The Briefing > April 2, 2012

Let’s have a chat about what on earth is going on with pop in 2012

2012 is shaping up to be a bit of a weird pop year, isn’t it? Of the crop of globe-straddling female popstars that became synonymous with chart domination in 2011 – Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, Rihanna –  all seem to be reaching the end of their album campaigns, or have already packed their bags for a lengthy break (Britney). Adele, who doesn’t really seem to do much but is still completely ubiquitous, doesn’t really count. She’ll end up with the year’s biggest selling album again with the unkillable ’21’ even though we’ve probably heard the last of her for some time.

We’re also in a bit of a pop Twilight Zone: a Madonna comeback single stalled Number 37. ‘Girl Gone Wild’ is shaping up to do even worse. The new Gossip single – wont, as they are, to singing a shouty racket from time to time – is virtually a ballad. Forest-dwelling mystery-monger iamamiwhoami has relocated to ‘the city’ and is releasing a Proper Album. Boybands One Direction and The Wanted have, unexpectedly, taken over the US. Meanwhile, Nicki Minaj seems hellbent on bellow-growling her career into an early grave by releasing a steady stream of awful music. Dreadful girlband Stooshe scored a Top 10. Disco-til-she-dies diva Kylie Minogue is releasing orchestral (ABORT MISSION) versions of her hits as a way of celebrating her 25th year in music, ie she’s doing the exact opposite of everything she’s done for the last 25 years. The new Ke$ha album is rumoured to have been ‘overseen’ by, of all people, THE FLAMING LIPS. You’d be forgiven for being a bit confused by the whole thing.

Amid the chaos, there is some sort of order emerging. The unstoppable wall of identikit club-ready ‘anthems’ seems at last to be crumbling more and more each week. As does heavy-handed use of dubstep gloomwobbles: just as the American public seems to be properly embracing it in its more ‘pure’ form – awarding Skrillex three Grammys – the shoehorned-in dubstep breakdown in pop songs like ‘Hold it Against Me’ and ‘You Da One’ is already feeling ‘old hat’. So much so that even Madonna started doing it.

For the time being, we’ll probably get an influx of ‘new’ Ed Sheerans and Emeli Sandés and delicate, female-fronted cover versions made for tea adverts, but this will be good in the long run. Pop has been far too predictable and stagnant for the last two years. For the first time in about 24 months (it’s felt like a hundred fucking years mind you), it seems like the music scene is finally ready to be injected with something really exhilarating and new…Whatever that might be. Which is, ultimately, what makes pop so exciting.