IJust 12 years ago, Harry Styles took the day off from work at a bakery in Cheshire, North West England, to sing Stevie Wonder’s Isn’t She Lovely for Simon Cowell in a completely normal audition for The X Factor. . .
This week, it was announced that he would be joining Billie Eilish and Ye (the artist formerly known as Kanye West) as one of three headliners for Coachella 2022, marking the end of a decade of an incredible transition from boyband heartthrob to superstar. credible rock. . Other announced acts include Phoebe Bridgers, 21 Savage, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil Baby, Doja Cat and Maggie Rogers.
It must be a pinch-me moment for Styles, who like Taylor Swift and Beyoncé before him, has found that sweet spot between critical acclaim and massive popularity. Playing in the Indio desert, known for its psychedelic culture and heavy use of magic mushrooms, will be the icing on the cake.
Festival lineups aren’t picked out of thin air, they’re painstakingly crafted: In a New Yorker profile, Coachella boss Paul Tollett discussed the wide range of metrics he studies to decide not just who gets booked, but who may be in larger print. on the bill The final lineup is a reflection of what the public wants and where promoters think the music is headed.
Not surprisingly, there are very few bands on the bill. Bands have slowly been erased from most popular music metrics over the past half decade, as solo artists with huge Instagram followings and a powerful sense of image take over. The lineup page on the Coachella website could easily be mistaken for a modeling agency directory.
Spotify publishes its five most streamed artists every year and there hasn’t been a band in the mix since 2016 (when US duo Twenty One Pilots placed it at number four). Among the top 20 artists on the streaming service this month, the only non-solo artists are Coldplay and Imagine Dragons. But on festival billboards and in concert arenas, bands have maintained a certain dominance: Rage Against the Machine, Tame Impala, Radiohead, The Killers, Arctic Monkeys, Metallica, Wolf Alice and Foo Fighters have remained dominant.
This year not only none of the top bands, but also none of the 20-something acts in the lower tier, with the exception of Mexican banda artists Groupo Firme and Banda MS, both exciting groups with record-breaking stints on the Billboard 100 for Mexican artists but, with their heavy use of woodwinds, they are not your typical festival rockers.
While the traditional rock band may have fallen from grace, Styles’ rise suggests something is rising from its ashes. He’s arguably the most successful independent musician in years: his album draws from classic rock from Laurel Canyon and Pitchfork favorites like Phoenix and M83. Their tours focus on the musicality and traditional formation of the band.
Styles, like Eilish and Ye, have found a way to make interesting music in a culture obsessed with personal branding and influence. He’s an actor, TV host (he often fills in for James Corden when Corden is on Late Late), and one of the most followed people on Instagram. He acts like a celebrity, but the music he makes, influenced by Peter Gabriel and Crosby, Stills & Nash, is part of the traditional rock canon. It’s indie without any independence, a rock band while solo, jumping through the hoops of what it takes to become a mainstream act in 2022. Riding the wave of influence and image that propelled popular culture during the last decade, he has become arguably the biggest rock artist working today.
In some ways, Ye was a trailblazer, constantly trying to move back and forth between music, fashion and celebrity, fighting furiously for a seat at every table. During Trump’s presidency, West’s brand seemed under threat, but the Coachella lineup suggests he has been forgiven for his support of Maga and his comments on TMZ in 2018 that slavery “sounds like an option.” Around that time, influential figures in hip-hop radio, including Hot 97 host Ebro and Shay Shay and BiGG of Detroit’s The Bounce, vowed to boycott Ye. Those boycotts seem to have faded and after a critically acclaimed album, Ye is back in favor.
But perhaps the most radical thing about the Coachella lineup is how little reverence it has for what has come before. Ten years ago, Coachella was still obsessed with the golden old days: the 2012 festival had Madness, Jimmy Cliff, Dr Dre, Buzzcocks, Pulp, Noel Gallagher and Squeeze on the lineup.
This time that feeling of debt to the patrimonial acts has almost completely disappeared. The only acts on the 2022 bill who released albums in the ’90s are Spiritualized, Fatboy Slim, and film composer Danny Elfman. A much larger portion of the acts in the lineup weren’t even Was born in the ’90s Eilish, 21, will be the festival’s youngest headliner and reflects a lineup that has achieved gender balance without making a song and dance about it.
For years, people complained that the same old headliners played every year; this feels like a new starting point for live music.