By the standards of the last five years, 2017 was a relatively quiet one for big name international pop stars visiting Shanghai. Promoters AEG, who have been responsible for concerts here from the likes of Taylor Swift, The Rolling Stones and Bruno Mars, seemed to largely shy away from putting on big international acts in Shanghai – their main attempt to do so ultimately thwarted by the government’s Bieber ban.
Live Nation picked up some of the slack by bringing us Ariana Grande and, of course, November saw the Victoria’s Secret show with Harry Styles and Miguel hit town. One of the many headlines to come out of that event was Katy Perry's apparent China 'ban' and it'll be interesting to see how much guanxi can be flexed between now and early April in an attempt to revive the Mainland China leg of her 2018 Asia tour. The latest word is that there never really was a 'ban', but that the sunflower fuss has inevitably caused some problems. However, a Shanghai-sized gap still exists between her dates in Hong Kong at the end of March and Taipei a few days later....
Otherwise, pop fans will now be hoping the invite-only lingerie event was a signifier of an upcoming (public) concert at Mercedes-Benz Arena for heartthrob Styles – he will be in Hong Kong in May, setting tongues wagging about the prospect of him hopping over to the Mainland for a show. At the moment, it doesn't look as though his Asia tour dates quite leave room for a trip here however.
Many a furtive glance is also being thrust toward the Special Administrative Region from these parts thanks to forthcoming bookings for the xx (pictured below) and Bruno Mars (who has been here before of course) – as with Styles, Shanghai appearances for either act are far from a certainty at the moment, although the latter seems more likely.
Slightly more concretely, Imagine Dragons are set for a return to these parts in January and James Blunt is nailed on for a Shanghai show in 2018, so there's that.
Also guaranteed to return (or as much as anything can be guaranteed in this market) will be a slew of music festivals. In 2017, more established China brands such as Strawberry, Midi, JZ, Concrete & Grass and Storm were joined by international new entrants Ultra and Summer Sonic, along with a crop of homegrown upstarts. Despite some events suffering from patchy attendance numbers and permit problems, don’t expect the festival frenzy to die down in 2018. (For more on upcoming festivals in 2018 - including some big electronic brand names - see below.)
And hopefully someone will successfully bring out Baby Metal this time after Summer Sonic's failed attempts.
Regardless, Shanghai’s heavy music fans should continue to be well sated in 2018, with the steady flow of metal bands touring here unlikely to slow. What really needs to happen now is improved booking of locally-based bands onto these bills – if you’re a promoter charging 3-400RMB or upwards for one of these gigs, there’s little excuse for not picking out an act from Shanghai’s heavy music scene to pair with the headliner.
In general we’re hoping – as we hope every year – that 2018 will bring an upswing in the number and quality of local bands. Away from the heavier side of things, look for the long-delayed record from Dream Can (pictured above) to finally see the light of day on Maybe Mars in May; we’ll be keeping our fingers crossed for full-length records from local favourites Lao Ayi and Mirrors too, though the latter at least gave us an EP in November to keep us going.
Chinese hip hop had a banner year in 2017, with TV contest The Rap of China bringing (safe, commercial) rap into the mainstream. A live tour of the show (and a confirmed second series) combined with 88rising pushing acts such as Higher Brothers (watch below) plus Modern Sky launching a dedicated rap label, should mean 2018 is even bigger for hip pop here.
Shanghai continued to be at the centre of interesting electronic music in China in 2017, with ALL – the new club from some of the concerns behind The Shelter – largely serving as the breeding ground for alternative, forward-thinking artists following its opening at the start of the summer. The tail end of 2017 was particularly strong, courtesy of solo releases from 33 (as 33EMYBW) and Han Han (as Gooooose) of Duck Fight Goose and Tess Sun (as Hyph11e) of Genome6.66mbp. Laughing Ears is also set to drop a debut EP through Ran Music any day now.
Helped along by venues including DADA and Elevator (which has really gone from strength to strength this year), plus an emerging crop of local artists, Shanghai’s non-mainstream electronic scene will hopefully continue to grow and diversify in 2018.
On the commercial side, even Storm Festival being hit by an actual storm failed to dampen the city’s apparent enthusiasm for mainstream EDM in 2017, and the parade of big-name dance producers/DJs/play-pushing-dancers is unlikely to come to a halt in the next 12 months. Instead, expect a regular flow of big EDM names and of festivals proclaiming themselves to be the biggest electronic music event that China has ever known.
First out the gates in that regard looks to be Live Nation’s Electric Daisy Carnival, which is set to land in Shanghai in 2018. It'll be vying for ravers' attentions with time-honoured British festival brand Creamfields, which is due to make its own Mainland China debut following a Hong Kong version in 2017.
As ever though, we expect to be surprised – in both good and bad ways – by music and nightlife in Shanghai in 2018.