Cadenza’s most anticipated pop culture of 2016

Cadenza is always excited about pop culture, but 2016 has promised us more than a few fragrant gems to drool over. Here are the shiniest apples of our collective longing eye:

The return of Frank Ocean

You may have seen the memes, the desperate pleas on Twitter for Frank Ocean to come out of hiding, because, you know, it’s been over THREE YEARS since he released his previous album, “Channel Orange.” This is not an insignificant gap, but it feels like an eternity for two reasons:

1. He said his new album, reportedly titled “Boys Don’t Cry,” would be released last July and neither he nor his team have commented on why, five months later, we have yet to receive a single track from the album.

2. His silence is particularly troubling because he has been positioned, by critics and by his marketing materials, as a reclusive genius. The last rhythm and blues star to be defined by the reclusive genius tag so fully is D’Angelo, who took a 14-year break between his second and third albums. Amid (unverified) reports of his scrapping the album and starting anew, it’s not difficult to see Ocean disappearing for another five years. If you’re inclined to fret over artists’ creative processes, you can view these past three years as the early stages of an extended, monk-like hiatus.

I do not believe Frank Ocean will disappear for the next decade, and while I’m not certain we’ll see “Boys Don’t Cry” this year, I think it’s more likely than not. But don’t be surprised if we’re having this conversation five years from now. — Mark Matousek

“Rogue One: A Star Wars Story”

Ten years we waited for a new Star Wars movie. Ten years during which fans didn’t know what the future of the franchise might be or where George Lucas might take the characters that have so defined popular culture.

And then it all happened: Lucas sold the rights to Disney, Disney made “Episode VII: The Force Awakens” and massive amounts of money followed. Fans disagree on the merit of the “The Force Awakens,” but one fact is clear now: “Star Wars” movies are back, and they’re not going away any time soon. In fact, Disney chairman Bob Iger said only a few days ago that the “Star Wars” movie franchise could go on indefinitely. In other words, we may never know how the story ends. If Disney succeeds, we will die and “Star Wars” will just keep going.

But that’s all still far, far away. What we have now, this year, is a Star Wars movie that will prove the future potential of the series, a standalone story that takes place before “Episode IV: A New Hope,” about the team of rebels that stole the Death Star plans. It’s a clever premise, setting up a heist-style movie with which director Gareth Edwards (“Godzilla”) can hopefully have some fun. At its best, “Rogue One” can be a chance to flesh out parts of the “Star Wars” universe with exciting characters and great storytelling.

That, after all, is the reason the “Star Wars” expanded universe has always been so popular. It allows a multitude of storytellers from different backgrounds to form this piece of science fiction into a body of work that relates to more and more people. By creating non-episodic “Star Wars” movies, Disney can, hopefully, open up such a space for directors, actors and writers. — Noah Jodice

“Full Frontal with Samantha Bee”

Sure, part of the reason why the upcoming premiere of TBS’s “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” is such a big deal is because it will be the only female-fronted late-night talk show on television at the moment. It’s about time we see another woman behind a late-night desk, especially considering that all the late-night shake-ups of 2014-2015 did absolutely nothing to change this unfortunate gender imbalance.

That being said, Samantha Bee is much more than just her gender: She is a former “Daily Show” correspondent (a position she held for a record 12 years), a whip-smart journalist and an all-around hilarious comedian. Just look at her Occupy Wall Street interviews, or at her report on custody rights for rapists or at her spot-on reaction to her exclusion from Vanity Fair’s late-night host photo shoot. It remains to be seen how, exactly, Bee will differentiate “Full Frontal” from the rest of the pack, but given her wacky sense of humor and extensive experience in the field, it shouldn’t be too hard for her to put her own unique stamp on the late-night scene. — Katharine Jaruzelski

The return of the Wrens

The Wrens are a rock band from New Jersey who, according to their website, have been “keeping folks waiting since 1989.” The most recent wait has been particularly grueling—over 15 years since their most recent album, 2003’s “The Meadowlands.” Released seven years after its predecessor (1996’s “Secaucus”), “The Meadowlands” sounds like what happens when four suburban kids give up their dreams of being rock stars, spend 20 years as office drones and then reconvene to blow off two decades of existential angst.

After years of false starts, the band announced that its follow-up was finished and sent to their label last July. It appears to be set for a 2016 release, which would align perfectly with my terrifying transition into adulthood. —Mark Matousek

Invasion of the “Walking Dead” franchise

2015 saw AMC expand “The Walking Dead” from one hit show to a hit spin-off show, with increased ratings on its post-episode talk show and a relatively successful commercial-break- series-turned-web-series. First up in the new year is the Valentine’s Day massacre, when “The Walking Dead” returns for the second half of season six and introduces a new band of survivors to the Alexandria clan. Inevitably, this will lead to deaths of veteran cast members as new characters gain more screen time. In April, “Fear the Walking Dead” will premiere its sophomore season and attempt to live up to its record-breaking debut. Though there are many changes and expansions underway, I have no doubt that seasoned fans and new viewers alike will be talking about “The Walking Dead” throughout 2016. —Lindsay Tracy

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