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Thursday, January 20, 2011

2011 In Preview: Music

Justin Bieber. The King’s Speech. Freedom.

Each of them helped shape the entertainment world in 2010, but what sounds, images, and words will create 2011’s entertainment landscape?

Welcome to 2011 in Preview, a three-part series in which I break down what should be an eventful and exciting year on the charts, in the theaters, and on the shelves. Music leads off the preview, to be followed, in subsequent News & Views posts, by movies and books.

I’m starting with music because, honestly, who doesn’t like a good comeback story? Eminem and Taylor Swift constructed two of the biggest albums of 2010, but beyond those—and a handful of others—this past year’s release schedule was a bit anemic.

2011 should see a rebound, however, and it is looking as though it will be the Year of Pop… no wait, hip-hop… or maybe rock?

Let’s just say that 2011 should be quite a year for popular music.

The biggest story is likely to be the battle of the pop queens. Britney Spears’ first album since 2008’s Circus is set for a March release (tentatively, of course), while Lady Gaga’s third album Born This Way should be on shelves in late May. Not to be outdone, however, are Kelly Clarkson, Avril Lavigne (both of whom are expected to release new albums this spring), and possibly even Beyonce—who may or may not be leading the holiday rush come November.

Regardless of who comes out on top, fresh sounds from someone other than Ke$ha or Bieber (no disrespect to either of their talents) will be a welcome reprieve.

While the ladies battle it out for pop supremacy, the gentlemen of hip-hop are slated to put on a show of their own. Two of the biggest names in the genre lead things off as Jay-Z and Kanye West’s joint effort Watch The Throne is expected early in the year and could be followed closely by the fourth installment of Lil’ Wayne’s Tha Carter series. There is also talk of a 50 Cent album later in the year.

Oh, and one more possible entry: some guy named Dr. Dre says that he is ready to release a modest effort by the name of Detox that may or may not be the most anticipated (and delayed) album this side of Chinese Democracy. I’ve always felt that Democracy deserved better than the criticism it received; here’s hoping Detox doesn’t suffer the same fate—although with all the buildup, I’m afraid the good Dr. may be over-promising and is in danger of “Axel-izing” his work.

And then there’s rock. Arguably the three biggest rock bands in the world—U2, Coldplay, and Radiohead—are all expected to turn in new releases by year’s end, but perhaps the most eagerly awaited new music is coming from a band that hasn’t been heard from in five years. The Strokes, who skyrocketed to fame in the early part of the 2000s before falling off the map after 2006’s First Impressions of Earth, are set to return in grand fashion with a new album called Angles and a world tour.

Have fans of The Strokes forgotten about the band during their five year hiatus? Not likely, as their early work as well as solo albums from band members Julian Casablancas and Albert Hammond Jr. helped build a loyal, rabid fanbase that is now clamoring for new music. I’m guessing the New York punk rockers will re-establish themselves as a major force later this year.

What albums are you looking forward to the most? Who will take the crown as the 2011 Pop Queen? Will Detox really see the light of day this year—if ever? Let us know what you think in the comments below and don’t forget to check back for our movie and book previews!

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