This was an extremely up and down year and a half for the music business. There were periods of incredible progress but these were matched with just about equal periods of stagnation.
I tend to look at the music business with the slanted view favoring R&B and hip-hop music. With that said I also appreciate and study music across all genres. I observed that this was a year where there was a lot of cross pollination between musical genres in terms of production and artist features. This was reflected in a completely widened “top 40” that included blues, rock, country, EDM, and Dub-Step styles into all genres of pop music.
There was very little unique music being made in favor for batches of records coming out the same time that shared general influence from all over the musical map. This was most evident over the past two summers during onslaughts of repetitive and similar sounding music being released seemingly all at once, especially this past year.
Instead of a typical best and or worse list of music I’m writing about cultural impact and what really mattered in terms of the future of sound and the music business.
Justin Timberlake pretty much owned the past year. The anticipation of his upcoming music was coupled with the anticipation of the release of new music by Jay Z. Both had taken an absence from the music industry for some time and their collective return to recording and touring was MORE than well received by both the business and the fans. Both Timberlake and Jay Z proved that you can partner with corporations/brands and still maintain integrity as an artist. After 7 years away from music Timberlake utilized Target, Budweiser, and collaborations with Jimmy Fallon and Jimmy Kimmel to bring the fans CONSTANT reminder that he had some really good music available for purchase.
Looking back on Justin Bieber’s press and promo run in 2012 there is a lot to consider on how to properly market a “pop” release utilizing brand collaboration and social media. Both of the Justins respectively have had a very successful 2012-2013 blending modern sounds into classic “pop” radio production. Both Timbaland (20/20 Experience) and Rodney Jerkins (Believe) proved that seasoned veteran producers have NOT lost their place to younger upstarts.
There is no denying Cocaine 80s influence on music right now from the production of No Id to the songwriting of James Fauntleroy. From huge projects like Rihanna and Justin Timberlake to hip hop projects like Big Sean and Nas the Cocaine 80s crew has kept blessing the music biz with classic songs and full projects including their own EP’s which are available on www.Cocaine80s.com .
In terms of rap and hip hop there has been a strong movement of multiple “crews” working together to achieve better sales rather than competition which seems to be returning to the “mix”. Teams such as Maybach Music Group , Young Money, TDE, and RocNation have been in control of most of hip hops radio play due to their sharing of major labels and similar artists and sounds. Lately there has been somerebellion to this formula but hip hop has proven over and over that new and veteran artists can break the mold and create powerful sounds and movements at any time.
There were very strong projects throughout the hip hop world this past year. Rick Ross’s Maybach Music Group put out God Forgives I Don’t, Self Made 2 & 3 , Meek Mill’s DreamChasers 2 & 3 plus album , Wale’s album featuring platinum single ”Bad”, as well as plenty of other releases from in house artists such as French Montana , Stalley, Omarion, Rockie Fresh, Gunplay, and Triple C’s. Their “sound” and brand can be felt through limitless collaborations with other members of the music industry.
OddFuture had a major year as members of their crew such as Tyler, the Creator , Frank Ocean , Earl Sweatshirt , The Internet , and MellowHype all released critically and fan acclaimed music as well as sold out tours, major collaborations, clothing lines, and even their own Carnival in Los Angeles.
The next big crew to note was none other than Lil Wayne’s Young Money & Birdman’s Cash Money. With strong releases from Drake , Nicki Minaj, DJ Khaled, Ace Hood, and the Rich Gang compilation they were involved in a lot of big records over the past year.
Kanye West’s “Good Music” and associated acts also had a major year. Their compilation spawned “Mercy” which was one of the biggest hits of the year and helped propel both Big Sean & 2 Chainz to successful solo projects with hits of their own. Kanye also gave producers such as Hit-Boy, Hudson Mohawke, Travis Scott, and Mike Will chances to prove themselves on a higher platform all with sucess.
The last rap crew worthy of mention from big moves this past year was Top Dawg Entertainment. The big release for this label was Kendrick Lamar’s “Good Kid Mad City” which has seen a very successful ride on the charts. Label mates Schoolboy Q & Ab-Soul have both released strong projects to critical and fan acclaim. Upcoming releases from them and newer signees Sza and Isaiah Rashad will keep TDE buzzing through 2014 and beyond.
The biggest most universal hip hop release of the past year goes to Macklemore & Ryan Lewis for “The Heist”. This was an album where there was truly something for all types of fans of modern music. Containing strong social themes & emotional elements they balanced their content with uplifting instrumentals that related from small crowds in their native Seattle to global arenas within a year.
There were also really major crossover releases this past year from acoustic based artists such as Adele, Mumford and Sons, Taylor Swift, The Lumineers, and Gotye.
This was balanced by rock acts such as Fun, Alabama Shakes, 30 Seconds to Mars, and Nine Inch Nails all having major album releases and world tours.
R and B singers also had a strong release market this past year with Usher, Miguel, Robin Thicke, and August Alsina all putting out chart breaking music.
Electronic Dance Music also steadily climbed onto mainstream charts with Diplo, Calvin Harris, and Avicii seeing as much success as pop acts such as One Direction, The wanted, Chris Brown, and most recently Miley Cyrus.
This past year we lost some music industry greats such as Etta James , Soul Train Mastermind Don Cornelius, Whitney Houston, Davy Jones, Industry Luminary Dick Clark, Levon Helm, Beastie Boys “MCA”, Chuck Brown, Donna Summer, Chris Lighty, Marvin Hamlisch, Hal David, Andy Williams, Dave Brubek, Jenni Rivera, and Ravi Shankar. May their sounds and memories live on !