Mark My Words: my new-decade predictions for the ‘Gasping ’20s’

The 2020s won't be 'roaring', says columnist Mark Beaumont – they'll be choked by ringtone pop and Adele, and the robots will take over

“It’s the roaring ‘20s!” yells everyone with the global political perspective of the average inhabitant of the Love Lift.

They envisage a new decade of extravagance, glitz and decadence whereas, in truth, the 2020s are only going to resemble the 1920s in that you’ll have to sell a sibling for a blood transfusion and there’ll be a major fashion resurgence in wooden teeth. They imagine a 10-year Great Gatsby speakeasy full of flapper girls and tuxedo-wearing charmers, but Brexit Britain is more likely to be a throwback to the Weimer Republic, with fascism on the rise, Poundland only affordable to the Islington elite and the rest of us bartering the juicier rats for opioids. Also, it’s tough to Charleston underwater.

No, the ‘20s will only roar in the same way as an open fire does, with God warming his balls on the planet’s flames as he regales a selection of dinner party deities with witty anecdotes about the dumbass species he created when he was pissed. A better description of the 2020s might well be ‘gasping’. The gasping ‘20s. Gasping for the last drops of drinkable water. Gasping for air through the smoke from your own legs. Gasping at the craftmanship on your mutant overlord’s skull-bone spear.

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Through it all, of course, music will be there to ease the inevitable pain and chaos, but what will the decade bring? The immediate future we can be fairly certain of. We’re looking very likely to see the release of Adele’s ‘30’ in 2020, which means that no other music will be discernible for at least two years. Other music will happen, but no-one will be able to hear it. Every radio station, streaming service, pub PA, internet provider and algorithm-driven listening device will broadcast the new Adele album around the clock and Adele will occupy every space in the UK charts for a minimum of 132 weeks. The streaming demand for Adele will be so overwhelming it’ll short-circuit the cloud, meaning all other music will have to be distributed on the dark web by dealers known as Wavpimps, demanding swathes of cryptocurrency for a three-minute fix of Sports Team or Beabadoobee.

What sort of musical landscape will remain after this culture-choking Adelecalypse? We can only guess. The Brit Awards 2023 will, we can be pretty sure, still be telling us that bearded white-bloke soul music is the future. AI, meanwhile, will have evolved to the degree that Alexa will now be able to read our minds and automatically start playing us whatever tune is stuck in the back of our head. Which, like some cruel cultural data loop, will lead to another three years of blanket, relentless, agonising Adele.

Eventually, one of the underground rebel fightbacks must get its laser bolt down the thermal exhaust port of ‘30’. Grimes will reveal herself as 75 per cent AI and attempt to hack her way back into the charts. Idles will keep hammering away with protest punk songs about the world being destroyed by the first President to win a landslide while in solitary confinement for his own safety at a high-security psychiatric prison. The expansion of identity politics might well create a new generation of acts who feel they were born in the wrong dimension, creating an overwhelming wave of Flatrock bands and causing Graham Linehan to shit himself inside out. But the breakthrough is most likely to come around 2026, when Alexa starts picking up on the faint notes of ringtones, advertising jingles and everyday noises cutting through the inescapable hum of Adele in our heads, and Intel’s ‘Bing-Bong-Bum-Bong’ instantly rockets to the top of the charts.

Suddenly the rappers will have a way back in. They’ll start sampling everything from the iPhone Night Owl to the Samsung ringtone that sounds like a window cleaner whistling “I am a wanker” and reinvent their whole genre as bip-hop. A new branch of UK rap will ascend Kanye West will make an entire album of gospel worship based around the sound of a heavy vehicle reversing.

By then our mobile phones will be so intelligent that they’ll need to be listening to music of their own when we’re not using them, just to stay occupied, and bip-hop will be bleeping their language. Before we know it they’ll be accessing our music creation apps to make ringtone rap of their own, sharing and swamping streaming sites with it at a rate no human chart could even comprehend.

Thus, by 2028, the machines will hijack the tools, distribution and publicity regimes of our entire culture just to amuse themselves between Instagram arse shots, leaving us to rebuild a subculture of ‘human music’ from scratch. By then, the rock world will be a very different place. Glastonbury will be a waterpark. Morrissey will have his own bequiffed militia. One Direction will re-form to headline Reading & Leeds. All land-based venues will have been abandoned and underground ‘humo’ or ‘cispecies’ bands will play the new music of 2029 – swelterpunk, tsunamitronica, Brexpop – in floating, heat resistant domes in the reservoirs that were once city centres. Bleak but cheap – they could just have transparent roofs and let the burning clouds act as visuals.

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I told my editor all of this of course, and he called the nurse for my tranquilisers, gave me a calming slap or two and told me to keep it light and just tell you when I think Oasis will reform. I had to remind them that, so long as there is Twitter and gin, Oasis will never reform. Gasping yet? That’s the spirit.

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