possibilities of 2019’s music

Welcome to 2019, music. How ya doin’, gurl?

2018 was a continuation of hip-hop’s dominance with its influential elements such as its heavy bass, trap beat, introspective lyrics, and electro energy across almost all elements of pop music. Mix in clublike polish, some Latin groove, appearances from K-Pop-craze, and just a touch of pessimism, my friends you have the music of 2018. Politics and societal issues still made appearances, though not as often compared to 2017. Artificial intelligence is still taking over the world, finally grasping music (not completely), and listening to music both online and in person is not fading out anytime soon.

Well 2019 is here and alive and we’re ready – and hoping – for a new wave of musical experiences.

Now I’m not saying that this is gonna happen (or maybe I’m setting the standard for what should happen), but here’s a little prediction of what we could expect in music this year.

1. A “sugar-pop” Comeback

“Baby One More Time” and “Single Ladies” were the pinnacle of 2000s pop music. These songs are carefree and motivational, letting you know that you don’t need a man unless you want him. Preach. Or you got a shawty that you wanna call yo baby. *sigh. The virtual percussion is focused and powerful, immediately capturing your attention while making you suddenly want to dance in apple-bo … well, you’ll know the joke if you .. you know. Whatever.

Well, now we’ve got a new “sugar-pop™” (you heard this new sub-genre here first, y’all) resurgence, filled with danceable beats, motivational messages with some sappy moments, and a hint of sugary polish (pretty much the Wall of Sound FYI). Of course, it’s a bit different. It’s important to keep in mind that Max Martin is the mastermind of the “sugar-pop™” technique — he pretty much defined it, so don’t be surprised if you notice a lot of the songs mentioned below are one of Max’s productions.

From ‘98 into ‘01, these pop jams were always in your face, with little to no time to ‘take a breather’ sort of interlude. No sort of dynamics whatsoever.

From ’03 to ’05, sugar and rock fused together and brought some harsher spunk in the percussion and interludes with a softer dynamic, allowing you to breathe after telling that douche to get to stepping.

Coming into ’08-’10, maybe even into 2012 (“Call Me, Maybe), “sugar-pop” utilized the electro synths of EDM with a “you better recognize how amazing I am” sort of message.

’13 and ’14 introduced a blend of sugar mixed with 1980s pop and its piercing percussion sound to that of an 808-drumset– used and abused in the ‘80s. This a “best not to mess with me because I’m fierce and stuff” memo.

I notice we’re starting to see a “sugary” pop x hip-hop fusion.

While I believe Meghan Trainor’s “No Excuses”, released in early January, foreshadowed the return of “sugar-pop”, I don’t think it worked at the time. Good for her, though, delaying her album until 2019 – study and take notes, I like it. It wasn’t until Ariana Grande came out with “No Tears Left to Cry” (a Max Martin production) when I noticed some “sugar-pop” elements coming back into the picture. That piercing percussion, though not doubled as usual, is back, nonetheless. The density of the instruments and production combined with Ariana’s smooth voice and swagger she brought from hip-hop, and you’ve got a mellower “sugar-pop”. Sugar x hip-hop. Ariana also shows this quite obviously in “thank u, next”. To top it off, it seems as though Ms. Grande is in the studio with Mr. Martin himself (who she is totally familiar with) based on a “throwback” video she posted on Instagram. Allegedly. Mhm.

Here in lies the question: Is Max Martin making a HUGE comeback and dominating music yet again? Idk, maybe?

2. The Continuation of the “Latin Boom”

Figure this: “45% of Hispanics subscribe to a streaming service for music, radio, and podcasts more than non-Hispanic Whites, who clock in at 40%”, according to The Nielsen Company. Mhm. That’s a ton of Hispanics. Guess what? That number will only grow. To top that off, Latinos dominate YouTube’s platform with 78% using it compared to the 71% of whites and 76% of blacks.

While Latinos do appreciate their exposure to top 40 music prior to 2017-2018’s “Latin boom”, it’s not surprising that Latin music is becoming “normal” in the top 40 market today — it’s always been, but that’s for a later conversation.

Look at all the music videos Latino artists are putting out: “Bailando” (2.7 billion views), “Chantaje” (2.3 billion views), “Mi Gente” (2.2 billion views), and obviously “Despacito” (5.8 billion views). All in the billions. It’s also quite noticeable that they get to those numbers real quick.

With social media presence, more Latino artists have a chance to gain exposure out of the pure fact that their audience can actually see themselves through those artists. Top that off with collaborations from top-charting artists like Justin Bieber, Beyoncé, Demi Lovato and more garners the attention of a broader, non-Hispanic audience.

For better or worse, Latinos are continuing to break barriers in the music industry and I don’t see that slowing down anytime soon.

3. The Emergence of J-Pop

With BTS pretty much dominating the US charts in 2018, more focus has been spotlighted at K-Pop. While all that is fine and dandy, I’m interested in looking at the J-Pop girl group, BLACKPINK. They just came out with their album BLACKPINK IN YOUR AREA early December, charting 93 on the US Billboard Top 200. Hmm.

This isn’t the first time J-Pop became popular in the States. In 2016, the band BABYMETAL‘s (I promise you this is considered J-Pop – weirdly awesome, huh?) album, Metal Resistance, peaked at number 39 on the Billboard Top 200. They even made an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  You know that song “Sukiyaki”? Yeah, this has been covered a gazillion times, most recently by G.H. Hat; it peaked at number 19 on the US Billboard Dance Club Songs Top 50 chart.

Along with that, Japanese culture in music is continuing to spread with pop artists such as Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, and Ariana Grande incorporating Japanese culture into their music. Even that Shawn Mendes’s song “Lost in Japan” helps –maybe — the movement (even though it’s literally just him in Japan – no sort of reference to actual J-Pop music so that might not do anything – lame). Significantly enough, top-charting artist Dua Lipa’s collaboration with BLACKPINK earned them street-cred in top 40 music, so if J-Pop artists keep going in that direction, along with a growing curiously in J-Pop, I think it’s going to blow up. You heard it here first.

4. A Growth in Political & Social / Societal References in Music

The music industry has not only dabbled in politics and social / societal issues, it is becoming influenced by it yet again. From Childish Gambino’s “This is America” to Janelle Monáe’s “Americans” and Ariana Grande’s ‘The Light is Coming”, I actually foresee a lot more coming in 2019. Especially being in day 12 of a government shutdown (as of 1/2/2019), it’s quite inevitable for an artist to want to inform their audience / cash-in on these important issues. Is this a problem? Well, that’ll be for another time. Oh, BTW, I call that Kanye West’s “Yandhi” will provide some (or a lot) of commentary in this area – that’ll be one to take a gander at.

5. Further Collaboration with Artificial Intelligence

The use of AI technology stems back from the 1960s where you pretty much use algorithms and coding as a tool for music composition. There’s a whole thing about it, but pretty much AI technology utilizes software that can create some sort of sonority based off a certain melody, or any sort of musical element, provided by a human. So you do still need a human to make it work — for now at least. I can foresee instrumental beats being created via AI technology which in turn speeds up the process of actually crafting a song. Don’t believe it’s possible? Well read..er.. watch it and weep.

And the result of Taryn Southern’s AI production.

6. The Growth of Music Streaming: Who’ll Be On Top?

Streaming music has been the way to go for the past decade and I guarantee it won’t slow down. With veteran streaming services such as Spotify, Apple Music, and Pandora, more services are coming up the chain, some proving to be competitive while others just don’t know what they’re doing. Just recently, YouTube branded their own streaming service, “YouTube Music Premium” and it’s making waves around the internet. Other services such as iHeartRadio, Amazon Music, and TIDAL are making their way up the latter, though it’ll be hard to compete with the vets who are further developing their own platform — and given that they have a headstart, the newer services have a TON of catching up. With YouTube Music, however, I’d argue that they have the largest headstart even over Spotify and Apple Music. YouTube started streaming music way before Spotify. Think about it: Spotify started in 2008; YouTube started in 2005. While Spotify solidified a user-friendly music streaming platform, YouTube had the ability to stream music via video. Given the 13+ years of a built-up catalog, it’s proven to be easier for YouTube to develop a diverse music library collection with a much larger catalog than any of the other services. I think YouTube Music is going to come out on top. I have plenty of reasons of my own that I could rant on about for an hour or so, but here are some pros and cons I gathered based on my actual usage of each platform.

Pros:

  • user-friendly mobile app for iPhone and Android (maybe not as much Android, but we’ll get to that later) / desktop app for Mac and PC (iTunes)
  • easily upload and play content from computer local files
  • easiest platform that integrates local files and streaming content almost seamlessly
  • categorizes content the cleanest
  • $10/month for an individual plan ($5/month for students), which are the base prices for music streaming services
  • family plan with up to 6 users for $15/month
  • download songs for offline listening
  • exclusive content
  • customizable artwork

Cons:

  • no browser interface
  • Android app is spotty and doesn’t offer a family plan (honestly, there are other platforms better fit, I don’t know how Apple thought they could compete)
  • no free version (though they offer a 3-month free trial)

Pros:

  • user-friendly mobile & desktop browser interface for all devices
  • widest selection of music & videos with audio-only option
  • most accurate search relevance collection, with contributions from both official and third-party sources
  • dashboard that accurately compiles content you may be interested in based on your search history (bonus is that you can disable this function)
  • download music to listen offline
  • offers individual Music Premium plan for $10/month ($5/month for students), which are the base prices for music streaming services
  • included in Premium bundle for $12/month ($7/month for students), with more features and the best value for your pocket
  • family plan with up to 6 users
  • Free version with limited ads and with official content only, including remixes and videos
  • ad-free music
  • includes most exclusive content from other streaming serves, whether legal or … convenient

Cons:

  • no desktop app offered
  • you can only upload content by uploading a YouTube video, not local songs and videos from your computer — there is hope since Google Music can do this (both computer AND mobile files) and we’re likely to see that integrated into YouTube Music
  • ads for videos if you are only signed up for the Music Premium package as opposed to the Premium package
  • only Premium members can listen to audio-only videos in the background, unlike Music Premium members
  • you cannot download videos for offline play on Music Premium
  • service is limited to only 21 countries
  • family plan is the most expensive of all music streaming platforms, costing $17.99
  • their “hot list” has like 17 or 20 videos that don’t accurately represent what’s actually popular

Pros:

  • user-friendly desktop browser / mobile and desktop app interface for all devices
  • free version with limited ads
  • customizable playlist artwork
  • ability to post original content
  • plays local files with no ads
  • $10/month for individual plan ($5/month for students), which are the base prices for music streaming services
  • exclusive content
  • download songs for offline listening
  • nice selection of radio music
  • access to Hulu (limited ads) for only $3 extra
  • family plan with up to 6 users for $15

Cons:

  • no mobile browser offered
  • not easy to add local files
  • very limited video selection  (they do their own “video show” that shouldn’t even be a thing)

Pros:

  • free radio with ads or $5/month with no ads
  • $10/month for free radio and customized library
  • user-friendly mobile and desktop browser / app interface for all devices
  • family plan with up to 6 users for $15

Cons:

  • no student plan
  • cannot play local files
  • no videos

Pros:

  • user-friendly mobile and desktop browser / app interface for all devices
  • included in Prime bundle as “Prime Music” for $13/month ($6.50/month for students), with more features and the best value for your pocket
  • “Unlimited” option with over 50 million song for an additional $8/month ($5/month for students) for Prime members or $10/month (still $5/month for students — WHOO) for non-Prime members

Cons:

  • cannot play local files
  • no videos
  • “Prime Music” only offers around 2 million songs

Pros:

  • multiple payment options (check ’em out here, too many for me to list)
  • user-friendly mobile and desktop browser / app interface for all devices
  • integrated with Plex, a popular self-hosted media server
  • exclusive content, including videos
  • download songs for offline listening

Cons:

  • it makes no sense that they would offer plans between somewhat good quality and max quality, or “HiFi”, at different prices
  • Just to get high-quality music, you have to pay double other streaming service integrate into their plans — I smell a scam
  • very limited content since the streaming platform is considered “exclusive” with content only from the “top of the top artists” *rolls eyes
  • cannot play local files

Pros:

  • user-friendly mobile and desktop browser / app (“All Access” plan only) interface for all devices
  • offers “iHeartRadio Plus” for $5 ($6 for iPhone users — an additional $1, which is still a damn good price but also not cool, Apple) or “iHeartRadio All Access” for $10/month — ($12 for iPhone users — OK an extra 2 dollars is a little disrespectful, Apple)
  • Both “Plus” and “All Access” plans can play songs both from radio broadcast and on-demand
  • “All Access” plan can create unlimited playlists
  • you can replay songs from live radio
  • offera s free version with radio play only (limited ads of course)

Cons:

  • cannot play local files
  • no desktop app
  • no videos
  • You can only use “Plus” via mobile app, not desktop or mobile browser
  • you can only listen offline via “All Access” app, though that function is only for mobile apps
  • unorganized library

7. More Concert-Goers

So with a decline in physical album sales, people have been falsely concluding that live concert attendance is going down with it. Yeah, Justin Timberlake couldn’t sell out his in tour May and Nicki Minaj with her tour in August, but are we really looking at the bigger picture? Forbes did an article early January 2018 stating “Taylor Swift Is No Longer Relatable, And Her Ticket Sales Prove It”. Long story short: she can’t sell tickets because they are too expensive and too exclusive with this program she did that required you prove your loyalty to her by buying her merch before you could get a ticket. While I’m sure she did it to saturate as much money out of her tour, there is actual reasoning behind this absurd decision. Typically, bots end up “selling out a tour in 30 seconds”, only to sell them at much higher rates (bad for fans losing their money and for Taylor missing all that mullah). Well fast forward to earlier this week with a Forbes article (same writer funny enough) stating that “Taylor Swift’s Reputation Tour Netflix Film Reinforces Her Status As 2018’s Pop Music Champion”. The writer found that not only did Taylor Swift sell out every show, but she also grossed over $200 million from the tour, the highest grossing tour ever. Foot in your mouth, Bryan Rolli?

Let’s also acknowledge the fact that concert ticket sales have been at a growing rate since 2017. I don’t foresee that declining anytime soon, especially with the security precautions vendors are starting to take to guarantee a sold-out show without any sort of bots scamming you out of a ticket that’s already expensive enough. And it looks like it worked for Taylor. I foresee many other artists following her footsteps.

Also something worth reminding: festivals like Coachella and Lollapalooza sold out in 2018 as they do every year. That’s also a thing. Who the hell didn’t want to see Beyoncé (I’m sure some people, but whatever)?

What do you think? Do you think I’m hinting at something? Do you think I’m just full of it? Honestly, it could be both, but let’s see what’ll actually happen in music this 2019!

Zach Aldana
I am a musician with a focus in voice. I studied music during my undergraduate years, receiving a degree in Music at the University of Illinois at Chicago. My musical experience stems back from when I was three years old singing in a church choir. 22 years later, I've participated in numerous choirs, some of which have toured internationally from South Korea to Wales. I am also a classically trained singer, performing solos around the world, most notably for Kelly Clarkson's Piece by Piece World Tour at the Allstate Arena in 2015. Aside from performing, I also enjoy songwriting, analyzing music, and of course, stating my opinion about all things music. Aside from that, I am a graphic designer and web developer. I began graphic and web design at the age of eight. In time, I have been commissioned to help schools and universities, businesses, and personal clients develop their presentation and online exposure. ​

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