2012 was definitely a big year for several veteran artists returning with new albums. Noteworthy examples include Madonna, Van Halen, Aerosmith, and Robbie Williams. Not all these acts delivered as well as we’d hoped they would. Fortunately, 2013 is a year that shows a lot of promise for the pop/rock music scene with some great acts returning with new albums. Here is a quick summary of what you can look forward to in 2013:

Kylie Minogue: After what seems like a long spate of lackluster material after her hit single “Love at first sight“, Aussie pop princess and sex symbol Kylie Minogue started to regain her spunk on her 2010 hit album “Aphrodite“. Since then, she has pursued a few non-traditional projects (e.g. “The Abbey Road Sessions” and her Anti-Tour). This was followed by two “not so exciting” singles (i.e. “Timebomb” and “Flower“). One can only hope that Kylie hinges off her competencies that helped spawn the brilliant “Aphrodite” album as opposed to those that provided the creative fodder for her last two singles.  Not much is known about her new album. One can only hope that Stuart Price is back in the production “hot seat”. He really seems to bring out the best in the artists (e.g. Take That, The Killers) that he takes on production work for. Hopefully, Kylie’s 2013 album will be the musical sequel to her last studio album “Aphrodite“.

Lady Gaga: The comparisons between Lady Gaga and Madonna are in abundance and yet seem somewhat premature. It is true that the music and fan-following from Madonna’s early years very much resemble Lady Gaga’s fanbase today (demographically speaking) but the comparisons only truly make sense if Lady Gaga can branch out of the “cookie cutter” pop territory she has been in ever since she took the world by storm in late 2008. It is hard to ignore that her “fashionista” image is an intrinsic part of her appeal. The only folks that are carried away by that element of Lady Gaga are the ones that have forgotten that she is doing exactly what Boy George and Madonna did back in the early 80s to become pop icons whose appeal extended beyond the music world. “True Blue” was the album that catapulted Madonna beyond the teen-oriented fanbase of hers and gave her the credibility of a true artist. Could Lady Gaga’s “Artpop” album (slated for release in 2013) be her “True Blue“? One can only wait and watch. It would be great to see Lady Gaga truly morph into a modern day Madonna. It would be a shame to see yet another popstar disappear because she outgrew her image.

George Michael: So far, we have heard three “teasers” for the next George Michael album (slated for release in 2013). In the summer of 2012, George Michael released “White Light” – his first uptempo single in about six years. Sadly, George’s performance of the song at the Olympics closing ceremony was the only truly mainstream exposure the song received. While it charted in the UK top 20, it might not be a song the casual music listener might be aware of. The song does demonstrate that 30 years in the music business has not eroded George Michael’s ability to write a killer chorus – something most modern “pop stars” still need to learn to do. “Where I hope you are” is a downtempo song George has previewed at several of his Symphonica tour in Europe. Unfortunately, the beauty of the song is hidden behind a vocoder that dominates his vocals throughout the song. Apparently, George has yet to learn from his missteps on his cover version of “True Faith“. The remix of “Every Other Lover in the World” (which as been floating around the web for over a year) provides a reasonably good glimpse of the actual song but does not serve as a true substitute for the song. It is unclear as to how representative these tracks are of the rest of the material on the album. In interviews earlier this year, George Michael has described his next album as his most “commercial” (if not his best) album since “Faith“. That might sound promising for many but for others (me included), they might be disappointed since their wish for a sequel to the brilliant 1996 album “Older” (arguably George Michael’s career masterpiece) might not be fulfilled. Either way, the prospect of a full-length album by the amazing George Michael is always good news.

Dido: Dido might have put off a lot of her fans with her last album “Safe Trip Home“. The anticipation for that album had been very high and so was the media build-up for it. Sadly, what emerged from that album was a rather dull and down-tempo “snoozefest” with not a single memorable track on there. This truly is a shame since Dido really has a knack for intelligent songwriting which is embellished with brilliant electronic arrangements making her one of the classiest new artists to emerge in the new millennium. In 2010, Dido released a song called “Everything to lose“. It was featured on the “Sex and The City 2” soundtrack. That song represents everything we love about Dido. Hopefully, that song is a sneak preview of the material that will be featured on Dido’s 2013 album “Girl That Got Away” – although Dido has confirmed on Twitter that “Everything to Lose” will NOT be on the new album. Here is a track (originally recorded in the 90s by Dido) that is very likely to be featured on “Girl That Got Away“. It represents a true return to form for Dido- and provides a great reason for excitement.

Johnny Hates Jazz: Often referred to as a “one album” wonder, Anglo-American trio (now a duo) Johnny Hates Jazz managed to capture the hearts of music listeners globally with their sophisticated pop album “Turn Back The Clock” back in 1988. The album spawned the deathless hit single “Shattered Dreams” – the band’s signature hit. Sadly, it seemed like the story ended almost soon after it began with lead singer Clark Datchler leaving the band to pursue a solo music career. The second incarnation of the band (fronted by the brilliant Phil Thornalley) failed to generate the same level of excitement as the first incarnation and the album that emerged (titled “Tall Stories“) failed to set the music charts on fire. The band disbanded soon after. As a result, the Johnny Hates Jazz musical experience has been deep-rooted in nostalgia for over two decades – until now. In the summer of 2011, I had the opportunity to interview Clark Datchler and Mike Nocito while they were recording their new album (which has now been completed and is slated for release in early 2013). It appears that most of 2012 was spent re-recording parts of the album and mixing the tracks yet again. One can only hope that this perfectionist streak translates to great new music from this amazing band whose story should NOT have had an intermission that lasted over two decades. Based on the clips I have heard of the new material, it looks like the wait will have been worthwhile. To listen to a full-length interview of our interview with Johnny Hates Jazz in 2011, click on the “play” button below:

Radio Creme Brulee – Interview with Johnny Hates Jazz [August 17, 2011] by Radio Creme Brulee

And to listen to clips from the new album, click HERE.

Mariah Carey: “Positioning” herself in the music market today must be Mariah Carey’s biggest challenge. One might find the idea of a “larger than life” star like Mariah Carey having a challenge rather puzzling. But it is quite true. Mariah Carey might be the female pop star with the best voice in the music business today. Yet, unless her albums feature a mix of both uptempo and downtempo tracks, they go absolutely nowhere commercially and the initial enthusiasm surrounding these albums dissipates fairly quickly. This is a shame – since her voice really shines through on the ballads but the average fan is not interested in an album full of ballads.  Mariah seemed to have found that optimal balance on her highly publicized “The Emancipation of Mimi” album. Sadly, that success was not mirrored on her follow-up album “E=MC2“. This album featured two ballads as the singles. The momentum for the album fizzled fairly quickly. Things got worse with her ballad-heavy “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel” album. Her latest single featuring Rick Ross and Meek Mill gives the impression that Mariah is a “featured guest” on her own single. One can only hope that this song is NOT representative of material on her new album (slated for a March 2013 release). It would be great to see Mariah pull off something as substantial as “The Emancipation of Mimi” or some of her material in the 90s.

Culture Club: Yes. Its true. The unthinkable has happened. Boy George, Mikey Craig, Jon Moss, and Roy Hay have gone back into the recording studio as part of celebrating the 30th anniversary of Culture Club (do any of you feel old reading this?) to record a new album slated for release in 2013. This will be followed by a world tour (let’s just hope Boy George gets a US visa!). We are way more excited about the new material aspect of the Culture Club reunion than we are about the tour. Some of you might not know that Culture Club released some of their finest material in 1998 on an album titled “Don’t Mind If I Do“. The album did NOT receive a US release. It spawned three singles with the lead single “I Just Wanna Be Loved” reaching #4 on the UK Top 40 charts. This album proved that Culture Club was both versatile and also capable of creating a timeless sound as opposed to a sound that was intrinsically tied to the 80s. It also demonstrates that lead singer Boy George’s creative well has not dried up. It appears that the four colleagues have rediscovered their magic. This can be heard on a new track titled “Universal Love” that Culture Club has performed live both in Sydney and Dubai. Here is a full-length video clip of the band’s performance of “Universal Love” in Sydney.

Hopefully this clip has created an appetite for Culture Club 2013!

Lily Allen: Sassy and unconventionally sexy Lily Allen is slated to return with a new album in 2013. Unlike most pop stars, Lily Allen did not suffer from the “sophomore slump” syndrome. She followed up her debut album with an intelligent (but quirky) and addictive pop album titled “The Fear“. Musically speaking, Lily Allen provides a great alternative to the likes of Katy Perry, Britney Spears, and Lady Gaga. The music is far more clever, tuneful, and doesn’t sound like something mass-produced – a direction that some of her “pop princess” contemporaries have been taking for a while.

Rick Astley: Most youngsters know Rick Astley as the voice behind the “RickRoll” phenomenon that spread virally via Youtube a few years ago. It gave British pop/soul singer Rick Astley a younger audience that he had not hoped to have today. Rick Astley became an international superstar back in 1998 with his debut single “Never Gonna Give You Up” – penned and produced by the hit-making trio SAW (Stock, Aitken, and Waterman). This song was probably one of the biggest songs of the 80s and holds up really well in 2012 too (the RickRoll phenomenon may have something to do with this). Rick Astley continued his winning streak until 1993. During this period, he morphed musically from a pop star to a soulboy (with his single “Cry for Help” being the highlight of the soulboy phase). Rick Astley has seen a recent resurgence with performance at “80s Rewind” festivals and a great single titled “Lights Out” in 2010. Fans will be pleased to know that Rick Astley has written and recorded a new album titled “My Red Book“. The album is slated for release in early 2013. Our guest bloggers Nadine and Josh from RickAstleyNews have provided us with an exclusive and detailed review of the album. To get an idea of what Rick Astley’s “My Red Book” album might sound like, CLICK HERE.

Enrique Iglesias: Latin heart-throb Enrique Iglesias is undoubtedly the highlights of the late 90s Latin invasion. Enrique offered a whole lot more musically to a global audience than his contemporaries Ricky Martin and Marc Anthony. When the excitement revolving around the Latin invasion started to dissipate, it seemed that Enrique Iglesias was the only one that was able to stay in the limelight. He seemed to make a very conscious effort to stay “current”. Unfortunately, for him, this meant relying on producers such as RedOne (famous for a manufactured sound that is generic and beat-driven) as well as leveraging the “rent a rapper” phenomenon – the oldest “commercial crutch” in the music scene. This undoubtedly chipped away from the core of what made Enrique’s music great. His new album’s lead single “Finally Found You” continues in the vein of the generic material he has been putting out lately. It is a shame since Enrique Iglesias is a whole lot better than this – and we hope he reminds audiences of that when he returns in 2013 with a new album. One can only hope that he digs deeper to rediscover what made him great to begin with.

Dubstar: In the mid-90s, a new commerically viable genre called “Dream Pop” evolved from the “Britpop” scene that dominated Europe through most of the 90s. This genre took some of the essential elements of Britpop and was embellished with beautiful melodies and harmonies. One of the more memorable acts that represented this genre was Dubstar. The trio (Steve Hilier, Chris Wilkie, Sarah Blackwood) hailed from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne in the UK. Their sound was an infectious one and their 90s career spawned brilliant chart hits such as “Stars“, “Not so manic now“, and “No More Talk“. Their third album “Make It Better” (released in 2000) was the beginning of their downturn. The album did not perform as well as its two predecessors. The trio disbanded soon after. Sarah Blackwood to make music with “Client” – a band often referred to as the all-female Depeche Mode. Client’s music failed to generate the enthusiasm that Dubstar did with incredible ease. A few years ago, Dubstar returned with a single – a cover version of “I’m In Love With a German Filmstar“. While some fans were delighted by the band’s return, many were upset that all the band delivered after a long hiatus was a cover version which did not really build on the original. Dubstar has been in the recording studio this year and are to release their first album in over 12 years in 2013. Hopefully, they can recapture the magic of albums such as “Disgraceful” and “Goodbye“.

Mark Owen: Many say that reinvention is the key for having a successful solo music career AFTER enjoying success within a band. Noteworthy examples of this phenomenon include Sting (formerly in The Police), George Michael (formerly in Wham), and Robbie Williams (formerly in Take That). That being said, some folks picked up on this “reinvention formula” and were yet unable to sustain successful solo careers. The name that comes to mind of a person that falls in this category is former Take That band-member Mark Owen. Like his former colleague, Robbie Williams, he created a sound that was markedly different from that of Take That. He did have success with songs such as “Clementine” – but he was unable to match the success of friend and colleague Robbie Williams. This caused him to fade from the public eye fairly quickly after his initial solo success. The resurgence of Take That in 2006 forced many critics to re-evaluate Mark’s solo material. Most agreed that in terms of quality, his material was probably stronger than that of Robbie Williams even if it was not as commercially viable. Now in his early 40s, Mark Owen has gone back to being the “poster boy” that he was in the 90s thanks to the incredible success of Take That since 2006. He is capitalizing on this success and returned to the recording studio to record new material for a solo album. Not much is known as to what the album will sound like stylistically but the prospect of new solo material by Mark Owen is most definitely exciting.

New Order: With the departure of legendary bass player Peter Hook from Electronic rock band New Order, the future of the band remained in question – especially since Peter Hook was against the use of the name “New Order” for a band comprised of the remaining band-members. A few years ago, the remaining band-members and a few others formed “Bad Lieutenant” – a band whose sound was VERY “New Order” at its core. To many, that signaled the end of New Order as most folks knew them. Yet, this year, the band toured as “New Order” in different parts of the world – including the US. Rumors indicate that they have also spend time recording new material – but the material that will be released in January 2013 is NOT from these recording sessions. Many might remember the band’s 2005 album “Waiting for The Siren’s Call”. The album featured the singles “Krafty” and “Jetstream“. There were several tracks left out of the final album cut. These tracks will now be put together on an album called “The Lost Sirens” and is slated for release in January 2013. The prospect of new material by New Order is a great one – even though the material has actually been locked up in a vault for over 7 years.

Samantha James: Samantha James might be one of the few female pop stars (if not the only one) today that embodies the winning combination of style and substance – making her the seminal modern pop star. Her biggest enemy is the mis-categorization of her music as “dance music”. As soon as one hears that term, we assume 7-minute tracks with sparse vocals that can only be listened to in dance clubs and absolutely nowhere else. This could not be further from the truth. Samantha James’ music can be described as a soundscape of musical elements that blend dance, soul, electronica, and Bossa Nova. It is almost like Sade meeting post-1995 Everything But The Girl. Samantha won audiences over with her debut album “Rise“.  Many believe she would not be able to move forward from that high musically. She proved listeners wrong with her sophomore album “Subconscious” – an album so superior in quality that it makes its predecessor pale in comparison. It has been over 2 years since the release of “Subconscious”. In 2011, Samantha released an instantly loveable track called “Wings of Faith” as a charity single for the earthquake victims in Japan. Rarely are charity singles THAT good. One can only hope that “Wings of Faith” is representative of the material that Samantha will release in 2013. The idea of new material by Samantha James makes us dizzyingly excited!

Amr Diab: Rarely does a pop star that does NOT sing in English enjoy a fanbase that rises above geographic and linguistic barriers. Manu Chao and Amr Diab may be the only ones to enjoy that amazing and highly coveted privilege. Marrying Spanish guitar, western production, and an Arabic musical core, Amr Diab has seduced audiences worldwide with his winning musical blend for over a decade. His musical career dates back to the 80s but his signature hit “Habibi” in the late 90s made his success explode beyond the borders of the Arab world. Middle age appears to have not slowed Amr Diab down at all. He still looks like a fountain of youth and his voice ages better than a bottle of fine wine. He has been in the recording studio for most of the second half of this year and is probably only weeks away from releasing his “yet to be titled” album. He has already previewed two “buzz” singles – one of which we reviewed a little while ago. Feel free to read that review RIGHT HERE.

Is there anyone we have missed? If so, please do let us know via the “comments” section below. In a nutshell, there is a LOT to look forward to (musically speaking) in 2013. Here at Radio Creme Brulee, we remain committed to showcasing the latest and the greatest in pop/rock music for your listening pleasure. Hopefully 2013 is another eventful year in our story and hopefully you enjoy what we play for you. Thank you all for a wonderful 2012. Your support means the world to us. For those of you that have not listened to our radio station, please feel free to give us a spin from ANY part of the world. IF you are reading this on a mobile device (smartphone, tablet etc.), CLICK HERE to listen to our radio station. If not, listen to our station from ANY part of the world by clicking on the button below.