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It’s 2015! I hate to sound cliche, but that’s pretty nuts.
While I think I capped 2014 off well with a pretty well-defended Best 14 Albums of 2014 list…
That means that it’s already time for the 3rd edition of my now annual PREDICTIONS COLUMN, in which I basically lay out the next 12 months of your music-loving lives for you like some kind of Pitchforkian Professor Delawney.
But just to prove I’m not full of shit, let’s look at my track record from the past two years:
From 2014’s Column:
1: Punk, Pop-Punk, and Emo Are All Coming Back
2: Hip-Hop Is Going To Get More Experimental
3: One Of The Following Bands Will Breakout In 2014: Tiny Victories, Yellow Ostrich, San Fermin
From 2013’s Column:
1: Frightened Rabbit’s new album Pedestrian Verse will finally elevate them to a higher echelon of mass popularity and critical acclaim.
2: ’90s Alternative-Pop will be more and more of an influence for upcoming indie-pop bands.
3: Funk will see a resurgence both as its own genre, but more specifically in terms of its implementation in pop and hip-hop songs.
4. LONG.LIVE.A$AP will be the Emperor’s New Clothes of releases this year, meaning everyone will feel compelled to applaud it because of an overwhelming sense that is what they’re supposed to do, while ultimately secretly not finding it all that great.
I’d say that makes me 3-for-3 in 2014 (shout out to San Fermin for the breakout year) and 3-out-of-4 for 2013 (sorry funk music).
That makes me at least as psychic as the dude from Psych. The black one, anyway.
On to this year’s visions!
PREDICTION #1: This will be the year we remember that protest music is a thing.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5MQ91PdV4EQ
In the aftermath of the shitstorm that was Ferguson, Missouri, Questlove posted a scrawled plea on Instagram asking artists to be more politically and socially aware when it comes to their material.
“I urge and challenge musicians and artists alike to push themselves to be a voice of the times that we live in.
…I know that many see what happened to Dixie Chicks’ Natalie Maines…she bravely expressed her opinion/dismay on the Bush administration declaring war & was unjustly targeted…suddenly there was an onslaught of radio silence from artists across the board…
…although I’m kinda/sorta addressing the hip hop nation I really apply this challenge to ALL artists…We need new Dylans. New Public Enemys. New Simones. New De La Roachas. New ideas!
…I’m not saying every song gotta be “Fight The Power” but in times like these we need to be more community minded…I don’t mean breathless race to the finish on who makes the more banging “Fuck Tha Police” sequel. I mean real stories. Real narratives. Songs with spirit in them. Songs with solutions. Songs with questions.
Protest songs don’t have to be boring or non danceable or ready made for the next Olympics. They just have to speak truth. I laugh & have fun w ‘Bitch You Guessed It’ like everyone else. But my soul is aching man. ”
And I think Questlove gets his wish in 2015.
Times have changed since we were so pro-AMURICA that a group called The Dixie Chicks could get universally hated on just for shitting on our very shitty former-President. I think in 2015, we’re all ready to admit that not enough people can breathe well enough.
Plus now we’ve got Rage Against The Machine’s Zach De La Rocha popping up on Run The Jewels’ tracks and Black Messiah reminding us that we’re all here to save ourselves and Kendrick using his final Colbert Report performance to show us he’s got more than a lot to say whenever his sophomore album is finally gifted unto us.
I just hope this isn’t only a hip-hop thing, though. I joked in a column a while back that it wouldn’t surprise me if Taylor Swift shacked up with some folksy older academic, got turned onto Bob Dylan, and cranked out a protest album, but wouldn’t it be great to see that actually happen? Maybe Lorde teams up with her for an anthemic jam all about the importance of being active in your local community?
An optimistic liberal can dream…
Prediction #2: Someone finally fills the ‘Male Pop Star’ power vacuum.
Who was the top male pop star in 2014? Sam Smith? Ed Sheeran? Jason Derulo? Pharrell?
It sure as hell wasn’t Justin Timberlake (even though a lot of people are giving it to him by default) and it sure as hell wasn’t Robin Thicke and it sure as hell wasn’t Justin “Bad Boy” Bieber. That’s a pretty big power vacuum to go unfulfilled. I mean we’re talking tons of tween hearts (and dollars) just waiting to latch onto something pretty and/or talented.
While 2014 may have been the year women ran the world — as Beyonce herself once foreshadowed — I think some young buck makes a huge Game Of Thrones-ian push for the Male Popstar Crown this year and we restore some gender balance in the throne room.
Maybe it’s Harry Styles pulling a Timberlake and leaves the band to make his own persoanl Justified (his name even caters to it: Styled).
Maybe Nick Jonas uses his immense talent to only do cool stuff like “Teacher” and the gospel version of “Jealous.”
Maybe it will be someone we haven’t even met yet, someone just waiting to sweep us all away.
Prediction #3: Jay-Z will sneakily retire.
This one comes via previous guest-writer Christopher Miller, and while as a Packers fan I’m always weary to bet on aging superstars quietly riding off into the sunset, I like the idea of this one so much that I’m tentatively getting on board with it.
Essentially, to quote Chris directly, “We may have seen the last of Jay-Z, and without the fanfare of a Black Album-esque retirement album. He’ll just quietly retire, like a player on IR who never comes back.”
It makes sense when you think about the kind of 2014 Jay-Z had.
A flop of an album, the 2nd most infamous elevator footage of the year, a marriage spat that involves his wife throwing shade at him to her ever-growing fanbase on regular basis. Not to mention he also just turned 45 on December 9th, meaning he’s closer to 50 than 40 now. That does something to a man.
Chris and I did eventually refine the actual prediction to exclude features — there’s no way Hova turns down the opportunity to hop on Kanye or Kendrick or Drake’s next album — but Chris did ominously bring up that if for some reason none of them “care to have Jay-Z lend his veteran wisdom on a song, it might be time for him to kick back in his rocking chair and watch the youngsters do what they do.”
Which you could see happening. Jay-Z comes out and says that in this day and age the album is dead and that he might pop up here and there but it’s time to let the young bucks do their thing, etc, etc, and Shawn Carter slowly fades from public sight and mind.
That is, unless Beyonce and him have the most epic divorce of all time. Then we’re all heating up some popcorn and enjoying the show.
Prediction #4: One Of These Artists Will Make THE LEAP…
Her first album was amazing and could only be topped by the live OurVinyl sessions she did to promote it (somehow available on Spotify, by the way). Now, she’s releasing singles featuring The War On Drugs and Sharon Van Etten.
Her second album, whenever we’re graced with it, might be just the thing to catapult her into that next echelon.
The Juan Maclean:
I think picking up Nancy Whang off LCD Soundsystem’s waiver wire was the smartest thing John MacLean could have ever done. Not only does he get access to her immense talents, but it feels like her presence legitimizes one of the more underrated outfits in the DFA roster.
Their latest album, IN A DREAM?, got #5 on my Top 14 Albums of 2014 and I could see them capitalizing on that album’s momentum now that people have realized James Murphy doesn’t care about us anymore.
I’m semi-recycling this from my entry to BYT’s Fall/Winter Music Guide, but Ryn Weaver has got a perfect storm for pop success brewing: ‘indie cred’ from a 4-song EP in which 3 of the 4 songs were absolute jamz; friends like Charlie XCX, Passion Pit and Cashmere Cat helping her out; and an adorable face/button nose combination.
I would be shocked if she isn’t the next big thing sometime soon.