By Hugh McIntyre
The end of 2016 is close enough to touch, but we’re not there quite yet. November was a big month for music, if not the business, and a number of the most popular movers and shakers in the game made waves with new projects, changed history, and tried to push the boundaries of where their art had been before.
- The Chainsmokers and Halsey are now immortalized in charting history thanks to their shockingly-popular hit “Closer;”
- With a new string of mixtapes on the way, it is starting to seem as if Hamilton will never go away—not that you’d want it to;
- Beyoncé, the country music star? If she has her way, she’ll be on top of every genre.
The Chainsmokers now have the fourth longest-running number one hit of all time
After what felt like forever, The Chainsmokers finally slipped a single spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart, vacating the number one spot the EDM duo had owned for months. The pairing’s hit song “Closer,” which features the vocals of up-and-coming pop singer Halsey, ruled the all-encompassing singles tally for an incredible 12 consecutive weeks, which puts the track into the history books alongside some of the greatest tunes that have ever been released.
The surprising reign enjoyed by The Chainsmokers and Halsey goes to show that despite reports, EDM is far from dead, and in fact in many ways, it has become the new “pop.” For months on end, “Closer” was the most-played song on the radio, the most streamed track, and the best-selling song in the country, proving that the masses have accepted this relatively new genre just as they have so many others in the past.
As production software becomes cheaper and easier to use, there are more remixers and dance producers than ever before, but clearly there is a market for this kind of material, and it is now entering a new era where it can compete with the biggest of all time.
Lin-Manuel Miranda is extending the Hamilton brand into a series of mixtapes
Hamilton creator Lin-Manuel Miranda is clearly a proponent of the idea that if something is working, keep running with it until people are tired of it. The man behind the hottest show to come to Broadway in years began rolling out the first tracks from the Hamilton mixtape that he revealed as in the works earlier this year, and already people are freaking out. The album-length project doesn’t yet have a release date, though it’s due at some point before the end of the year, but it already looks like it will be one of the biggest, and certainly the most highly-anticipated, pieces of music of all of 2016.
Miranda caused a frenzy online when he tweeted a photo featuring the tracklist for the Hamilton mixtape, complete with what artists had taken up vocal duties on all of the reworked songs. The group of names that the theatrical prodigy was able to put together is incredible, and it reads more like the lineup of which artists are set to perform at the Grammys or who has been hired to headline Coachella than a mixtape. Kelly Clarkson, Sia, Chance The Rapper, The Roots, Usher, Alicia Keys, and over a dozen others have all lent their talents to the CD, which is now even more hotly tipped than ever before (if that’s at all possible).
Around the same time, the playwright also revealed that this upcoming album was just the first mixtape, and that he was planning on turning Hamilton into not one, but a series of mixtapes. The actual cast recording of the show, which has already been certified double platinum and is still hanging on in the top ten on the Billboard 200, features 46 tracks, so it’s not difficult to understand how Miranda could continue to roll out mixtape after mixtape, keeping the brand fresh and alive for years to come.
Hamilton was creative enough as it is, but Miranda’s plan to morph it into mixtapes is a fantastic idea, not just in a creative sense, but when it comes to business as well. He’s turned one successful project into several, which is something that other musicians should take to heart.
If audiences love a song or an album, why not keep serving it to them in different ways to see how far it can stretch?
Beyoncé runs the (country) world—or at least she wants to
Beyoncé, or as many know her, Queen Bey, has already conquered the worlds of R&B and pop, but someone as ambitious as she is always looking for new challenges and new ways to come out on top.
When the singer launched her second surprise visual album earlier this year, fans were excited and shocked to hear a bit of twang on the new CD. Lemonade featured a country song entitled “Daddy Lessons,” which saw Bey going in a new direction with her music. Fans and critics applauded the effort, and it has been noted as a standout track from the album alongside singles like “Formation” and “Sorry.”
Now, with Lemonade slowly working its way down the charts, Beyoncé has launched a full-scale promotional campaign to make her mark in the country music world with “Daddy Lessons,” but surprisingly, it isn’t going as smoothly as the star is used to. Just days before the CMAs (Country Music Association Awards), it was announced that Bey would join forces with the Dixie Chicks to perform “Lessons,” which excited both country fans and the Beyhive. The aftermath of her stellar showing was mixed, with many complementing the excellent performance, while others commented that she seemed out of place at the CMAs, which are focused solely on country.
Not long after her time on stage, a live version of “Lessons” made its way onto Spotify, becoming the first track off of Lemonade to be made available to the public outside of either Tidal or iTunes. Up until late November, the only way the public could hear the superstar’s new collection was to buy it in full or sign up for Tidal, a streaming service co-owned by Bey, her husband Jay Z, and a few dozen other musicians. Her acquiescence shows that while she might be one of the biggest stars in the world, even Beyoncé needs to be on Spotify, where millions around the world access their music.
Reinventing yourself as an artist is difficult, especially when it comes to switching genres, though it’s not impossible. Bey was smart enough to go country in her own way, and not simply copy what the chart-toppers in the genre do. “Daddy Lessons” may have more guitar than the world is used to hearing from her, but she was able to discover what she could bring to the table that other superstars weren’t, which is a Louisiana vibe and a charisma and voice no other artist can match.
Transitioning from one style to another is possible, but it needs to be done intelligently and correctly if it’s to work out.