Ariana Grande, Arctic Monkeys and The 1975 prepare new albums for 2018

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Musically-speaking, 2017 was a roller coaster.

Ed Sheeran literally broke the charts, a Spanish-language song became the year’s biggest single, and Taylor Swift sampled Right Said Fred.

Short of Rihanna covering Deeply Dippy, 2018 can’t get any weirder. But what do we have to look forward to?

Ariana Grande making the album of her career

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Media captionRemembering One Love Manchester

Pop star Ariana Grande was undoubtedly changed by the terrorist atrocity at her concert in Manchester last May. The 24-year-old shouldered the emotional weight of the tragedy for her fans, and staged a defiantly uplifting benefit for the victims that proved pop had the power to heal.

The US star’s recently gone back into the studio and it will be interesting to see whether those experiences shape the music on her fourth album.

Grande’s long-time manager Scooter Braun hinted at a more mature sound, telling Variety magazine: “She has such an extraordinary voice and it’s time for her to sing the songs that define her.”

Pharrell, who is working on the album, added that her new material was “pretty amazing”.

“The things that she has to say on this album, it’s pretty next-level,” he told the LA times.

The 1975 going for broke

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Matty Healy has lofty goals for The 1975‘s third album, Music For Cars.

“If you look at third albums, OK Computer or The Queen Is Dead, that’s what we need to do,” he told the NME.

“I want people to look back and think our records were the most important pop records that a band put out in this decade.”

The star had previously called the album “the end of an era” for The 1975, to the horror of fans, who panicked the band were splitting up.

Healy assured them that wasn’t the case, telling Apple’s radio station Beats 1: “We were always going to do a trilogy of records. I’m not saying that after this album it’s the end of the 1975, but it’s definitely the end of an era.”

Jack White getting his gardening gloves on

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“I’m getting somewhere,” said Jack White about the sessions for his third solo album, Boarding House Reach.

“It’s good gardening music or roofing music or, you know, back-alley stabbing music.

“I’m trying to think of some good activities that people haven’t written songs for yet.”

A trailer for the record features a chopped-up sound collage of ragtime piano, distorted digital fuzz, oscillating synths and White’s trademark blues riffs.

In other words, it’s probably best to keep White away from your lawnmower.

Beyonce reforming Destiny’s Child (maybe)

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OK, this is massively speculative but fans are convinced Beyonce will put Destiny’s Child back together when she headlines Coachella in April.

The evidence is flimsy at best, but let’s pick through it:

  1. 2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the band’s debut album.
  2. Beyonce recently wore an AC/DC t-shirt, covering up everything but the letters “DC”, which are quite clearly the initials of Destiny’s Child.
  3. Michelle Williams, one of the band’s many non-Beyonces, later posted a photo of her Destiny’s Child Super Bowl costume.
  4. Original member LaTavia Roberson tweeted about a secret project she wasn’t allowed to talk about.
  5. Er, that’s it…

As long as they do Bug-A-Boo, we’ll be happy.

A gender swap for Grime

Step aside Stormzy and stand down Skepta – 2018 will be the year where women take over Grime.

Stefflon Don leads the pack, after signing a million pound record deal with Universal earlier this year.

Her quick-fire one-liners and self-directed videos have already earned the Londoner a Mobo award for best female, while the top 10 hit, Hurtin’ Me showed off her singing voice. The stage is perfectly set for her debut album in the opening months of 2018.

Elsewhere, Little Simz, Nadia Rose and Lady Leshurr are also challenging the male-dominated landscape of British rap; while the streetwise soul of Jorja Smith, Ray BLK and Mabel are bringing a fresh female attitude to the charts.

POP coming back

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Not that it ever really went away – but 2018 is shaping up to be a year of massive pop bangers.

Selena Gomez, who released one of the best, and most-underrated songs of 2017 – Bad Liar – had plans for her album derailed by sickness. But after receiving a kidney transplant over the summer, she’s back to health and pressing ahead with her fourth album.

It’s being co-produced by Julia Michaels, an indispensible backroom writer who turned heads with her confessional solo single Issues earlier this year. The 24-year-old, who can currently be heard on Clean Bandit’s I Miss You, is also preparing an album of her own.

Speaking of Clean Bandit, they’ll presumably get around to finishing the record they’ve been working on since 2015, while Little Mix are dreaming up new music with production duo Electric, who crafted their chart smashes Black Magic and Shout Out To My Ex.

Canadian heart-throb Shawn Mendes says he’s “deep in album three land” and the “vibe is starting to become very clear”.

Chvrches have been working with Adele’s producer Greg Kurstin on their “most pop” album to date.

And following her break-up with Joshua Sasse, Kylie Minogue has recorded a series of “cathartic” and “story-based” tracks in Nashville.

That’s not all: Craig David, Christine and the Queens, Carly Rae Jepsen, Rita Ora, Liam Payne, Charli XCX, Sigrid, Tove Styrke, Zayn, Rae Morris, Billie Eilish and Camila Cabello all have new music lined up.

The Cure hitting middle age

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For a man who sleeps in a coffin, Robert Smith is surprisingly ageless… Or maybe that’s his secret?

Either way, 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of The Cure‘s debut single, Killing An Arab, and the band have a whole raft of celebrations up their sleeve.

They’ll play a one-off show in London’s Hyde Park, supported by similarly moody bands like Interpol, Editors, Goldfrapp and Ride; and director Tim Pope has started work on a career-spanning documentary.

Other big anniversaries include The Beatles‘ White Album and Jimi Hendrix‘s Electric Ladyland, which both turn 50 in 2018.

Meanwhile, Public Enemy‘s It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back enters its 30s; and Bjork‘s Debut celebrates its silver anniversary.

The streaming war heating up

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Streaming now generates more money for the music industry than sales of CDs and downloads, but the market could be turned on its head next year.

YouTube is expected to launch its own subscription music service, internally known as YouTube Remix, in the first half of the year. If the company manages to convert just 0.45% of its 1.5 billion monthly users to a pay-monthly plan, it will become bigger than Spotify overnight.

Facebook has also been pouring resources into music, poaching several high-profile music executives for its global music team; and Facebook was offering record labels and music publishers “hundreds of millions of dollars” to sort out copyright issues with record labels and publishers.

Expect to see more acquisitions and mergers, too, as the major players seek to solidify their base.

2006 coming around again

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Remember 2006? Prince performed at the Brits. Top of the Pops was cancelled. Justin Timberlake brought sexy back.

Well, now you can live it all over again, as the year’s best bands have all booked a return trip from the dumper.

Arctic Monkeys bassist Nick O’Malley recently told motorcycling magazine For The Ride that the band’s “new album will be out next year because if it isn’t, we’ve got problems”.

There’s also new music on the way from Lily Allen, whose comeback single Trigger Bang is the dictionary definition of “a pleasant surprise”; while The Streets are reforming for a greatest hits tour.

2006 faves Kate Nash, Fall Out Boy, The Fratellis and Vampire Weekend are also squirrelled away in the studio while Justin Timberlake himself will presumably “drop” new material ahead of his Super Bowl show in February.

Next thing you know, we’ll all be wearing ties as belts and watching High School Musical.

The Biggest Weekend being the festival to end all festivals

With Glastonbury on a gap year, the BBC is stepping into the fray with “The Biggest Weekend” a four-day, four-site mega-festival in May.

There’ll be stages in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, building on the success of Radio 1’s Big Weekend, which has attracted stars like Jay-Z, Kanye West, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Coldplay and Katy Perry in recent years.

More than 175,000 tickets will be available for the event – with more details coming early in 2018.

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