Sometimes success — massive success — is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, you move millions of digital songs, land the catchiest single of the year, put up ridiculous YouTube numbers or score the buzziest debut in years.
But with great accomplishment comes great pressure to follow those feats up with even greater ones. Such is the dilemma facing some of 2012’s biggest break-out stars: Psy, Carly Rae Jepsen, Fun., Gotye and Frank Ocean.
We asked a panel of experts to suggest what these stars should/could do for an encore in 2013.
The South Korean sensation and 1 billion-YouTube-view star has already promised to mothball “Gangnam Style” this year and vowed to go it alone on his next effort.
» “What he’s trying to do is get a bunch of cameos on his full length album, which is a smart way to go about it,” said Hollywood Reporter music editor Shirley Halperin. With a strong management team led by Justin Bieber’s main man, Scooter Braun, Halperin said Psy has a chance of landing a successful album.
» Entertainment Weekly staff writer Kyle Anderson agreed that Psy needs a celebrity co-sign or major duet to advance beyond one-hit wonderdom. “A Bieber remix, something … but I would wait on it, maybe until summer to get some distance from ’Gangnam,’ ” he said.
» Given how charismatic and funny Psy is and his raft of celebrity fans (Katy Perry, Ellen DeGeneres), Rolling Stone associate editor Simon Vozick-Levinson agreed that the singer needs to cash in his good will chips to avoid “Macarena”-ville.
Having the catchiest song of the year with your first single is a burden. But Bieber protégé Jepsen is looking to build on a stellar 2012 with, well more of the same. “2012 was so far the biggest year of my life and it think it taught me to expect the unexpected,” Jepsen told MTV News. “I have no plans for 2013 other than to just keep doing what I’m doing… work hard at the songwriting side of things and cross my fingers.”
» Though it lacked another “Maybe,” Vozick-Levinson liked Jepsen’s album and said she should focus on her songwriting chops as long as it takes to craft another piece of ear candy.
» “There may be an awareness in that camp that she doesn’t have another huge hit, so they could go grassroots and pretend she’s a new artist,” said Anderson, who thought Jepsen is in a good position to have a long, solid career if she doesn’t try too hard to pull another “Maybe.” He also suggested she could have a solid second act as a song doctor for singers like Pink and Kelly Clarkson while continuing to do her own thing.
» “She really hasn’t been able to transcend the song and some people [never do],” Halperin said. “Sometimes the song is bigger than the artist.” Of all the acts, she thought the biggest pressure might be on Jepsen to come up with another big hit, especially since she doesn’t have the swagger or personality of a pop star like Rihanna, but clearly wants to be in that world.
Between the critical praise for his major-label debut, Channel Orange, six Grammy nominations and studio sessions with everyone from Jay-Z and Beyoncé to Alicia Keys and Pharrell, the Odd Future crooner might have trouble matching the magic of the past 12 months.
» A spokesperson for Ocean told MTV News there was no information on what was next for him, but Halperin said FO has the least amount of pressure of all the big 2012 acts. “He doesn’t follow the normal album promotion path, he hasn’t done many interviews… but he’s got this critical mass thing going,” she said. Even without a massive hit single, Ocean can pretty much write his own ticket and Halperin is excited to see what direction he goes.
» Vozick-Levinson agreed that Ocean has the best long-term prospects of all the acts, thanks to his level of respect with critics, fans and other artists. “It’s in his favor that he’s not a flash-in-the-pan and didn’t yield an immediate hit single,” he said. “He’s incredibly imaginative, unique and a talented songwriter and he just needs to keep doing what he’s doing, write another album and not rush it.”
One hit single is great. But trio Fun. managed to follow up the gigantic Some Nights smashes “We Are Young” and the title track with the current hit-in-the-making single, “Carry On.” They are on the road for the next two months, then head overseas in March and April, with more U.S. dates this summer and a new track, “Sight of the Sun” on the “Girls” soundtrack, which is out next week. Oh, and they were nominated for six Grammys, including all four of the Big Four.
» “They’re light-years ahead of these others,” said Anderson. “For them, the goal this year should be to figure out what they want to be and how they want to be known going forward.”
» Thanks to singer Nate Ruess’ proven songwriting chops on songs by Pink and Ke$ha, Vozick-Levinson said as long as he doesn’t give away his best bits to others the band is well set-up for a long, successful career.
» The Grammy spotlight will provide another burst of attention, and Halperin predicted, another sales bump for the album. Along with the “Girls” tune and budding hit “Carry On,” Halperin said the band could easily have an Adele-like slow-burn success that will bleed into this year and keep them rolling through all of 2013.
The Grammy-nominated Australian pop singer continued to enchant all last year with his finger-snapping 350-million YouTube view smash, “Somebody That I Used to Know.” He started 2013 early by getting sampled by T.I. on the rapper’s new Trouble Man album, but a spokesperson said that after a whirlwind year, Wally De Backer is taking some time off this year to work on writing his fourth album.
» It might be hard for Gotye to follow up the success of “Somebody” because, as anyone who’s listened to the album knows, it’s not indicative of the Sting-like adult contemporary nature of the disc. “It’s the classic case of, ’Why would I buy the album if I only like the one song?’ ” Halperin said.
» Vozick-Levinson isn’t so sure De Backer was even looking for that kind of crossover pop success and suspected he might happily go back to making his idiosyncratic tunes to a much smaller audience.
Who do you hope to see more in 2013? Tell us in the comments!