2016 – Veteran Pop/Rock Artists To Watch Out For
We are over a month and a half overdue with this post – which we typically do at the end of each year. We are going to blame our prolonged delay on being distracted with the effort of migrating our radio station to a new platform – a process that we had very little advance notice for. At the end of 2014, we highlighted some of the veteran acts returning with new material in 2015. Some of them returned with stellar offerings. Noteworthy examples include Duran Duran with their infectious single “Pressure Off” and Norwegian pop/rock trio a-ha with their surprise post-hiatus album “Cast In Steel“. Acts such as Tears For Fears, Pet Shop Boys, and Culture Club did NOT release new albums. Will Young and New Order were closer to the disappointing end of the spectrum . This year, like most, looks quite promising based on the list of veteran acts returning. Here are the ones we thought were worth mentioning:
a. Lady Gaga: Despite being one of the first broadcast radio stations in the US to feature Lady Gaga’s music, I don’t consider myself much of a fan of this lady that seems to enjoy a massive global fanbase. That being said, we think she is worth mentioning because we do play some of her songs and the response to those songs from our listeners has been quite positive. Lady Gaga’s last album “Artpop” was released in 2013. Despite a lot of pre-release hype, and the album topping the Billboard album charts, it was a sign that some of the Gaga fever was starting to wear off. The album met with mixed reviews and Lady Gaga seemed visibily upset by what seemed like the ebbing of the mass hysteria that she enjoyed during her meteoric rise in the limelight between the years 2008-2013. That makes her follow-up to that album this year a key one in her ability to seal herself in the public consciousness as a potent musical force in the music scene of tomorrow. Rumors indicate that she is working with longtime collaborator RedOne and Italian production maestro Giorgio Moroder. Time will tell whether she can rejuvenate the type of appeal she had prior to “Artpop“.
b. Ronan Keating: 2012 marked one of the more astonishing returns to form in recent music history. Irish band Boyzone’s indisputable frontman had rediscovered his mojo on an unapologetically “pop” album titled “Fires“. It was an interesting stylistic upswing given that this album had been recorded right after his divorce. One would have expected something downbeat and introspective in light of what was happening in his life. Instead, what we got on “Fires” was a well-crafted and successful attempt at a complete catharsis from his regretful past. The album also showcased his creative partnership with the brilliant songwriter/producer Gregg Alexander. “Fires” had plenty of moments that were pure musical bliss. Noteworthy examples include songs such as “Nineteen again“, “Oxygen“, and “Will you ever be mine“. Ronan Keating’s new album “Time of my life” also seems to be getting released on the heels of another key life-defining moment for him – his marriage to Australian television personality Storm Uechtritz. In interviews that he has given post his wedding, he comes across as a man brimming with happiness and an almost child-like optimism. Given the general mood around his life events, one would have expected the sonic sequel to “Fires“. Instead, what he have is a far more downbeat affair with a sonic template that rests almost solely on Ronan’s voice and an acoustic guitar. This template seems to be a common thread in songs such as “Let me love you“, “Breathe“, and “As long as we’re in love“. Whether these songs are representative of the entire album is yet to be seen. Fortunately, the release date for Ronan Keating’s “Time of my life” is Feb 12th, 2016 – so there isn’t much of a wait at this point.
c. Craig David: Craig David’s career, in many ways, seemed to mirror that of Ronan Keating’s in many ways. He did have the upper hand though since unlike Keating, he did break the American market with his stellar debut album “Born to do it” – an invigorating cocktail that successfully blended 2-step garage and R&B. His follow-up album “Slicker than your average” marked the proverbial sophomore slump selling a little less than half the number of copies relative to that of his debut album. His abilities as a balladeer seemed to be getting better with time (with it peaking with the delectable “Hypnotic” from “The Story goes..” album) but as a popstar, it seemed like his star was fading. In 2006, his return with “Hot Stuff” ( a song that successfully samples “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie) seemed to stem the downswing – but only temporarily. Now, it seems like Craig David is on the verge of a dramatic resurgence. His latest single “When the bassline drops” (a collaboration with English grime artist Big Narstie) peaked at #10 on the UK singles charts earlier this month. The style of the song is well-suited for Craig David. More importantly, it has undoubtedly whetted the appetite for his soon-to-be released album “Following My Intuition“.
d. Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Classy, sophisticated and unapologetically British pop princess Sophie Ellis-Bextor has been out of the limelight for a little bit. Her rise to fame was with addictive hit singles such as “Murder on the dancefloor” and “Groovejet(If this ain’t love)“. Sadly, some of her finest work never got the promotional exposure it warranted. Noteworthy examples include her singles “Me and My Imagination” (from her “Trip The Light Fantastic” album) and “Starlight” (from her “Make a scene” album). In 2014, Sophie returned with an album titled “Wanderlust“. It was nothing her like previous work. The album was down-tempo and while it worked as a cohesive concept record, it did not yield any hit singles or radio-worthy tracks of the sort that she had been known for. While we applaud Sophie for taking a chance with that album and exercising her creative freedom, we cannot help but hope that she goes back to the sound we all know and love. Fortunately, her recent tweets have suggested a return to her uptempo roots. The most promising tweet of all is the one below:
e. Poets Of The Fall: These Finnish rockers do not ever believe in taking a break – an aspect of them that their insatiable fans probably love. It has been less than 2 years since the release of their last album “Jealous Gods” – an album that saw them pushing their sonic template outwards. The most noteworthy example of this sonic extension is on the dance-rock single “Choice Millionaire” – which showcases lead singer Marko Saaresto rapping on the verses – and it sounds GREAT! These guys seem to flit between live performances and the recording studio without taking a breath. Exhaustion does not seem to be a word in their vocabulary – and god bless them for that. As one of the few bands around today that blend the high octane energy of traditional rock with beautiful melodies, Poets Of The Fall do very well in terms of serving an unmet need for good old-fashioned and unadulterated rock.
f. Culture Club: After having mentioned these guys in posts almost every year about a potential comeback album, we came pretty close to giving up on these veteran stars that rose to prominence in the 80s with their irresistible concoction of reggae, soul, and pop with hits like “Karma Chameleon“, “Do you really want to hurt me“, and “Move Away“. It was only a few days ago that we received an e-mail from pledgemusic.com indicating that the band is on the verge of announcing the release of a new single and their new album titled “Tribes“. Quite a few songs from this album have seen the light of day in a live environment during Culture Club’s comeback tour last year. Based on one listen of these songs, one thing is fairly obvious. This is a band that has absolutely no interest in resting on the laurels of their past glory. Their new music showcases a rejuvenated creative spirit and they sound more like a band today than they ever have. The artistry of each of the band’s members seems to be showcased through the songs in a way that it never had been in the past. Furthermore, more often than not, the marvel that was the band’s artistic synergy got eclipsed by the “larger than life” personality of the flamboyant, often shocking, and incredibly talented frontman Boy George. That being said, Boy George has never sounded better than he does now. Songs such as “Let somebody love you“, “Like I used to“, and “Human Zoo” suggest that “Tribes” just might be the album of 2016.
g. Alphaville: I have to confess that it wasn’t until a few years ago that I started to develop any interest at all in the music of German synth-pop band Alphaville. I always associated them with their signature hit single “Forever young” and absolutely nothing else. It was not until mid-2010 when one of our listeners introduced us to their album “Catching Rays on Giant“, that I truly started paying attention to this under-rated act. It led to us featuring songs from some of their later albums and especially some of the fantastic tracks off “Catching Rays on Giant“. The highlights of this album include “I die for you today“, “Carry your flag“, and “Song for no one“. For their album (slated for a release at some point in 2016), we really hope they build on the strengths of “Catching Rays on Giant“. These guys are yet another reminder that some of the acts that became popular in the 80s have a lot more to offer than people give them credit for.
h. Enigma: One of the most unusual acts in recent pop history is German music “project” Enigma – a studio act whose brainchild was Romanian born musician Michael Cretu. Their music did not fit the sometimes limiting template of pop music. Many would consider their style to fall comfortably within the realms of “world music”. Yet, the act churned out some of the greatest hits of the early 90s. “Sadness“, “Principles Of Lust“, “Return to innocence” and “Carly’s Song” are the more memorable of the lot. The idea of an Enigma album in 2016 is nothing short of exciting. In today’s cookie-cutter mainstream of pop music, we need these guys to come back and shake things up just like they did in the early 90s with their invigorating blend of dance beats, Gregorian chants, and sexual innuendo. Here is a reminder of some of that brilliance:
i. Tears For Fears: This is the third consecutive year in which we have listed Tears For Fears as one of the veteran acts returning with a new album. We have no clue as to the reasons for their radio silence around the new material. All we know right now is that it is probably VERY commercially viable – since like their contemporaries Duran Duran, they have also signed a global record deal with Warner Music. This is quite an anomaly for a band that has not had a studio album out in 12 years and whose members are over the age of 50. Last year, the duo toured the US playing mostly smaller and intimate venues. I had a chance to see them and they were every bit as impressive as they have been on timeless records such as “Songs from the big chair” and “Seeds of Love“. Their last album “Everybody loves a happy ending” had a rather polarizing effect on the band’s fanbase – mostly because of the Beatles-esque sound that dominated most of the album. I cannot help but hope that the new album is a sonic sequel to albums such as “Seeds of love“, or “Elemental” (a tragically under-appreciated gem).
j. Garbage: When people think of bands that defined the sound of the 90s, Garbage is definitely one of the names that come to mind. Their heavy-sounding pop seemed to fuse different types of genres from across the music spectrum made them stand out. Shirley Manson was undoubtedly one of the leading lead singers of any band of that era. After a moderately successful reunion album “Not your Kind Of People” (released in 2012 on their own label), the band is back in the studio working on new material which will hopefully see the light of day this year.
k. Pet Shop Boys: Many might think that the commercial heyday of this brilliant, and supremely creative duo is long gone – but their staying power is a force to be reckoned with. Now, in their mid-50s, they still call themselves “boys” and their concerts are every bit as theatrical as they used to be when songs such as “West end girls“, “It’s a sin“, and “Domino Dancing” ruled the radio airwaves. Their most recent album “Electric” had its moments but does not strike me as being a Pet Shop Boys essential in the same vein as of some of their other releases in the past decade – most notably their “Fundamental” and “Yes” albums. Their new album “Super” is slated for release in April 2016. We truly hope the duo makes the wait for this album worthwhile!
l. Tom Chaplin: The vocal powerhouse of melodic-rock British band Keane is finally in the recording studio in Los Angeles. This is his first solo outing. Fans of Keane (me included) were absolutely gutted when the band announced an indefinite hiatus in late 2013. The release of their achingly beautiful final single “Won’t be broken” only deepened the sadness of fans. Even back then, it was fairly obvious that lead singer Tom Chaplin had solo aspirations and the expectations on him are undoubtedly high. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest modern rock vocalists but the question still remains as to whether the songs will be nearly as good as those of Keane’s (propelled by the impeccable songwriting of the creative genius Tim Rice-Oxley). Keane can be a blessing and a curse for Tom Chaplin. It is his reason for fame but it could also be the benchmark that he is constantly weighed against. Whether or not that is fair is debatable. We just hope he reads our article on the “Rules of going solo” as he records his new album.
m. Take That: Given that it has been less than 2 years since the release of “III” – Take That’s first album as a three-piece, I never thought I would actually be including these guys in this post. After having read an interview that frontman and pop svengali Gary Barlow did with author and journalist Lori Majewski for Idolator.com, it seems fairly apparent that Take That’s top priority is a new album that they are hoping to have completed by the end of the year. It is not clear how long back the songwriting process began for this new project. We had a sense that the guys did not put the breaks on songwriting soon after their release of the UK #1 album “III“. A photo that Johnny Hates Jazz lead singer Clark Datchler posted on facebook suggested that he had gone through the motions of a songwriting exercise with Take That. As a massive fan of both acts (i.e. Johnny Hates Jazz and Take That), I really hope something from those sessions ends up on the new Take That studio album. The bigger question now is where the bound will go stylistically. Ever since their return in 2006, it appears like the band has had a few stylistic incarnations – and their fearlessness around experimentation seems to diminish as they get older. I personally find that very admirable and hope the band milks that experimental streak even more on their new offering.
It is impossible to list every act that is returning in 2016 but these were the first ones that came to mind. But if we have missed someone noteworthy, please feel free to let us know via the comments section below (you know you want to!) Based on the list above, 2016 should be a fairly respectable year. If newer artists don’t deliver, we can definitely count on the veterans above to give us something worth listening to.
Many of the artists in this post are returning after a hiatus from the limelight but we have constantly featured the post-prime music of artists such as Craig David, Ronan Keating, and Sophie Ellis-Bextor regularly on our radio station. We are an American internet radio station that broadcasts worldwide. The station features an eclectic mix of current pop and rock music from both sides of the Atlantic alongside hits, forgotten gems, and rarities from the last three decades.
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