As Trump's Cabinet of Wingnuts grows with each news cycle, many of us are not feeling particularly optimistic about the year ahead. But don't despair! Music is here to save us, or at least provide a bumpin' soundtrack to the impending apocalypse.
Let's add “don't spend the whole year in a fetal position” to our list of New Year's resolutions and take a glass-half-full look at some things we can actually look forward to in 2017.
1. Posthumous music from David Bowie and Prince
Of all the major musical artists we lost in 2016, none had greater impact on the culture than Messrs. David Jones and Prince Rogers Nelson. Fortunately, both were extremely prolific and left behind large vaults of unreleased material, which we should continue to hear more of in 2017. Bowie, who's already serenaded us from beyond the grave with tracks such as the swooning “No Plan” from his off-Broadway musical Lazarus, knew he was dying and reportedly left plans for several posthumous releases, according to a widely cited Newsweek article published shortly after his Jan. 10 death. Prince's death was more unexpected, but his vast archives of unreleased music are the stuff of legend, and one of his former labels, Warner Bros., has already announced plans for a deluxe reissue of Purple Rain featuring an entire disc of previously unheard material. With any luck, we'll get even more nuggets from both the Bowie and Prince vaults throughout 2017 and in the years to come.
2. More politically charged hip-hop and R&B
In 2016, spurred by the Black Lives Matter movement and the success of Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp a Butterfly, African-American popular music explored our nation's racial, economic and cultural divides with increasing bravado, as tracks from YG's “Fuck Donald Trump” to Beyoncé's “Formation” and albums from Common's Black America Again to A Tribe Called Quest's We Got It From Here gave a voice to everyone who opposes the racist, reactionary, fearmongering politics of our next president.
3. The return of Desert Trip … and wild, unfounded speculation as to who will play Desert Trip
At the inaugural “Oldchella,” the most overheard question (besides “Was it just me or did Dylan kinda suck?”) was, “Who do you think will play next year?” The most frequent answers to that question were the most obvious ones: Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen. All of which would be awesome, but we're not aiming high enough, people! With $7 million paydays on the table for each headliner, Goldenvoice has the ability to scare up some truly headline-grabbing headliners. We shouldn't be surprised to see Robert Plant and Jimmy Page reuniting (though probably not with John Paul Jones — let's not get delusional here), or Simon and Garfunkel harmonizing one last time, or even a Blind Faith revival (depending on Ginger Baker's health and all-around level of cantankerousness). Given this year's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame class, even Yes with Jon Anderson and Journey with Steve Perry (with Arnel Pineda singing all the high parts, but still) aren't outside the realm of possibility.
4. Women's continuing dominance of the L.A. rock scene
Career-best albums in 2016 from Bleached, Deap Vally and Warpaint — not to mention the excellent debut from Sex Stains and a brilliant comeback record from L.A. punk matriarch Alice Bag — now appear to be just the prelude to an even bigger female rock renaissance in 2017. Cherry Glazerr, Death Valley Girls, The Regrettes, Kim and the Created, Kera and the Lesbians, Dorothy, Feels and Winter all appear poised to have breakout years, and you might be hearing more from up-and-comers such as Alyeska and Janelane as well. All that plus the likelihood of a new Haim album means women will continue to rule rock in Los Angeles for the foreseeable future.
5. A new home for the Smell
Though reports of its imminent demise now appear to have been premature, L.A.'s favorite all-ages venue is preemptively making plans to relocate before the landlords at its current home decide to make good on their wrecking-ball threats. A special off-site 19th-anniversary concert at the Belasco on Jan. 7, featuring No Age, Best Coast, Bleached and Ty Segall, will add to the coffers of the venue's relocation fund, which has already raised more than $58,000 through a GoFundMe campaign. So despite L.A.'s soaring rents, it's likely that owner Jim Smith will find a new space for the DIY kids to rage in before the year is over. Let's just hope it's at least in the general vicinity of DTLA and not, like, Riverside.
6. The return of St. Vincent
I'm probably more geeked about this than most, but any year in which we get new music from art-rocker and guitar goddess Annie Clark of St. Vincent can't be all bad in my book. For those not familiar with the awesomeness of St. Vincent, watch this, then read this. You're welcome.
7. More cheesy, escapist pop music
More adventurous hip-hop and R&B artists aside, don't expect mainstream music to suddenly grow a social conscience in 2017 just because Trump is rolling our country back to the 19th century. Remember, the biggest post-9/11 singles were Nickelback's “How You Remind Me” and Nelly's “Hot in Herre.” And that's not necessarily a bad thing, either. Politically turbulent times can produce great art and powerful protest music, but we also need a little escapist dreck now and then to ride out that turbulence. That new Fergie album can't get here fast enough.
8. Fewer legendary rock and pop star deaths
The odds must be in our favor on this one, right? Right?
9. Finally getting to hear that new Beck album
Yeah, lead single “Wow” was pretty silly. But see Thing to Look Forward to #7.
10. A Best New Artist Grammy for Anderson .Paak
OK, he's probably a long shot considering he's up against the equally deserving Chance the Rapper and the totally-undeserving-but-will-probably-fucking-win-it-anyway Chainsmokers. But I'm putting it out into the universe anyway: Anderson .Paak will win Best New Artist at the Grammys in February. Call it my own small way of keeping The Audacity of Hope alive.