While 2016 was a tumultuous and unexpected year for pop music, with the death of musical icons like David Bowie, Prince, Leonard Cohen and George Michael, and surprise albums from the likes of Rihanna and Beyoncé, it’s hard to know exactly what 2017 will bring, but it does feel like there’s plenty to be excited about.
Irish acts like Soulé, Hare Squead, Bonzai, Barq, and Super Silly show that pop melodies, R’n’B and soul influences, and representing the emerging voices of young people of our fair land will become an important part of Ireland’s new musical legacy.
Fresh musical faces for 2017 suggest plenty of surprises. Raye has popped up on dance tunes for Jax Jones and Jonas Blue, and her own brand of slick, R’n’B pop feels like it could be huge this year. Queer fave PWR BTTM (pictured above) will get everyone talking, while Maggie Rogers and The Japanese House will offer something for the discerning alternative pop fan.
Big name acts will be back to bother the charts again too. Christina Aguilera reportedly has plans to release her first album in five years. Katy Perry will return for her bubblegum pop trophy in 2017; whether she’ll mature her sound is still unclear. Meanwhile Charli XCX is seeking to mix the underground and the charts on her third album, collaborating with newcomers SOPHIE and production heavyweights Stargate on what could be one of the year’s most exciting albums
Lorde teased her second album late last year with a 2017 release looking likely, while LCD Soundsystem will reportedly put out new material this year. Meanwhile The XX debut the first majorly anticipated album of 2017 with the January release of I See You.
Alternative pop-duo Aquilo have built a steady following for a kind of broody, melancholic pop that perfectly fits in on slushy US TV shows and film trailers. The British duo’s debut album Silhouettes sets out their stall as purveyors of slightly overwrought but well crafted gloom-pop. The title track and tunes like ‘Sorry’ show their knack for a blub-worthy chorus and emotive vocals. More interesting are tracks like ‘Never Hurt Again’, its skittering electronic touches bringing some much-needed zest to proceedings. Silhouettes shows off Aquilo’s songwriting chops but drags too much to be the faultless listen we’d hoped for.
With UK rap having a bigger mainstream and critical moment than it’s had in years, new talents to watch out for are constantly appearing. Londoner Loyle Carner is one of them and debut album Yesterday’s Gone is a powerful example of just how much he has to offer. With production that recalls ’90s hip-hop giants like A Tribe Called Quest, Carner’s own flow is calm, collected and beguiling.
Tracks like ‘Isle of Arran’ and ‘Stars and Shards’ show Carner’s unique point of view on an album that feels like the perfect calling card for the UK’s next great musical export.