By EILEEN CECONI
As I mentioned before we all left for the glory that is winter break, my biggest observation of music in 2013 was the infiltration of electronic into pop music (I’m looking at you, T. Swift). EDM artists became “mainstream,” and even Beyoncé incorporated trap elements, saving “72,000 ‘Soundcloud producers’ A LOT of time on their remix” as Kitty Pryde so eloquently explained. So if 2013 was the year of electronic and dance music, what does 2014 have in store? Based on releases and features from the end of 2013, I’m pretty confident in predicting that 2014 will see a wide array of R&B.
When I say R&B, I naturally think this genre will be adapted to our modern setting. I don’t expect a revival of classic 1940s-50s R&B, and I also don’t envision Aaliyah to reincarnate, (though I would probably cry tears of joy). However, during the latter half of 2013, some new artists emerged with their own spin on R&B. Some have the potential to be real stars (Sam Smith, Banks, Sampha), and others might continue to quietly add to the indie sphere (Marian Hill, Låpsley, Misun, JMSN). I recognize that this represents a broad range of music, but that is exactly what I am so excited about. As artists like MNEK and Wet have already demonstrated, there’s no longer this cookie-cutter R&B genre that artists either fit into or are excluded from. Much like electronic music in 2013, we’ve already started to see a range of R&B influences in soul, downtempo and hip hop. Furthermore, the successful pairing of artists like Ella Eyre with Rudimental, or London Grammar with Disclosure, prove that hybrid R&B-electronic music is a trend that will likely dominate this year.
One of the new artists from 2013 I’m most excited about, is Sam Smith. Packing a seriously powerful voice, Smith is best known for his collaboration on Disclosure’s hit, Latch. Besides his incredible solo work, Smith has also partnered with Naughty Boy and supplied vocals for the killer track, “Together” with Disclosure, Nile Rodgers and Jimmy Napes. Smith was #1 on BBC’s Sound of 2014 list, and I really think he has the potential to top the charts this year. His soulful voice pairs with any musical accompaniment, meaning that he has the potential to influence a wide variety of genres. Producers have been eager to get their hands on his solo work, so there’s a plethora of remixes already floating around Soundcloud. Of all the bootlegs and official remixes, my favorite is the Harry Fraud remix of “Nirvana.” A powerful song on its own, Brooklyn producer Fraud works with Smith’s original arrangement to hush the instrumentals and focus on percussion. At 2:27, Fraud replaces the delicate strings with an electric guitar hook, adding just a touch of edge. This is an exemplary remix of an exceptional song, and I cannot wait to hear more from Sam Smith this year.