Sound Signal Soundoff: Trendspotting

Sound Signal Soundoff: Trendspotting
Sound Signal

Sound Signal Soundoff: Trendspotting

Our picks on the music genres, scenes, and trends most likely to shake up 2024.

One year ago, Third Bridge Creative launched Sound Signal, our bi-weekly cheat sheet for the music industry focused on highlighting emerging artists, tracks, and trends before they break. With over 100 artists and tracks identified by some of the world’s best music writers and curators, we’ve spotted new genres bubbling up on TikTok, touted underground rap stars in the making, and made an effort to cover music from all corners of the world. 

After analyzing all our coverage from the past year, we developed our first Year in Trending Music Report in December 2023, with insights and analytics on the innovative music that defined the year. Now, to celebrate an official year of Sound Signal popping into your inboxes every Thursday, we invited a few of our talented contributor cohort to sound off in pairs about all the incredible writing, reporting, and trendspotting they’ve done for Sound Signal, and what new scenes they think will end up soundtracking 2024. 

In Part 1 of this two-part package, we’re covering each pair’s most salient predictions on what will be the year’s most illustrative trends. Our contributors aren’t just great writers—they’re also intrepid thinkers, curious listeners, and fun conversationalists! We hope that from these excerpted conversations, you not only come away with some new music recommendations and interesting perspectives, but also a larger appreciation for the work our Sound Signal team puts in every other week to deliver high-class cultural perspective and analysis.

Without further ado, here are the top three trends emerging into this year:

These interviews have been edited and condensed for clarity.

On short-form video, emotion will be an aesthetic choice

Michelle Hyun Kim & Vrinda Jagota

Michelle Hyun Kim: Because of TikTok, there’s this added interest in instrumentalists because they can sit in their bedroom and make sick TikToks. This new generation is really interested in artists like Laufey, who blew up from posting cello and guitar. Now she’s a huge jazz star for Gen-Z, which is so unexpected.

One trend that I’ve seen percolating are TikTok artists who make spoken word audios and then release them as albums. There’s this TikToker named Sarah Lyoness, whose album started doing really well on Spotify this winter because people really like her poems. They’re sad voicemails and things you wanted to tell your ex and couldn’t. Young people are really into that sad stuff. 

Vrinda Jagota: It makes me think about that soft girl aesthetic that was so big on TikTok, with the bows and everything that was so big at the end—the coquette aesthetic. Some of the things we’re talking about, like jazz and spoken word, all tie into that too, this idea of being a virtuoso in your room and the idea of the bedroom as this feminine space.

Search interest for the term "coquette"

MHK: They’re dreaming, yearning and romanticizing this bygone era. That happens in a lot of different forms on TikTok. There’s this band, The Last Dinner Party, that I recently wrote about for Sound Signal. They’re really into wearing Victorian-era dresses, and I think that’s probably going to happen more as older songs begin to chart more on these short form platforms. 

VJ: One other thing that reminds me of is the Sound Signal trend piece I wrote about last year about Sofia Coppola songs trending on TikTok. That’s exactly in line with what you’re saying. That identity has been getting so specific on TikTok—not just the coquette, but the tomato girl aesthetic. It’s so niche and I feel like the music is following suit. 

MHK: I’ve been thinking a lot about how when music gets big on TikTok or with Gen-Z, the aesthetic and the vibe of the music is the more important thing, rather than the music itself. What you’re highlighting is that music goes with these larger, micro trends of the tomato girl and the coquette. People want to live these identities, or they want to try them on and take them off really quickly, and music helps them create a soundtrack to do that. That’s more of the utility of music on TikTok these days. Vrinda, did you say that it was going to be “pomegranate girl era” soon? 

VJ: Yes!

MHK: Yeah, so let’s put that in writing. Vrinda said “pomegranate girl era incoming!” I am also noticing big persimmon girl energy happening. 

As R&B resurges, Black musicians will continue to experiment with the form

Jaelani Turner-Williams & Brandon Ousley

Jaelani Turner-Williams: British soul music has always been around, but this year we’ve had the presence of a few Black women and non-binary artists like CHERISE, Ama Lou, Arlo Parks, and Jorja Smith. I really thought that they would be the forerunners of R&B last year, but that didn’t happen, maybe because their music was a bit mid-tempo or on the slower side. People really just wanted to hear what was left over after Beyoncé’s RENAISSANCE album. We were still all immersed in that world because of her Renaissance World Tour, so people wanted to hear adrenalizing beats and rhythms and production. Maybe the British singers didn’t have that as much. 

Brandon Ousley: I do see more artists taking on more hybrid sounds, fusing genres into their own particular style, like we see from a lot of international artists who are trying to break big.

Ama Lou Spotify Fan Conversion Rate

JTW: Some of the sounds that are taking the forefront this year are Black artists exploring more electronic sounds. For example, Kelela—I was listening to her RAVE:N, The Remixes album today, and I can’t really think of any other artist who’s doing that.

BO: Yeah, I do see a lot more R&B artists taking strides toward electronic music and doing other styles. Again, making their sound a bit more hybrid. I’ve also seen this in the last couple of years, especially from R&B and hip-hop artists, who are referencing a lot of late ‘90s to ‘00s R&B music that we grew up with. A lot of Gen-Z artists are refashioning those sounds into their own music. That’s been big for the last two or three years, and I heard it in a lot of songs last year.

JTW: I would say it’s not as nostalgic as it is futuristic. I see some artists taking on the techie, cyberspace visuals in their fashion and videos in general. I really think that we’re gonna move a bit more towards the future, especially as we talk about AI and virtual reality glasses. The only artists I’ve really seen use that within their promotional tools is Tinashe, but I see a lot more artists wearing them and other futuristic gear to signal that we’re moving ahead in the music industry.

Underground scenes will emerge into the mainstream

Colin Joyce & Leah Mandel

Colin Joyce: I’m obsessed with this new wave of underground rap that people are calling jerk, despite the fact that jerk was also a different rap genre that existed 15 years ago. It’s artists like xaviersobased, Nettspend, and Yhappojj. It feels like the next wave of really damaged SoundCloud rap, these crazy blown out beats where you can barely understand what they’re saying because it’s produced so weirdly. But it’s so catchy, and has so much—I don’t know—it has the sauce. That’s the only way I can put it! Especially when you watch videos of these kids, they’re 16 to 19 years old. They just have it, and they’re getting a little more accepted into the mainstream. 

Xaviersobased + Nettspend Spotify Monthly Listener Growth

The producer evilgiane, who’s from the underground himself, he’s in the collective SURF GANG. He produced a Kendrick Lamar song last year and has produced some stuff for Earl Sweatshirt, and now for these kids as well. It feels like they’re being slowly drawn into that world. There are rumors that some of these people are involved in the new Playboi Carti album, which would also be big. Despite the fact that it’s experimental and off-putting for pop rap on some level, I feel like it’s gonna have a moment. 

Leah Mandel: Someone I’ve been thinking about, who I wrote about last year, is LustSickPuppy/Tommy Hayes. Tommy has a scene around him. It’s mostly unknowns—I don’t know if I could name any off the top of my head—but people are obsessed with LustSickPuppy, and Tommy is constantly putting new music out. It’s raver industrial rap techno, like breakcore. 

CJ: I’m very interested in the new Kim Gordon album. The first single for it sounds like she decided to make a Playboy Carti song, which is so funny. But it’s also sick. Whenever people can stay tapped into stuff like that as they get older, that’s what I want to be doing. I want to be that old, making music that feels like cool underground shit! 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of our Sound Signal Soundoff, where our contributors go in depth on their music discovery methods and whether they see the discovery landscape changing in 2024. And if you made it this far and haven’t already signed up for Sound Signal, what are you waiting for? Sign up right here. 

Our Contributors Are:

Brandon Ousley: Bandcamp Daily, Pipe Wrench Media, The Coda Collection, Albumism, Dive

Colin Joyce: Senior Editor at Third Bridge Creative, Vice, Pitchfork, The Fader, Spin

Jaelani Turner-Williams: Complex, Dwell, Elle, Nylon, Rolling Stone, VMP

Leah Mandel: The Fader, Vice, Wall Street Journal, SoundCloud

Michelle Hyun Kim: New York Magazine, GQ Japan, Rolling Stone, NPR Music, Pitchfork, Teen Vogue

Vrinda Jagota: Pitchfork, NPR, Bandcamp Daily, The Cut, The Juggernaut

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