2013 was an interesting year for pop music if not one of the more eventful years in pop music. Some veteran artists delivered on their promises to give us great new material. Some fell short of giving us anything respectable. Others did not deliver new material originally slated for release in 2013. So as the new year near begins, what do we have to look forward to in 2014? Here is the rundown of veteran artists that are very likely to release new material in 2014:
a. Take That: Very few stories in pop music have a happy ending. Career resurgences in the music industry are quite rare. Boybands, in particular, have the lowest probability of making a successful comeback. The story of Take That’s initial success, followed by a decade-long hiatus from the pop landscape, and then a glorious return that spawned three #1 albums and four sellout stadium tours never ceases to bring a smile to the face of pop connoisseurs. Take That’s last album “Progress” (which featured former member Robbie Williams), in particular is an essential in Take That’s legacy. The name of the album was very apt given the artistic and stylistic progression that it showcased. One cannot help but hope that Take That builds off that sound and hones it further as opposed to returning to the more MOR sound of post-reunion albums such as “Beautiful World” and “Circus“. Fortunately, we don’t have to wait too long to find out as the Manchester quartet (sans Robbie Williams) is slated to return to the recording studio in January 2014 to work on their fourth post-reunion album. This essentially means that a new Take That album will see the light of day before the end of 2014. It is a shame Robbie Williams is not going to be a part of this project. While Gary Barlow has a gift for songwriting, Robbie Williams has a better knack for stylistic reinvention. The two complement each other with their different artistic competencies – a phenomenon that was fairly obvious on both “Progress” and “Progressed” (the follow-up EP to “Progress“). Maybe there is still hope and Robbie just might get involved again after he is done touring for his latest hit album “Swings Both Ways“.
b. Kylie Minogue: Kylie Minogue is one of the artists that we had hoped would release a new studio album in 2013 but that did not happen. She did preview a god-awful buzz track called “Skirt” in the summer. While many of Kylie’s ardent fans claimed that “Skirt” was a sign of artistic progression, the overarching majority of pop fanatics seemed to agree that the song was far from memorable and was a predictable reflection of her business partnership with RocNation – Jay Z‘s artist management company. Many fear that Kylie’s sound will be massaged by the folks at RocNation to appeal to the lowest common denominator in the US. It would be very unfortunate if that actually happens. The only other material by Kylie in 2013 was her fantastic duet “Limpido” with Italian popstar Laura Pausini. That song definitely went a long way in reassuring those that thought Kylie was on a downward spiral with “Skirt“. Kylie has already announced the release of a new single titled “Into The Blue“. The song will be out in March. We definitely hope that the new material builds off the delectable “Aphrodite” album (released in 2010) stylistically.
c. George Michael: In late 2012, George Michael did a series of interviews to promote a “yet to be released” album which he described as his most “commercial” since the “Faith” album although probably not his best. This was in October of 2012. Things went very quiet after that. Things got even quieter after George met with a bizarre accident on the M1 which involved him falling out of a moving car. While his representatives claim that he has recovered and is in perfect health, not much has been heard from George Michael ever since. He has also not been active on twitter ever since the accident. We had listed him as one of the artists slated to make a grand return in 2013. Unfortunately, there was no word from the megastar for the entire year. Recently, there has been a new video on his official site indicating that new material will surface in March 2014. George Michael has had a penchant for taking the pop world by surprise and not really making much of a noise prior to the release of new material. This year might be just one more of those occasions. The idea of George Michael releasing new material makes us dizzy with excitement. We can barely wait for the follow-up to his last single ‘White Light“.
d. Sophie Ellis-Bextor: Catchy, upbeat, hook-laden, and classy are the first words that come to mind when one thinks of British popstar Sophie Ellis-Bextor. Over the past decade, she has gone from being an international pop star with her hit single “Murder on the dancefloor” to the industry’s favorite underdog. Her last album “Make A Scene” had some stellar moments – especially its delectable lead single “Starlight” which Sophie aptly described as a melancholic disco ballad. She has increasingly become a victim of poor promotion despite the fact that her music is getting better with time. Her new album “Wanderlust” is slated for release in 2014. She sounds amazing as usual but our concern (based on the album trailer below) is that it is very ballad-heavy. It is safe to say that Sophie’s new sonic template is a dramatic deviation from the dancey hook-filled sound that has characterized most of her music so far. In general, we think the “balladeer” positioning is not a good one in modern pop – and certainly not one that is poised for commercial success (even though British megastar Adele gets away with this). That being said, Sophie’s die-hard fans will undoubtedly be pleased. Here is the trailer for the album:
e. Culture Club: 2013 was supposed to be the year that marked Culture Club’s glorious return and a celebration of 30 years since they stormed the global pop landscape with their first hit single “Do You Really Want To Hurt Me“. The band previewed a new track called “Universal Love” at live gigs in Dubai and Sydney in 2012. The song is brilliant and without a doubt a Culture Club essential. But then it seemed like things went quiet. Boy George’s release of “This is What I Do” in October 2013 intensified speculation that the Culture Club project might have been shelved permanently. Fortunately, in our interview with Boy George in October, he put those concerns to rest and said that he and his former bandmates from Culture Club are slated to return to the recording studio in 2014 to complete what they had started over a year ago. George sounded extremely upbeat and positive about it. If “Universal Love” is even remotely indicative of the musical stockpile that the band has created, we definitely have a lot to look forward to.
f. Duran Duran: The pioneers of the location-based music video shoots, and posterboys of the 80s and early 90s have continued to deliver fantastic music for years after their so-called commercial prime. Age has not slowed them down. They sound and look amazing in their live shows. They still have the same spark that they did when they first emerged in 1981 as a potent force to be reckoned with. Lead singer Simon LeBon’s voice ages better than a bottle of great wine. Their 2010 album “All You Need Is Now” has been described by its producer Mark Ronson as the sequel to their landmark album “Rio” (released in the early 80s). That album had the distinguishing feature of sounding both retro and modern at the same time. It also succeeded in getting rid of the bitter after-taste that many Duran Duran fans were left with after listening to the Timbaland-produced “Red Carpet Massacre” album. Rumors indicate that the New Wave gods are back in the recording studio working on new material for an album to be released in 2014. We secretly wish that they release “Beautiful Colours” (one of the greatest unreleased songs of all time) and the material from their “shelved” album “Reportage” – an album that Sony Music rejected because it was missing a “modern beat” (that for some odd reason they thought Timbaland could fix!).
g. Morten Harket: Norwegian pop/rock trio a-ha‘s ageless, charismatic, and annoyingly good looking frontman Morten Harket is without a doubt one of the finest male vocalists in the music business. His first flirtation with a solo career was in the mid-90s – during a-ha’s 7-year hiatus from the music industry. The music fell very much in the realm of the adult contemporary genre – pleasant but not particularly earth-shattering. His second tryst with solo stardom was far superior. Within a year after a-ha called it quits, he took a different approach to creating music. He partnered with great Scandinavian songwriters and put together a “proper” pop album titled “Out of my hands”. The songs were very different from the largely lightweight fare that he presented us with in the 90s and mid-2000s. Songs such as “Scared Of Heights“, “When I reached the moon“, and “Undecided” are infectious at their very core. This is the sound that Morten Harket should have moving forward. In a recent television interview at the Billboard Music Awards (following an on-stage performance with Christina Aguilera and Pitbull), Morten admitted that he was working on some of the best material of his career. We recently caught a first “glimpse” of his new material. His new down-tempo single “There Is A Place” (the lead single from his new album) appears to be a return to the adult contemporary flavor of his earlier music – which is somewhat of a disappointment. Hopefully, the new single is not representative of the overall sound of the new album. Either way, having the “voice of a-ha” back with new material is always a good thing.
h.Natalie Imbruglia: Natalie Imbruglia is one of those artists whose songwriting competencies have become sharper with time and yet she is constantly anchored to her signature track “Torn” – a song that was NOT written by her. Sadly, for those that have not looked beyond “Torn” with regard to Natalie Imbruglia, have truly missed out on her artistic brilliance. It was only on her sophomore album “White Lilies Island” (which spawned the hit single “Wrong Impression“) did Natalie Imbruglia start to hone her songwriting skills as opposed to being a puppet for songwriters. It was on her fourth album “Come To Life” (which spawned the addictive “Lukas“) that Natalie Imbruglia hit her artistic peak. Sadly, the album was very poorly promoted and tanked even before it could truly see the light of day. Most music listeners (besides Natalie’s ardent fans) had no idea she was back with her best music. The album definitely became a victim of obscurity. For the longest time, there were rumors that Natalie was set to quit the business after the commercial failure of “Come to Life“. Of late, there have been rumors that she is slated to return with a new album in 2014. A new track called “Home to the sea” has surfaced. It is a rather downbeat affair but is very much in the vein of what Natalie has showcased throughout her fifteen year music career.
i. Janet Jackson: Janet Jackson was without a doubt the most successful female artist of the 90s. She was unstoppable. It seemed like the 2000s also got off to a great start for her with her hit album “All For You“. Things started to go downhill soon after. Her 2004 album “Damito Jo” (which released after Janet’s infamous “nipplegate” incident with Justin Timberlake) did not have any obvious singles. The following two albums were also quite disappointing. It appeared that Janet had voluntarily decided to step out of the limelight for an extended period of time until recently when rumors surfaced that new material was in the works. It is likely that this material will see the light of day in 2014. We just hope Jermaine Dupri is NOT involved in this project. His involvement in her music marks the beginning of things going wrong for Janet. It is a shame they were also involved romantically at the time. Is it fair to expect another Jimmy Jam & Terry Lewis produced masterpiece? Only time will tell.
j. Adele: British songstress Adele just might be one of the few artists in the music industry that still sells records. She does so without fitting most of the confining moulds that modern pop stars have to work within to earn a livelihood in the music industry. She is without a doubt an incredible vocalist that typically stimulates a sense of consensus whenever her merits as an artist are discussed. We take pride in being one of the few stations in America that played her music before she became known in the mainstream. She is credible if not the most interesting. Some of her widespread appeal might stem from her “safe and wholesome” positioning in the pop music business. Her first two albums were named after her age at the time of their release. “24” is the album slated for release later this year. Adele started work on this album in early 2013. No definite release date has been announced but it is very likely that her third album (titled “24“) will release before the end of 2014.
k. Imogen Heap: Imogen Heap is quite the opposite of Adele. Her sound is far from safe but is incredibly interesting. This UK-based artist just might be one of the best artists to have emerged in the past two decades. Imogen continues to push the boundaries of conventional pop – successfully mixing electronica, acapella, and eastern elements into her music. She is also known for quirky approaches to the creative process which include “outsourcing” recordings of mundane activities (sound of a dishwasher door, bicycle etc.) for inclusion in the production of her music. Her fourth album “Sparks” (slated for release in March 2014) might showcase many of these elements. Whether the album will be radio-friendly or not is anyone’s guess. Her 2009 album “Ellipse” was brilliant but had only a couple of radio-friendly tracks (specifically the album’s lead single “First train home“). We’re always interested in what Imogen has to offer musically. Hence, we can barely wait for the release of “Sparks“.
l. Tears For Fears: This is without a doubt the most surprising and unexpected “veteran return” in 2014. This dynamic duo from Bath (UK) rose to prominence in the mid-80s with anthems that defined a generation. Noteworthy examples include “Shout“, “Everybody wants to rule the world“, and “Sowing the seeds of love“. In 1990, musical differences overpowered the friendship that brought the band’s two members together. Curt Smith left Tears For Fears and went solo while Roland Orzabal continued to record music under the Tears For Fears name. Tears For Fears ceased to exist post 1996 after the release of the “Raul and The Kings Of Spain” album (the album was a commercial disappointment). In 2002, there were rumors that Curt and Roland had reconnected after over a decade and were recording new material together. The result of these recording sessions manifested itself in the form of “Everybody loves a happy ending” – an album that was Beatles-esque at its very core and a radical departure from the sophisticated sonic template that dominated the two landmark Tears For Fears albums (i.e. “Songs from the big chair” and “Seeds of love“). This album polarized the band’s fanbase. The reunion tour was a successful one. The duo split again and it seemed unlikely that they would ever record again when Curt Smith once said in an interview that making music as Tears For Fears was a “money losing proposition” due to the rampant phenomenon of ageism in the musical mainstream. The band recently announced via twitter that they were recording new material to be released in 2014. Radio Creme Brulee has been an ardent supporter of the band and we can barely wait for the new material to see the light of day. We just hope the sound of the album mirrors the elements that made Tears For Fears an international sensation as opposed to it being a sequel to “Everybody loves a happy ending” (which we found tragically underwhelming!).
This list is not nearly as long as the one we had for 2013. Did we miss anyone noteworthy? Please do let us know by commenting below.
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