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Music Preview: 10 Big Questions for 2011

Will the Stones tour? Can ‘Idol’ be saved? What will be the biggest albums? And much more

Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic (Wayne), Kevin Mazur/WireImage (West, Jay-Z, Gaga).

Record sales keep slipping, but that hasn’t kept artists from producing albums. Lady Gaga’s Born This Way and Lil Wayne’s Tha Carter IV are the biggest albums on the horizon this year, along with Jay-Z and Kanye West’s hotly anticipated team-up Watch the Throne. We’re also in for new albums from R.E.M., the Decemberists, PJ Harvey, the Mountain Goats and Lupe Fiasco by the end of spring. Also, though nothing is set in stone just yet, there’s a very good chance that we’ll get full albums from U2, Coldplay, Radiohead and Dr. Dre at some point before December rolls around.

Matthew Perpetua

Frank Micelotta / PictureGroup for FOX

Can ‘American Idol’ Be Saved?

Quick, who won American Idol last year? If you said Lee DeWyze you're probably in the small minority of people to remember the least charismatic winner in the show's history, and that includes Taylor Hicks and Kris Allen. Still, even with diminished ratings, Idol was still one of the biggest shows on TV last year — but with Simon Cowell out, Fox made some drastic decisions for the 2011 season. Judges Ellen DeGeneres and Kara DioGuardi have been replaced by Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, while Jimmy Iovine will become the "in-house mentor" (whatever the hell that means). Millions will surely tune in to watch the potential Tyler/J. Lo train wreck, but will they keep watching week after week? They better hope for another Adam Lambert or Clay Aiken to get the fan base excited and generate some Internet hype. After all, Simon Cowell's X Factor starts later in the year and it could easily steal Idol's thunder.

Andy Greene

Jon Furniss/WireImage

Will the Rolling Stones Tour?

The success of the concert business in 2011 may depend on the whims of Mick Jagger. Keith Richards and Ron Wood have been very clear that they are interesting in hitting the road this year and Charlie Watts will always go along for the ride, but Jagger seems to be non-committal. Word is that Jagger is still fuming over Keith's memoir, Life, particularly this part: "'[Anita] had no fun with the tiny todger,' Richards wrote, referring to Jagger's penis. 'I know [Mick's] got an enormous pair of balls, but it doesn't quite fill the gap.'" Revealing that tidbit of information probably wasn't the best way to convince Mick to rev up the Stones machine again. The band haven't played since August 2007, and at this point it's impossible to say whether they ever will again. In the end Jagger will probably have a hard time passing up the huge payday, but the safe bet might be on a 50th anniversary tour in 2012.

A.G.

Founders Daniel Ek & Martin Lorentzon

Will This Be the Year Spotify Comes to the U.S.?

Spotify, the free Swedish streaming-music service that has generated 10 million European users in less than two years, has delayed its long-promised U.S. launch indefinitely. The company's founder, Daniel Ek, was uncharacteristically non-committal during a tech conference last month, and would-be record-industry partners remain skeptical of its moneymaking prospects: Just 750,000 European customers have upgraded to 10-euro-a-month "premium" subscriptions so far. "The service is quite good, it's fun to use and people enjoy it," says a source at a major record label. "What they have not done is articulate a business model that would seemingly work." The label source wouldn't entirely rule out a U.S. launch this year, but says it would have to be on a "test" basis, with a one or two year contract to see if the paid service catches on.

Steve Knopper

Patrick Ecclesine/FOX

How Will ‘Glee’ Continue Its Pop Culture Domination?

Glee returns to the small screen February 6th with a post-Superbowl episode that will see New Directions tackling songs by the Black Eyed Peas and Michael Jackson, the latter confirmed to be a mash-up featuring "Thriller." Though creator Ryan Murphy remained mum on confirming the second song (widely rumored to be the Yeah Yeah Yeahs' "Heads Will Roll"), he did tell Rolling Stone to expect more Michael Jackson as the show finishes out its second season, along with Maroon 5's "Misery." When the show wraps, the cast heads overseas for a U.K. tour. Murphy says a sequel to last year's successful stateside jaunt is not out of the question, though no plans are set.

Erica Futterman

Tim Mosenfelder/Getty

Will People Start Buying Concert Tickets Again?

After a disastrous 2010 for concerts — the top 50 North American tours sold 12 percent fewer tickets than the previous year — many artists and promoters insist a recovery depends on lower prices. ZZ Top promises some $10 tickets, and Demi Lovato, planning a 2011 tour, told the Associated Press: "I have best friends that aren't in the industry and are dealing with just buying groceries and things like that, so I want to do my part." But there's still no evidence of a widespread price reduction for this year. "I'm seeing business as usual, generally," says Adam Friedman, chief executive officer of LA's Nederlander Concerts. "The whole pricing thing has to be turned down a tad, and it's not easy."

S.K.

Photograph by Jacob Cohl

Could ‘Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark’ Actually Succeed?

Julie Taymor’s Spider-Man musical — featuring songs by Bono and the Edge —seems like the trainwreck that just keeps crashing. But setting aside all the schadenfreude for the wildly expensive production’s seemingly endless run of misfortune, there is a good chance that this show might actually catch on with audiences. Whether you want to chalk it up to enthusiasm or morbid curiosity, ticket sales have been strong for preview performances. And besides, it wasn’t so long ago that many people were feeling certain that James Cameron’s Avatar would be an expensive disaster — and we all know how that turned out.

Matthew Perpetua

Mark Metcalfe/Getty

What Are the Biggest Tours of the Year?

Unless Mick Jagger decides to resurrect the Rolling Stones, 2011's biggest tour will probably the final legs of U2's 360 tour. They start in Africa next month and swing through North and South America from April through July. Other definite tours include Lady Gaga, Neil Diamond, Kenny Chesney/Zac Brown, Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rush, Bon Jovi, Taylor Swift, Backstreet Boys/New Kids On The Block and Sade. It's also likely that Radiohead, Journey, The Cars and Britney Spears will hit the road. If ticket prices are kept down to reasonable levels this might actually be a good year for the industry.

A.G.

Kevin Mazur/AMA2010(Swift), Bryan Bedder/Getty(Paltrow)

Is Gwyneth Paltrow Country Music’s Next Big Thing?

Stranger things have happened. The actress, best known for portraying prim characters on-screen and her posh online lifestyle newsletter Goop, is now riding a wave of positive buzz for her songs in the film Country Strong, in which she plays a fictional substance-abusing country star. It’s one thing to play a country singer in a movie, but Paltrow has taken some high-profile steps toward legitimizing herself as a singer, impressing audiences with strong performances on Glee and the Country Music Awards. Though it’s unlikely that she’ll knock Taylor Swift off the top of the country charts in the near future, Paltrow seems poised for a startling career transformation in 2011.

M.P.

Michael Ochs Archives/Getty(Buffalo Springfield), Ebet Roberts/Redferns/Getty(Cars), Michael Ochs Archives/Getty(Cars)

Which Bands Could Reunite This Year?

After Pavement finally folded last year it seemed like there was no band left to reunite, but 2011 might see tours from Buffalo Springfield and Pulp — and The Cars are all but certain to release a new album and hit the road. Who else is there? How about the Talking Heads, The Byrds, The Kinks, The Beach Boys, The Stone Roses, The Smiths, Oasis, Guns N' Roses, Dire Straits, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the Bee Gees. It's likely that none of these bands will tour this year, but David Gilmour has pledged to play "Comfortably Numb" with Roger Waters at a stop on The Wall tour. Also, next year Guns N' Roses will be eligible for induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. If Axl Rose and Slash both show things could get very interesting.

A.G.

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