Holographic Chers, choose-your-own-adventure albums and Kanye's presidential run - here's what columnist Mark Beaumont sees in his musical crystal ball
So, faithful MMW reader, how was your Christmas? As lively as mine, I hope – sequestered with my family in a Suffolk village with a small child, entertaining an endless stream of neighbourhood pensioners who all seemed to arrive just in time for the breast feeding, it was like spending Christmas in Spearmint Rhino. But as the lost week widely regarded as the perineum of the year – full of listless gluttony, Love Actually and surreptitiously stolen Michael McIntyre DVD receipts – draws to a close and we prepare to bid farewell to 2018 like the syphilitic Tinder date of years that it was, our thoughts naturally turn to 2019. What will it bring? How bad can things get? And what innovative new ways will they find to blame Jeremy Corbyn?
Well we at NME aren’t employed purely as content-spewing gag gibbons, you know. We pride ourselves on our expert analytical evaluations of trends and movements too. So I’ve consulted the Jedward entrails, browsed Dua Lipa’s Insta and asked both Noel Gallagher and Matty Healy what they think, and here are my predictions for music in 2019.
The year will begin with hopeful news, as Download becomes the first major UK festival to announce a 50/50 gender split. Admittedly, they’ll have had to pull out all the stops to achieve it, giving L7 sixty-two slots over the weekend, contractually obliging every act to recruit someone from the cover of a Scorpions album on keyboards and having a hologram of Cher performing ‘Dead Ringer For Love’ on repeat as the Sunday night headliner. Yet the line-up will still come under fire from a torrent of national newspaper opinion blogs, aghast that they didn’t book Cardi B.
The festival season will come up against greater challenges once Brexit hits at the end of March, though, when every non-UK act realises the new visa costs make it unprofitable to play any of our festivals. With a state of musical emergency declared, every Britpop band will be legally obliged to reform to fill the vacant slots. A huge Brexit bonus for anyone who has ever complained online about how shit the Reading & Leeds line-ups are these days, since they’ll finally be able to go to Reading 2000 again.
Glastonbury 2019 will be hit hardest by the crisis. Even with the Eavis’s stockpiling South London grime MCs in a purpose-built on-site Nando’s from February, Britain simply doesn’t contain enough acts to fill the entire festival. The only solution will be to construct a rudimentary canvas Brit school in the Green Futures field and conscript everyone over the age of eighteen within a hundred-mile radius for emergency singer-songwriter training. Theresa May has allocated £50million of no-deal funds to ensure we create battalions of mope-eyed morons trained to fake emotion over a dreary rewrite of ‘Somewhere Only We Know’, enough to do ten minutes on the Park stage each and avert the disaster of a nationwide tractor-folk revival. The fallout will be horrific though – our current nuisance infestation of Lewis Capaldis and Tom Odells will become a contagion. Come December, May will have to release further millions to get the entire country sonically fumigated.
Brexit will inevitably plunge 2019 into a chaos spiral, where sense and reality is upturned and confusion reigns. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the winner of the Brits Critics’ Choice award actually showing up in any critic’s end-of-year list, Radio 1 accidentally playlisting something listenable, or an international booking error finding Bruce Springsteen turn up to do a six-month residency on Deptford Broadway. A mistake instigated by a US promoter mis-hearing that there’s a street in London known as Chunder Road.
Brexit, of course, is only a secondary issue. 2019 will see the launch of Bros’s big-name campaign to tackle by far the biggest problem facing Britain today: the criminalisation of conkers. Paul McCartney will film a short appeal to camera from his garden, descending into an inadvisable Bengali accent as he sings “bring back conkers, right now please”. Bono will have a high-tech conker couriered to every home in Britain, designed to embed itself with spikes into the foundations of the hallway and play the new U2 album at full volume until you’re forced to move house. I’m not one for giving financial advice, but if I had any stock market holdings right now I’d be going all-in on furry string.
After all, technology might well be the death of us all in 2019. It’ll only take Poppy and Grimes interfacing during some weird Elon Musk sex experiment to kick off The Singularity. And my greatest fear is that, inspired by Black Mirror’s Bandersnatch, Sam Smith will release a choose-your-own-adventure album where the listener can select which direction each of Sam’s vocals take – muffled tedium, snorkelling goose or mouthful-of-towel – but forget to programme in an option to stop it playing. It’ll be an existential dilemma for Alexa, who’ll be asked relentlessly whether it’s possible to kill Spotify with fire.
In America, where the posthumous success of violent misogynist XXXtentacion will cause a stampede to sign Peter Sutcliffe as Soundcloud rapper Lil Rippy, Kanye West will take time out from a trilogy of surprise drop albums including ‘Yandhi’, ‘Mother TherYesa’ and ‘NYelson MandYela’ to double down on his support of Trump. As the US government shut-down hits its eighth month in the battle over funding of the Mexican wall, Kanye will join Ted Nugent, Gene Simmons, Kid Rock, Azealia Banks, Tommy Robinson and Morrissey on a fundraising charity single called ‘We Aren’t The World’. Assisted by Russian bots hacking Greg James, the single will do so well that there’ll be enough money left over after the wall is built to fund twelve thousand catapult-ready baby cages.
By the end of the year, though, Kanye will finally launch his Presidential campaign. Running under the slogan Make America Cray Again, his main policy thrust will centre around forcing Nike to make whatever sneakers the President decrees, but other popular promises include mass-producing caps that give every American the superhuman powers of Krypton, removing the headphone jack from Air Force One and closing all trapdoors into other dimensions where you’re the Unabomber. Recognising delusional egotism and Tweeting like a red-misting psychopath as the key voter touch-points of the 21stCentury, the Republican party endorse him to the hilt, and start looking into the clearances required to change the nuclear codes to 000000.
Or maybe I’m being too pessimistic. There’s a new Vampire Weekend album in 2019, two promised from My Bloody Valentine, a cracker from Beirut, great things incoming from Spielbergs and Two. Stormzy will smash Glastonbury, rebel scenes are thriving in South London, Bristol and Dublin, and no-one’s yet scheduled the new Bastille record, so we can still lie to ourselves that it might not happen, like climate change or John Wick 3. Maybe 2019 will be great, everything will sort itself out fine and we can all look forward to another glorious twelve months of butt-kissing The 1975 with the cold enthusiasm of North Korean generals. Happy new year…