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LET THE GAMES BEGIN

HITS Editor in Chief Lenny Beer Ponders the Big Questions,
Label Stories and Breakout Successes 2015 Will Bring

While we all await the Third Coming—aka the new Adele album, due in the second half of 2015—here are a few other things we’re curious about as the new year begins.

1. The Grammys will be upon us in just a few weeks. Ken Ehrlich has the team, the players and great nominees—with insiders telling us he has already locked in Madonna, AC/DC and with many more to choose from—to give us both a great show and the perfect springboard to parade our wares before the music-loving public. (Early word had it that U2 was also locked in, but Bono, in  a recent missive, announced his injuries were worse than originally known and that he would be unable to appear.) Will Sam Smith sweep the major categories, give Steve Barnett even more to celebrate and maintain his 2014 momentum? Will Hozier emerge as the next industry superstar and make Rob Stringer’s long-ball strategy pay mega-dividends? We’re betting the over on Smith and Hozier’s career ascendancies; we’ll know soon enough if we’re on the money.

2. I’m constantly pondering Interscope. John Janick—youthful, personable, ambitious and now in charge of the Kingdom for real. We’ll be watching his moves closely. He’ll open the new season with Kendrick Lamar and Imagine Dragons. This could be fun.

3. Is Epic’s Meghan Trainor really the next superstar? Her two singles sat in the iTunes Top 10 throughout the holiday season and remain there as of this writing. Her album was a holiday winner as well in pre-orders, and although I question why the actual release was delayed until after peak buying season, it’s still projected to be a January surprise winner. To paraphrase Sally Field: They like her—they really, really like her. Who’da thunk it?

4. Why are the DJ/producer hits not leading to big album sellers? Even more than with most artists, EDM acts are selling tons of singles yet are seemingly unable to translate this activity into a major album-selling force in this country. Has there been even one U.S. platinum album from a DJ? Could RCA’s Mark Ronson (with invaluable help from the always-huge Bruno Mars) be the breakthrough? If not Mark, then who? Edge and Corson resoundingly answered the question of how big an a cappella act can be, as Pentatonix dominated the Christmas season. Can they win again in the dance genre? 

5. How big is big? I mean, really—as Big Machine’s Taylor Swift approaches 4m sales on her gigantic 1989 this week, more hits keep pouring from its coffers and a Grammy performance is upcoming, we have to think about REAL numbers—old-school real numbers. Could she sell another 3m+ this year? I think so. Tay Tay is a marketing genius, as was Madonna (through her many iterations) before her. How high is high? And as for Scott Borchetta and the upcoming stay-or-go decision for his Big Machine, we look for a speedy decision in the coming weeks. We’re betting he stays at Universal, but it is not a sure thing.

6. Soundtracks... Hmm... Disney scores with Frozen. Disney scores again with Guardians of the Galaxy. Disney scores a third time with Into the Woods. It appears the soundtrack business should be getting more and more attention from everyone. Or that Ken Bunt and Team Disney know more about it than we do. One thing is for sure, the buying audience for soundtracks is telling us loud and clear that they are looking for experiential music and not more "inspired by" collections.

7. Steve Bartels and David Massey split up last year as IDJ was turned into the freestanding Def Jam and Island. Both had quick and prominent early successes, but their achievements were still partly meshed. Now, 2015 will see both execs craft their own legacies as full-year standalones. Bartels has already made the first move with the Kanye single-release sneak attack. There’s much more to come from both men.

8. Is this the year the independent sector strikes back? Daniel Glass has an all-star lineup ready for the new season with Mumford’s return, among other power players. Secretly Canadian has the critic’s choice in The War on Drugs, who dominated year-end award lists with my favorite album, Lost in the Dream; Dualtone (the team behind The Lumineers) is making noise with Shakey Graves; and Black Mammoth licensed the brilliant Royal Blood into the WB system.

Always remember: Hits can come from anywhere and everywhere. As 2015 kicks off, let’s all keep our eyes and ears attuned. Let the games begin!


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Grammy-themed, just like our latest print magazine. (10/25a)
GRAMMY COUNTRY ALBUM CONTENDERS
With Kacey out, who's a likely nominee? (10/22a)
STREAMING SONGS
MADE "EASY"
Who said she wouldn't get streamed? (10/22a)
U.K. CHARTS: ADELE'S NEW RECORD
Massive on both sides of the pond. (10/22a)
ADELE ADELE ADELE
Adele; Adele Adele?
ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE
A... dele?
ADELE ADELE
Adele Adele; Adele.
ADELE ADELE ADELE ADELE
(Adele.)
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