Sound And Vision: 10 Things to Look Forward to in 2012 (Featuring Soundgarden, the Stone Roses and Freddie Mercury — Alive Again!)

A US Presidential election, Summer Olympics mania (London’s calling”again!), Rihanna’s film debut (in Battleship, out May 18) and the possible end of the world. Those are a few of the things I won’t be looking forward to in the coming year. Fortunately, music will offer enough thrills to distract us from all that we’d rather forget. Here’s what’s topping my 2012 anticipation list:

1. Madonna makes fiftysomething fabulous all over again. Although I’m curious to hear what Madonna does with Nicki Minaj and M.I.A. on the final cut of “Gimme All Your Luvin'” when the single is released the last week of January, that’s not the main reason I’m excited about her upcoming twelfth studio album (due in late March), her first since turning fifty in 2008.  “Masterpiece,” a new song featured in the Madonna-directed W.E. (which goes into wide release on February 3, two days before her Super Bowl XLVI performance) and her reunion with her Ray of Light producer William Orbit, is an achingly beautiful ballad that recalls the best of ’90s Madonna while gently proving that she can still create pop magic all on her own.

2. Madonna vs. Elton John vs. Mary J. Blige vs. Chris Cornell vs. Glenn Close (!) at the Golden Globes. Too bad the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has disqualified Madonna’s “Masterpiece” from competition at the February 27 Oscars. Why? Because it’s the second song featured during the closing credits, and eligible songs must either be in the body of the film, or the tune that plays when the credits start to roll. Oscar’s loss. The January 15 Golden Globes showdown featuring five monsters of pop, rock and soul and acting will be just as star-studded”and as tough to call”as George Clooney vs. Brad Pitt vs. Leonardo DiCaprio vs. Ryan Gosling in Best Actor in a Motion Picture Drama.

3. A grunge revival? Even if Chris Cornell fails to score a Golden Globe or an Oscar nod, he’s got something to look forward to next year: He and his former Soundgarden compatriots will release their first album together in sixteen years this spring. If we’re not going to get reunion music from the Smiths, the Police or ABBA anytime in this lifetime, this might be one of the next best things. Until then, I’ll keep cranking “Outshined” at full blast.

4. Freddie Mercury’s screen resurrection. Can Mercury do for Borat star Sacha Baron Cohen, who will play the Queen frontman in the 2012 biopic A Kind of Magic, what Ray did for Jamie Foxx? Anything is possible. (Five years ago, who knew we’d one day be calling Mo’Nique, then best known for junk like Soul Plane and Phat Girlz, an Oscar winner?) Kudos to the producers (or to whomever is responsible for giving movies their titles) for going with my favorite Queen song, which was a No. 1 hit in UK but missed the US Top 40 by two notches in 1986.

5. Ringing in the new year with La Roux’s Elly Jackson on Absolutely Fabulous. I’d already be psyched about the return of Ab Fab after a more than six-year break, with a three-episode arc, beginning on Christmas Day. Toss in Jackson, whose second album with La Roux should be dropping sometime over the course of the next twelve months, on the New Year’s Day episode, and I’m so in. Will she perform “Bulletproof” with Patsy and Edina? I’d drink to that!

6. Glee enrolls Gloria Estefan and Ricky Martin. I’m not sure what thrills me more”that Santana, always one of my favorite Glee kids, is finally getting an onscreen mom this winter (played by Estefan), or seeing if Martin, playing a new Spanish teacher”a role Gwyneth Paltrow took on last season”will get to kiss Mr. Schuester, too, in his January episode.

7. Whitney Houston as Jordin Sparks’ stage mom. Will Sparkle, the upcoming remake of the 1976 film about a trio of singing sisters (opening August 10) do for sixth-season American Idol winner Sparks what Dreamgirls did for season-three loser Jennifer Hudson? Can Houston, playing the mother of Sparks’ sisters act, get Bodyguard-hot again with her first big-screen role since 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife? (A possible 2012 sequel to 1995’s Waiting to Exhale is reportedly in the works, too.) Even if the answers are no, the soundtrack, featuring new songs from R. Kelly, will undoubtedly be filled with music that lives up to both the title and the Aretha Franklin-sung, Curtis Mayfield-composed and produced tracks from the original film.

8. Shania does Vegas! Following the Las Vegas lead of Celine Dion, Cher and Elton John, Shania Twain will debut Still the One, her two-year stand at Caesers Palace, on December 1. Let’s hope a new album is part of the package.

9. Adam Lambert’s Trespassing Glamberts rejoice! Your American Idol will finally release his second album on March 20, and the first single, “Better Than I Know Myself,” is already out on iTunes. It’s not groundbreaking stuff (Lambert plays it safer as a recording artist than one might have expected, judging from his performances during Idol‘s eighth season), but it’s still solid pop that should ensure his continued upward trajectory.

10. The third coming of the Stone Roses. Part of me would like to remember them the way they were (young, beautiful and desperate to be adored), but it’s hard not to go a little gaga over a world tour (beginning June 29 in Manchester) and a new album from a band that once seemed only slightly more likely to reunite than the Smiths. Will the leading voice of the UK’s late-’80s/early ’90s “Madchester” musical movement still be worthy of adoration one and a half decades after 1996’s Second Coming? I’d bet my “fools gold” on it.