Once Christmas is over and the countdown to the New Year ends, it’s time to look forward to what kind of year 2012 will be. When it comes to the music world, there are a few rumored or expected releases for the next year that will shape the way the 2012 music scene will sound. There are appearances from artists who’ve stayed under the radar for some years and new releases from artists who’ve been dominating the charts. It’s impossible to predict exactly what 2012 will be like, but scoping out some of the year’s early releases might give music lovers an idea.


Ingrid Michaelson – Human Again (Cabin 24/Mom+Pop): We haven’t heard from this lovely lady since 2009, so 2012 will be a treat for Ingrid Michaelson fans. But fans shouldn’t expect the same Michaelson of on her fifth effort. The album is being presented as something darker, with songs that go against Michaelson’s usual image of a cutesy singer-songwriter. If the single “Ghost” is any indication of the rest of the album, Michaelson is tapping into the more woeful side of her writing while still holding onto the sugary quality of her voice. Michaelson’s got to keep up with the current pop diva mélange, so hopefully her decision to try something new will pay off.

Ja Rule – Pain is Love 2 (MPire): Interestingly enough, Jan. 24 also marks the release of currently incarcerated rapper Ja Rule’s new album. The seasoned rapper’s seventh album is 11-tracks long and features appearances by artists like Leah Siegal and Kalenna Harper and features quite a trippy, artsy cover. This is Ja Rule’s first release since 2004 and is named so because of his 2001 album Pain is Love. Ja Rule’s success took place mostly in the early 2000s with hits featuring stars like Jennifer Lopez and Ashanti. Now the album must compete against plenty of current rap titans, and only 2012 will tell if the album can rise to the top.


The Cranberries – Roses (Downtown): Yes, you read that correctly. This one-of-a-kind ’90s Irish band will be debuting brand new material come 2012. There are already a few sneak peeks available on their site, and the band promises to keep posting them, so little by little the pieces will fall into place as to the group’s current state. Reunited in 2009, the band’s trademark sound is still very much alive; “Show Me the Way” is chilling proof that Dolores O’Riordan has her pipes completely intact and that the band’s emotional resonance hasn’t wilted. “Schizophrenic Playboy” has a distinctly ’90s flavor, while “Tomorrow” combines a soothing guitar tune with poignant lyrics like “I know that you’re mad/ you spend all your time in your head.” But if the other tracks have the same quality, fans will be anything but mad.

Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (Cash Money): Though the title makes it sound a little like a remix album, this will actually be Nicki Minaj’s second album, though it’s actually inspired by an alter ego. Minaj’s male alter ego was the inspiration behind the name, so the tracks are bound to be different from the artist’s other work and perhaps more than a little cooky. Minaj has given a lot of importance to this ego, at one point Tweeting “heeeee's baaaacccckkkkk.” Her first album placed her on the charts and on the radar of the music world, so the gal’s just got to keep up the good work. The album will be out Valentine’s Day so you can buy it for a sweetheart or make it a present to yourself.

2012 is already shaping up to be at least an interesting year in music. 2011 brought everything from crazy shenanigans to powerhouse collaborations, so it’s up to the artists releasing new material in 2012 to top that.