This year has been the quietest I can remember in a long time, and music wise internationally it will certainly be remembered for a string of tik-tok hits rather than one where there was a load of major albums.
Earlier this year we had an eagerly awaited release from the Weeknd. This had already been preceded by the singles ‘Blinding Lights’ and ‘Heartless’ and by the time Covid-19 took hold of the world properly he was soundtracking things with the mega viral 80s throwback ‘Blinding lights’.
The hype and pre-promo for this album were firmly rooted in 2019 though and even with a mega selling single, the album has still remained bizarrely under the radar. Sure it sold loads and sure it had the years defining track and the soundtrack to the Lockdown, but it hasn’t exactly taken hold of the wider public consciousness.
‘In Your Eyes’ looks like it was perfectly primed to be another global smash, but it never really caught on, despite remixes featuring Doja Cat and Kenny G (!), while many of the other tracks are likely to remain solid album additions rather than pop singles.
This could change yet, and he might be another tik-tok away from another huge hit, but for the moment, it’s an album that will continue to please music critics and fans rather than the wider public.
This is all fine and the Weeknd will be pleased that it’s one of his most consistent albums yet. It’s one of my favourite albums of the year on a personal level. On a wider scale, there are very few albums that are gonna be as defining in the first year of the new decade than those by Frank Ocean, Kendrick, Adele, Beyonce and co in the last. Albums that people will talk about as huge defining cultural events.
Kendrick Lamar was surely gonna release his supposedly imminent new album before now, had the pandemic not kicked in. He was scheduled to play Longitude earlier this year and there’s a good possibility that had he been touring Europe and the United States he might have released it sooner but as I write this the release date remains uncertain. He is big enough to possibly do a surprise overnight drop with little pre-promotion, but it seems likely we will be waiting a little longer. There are rumours of label unrest too, and it’s also been a turbulent year for Kendrick and all other artists when it comes to planning ahead, so who knows really what we can expect. It will certainly be great, of that I’m certain.
Other big names in hip-hop and r&b will continue to have more of a profile through other activities rather than music, and celebrities such as Rihanna and even Kanye seem to generate more column inches due to other business interests now. Beyonce’s main release was actually from last year though the visuals to “Black is King” made a big impact, while Drake continues to deliver a stream of hits in between albums too. Pop Smoke released one of the most memorable albums of the year, months after his death, and when we look back on rap from this year he will certainly be remembered as being one of the big hitters.
In pop music there’s been plenty of big albums, and Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and more have had success, but again, there’s very little that has captured the imagination of the world at large. I’m sure Ariana Grande will be out to make a big impact with her forthcoming album. For pop stars and big name rappers alike, the pandemic is changing things.
Not being able to tour and sell merchandise and do even more deals mean that while it’s unlikely that these stars will starve, the income opportunities have diminished significantly, and the industry is struggling. So you can imagine how bad it is for those who aren’t big names without other sync deals and poor streaming numbers. Luckily for us here it’s been quite a decent year for domestic music, but as we enter the winter, most music artists will be wondering where things are gonna go in the next few months.
The industry as a whole faces its most challenging years in a long time.