In this era of surprise album drops, left-field smashes fueled by unexpected viral dance clips (you can stop posing like a mannequin now) and short-lead releases, it’s hard to predict what will pop, what will flop and who will land on top. What we do have, however, is data — tons of numbers that can help us make educated guesses about where music is headed in 2017 and what we can expect on the charts.
During a year that could (and should) bring new music by everyone from Bruce Springsteen, Tool, U2 and Kanye West to Drake, Beck, Lorde, Brad Paisley, Nine Inch Nails, Arcade Fire, Migos, Haim, Sam Hunt, Big Sean, Kesha, Little Big Town and maybe even Katy Perry, it will probably take a left-field surprise — or a Taylor Swift album — to match 2016’s numbers. That’s because according to Nielsen Music’s year-end tally for last year’s sales, chart Goliath Adele had the top-selling album in the U.S. for the second year running.
Spoiler alert: there will not be another Adele album in 2017, but here are five trends to look out for that could have a huge impact on the year-end sales numbers.
Ladies First: Taylor (And Kesha, and Katy) You’re Our Only Hope!
Considering Swift has never gone more than three years without a release, if she does release her follow up to 1989, you can expect it to dominate the year, and the charts. The singer has reportedly been working on her sixth album, though very little is known about it at press time. Like Adele, when Swift unleashes a new album it tends to dominate the conversation.
That said, Perry is also in the lab cooking her fourth pop album, and considering the nearly four-year gap and the continued domination of the mainstream and pop charts by female singers, the market is hungry for some more KP.
Speaking of hungry, the five-year wait for a new Kesha album — delayed due to her ongoing litigation against former mentor/producer Dr. Luke — combined with the emotional nature of the songs she’s working on and her fans’ vocal support of her fight against her alleged abuser (Luke has denied the claims), might make for a huge pop moment.
Also, new Haim and Lorde albums. So expect the women to grab back in 2017.
Hip-Hop Memes and Meltdowns Turning Into Platinum Dreams?
Migos’ viral smash “Bad and Boujee” earned the rap act it’s first Hot 100 No. 1 single recently and anticipation is high for their Culture album (Jan. 27), which could help boost them to a new level. Also be on the lookout to see if Rae Sremmurd can spin their Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 “Black Beatles” fame into a hit follow-up to 2016’s SremmLife 2 album.
The success of those two singles, plus earworm hits like Desiigner’s “Panda,” will likely unleash a fresh wave of similar songs looking to capitalize on viral heat to mint new rap royalty.
Speaking of which, Kanye has reportedly been working with Pete Rock on a video game-inspired The Life of Pablo follow-up called Turbo Grafx 16. We don’t know much beyond the title at this point, but given the headlines ‘Ye made at the end of 2016 with his tour cancelation, hospitalization and embrace of Donald Trump, everyone is looking for Yeezus’ next move.
We’re also psyched to see if Drake will finally give us his “playlist” album More Life, which he teased at the end of 2016.
Fight, Fight, Fight!!
Whether you believe the arguments that difficult political times create great protest music by firing up the punk in all of us, there’s no doubt that the upcoming inauguration of Donald Trump is likely to unleash a barrage of heated anthems. Already U2 revealed that they have re-thought releasing their long-simmering Songs of Experience in favor of possibly going back into the studio to write tunes inspired by the current times.
Eminem weighed in back in October with his scathing eight-minute “Campaign Speech,” which we can only hope is a first taste of be a precursor to his ninth full-length studio album. Singer Amanda Palmer recently said she thinks Trump is going to “make punk rock great again,” but we’ll have to wait and see if she’s right.
If there was one breakout act in 2016 it was dance duo The Chainsmokers. The pair recently broke the record for most weeks at No. 1 on the Dance/Mix Show Airplay chart for their smash “Closer,” which logged an amazing 17 weeks at the top by year’s end. They also had the No. 2 top selling digital song in the U.S. in 2016 with the Halsey collabo, moving 2,268,000 copies according to Nielsen Music.
Their other big hit, “Don’t Let Me Down,” landed at No. 8 on that list thanks to digital sales of 1,795,000. What does it mean? Look for plenty of other shiny, happy EDM groups to try and piggyback on the formula of finding a known, but not that well-known, female singer to add that special sauce to a banging dance track.
A Strong Stream
Last year was the first one where streaming overtook physical and digital sales as the music industry’s dominant model, ringing up 51.3 percent of album consumption, according to Nielsen Music. That was good news as Pandora, iHeartRadio and Amazon debuted their own on-demand streaming services, betting that there is room alongside industry leaders Spotify, Apple Music and Google Play in the growing space.
It’s still basically a two-company race between Spotify and Apple Music, but with rumors of potential acquisitions of SoundCloud and Tidal, the launch of Amazon Music Unlimited and a planned premium subscription service from Pandora due in the first quarter, the market seems to have plenty of potential for growth. The quick embrace of smart speakers from Amazon, Sonos and Google Home also bode well for streaming’s continued rise.