2014 music highlights: Beyonce to Sam Smith

Beyonce performs a show on her "Mrs. Carter Beyoncé performs a show on her "Mrs. Carter Show World Tour 2013" at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. (Dec. 6, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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Music is in a best-of-times, worst-of-times kinda phase right now.

People are listening to more music than ever. They're just not paying for it.

Of the Top 10 people searched for most on Google in 2013, all of them were musicians except for Kim Kardashian, who owes some of those searches to her famous fiance, Kanye West. But digital sales fell in 2013, after years of steady climbing.

That weird disconnect between interest and sales is leading to all sorts of weird changes in the music industry, which should make for an interesting 2014.

Here's what we're looking forward to:

MORE STUNTING So Beyoncé sold 617,000 copies of her surprise album in three days, and Jay Z's "Magna Carta ... Holy Grail" sold a million copies before it even came out, thanks to a deal with Samsung. Look for this kind of nontraditional album release strategy to extend beyond the Knowles-Carter household, as more and more musicians recognize that they may know how to reach their audience better than their labels do.

SAM SMITH The British soul singer with the lilting falsetto and a great command of the groove is set for big things with his American debut single, "Money on My Mind," due out in February. Smith has already gathered steam on both sides of the Atlantic thanks to his vocals on the Disclosure breakthrough hit "Latch," but "Money" is far more pop-oriented.

LADY GAGA Don't underestimate Mother Monster. While detractors line up to talk about how "disappointing" reaction to her "ARTPOP" album has been, Gaga doesn't really get going until she's showing off these songs on tour. Before that tour starts, she's booked seven shows at Roseland Ballroom to close out the historic venue -- more performances that are sure to be special.

JOHNNY CASH The late country legend left a huge amount of unreleased material in his recording archives when he died in 2003, and his son, John Carter Cash, has been diligently sorting through it. This year, he found a collection of songs recorded by his father in the early '80s with Billy Sherrill, best known for producing Tammy Wynette and George Jones. The 12 previously unheard songs, now known as "Out Among the Stars," are set to be released March 24 on Legacy Recordings.

JHENE AIKO Though the 25-year-old singer from Los Angeles won't release her debut album until spring, Aiko has already made her mark with her breathy, beautiful vocals on songs by Drake and teamed up with Kendrick Lamar, Childish Gambino and Ab-Soul. She even held her own with Drake on his recent tour, proving that she's a performer, not just a studio creation.

MILEY CYRUS At some point, people are going to catch on, no? They're going to get that Miley is simply out to get a reaction with her wild antics and stop playing into her hands, right? Well, maybe. Her #Bangerz Tour in 2014 (which comes to Nassau Coliseum in April) will test that theory. But as she proved at her recent appearance at Z100's Jingle Ball, she's perfectly equipped to simply sing her new songs to hold her fans' attention.

LORDES AND LADIES With the success of the Grammy-nominated chart-topper "Royals," the race is on to find the next smart, exotic female for 2014 -- with 19-year-old Brit Ella Eyre and the supercool Swedish contingent of Elliphant and Mapei leading the pack.

STRONG ISLAND RETURNS After some time away, some of the Long Island scene's biggest stars are back with new material. Taking Back Sunday is planning its first new studio album in three years for release in the spring, including the great single "Flicker Fade." Bayside will release its new studio album, "Cult," on Feb. 18, almost exactly three years since its last studio album. And Ryan Star has completed his new album, following his impressive "Animals" EP from this year, and is looking to release it himself early in 2014.

MORE MUSIC NEWS With full staffs at Fuse News and Revolt TV now covering musicians and the music industry, in addition to those left at MTV, VH1 and BET, fans can find info about their favorite stars more regularly than ever before.

INDIE R&B Given the success of The Weeknd and Rhye in 2013, the new hybrid genre of indie R&B -- a combination of indie-rock sensibilities applied to soul sounds -- is starting to take off. Look for Shy Girls, How to Dress Well, Toro y Moi and Autre Ne Veut to push things forward in 2014.

TUNE IN

JAN. 26 Grammys (CBS)

APRIL 6 Academy of Country Music Awards (CBS)

MAY 18 Billboard Music Awards (ABC)

AUG. 24 MTV Video Music Awards (MTV)

NOVEMBER CMA Awards (ABC)

NOVEMBER American Music Awards (ABC)

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