Even though 2008 saw the first album since 2005 to sell more than a million copies in a week (rapper Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter III), album sales overall took a nosedive of 13.8% through 7 December, according to Nielsen SoundScan, as many superstars delayed releasing new projects.
Rock on: (clockwise from top left) No Line on the Horizon is U2’s 12th album. Universal Music Group; Amy Winehouse’s next album could be a blockbuster like her 2006 one. Universal Music Group; and Kelly Clarkson wants to take on the pop world again in her new album. Getty Images / WSJ
In 2009, the major labels are hoping to make up lost ground, trotting out a parade of big-name acts and albums that have been in the works for years. Thanks largely to a spate of delays at the end of 2008, the early part of the year should be filled with big hits— assuming the artists involved finally deliver their albums.
U2, Dr Dre, Eminem, 50 Cent and the Black Eyed Peas are expected to issue albums that were initially anticipated for the 2008 holiday season, though only U2 has set a release date. It is unclear whether all this will be enough to counter the combined effects of an economic downturn and an ongoing slump in music sales. Some of the biggest coming albums:
Working on a Dream (Columbia),
The Boss’ 24th album features the E Street Band as well as a return engagement from producer Brendan O’Brien, who also worked on Springsteen’s album Magic. The disc’s title track is either a love song, an ode to Barack Obama, or both.
No Line on the Horizon (Interscope),
The Irish band’s 12th album features songs produced by Brian Eno, Daniel Lanois and Steve Lillywhite, who have all previously worked with the group.
It’s Not Me, It’s You (Capitol),
After receiving an initial flurry of interest in the US, the British singer was overshadowed last year by label-mate Katy Perry. Now, with boozy awards-show antics and a talk show-hosting stint in the UK under her belt, Allen has recruited producer Greg Kurstin to try to reclaim the top slot.
Masquerade, (RCA) March
The American Idol winner’s last album, My December, in 2007, was supposed to be the singer’s big personal artistic statement, filled with raw rock songs that Clarkson wrote largely on her own, without input from the hit meisters whose tunes made her a star. The album yielded only middling sales, however, along with a cancelled concert tour and a humiliating fight with label head Clive Davis over the direction of her music. For her fourth album, Clarkson is “in a period where she wants to take on the pop world again”, says RCA general manager Tom Corson. “She’s ready, and she’s got all the right support.” That includes the input of writer-producers such as Max Martin, Howard Benson and Lukasz “Dr. Luke” Gottwald, who were behind some of Clarkson’s biggest pop hits.
Title to be disclosed (Warner Bros),Spring
The Bay Area pop punks have big shoes to fill—their own. 2004’s American Idiot sold 5.8 million copies in the US alone—an improbably large number for a sprawling, Who-style “punk-rock opera” with recurring characters. The band’s eighth studio album promises to be equally sprawling, with “acts” entitled Heroes and Cons, Charlatans and Saints and Horseshoes and Hand Grenades.
Title to be disclosed (Arista), Fall
Santana’s Supernatural in 1999 vaulted the guitarist from relic to superstar. But he hasn’t been able to recapture the magic that propelled that album to 15-times platinum sales. Not that he hasn’t tried. Like Supernatural, 2002’s Shaman and 2005’s All That I Am featured a raft of younger guest vocalists—but sold only a fraction of what that album did. For his new project, Santana has changed direction slightly to work with guitarist guest stars, rather than singers. The line-up hasn’t been revealed publicly, but our money is on a John Mayer appearance.
James River (J), Fall
It’s been nine years since the braided R&B singer captured the world’s attention with his steamy, shirtless video performance for Untitled (How Does It Feel). D’Angelo has kept his clothes on for his most recent photos, while some websites have been flooded with leaked versions of his third studio album.
Title to be disclosed (Universal),
Arguably the world’s most unpredictable young pop star, the volatile Winehouse has made her reputation for drug-fuelled theatrics as central to her image as her carefully crafted Motown-throwback sound and beehive hairdo. If she can curb her appetite for self-destruction enough to focus in the recording studio, her follow-up to 2006’s Back to Black could be a blockbuster.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL