From Adele returning from hiatus and destroying sales records to Phil Collins announcing he was out of retirement, 2015 was packed with comebacks. There was a stellar Janet Jackson album, and Missy Elliott resurfaced with one of the zaniest dance videos in ages. Sleater-Kinney reunited, as did Blur and Chic. Dr. Dre finally put out an album — after 16 years — and Madonna returned too (though maybe she should have waited until we missed her). For every high-profile return, there was one that didn’t quite pan out. Here are eight comebacks we want to happen in 2016.
The wait for the pop diva’s long gestating album, “Anti,” has become frustrating enough to be laughable. Despite releasing a handful of new songs and teasing collaborators, the singer has remained impressively tight-lipped about specifics. The album’s first single, “FourFiveSeconds,” a barebones soft rocker featuring Paul McCartney and the album’s reported executive producer Kanye West, came out in January. Her “Man in the Mirror"-esque stomper “American Oxygen” was a dud, but tunes like “James Joint” and the Florence and the Machine-sampling “Only If for a Night” ramped up the excitement again. She killed club dance floors with her swaggering “Bitch Better Have My Money,” but the tune has run its course, and she’s yet to offer a follow-up. A high-concept mobile experience through a massive electronics company has given the impression that a release is imminent. But is it?
Hip-hop’s most outspoken, self-proclaimed genius spent much of 2015 giving us false hope that he was dropping a follow-up to 2013’s “Yeezus.” He supplied a few album titles, “So Help Me God” and then “Swish,” and he delivered high-profile performances on “Saturday Night Live,” the Billboard Music Awards and the Grammys in support of new music from the upcoming album. Over the summer, his Steve McQueen collaboration, “All Day/I Feel Like That” — a nine-minute music video that paired two of the tracks into one conceptual art project — ran at LACMA, and he substituted for Frank Ocean (see below) in the eleventh hour to save the otherwise drab FYF Fest. To be fair, he had a busy year overseeing fashion lines, announcing a bid for presidency, staging an epic theatrical run of his beloved “808s and Heartbreak” album and having his second child with Kim Kardashian. As the year came to a close, the rapper offered an update on his album in typical West fashion: “I’m asking everyone DON’T ASK ME FOR ANYTHING TILL AFTER I’M FINISHED WITH MY ALBUM.” Deal.
Musically, the last few years for Spears have been a struggle. Her last single, “Pretty Girls,” was fun and catchy enough to fit in her canon of sugary pop gems, but the song was mostly seen as an unnecessary redux of Azalea’s massive hit “Fancy.” Spears’ last album, 2013’s “Britney Jean,” was largely a phoned-in mess beyond the scorching “Work Bitch” and the Sia-penned “Perfume.” But as Spears has continued to prove, she’s one pop diva you can’t count out. Her Las Vegas residency seems to have gotten her excited about music again, and with Spears reportedly logging hours in the studio at the tail end of 2015, we can only assume that next year, she’ll be hitting back stronger than yesterday (see what we did there?).
Millions of hearts were broken when One Direction officially announced Malik’s departure after five years in the biggest (boy) band on the planet. While the group continued on as a foursome (band members promised that their impending hiatus wasn’t permanent), there was speculation of how soon Malik’s post-1D solo career would kick off. In an interview, he said he’s still sorting out his sound, but his interest in genres beyond 1D’s syrupy pop-rock roots — don’t forget that Malik sang a tune from R&B singer Mario for his “X-Factor” audition — gives him the edge as the rest of One Direction explores life outside the group.
With a career fueled by rebellion and unconventional anthems, Pink has remained one of pop’s most fearless voices — period. Her last album, 2012’s “The Truth About Love,” was one of her strongest, with enough pop-rock bangers, brash anthems and confessional ballads to make you set your ex’s car on fire and dance in its ashes. She was last heard on a collaboration with City and Colour’s Dallas Green called “Rose Ave.,” which was full of muted, stripped-down acoustic tracks. It was a bit left field, but the sonic exploration means her next album might be another reinvention. Besides, there’s nobody on the planet who can do Cirque du Soleil-style acrobatics in an arena while holding angelic notes — so we need you back, Pink.
Consider this: In the decade since Elliott last issued an album, Nicki Minaj put female rappers back on pop charts, Katy Perry and Lady Gaga became superstars largely because of left-field visuals in the same way that Elliott once had, and Beyoncé seemingly took control of the pulse of the pop conversation. Hip-hop’s most innovative, eccentric voice stole the show in a surprise cameo during Perry’s Super Bowl halftime spectacle, and Elliott proved her comeback was for real when she dropped “WTF (Where They From),” an awesomely off-kilter, futuristically funky dance jam produced by Pharrell Williams. Elliott’s singularity and knack for sonic reinvention put the album high up on the list of the year’s most eagerly awaited releases.
When Beyoncé dropped a self-titled album without warning in December 2013, the pop diva changed the rules for how acts release and market their music. For an artist who’s been a dominant player in pop for well over a decade, she’s inarguably reached a new height as this generation’s most influential performer with her most creative and risk-taking work to date. Her next album could feature her sneezing on beat for all we care, as long as she releases something in 2016.
No one hurt us more in 2015 than Ocean. The wait for a follow-up to his Grammy-winning 2012 major label debut, “Channel Orange,” appeared to be coming to an end over the spring when the R&B crooner told fans that new material would be forthcoming. Not only did Ocean gleefully hint at a new album but also a magazine-style publication to come out along with it during the summer, along with a headlining spot at the FYF Fest in August. And then it all ended in tears with no show, no album and no new release of any kind. Though there’s hope for 2016, fans are still wondering when he’s going to make good on his promise.
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