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2018 Music Forecast: 9 Trends and Artists to Watch

From Kanye’s comeback to the new crop of boy bands and the death of ticket bots

2018 forecast

Read our rundown of music trends, artists and stories to watch in 2018, from Neil Young's expanding Archives to the rise of Latin pop.

With news of a massive lawsuit against Spotify and the release of several high-profile festival lineups, the year in music is already off to a busy start. As 2018 gets underway, here are nine other stories, artists and trends to watch, from the possible return of Kanye and the Stones to the rise of Latin pop.

2018 forecast

John Shearer/Getty Images

The Return of Justin Timberlake

When Timberlake steps onstage at the Super Bowl in Minneapolis in February, he will likely perform music from Man of the Woods, his first album in four years, due out two days before the big game. “The music we just made? It’s gonna put him on another plateau,” his longtime producer Timbaland told Rolling Stone recently. Though Timberlake is pushing 40, he proved he’s still a chart-topping force with 2016’s Number One “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Someone who’s heard the new album says it “pushes boundaries in ways you don’t expect. It’s gonna have a lot of hits” and includes a collaboration with country star Chris Stapleton. Another source confirms that Timberlake is also planning an arena tour. His last one, the 14-month 20/20 Experience world tour, earned $230 million. “It’s going to be humongous,” says one promoter. 

2018 forecast

PrettyMuch

Nev Todorovic

The Next Wave of Boy Bands

After One Direction split in 2016, the race was on to find the next heartthrob crew. Simon Cowell has assembled PrettyMuch (pictured), whose dancing and harmonies recall an updated Boyz II Men. Lorde and Khalid both tweeted their approval, and their label has set them up with 1D’s producer, Savan Kotecha, and is planning a “turbocharged” 2018 campaign. They have competition: Why Don’t We, who signed to Atlantic, released five EPs in the past year and amassed 2 million Instagram followers. “They’re talented beyond belief,” says co-manager Randy Phillips. Adds Steve Greenberg, who discovered Hanson and the Jonas Brothers, “There’s always space for a new boy band.” 

2018 forecast

Gary Burden

Neil Young Digs Up Lost Seventies Albums

Young has finally launched his long-anticipated Archives project online, a collection of every studio recording in stunning quality. He’s planning to use the site to roll out “about 10 unreleased albums and a few unreleased films.” Here are four gems that will finally see the light of day soon.

The Roxy
An LP capturing Young’s 1973 club gigs debuting Tonight’s the Night. He often sparred with the crowd, which was unfamiliar with the new songs.

Homegrown
This 1975 LP was a planned return to the commercial Harvest sound before Young shelved it. “It was too personal,” he said. “It scared me.”

Odeon/Budokan
A soundboard tape from Young’s fieriest tour ever, with Crazy Horse in 1976. It features the definitive “Cortez the Killer.”

Chrome Dreams
The
original “Powderfinger” and “Pocahontas” were on this LP,
which he held back in favor of 1977’s heavy American Stars ‘N Bars.

2018 forecast

Invision/AP/REX Shutterstock

“Despacito” Launched a Latin-Pop Revolution

Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee’s “Despacito”
dominated 2017, spending 16 weeks at Number One, teaching the industry a big lesson:
“All-Spanish records can work,” says Tom Poleman, chief programmer
for iHeartMedia. As a result, major labels are investing heavily in Latin
music, from trap to reggaeton. “The Latin population in the U.S. keeps
growing,” says Fonsi, who expects the genre will compete with hip-hop,
rock and country. And just as Justin Bieber scored a hit by appearing on the “Despacito”
remix, more artists are gunning to work with Latin peers (Beyoncé and Logic
already have). “Before, we would seek general-market artists,” says
Horacio Rodriguez, vice president of marketing at Universal Music Latino. “Now,
we’re getting calls from them.”

2018 forecast

Taylor Hill/Getty Images

Kanye’s Comeback

After a meltdown and a Trump Tower visit, Kanye West ducked the spotlight in 2017. That may change; he reportedly spent time in the Wyoming mountains recently on album number eight, and was seen leaving an all-night session in the same clothes as the day before – a sign that the old Kanye is back! 

2018 forecast

Michael Campanella/Getty Images

Stones in the Studio

2018 might finally be the year for the Rolling Stones’ long-promised follow-up to 2005’s A Bigger Bang. Keith Richards recently said the band is readying “a really good original album,” which was put on pause for 2016’s covers LP, Blue & Lonesome. Richards even called sessions with Mick Jagger “really fun.” 

2018 forecast

Lyor Cohen and Chance The Rapper

Emma McIntyre/Getty Images

YouTube Enters the Music-Streaming Game

The company, with 1 billion hours of daily streams, is planning a music-streaming service that could launch by March. “If it does blend video and audio in one service, interchangeably, why would you use Spotify?” says industry vet Jim McDermott. Lyor Cohen, YouTube’s head of music, thinks it has a shot: “I want to show the industry that we’re capable of finding those most likely to subscribe and [lead] them to a subscription model.” 

2018 forecast

Cardi B

Rick Kern/WireImage

Hip-Hop Loses Chart Dominance?

2017 was a radical year for the charts, with Number One hits going to hip-hop newcomers like Cardi B and Post Malone. That may change in 2018 when Billboard adjusts its guidelines, giving less weight to free streams and YouTube views in favor of paid subscribers’ listening habits. Hip-hop, with artists who accumulate huge numbers on free services, may take a hit. “Rap singles will have less impact on the charts,” says A&R expert Jeff Vaughn. This has angered YouTube, which stated the plan “[says] the only music fans that count are those with credit cards.” Some experts say rock will benefit because its listeners tend to pay for music. 

2018 forecast

Illustration by John Hendrix for Rolling Stone

You Can Finally Score Face-Value Concert Tickets

It used to be impossible to score good seats to big shows, with brokers using bots to snatch roughly half the tickets. But in 2016, Ticketmaster launched Verified Fan, which uses an algorithm that weeds out fishy sales. It worked. Only three percent of tickets for Bruce Springsteen’s Broadway run were resold, and 70 artists have joined in. “We’re doubling down on it,” says David Marcus, a vice president at Ticketmaster. Taylor Swift signed up, with a twist: Fans who bought merch or watched her videos got priority. Others may follow her lead. “Ticketing has been lacking that sort of innovative thinking,” says Larry Rudolph, manager of Britney Spears.