by ALEX NAGORSKI
2011 was without a doubt the year of the diva. Adele snatched Taylor Swift’s wig to become the reigning queen of the charts. Katy Perry broke Billboard records by continuing to brainwash America to buy the cyclically re-packaged singles from her intolerable 2010 album, Teenage Dream. Britney kept on “dancing” until the world ended. Rihanna found love in many-a hopeless place, including guest spots on albums by Coldplay and Drake, while Beyonce learned the hard way that critical and commercial success are two very different things.
Kelly Clarkson decided to endorse both Ron Paul and the notion that she’ll never relive the success of “Since U Been Gone.” Lady GaGa struggled to separate church and pop. Melissa Gorga essentially remade Lindsay Lohan’s seminal classic, “Rumors.” And Jessie J. and Nicole Scherzinger continued their “survival of the fittest” flop-off to see who would be more irrelevant by the time the ball drops in Times Square to ring in the new year.
So what’s in store for 2012? It looks like the diva reign won’t be letting up anytime soon as new albums from Madonna and Cher are sure to usher in a new era of meno-pop. Christina Aguilera will be coming out with her first record since deciding to shop exclusively at Lane Bryant. And the impact of pre-release blogosphere hype will be tested with the release of Born To Die, the first album to come out of Lana Del Rey since her Taylor Armstrong-esque makeover and signing to a major label.
Below, check out my list of top 16 most anticipated releases coming in the new year and let us know in the comments section below whose upcoming albums you’re most looking forward to in 2012.
16. The Shins, Port of Morrow
In March, The Shins will release Port of Morrow, their first studio album since 2007’s Wincing The Night Away. The record, produced by industry superstar Greg Kurstin, also serves as the band’s first major label release. Frontman James Mercer (who last year released the eponymous debut album of his side project, Broken Bells) and the rest of the band plan to announce a supporting tour in the coming weeks.
15. Madonna, MDNA
Already confirmed to perform at the Super Bowl, Madonna will also be releasing Luv, her twelfth studio album and first on Interscope Records. Confirmed tracks include the lead single, “Gimme All Your Lovin’” (feat. Nicki Minaj & M.I.A.), the Martin Solveig-produced “Turn Up The Radio,” and “Masterpiece,” the Golden Globe-nominated theme from her upcoming film, W.E.. Look for the album in stores this March.
14. Rufus Wainwright, Out of the Game
Produced by hitmaker Mark Ronson (Lily Allen/Amy Winehouse), Out of the Game is Rufus Wainwright’s seventh studio album. And it seems as though the Canadian singer/songwriter will be experimenting with a more radio-friendly sound. “The main objective … is to be danceable,” Wainwright revealed to Rolling Stone about the May release. “I just want to make something that you love, driving around in your car listening or losing your mind to on a dance floor.”
13. Phoenix, Title TBD
Following the incredible success of their 2009 album, Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix (which picked up the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album), French rockers Phoenix will be returning to the music scene in 2012. “It’s very … nostalgic, futuristic. It’s very experimental,” band member Thomas Mars told MTV about their upcoming record.
12. Passion Pit, Title TBD
With their debut album, 2009’s Manners, Passion Pit blended electro pop and indie rock together in an unprecedented way. Their eagerly anticipated sophomore release promises to continue evolving their signature sound while simultaneously continuing to blur the boundaries between genres to create what promises to be another unique and convention-defying record.
11. Sara Bareilles, Title TBD
It’s no surprise that for her upcoming EP, Sara Bareilles is collaborating with the prolific Ben Folds. Not only do the two of them share a love of the keyboard but they also recently became co-judges on reality TV competition The Sing-Off (which Bareilles joined this past season). With Folds serving as the producer, Bareilles’ upcoming EP is sure to be the perfect melding of flawless vocals, songwriting and piano-infused pop hooks.
10. American Royalty, Title TBD
With El Ardemo, Los Angeles trio American Royalty came out with one of the most refreshingly original and grittiest music releases of 2010. Mixing the raw and bluesy aesthetics of Mumford & Sons with the pulsing and thrashing electronic beats of Skrillex, the EP was one of the most solid debuts in recent memory. In 2012, the band will be releasing their premiere full-length album and if it consists of tracks even half as brilliant as “Sun Day” or “Lately,” then American Royalty is a name you’ll certainly be hearing a lot more of in the coming months.
9. Various Artists, G.O.O.D. Music: The Album
Announced by Kanye West via Twitter this fall, G.O.O.D. Music: The Album is the first compilation record to come from the rapper’s self-founded record label and management firm. While specific details have yet to emerge, expect new tracks (and inevitable collaborations) from the label’s artists including Kid Cudi, Mr. Hudson, John Legend, Mos Def, Common, and of course, Kanye himself, to set the tone for the hip hop world in 2012.
8. Ben Folds Five, Title TBD
Ben Folds Five had so much fun recording new tracks for Ben Folds’ 2011 career retrospective, The Best Imitation of Myself (which I reviewed here), that the band decided to stay in the studio and churn out a full, brand new album. Based on the versatile sounds of the three songs they recorded for the retrospective (“House,” “Tell Me What I Did” and “Stumblin’ Home Winter Blues”), Ben Folds Five will be sticking true to form by releasing a collection of catchy Lite FM-ready songs that merge scattered musical influences with the band’s classic ironic tonic.
7. Mouth’s Cradle, Title TBD
To put it simply, there’s no other band that sounds like Mouth’s Cradle. They’re part indie rock, hip hop, trip hop, electro pop, folk and Nintendo theme music. In 2010, the Pennsylvania duo released their debut album, The Next Big Thing and followed it up with the mixtape, Mouth’s Cradle vs. The Hype. In 2012, expect more slick rhymes and sophisticatingly original beats from this yet-to-be-discovered goldmine with the release of a brand new mixtape.
6. Freelance Whales, Title TBD
Upon its release in 2010, Freelance Whales’ debut album, Weathervanes, immediately drew comparisons to The Postal Service’s Give Up (which many critics and fans alike cite as one of the most brilliant and influential albums to be released since 2000). “It’s the best electronic indie-pop debut since Ben Gibbard last tuned his laptop,” Entertainment Weekly wrote of the record. In 2012, the band (which features Glee heartthrob Darren Criss’ older brother) plan to challenge The Postal Service’s legacy by releasing a follow-up album. Will all the hype help the band strike lightning twice or will it be the catalyst for a sophomore slump? Either way, I’m making sure the “pre-order” option on my iTunes is ready to go.
5. The Veronicas, Title TBD
This past fall, Australian twin sisters The Veronicas performed new tracks from their upcoming third album at two separate showcases in Los Angeles. Songs like “Cold” and “Let Me Out” had fans fiending for new material from the duo, whose last album, Hook Me Up, was released in 2007. The record will feature production by various industry VIPs including Nellee Hooper (No Doubt/Gwen Stefani/Madonna), Fernando Garibay (Lady GaGa) and The Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan (who Jess of The Veronicas also happens to be dating). On their website, the girls provided their fans with an update by saying that the album will be “citing influences from The Subways, The Dead Weather, Mazzy Star, Ladytron and Peaches.” With a single release date rumored to be on the horizon, it’ll only be a short matter of time before The Veronicas’ global pop domination commences.
4. Jukebox The Ghost, Title TBD
“He’s been doing a killer job and we had a great batch of songs to pick from, so I really think this is going to be my favorite record we’ve made,” Jukebox The Ghost’s Tommy Siegel told me about producer Dan Romer’s work on the band’s upcoming third album. “I really couldn’t be more excited about this one.” And neither could i. The pop/rock trio’s new record is set to be released in late spring following their tour with Jack’s Mannequin.
3. Ingrid Michaelson, Human Again
It’s been two and a half years since Ingrid Michaelson’s last album, Everybody, was released. Hitting stores this January is the long awaited follow-up, Human Again. So far, we’ve heard two songs from the record: “Ghost” and “Blood Brothers.” These tracks act as indicators that the album will be a versatile range of acoustic singer/songwriter folk and rugged pop/rock. Bring it on, Ingrid.
2. Two Door Cinema Club, Title TBD
Although released in 2010, Two Door Cinema Club’s debut album, Tourist History, remained one of my top played albums of 2011. Their sleek blend of indie pop is infused with equal parts electronica and classic rock. From start to finish, Tourist History is a masterpiece – making its predecessor one of the most hotly anticipated records of the year.
1. Local Natives, Title TBD
Local Natives’ Gorilla Manor remains one of my top 5 albums of the millennium so far. Their majestic harmonies alone serve as prime examples of how the band is creating some of the most intelligent music this side of indie rock. With their long awaited sophomore album, Local Natives promise to deliver more grand tunes of sunshine and asphalt infused pop/rock that will be sure to once again leave their listeners completely breathless.
And a very special thank you to USA Today’s Pop Candy blog, Ben Folds, The Veronicas, Rufus Wainwright, Mouth’s Cradle and Yep Roc Records for linking to this article!