A quick peek on what the music world has in store for us in 2009:
Bruce Springsteen will be releasing Working on a Dream on January 27th. It will be his third album with the E Street Band since their reunion six years ago. The Boss says that most of the songs were, "written quickly," and that recording was done "during the breaks on last year's tour." The intention is to capture the power of live show on the record.
It will be interesting to see how the album reads in Obama America. Bruce was very gung-ho about the Obama campaign (even more so than he was about the "Vote for Change" tour four years ago), and the feeling of hope and redemption that many took from that campaign is sure to be peppered throughout Working on a Dream.
The majority of Springsteen's career has been spent in the grip of neoliberal presidencies--Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr.--and he has almost never bent when siding with the struggle of working people. During the 90s his ire against Clinton's NAFTA and the way immigrants are treated showed this to be true even during ostensibly popular regimes. In an era where sky-high hope and utter misery are bound to collide, it will be interesting to see what form Bruce and company's message takes.
Lupe Fiasco has also announced his upcoming release, LupE.N.D. The album is scheduled to be not one, not two, but three discs, with the "E.N.D." standing for the name of each one: "Everywhere," "Nowhere," and "Down Here."
Lupe definitely has the chops to pull off a triple album. He has a great ability with putting forth artistic concepts that aren't pretentious or preachy. At the same time, hip-hop is moving onto a new plateau, a new phase being pushed by the reinvigorated confidence coming out of the elections. How that new phase takes form, however, is still yet to be seen. Given how diffuse the genre is at present, where the style lands is anyone's guess. With Lupe being at the top of his game, an album this expansive could push hip-hop into one direction or another.
That may be even more true considering that the MC has announced that LupE.N.D. will be his last album! Lu has long said "I don't want to get to the point where I'm putting out music just to put out music. " It's an admirable sentiment considering how many artists keep going long after they should have called it quits. Last words from great MCs can have a wide effect on music. If LupE.N.D. is indeed his last word, and if it is as far-reaching as he intends it to be, then its influence could be heard for a long while afterwards.