TrackRecord's Predictions For 2017

Some of these are bound to be wrong.

By Shawn Cooke Dec 15, 2016
via Fer Gonzalez
via Fer Gonzalez

This year was chock-full of loss, division, and confusion. No one needs to be reminded of that. Many of us are still processing how one man vaulted from WrestleMania appearances to the White House, the Chicago Cubs managed to win a World Series, and studio executives somehow greenlit a movie in which Kevin Spacey plays a talking cat.

Still, we have no choice but to move forward. After a year of the unthinkable, what could possibly be left to surprise us? And as we attempt to forecast music trends, we acknowledge that our predictions could prove to possibly, definitely be wrong—but we’re making a few anyway. Looking into an ever-hazy crystal ball, here are a few things we’re expecting to see in the music world next year.

Lorde returns, and reminds us of what her knock-offs have been missing.
Lorde’s Pure Heroine will turn four years old next year—which, yes, is the same amount of time we had to wait between Channel Orange and Blonde. Lorde and Frank Ocean operate in the same space, just beyond our reach, with an enigmatic quality that record labels can’t easily duplicate. Since Pure Heroine, execs have tried to turn other pop wunderkinds into full-blown superstars in Lorde's absence—I’m thinking of Daya, Hailee Steinfeld, and Meghan Trainor.

And they’ve all managed to light up the charts. But like Ocean, Lorde seems largely unconcerned with getting another No. 1 single, if it means compromising her vision. We look to Lorde for her frighteningly wise-beyond-her-years perception and goth leanings. In a lengthy birthday Facebook post, Lorde suggested that she retreated to solitude this year, and discovered “in a profound, scary, blood-aching way who I was when I was alone.” You can imagine Lorde opting for nights to herself at home, listening to Bowie and Majical Cloudz records, wondering how they could inform her own. “I am about to show you the new world,” she promised at the end of her birthday note. We can’t wait to see it.

“Indie rock is back!” … But it never left.
Next year, we’ll receive some gifts from establishment indie rock: Arcade Fire, Spoon, Grizzly Bear, The National, LCD Soundsystem, Fleet Foxes, The xx, The Shins, and Broken Social Scene have all confirmed new releases (or at least work on them) for 2017. This year, we mostly had Radiohead, and … Radiohead. But before anyone revs up a Google doc for “Rock is back!” thinkpieces, it’s important to recognize that guitar-based indie rock had a great 2016, despite what it may have lacked in tentpole appeal. Look no further than Car Seat Headrest and Mitski, the consensus breakout picks who graced almost every major year-end list and a handful of late-night shows. And they were hardly alone in nudging rock forward—The Hotelier, Pinegrove, PUP, and Cymbals Eat Guitars played in familiar sandboxes, communicating knotty, conflicted emotion in ways we hadn’t heard before. Next year, a fresh batch of new releases from beloved bands won’t save indie rock—because it doesn’t need saving.

More hologram tours, less soul-crushing death.
This merciless year claimed some of our most vital icons—Prince, Bowie, Leonard Cohen, Juan Gabriel, and Phife, to name a few. Our simple wish for 2017: please don’t make this volume of loss an annual tradition. Instead, we could likely see the revival of some departed musicians, in the form of long-gestating hologram tours. This year, a Ronnie James Dio hologram debuted, with plans to tour in 2017. Digital renderings of Jackie Wilson and Notorious B.I.G. have been discussed for the past two years, with tentative tours set for next year. But after Whitney Houston’s hologram debut on The Voice was met with a, well, tepid reaction, her estate backed out of touring plans. Which begs the question: Is there a genuine demand for these digital ghosts, or are their teams overreaching to keep the legacy revenue flowing?

Music might get more political next year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean better.
“At least music will be great under Trump,” is something you probably read in the election’s immediate aftermath. This line of thinking is messy for numerous reasons: it puts art above the lives of others, but also seems to ignore the urgent, political albums we’ve heard in the past few years. Kendrick Lamar, Solange, Run the Jewels, Jeff Rosenstock, and ANOHNI weren’t afraid of their president when they made nuanced records—even if they occasionally grappled with his flaws. There was enough to fear elsewhere. We don’t need an American Idiot 2 to explain how everything’s gone to hell; it’d be far nicer if no one felt the urge to make one.

Chromatics will finally release Dear Tommy.
Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.