×
Rhapsody App for
Rhapsody International, Inc.

by Rhapsody

January 19, 2012

The Most Anticipated Albums of 2012

by Rhapsody  |  January 19, 2012

We've spent the last month or so entirely transfixed with determining our favorite music of 2011, but it's time now to look forward, not backward. Below, the Rhapsody brain trust lays out the albums we're most looking forward to hearing in the first half of 2012, from Madonna to Rick Ross, M.I.A. to Van Halen, Sleigh Bells to Tim McGraw, Juanes to Esperanza Spalding. To get you going, here's a quick Most Anticipated Albums of 2012 playlist to recount what we've heard so far. Dig in.

POP

Madonna, M.D.N.A. (Live Nation/Interscope), spring
A new Madonna album is like Christmas. You know it's coming, you more or less know what to expect, and you know the celebration will probably result in more than a few drunken fights/dance-offs. But it's still pretty much up-all-night, visions-of-half-naked-dancers-dancing in your head exciting, no matter how old you get. Reported collaborations include M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj. Apparently we've been extra-good this year! [Rachel Devitt]

Justin Bieber, Believe (Island), summer
EEEEEEEEEE!!! A new BiEEEEEEEEEber album! Reportedly inspired by ye olde Timba-lake collaborations of yore, this is also rumored to feature Drake, Kanye West, will.i.am and, of course, the Biebster's post-pubescent voice. EEEEEEEEEE! [R.D.]

Willow Smith, Willow: You Think You Know Me (Columbia/Roc Nation), April 3
We haven't been this excited for the debut album of a little kid who rose to fame with a sometimes-annoying, always-awesome first single since, well, Justin Bieber. After collaborating with Nicki Minaj and, of course, getting us all whipping our hair back and forth, Will and Jada's little girl will finally release her solo debut, on none other than Jay-Z's Roc Nation. [R.D.]

Christina Aguilera, TBA (RCA), spring/summer
OK, fine, so just about everyone hated Bionic, but don't count Xtina out yet. She's got her life back on track, and she's back in the public eye (and our good graces) thanks to " Moves Like Jagger" and The Voice, which apparently may have also taught her a thing or two about what the fans are after: This album is rumored to be more heartfelt than 2010's robo-pop disaster. [R.D.]

Adam Lambert Trespassing (RCA/19), March 20
Our most fabulous American Idol alum has been in the news more for his scandals (of both the professional and personal varieties) lately than his flashy, glammy sound. Here's hoping his proper sophomore album gets that strut back on track. [R.D.]

Ke$ha, TBA (RCA), May
She's still blowing up the charts with singles from her last album (not to mention the clutch of hits she wrote for other stars), but Ke$ha's been writing this whole time (at one time, she reportedly had 200 songs stocked up for album No. 2). At various times, she's discussed showing her softer side and reinventing rock 'n' roll on this album. We have no doubt she'll do it all. [R.D.]

M.I.A., TBA (Interscope), summer
Two years after her polarizing MAYA, the Sri Lankan/British spitfire and iconoclast is rumored to be preparing to knock our socks off -- or at least get us debating our pants off. [R.D.]

HIP-HOP

Nicki Minaj, Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded (Young Money), February 14
There's been some confusion over whether this Pink Friday-inspired release is an "extended" EP companion (like Lady Gaga's The Fame Monster) or a full-length sequel (like The Black Eyed Peas' The Beginning followed by The E.N.D.). Nicki Minaj promises to summon her bitchy alter ego, Roman Zolanski, and while we don't know exactly what that means, either, saucy Lil Kim dis " Stupid Hoe" is a good sign. [Mosi Reeves]

Rick Ross, God Forgives, I Don't (Def Jam/MMG), spring
With countless rappers copying Rick Ross' "hrrumph!" ad-libs and black iconography (see "B.M.F." and "MC Hammer"), Rick Ross is at the height of his influence and power. That's why we wonder if the portly Miami kingpin has any new twists on his rap game/crack game parallels. As Young Jeezy has proved, there's nothing wrong with diminishing returns on the same formula ... except it's, well, diminishing returns. [M.R.]

Tyler, the Creator, Wolf (Odd Future), spring
Tyler hit the pop zeitgeist when his commercial debut, Goblin, hit the Top 10 last year. One would think that listeners would be more skeptical this time around, especially if Tyler turns in another 90-plus-minute exercise in self-indulgence. But if you believe that, then you've never been to an Odd Future concert, where kids chant "Wolf Gang" deliriously while group members literally surf the crowd. Whether you hate this Internet meme that will seemingly not die or love their innovation, OFWGKTA mania is very real. [M.R.]

Asher Roth, Is This Too Orange? (Universal/Def Jam), March
Last year, Asher Roth compared himself to Alex Smith, the San Francisco 49ers quarterback who suffered through seven losing seasons before new coach Jim Harbaugh helped him reach this year's NFC Championship Game. Roth is a potentially great lyricist -- check out his guest shots on the Cool Kids' "Bundle Up" and Pac Div's "Useless" for proof. But his Weezer-sampling "I Love College" sealed his image as another "white boy" rap novelty, and 2009's disappointing Asleep in the Bread Aisle didn't help. Roth still believes he can reach the top of the new-school rap heap, but he'll need a clear artistic identity, not just hot producers and guest stars, if he wants to get there. [M.R.]

T.I., Trouble Man (Atlantic/Grand Hustle), spring
T.I. seems to succeed in spite of himself: His last album, 2010's No Mercy, went gold despite mixed reviews and a public backlash to his disheartening 11-month incarceration for probation violations. We all know that the rapper is a recidivist felon. However, can he make another hit album like 2009's Paper Trail? The Big K.R.I.T.-produced teaser single "I'm Flexin'" briefly lit up radio last fall. [M.R.]

B.o.B, Strange Clouds (Atlantic/Grand Hustle), March 13
Give B.o.B some respect. Despite some very harsh early reviews, the Atlanta rapper turned 2010's The Adventures of Bobby Ray into a hit-yielding, gold-certified winner. With aims to become an urban pop star like Cee-Lo Green and Travie McCoy, B.o.B has left the freewheeling trap-raps of his mixtape years far behind -- and we're fine with that. [M.R.]

ROCK

Mark Lanegan Band, Blues Funeral (4AD), February 7
Mark Lanegan has released some of the very best, and most intense, hard rock of the last two decades. He's a better singer now than he was two decades ago. If opening single "The Gravedigger's Song" is any indication, the Alain Johannes-produced Blues Funeral is sure to be one hellish experience. Q.O.T.S.A.'s Josh Homme guest-stars. [Justin Farrar]

Van Halen, A Different Kind of Truth (Interscope Records), February 7
Is A Different Kind of Truth going to be any good? Good question. The band certainly appeared to rock hard in the scattered YouTube clips documenting their unannounced performance at Café Wha? in January. The first single, "Tattoo," isn't too terribly heavy, but it sure does sound good with all that Queen-like ear candy. [J.F.]

Soundgarden, TBA (A&M), spring
It's been a long time since we've heard from Soundgarden -- since 1996's Down on the Upside, to be precise. It always seemed as if the group should've produced a couple more killer records back in the day. It'd be great if this new album, produced by Adam Kasper apparently, showcases both the band's heaviness and Chris Cornell's acoustic side. His live album from last year, Songbook, definitely exceeded expectations. [J.F.]

Aerosmith, TBA (Geffen), May
Most of you are right now asking, "Why do you even care?" Well, because self-torture is fun. But seriously, Aerosmith were so insanely good -- at a time way, way back when -- that some hope, however perverse, still lingers. Please guys, just try to create a hard rock album again. It doesn't have to be any good; it just has to contain actual rock music. [J.F.]

Rush, Clockwork Angels (Roadrunner Records), spring
Fans have been waiting a few years for Clockwork Angels. After all, brooding debut single "Caravan" was released back in 2010. Rumors abound that it's a full-blown concept album, but the band hasn't confirmed this. It's sure to be wildly ambitious; Rush have more life in them than all their arena-rock peers combined. [J.F.]

INDIE

Sleigh Bells, Reign of Terror (Mom + Pop Music), February 21
After slaying 2010 with their mix of brash yet irresistibly fun noise pop, the duo of Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller returns with Reign of Terror. That's one bold title, but if Sleigh Bells can match (let's hope top) their 2012 debut, Treats, it may just be an accurate description -- because unlike the delicate indie pop of their boy-girl contemporaries, this twosome turns their amps to 11. This time around, Krauss contributed more to the songwriting, so expect slightly more conventional pop arrangements (you'll hear it in first single "Comeback Kid"), but Miller's metal/punk side is not lost in the single's reverse-side track, "Born to Lose," with its guitar and synth lines purring (roaring?) like race-car engines born to win. [Stephanie Benson]

Spiritualized, Sweet Heart Sweet Light (Double Six Records), March 20
The last we heard from Spiritualized was in 2008 with Songs in A&E, a beautifully haunting set that saw frontman Jason Pierce nearly reaching for death's blinding glow. From the title alone, follow-up Sweet Heart Sweet Light already sounds at least slightly more upbeat, and Pierce has stated it would indeed be a poppier collection of songs. He has also said its influences range from free-jazz saxophonist Peter Brötzmann to Chuck Berry to The Beach Boys, and that he was inspired by the band's run of performances playing 1997's Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating in Space in its entirety. If those statements are at all accurate, we're all ears. [S.B.]

The Shins, Port of Morrow (Aural Apothecary/Columbia), March 20
It's a little hard to call this a true Shins release -- main man James Mercer is the only original member left -- but we'll take what we can get. His jaunt with Danger Mouse for Broken Bells was a pleasant diversion from The Shins' somewhat lengthy hiatus (their last album, Wincing the Night Away, came out nearly five years ago), but he's back for the band's fourth release, basically writing and playing the whole dang thing. Port of Morrow (out on his own label, Aural Apothecary) also includes production by Greg Kurstin of The Bird and the Bee, which means it will likely ooze with even sweeter doses of indie-pop syrup. Get a sneak peek with first single "Simple Song," whose upbeat melody rises amid touches of organ, gurgling synths, groovy guitar and Mercer's inimitable falsetto. [S.B.]

Miike Snow, Happy to You (Downtown Records/Universal Republic), March 27
Swedish trio Miike Snow gradually grew into indie pop stars after their 2009 self-titled debut, thanks mostly to notable single "Animal," which suddenly seemed to pop up on every other TV show. They've made the festival rounds in the meantime and are set to release their sophomore set at the end of March. No word whether recent single "Devil's Work" is actually on the album, but if it's a sign of what's to come, then expect more chiming electro-pop -- this time, though, meant more for pensive reflection (think Death Cab for Cutie) than for hipster dancing. [S.B.]

ELECTRONIC

Loops of Your Heart, And Never Ending Nights (Magazine), January 30
The Field's Axel Willner lays off the Lionel Ritchie samples and goes long on cosmic drones inspired by '70s Krautrock fantasias. Loopier than a roller coaster in Chicago. [Philip Sherburne]

Blondes, Blondes (RVNG), February 7
This New York synths-and-pedals freakout duo channels Manuel Göttsching via Cologne techno and Balearic trance, with a bonus disc of remixes from Laurel Halo, Andy Stott, Optimo's JD Twitch and other electronic-dance outliers. [P.S.]

Black Rain, Now I'm Just a Number: Soundtracks 1994-95 (Blackest Ever Black), February
London's Blackest Ever Black label, best known for the sepulchral techno of acts like Raime and Regis, rescues a lost soundtrack to 1995's Johnny Mnemonic recorded by Stuart Argabright, he of post-punks Ike Yard. Lord knows what kind of face Keanu Reeves would have pulled with this in the background. [P.S.]

VCMG, Ssss (MUTE), March 13
Depeche Mode's Martin Gore reunites with his former bandmate, Erasure's Vince Clarke, after three decades, and it's a black celebration indeed. Leaving aside their pop inclinations, they burrow into an electro-techno wormhole that sounds like 2006 all over again. (Yes, it is possible to feel nostalgic for techno circa '06.) Remixes from Regis, DVS1 and other undergrounders are on hand to lure youngsters who think that "Depeche Mode" is a setting on a software plug-in. [P.S.]

Drexciya, Journey of the Deep Sea Dweller II (Clone), March
Rotterdam's Clone label released the first volume of this four-part anthology in January, capturing the early years of Detroit's shadowiest Afro-futurists. Their Atlantis-obsessed catalog runs deep -- otherworldly electro worth holding your breath for. [P.S.]

COUNTRY

Tim McGraw, Emotional Traffic (Curb), January 24
Tim McGraw won his court battle with Curb Records, so this is his last release for his soon-to-be former label. Emotional Traffic will feature a dozen songs, including former chart-topper "Felt Good on My Lips" and current hit "Better Than I Used to Be." McGraw has never shied away from shaking things up and pushing the boundaries within country music, and this album highlights those tendencies with the track "Only Human," which features R&B/pop game-changer Ne-Yo. Add to this an insane Brothers of the Sun summer tour planned with longtime friend Kenny Chesney, and no doubt McGraw will be the hot ticket throughout the first half of the year. [Linda Ryan]

Dierks Bentley, Home (Capitol Nashville), February 7
Although Dierks Bentley explored less direct country-music avenues with his last, bluegrass-themed release, he still managed to have a radio hit and take his fans exploring with him -- a true testament to his artistry. Home is Bentley's sixth album and returns the singer to a more mainstream country sound. With the supercharged "Am I the Only One" already topping the country charts and the title track looking to do the same, Home stands as one of the most anticipated releases in the first half of 2012. Adding to the excitement: "When You Gonna Come Around," which features Little Big Town's Karen Fairchild, and "Heart of a Lonely Girl," on which bluegrass pickers Sam Bush and Tim O'Brien guest. [L.R.]

Carolina Chocolate Drops, Leaving Eden (Nonesuch), February 28
The most memorable music is often the most difficult to pin down. Such is the case with the Carolina Chocolate Drops, an old-time string band that incorporates hip-hop rhythms and pop sensibilities into their banjos, jugs, fiddles and kazoos. And while it might sound like a God-awful mess on paper, the band's 2010 effort, Genuine Negro Jig, was lauded by critics and won a Grammy in the Traditional Folk category. Leaving Eden will certainly have just as many excited, unexpected twists. [L.R.]

R&B

Frank Ocean, TBA (Def Jam), spring
Frank Ocean claimed in an interview that he refused Kanye West's help in recording his official debut. Either the L.A. vocalist and Odd Future affiliate is tending to a monster of an album, or he's just got a monster ego. Certainly his 2011 mixtape Nostalgia, Ultra veered toward pretension -- he tagged the album's MP3s "bluegrass," and says his music isn't your run-of-the-mill R&B. But as the aforementioned West demonstrates, great artists are rarely humble. [M.R.]

Estelle, All of Me (Atlantic/V2), February 28
Estelle's third album was pushed back several times when she and her label tried to create a follow-up to her 2008 hit "American Boy." But that Top 10 smash may have been a onetime fluke. We'll be happy if the British vocalist can make an album as enjoyable as 2008's Shine. Unfortunately, her current single with Akon, "Thank You," has us a bit worried. [M.R.]

The-Dream, The Love, IV: Diary of a Mad Man, spring
It must be frustrating for Terius "The-Dream" Nash to see all these new jacks, from The Weeknd and Frank Ocean to Trey Songz and Drake, biting elements of his vocal style while he can't land a pop hit. Oh well. He'll just have to settle for producing and writing hit songs for Beyoncé ("Countdown," "1+1") and Rihanna ("Birthday Cake"). Boo hoo. [M.R.]

WORLD/LATIN/REGGAE

Juanes, MTV Unplugged (Universal Geffen), TBD
It's been two long years since Juanes released P.A.R.C.E., and now ... he's still not gracing us with an actual new album. But the MTV Tr3s Unplugged albums have proved hot and interesting commodities for Latin stars, and we've no doubt the Colombian heartthrob will make his more than worth our while (especially with merengue/bachata star Juan Luis Guerra at the helm as musical director). [R.D.]

Ana Tijoux, La Bala (Nacional), January 31
Starting the year off with a bang is Chilean MC Ana Tijoux, releasing her second international album. Her first, 2010's 1977, set critics (and the Grammys) on fire with its funky, fierce B-girl soul. We can't wait to hear what she has to say next. [R.D.]

Prince Royce, Phase II, April 10
His self-titled debut made him bachata royalty, but we'd be willing to wager album No. 2 is going to make the sweet-talking, puppy-voiced Prince Royce king of the Latin pop world. [R.D.]

Daddy Yankee, Prestige 2012 (El Cartel/Sony), TBD
Dad! Dy! Yan! Kee! What else is there to say? [R.D.]

Angelique Kidjo, Spirit Rising (Razor and Tie), February 28
Afropop duet albums are all the rage this year, evidently. Following Ladysmith Black Mambazo's lead, Angelique Kidjo has assembled her Friends-with-a-capital-F (including Dianne Reeves, Vampire Weekend's Ezra Koenig and Josh Groban, apparently the go-to guy for Afropop duets) for this new live comp of originals and covers culled from a Boston performance. [R.D.]

Nneka, Soul Is Heavy (Yo Mama's Recordings/Decon), February 21
The Nigerian-German singer's 2010 album, Concrete Jungle, was a formidable, passionate collection of global soul and pan-African social consciousness, pop and politics. We're waiting with bated breath to hear what she has to say this time around. [R.D.]

Amadou et Mariam, Folila (Nonesuch/Because), March
After watching their son's group, SMOD, internationally debut to great acclaim last year, Mali's magical couple of Afropop get back in the action themselves. Thanks to the shimmering, seriously rocking, Santigold-featuring lead single "Dougou Badia," the blogosphere already has ants in its pants for this one. TV on the Radio, Theophilus London and Yeah Yeah Yeahs' Nick Zinner are also reportedly on board. [R.D.]

The Chieftains, Voices of Ages (Hear/Concord), February 21
Fifty years in the music business? Who does that these days? Irish traditionalists The Chieftains, that's who! The group has long connected the dots between their traditional Irish tunes and other genres, shining a spotlight on American bluegrass, Latin rhythms, pop and more. Past outings featured collaborations with such megaliths as Sting, The Rolling Stones and Van Morrison (among others). This time around, Paddy Moloney and company have found a more lithe group of kindred spirits: Bon Iver, The Decemberists, Lisa Hannigan, The Civil Wars and more relative under-the-radar/newbies in the worlds of alternative, country and the space between. [L.R.]

I-Octane, Crying to the Nation (VP), February 14
Making his major-label debut after several years of quality singles, I-Octane will release Crying to the Nation on Valentine's Day. Treading a fine line between reggae and dancehall, he's sure to have something for all types of Jamaican music fans, including guest appearances from Agent Sasco, Alborosie and Tarrus Riley. [Marley Lovell]

Busy Signal, Reggae Music Again (VP), May 8
This spring we'll get the highly anticipated new full-length from Busy Signal, who first made a name for himself in dancehall before branching out into traditional reggae and hip-hop. He even showed up on that Reggae Gone Country album. Many artists have criticized Jamaican radio and media outlets for not being more supportive of classic reggae; with this album title, Busy seems to be making a statement. [M.L.]

JAZZ/CLASSICAL

Esperanza Spalding, Radio Music Society (Heads Up International), March 20
The fact that in 2011, bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding became the first jazz artist to win the Best New Artist Grammy offers a hint about her power to capture a wider audience. Not yet 30, Spalding's gifts as a singer and composer are matched only by the magnetic personality that shines through every note. [Nate Cavalieri]

Chick Corea , Paul Motian, Eddie Gomez, Future Explorations (Concord), January 17
When he died in November 2011, Paul Motian was enjoying some exquisite twilight years (he appeared twice on Rhapsody's Best of 2011 picks). This session finds him with fellow Bill Evans alumnus Eddie Gomez, adding Chick Corea on piano. The trio's session from 2010 is dedicated to Evans' legacy; all three musicians also contribute original compositions. [N.C.]

The Robert Glasper Experiment, Black Radio (Blue Note), February 28
Pianist and producer Robert Glasper has always had one foot in the genre's historical roots, but he seems equally comfortable working with contemporary hip-hop and R&B artists (his collaborations to date include Kanye, Questlove and Jay-Z, to name a few). His most recent release on Blue Note will see guest spots from Erykah Badu and Mos Def, and lots of genre-bending vision. [N.C.]

Gregory Porter, Be Good (Motema), February 14
Vocalist Gregory Porter's debut earned a surprising Grammy nomination, and this quick follow-up hopes to secure his place as one of the most gifted singers in jazz. What Porter has that few other singers do is a knack for writing touching, eloquent and politically charged originals. [N.C.]

Nicola Benedetti, Italia (Decca), January 24
Benedetti is something of a dream come true: a classical artist with wide appeal who doesn't stoop to crossover schmaltz. The violinist's first effort at Baroque repertoire, Italia, takes on Vivaldi and other Italian composers; it has already earned rave reviews for an earlier European release. [N.C.]

METAL

Woods of Ypres, Woods 5: Grey Skies and Electric Light (Earache) January 31
Ontario doom-goth band Woods of Ypres, who basically sound like a heavier version of Sisters of Mercy, put out one of the better metal albums released in the U.S. last year -- Woods IV: The Green Album, which actually came out two years earlier in Canada -- and quite possibly the best metal single, "I Was Buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery." The title of which makes it even odder that, four days before Christmas, singer/guitarist/multi-instrumentalist David Gold (the only member who'd been with the band since its inception in 2002) was killed in a car accident north of Toronto. Their fifth (and presumably last) album is due out in late January. [Chuck Eddy]

Christian Mistress, Possession (Relapse) February 27
This New Wave of British Heavy Metal-inspired Olympia, Wash., five-piece, fronted by Christine Davis, showed plenty of promise on the six-song Agony & Opium, which came out in 2010. Only problem was, the record sounded barely produced, so you couldn't tell just how much emotion Christine can convey with her throaty sunset singing, and how inventive and catchy the guitars of Oscar Sparbel and Ryan McClain can be. Really, it just sounded like a demo. Possession, recorded with Tim Green of the F**king Champs, totally solves that problem. Expect great songs, hooks and melodies that put the rock 'n' roll -- and the sexiness -- back into metal. [C.E.]

Thunderkraft, Totentanz (Svarga Music), March 13
Thunderkraft, who've lurked somewhere way beneath the radar since 2001, are said to be an "industrial folk death metal band," from the Ukraine no less. They've apparently been incorporating more electronic elements into their mix of folklore rhythms, blackened noise and violin orchestrations in recent years. Totentanz translates to "death dance," always a good sign. Could be a weird one. [C.E.]

Saint Vitus, Lillie F-65 (Season of Mist), March 27
L.A.'s Saint Vitus, who initially became a band way back in 1978 and put out their first album in 1984, are one of the original doom metal and stoner rock bands, which is to say they were reinventing Black Sabbath's grooving '70s sludge before almost anybody else thought to. But they haven't put out an album since 1995, and they haven't put out one with their original howling singer, Scott "Wino" Weinrich, since 1990. (He's been busy in Hidden Hand, Premonition 13, Spirit Caravan and so forth.) This album puts him back where he was during Saint Vitus' glory days with SST Records, which makes it a big, plodding deal. [C.E]

Running Wild, Shadowmaker (Steamhammer/SPV), April 24
Just at the moment when young bands like Cauldron, Holy Grail, White Wizzard and Christian Mistress are getting metal fans interested again in the fast, tuneful, low-rent, denim-jacketed power rock of the pre-thrash early '80s, this Hamburg band from that era is putting out its first album in seven years. Excellent timing, and it could be a lot of drunken fun. [C.E.]

CHRISTIAN

Kari Jobe, Where I Find You (Sparrow Records/EMICMG), January 24
This young worship leader first made a splash in 2009; her debut sold more than 250,000 copies. Now she's back with a new disc, produced by Ed Cash, that focuses on living life to the fullest, even in the midst of dark storms. [Wendy Lee Nentwig]

Owl City, Live from Los Angeles (Universal/EMICMG), February 7
Live discs can be a way for artists to bide time between studio projects, but getting to experience Adam Young's dreamy electronica soundscapes in a live setting is such a treat that this rises above the others. Praised and criticized for their similarity to Postal Service, Owl City's 2011 release All Things Bright and Beautiful proved that this project has creativity to spare. [W.L.N.]

Audrey Assad, Heart (Sparrow Records/EMICMG), February 14
This thoughtful, cerebral singer-songwriter has a unique approach informed by her journey from Plymouth Brethren to Catholic. A former band geek, she wrestles with theology in a way that the Old Testament's Jacob would marvel at. In an industry that can be confining at times, Assad shines as a true original. [W.L.N.]

Paul Baloche, The Same Love (Integrity Music/Provident), March 13
This Texas-based worship leader is the real deal. He's not as well known as artists like Michael W. Smith or Sonicflood (who've recorded his songs), but that's due to his humility and priorities, not any lack of talent. The writer of "Open the Eyes of My Heart," Baloche is a worship leader's worship leader. He's the guy the bigger names we hear on the radio turn to for inspiration, and that's why we can't wait to get our hands on whatever he churns out. [W.L.N.]

Rhapsody app on your desktop or mobile device.

Get 3 months of Rhapsody for $1 and listen to millions of songs.

Available on iOS, Android, Windows and Web.