4 Takeaways from the Coachella 2022 Lineup

No Comments
The bellwether of festival season returns with pop-leaning headliners and more excellent mid-level acts than you could possibly see

Harry Styles Ye and Billie Eilish
Graphic by Callum Abbott. Harry Styles photo by Francis Specker/CBS via Getty Images, Ye photo by David Livingston/Getty Images, Billie Eilish photo by Will Heath/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The Coachella lineup just hits different this year. Traditionally, the early-January announcement has marked the start of the American festival season, much like the event’s arrival in Indio, California each April. Who Coachella books matters not just symbolically but also chronologically, since it’s the first major U.S. festival to reveal its full bill. But Bonnaroo beat them to the punch this year, announcing a lineup led by Stevie Nicks, Tool, and J. Cole earlier this week. Before the pandemic, perusing the Coachella lineup poster was an annual parlor game, where fans and pundits could puzzle over font sizes to glean insights into who was up and who was down by the industry’s estimation. That seems a bit quaint now, doesn’t it?

In 2022, Coachella’s official lineup confirmation matters for merely existing. Two years ago, it was one of the first major music events to be postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 2020’s gathering was eventually canceled. Plans for an April 2021 installment, too, were shelved due to the coronavirus. As recently as last summer, Coachella organizers floated the idea of bringing back the planned 2020 headliners: Travis Scott, Rage Against the Machine, and Frank Ocean. Of course, that didn’t happen: Billie Eilish, Harry Styles, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, and Swedish House Mafia are officially headlining instead. But as other early lineup announcements (like Primavera Sound and the smaller Big Ears Festival) have shown, the long wait can lead to a strong slate. Similarly, Coachella’s lineup looks pretty good overall, in its vast and money-scented way.

Here are four observations about the 2022 bill. Coachella takes place April 15-17 and April 22-24.

Size Matters

Clearly, headliners for a festival known to bring 250,000 people to a former polo club in Southern California need to have large fanbases, but Coachella’s lineup is usually worth dissecting because it feels like it says something artistically too. Whether controversy-sparking (2012’s 2Pac “hologram,” presumably now smiling down us from somewhere in the metaverse), career-crowning (2018’s Beyoncé tour de force, later documented in her Homecoming live album and film), and stubbornly cultish (2013’s Stone Roses, anyone?), Coachella’s choice of headliners generally has a way of percolating across pop culture. In 2022, such reverberations are more difficult to discern.

Frank Ocean, as Coachella co-founder Paul Tollett said in an interview last year, won’t be headlining until 2023. Rage Against the Machine are touring this spring, but they’re likewise off the bill. And Travis Scott has stepped back from live performances after last year’s Astroworld tragedy, pulling out of November’s Day N Nite festival, which is organized by Coachella promoter Goldenvoice. So that leaves Eilish, Styles, Ye, and Swedish House Mafia in the awkward position of being ostensible replacements, unified by their arena-filling credentials.

Read also