Sounds of the year to come

Adele performs during the Oscars. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/PA Photos
Adele performs during the Oscars. Photo: Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/PA Photos

2014 saw U2 force an album down the public’s throat, Taylor Swift sell more records than virtually everyone else combined, and Kate Bush come out of retirement for more than 20 shows at the Hammersmith Apollo.

Quite a year to follow - will 2015 be up to it?

Will anyone else release an album that goes to every iTunes account holder in the same way the Irish rockers did? It’s highly unlikely, given that stunts such as that only really work once. And there are very few bands as impervious to insults as U2, so it’s hard to think of another group who would sacrifice their credibility and absorb such negativity in the same way.

Will another star dominate sales as Swift did? Perhaps, seeing as Adele is due back with new album 25 at some point during the next 12 months. Her second album, 21, is still selling tens of thousands of copies a week - to whom, this long after its release, is one of the great questions - so it’s a dead cert that whatever third album she releases, even if it’s just 11 songs about how rich she is, will sell millions and millions of copies.

And what about a reclusive star coming out of retirement in the same way Bush did?

Now revenues from record sales have slowed to the point of no return, performing live is the only way musicians can really make money, but this has been the case for some time, meaning there are hardly any bands left to reform and very few hermits left to be enticed from their caves.

Fleetwood Mac are going to be playing with Christine McVie once again, but that’s not quite the same as Bush coming out of retirement, as the Mac have never really stopped. A Led Zeppelin reunion seems more and more unlikely with every interview Robert Plant gives, and while his former bandmate Jimmy Page would seemingly get the band back together tomorrow, Plant has his own furrow to plough, in the shape of his Sensational Space Shifters.

The Smiths are often rumoured to be reforming, with hundreds of millions of pounds allegedly on the table for Morrissey, Marr, Rourke and Joyce to get the old band back together, but it’s just impossible to imagine it ever happening. Morrissey and Marr are both now deep into solo careers and hugely resistant to the notion.

Oasis, too, are expected to reform, but with Noel Gallagher’s second solo album due in March likely to be one of the year’s biggest sellers, it’s hard to see why he would interrupt such success to go backwards, and effectively do his little brother Liam a favour. Noel’s repeatedly ruled out an Oasis reformation too, yet the bookies still offer odds on it happening. Either they know something Noel and the rest of us don’t, or they’re just trying to drum up a bit of interest.

On a less spectacular scale, S Club 7 have reformed and will perform an arena tour in 2015 - one that’s already sold out, which goes to show that nostalgia is the most powerful draw there is, and as Simon Reynolds wrote in his fantastic book Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction To Its Own Past, the things we’re nostalgic about get nearer and nearer with each passing year. 2015 might be the year we’re finally feeling nostalgic over something that happened only six months prior...

One format that evokes more nostalgia than most is vinyl, which enjoyed sales of more than a million units in 2014, its highest figure since 1996. There are many reasons for the rise and rise of vinyl, the format once expected to die out completely. Some of those reasons are based on nostalgia, the erroneous notion that it provides better sound quality and the beauty of the object, but for the most part, it’s a rejection of the disposability of MP3s and digital formats, and a growing feeling in the record industry that you need to give customers something for their money.

It’s likely that trend will continue into 2015, as more and more artists and record labels get involved in the idea that vinyl is going to outlive the CD.

Perhaps tied into this idea is the fact downloads, legal and otherwise, are decreasing, with streaming - listening to music online with a subscription rather than buying individual songs - numbers going up and up. There’s no sign of that stopping, with Spotify, Deezer and Google Play subscriptions growing, broadband and mobile internet speeds getting faster, and the dawning realisation that having every song at the tip of your fingers, for a set fee a month or with just a few adverts to endure, is better than buying a handful.

What else will 2015 hold? There’s a new Bond theme that needs singing, for starters, and with Spectre released at the tail end of the year, it’s probable the song’s already been decided. Director Sam Mendes says he has chosen the singer, at least, but it remains a mystery.

One thing we know is that it’s not Ed Sheeran, who says he will sing a Bond theme “when his voice breaks”. Sam Smith is hotly tipped, but he seems too similar to Adele. My money is on Taylor Swift.

And what of new, emerging artists to look out for?

Natalie Prass’ forthcoming debut album is a must for fans of Carole King’s Tapestry and Laurel Canyon’s finest singer-songwriters. There’s also James Bay, who has been named the Brits Critics’ Choice winner already, all but guaranteeing his success.

Similar, but better, is Rhodes, and on a totally different tip, star-in-waiting Natalie Bang Bang might provide the antidote to the deluge of serious singers we’ve been faced with for the past few years.

All in all, there’s an awful lot to look forward to.