Where will today’s pop stars be in 30 years?
It’s a familiar gripe among music lovers that pop has rarely felt more disposable, irrelevant, and one-dimensional than it does today. We live in a time when artists, if they’re lucky, rack up one big hit, then drop straight out of the zeitgeist (where are you, Lou Bega?). The labels, always anxious to hop on the next trend, seem almost wholly uninterested in quaint notions like ”career development,” and increasingly fickle ”fans” aren’t much better.
But wait a minute: Have you checked the pop charts lately? Recently, albums from Elvis Presley, the Rolling Stones, Bon Jovi, and Bruce Springsteen have been showing up in the Top 10, right alongside the likes of Avril Lavigne and Nelly. Now, the Stones have been around for four decades, Springsteen for three, and Bon Jovi for almost two. It got us wondering — just who among the current crop of pop stars will still be around 30 or 20 or 10 years from now, and what might the future hold for them?
Following are our (admittedly fanciful) prognostications on the potential futures of some of today’s big names.
EMINEM Following a 10-year sabbatical (lasting from 2021-2031), the now-portly rapper reemerges as a born-again Christian, renouncing his past work as ”crass and profane.” He records a hit children’s album, ”Glinda the Good,” based on the character created by ”Wizard of Oz” creator L. Frank Baum, and dedicates it to his granddaughters. In 2032, he changes his name to ”Mr. M&M” after inking a lucrative deal with the candy company.
BECK Having abandoned irony entirely by 2009, Beck spends the next 20 years playing big-money gigs in Vegas, singing to aging Gen-Xers. In 2028, he admits to Entertainment Weekly Online that ”all along, even as far back as ‘Odelay,’ I really wanted to be Tony Bennett. He’s the king, man.” His audience stays faithful to him, despite his refusal to play ”Loser” in concert.
DAVE GROHL After retiring the Foo Fighters name in 2008, Grohl enjoys steady solo success with albums of increasingly country-tinged, Tom Petty-type pop songs. Greatest hits boxed set ”Ah, Fooey!” sells well in 2010. But after his all-acoustic 2013 album, ”I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry: Dave Grohl Sings Hank Williams” moves 25 million copies, Grohl (who suffers from tinnitus by now) vows never to plug in again, and is embraced by the country music community. In 2021, Country Music Weekly runs a long profile revealing the star’s ”surprising” past as an alternative rock drummer.
ALICIA KEYS In 2008, after undergoing what she calls a ”spiritual awakening” upon hearing Pharoah Sanders’ 1969 free jazz album ”Karma,” Keys shocks the R&B community by picking up a tenor sax and releasing a three-CD instrumental album, ”Creating a New Master Plan,” produced by Wynton Marsalis. After being dropped by her record company two years later, she continues putting out instrumental jazz albums on a series of increasingly tinier indie labels. In 2018, she places second on Downbeat’s poll of saxophone players, an achievement she calls ”the greatest honor of my life.”
PINK After disappointing sales of her seventh album, ”Punkette for Life,” in 2011, Pink drops out of sight for three years. In 2014, Blender reports that she is managing an all-ages hardcore club in Vermont and has no intention of ever releasing an album again, ”although I still love the music.” In 2016, with financial backing from AOL-Henry Rollins Inc., she purchases the punk fanzine Maximum Rock’n’Roll, turning it into a slick glossy.
JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE Following a string of failed albums and an abortive acting career, in 2015, Timberlake takes a year-long holiday in the Mississippi Delta with the avowed intention of ”getting [his] chops together” as a guitar player. He dedicates his 2016 album, ”Really the Blues,” to ”my friend and spiritual mentor, Keb’ Mo’.” The album’s soulful cover of Robert Johnson’s ”32-20 Blues” becomes a left-field hit, and Timberlake is hailed by elder statesman Jonny Lang as ”the future of the blues.” (Sadly, John Mayall dies before he and Justin can record their prospective collaborative album, ”Summit Meeting.”)
Okay, we’ll take our tongues out of our cheeks now. But, seriously, where do you think some of today’s stars might wind up in 10, 20, or 30 years?