Comparisons are generally a fool’s game. It never works out and more often than not, it really only backs up an argument that one side is better than the other. Sports people love them a good comparison but again, it’s usually employed to prove a point. This era is better than that era, the Patriots are the NFL’s best dynasty when positioned up against a past dynasty, hockey more watchable now because of HD and so on and so forth.
With that in mind, I’d like to point out that music in 2017 is definitely lagging behind music in 2016. At this point last year, three certifiable heavy hitters (David Bowie, Rihanna and Kanye West) and one big-time up and comer (Anderson .Paak) had all dropped albums. On top of that, Beyonce had pulled a fast one on everyone and surprised us with the video for “Formation.” Music fans were doing pretty well for themselves as the winter trudged on.
This year it’s been a different story. While some notable albums have come out and a song or two has managed to generate some excitement, it pales in comparison to the splendors of 2016. Yeah, Future dropped a pretty dope album last Friday, but did he also take over Madison Square Garden and put on a fashion show that we all stopped to watch as if it were a car accident on the Garden State Parkway on a Friday in the summer? No. No he didn’t. The most exciting thing to come from rock music was the new Japandroids’ album and while Near To The Wild Heart Of Life is another great barn-burner from the Canadian duo, it lived and died with the handful of music nerds who already knew about them.
The horizon looks kind of bleak too, especially given the big names who dropped albums in 2016. In 2016 we had albums by the four I already mentioned, plus Drake, Beyonce, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Kings of Leon, the Weeknd and Chance the Rapper. There was also the return of A Tribe Called Quest plus singles from Justin Timberlake, Calvin Harris with Rihanna and the Roots. Timberlake’s return was prompted by a movie, while the Roots threw something together for the NBA. There’s rumors that the Roots are working on something new; the same has been whispered about JT. But it shouldn’t come as a surprise if those two songs prove to be nothing more than one-offs as opposed to a preview of something more.
So what does that leave for the rest of the year? Taylor Swift could release an album. It’ll have been two years since she released 1989 and she’s due. Who knows what Kanye is up too, but I’d be shocked if he dropped something. Or would I? I don’t know. Kanye occupies a space in the world where he anything he does is simultaneously surprising and not surprising. Spoon is coming out with something new in a few weeks, but will that even register beyond hardcore fans? Incubus have a new song out, their first in a few years, and while it’s good, I’m not sure the world has been pining for more Incubus. They definitely haven’t been for Linkin Park, who also have something new slated to be released.
2017 could surprise us. Maybe the space created by the headliners taking a year off opens up room for some second tier folks to shine. Maybe we find a new Beyonce or new Drake? Or maybe we don’t and maybe when it’s time to make our year end lists, we have enough songs to fill them out and feel good about, but nothing we’ll take with us to 2018. If that happens, so be it.
But let’s hope it doesn’t.
It’s still early. There’s still time.