Because the Coachella 2018 headliners leaked weeks ago – with Eminem and The Weeknd joining the previously booked Beyoncé – let’s leave them out of this conversation.
Beyond the top heavy billing of three radio-friendly pop fixtures, the rest of the lineup is heavy on hip hop, represents a surge towards gender parity with women artists across all genres, and hints at a format change for the volatile dance-centric Sahara tent with no obvious headliners that fit in to the “big EDM” template.
Here are 15 of the biggest snubs, surprises, and unanswered questions arising from Goldenvoice’s early lineup drop.
This is not “Virtual Insanity.” The over-35 festival crowd will appreciate lead singer Jay Kay’s ’90s throwback as well as Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, someone nobody saw coming.
Snub: No Heir for Hans Zimmer
After Hans Zimmer stole the show last year with a full orchestra on the Outdoor Stage, Goldenvoice seemed to have struck a popular quirk nerve. They should have stuck with an annual “stunt booking,” something the Oscars and even the WWE pull off on their biggest nights.
While Lin-Manuel Miranda appeared in some longshot lineup theories, there doesn’t seem to be any truly bizarre artist like Zimmer or the 2008 lecture given by Sean Penn.
Welcome Change: Women in Hip Hop and R&B
Happy for so many artist on that Coachella Lineup especially the Woman in Hip Hop & R&B man
Woman are leading the charge I don’t wanna hear Now that There isn’t other woman in Hip Hop #COACHELLA2018
– SEAN. U™ (@SeanAPEx) January 3, 2018
Surprise: Cardi B’s Marquee Billing
The former “Love and Hip Hop” star had the first song by a solo female rapper to reach #1 in 19 years, dethroning Taylor Swift from the top of the charts. For that banner year, she was always going to get the call for Coachella.
Though she put out prior mixtapes, Cardi’s musical resume is amongst the flimsiest of any “second liner.” She lands a high spot on Sunday, ahead of more established acts like Miguel, LANY and French Montana.
There will be a fair amount of time to fill after she plays “Bodak Yellow.” Her fiancé Offset (from Migos) plays on the same day and they could collaborate.
A huge album in 2017 and a headline grabbing guest appearance at Coachella with Zedd in 2016 (while she was in recording contract purgatory) suggested that she would be on the poster. An early evening set in the timeslot that SIA dominated would have gone over well with both diehard “Rainbow” fans and the casuals.
Surprise: Chloe x Halle
The teen sisters are media darlings, beloved by Michelle Obama (who invited them to play the White House lawn) to recently opening for Hillary Clinton at the Teen Vogue summit in Los Angeles. They have one of the highest Q scores for a group wallowing on the second to last line of Saturday’s lineup.
Surprise: Guess Who’s Back?
That’s one of headliner Eminem’s most famous lines. It’s also how Goldenvoice began their email blast announcing the lineup.
The bigger returnee story though is all the mid-to-low level acts that played the Empire Polo Grounds within the last few years that are getting a second shot, absent major breakthroughs in their careers in the interim.
Remember the “All My Friends are Wasted,” guys from Snakehips? They’re back. So are acoustic crooner Vance Joy, The War on Drugs, Chicago house icon The Black Madonna, and “Electric Love” singer BØRNS amongst others. They are part of the emerging cast (and caste) of “Coachella regulars.” Jason Bentley, L.A.’s music czar who plays every year, will see some familiar faces.
EDM Snub 1: Alesso and “Big EDM”
At just 23 years old, Alesso’s 2015 headlining set in the Sahara was a bombastic highlight. The Swede was heavily tipped to be back this year. More evidence: He has an international smash with Brazilian superstar Anitta (53 million streams), a singer who seemed primed for a “Despacito” inspired U.S. invasion with a slot on the bill. Both were snubbed.
Is the era of “big EDM” over? Read on..
EDM Snub 2: The Vegas DJ’s are AWOL..or are they?
Each year, a smattering of the world’s highest paid DJ’s – those who headline the Vegas clubs – get the call to Indio. There are usually a few delegates from Austin Kramer’s curated Spotify DancePop playlist in the form of a Calvin Harris, Kaskade, Diplo, Avicii, Afrojack, Tiesto, and the Chainsmokers (more on this below). Not here.
In a curious bit of timing, Wynn Nightlife announced 2018 residencies for tech house DJ’s Jamie Jones and Black Coffee today (Jan. 2), just two hours before their names appeared on the Coachella poster.
These are hit producers who could command the dank and dark dance floor in the Yuma tent or after hours underground warehouse party, but are not the type to sell out Encore Beach Club with the vodka bottle buying herds on a 100-degree Saturday afternoon in July.
In addition to evolving Vegas nightlife beyond the fist pumps, this smells like a smart PR move by the team behind XS, Intrigue, and Surrender to front-run the major music news coming later in the day.
EDM Snub 3: No Chainsmokers
Alex Pall and Drew Taggart were so heavily tipped to be on the lineup that the Coachella subreddit, a relentless online community that tracks touring schedules and social media clues about the lineup all year, had a separate side bet going in their “guess the lineup” contest. Entrants could bet double or nothing on whether the Chains would be a headliner.
An hour after the lineup dropped, the top trending post is a “No Chainsmokers Upvote Partaaayyy,” which 637 users made a special trip to the site to upvote. (Update: A day later, it’s up to 2,356 people.)
Coachella caught the Chains at just the right moment in 2016, setting records with their Sunday night crowds in the Sahara tent. It was the first time that Taggart ever sang live (months before “Closer” and “Paris” would hit). When they dropped their hit “Roses” coming out of a decoy Red Hot Chili peppers intro, the Sahara tent shook. One on-air personality for Entertainment Weekly described the scene by saying that she “feared for her life.”
The two-piece Seattle melodic percussionists and live instrumentalists released new music last spring. As Coachella vets, their return was widely expected. They were on the podium for least-surprising booking, next to sister trio HAIM.
What is surprising is their billing: They landed second on the bill, signaling a major timeslot on one of the two main stages and framing them in the industry as a half-notch below Eminem as a festival headliner.
Surprise to Come: Daft Punk?
Every year, Coachella diehards and music bloggers rev up the hype train for a Daft Punk set, whose 2006 set is routinely blogged as the best Coachella set of all time. Every year there is hype. Every year they never materialize.
With the Weeknd now confirmed as a headliner, it opens up the possibility that the two helmet-clad Parisians could revive the performances of “I Feel it Coming” and “Starboy” that they did with the Weeknd on last year’s Grammys telecast.
Snub: Ms. Lauryn Hill
Her shock appearance with DJ Snake last year fostered an itch for the “Doo Wop (That Thing)” singer that many music fans didn’t even realize they had. The former Fugee could have been as high as a sub-headliner.
Rezz is a psychedelic glasses wearing 22-year old female DJ on the come up, cosigned by Deadmau5 and Skrillex. While solidly “mid level” talent on many of Insomniac’s all-electronic festival lineups, she was not on anyone’s list of genre-specific performers expected to leap over to the most prominent music stage in North America. She’s a welcome surprise in a big year for women.
Surprise: More artists to come?
Goldenvoice added a caveat to the lineup announcement, giving press an alphabetical lineup “as of January 2nd.” There could be some additions.