Music Lists

20 Music Predictions for the 2020s

What will our favorite artists be up to this decade?

Now that we're deep enough into 2020 that our New Year's Resolutions have wilted away, it's time to focus on things that matter most: what our favorite musicians will get up to in the decade to come.

A lot can happen in 10 years; hell, Spotify hadn't even hit the United States yet when the last decade began. Since 2010, the music world has been shook with Beyonce's surprise self-titled album, Lady Gaga's meat dress, Ariana Grande's massive benefit concert for Manchester, and Billboard revamping their Hot 100 formulations to include YouTube hits, making viral dance number "Harlem Shake" a surprise No. 1. So, what's next?

Here are 20 events we think could take the music world by storm in the 2020s.

-Grimes pivots from electropop's robo-queen to full-time mommy blogger. She and her unborn child's father, Elon Musk, reportedly launched an Instagram account for their baby, which has "family friendly spon-con" written all over it.

-Lizzo teaches a flute masterclass for those aspiring to follow her example of woodwind-assisted twerking.

-A documentary, or maybe even a hologram tour, of Mac Miller is created to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his debut LP, Blue Slide Park.

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-Too preoccupied by being obsessed with his wife, Chance the Rapper quietly retires from music.

-Ariana Grande dates a minimum of two high-profile, tattooed, skinny white men before tying the knot.

-Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy form a duo, Soccer Snail, and release an album together. They still get mistaken for each other.

-Facebook launches a music streaming platform.

-100 gecs headline a major music festival.

-Billboard starts factoring in TikTok plays to calculate songs' positions on the charts.

-Lil Nas X—already known to be a hit with kids—pens a Wild West-themed children's book, and a coinciding G-rated soundtrack.

-Post Malone opens a tattoo studio in New York City, further pushing the popularity of facial script tattoos.

-Drake makes a cameo in Euphoria, commencing his full return to acting.

-Following the Dixie Chicks' highly-successful comeback, they collaborate with Kacey Musgraves.

-It is revealed that Vampire Weekend frontman, Ezra Koenig, and his longtime partner, Parks and Recreation star Rashida Jones, secretly got married years ago during an intimate ceremony at Columbia University's Butler Library.

-The Postal Service—the band with Ben Gibbard, not the government agency—reunite for a 20th anniversary performance of their sole album, Give Up.

-My Chemical Romance are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (they'll be eligible in 2027).

-Feeling inspired by his Sunday Service performance at Joel Osteen's megachurch, Kanye West opens his own megachurch near his home in Wyoming. Tourism in Wyoming reaches record highs as a result.

-Billie Eilish surpasses Van Halen in record sales.

-In the wake of the the climate crisis, an allegiance of major artists will cease touring to minimize their carbon footprint.

-Speaking of climate, Greta Thunberg launches her singer-songwriter career. Her breakout hit is a cover of Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi," the original environmentalist anthem. It becomes a No. 1 hit, and Thunberg donates all the proceeds to various environmental groups.

Rebecca Black, it turns out, was born too early.

No song defined the spring of 2011 like Black's "Friday,"a bizarre piece of pop pastiche that mystified and captivated America in equal measure. "Friday" contained multitudes. Even millions of YouTube views later, its depths have yet to be completely plumbed.

Black and the infamous Ark Music Factory attempted to capitalize on this success by releasing "Friday" as a single on March 14, 2011—coincidentally the same day this website first investigated "Who Is Rebecca Black and Why Is She Exploding the Internet"? But the Platonic form of "Friday" was its YouTube video; on iTunes or the radio, the magic was lost. The single couldn't even make the top half of the Hot 100, stalling out at no. 58.

Last month, though, Billboard changed its formula for the Hot 100 to include YouTube streams. Is there any doubt that, had these rules been in effect two years ago, Black and "Friday" would have topped the charts? The only question is how many weeks Black's reign would have lasted. Could it had gone to seven, and tied Adele's "Rolling in the Deep" for the 2011 record? Sadly, we'll never know.

So let's spin the video one more time, for the no. 1 single that never was. Kick it (in the front seat), Rebecca:

Hey, you guys remember that Baauer song "Harlem Shake"? It was that crazy trap song that took off kinda randomly at the beginning of 2013, when a bunch of people made half-minute long videos where one of them went crazy dancing to the song (then everyone joined in when on the break), and the videos were popular enough that thanks to a conveniently timed new chart rule about video streams, the song actually went to #1? Yeah, we barely remember it either, but it wasn't even really that long ago!

It probably just seems like it was years and years ago, because we've already moved on as a culture to something newer, bigger and better: Screaming goats. Goats yelling like humans has been a thing for a while now—and by a while we mean at least two weeks, as evidenced by this that-old compilation of GYLHs that has nearly nine million views on YouTube:

Shortly after that, we got this 40-second-length video—the golden duration of YouTube in 2013—of Taylor Swift's "I Knew You Were Trouble," with the screaming goat bleating replacing Taylor's "ohhhhhh!!!"s on the chorus.

If it sounds low-concept, that's because it is. For better or worse, however, it's also at least mildly hilarious—partly because Taylor's chorus was so overwrought (and if you hear her do it live on an off-day, vaguely goat-esque) to begin with, that the transition to Screaming Goat vocals isn't even all that jarring. But if it was a good idea once, it'll be a good idea 25 or 2500 times, so now we have all these:

And so on. Basically, punch in a song title from the last few years with the word "Goat" next to it into YouTube, and your chances are at least 50/50 of there already being a Screaming Goat remix of the song available. Only took two weeks!

So far, we prefer the "Harlem Shake" meme, but this one is so simple and so dumb that it has a chance of staying golden for a little while longer than "Shake," which we burned out on pretty quickly. Either way, looking forward to Screaming Goat's top ten debut on the Hot 100 next week!

My eyes bugged out a little when I saw the headlines about Baauer's "Harlem Shake" debuting on top the Hot 100 this week. I knew the song would be in for a big debut, having topped the iTunes chart recently, but is still sold less than the incumbent number one "Thrift Shop," and with virtually no radio play or availability on streaming services needed to contribute to the On-Demand section of chart calculations. This is all a big chart-nerdy way to say that despite all the hooplah about his song in the last week, Baauer was too new, too unknown to possibly top the charts, at least not yet.

But no, the song is indeed number one this week, and it's because of a brand new rule in chart methodology—the addition of a "Streaming Songs" section of the chart designed to account for a song's presence on YouTube and other video-sharing services. With that addition to the calculations, "Harlem Shake" becomes the runaway chart-topper, as the song registered over 100 million streams last week—over ten times as many as the chart's number two, "Thrift Shop." (In case your internet connection has been out the last two weeks, the nine-digit views come courtesy of these countless meme videos in which people freak out dancing to the song.)

In fact, the debut of the new chart seems purposely timed to coincide with the big entry for "Harlem Shake"—if this was pro sports, the newly added rule would probably be heretofore referred to as "The 'Harlem Shake' Rule" for how clearly it seems custom-designed to express the popularity of the song. It's a little frustrating for long-time chart-watchers such as myself, because when you make dramatic changes to the chart like this, it makes it hard to put the fact that Baauer, just about the last person you'd ever expect to top the Hot 100 going into this year, into the appropriate historical context. What does it mean that Baauer now has more number-one singles than Justin Bieber, Drake and Nicki Minaj combined? It's impossible to say.

Now, there's an argument to be made that this is actually a good thing, that it makes the Hot 100 a more accurate chart. If you were to ask simply, "What's been the biggest song of the past week?," by most definitions, the answer would be "Harlem Shake," so by that pure logic, it makes sense that it should be number one. Similarly, the greatest chart oversight of last year was that Psy's "Gangnam Style," a song that will be remembered by anyone who lived through it as the most popular song in the world for at least a couple of months, never got past #2 as it was blocked at #1 by Maroon 5's "One More Night," a song that many pop listeners have probably already forgotten the existence of. Had The "Harlem Shake" Rule existed in late 2012, "Gangnam Style" would certainly have hit #1, and might have stayed there for about 15 weeks for all we know. That would have been the good and fair thing.

But here's my grievance with this specific rule change: Saying that a song being viewed on YouTube is roughly analogous to a song being played on the radio or streamed over Spotify, as this rule implicitly does, isn't something I agree with. "Harlem Shake" isn't getting all these views because people just love the song that much—it's because they want to see these new crazy videos were people go nuts to the song in forever newer and crazier ways. People liking the song plays a part in that, sure, but it's just a small part of it. Tellingly, the original "Harlem Shake" song has only 13 million views on YouTube—which is still a whole lot, especially for an unknown like Baauer, but less than, say, "Harlem Shake (original army edition)" or "UGA Men's Swim & Dive Harlem Shake." Nobody's watching these videos to listen to the song specifically, and indeed, the song only lasts for half a minute anyway.

A working, though imperfect analogy to this would be the popularity of certain music videos on MTV. Very often, the popularity of a song on MTV would fuel its popularity on the charts, but because music video play wouldn't directly factor into chart calculations, sometimes an MTV hit never appeared on Billboard. For instance, Jamiroquai's "Virtual Insanity" was one of the most popular videos of 1997, even winning Video of the Year at that year's VMAs. but never even cracked the Hot 100. This made sense, as the video was really only popular for the video portion itself—the wacky spinning room with the bleeding furniture and lead singer Jay Kay's big-ass hat. The song itself was OK, but would never have been that memorable (and certainly didn't fit into any radio station at the time) without the video. It made sense that it wouldn't crack the Hot 100.

Now, we're saying that a song's video going viral is the same thing as the song itself becoming super-popular. That might end up being true in Baauer's case anyway—the fact that the song is still #1 on iTunes certainly supports that—but I have to wonder where we draw the line. Under these rules, would O-Zone's "Dragonstea din tei" have topped the charts while the Numa Numa guy was a viral sensation? What about Tay Zonday's "Chocolate Rain"? Would Rebecca Black's "Friday" have spent, like, the entirety of 2011 on top the Hot 100? It doesn't seem right to me, and I really hope Billboard knows what they're doing with this.

Two separate, incompatible truths:

1) We are very concerned about the memeification of Baauer's "Harlem Shake" ruining a perfectly good trap song.

2) We love X Factor girl group Fifth Harmony and everything they represent.

What, then, to make of this? Well, we'll have to admit: We loved it. Love wins out over hate once again!

Two things occurred last weekend:

1. The Grammys

2. "Harlem Shake" officially going viral.

In case you were too preoccupied with #1 to pay attention to #2, we'll help you catch up. Baauer's "Harlem Shake," one of our favorite songs of last year, has become an integral part of a suddenly omnipresent video meme. In said videos—which generally last only about a half-minute each—the song's intro plays, with one person dancing to the song either by themselves or in a room full of people who don't seem to be paying attention to them or the song.

Then the song's hook comes in, with the "Do the Harlem Shake!" vocal command, and all of a sudden the video cuts, and everyone who's in the room (and sometimes, people who weren't in the room previously) goes absolutely bonkers, sometimes wearing totally different clothes (like a Power Ranger outfit or a chicken suit, and often a lot of helmets) or stripping down to their underwear or just doing whatever the fuck. Then just as quickly as it went insane, it's over. On to the next video.

And there are already a whole lot of them. Mashable, god bless 'em, already did a comprehensive "17 Amazing Harlem Shake Videos You Can't Possibly Live Without" roundup article, which...well, we'd say watching the first two or three is probably about all you need to get the point. But the fact that there's 17 of these things at all (there were 0 two weeks ago, before YouTube user Filthy Frank got the ball viraling, and that number's probably gotten exponentially bigger since then—even the Dallas Mavericks have one now) is a pretty good indicator of how nuts this thing has gotten in a fairly brief period of time.

In general, this is a pretty cool and weird and random thing, and has already gotten people proclaiming Baauer to be this year's Psy (and mashing up the two, natch). And so popular has Baauer's song gotten as a result of these videos, that "Harlem Shake" has shot up the iTunes charts, residing at #29 at time of writing but climbing higher every hour. That's pretty impressive for a song as hard-hitting and abrasive as "Harlem Shake"—not to mention one that's been around for nearly a year already and hadn't exactly lit Top 40 radio on fire until this point.

That begs the question, then: Why "Harlem Shake"? Well, we're not going to try to guess Filthy Frank's specific motives for using the song the first time—from his YouTube page he looks like he throws a lot of different shit against the wall to see what sticks—but as for why it took off the way it did, it sort of makes sense. Even before these videos made it a phenomenon, "Shake" was one of those songs whose hook—repetitive and somewhat grating, but undeniably transfixing and exciting—just does weird things to people, like "Pon de Floor" or "Niggas in Paris," where the first sounds of it get your blood pumping and make you wanna to go out and kick over a garbage can and/or grind the first person you see up against a wall. It's rough, but it's addictive, and it reflexively inspires a physical reaction of some sort.

But while the videos definitely serve a compliment of sorts about the inscrutable physical hold that "Harlem Shake" has on listeners, they also risk diminishing the brilliance of the song itself. No matter what kind of rep "Shake" had in the underground up until this point, within a week of it going viral, it will now forever be known as "the song from all those crazy dance videos," putting Baauer in league with the Psys and Soulja Boys of the world, rather than say, the DJ Rashads and Diplos that Baauer is more naturally in league with. (Tellingly, Baauer refused to be interviewed for this article, his people saying they were "not especially interested in more press around this.")

It's hard to blame him. The meme will burn out soon enough, and the fleeting exposure that Baauer receives from his 15 minutes of internet fame probably wont' be enough to do anything for the Brooklyn trap DJ's career but get him permanently typecast. (Still waiting on that "Gangnam Style" followup, Psy.) So if you're still busy ingesting however many "Harlem Shake" videos You Can't Possibly Live Without, do take a moment to appreciate the brilliance of the song itself—maybe even subscribe to Baauer's SoundCloud page?—and don't let one of the best dance recordings of the decade turn into the answer to a trivia question.