Even though the traditional recording industry continued to struggle against its inevitable demise like a giant ground sloth mired in the La Brea Tar Pits, 2009 was a pretty good year for music in general.
The first buzzword of ’09 has to be fusion. New combinations of R&B, hip-hop, rock, dance, Latin and country continued to emerge with help from acts like Kid Cudi, Asher Roth, 3OH!3, Pitbull, LMFAO, Wale, Infected Mushroom, Lady Gaga and even Lo Cash Cowboys. And it looks like the trend will accelerate in the coming year.
Coming in at No. 2 is style. The days of bands showing up wearing whatever was clean (or not) seem to be coming to an end. Whether it’s the preppy chic of bands like Vampire Weekend, the semi-glam looks sported by The Killers and Fall Out Boy or the all-out glam favored by Adam Lambert, the wigged-out esthetic of LMFAO or the high style glamour of Beyoncé and Rihanna, artists have started dressing for success again.
Of course the queen of that movement (and one of the main forces driving it) is none other than Lady Gaga. In fact, I think it’s pretty clear that Lady G. is unquestionably the most influential artist of 2009. (There I said it. You can call me names and argue with me as much as you like, but that won't change the fact that her impact is huge. I knew the singer was going to be big as soon as I heard "Just Dance." If only I'd known how big.)
In every aspect of her career – music, videos, public persona, television appearances and, most of all, her live show – the woman who’s been on everyone’s mind (not to mention a lot of “Best Of” lists) has raised the bar.
And the effect is already pretty obvious. For example, here’s the video for Rihanna’s latest single, “Hard.” While the clip clearly owes a huge debt to artists like Grace Jones, you can see Gaga all over it.
So who’s going to be the Lady Gaga of 2010? Good question. If I could answer that for certain, I’d be a very wealthy man. Since I can’t, here a few of the people I believe we’re going to be hearing a lot about next year.
Kid Sister – She’s got the M.C. skills of Salt-N-Pepa, the wit and attitude of Nena Cherry, the pipes of En Vogue and the bounce of Outkast or The Black Eyed Peas and can change gears from party jam (“Big N Bad,” “Switch Board”) to Euro club (“Daydreaming”) to retro R&B dance (“You Ain’t Really Down”) in the blink of an eye. This Chicago native (whose brother is one half of updated Chicago house duo Flosstradamus) is going places.
The xx – Take some R&B like Aliyah or Mary J. Blige, add a heavy dose of Timbaland or The Neptunes, strip it down to its basics and then filter it through the experiences of four British 20-somethings who started out experimenting in their bedrooms and you’ve got The xx. The buzz on these kids is deafening and entirely warranted.
Semi Precious Weapons – With its decidedly 21st century take on 70’s glam rock, this New York City quartet, led by six-foot gender-bending singer Justin Tranter, has been percolating just below the surface for a couple of years now. With a plum opening spot on Lady Gaga’s Monster Ball tour, look for the band to take the mainstream by storm.
Miike Snow – You may not recognize the name of this Swedish trio, but you’ve definitely heard the work of two of its members before. As Bloodshy & Avant, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg conjured up hits for artists like Britney Spears (“Toxic”), Madonna (“How High”) and Kylie Minogue (“Speakerphone”). With the addition of American singer/songwriter Andrew Wyatt, they’re ready to take their rightful place in the musical firmament in their own right.
Wonder Girls – It sounds like a crazy idea – five female South Korean singers who sing R&B ala The Supremes, En Vogue and Destiny’s Child while performing classic Motown choreography. But this girl group created by South Korean music mogul Park Jin-Young has already scored three monster hits abroad. (Plus they’re absolutely adorable.) Now their sights are set on the U.S.
I’ll admit there are hundreds of other acts out there that are probably worthy of attention in the coming year. And you can bet that as soon as I unearth them, you’ll be reading all about them right here on Pollstar.com.
Until then, here are a few other names you’ll be hearing a lot about in the next 12 months: Nick Jonas & The Administration, Nneka, Ida Maria, Dirty Projectors, Joy Orbison, Thunderheist, Ke$ha, Drake, Gloriana, Love and Theft and Orianthi.
Here’s to 2010 and all the new music we can handle!