Happy Sunlighter Sunday! As world music continues to be ushered onto the global stage, we believe artists hailing from South Africa are some of the most talented in the world and perhaps a “Cape of Good Hope” for the music industry. Some of these artists include Nasty C, Beatenberg, and this week’s artist of the week.
Rating Rationale: After much anticipation, Kid Cudi dropped his ninth studio album, INSANO, on Friday. The culmination of INSANO is especially noteworthy as Kid Cudi indicated multiple times that he might be retiring from music after releasing Entergalactic. However, in 2023 he confirmed his ninth project with surprising confidence, even amidst delays. We believe it was worth the hype. It exudes Cudi’s stylistic confidence: from KAWS designing the album cover to Dot returning as his producer (“Day ‘N’ Nite” and “Cudi Montage”), Cudi raps with assertiveness and versatility while also enlisting features like Lil Yachty, A$AP Rocky, Travis Scott, and even the controversial sampling of XXXTENTACION’s “Orlando” on “X & CUD.” Our only knock is the length of the album and its slightly repetitive sound. Our favorites were “WOW,” “TOO DAMN HIGH,” and “GET OFF ME.”
Lil Nas X stirs controversy with new single, AG7, and more speculated pop releases
Lil Nas X dropped his first single in two years, “J Christ,” on Friday, which he dedicated “to the man who had the greatest comeback of all time,” amidst blasphemy. The music video seems to include lookalikes of a series of pop stars and public figures, including former President Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Ye, and Taylor Swift.
Bring on the lowercase font and branding, folks. Ariana Grande released her first single, “yes, and?” It’s a Max Martin production, so get ready to dance. The teaser for the music video alluded that it would be the first single from her upcoming 7th studio album, dubbed AG7 for now.
More speculation on upcoming pop releases in 2024: Justin Timberlake cleared his Instagram, then posted plans for a free, one-night-only performance in his hometown of Memphis, TN. Lady Gaga shared two photos in a recording studio on Instagram, telling fans “If anyone asks, [she’s] at church.” The post included a sound clip, hinting at a new album. The Weeknd also took to Instagram to share plans for the final album in his trilogy of albums following After Hours and Dawn FM. In honor of the Spice Girls’ 30th anniversary this year, Mel B teased the news as “a gift that keeps on giving.”
Maggie Rogers’ MR3 to be released this year, The Last Dinner Party are BBC’s 2024 Sound Winner
Last May, Maggie Rogers revealed she had finished recording her third studio album. On New Year’s Eve, Maggie shared what seemed to be a clip of the final mixed version of “Don’t Forget Me,” a song she sang several times on the Feral Joy Tour with Soccer Mommy and Alvvays. While you wait for MR3 to drop, here’s a clip of the artist performing alongside Madonna on tour.
On the heels of their BRITs Rising Star award, British five-piece band and Elton John favorite, The Last Dinner Party, was announced as the BBC’s2024 Sound Winner. The news comes with perfect timing as the band is set to release their debut album on February 2. Stay tuned for our profile on them in the coming weeks.
SZA’s Lana album leaked, Vultures delayed again
SZA is not here for the people who leaked songs from her upcoming release of Lana, which was set to be the deluxe version of SOS but essentially marketed as an entirely new album. There’s no word yet on whether the album will still be released…
Meanwhile, Ye continues to delay the release of his upcoming Vultures album with Ty Dolla $ign. He is also being sued for battery and assault after striking a fan outside of a social club, Soho House, in downtown Los Angeles.
Primer: With only a handful of releases that include “Getting Late,” “Girl Next Door” and “Water,” Tyla is already transcending into a cultural icon for her home country of South Africa. It was only several years ago (2018) that Tyla began performing covers and original songs on Instagram before being discovered by her now-manager, Garth von Glehn. Amidst her TikTok virality and on the heels of receiving a Grammy nomination for Best African Music Performance for her summer 2023 single, “Water,” she’s determined to bring South Africa’s amapiano scene to the forefront of music.
Genre: Popiano (a blend of amapiano and pop) and Afrobeats. Amapiano is a culturally significant South African subgenre of house music incorporating elements of jazz and downtempo.
Influences: Aaliyah, Michael Jackson, Rihanna, WizKid, Drake
Current Label: Jointly signed to Flourish and Multiply (FAX) and Epic Records
Audience: ~30,475,500 monthly listeners on Spotify
What’s Next: Tyla is expected to release her debut, self-titled studio album, TYLA, this March. As anticipation builds, check out Tyla’s live performance through Vevo DSCVR.
☁️ SoundCloud For Sale: SoundCloud is looking to sell, but only to the right buyer. However, it’s keeping all strategic options with the help of its newly appointed CFO/COO, former Kobalt executive, Tom Sansone, at the helm. If SoundCloud does choose to sell, it would force the industry and upcoming artists to find alternative, incentivizing (and free) platforms to get their start.
🌍 International Updates: ByteDance is discontinuing its music streaming service, Resso. The decision comes amidst challenges in the highly competitive Indian music streaming industry. Meanwhile, Apple Music is set to launch a dedicated "Apple Music Classical" service in several Asian markets, including China, Japan, and Taiwan, starting January 24th. Lastly, one of the biggest takeaways from the XP Music Futures Conference was the potential strength of the Middle East & North African (MENA) recorded music market after IFPI reported 23.8% growth YoY in 2022.
🕴️ ELVIS is in the Building: We love an ironic acronym. Earlier this week, the Ensuring Likeness Voice and Image Security (ELVIS) Act was presented to Tennessee House and Senate leaders by Governor Bill Lee. This act along with the No AI Fraud Act, introduced to Congress this week, are both backed by The Recording Academy and RIAA, marking a significant milestone on the journey to protect musicians and creators against improper use of artificial intelligence.
🦾 Sony Splash: The 2024 Consumer Electronics Show conference unveiled updates from Sony Music and Amazon-backed AI music platform, Splash. Read more on Sony’s threefold plan to “reimagine music through immersive media” through partnerships with Fortnite and Roblox and Splash’s plans to democratize music creation through voice prompts and AI.
🌐 Web3 Updates: Tune.fm, a Web3 music service, secured a $20 million funding round to further develop its blockchain technology platform that provides artists with direct monetization and fan engagement tools. Artelize, a music-focused NFT platform, has announced a $1.1 million funding round to support its efforts in providing artists with monetization and engagement opportunities through NFTs.
🕰️ If You’re Reading This It’s (Not) Too Late: Luminate published its year-end report earlier this week, reporting an astounding rise in on-demand audio streams—4.1 trillion to be exact—up 22.3% from 2022. Morgan Wallen, SZA, and Taylor Swift dominated those streams, with Taylor alone making up 1.7% of the entire U.S. market. Lastly, if you need more proof concerts are back, Bandsintown reportedly made 3.7 billion concert recommendations in 2023.
🔒 Protect the Mixtapes: The Internet Archive has partnered with DatPiff to preserve and digitize a vast collection of rap mixtapes, ensuring their long-term accessibility and preventing potential losses in the digital landscape. This initiative aims to safeguard the cultural and historical significance of rap mixtapes, offering a comprehensive archive for future generations.
🥧 Piece of the Pie: Through his New Year memo to the Universal Music global team, CEO Sir Lucian Grainge emphasized a commitment to not only splitting the streaming pie more fairly among artists, but growing it. Leveraging AI seems to be a big part of that strategy, with the goal of creating personalized and engaging interactions for fans.
🎃 Smashing Guitarist: If you consider yourself one, the Smashing Pumpkins are having open auditions. Put your hat in the ring by emailing their management company (address in link).
Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder On The Dancefloor” reinvigorated by Saltburn
📈 While this week was primarily a post-holiday recalibration week for music, a couple of country songs made their first appearance in the Billboard Hot 100 along with Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder On The Dancefloor.” Originally released in 2001, the track has recently experienced a revival as a result of its use in the critically received film, Saltburn and subsequent scene interpretations on TikTok.
21 Savage drops american dream ahead of his biopic
⏩ Here are album releases to look out for this week:
💿 Finally, here’s a look at some of the most anticipated albums being released this year.
The Merch Table
⚡ KAWS for INSANO: Cover tee by KAWS, album artwork by KAWS. Music by Kid Cudi.
🧿 Vinyl Again: After seeing recent success in the limited vinyl run of his Tiny Desk performance, Fred Again.. has plans to launch more limited vinyl runs of his other live music performances. Sign up here.
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