From break-through acts to dad-techno and the return of Bruce, Ed Power gazes into his crystal ball to identify music’s main talking points for 2020.
A new year dawns — but what does the future hold for music?
As is increasingly the case in every branch of culture, there is lots to look forward to but too much for any one individual to really keep up with.
We can look forward to new records by Grimes, Halsey, The 1975, Green Day, Dua Lipa, and others. Along with these diary dates, expect dramatic comebacks, beloved bands to break-up, an artist nobody has yet heard to emerge from nowhere and conquer all.
It is also going to be a tumultuous year in live music. Guns ’N Roses bring their never-ending world tour back to Ireland. Westlife are to manifest, in a thunderclap of middle-aged man-pop, in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. And Cork will also witness a dad-techno battle for the ages of Orbital and Chemical Brothers face-off over the summer. Yes, it’s going to be a big one.
1. Who Will Break Big?
The BBC Sound Of tip-sheet has its sights on two Irish acts: Dublin rockers Inhaler (frontman Elijah Hewson the son of an obscure wannabe named Bono) and Irish-Bangladeshi singer Joy Crookes.
Also in contention are pop extrovert Yungblood, throw-back indie singer Beabadoobee and singer/poet Arlo Parks. Last year’s list featured future stars Dermot Kennedy, King Princess and Slowthai. So expect at least some of the class of 2020 to have bright futures and to be on the road to arena-level success 12 months from now.
2. Can Irish rap continue its rise?
The year just past was a headline one for Irish hip hop, with Mango X MathMan receiving acclaim and Versatile headlining 3Arena (and receiving less acclaim). The former have an Irish tour early in 2020 — will it live up to expectations? You can judge for yourself when they play Cork’s new Kino and other venues. Either way, the upward trajectory of hip hop in Ireland feels assured.
3. Festival shake-up
No more Body & Soul arena at Electric Picnic, but the Stradbally event has still managed its by-now customary sell-out. Longitude has also almost sold out on the back of an impressive hip-hop roster. Meanwhile, smaller events proceed from strength to strength. It Takes A Village returns to East Cork in May with dub-daddy Mad Professor among the headliners already unveiled. Body and Soul stages its own dedicated festival in early summer.
And All Together Now is back, with Iggy Pop headlining and the traffic issues that blighted 2019 hopefully solved. Indiependence in August has Sigrid and Stereophonics. Whatever your tastes there’s a lot to be excited about.
4. It Will Be A Summer of the National
With gigs in Cork and Limerick, The National will be bringing their incredible eight album, I Am Easy To Find to the people in 2020. The album is a masterpiece of mid-life introspection and quite arty with it and it will be fascinating to see how it takes flight this June.
Expect Lisa Hannigan, who makes her recording debut with the group on the new LP, to join them for at least one of the dates.
5. A Sumner of Live Music in Cork
From aforementioned techno father figures Orbital and the Chemical Brothers to recent breakthrough acts Gerry Cinnamon and Lewis Capaldi, Cork is where the action is this summer. Diana Ross, Dido, The Coronas and Sinead O’Connor head south too. It is proof that there is a huge appetite for live music in Cork.
Yet this summer of rock in Cork will have a bittersweet tinge, marking as it does the end of the Live of the Marquee series at its current venue after 15 years. The tent has accumulated a lot of memories across that decade and a half.
6. Pop Gets Even Weirder
A new Grimes album provides a reason to be cheery about the world — as are forthcoming records from Halsey, La Roux and Poppy, the ‘AI’ star who has finally fessed up to being a real person. As rock’n’roll withers into irrelevance, pop has become the source of much that is interesting in music (hip hop would like a word too).
Will that continue? The indications are generally to the positive. Yet there is a shadow on the horizon, with fears that the never-ending podcasting boom may be undermining music. Who needs tunes when you’ve got chat, etc?
7. Will Bruce Be Black?
After returning with a bittersweet bang via the introspective 2019’s Western Stars, Springsteen has confirmed he’s planning to go back to the studio with the E-Street Band, with a tour to follow. Will all of that happen in 2020? Or must we wait even longer? Only Springsteen knows for sure. Fans should look forward to at a least one big Bruce bonus in the months ahead, however.
8. Will Glastonbury Be As Influential in 2020?
The Rise of Stormzy was to a large degree fuelled by his triumph at Glastonbury, the ultimate platform for an artist seeking to step up. Taylor Swift, who headlines in 2020, hardly needs the assistance. So it will be interesting to see how she approaches the event – and whether it impacts positively or negatively. Following Cats, she could do with some good publicity!
9. Can the Killers reverse their downward spiral?
Even as ‘Mr Brightside’ has taken up its place as the shiny ‘Born to Run’ of the 21st century, Brandon Flowers and chums have struggled to forge ahead creatively. Their last several studio albums have thoroughly underwhelmed (Flowers’ solo records were far better). They’re back with new LP Imploding the Mirage in spring.
But will it prove another damp squib or a Flowering inferno? Flowers often cites Springsteen and U2 as artists too emulate. They, however, navigated the tricky bump of honouring their catalogue even as they broke new creative ground. The Killers have yet to do so.
10. More Lana Del Rey is a reason to be positive
Norman F***ing Rockwell was one of the year’s best LPs. And Del Rey already has the follow-up in the can. It’s called White Hot Forever and is expected by summer. Something to help you keep your chin up in these dog days of the post-Christmas blues.