You know what’s one of the funny things about history? It is written, but it’s never really written. Just like the present and the future, the past, too, can change, depending on the actions we take and the narratives we create or tweak in the future. Right this second, what’s the first thing you think of when it comes to last year in non-classical music? Twerking? “Blurred Lines?” Comeback records from David Bowie, Daft Punk or My Bloody Valentine? A teenager from New Zealand who became a global pop supernova by wistfully sighing over pop music cliches? Macklemore and that poor other dude who has to stand in his shadow?
Your current memories are wholly valid, but in a decade—hell, maybe less—2013 might be revisited as the year when Pearl Jam issued their last album, when Sky Ferreira dropped the debut that started her ascent toward pop demi-god status or when “Gangnam Style” went from being a massive wink-nudge in-joke for the YouTube era to the wedding-reception-playlist graveyard of cool aside “Macarena” and “Play That Funky Music.” Or maybe it’ll be considered the year when nothing important happened.
Keeping this in mind, let’s use some forecasts very liable to change and dig our nails into 2014—the Year of the Horse—and find out what that will mean for the music business.
Hip-hop hype: 2013 almost belonged to so many MCs—Chance the Rapper for his dexterous Acid Rap mixtape; Jay Z for gimmicks like the Samsung campaign and the dropping of his hyphen; Drake for his serious Nothing Was The Same push—but in the end, Kanye West and Yeezus still lorded over everyone. Rap personalities don’t get more ostentatious, unpredictable, divisive and (for the most part) brilliant than Kanye, which is why it’s not a bad thing that he’ll be releasing another album in 2014—and presumably dominating headlines again. If that doesn’t work out, at least Watch the Throne II—his second blow-out with Jay Z—is on the docket. Speaking of duos, that’s who all the really juicy news involves. Gnarls Barkley and Outkast are slated to reunite in 2014, and Run the Jewels and Madlib/Freddie Gibbs are also in line to release new albums. Otherwise, keep an ear out for Riff Raff’s Neon Icon, Azealia Banks’ Broke With Expensive Taste and GZA’s Dark Matter.
The rock slate: For a while now, new records from guitar/bass/drum-born rock bands haven’t nearly had the selling clout or widespread cultural impact they did, say, a decade ago, but that has done nothing to dissuade groups of all sizes and styles from generating new material. Several heavyweights are supposed to release new records in ‘14, including Tool, Red Hot Chili Peppers, The Black Keys, Wilco, Beck and Soundgarden. Transgender Dysphoria Blues will mark the album debut of Laura Jane Grace, the transgender leader of Against Me! On the metal front, Metallica, Iced Earth, Mastodon, Lamb of God and Wolves in the Throne Room are each supposed to release something. On the punkier end, Rancid, The Lawrence Arms, Fucked Up and The Gaslight Anthem should also have new stuff out. Same goes for several indie rock sorts—notably Joanna Newsom, Metronomy, Broken Bells, Grimes, Warpaint, The New Pornographers, Mogwai and TV on the Radio. In short, expect a metric fuckton of fresh music that you will never have enough time to fully absorb. (So, this year is pretty much the same as every year.)
Pop and other persuasions: New pop sensations having a way of sneaking up on you out of nowhere, what with PSY blowing up in 2012 and Lorde in 2013—not to mention Miley Cyrus’ massive comeback. Setting aside room for a few giant question marks, ‘14 should be Pharrell’s year since it’ll mean his return to the solo album arena, with his first record since 2006’s In My Mind and, more importantly, crucial guest spots in 2013 on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” Otherwise, expect ballads and bangers from loads of long-bankable types, including Nicki Minaj, Taylor Swift, Jennifer Lopez and Adele. In non-pop/rock/rap news, note the long overdue release of Johnny Cash’s Out Among the Stars, an album recorded in the 1980s that’s been drifting in limbo ever since.
What we’re we pulling for: Less creepy artist portraits from Terry Richardson; more guerilla marketing campaigns that strike from strange directions; the disappearance of Miley Cyrus’ Bulls jersey/diaper abomination; a space-rock collab between Lana Del Rey and The Flaming Lips; a glorious Jawbreaker reunion, and a new teaser single from Dr. Dre’s Detox that—as always—never actually materializes into an album.