State of Pop: 2018

2017 was a  difficult  year for new pop stars.  I can’t think of anyone who was unheard of this time last year, and has truly ‘made it’ since. Julia Michaels made good progress, but is hardly a household name. Dua Lipa finally had her moment, but that was at the end of a long and well-publicised album campaign. Anne-Marie troubled the top 10, but still hasn’t had a hit big enough to induce an album release date (five years after she first appeared on This Must Be Pop).

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A video might be able to rack up a million views in a matter of hours, yet the days of the overnight pop superstar are gone. Launching a new act to mainstream success  now involves social media stardom, celebrity connections, and/or a tonne of cash and blind faith from a major label.

This explains why, as I predicted back in 2015 (rather prematurely), it was a good year for the pop band member gone solo. The biggest breakthrough acts were former members of One Direction and Fifth Harmony. Harry Styles was voted most likely to succeed by This Must Be Pop readers last year, closely followed by Camila Cabello. Less predictable  were the achievements of Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson, who outperformed their bandmate (on  streaming  numbers at least). I still believe Harry will beat them on longevity, but it was a testament to the impact of the group that 1D fans supported its entire alumni rather than moving on – or perhaps a testament to the insecurity of major labels that they invested in these short shelf-life soloists over untested artists with promising pop potential.

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So, now it’s time to think about 2018. With 1D already out the gates, will other band members follow their pursuit of solo stardom? Camila’s  fellow 5Hers are definitely up for the challenge, and might be more appealing to a major label post-Havana. I reckon at least one more album is due before Little Mix  go their separate ways, but we could certainly see the first solo move from the girls  this year, in the form of a feature or collaboration. Also inspired by the absence of One Direction, 2018 will be an interesting year for boybands, as the proffered replacements face judgement by Gen Z. And on that note, we can expect to see outspoken, individual and perhaps even political pop wannabes, served up to appeal to a new generation of ‘woke’ teens.

Later this week, I’ll be showcasing 10 pop acts who I think have a shot at superstardom. Then it’ll be over to you to vote for who you think, and who you hope, will be the Stars of 2018. Make sure to follow on Twitter and Facebook for updates, and let me know what you think of the nominees.

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