Update: It was One Republic. Damn you, Cook!
Rumors have been swirling around today's Apple event for months, but this morning we caught wind of a particularly juicy one. It's still unconfirmed, naturally.
Apparently a big-name recording artist will be dropping an album to go along with today's #AppleEvent. Who will it be?— NYLON (@NylonMag) September 9, 2015
It's particularly intriguing because there are half a dozen major artists with releases slated for this fall, and fans are primed for any of them to drop at any time. Apple has also gotten a lot savvier about music since the Beats acquisition, inviting Drake and The Weeknd onstage for WWDC this summer, so you can imagine almost anyone as the mystery guest.
So who's it going to be? The smart money is still on Drake, who's got Views from the 6 on deck and has been tight with Apple Music for months now — but really, it's anyone's guess. Here's some wild speculation in the few hours before we find out for real.
Jamieson Cox: Rihanna may have business interests that preclude her from getting involved with Apple — she's a Tidal co-owner, and she's released music and videos exclusively using the service before — but she's an intriguing dark horse candidate for a surprise appearance. We know she's been working on new music for months, and when she deigns to release albums they usually land in the fall. Anticipation for the album known as #R8 has been hovering at a fever pitch for months now; it's hard to imagine a bigger stage for its launch than an Apple event. Her long-time friend (and occasional lover) Drake set a precedent for palling around with the company's execs earlier this year with his WWDC appearance promoting Apple Music. And if there's an artist working today with the guts and general DGAF-ness to go rogue and endorse two services at once, it's probably Rihanna. It's not likely, but my fingers are crossed that we'll get to see Eddy Cue awkwardly shimmying to "Bitch Better Have My Money" in front of Apple's die-hards this afternoon.
Kwame Opam: It’s been more than a month since Frank Ocean’s sophomore record was supposed to drop. He’s late, and we’re upset. But what if… Imagine, if you will, a July 30th meeting between Ocean and Jimmy Iovine himself. Champagne glasses clink. After finishing some small talk over duck confit, Jimmy makes the pitch: "Now Frank," he says, "we know you’re planning on releasing your album tomorrow. We know your fans are waiting with bated breath. But imagine releasing it with us. On your own, you’re a superstar, but with us? You're an event. This changes not only your brand but could stand to change music as we know it."
Frank Ocean is a singular artist right now. Not only did his last album turn into a hip-hop blockbuster, the excitement ahead of his next effort is damn near palpable. How could Apple not want to cash in? How better to get people about to fall out of their trial periods on Apple Music to stay signed up? And the best part? Frank’s persona is so powerful that it can escape the immediate urge for people to label him a sellout by playing on an Apple stage. Apple needs him, not the other way around. It’s the perfect play. Now hurry up and drop that album!
Colin Lecher: The case for a Pharrell performance and album drop is the case for Intermediate Coolness Theory. Draw your mind back to Apple events gone by — have the performances inspired especially strong feelings, negative or positive? Answer: not really, no. (Maybe U2, although that was more a function of the world waking up to discover an unwanted and unplanned-for album on their phones.) So it will be with this event, where the performer will be met with a definitive Sure, why not. Who is the arbiter of that feeling in 2015? Pharrell Williams. Plus: Tim Cook likes him.
Kaitlyn Tiffany: I’m so afraid that Zayn’s solo debut will come at a time when I’m unprepared that I consciously emotionally prepare myself for it every single morning. As evidenced by this tweet:
can't wait for Zayn to perform at some dumb party being thrown for a phone today— Kaitlyn Tiffany (@K_Tiffany18) September 9, 2015
When they brought The Weeknd onstage last time, Apple proved that they’re no longer interested in the old-white-dude pandering of yore, and that they’d rather be on the cutting edge. Getting Zayn up on that stage now would be like usurping the first Justin Timberlake solo performance. True, it would probably be more of a hindsight win 10 years from now when Zayn drops his 20/20 Experience, but Apple’s insatiable thirst for cultural tastemaking suggests they'd be willing to invest in the long haul.
Zayn also came up with "zquad" as the official name for his fandom a couple of months ago. We’ve had no reason to use it yet, which has become almost physically frustrating.
(Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
Chaim Gartenberg: Coldplay’s new album, A Head Full of Dreams, has been building up steam for a while. It's officially scheduled for "late 2015," and Rolling Stone featured the album in their September 10th issue’s Fall Music Preview, and the band’s string arranger / composer Davide Rossi commented at the end of July that the album was one of his projects "about to be released." Coldplay also is scheduled to play their first live show since December 2014 next week (a perfect showcase for any newly released songs). And most importantly, like U2 before them, Coldplay has a long history with Apple, featuring in the 2008 "Viva La Vida" iPod ad, and even playing at Apple’s September 2010 event — the same event that the current Apple TV model was introduced at. They might not be the coolest pick, but you can only deny dad rock for so long.