Illy kicks off 2021 with a banger
After chart-topping, award-winning and genre-defying Australian artist Illy recorded his single Cheap Seats with hard rock band Waax in March, his new record The Space Between was done.
As anyone who has seen this hip hop pop star on stage can attest, Illy's live performance seals the deal when introducing new music to his fans.
So when the pandemic shutdown scuttled those plans, the album's release in May was put on hold.
Like many artists around the world who suffered the same predicament, Illy is kicking off 2021 with a new release bang. January used to be a new music wasteland; now it's chockers with fresh tunes.
"Playing live and smashing regional touring is how I'm built as an artist, so I didn't want to put out an album I had been busting my arse for so long to make and have another year between that and a tour," he says.
"It's been really disheartening at points but January was the first available time where it felt like things are getting better and we will be able to do shows by April or May."
The Space Between has had quite the introduction. The Papercuts pop star released the lead single, platinum-selling, airwaves-hogging Then What in May 2019.
Over the past 18 months, five other singles including Codes, Last Laugh and Loose Ends featuring G Flip, were unleashed to entertain his new music-starved, locked-down audience.
The selection illustrated not only his enduring strengths as a rapper and purveyor of pop gems but also signalled a detour into the melodic hip hop sound popularised by Travis Scott, JuiceWRLD and now teen Australian chart slayer The Kid Laroi.
"That stuff has taken up space in the playlists I listen to and I can do it. I've spent the last 10 years listening to more melodic rap and that's something I have incorporated over the past few albums, so it wasn't a stretch, you know" he says.
"It may be stylistically different from the classic Aussie hip hop sound but I feel like I had already moved on from that anyway."
Illy has straddled the pop and hip hop worlds for a decade, enjoying big hits when he teamed up with unique voices including Vera Blue on Paper Cuts, British singer Anne Marie on Catch 22 and San Cisco's Scarlett Stevens on Tightrope.
There are some surprising collaborators on The Space Between including Waax, Kiwi singer songwriter Robinson on Lean On Me and his record labelmate Guy Sebastian on Lonely.
That track with Sebastian exemplifies the personal nature of the record and was inspired by his parents.
"It's a special one … my parents are at that point in their lives where you think about, well, life," he says.
"My mum's beaten cancer, dad's gone through all this s … and they're fighters but you think about the inevitable march of life and that's a conversation I can't have with them because it's too much to think about.
"So the song will be a conversation starter for me and my family."
The Space Between is out on January 15.
P.M. - Jan 22
The enigmatic singer songwriter possesses one of the most emotive and compelling voices in the alt-pop scene and will finally release his second album in late January.
Recorded over 18 months in Los Angeles, Brisbane, Auckland, New York and the wholly unexpected Nicaragua, James has waited a year to get the record out.
It was delayed both by the pandemic shutdowns and changes to his management team.
Certified Lover Boy - Jan TBC
The stream slayer gave fans the first taste of his new record back in August with the Grammy nominated Laugh Now Cry Later single featuring rapper Lil Durk and then … airwaves silence.
Neither the pop king nor his label have confirmed a date for the album release but a cryptic social media post from French Montana of the pair hanging out in Turks and Caicos Islands in mid December was captioned "Almost That Time" suggesting the pair were working on some last minute music.
A late January release from the 6 God would be guaranteed to claim chart summits around the world before the avalanche of February big hits from Foo Fighters, Sia and London Grammar.
Greenfields - Jan 8
The Bee Gees legend has realised a long held ambition to join the Nashville set with Greenfields: The Gibb Brothers Songbook Vol 1.
Gibb, who once owned Johnny and June Carter Cash's family home in the US headquarters of country music, has linked with old friends Dolly Parton and Olivia Newton-John as well as hugely respected stars Keith Urban, Sheryl Crow, Jason Isbell and Alison Krauss for the record.
Among the Bee Gees hits to get a countrified reboot are Words, Jive Talkin' and How Deep Is Your Love.
Other anticipated releases include Irish troubadour and honorary Australian Passenger with his Songs For The Drunk and Broken Hearted (Jan 8), American boy band Why Don't We with The Good Times and The Bad Ones (Jan 15) and British rising star Arlo Parks with Collapsed in Sunbeams on January 29 and the reissue of the legendary Chris Wilson acclaimed record Live At The Continental (Jan 22).
Originally published as Illy kicks off 2021 with a banger