The Briefing | February 12, 2016

Farewell Q4.5, you took us by surprise but we loved you

Q0.5 2016 starts on Monday
Q4.5

We all know that Q4 — falling each year in the wintry months of October, November and December — is the music world’s most exciting Q.

Pop’s fourth quarter is time for the big guns. It’s time for exciting things to happen.

But 2015’s Q4 decided not to be like other Q4s. As December drew to a close, Q4 decided it had unfinished business. Perhaps it felt it hadn’t hit its excitement targets. So it broke the rules. And it kept going into Q1 2016.

BANG. There’s a Zayn Malik single.

BANG. There’s Rihanna.

BANG. There’s Beyoncé.

BANG. There’s Kanye.

Fancy a Bowie album as well? There you go. Even ABBA decided to get back together briefly in the first few weeks of 2016.

q452b

You’ve got to feel a bit sorry for Q1, which now exists as a rather pathetic half-quarter. Q1 has always been the black sheep of the Q family. A music industry deadzone. Q4 has Christmas, and Christmas attracts global pop superstar album releases. In terms of key calendar events Q1 has only Mother’s Day and Valentine’s Day, which means one thing and one thing only: a Ronan Keating album.

So imagine how Q1 must feel this year. Q4 has barged its way in, demanded an extra half-Q, and created its own roped-off VIP area. Six weeks to make up for its shortcomings in 2015. And much to Q1’s embarrassment, Q4.5 has shown the world that the first six weeks of the pop year can actually be really exciting.

So what happens next?

Well, Kanye’s album launch last night — one of the Q4iest events in recent pop memory — pretty much marks the end of Q4.5, and Q1 will try to pick up the pieces from Monday. But there are still two days for Q4.5 to make some noise. Two days for a Frank Ocean album, or a Britney single, or a pre-Grammys Lady Gaga Bowie covers EP.

As for how things will work moving forward, it’s hard to say.

By crowbarring Q4.5 into Q1’s territory, Q4 could have created a problem for itself when it comes to the first three months of 2017, because it’s proved that Q1 can easily be the new Q4. Will Q4 pre-emptively up its game at the end of 2016, or has it shot at least some of its load by insisting on this year’s six-week extension?

And how will we know if a big January 2017 release is a second instance of Q4.5 or Q1 fighting back? Well we won’t know.

Nobody knows anything about pop any more.

Nobody knows if a single’s come out or not, or if a song’s really been a hit or not, or if any artist other than Adele is really successful. Everyone’s just guessing. Everything means nothing.

The whole thing is a total shambles.