Madonna, Nicki Minaj, Justin Bieber, Adam Lambert Among the 12 Most Anticipated Albums of 2012

Nicki Minaj Adam Lambert Lana del Rey - split L
Howard Huang (Minaj), RCA Records (Lambert), Nicole Nodland (Del Rey)

Weeks away from new releases by veteran rockers Van Halen and Bruce Springsteen and newcomer Lana Del Rey, the year in music is off to a buzzworthy start.

Reversing a seven-year trend, the music industry saw its first positive sales year in 2011. Adele was mostly to thank, having moved over 5 million copies of her album 21, but there were plenty more cross-genre success stories worth singing out, among them: Taylor Swift, Chris Brown, Jason Aldean and Kelly Clarkson, to name a few.

Now comes the hard part -- maintaining momentum, and so far in 2012, the prospects look good with major first quarter releases by the likes of Nicki Minaj and Van Halen on deck for February and Madonna and Adam Lambert just around the bend.

Read on for the Hollywood Reporter's take on the 12 most anticipated albums of 2012. Purposely absent: Dr. Dre's Detox, in production since 2002 with no sign of a semi-solid release date in sight.  

Adam Lambert
Title: Trespassing
Due out: March 20

The American Idol alum has defied critics and taken the music industry by storm since coming in second on season 8 and for good reason: Adam Lambert brought the glam, the vocal chops and the show with every performance. The 29-year-old singer's debut album, For Your Entertainment, which yielded several hit singles and a successful world tour, is thisclose to platinum certification in the U.S., which puts the pressure on Trespassing, Lambert’s highly-anticipated (to put it mildly) second studio album (in between, he also released an acoustic EP, a collection of remixes and a live album).

What can fans expect? More of that stupefying upper register, as the album’s first single, “Better Than I Know Myself,” let on. That song was written in part by Claude Kelly and Dr. Luke. Other songwriters and musicians believed to have contributed tracks, licks and lyrics include Nile Rodgers -- of Chic and '80s-era David Bowie and Madonna fame -- Bonnie McKee, Ryan Tedder and Pharrell Williams. Back in March 2011, Lambert forecasted to THR that the album would be “less campy” and “more primal”here’s hoping that animal instinct is ready to roar. (Shirley Halperin)

Bruce Springsteen
Title: TBA
Due Out: Spring

Why is Bruce Springsteen’s new album with the E Street Band, due for release sometime shortly before his March 15 SXSW keynote address (and 2012 US and world tour), different from the previous 24 Springsteen albums? Produced by Ron Aniello, the man behind Patti Scialfa’s impeccably Lucinda Williams-esque 2007 Play It As It Lays and 2010’s Grammy nom The Long Fall Back to Earth, by Christian rockers Jars of Clay, it sounds more pissed off than Jesus casting the moneychangers out of the Temple, an earwitness tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I've heard it. Very rock ’n’ roll.  Very angry. He feels it's the angriest album he's ever made. He gets into economic justice quite a bit. Bear in mind, though, that he wrote/recorded the vast majority of the album before the Occupy movements started. So he's not just setting headlines to music.”

Besides infuriating headlines, the album is perhaps influenced by more personal kinds of anger: the recent deaths of longtime E Street Band members Danny Federici and Clarence Clemons and Springsteen's personal assistant Terry Magovern. The misery of a mismatched, pre-Scialfa marriage hurt Springsteen to the heights of poignant poetry in 1988’s Tunnel of Love; his current pain evidently inspired a rock revival in his heart, and the memory of its missing members may inspire him and the E Street Band survivors to kick off their most kickass concert tour in years.

So… is the album any good? “It's terrific,” says THR’s source, who reveals that portions of the album have been played for “dozens” of label execs. “A lot of unexpected textures -- loops, electronic percussion, etc. An amazing sweep of influences and rhythms -- from hip-hop to Irish folk rhythms.” (Tim Appelo)

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Justin Bieber
Title: Believe
Due Out: Summer 2012

He was the cute kid who could who, since 2009, has sold more than 6 million albums between his My World debut and 2010’s 2.0, a Christmas album and the Never Say Never Remixes that followed his blockbuster concert movie (total box office: $90 million). Now about to turn 18, the teen phenom has plenty to prove as his path to pop supremacy continues. Enter: Believe, Bieber’s second full-length album, which is very much in progress. In fact, the singer has been tweeting up a storm during recording sessions producer-songwriter Kuk Harrell, a vocals whiz who worked on Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” and Rihanna’s “Only Girl (In the World),” and Black Eyed Peas frontman Will.I.Am, to whom Bieber sarcastically wrote, I gotta feeling this song is ganne be bigger than huge" and “let's make a hit tomorrow!” (SH)

Lana Del Rey
Title: Born to Die
Due Out: Jan. 31

Without a hit at radio and weeks away from the release of her debut album, Lana Del Rey has already scored a coveted Saturday Night Live slot and has been selling out shows in major cities across the U.S., Canada and England for the better part of two months. What’s all the buzz about? For one thing, the Lake Placid, N.Y., native references an odd mix of old-time Americana, skater culture and gritty hip-hop in her music and image, the latter of which has brought most of the attention her way. But plumped lips aside, Lana Del Rey does sound as good as she looks, and her songwriting style and melodies provide more than their share of surprises on the 12-track Born to Die (the deluxe edition features three additional songs). Look no further than her breakout track "Video Games" or the recently leaked "National Anthem," for a veritable mishmash of influences all of which add up to a dose of undeniably delectable pop. (SH)

Title: M.D.N.A.
Due Out: March 12

Dance music exploded into the heart of middle America in 2011, but Madonna has been drawing inspiration from dance floors for over two decades, always seeking out the top innovators in the genre to give her songs club credibility. The time has never been better for Madonna to reclaim her throne atop the proverbial DJ booth as pop ringleader, cheerleader and tastemaker extraordinaire, and with M.D.N.A., she stands a very good chance at winning over a new generation of house heads and pop fans alike this year.

Her 12th proper full-length boasts collaborations with France’s hot Martin Solveig (“Turn Up the Radio”) as well as a pair of tracks featuring M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj for the upcoming album (“Gimmie All Your Luvin’” and “Birthday Song”). According to respected fan website Madonnarama, the latter was produced by Madonna's longtime collaborator William Orbit. Also in the mix for Madge in 2012? Italian DJ/producer Benny Benassi, who has at least one track on her forthcoming full-length (reportedly called “Girls Gone Wild”) and who the singer has been a fan of for nearly a decade (Benassi did remix work for her in 2003).

"Gimmie All Your Luvin" is the set’s first single and is expected to drop at the end of January, prior to the star’s anticipated Super Bowl haltime appearance Feb. 5. A video has already been filmed with Minaj and M.I.A. (Charlie Amter)

Nelly Furtado
Title: T.S.I.
Due Out: 2012

Nelly Furtado ruled 2006, scoring two No. 1 hits with “Promiscuous” and “Say It Right” off her double-platinum Loose. But other than remix compilations and a Spanish-language album (2009’s Mi Plan), the Canadian singer has been largely absent of late.

That soon will change. Furtado promises a new album, T.S.I., will be released this summer and has been previewing some of the recording sessions in a series of behind-the-scenes YouTube clips. What can fans expect of the new material? Island sounds courtesy of producer Salaam Remi as well as collaborations with Rodney Jerkins and Steven McGregor. “After doing my Spanish album, I [now] look at passionate vocals and lyrics in a whole new light, on my new album,” says Furtado in the video. "I kind of played with some of those elements. It’s something I never done before on any of my albums.” (James Hermon)

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Nicki Minaj
Title: Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded.
Due Out: Feb. 14 

On the one-year anniversary of her debut release Pink Friday, Nicki Minaj told fans that they could expect her sophomore effort to hit stores Feb. 14, historically one of the best album-selling days of the year. In the style of Jay-Z's The Blueprint and Lil Wayne's Tha Carter records, Minaj has titled her next album Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded. The name stems from her highly popular (and male) alter ego who grew to prominence on the track "Roman's Revenge" featuring Eminem. To date, Minaj has released two tracks from her album titled "Roman in Moscow" and "Stupid Hoe," produced by DJ Diamond Kuts. The album's full track listing is expected to be revealed Jan. 19.

Minaj’s debut effort topped the Billboard 200, R&B/Hip-Hop and Rap Albums charts and was certified platinum in the U.S. Pink Friday also enjoyed a fairly successful awards run, winning the American Music Award for best rap/hip-hop album in 2011 and earning the rapper Grammy nominations for best rap album, new artist and rap performance for her Drake collaboration, “Moment 4 Life.” The album additionally spawned the hit singles “Check It Out” (feat., “Fly” (feat. Rihanna) and “Super Bass,” a deluxe edition bonus track that THR named the best song of 2011. (Sophie Schillaci) 

No Doubt
Title: TBA
Due Out: This century

Fans have waited more than a decade for new No Doubt music. After all, Rock Steady, which featured a few of the band’s biggest hits (among them: “Hey Baby” and the Grammy-winning “Underneath It All”) came out in December 2001. Since then, Gwen Stefani has seen massive success as a solo artist and fashion designer, while the band that made her a household name has taken an extended hiatus.

The four original members, Stefani, Tom Dumont, Tony Kanal and Adrian Young returned to the recording studio in 2008, but a new album has been pushed back several times, prompting many to wonder: Will it finally see the light of day in 2012? No release date has been announced, but the band is keeping fans in the know by updating its official website, revealing that they would be collaborating with production duo Major Lazer and reassuring all that the new album is “well under way.” The band also took to Twitter to document the process thus far. “The No Doubt studio sesh is thumping today,” guitarist Dumont tweeted Nov. 30. “Smiles all around!” (JH)

Title: TBA
Due Out: 2012

They’ve been a KROQ staple for the past two years, still, some might be hard-pressed to name the band whose song “1901” they’ve undoubtedly heard hundreds of times. Indeed, the cheery French band Phoenix gained scores of fans and critical acclaim with its 2009 release Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix. The album also won a Grammy and sold well over 500,000 copies in the U.S.

In early 2011, the band entered a New York studio to start work on a follow-up, which is expected to be released this year. In recent interviews, band members, which include frontman Thomas Mars, who’s married to film director Sofia Coppola, have revealed that the new album strays somewhat from its signature pop sound into more “experimental” territory. To wit: the band enlisted an Australian percussion group to appear on the album. "It sounds like the TGV,” said Mars, referencing France’s high-speed Train à Grande Vitesse. (Portia Medina) 

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Title: TBA
Due Out: Late spring

In early 2010, it was reported that Usher had begun working on a new album with longtime collaborator Rico Love in the producer's chair. Now, sources tell THR that they are hoping for a late-spring release, but that it will definitely be in the second quarter. Many details have yet to be revealed about the project, but the singer stated in an earlier interview that he was attempting to build up "a new genre of music" called Revolutionary Pop, which would "combine several music genres to create a new sound experience."

The still-untitled album will be Usher’s seventh studio effort, following 2010’s Raymond v. Raymond. With the success of the single “OMG,” Raymond v. Raymond debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, moving 329,107 copies in its first week and becoming the singer’s third consecutive chart-topping album. Raymond nabbed two Grammy Awards in 2011 for best contemporary R&B album and male R&B vocal performance, as well as two American Music Awards for favorite R&B album and soul/R&B artist male. (SS)

Van Halen
Title: A Different Kind of Truth
Due Out: Feb. 7

Talk about an eruption! Van Halen, which got its start playing parties for $1 per fan and then sold 80 million records, exploded back into action Jan 5 at New York’s 250-seat Café Wha? to promote its first album with original singer David Lee Roth since 1984. A tour of rather bigger venues starts Feb. 18. The on-and-off conflicts between Roth and influential high-speed guitarist Eddie Van Halen lasted about five times longer than the Civil War, but they’re harmonious now -- at least with each other and bandmates Alex Van Halen, Eddie’s drummer brother, and Wolfgang Van Halen, Eddie’s son, who replaced original bassist Michael Anthony.

The band that made heavy metal shine bright as spandex since 1976 is back to its old tricks: The “new” number played at the Café Wha? show is actually an updated version of a demo that dates back to the band’s earliest days, the uptempo horndog anthem “She’s the Woman.” The album’s first single “Tattoo” is a new composition. The band spent 18 months in the studio crafting the comeback album with producer Ross Hogarth, who’s worked with R.E.M., Ratt and Motley Crue, and is a past master at using a ribbon microphone to make guitar sounds growl and pop. Roth’s voice retains more of its exhilarating upper range than most 57-year-old rockers, but we’ll have to wait and see if he can jump as high as ever. If not, he can take comfort with the album’s all-but-certain grand jete on the charts. (TA)

The xx
Title: TBA
Due Out: 2012

They were a music supervisor’s dream in 2010: a brooding, young electro-pop band from London that provided, in the simplest melodies, the perfect soundtrack. Songs from The xx’s self-titled debut appeared in scores of commercials (most memorable: the AT&T spot featuring Apolo Ohno speedskating on a vinyl record) and TV shows (Lie to Me, Gossip Girl and 90210) and won the U.K.’s prestigious Mercury Prize.

For their second effort, the band offered fans an opportunity to experience the album in the making, launching a blog that doubles as a digital scrapbook of inspirations, images and even other songs (they released a new track, “Open Eyes,” on Christmas Day). According to percussionist Jamie xx, “We've all come back off tour and [have] kind of been partying a little bit more. So club music has definitely had an influence on the next record.” He adds that the band aims to have it out by summer 2012. “Hopefully we'll get it done in time to be asked to do festivals next year, because that's the most fun.” (PM)

Twitter: @THRMusic