12 Things That Give Me Hope For 2012! (Nos. 5-1)

A new year, a new crop of pop culture to consume. Sure, “The Hunger Games” is gonna be huge, and yep, Madonna will definitely make a splash with her follow-up to “Hard Candy.” But here’s the second part of my list of 12 releases that I’m personally shaking and crying over in 2012. Welcome to my brain, internet!

5. “Jesus Christ Superstar” on Broadway
No disrespect to my Sunday school teachers, but everything I retained from the Bible I learned from Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera. What’s the buzz? Well, the creator himself (as in Mr. Webber, not … uh … the big guy upstairs) said that this particular production, which originated in Ontario, is “the best acted version of the show [he’s] seen in 40 years.” In other words, everything’s alright, yes. Everything’s fine. (Previews begin March 1, opening March 22; Jim plans on rocking “Heaven On Their Minds” at his karaoke birthday party January 20)

4. New music from Season 8 “American Idol” finalists!
Kris Allen and Adam Lambert – the top two from what I consider to be the most entertaining “Idol” season ever – both have new albums out this year. So far, we’ve only heard runner-up Lambert’s lead single, “Better Than I Know Myself.” It has an infectious chorus and a radio friendly OneRepublic vibe. It’s a good start, but I’m even more excited for the full-length, Trespassing, which Lambert promises will be a darker, more electronic affair with co-writes and production assists from Pharrell Williams, Nile Rodgers and Bruno Mars, amongst others. You know you already have March 20 on your glittery calendar.

Meanwhile, Kris Allen is ready to follow-up the platinum success of “Live Like We’re Dying” with a new batch of tunes. Details are scarce thus far. All we know is that since his first album, he’s honed his skills on the road, from covering Radiohead and Chris Gaines (!) to debuting a new, impossibly cool rockabilly toss-off, he’s tweeted about listening to indie darlings Deerhunter, and his new stuff has the bigwigs at RCA Records publicly declaring their love for him. Bonus: Allen promised me he’d release this new collection on vinyl, making him the first “Idol” champ to have a full-length on wax. [edit: Sorry, Kris. David Cook totally beat you to the vinyl game. You can buy a record of his 2011 opus "This Loud Morning" exclusively at his website store. Still, make a record for the vinyl nerds and get it in real record stores!] (Tresspassing out March 20; Kris Allen’s release date and title TBA)

Read on for more!

3. “The Celebrity Apprentice”
I could not have dreamed up a cast of characters more tailor-made for my sensibilities. Five-year-old Jim is beside himself over The Incredible Hulk, Debbie Deborah Gibson and Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, 10-year-old Jim can’t wait to see Wayne’s girlfriend Tia Carrere and that guy Arsenio who “whoop whoop whoops,” 11-year-old Jim is giddy for his favorite magician, Penn Jillette, 15-year-old Jim thinks “Love Line’s” Adam Carolla is, like, the coolest dude ever, 25-year-old Jim knows that Clay Aiken is going to ham-and-cheese it up and 30-year-old Jim chortles at the idea of Jersey “Housewife” Teresa picking fights with errrrybody. Granted, I’ll have to turn off the TV once the boardroom arrives (I just can’t with Donald Trump. Sorry, dad.) But the first hour of each episode should be “hapless celebrities interacting with the public at Sbarro’s” gold.

2. The Julie Ruin – “Project: Unknown”
Influential indie rock legend Kathleen Hanna has a new band, named after an old solo side project that eventually led to Le Tigre, and the line-up makes me sweat with excitement. She’s re-teaming with her Bikini Kill co-hort Kathi Wilcox and adding Le Tigre’s old tech guru Carmine Covelli to the mix as a beast of a drummer. Plus, New York City musician Sara Landeau and – the wild card – cabaret punk star Kenny Mellman, formerly of the Tony-nominated duo Kiki & Herb. The Julie Ruin has been teasing new music like crazy, from screengrabs of iTunes playlists to, most recently, a rough mix of a groovy jam that you could imagine hearing anywhere from LCD Soundsystem’s final MSG show to Bonnaroo, of all places. I might have heard some demos (!!!), and I will definitely get in trouble if I tell you any more than it’s unlike anything you’ve ever heard Kathleen Hanna release, but at the same time is undeniably her. Get excited! (Date and title TBA)

1. Fiona Apple’s new music!
It seems like poor tortured chanteuse Fiona can’t put out an album without having it wallow in major label purgatory for an extended period of time. After the never-ending saga of 2005’s Extraordinary Machine, it appears she’s found herself in the same damn spot. Last year, Fiona told an intimate crowd that her new songs have been done for “a f*cking year,” to which super-producer (and Fiona’s collaborator on the masterpiece When The Pawn…) Jon Brion chimed in saying, “Not her fault!” You’d think that with the recent overwhelming success of another female’s mature, piano-driven, artfully constructed album, the label would be foolish to sit on new Fiona music.

But fear not Fiona fans! L.A. Reid recently took over Epic’s reigns and the dude calls himself an Apple super-fan (and facilitated Kanye West and Jon Brion working together for his Graduation LP). Reid told me backstage at “The X Factor” that he’s simply “nurturing the relationship” between Fiona and her management and is eager to get her new album out as soon as possible. Here’s hoping the still-untitled collection will land in our laps before we sing “Auld Lang Syne.” And here’s praying it comes out the way Fiona (and I blindly assume Jon Brion) intended.

>>> Check out numbers 12-6 here!

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What 12 things are you most excited about in 2012? I want to read your lists in the comments below!