out for me, this year I have struggled to pick out the one key touchpoint. The New Artists for 2017 lists are all over the place this year, with no clear standout for me. There is some momentum in the BBC Sound of award, with many of those featured appearing on other lists, but there are so many artists that are only mentioned once or twice across all the 20+ resources I referenced.

I can’t see anything indicative of any particular trend at the moment. Many are hoping / expecting UK Grime to be more of an influence on the world stage, yet I can’t see it going much beyond guest and featured slots for now. Grime is still very raw, and the lyrical content for me most often too simplistic and far too overly repetitive to gain any sort of significant traction. Unlike Iceland, where Icelandic hip hop is now very much a part of the top 10 charts, Grime in the UK rarely reaches the commercial heights of more mainstream pop music.


Stranger Things has sparked a sort of analogue synth revival of sorts. Yet by the same token, electronic music has not evolved much of late. I’m still waiting for the EDM sound to die down and be replaced by something more wholesomely musical. 2016, as touched on, saw the passing away of Bowie, Prince and George Michael amongst others - all irreplaceable titans of popular music. What makes it even sadder is that I see no suitable replacements around for any of these. I’ve long waited for someone to bring forth a modern evolution of the Prince sound, but this has not happened and looks like it never might. I don’t see the same attention to graft and detail so clearly exhibited by those 3 artists. Much of popular music is now too influenced by the grunge aesthetic of the 90’s - artists don’t seem to want to put anything into the development of their artistic personas. I totally loved the pomp and circumstance and modernity of the 80’s - people seemed more willing to experiment then - everything was about trying to create a snapshot of the future. Nowadays it seems people are mostly just recreating the past - to lesser and lesser effect.


We really need someone to stand up this year and shake it all up over again - it’s been far too long since I felt the excitement of the new - not that much really since the days of semi-fabricated bands like Frankie Goes to Hollywood and Sigue Sigue Sputnik. There is so much out there now, but very little of it is as inspiring or innovative, even though those two mentioned bands were more truly showcases for their producers - Trevor Horn and Giorgio Moroder!


I’m really hoping someone in 2017 really makes a difference and offers some degree of recompense for what was lost in 2016 ...

10 Favourite Albums of 2016

  • Let Them Eat Chaos - Kate Tempest
  • Blackstar - David Bowie
  • Hopelessness - Anohni
  • The Altar - Banks
  • Tempo - Olga Bell
  • Lemonade - Beyoncé
  • Chaleur Humaine - Christine and the Queens
  • Blood Bitch - Jenny Hval
  • Amnesty (I) - Crystal Castles
  • Wildflower - The Avalanches

10 Favourite Songs of 2016

  • The Spoils - Massive Attack ft Hope Sandoval
  • Stranger Things Theme - Luke Million
  • Blackstar / Lazarus / I Can’t Give Everything Away - David Bowie
  • Randomness / America - Olga Bell
  • Cheap Thrills / The Greatest - Sia
  • We The People - Tribe Called Quest
  • Starboy / False Alarm - The Weeknd
  • Black Beatles - Rae Sremmurd
  • Formation / Hold Up - Beyoncé
  • This Is What You Came For - Calvin Harris ft Rihanna

5 Musical Trends for 2017

  • Grime - If pundits are to be believed, this is the year that British Street Music goes global
  • Streaming Consolidation - Spotify just bought SoundCloud, Apple Music is all over the place as an offering, and Tidal is stagnating. I subscribe to all, but very rarely use Apple Music - it’s user experience just isn’t any way near good enough and it sorely needs a browser version. There were rumours for a while that Apple would buy Tidal. There are still lots of competitors out there, including Deezer. Not all can survive long-term can they?
  • Analogue Synth - As already stated - more music inspired by Stranger Things
  • Dancehall - We had a smattering last year, I believe the Dancehall influence will be more significant in 2017 - new Major Lazer album coming too
  • The DIY Music App - I mentioned this last year, but it did not happen yet. I believe very imminently a mass-consumer music creation app will be heavily taken into use by the public, and will result in a smattering of charting hits - both through individual brilliance and collaboration

New Artists for 2017

As I touched on in the intro, I’m not majorly inspired by most of the key players mentioned on most of the key pundit lists. AJ Tracey gets the most mentions - 9, then The Amazons, Dave, Declan McKenna and Nadia Rose share 7 mentions, then come Jorja Smith, Rag’n’Bone Man and ’BBC Sound of’ winner Ray Blk - with 6 mentions.


Ray Blk is certainly a worthy winner, but I question the inclusion of some of these artists - like Rag’n’Bone Man who already has several albums to his name. In my book, anyone who has released an entire album or more cannot properly be construed as a ’New’ artist, unless it’s the first thing they ever did, or it’s just very recently happened.


The most obvious trend for the BBC is in the heavy proportion of UK Street / Grime - related artists with more analogue instrumentation rather in the minority. I don’t find any of these to be doing anything particularly new or different. I’ve spent ages scanning through all the entries to find a worthy winner of my own for 2017 which turns out to be another Scandinavian sensation - Skott - only 4 releases so far (Porcelain, Wolf, Amelia, Lack of Emotion) - but all of them amazing - my top tip for more greatness in 2017!


Top 21 from industry pundit longlists


(Props + Alphabetical Order)

  • AJ Tracey x9
  • The Amazons x7
  • Dave x7
  • Declan McKenna x7
  • Nadia Rose x7 (BBC Sound of #5)
  • Jorja Smith x6 (BBC Sound of #4)
  • Rag’n’Bone Man x6 (BBC Sound of #2)
  • Ray Blk x6 (BBC Sound of #1)
  • Raye x5 (BBC Sound of #3)
  • Dream Wife x5
  • Tom Grennan x5
  • Cabbage x4
  • The Japanese House x4
  • Stefflon Don x4
  • 6lack x3
  • Dagny x3
  • JP Cooper x3
  • Little Cub x3
  • Liv Dawson x3
  • Maggie Rogers x3
  • Pixx x3

Stef’s 11 Alternative Leftfield Picks



  • Astrid S
  • Ava Lily
  • Bishop Briggs
  • Irah
  • Kill J
  • Kloe
  • Muna
  • Nina
  • Parri$
  • Saint Sister
  • Skott


Preferred / Select Album Releases 2017




*Austra - Future Politics
Bonobo - Migration
*David Bowie - No Plan EP
The Flaming Lips - Oczy Mlody1

John Mayer - The Search for Everything: Wave One
Kehlani - SweetSexySavage

Mike Oldfield - Return to Ommadawn
Migos - Culture

*Ronika - Lose My Cool
*Run the Jewels - RTJ3 = ||Album of the Month||
*Sohn - Rennen

Tkay - Tkay

*Tycho - Epoch

*Various - T2: Trainspotting OST
*The XX - I See You




Animal Collective - The Painters

Bebe Rexha - All Your Fault: Pt 1

Big Sean - I Decided
Big Wreck - Grace Street

*Dirty Projectors - Dirty Projectors
*Fenech-Soler - Zilla

Future - Future / Hndrxx

Kingdom - Tears in the Club
Rag’n’Bone Man - Human
*Ryan Adams - Prisoner
*Sampha - Process
*Thievery Corporation - The Temple of I & I = ||Album of the Month||

Wyclef Jean - J’ouvert
Xiu Xiu - Forget




The Bug - Concrete Desert

Ed Sheeran - ÷ (Divided)

Goldfrapp - Silver Eye

Grandaddy - Last Place
Laura Marling - Semper Femina
Imelda May - Life Love Flesh Blood

Jamiroquai - Automaton
Julia Holter - In the Same Room [Live]
Nelly Furtado - The Ride

Pole - Con-Struct

Second Woman - S/W
Sleaford Mods - English Tapas

Soulwax - From Deewee

Tinie Tempah - Youth

Zara Larsson - So Good = ||Album of the Month||





Actress - AZD

Arca - Arca

Cashmere Cat - 9

Clark - Death Peak

Feist - Pleasure

Gorillaz - Humanz = ||Album of the Month||

Joe Goddard - Electric Lines

John Mayer - The Search for Everything

Kasabian - For Crying Out Loud

Kendrick Lamar - Damn

Little Dragon - Season High

May J Blige - Strenght of a Woman

Parov Stelar - The Burning Spider

Texas - Jump On Board




Blondie - Pollinator

Diana Krall - Turn Up the Quiet

New Order - NOMC15

Papa Roach - Crooked Teeth

Perfume Genius - No Shape

Slowdive - Slowdive





Alt-J - Relaxer

Coldplay - Kaleidoscope

Dua Lipa - Dua Lipa

Iggy Azalea - Digital Distortion

Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie - Lindsey Buckingham & Christine McVie

London Grammar - Truth Is a Beautiful Thing

Lorde - Melodrama

Pixx - The Age of Anxiety

Royal Blood - How Did We Get So Dark?

Saint Etienne - Home Counties

Unkle - The Road Pt 1





Charli XCX - TBC




Alessi - TBC

Alice Glass - TBC
Alissa - TBC
Amanda Mair - TBC

Arca - Reverie

Arcade Fire - TBC
Beck - TBC

Ben Frost - TBC

Björk - TBC
Blondie - TBC
Brazilian Girls - TBC
Bruce Springsteen - TBC
Burial - TBC
The Cardigans - TBC
Chic - It’s About Time
Chromatics - Dear Tommy
Clean Bandit - TBC
Coldplay - Kaleidoscope
Daroc - TBC
Depeche Mode - Spirit
Diddy - No Way Out 2
Dirty Projectors - TBC
Earl Sweatshirt - TBC

Eartheater - Water You Cup Too
Eric Prydz - TBC

Fergie - Double Dutchess
Fleet Foxes - TBC
Fleetwood Mac - TBC
Gary Numan - TBC
Glass Candy - Body Work
G.O.O.D. Music - Cruel Winter
Gorillaz - TBC
GZA - Dark Matter
Haim - TBC
Hard-Fi - TBC
The Horrors - TBC

Iggy Azalea - Digital Distortion

Ikonica - TBC
Jason Derulo - TBC

Jlin - Black Origami

Jóhann Jóhannsson - Blade Runner 2049 OST
John Mayer - The Search for Everything
Juicy J - Rubba Band Business
Kanye West - Turbo Grafx 16
Katy Perry - TBC
Kelela - TBC
Kiesza - TBC
The Killers - TBC
Kylie Minogue - TBC
LCD Soundsystem - TBC
London Grammar - TBC
Lorde - TBC
Louisa Johnson - TBC

Major Lazer - Music is the Weapon
Melanie Martinez - TBC

Mike Oldfield - Return to Ommadawn

Mr. Mitch - Devout
Mura Masa - To Fall Out of Love To
Paloma Faith - The Architect
Papa Roach - TBC
Portishead - TBC
Pretty Lights - TBC
Robyn - TBC
Schoolboy Q - TBC
Sky Ferreira - Masochism

Slowdive - TBC
Spiritualized - TBC

Stormzy - TBC
St. Vincent - TBC
Tears for Fears - TBC
The War on Drugs
Tinashe - Joyride
Tove Lo - TBC
Troye Sivan - TBC
Vampire Weekend - TBC
Wyclef Jean - TBC

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