The 10 Worst Music Trends Of 2022
For those who follow music closely, the landscape can look like a roller coaster. TikTok continues to tighten its grip on the industry, it’s becoming harder for artists to make a living wage, the algorithm rules all, and the goalposts keep shifting. This rocky, ever-changing environment makes for good years and bad years in music. But if there’s one thing that remains consistent, it’s the gimmick. Gimmicks came in many forms this year, some of which I’ve outlined below. Behold, the worst music trends of 2022.
Increasingly Inaccessible Music
Times are tough, and Spotify pays a fraction of a penny per stream. It makes sense that artists are looking for new ways to monetize their work and motivate people to buy music. But, respectfully, I don’t think the answer is releasing an exclusive single in the metaverse or dropping an album only available for Starbucks Rewards members. I made those up, but many artists set up obstacle courses to access their music this year. Let’s start with Taylor Swift. Swift recorded three Midnights bonus tracks, which you can hear if you purchase the album’s “Lavender Edition” from Target. The only digital versions exist as low-quality, pitched-up versions on YouTube and TikTok. “Hits Different” is big on the latter platform, and fans are begging for a stream that doesn’t involve a trip to Target. Swift also staggered the release of five “Anti-Hero” remixes exclusively as downloads on her website (though they eventually made their way to streaming services).
Meanwhile, Kanye West’s Donda 2 could only be found on Stem Player, a 200-dollar remix tool and streaming platform. Speaking of the alt-right, country singer John Rich debuted a song on both the Trump-founded social media site Truth Social and the Thiel-supported video app Rumble. There’s more! Bob Dylan recorded a song as an “Ionic Original,” an unreleased kind of “CD-vinyl hybrid.” Sure! West Coast hip-hop supergroup Mount Westmore’s debut LP was available as an NFT on the “decentralized world” (or, blockchain-based music player, whatever that means) Gala Music for six months before a traditional release. I thought the future would be cooler. But it doesn’t stop there. Rap duo Black Star released their reunion album on the Luminary podcast app, an interesting accompaniment to shows like Russel Brand’s Under The Skin and The Roxane Gay Agenda. SAULT posted five full albums on their website and guarded them with a secret password (I tried entering “123456” and “qwerty” so DON’T EVEN BOTHER). Rapper Ka also released two albums exclusively on his website. And while I support Joni Mitchell and Neil Young pulling their music from Spotify to take a stand against the company’s feeble artist payouts, it would be nice if I could add “River” to my Christmas playlist.
Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan
Ah yes, the “verified fan presale,” where “verified fans” get early access to concert tickets. But what does it mean to be a “verified fan”? Precisely nothing. It means that you gave Ticketmaster your email address and waited at your computer along with thousands of other people. Ticketmaster has been pulling this shtick for years with popular artists’ concerts, but this year, the “verified fans” got angry. They complained about being lured into an elaborate maze of waiting rooms and queues to obtain Bruce Springsteen and Paramore tickets, only to find no seats left for them. But it was the Taylor Swift presale that sparked the loudest outrage. Not only was it impossible for many to score tickets during the mad dash, the demand was too high and left too few spots for the public sale. You know, the post-presale sale. Some chalk it up to Ticketmaster “verifying” bots and ticket-flippers, who bought seats in bulk. Others theorize poor planning and shoddy capacity calculations. Swift made her disapproval clear with a statement on Instagram, apologizing for fans suffering the equivalent of “several bear attacks” to get their hands on tickets. Of course, this solved nothing. The bears won. There’s got to be a better way, and it can’t be a pre-presale!
Sped Up Songs
It is a mystery as to why certain (namely, young) people want to listen to music this way. Sped-up and slowed-down versions of songs blew up on TikTok this year, so the catalyst is clear. But someone had to make the decision to crank up the speed on “Running Up That Hill” and “Head Over Heels.” Someone had to have said, “These songs aren’t fast enough, let’s get to that chorus. We don’t have all day, Kate Bush!” Someone said, “You know what Kate Bush needs? Higher BPM. Cocaine.” I would love to pick that person’s brain. I’m tempted to think this has to do with the quick pace of TikTok, and maybe shortening attention spans. This theory, however, butts up against the slowed-down song trend, for those who said, “You know what Panic! At The Disco needs? Lean.” Ghost had their first Hot 100 hit this year thanks to the sped-up version of “Mary On A Cross” going viral on TikTok. Now, artists like Marshmello and Panic! At The Disco are officially re-releasing sped-up and slowed-down versions of their old hits. The logical endpoint will be all singles released in three speeds for the rest of time. We’re even seeing emerging artists like Gayle making “chill,” “angrier,” and “nicer” versions of their songs. I guess having 15 renditions of the same tune gives you a better chance of one viral TikTok moment.
Everyone Covering “Running Up That Hill”
On the topic of Kate Bush, people can stop covering “Running Up That Hill” now. It’s cool that the song had a resurgence thanks to Stranger Things fans on TikTok. It’s nice that the single, which was released in 1985, entered the Billboard top 10 in 2022. “Running Up That Hill” is fantastic, timeless, and has been covered many times before this year. Covers are fun, especially when an artist takes creative liberty and interprets the song in a fresh way. But we must look at ourselves in the mirror and resist the bandwagon, and by we, I mean Rita Ora. These new covers are, dare I say, sullying the song’s legacy, rewriting history, and associating the song with a short-form video app and a Netflix original series.
Onstage Gender Reveals
On its face, a gender reveal party is silly. The whole concept of a “revealing” gender, putting so much emphasis on an unborn fetus’ sex by blasting pink glitter out of a cannon, is outdated. Not to mention all the stories about reveals-gone-wrong, accidentally taking grandma’s eye out with a blue firework. The parties are cringe and potentially dangerous, but they are forgivable. Subjecting concertgoers (see: complete strangers) to your pink-or-blue surprise, however, is inexcusable.
Harry Styles, Post Malone, Luke Combs, and Keith Urban were all passed envelopes and signs in the middle of their concerts this year, commanding them to announce fans’ baby news. Everyone played along, the artists and the audiences. “It’s a girl!” was consistently met with uproarious cheering and applause, because what else are you going to do in that situation? Nobody is going to boo a baby, but that doesn’t mean anyone cares about your baby or its gender, perhaps aside from some gender-is-binary keyboard warriors in the crowd. They might care.
You know who definitely doesn’t care? The person onstage who has a million other fans just as annoying as you. You are not sharing a special moment with Harry Styles. You are interrupting a concert that I paid between $60 and $160 to attend, plus between $14 and $100 on beer. The concert gender reveal, somewhat unsurprisingly, started as a trend at country shows. We’ve seen Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw, Luke Bryan, and Brad Paisley speak about other peoples’ fertility to thousands of unwitting patrons in previous years. But in 2022, concert gender reveals spread like wildfire. Speaking of wildfires, a couple used a “smoke-generating pyrotechnic device” for their gender reveal and caused a wildfire in California last year.
@peachyp_ @Post Malone is the REALEST 💗💗 GIRL AUNTIE 🤟🏼💗💗💗 #fyp #postmalone #postmaloneconcert #genderreveal #AmazonVirtualTryOn #dadsoftiktok ♬ original sound – payton bates
Labels Forcing Their Artists To Make TikToks
TikTok becomes more pervasive with each passing year, and it’s steadily taking over the pop music machine. When a song goes viral on the platform, it can lead to anything from a spot on the Billboard charts to a record deal to a seat next to Taylor Swift at an award show. TikTok is where young people discover music. It’s where Gen Z spends most of its day, so labels want their artists there, too. But making a popular TikTok song isn’t as simple as writing a catchy chorus. What gains traction on the app can be random and unpredictable, and artists are feeling the pressure. Earlier this year, Halsey shared a video claiming that her label wouldn’t let her release a new song “unless they can fake a viral moment on TikTok.” Florence Welch posted a similar sentiment: “”The label are begging me for ‘low fi tik toks’ so here you go. pls send help.” (She later grew fond of the platform.) FKA Twigs said, “it’s true all record labels ask for tiktoks and I got told off today for not making enough effort.” Betty Who lamented that record labels don’t want to sign her, favoring “people with a viral hit on TikTok only.” Depressing!
Last year, artists sold NFTs. This year, the NFTs are the artists. Universal Music Group announced KINGSHIP, an NFT “supergroup” of four Bored Ape Yacht Club apes. Their first “music video” is a 29-second ad for M&Ms. Six other BAYCs released a single produced by Timbaland, a monkey posse cut complete with the crypto platitude, “We’re all gonna make it.” And then we have solo endeavors from Bored Ape Yacht Club #9797 (he goes by “Jimbo” and the song sounds like watered down Travis Scott) and FN Meka (who became the first NFT rapper to get canceled). Pop music avatars are nothing new, traced all the way back from the Archies to Gorillaz. In recent years, we’ve seen video-game-based bands. But NFT artists aren’t pop avatars, they’re scammy cartoon snake oil salesmen.
Throwing Shit At Harry Styles
It’s enough already. Harry Styles is one unripe tomato away from a concussion. He’s been a good sport about it, better than Kid Cudi after going head-to-head with a water bottle. On his Love On Tour this year Styles took flying Skittles, chicken nuggets, and a water bottle to his person with grace, like Ariana Grande when someone threw a lemon her head. But it’s not funny. Leave this man alone!
Every-Color-Of-The-Rainbow Vinyl Pressing
I’m all for a collectible, and I love a colorful vinyl. But we don’t need more than one or two colors, especially during a vinyl pressing crisis. Taylor Swift released four special edition Midnights LPs — jade green, blood moon, mahogany, and the Target-exclusive lavender. That’s a lot of color, but compared to Red Hot Chili Peppers’ rainbow collection, Swift shows a lot of restraint. RHCP released over 30(!) colorways for their two 2022 albums Return Of The Dream Canteen and Unlimited Love. The LPs are available on red, orange, green, clear, black, blue, sky blue, bone, “Spotify” yellow, and Lakers purple-and-gold vinyl (to name a few).
@vinylplayground I’m all for variant collecting. Give the fans the vinyl records they want! 30+ variants in two releases…. In the same year span….. not necessary. We can blame Adele all we want, but RHCP is contributing to the vinyl shortage JUST as much as anyone. #VinylAlert #VinylTok #VinylTikTok #Vinyl #VinylRecords #VinylCollection #Records #RedHotChiliPeppers #RHCP #ReturnOfTheDreamCanteen #FYP #ForYou ♬ NOSTYLIST – Destroy Lonely
I want to let the academy and MTV know that there are other rock bands. Yes, Måneskin had a viral TikTok song, but I promise there are other rock bands that we can nominate for awards. Smells like a psyop to me.
This one is a bubbling trend, and I’m afraid we haven’t seen the last of it. It’s also one where I can easily draw a line back to TikTok. New pop-punk-ish artist Gayle shouts “A-B-C-D-E-F-U and your mom” on her aptly titled viral hit “abcdefu.” Leah Kate has a similar style, swapping the alphabet for numbers on “10 Things I Hate About You” and remixing a lullaby for her single “Twinkle Twinkle Little Bitch.” Now, these songs clearly aren’t for babies. One song that might be for babies, though, is “Made You Look” by Meghan Trainor.” The image of a toddler bouncing along to “I could have my Gucci on…” is so clear in my mind, a Pampers ad was probably on the moodboard.
@mathue_ itsy bitsy spider is sacred #abcdefu #nurseryrhyme ♬ Twinkle Twinkle – Leah Kate