Predicting the future is a little silly. It's like trying to remember what happened 10 minutes ago: you're too drunk, so why bother? But since this is the Phoenix's special annual Year in Preview issue — or so my editors have told me, possibly to humiliate me in a classic only-guy-in-a-costume-at-the-party gag — I look ahead to 2013.
Here's my prediction: in the decades to come, historians will widely accept 2012 as the last real year of the pop music era; 2013 will be remembered as the first post-pop year, when recorded music began winding down permanently. By 2033, there won't be enough songs to fill the charts; the Hot 100 will cut down to a Hot 50, or maybe a Hot 23 on slow weeks. By 2043, there will be only one Grammy Award, and it will be for "Only Record of the Year." It may seem incredible, but the signs are all around us.
Amid all the One Direction hysteria, 2012 may have seemed like a big year for teen pop, but to paraphrase a Chameleons track sampling the 1946 film Two Sisters from Boston purporting to quote Sophocles: "In its autumn 'fore the winter comes [pop's] last mad surge of youth." Today's teens never knew a world without Twitter, and they lack even the split-second attention spans of the MTV generation. The cycles of pop stardom are already shortening, and soon they'll become unsustainable. The Wanted were hot early in the year, but they're already relics of the distant past, each successive single peaking 40 spots lower in the Hot 100. The Jonas Brothers, major stars just two years ago, have suddenly all turned 48; they'll be opening for a reunited Bay City Rollers soon.
Teens are simply too busy sexting and dicktweeting and snapchatting to pay any mind to music. This year, the two-month fame cycles will make recording pop tunes economically untenable, and savvy labels will cut out the irrelevant step of paying a Swedish guy with frosted tips a million dollars to write a dumb song. Instead, new songless idols will be marched before a panel of celebrity judges, briefly cherished by a million lovesick teens, paraded to the nation's biggest arenas for smiling-and-waving tours, and discarded before they can even get unpopular new haircuts.
Meanwhile, cracks are already appearing in the foundations of popular hip-hop and R&B. Sprinkled among the club anthems we find the lugubrious partied-out ennui of Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools," the Weeknd's "Wicked Games," and half a dozen Drake singles. At the strip club, Big Sean is listless, resorting to endless ass puns to mask his sexual malaise; 2 Chainz envisions the booty club as his tomb. Maybe our hip-hop stars have been in the club too long; little by little, they're becoming uncomfortably faded in VIP, burping up rosé foam, resenting their entourages, and texting their exes. In 2013, party rap will become too depressed to hit the town, and the few lingering tracks will be glum spoken-word pieces about the newest stuff on Netflix Instant.