For a while there, it was hard to remember if Taylor Swift's 1989 actually came out in 2015 or 2014. That album's larger-than-life tour (and the endless parade of special guests it featured) kept Taylor in the headline for most of this year, and before all that, the "Bad Blood" music video debuted and exploded everything in front of us. Taylor was permanently on our radars this year.
Contrast her visibility in 2015, though, with that of Beyoncé. Or Katy Perry. Or noted 1989 World Tour guest Lorde. The differences? Apart from a few pop-ups here and there, those pop stars have stayed largely out of the spotlight for the past 12 months, for a variety of reasons. It's weird to think about how much we take these folks for granted until they gradually recede from our public consciousness.
We couldn't let the year end without rounding up what these artists were up to, even if it wasn't music, in 2015. Here's hoping we see more of them -- and hear some new music, maybe? -- in 2016
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What She Did: Because she spent all of 2014 promoting and performing behind her fifth album, Beyoncé (which she surprised-dropped at the tail end of 2013), Bey took it easy in 2015. She earned it, man. Bey still popped up to take home three Grammys, grace the cover of Vogue's history-making September issue, headline Made In America and sing "Drunk In Love" with Ed Sheeran at the Global Citizen Festival in late summer. All on top of, you know, being the mom of a toddler and everything.
What We Hope For 2016: Coldplay teased us with new Bey vocals on their new song "Hymn For The Weekend," so we can't do anything else but hope for her sixth LP to drop next year.
What She Did: We got "FourFiveSeconds" at the beginning of the year, then "Bitch Better Have My Money"...and then, radio silence. No ANTI, the long-rumored #R8 album that nonetheless still has a title and official cover art -- not even after she canceled her performance at the Victoria's Secret Fashion Show apparently to finish it.
But it's not fair to Rih Rih to only highlight what she didn't do. She confirmed a beauty line in the works, launched a new fragrance called "RiRi" and joined "The Voice" as a key adviser. Rih also voiced teen Tip in the CGI sci-fi film "Home" alongside Jim Parsons and Steve Martin and soundtracked the movie with a unique concept album. So, yeah. She certainly kept busy.
What We Hope For 2016: ANTI. No more excuses!
What She Did: How do you top two Grammys (including one for Song Of The Year), whole slew of other awards and a spot on Forbes' list of world-changers before you even turn 20? By collaborating with Disclosure and roaring back into the spotlight in a badass, unexpectedly sexually charged music video, that's how. The "Magnets" video definitely let us see a new side of the now-19-year-old Lorde, and a few notable public appearances -- especially at Kanye West's Yeezy Season 2 and, uh, "Saturday Night Live" -- let us know she was still holding it down.
What We Hope For 2016: A proper Pure Heroine follow-up would be nice, sure. But we'd even take an EP at this point. Or a digital single. Or an Instagram clip. Or a Snapchat.
What She Did: Oh, nothing -- just performed in the the world record-setting, most-watched, highest-rated Super Bowl halftime show in the history of the event. Left Shark, guys -- remember? Missy Elliott and Lenny Kravitz cameos? Riding a star across the sky? But beyond that brief, sparkly moment in February, we didn't hear much from Katy in 2015 (though she popped up in the "Bitch I'm Madonna" music video with, like, everyone in the world). She also has an app in the works called, fittingly, "Katy Perry Pop."
What We Hope For 2016: Another album would be nice, and there's a strong chance it'll happen, as Prism dropped in 2013 (and Teenage Dream came out three years before that). So, mathematically, we're about due for more Katy jams.
What She Did: Before her second album, Sucker, dropped in late 2014, Charli's name kept popping up with other artists everywhere -- Ryn Weaver, Sky Ferreira and, of course, Iggy Azalea all come to mind. She took that album on the road for nearly half the year on a joint tour with Bleachers. But since she's also the undisputed champ of '90s fashion in addition to being a killer songwriter, she focused her 2015 on some style pursuits: namely, an entire clothing line with Boohoo. In November, Charli also debuted a documentary on feminism she shot with the BBC called "The F-Word And Me," where she interviewed some notable women in the music industry.
What We Hope For 2016: More tunes like "Vroom Vroom" and "Girls Night Out," which we heard some quick snippets of throughout the year. More of her collaborations with SOPHIE, please.
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What She Did: Scrapped the entire album she'd worked on with Pharrell and Benny Blanco because it just "didn't feel right." Started over, then bared her soul for the extremely personal "Used To Love You" music video. Got endlessly scrutinized for her public breakup with husband Gavin Rossdale and new romance with fellow "The Voice" judge Blake Shelton. Hinted that we'll be hearing music that's more "her" in the coming months. Gwen's year has had its share of ups and downs, but 2016 seems like it could just be her year.
What We Hope For 2016: More of that "authentic" music she talked about and, hey, maybe even that new No Doubt album she teased all the way back in 2014. Since Tragic Kingdom just celebrated its 20th anniversary, it's only fitting.
What She Did: After pairing up with Tony Bennett for an old-school collab album, Gaga gradually crept back into her weirdness with a starring role on "American Horror Story: Hotel." The creepy factor will apparently influence her next album, as she said she's rediscovered "the art of darkness" through it, so, yeah. That's the Gaga we've missed -- though we support her step back from music in 2015 because, as she said, she was "going to die."
What We Hope For 2016: The Artpop follow-up we've been salivating for, inspired by all the darkness in the world.
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What He Did: For one thing, JT became a father with wife Jessica Biel in April, when his son, Silas Randall, was born. For another, he harkened back to his country-folk days of 2013 (when he appeared in "Inside Llewyn Davis") and duetted with Chris Stapleton at the CMT Awards. He also teamed up with Alfonso Ribeiro to do the "Carlton" dance at a golf tournament -- but, yeah. We kinda miss his own music, not gonna lie.
What We Hope For 2016: We know JT is teaming up with director Jonathan Demme for a concert film based on his 20/20 Experience tour and that he'll be soundtracking his wife's film "The Devil And The Deep Blue Sea" as well as lending his voice to the "Trolls" animated film alongside Anna Kendrick. So, it's looking like we still have some time to wait until the next proper album.
What He Did: Guys, Usher got low-key married to his girlfriend, Grace Miguel, back in September! Good for them. He also popped up to sing "That's Life" at CBS' "Sinatra 100" special honoring the 100th birthday of Frank Sinatra. Other than that, Usher's 2015 was pretty chill, considering one of his big musical moments was joining Chris Brown, Martin Garrix and Wale on certain tracks throughout the year.
What We Hope For 2016: Seeing as how his last album, Looking 4 Myself, in 2012, it's about time we got something -- anything, really -- from Mr. Raymond.
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What She Did: After a dynamite appearance on 2014's "Bang Bang" with Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, it was expected that "The Voice UK" judge Jessie J would chill a bit and let the debris clear in 2015. And chill she did, though she also emerged to rap Nicki's part because she can. Jessie also underwent surgery over the summer for an undisclosed reason -- nothing to do with her voice (unlike a lot of other singers these days). And of course, she kept up with regular social media posts that displayed her effervescent personality.
What We Hope For 2016: A follow-up to 2014's Sweet Talker would be cool. We wanna see if Jessie's got another scorcher like "Bang Bang" still to come.
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What She Did: VEGAS, MAN. Her show, "Britney: Piece Of Me," has been going strong at Las Vegas' Planet Hollywood since 2014, and she revealed this year that she's staying cozy there for two more years (at least). But Britney also dropped "Pretty Girls" halfway through the year with Iggy Azalea and popped up on Giorgio Moroder's "Tom's Diner" cover, getting us pumped for a proper ninth album to drop anytime now. Based the hints she teased us with throughout the year -- with "long" days of recording and photos of "working hard" -- and based on her on-point "Jane The Virgin" appearance, we'd say 2k16 might just belong to Britney.
What We Hope For 2016: Album #B9, whatever it ends up being called.