Welcome to the latest TGJ Roundtable!
Over the years, That Grape Juice has established a distinguished voice that – whether loved or loathed – sparks discussion, debate, and on occasion drama!
Though comprised of seasoned writers who share a similar outlook on Urban Pop culture, the idiosyncrasies of the TGJ team members often lend for quite heated debates “behind the scenes” about the hottest topics.
Now, we give you a front row seat to the show. In a format similar to ‘The View’ or ‘The Real’, TGJ editors – Sam, David, Rashad, and Joe – get real in a very candid way.
Today’s roundtable topic asks each anchor…
What Is On Your 2017 Wish List?!
A Destiny’s Child Reunion
Sure I’ve harped on about this forever, but with 2017 marking 20 years since the ladies dropped their debut single, there’s no time better than the present for them to salute their legacy.
Beyond the anniversary element, their respective windows of availability are more aligned than ever. For, as at writing, none of the ladies are in album cycles nor has there been definitive word on projects on the horizon.
In prior times I would have willed a traditional comeback – namely a single, album, and tour. And, in a way, I still am. However, there’s no need for all of that. Because, if the last three years of Beyonce’s narrative have taught anything, it’s a) the art + effectiveness of surprise and b) touring over everything. Therefore, all DC would need to do is draw on the ‘Formation’ mode of promo. Which simply means using an unannounced visual as a vehicle to plug the real money maker (and ultimate focus) – touring.
Going this route would eliminate the commercial pressure of pushing new music and minimise the risk attached to blemishing their flaw-free ‘Destiny Fulfilled’ era. It’ll also free-up the ladies to resume doing their own thing once wrapping their touring commitments.
At a granular level, there are benefits for their solo hustles too. It’d create additional distance between Bey’s ‘Lemonade’ and her next project (necessary, as she’s not an “album a year” kind of gal). As for Kelly Rowland, it could be useful in giving her a boost ahead of this ever-coming new LP, and also gift Michelle Williams additional momentum heading into her next release.
On paper, it’s a triple-win waiting to happen. Hopefully it comes to fruition!
The Emergence Of Music’s Next Mega-Star
For most millennials, the likes of Madonna, Michael Jackson, Whitney, and Mariah are legends undeniable. Following their reigns, we’ve seen the emergence of modern day superstars (ala Adele and Beyonce) who’ll be joining that elite list oh so soon.
However, for several years now there’s been an alarming pattern. An array of would be/should be legends that are “close but no cigar.”
Worse still, there are artists being gassed up on the merit of hit singles who don’t possess the pedigree to create any kind of notable or lasting impact.
Then there of course are the clones. Like, who could forget “that” era when every R&B belle rocked a blonde wig and tried to dance?
All of this (likely in tandem with social media) has seen few viable megastars emerge.
In 2017, I’m angling for an embrace of more left-field talent. Remember how captivating Lady Gaga’s point of difference was when she blazed onto the scene? Something as unique as that.
Because one consistent trait in every artist that is hailed as iconic is how unlike anyone else they are.
The history and the record books have shown that the masses gravitate towards such acts in a big way. Fingers crossed that more labels, managers, and teams remember this when trying to bake the next big thing.
The End Of The Streaming War – As We Know It
From a business standpoint, competition never ends. So, I’m not advocating nor expecting the various services available to hold hands and sing ‘Kumbaya.’
However, the aggressive, platform exclusive bloodbath that defined 2016’s streaming climate marred so many major releases.
TIDAL is perhaps the biggest offender. Indeed, in trying to assert its viability in the field, we saw ill-advised exclusives housed on a platform that just doesn’t have the numbers, reach, or range. There’s countless examples to pull from such as Rihanna’s ‘ANTI’ debacle, Kanye’s ‘Life Of Pablo,’ and even Beyonce’s ‘Lemonade.’ Some may be scratching their heads re Bey, but there’s no denying that she could have easily pulled higher first week numbers had the TIDAL debut not been a factor. In launching on a service that many were already all sorts of “over,” she effectively sacrificed a portion of would be sales. It didn’t dent her success narrative, but is noteworthy nonetheless.
Elsewhere, Frank Ocean’s Apple Music exclusive proved a total waste of time and ironically TKO’d what was apparently a well-structured deal that Lady Gaga had with the platform for ‘Joanne.’ Despite the latter release proving relatively successful, one can only wonder how an Apple-heavy push would have benefitted the LP.
Put simply, for yours truly the battle for streaming supremacy has seen fans lose more than they win. Especially in regards to exclusives.
For 2017, I’d much prefer to see the Spotify’s, TIDAL’s, and co try to one up each other with cool features. Original video content, such as TV shows and movies, have begun to land on some services. More of this, please and thanks.
The Rebirth of the Music Chart Show
As we all know, very few artists have been able to permeate pop culture with truly impactful releases. One reason why? The absence of established platforms which offer acts the opportunity to sell their sounds and stories with interviews and performances.
Whats more, with their live transmission, the likes of 106 & Park, TRL, and UK titles such as Top of the Pops provided the same brand of unpredictable we’ve come to expect from award shows. Pop culture moments that whether good, bad, or scandalous had everyone talking.
This is something the industry is thirsty for.
Hopefully, a 2017 take on such shows is on the horizon.
The Arrival Of More Multi-Hyphenate Stars
As a 90s kid, most of my childhood was spent consuming content by creatives whose impact reached across the fields of music, fashion, fitness and film.
With the industry struggling to produce acts with the power to rake in the cash from music alone, I hope it finds way to build multi-hyphenate stars out of artistically inclined social media stars.
One needn’t look any further than the narratives of Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren and Grace Jones to understand what the buying public would gain from a new generation of “do-it-all entertainers.”
Rihanna’s Commercial “Rebirth”
‘ANTI’, through little fault of her own, wasn’t the success Rihanna had hoped it would be. In 2017, it’d be great to see the vocalist release an album just as artistic but with a campaign that fares much better than her last. With talk of new LPs from Katy Perry, Beyonce and Nicki Minaj on the way, the threat of competition for the Bajan belle is real but I hope it motivates her to deliver what her Navy anticipate will be the best album of her career.
Art Which Reflects Time
It’s safe to say that we are living through trying social times. As the world continues to celebrate human and soulful art released by the likes of Solange and Chance the Rapper, I’m crossing my fingers that 2017 brings with it more bodies of work which offer both hits and compelling stories. Because it is possible
Let the record show I am in complete support of surprise releases.
When one (especially bigger artists) give fans little indication of the sonic direction the new effort is headed, the opportunity for them decide if they’ll buy it solely based on its first single is taken away from them.
This, in many cases, is a good thing as we’ve seen many-a-first single ruin what were otherwise solid projects (see: everybody).
But, my only gripe with most of them is that they are not accompanied by full on promotional runs. Gone are the days where the likes of Beyonce, Drake, Rihanna, and co. did the talk show, early morning show, and late night talk circuits. Gone are the days of “20/20” specials and all of the means those artists we 80s babies grew up with pulled. Yes, I know times have changed, but when I look at all the stops Bruno Mars and Lady Gaga pulled for their respective last efforts, I can’t help but think how much more successful they would’ve been had they dropped surprise releases. Conversely, I feel – even with the heights of success ‘Lemonade’ and ‘Beyonce: the Album’ achieved – they would’ve been that much more successful had she at least hit a talk show, ‘SNL’, or something.
It’s been 3 years and counting since I’ve been waiting for Tinashe to “explode.” After a remarkable first album – which was a critics favorite – and a plethora of positively sickening videos, it felt like the time was near… then ‘Player’ happened. And then ‘Superlove.’ [See: non-starters.]
As I pointed out on last week’s From The Vault, I’d love to see what an “Urban” boyband would look and sound like in 2017.
Taking a gander at groups like One Direction and Five Seconds Of Summer in the Pop field and seeing how Chris Brown and Drake are running the Urban arena, it’s clear the era of matching outfits and sappy love songs are long gone.
For a few years now, major artists have almost uniformly embraced this “album needs to be perceived as a body of work” mantra. A reality that has seen many top talent effectively give up on traditional album promo (i.e. performing singles to plug the parent LP). So common is this practice that acts are even forgoing the once-mandatory “performing on every show during album release week” motive.
Though this agenda has worked wonders for artists like Beyonce and Frank Ocean (who’s mystique is enough to create excitement and anticipation at a time of a release), it is not the case for everyone. Thus acts such as Usher, Alicia Keys and to a degree Rihanna took L’s in 2016 as far as album sales were concerned.
I get the whole “anti” establishment “I don’t need to please radio” motive a lot of names were going for, but the truth is the masses can’t hear you if they don’t see you.
Nowadays the internet is the biggest vehicle to plug music. Yet, it’s odd to note that a lot of the big artists shunning traditional promo have yet to truly harness the full power of the internet beyond streaming exclusives. Where are with edgy promotional tactics? The all-out utilization of digital titans and social media sites? There’s so much scope to do this that it’s odd that it’s yet to take place.
Do you agree with our picks? Who was spot on? Let us know your thoughts on the latest TGJ Roundtable and your own 2017 wish list!