Photo-Illustration: Vulture; Photos by Getty Images
If 2021 felt like a strange purgatory for artists who released an album but never really got to tour it, then 2022 promised to either be some heaven where concerts and festivals could exist without disruption or … more of our current hell (looking like the former so far, but we’ll see!). According to lots of promises and teasers made in the final months and moments of 2021, everyone from Father John Misty to Kehlani is unearthing albums from the vaults where they’ve been stored, awaiting a live audience. Some musicians in particular, like FKA twigs, the Weeknd, and Earl Sweatshirt, have already dropped projects that they started crafting in the early void of pandemic, two whole years ago — enough time for the concept of the quarantine album to run its course. So while tons of long-teased LPs from music’s biggest stars, such as BTS, Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Lizzo, and SZA, have yet to be fully confirmed, the new potential stadium-tour circuit signals an optimistic future for heavy hitters to come down the pipeline this year. Here are the records we’re looking forward to the most this spring.
Since signing with Atlantic Records at age 13, Charli XCX has repeatedly implied that she has had to fight to create the sprawling, experimental pop she’s celebrated for today. As if to finally capitulate to major-label desires, the 29-year-old has admitted she’s going “ultra pop star” and “sell your soul” for her final album under the contract, Crash. So early singles, like the ’80s-inspired dance banger “Good Ones” and “New Shapes,” a synth-pop collaboration with Christine and the Queens and Caroline Polachek, seem like radio-friendly plays, at least compared to the hyperpop of 2020’s How I’m Feeling Now. But armed with gory album art, Morticia cosplay, and lots of demonic social-media posts, Charli keeps hinting that something dark is afoot. “Is this a cry for help or just consistent branding?” one might ask after glancing at Charli’s Instagram. And maybe that’s the point.
Rosalía is the rare flamenco singer to become a mega pop star — a credit to 2018’s El Mal Querer, an adventurous project that brought a traditional art form into avant-garde pop. Since then, she has risen to global prominence and branched out into other genres like reggaeton, dembow, and experimental club. She’s now gearing up to release her third album, whose first single, “La Fama,” a Weeknd-featuring bachata duet, seems to indicate more sonic roaming. Yet the title Motomami seems like a callback to the car culture of her hometown of Sant Esteve Sesrovires, which she has frequently referenced in music videos with imagery of motorcycles and tuned-up cars.
After gaining global attention for her 2019 hit “Toast,” Jamaican wunderkind Koffee took the 2020 Grammy for Best Reggae Album at age 19, making her the only woman and youngest person ever to win in the category. Now 22, she’s gearing up to release her long-awaited debut LP, Gifted. It includes the previously shared singles “Lockdown,” “West Indies,” and “Pull Up,” which showcases more of Koffee’s bright, self-assured take on dancehall. The singer-songwriter, who has already made tracks with collaborators from around the world — including Gunna, J Hus, Daniel Caesar, Cruel Santino, and John Legend — has also announced a North American tour around the project for this summer.
Though country artist Maren Morris leaned deeper into pop and R&B with her 2019 album, Girl, she says that her third album will return to the “Texas, rootsy style that [she] grew up in.” The forthcoming record, Morris’s first since releasing a debut project with the country supergroup the Highwomen, got a teaser in December. “Pedal down, 2022,” the singer-songwriter wrote cryptically on Instagram. Its lead single, “Circles Around This Town,” is a highlight.
Rave & Roses is the debut studio album from Rema, the Benin City, Nigeria–based pop artist who started gaining international buzz in 2019 for his exuberant blend of Afropop, Afrobeats, and trap music, which he has since officially dubbed Afrorave. The 21-year-old’s profile has only grown after working with everyone from Skepta, Bad Gyal, Aluna, and, most recently, FKA twigs for their CAPRISONGS collaboration “Jealousy.” His forthcoming LP, which includes the singles “Soundgasm” and “Calm Down,” will touch on a variety of topics, including “my pains, my sorrows, my happy times,” Rema told NME.
Phife Dawg, Forever (March 22)
Destroyer, Labyrinthitis (March 25)
Placebo, Never Let Me Go (March 25)
Red Hot Chili Peppers leaned into their signature psychedelic funk-rock sound with “Black Summer,” the first single from their 12th studio album, Unlimited Love. The follow-up to 2016’s The Getaway sees the return of guitarist John Frusciante, whose last project with the band was 2006’s Stadium Arcadium. “Our only goal is to get lost in the music,” RHCP said in a statement about making the album. The LP, produced by longtime collaborator Rick Rubin, will be supported by an upcoming stadium tour, which has a wide range of opening guests from A$AP Rocky and Thundercat to Beck and St. Vincent.
Camila Cabello’s third studio album, Familia, will be a return to her roots, prompted by the singer-songwriter’s time spent with her family in Miami during the pandemic. Its exuberant first single “Don’t Go Yet,” which sees Cabello singing in both Spanish and English, was inspired by the Latin music that Cabello listened to in her youth, including fellow Cuban artist Celia Cruz and her 1998 salsa hit “La Vida Es Un Carnaval,” she told Billboard. “This album to me means community,” she added about the follow-up to 2019’s Romance.
Josh Tillman, noted folk-rock philosophizer and LSD microdoser, is prepping his fifth studio album as Father John Misty. In the four years since the release of 2018’s God’s Favorite Customer, the Los Angeles musician picked up more pop collaborations with Khalid and Post Malone. To announce this next project, Tillman sent out a vinyl to a handful of fans that featured a message detailing the 11-track album. “Is this real? It is,” he said on the recording over slowed-down music audio. “This is the album. You’re listening to it right now. That’s nice.” Tillman then dropped the first single called “Funny Girl,” which sees the singer leaning into a jazzy, musical-theater vibe.
Blues-rock stalwart and Third Man Records founder Jack White has two new full-length projects landing this year. His fifth and sixth studio albums follow 2018’s Boarding House Reach, an adventurous project that saw the former White Stripes member delving into art rock and even … rap. Fear of the Dawn, the first of the two forthcoming LPs, includes the ripping opening track “Taking Me Back,” as well as a feature from Q-Tip for a song called “HI-DE-HO.”
Let’s Eat Grandma, the British duo of Rosa Walton and Jenny Hollingworth, started making music together at age 13 and spent the rest of their adolescence creating whimsical, unraveling art pop. Now no longer teens, the duo is releasing their third album, Two Ribbons, whose singles already display a deepening in the artists’ sound and emotional acuity. “Hall of Mirrors,” inspired by dating a woman, is built on a metaphor “for discovering and exploring parts of myself that I was bringing to life,” Walton explained, while the album’s title track aims to touch on “the visceral emotions of grief,” said Hollingworth.
Since releasing her last solo record, 2019’s Wildcard, country-music star Miranda Lambert hasn’t slowed down. Last year, she dropped the Grammy-nominated The Marfa Tapes with Jack Ingram and Jon Randall, as well as the Christmas album Hell of a Holiday, with the Pistol Annies. Now she’s gearing up to release her ninth studio album, Palomino, which is also the term for a gold-colored horse breed originally from the southwestern United States. Co-produced by Lambert alongside Randall and Luke Dick, the full-length effort features an appearance from the B-52’s, as well as a cover of Mick Jagger’s “Wandering Spirit.”
Though Girlpool first gained attention in the mid 2010s for their DIY take on indie folk, the duo of Avery Tucker and Harmony Tividad have since evolved into songwriters not afraid of addressing thorny themes of inner conflict and transformation as they’ve adopted a more shadowy and layered indie-pop sound. While they initially considered calling their upcoming album Sin Boy, they later chose to go with Forgiveness, since it better suited “the vast emotional playground we were creating,” Tividad told Rolling Stone. The follow-up to 2019’s What Chaos Is Imaginary was produced by Yves Rothman and is preceded by singles “Lie Love Lullaby,” a dark industrial-inflected pop song, and “Faultline,” a dreamy yet emotionally anguished indie-rock ballad.
As Toro y Moi, Chaz Bear creates uncontained indie rock that spans everything from psychedelia to chilled-out disco and R&B. Judging by singles “Postman” and “Magazine,” the Bay Area–based artist continues this sprawling sense of experimentation with Mahal, his seventh studio album under the moniker and first under Dead Oceans. Since releasing his last studio effort, 2019’s Outer Peace, Bear has released a mixtape called “Soul Trash” and shared the instrumentals for his 2010 debut album, Causers of This, and 2011’s Underneath the Pine. For the new project, he collaborated with Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Salami Rose Joe Louis, Sofie, and Mattson 2. In a statement, he wrote, “I wanted to make a record that featured more musicians on it than any other record of mine.”
Thomas Rhett, Where We Started (April 1)
The Linda Lindas, Growing Up (April 8)
Orville Peck, Bronco (April 8)
Wet Leg, Wet Leg (April 8)
Kurt Vile, (watch my moves) (April 15)
Swedish House Mafia, Paradise Again (April 15)
Jason Aldean, Georgia (April 22)
Bloc Party, Alpha Games (April 29)
After teasing a new project for two years, Arcade Fire has officially announced their upcoming album. We’s first two-part single is “The Lightning I, II,” a jangly indie rock anthem that feels as triumphant as the band’s material from the early 2000s. The new LP, a follow-up to 2017’s Everything Now, was produced by Nigel Godrich, alongside bandleaders Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, and is conceptually split up into two halves: “I” and “We.” With the announcement, Butler shared a beat poem-like statement on We that references the likes of Carl Jung, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Buddha: “The hipsters called it jazz / The hippies called it love / And we call it WE,” he wrote.
Belle and Sebastian, the long-running indie pop act fronted by Stuart Murdoch, are back with their first new studio album in seven years. A Bit of Previous, the follow-up to 2015’s Girls in Peacetime Want to Dance, was made in the group’s hometown of Glasgow, making it the first B&S LP that was fully recorded in the city since 1999’s Fold Your Hands Child. The project is previewed by early singles “Unnecessary Drama,” a punchy, harmonica-laden indie-rock track, and the more sober “If They’re Shooting at You,” which arrived with a music video that compiled images by photographers covering the ongoing war in Ukraine.
Ibeyi are the Afro-Cuban French twin duo of Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz, whose experimental offerings welcome elements of jazz, electronic soul, trip-hop, and the music of their ancestral roots in Cuba and West Africa. Their forthcoming third studio album, Spell 31, was inspired by the ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead and produced by their XL Recordings label head, Richard Russell. The project includes collaborations with Jorja Smith, BERWYN, and Pa Salieu, who appears on the single “Made of Gold.” Most recently, Ibeyi shared the Shakira-referencing song “Sister 2 Sister,” an ode to their sisterly bond.
After taking a five-year hiatus ending in 2019, blues rockers the Black Keys have come back in full force. Dropout Boogie is their third studio album in four years, and its first single, “Wild Child,” hearkens back to the raw anthemic sound that the band became known for two decades ago. The follow-up to 2021’s Delta Kream was written by Dan Auerbach and Patrick Carney and sees contributions from Billy F. Gibbons (ZZ Top), Greg Cartwright (Reigning Sound), and producer Angelo Petraglia (Kings of Leon). “This one, we thought deeply about what we were doing but we never struggled with anything,” Carney said of making Dropout Boogie in a Rolling Stone interview. “No big disagreements.”
Jack Harlow, Come Home the Kids Miss You (May 6)
Sunflower Bean, Headful Of Sugar (May 6)
Kevin Morby, This Is A Photograph (May 13)
Florence and the Machine, Dance Fever (May 13)
Coheed and Cambria, Vaxis II: A Window Of The Waking Mind (May 27)
Def Leppard, Diamond Star Halos (May 27)
Liam Gallagher, C’MON YOU KNOW (May 27)
When 100 gecs, the duo of Laura Les and Dylan Brady, released their 2019 album 1000 gecs, little did they know that their genre-blending freneticism would fuel the ascent of a movement dubbed hyperpop. The two have since been plotting a follow-up titled 10000 gecs (their debut release on Atlantic Records), whose writing process consisted of paring down 4,000 demos to about 12 songs until they decided to completely start over, the duo told Pitchfork. They’ve since come up with new tracks like “Doritos and Fritos” and “Frog on the Floor,” as well as the ska-inflected single “mememe.”
For two decades, it was unclear whether the world would ever get more than the three Aaliyah records that broke new ground in pop and R&B in the late ’90s and early 2000s. Though her posthumous album is now finally arriving, some listeners don’t know what to make of the project, which is being issued by the late singer’s divisive uncle, Barry Hankerson, the Blackground Records founder and sole owner of her catalogue who pushed to put her music on streaming services for the first time last year against the wishes of her estate. Hankerson now promises that Unstoppable will include features from Drake, Future, Ne-Yo, Chris Brown, Snoop Dogg, and the Weeknd, who appears on the lead single, “Poison,” plus production from her longtime collaborator Timbaland. It’s set to arrive sometime January.
Kehlani has been a consistent force in R&B for years, but they’re never done evolving. After releasing 2020’s It Was Good Until It Wasn’t, the singer-songwriter pivoted into directing, helming six music videos under their new production company, Honey Shot. Now, they’re gearing up to release their third album, Blue Water Road, which they’ve teased will be “vastly different” from their previous sound and will address “love and coming into gayness.” The project’s first offering is the groovy pop single “Altar,” whose music video features Kehlani dancing with the artist and choreographer Diovanna Òbafunmilayo LaBeija.
After Saweetie blew up for her undeniably charismatic 2018 single “Icy Grl,” listeners have been eagerly awaiting the California rap star’s debut album, Pretty Bitch Music, which has repeatedly been pushed back. In the past two years, she’s released four singles that were promoted as PBM singles, including the TikTok earworm “Tap In” and the Doja Cat–featuring “Best Friend,” but has since explained that she needed more time to tweak the project after realizing it “had no soul.” To hold fans over, she’s promised to release her fourth EP, Icy Season, in January.
In between making appearances as one of the internet’s “manic pixie dream boyfriends,” Machine Gun Kelly announced his sixth album by sharing a picture of him and executive producer Travis Barker with matching “born with horns” forearm tattoos. It’s the second time that Kelly is teaming up with the Blink-182 drummer, who helped the rapper pivot to pop-punk with 2020’s Tickets to My Downfall. While he promises a “guitar-heavy” sound, Kelly told Sunday TODAY With Willie Geist that the next project goes “deeper” lyrically, adding that there’s “nothing holding me back from being my true self.”
It’s not an exaggeration to say that the whole world is waiting to see what BTS will do next. While the South Korean septet has been steadily gaining attention for their sharp, expectation-defying songs about mental health and millennial woes, they crossed over into global superstardom with their recent English-language singles: 2020’s “Dynamite,” plus 2021’s “Butter” and “Permission to Dance.” Not having released a studio album in two years, the band seems to know that the next one has to be a true statement, with their label Big Hit Music teasing that the new project will “mark the beginning of a ‘new chapter’” for the group when they return from their (overdue) vacation.
Though some fans grow impatient for the return of Kendrick Lamar, most have accepted that there’s no rushing the process of a Pulitzer Prize–winning rap prophet. The California artist has been relatively quiet since the release of 2017’s DAMN (for which he won that Pulitzer) and his 2018 soundtrack for Black Panther. That is, until he launched a new creative agency and record label with Dave Free called pgLang last spring; he put most of his energy in 2021 into the company’s first release, his 21-year-old cousin Baby Keem’s rap debut The Melodic Blue (on which Lamar featured). Lamar showed rustlings of his own movement back in August, when he announced the existence of something called “Oklama” and revealed that he was working on what will be his final album under his longtime home Top Dawg Entertainment. Now confirmed as a performer for the 2022 Super Bowl halftime show, alongside Dr. Dre and Eminem, who knows what Lamar has in store this year.
Scott Mescudi’s long-teased Netflix musical animated series, Entergalatic (made in collaboration with Black-ish creator Kenya Barris), and its accompanying album are landing later this summer. It seems like the rapper-actor is itching to share new material sooner than that, though; at his December headlining set at Rolling Loud California, Mescudi revealed that an entirely separate album, the follow-up to 2020’s Man on the Moon III: The Chosen, may also land earlier in the year. “I got some tasty surprises and I really am excited about all this new shit, this new music,” he told the crowd before previewing an unreleased song.
Pusha-T blew all expectations out of the water with his Ye–produced 2018 album Daytona, a tight 21 minutes of merciless lyricism and grimy beats. But the rap powerhouse has teased that his next album has “topped Daytona fer sure,” he told Billboard. “One thousand percent.” (He even went so far as to gloat, “Tyler [the Creator] got the album of the year, for now” on the 2021 posthumous Pop Smoke collab “Tell the Vision.”) The new project will reportedly be produced by longtime collaborators West and the Neptunes, with Pusha-T saying that Pharrell, in particular, pushed the rapper to “make compositions” that will set him apart from the competition.
For SZA diehards, it’s no longer a surprise when her album releases get drawn out seemingly to no end. At least, that’s what happened ahead of her 2017 R&B masterpiece Ctrl, and recently again, after the chart peak of her 2020 hit “Good Days,” when the singer once again claimed that her label Top Dawg Entertainment was barring her from putting out music. While the singer-songwriter hasn’t made many promises about what her next project will look like (and definitely not when it’ll see the light of day), it already seems like she wants to take matters into her own hands. In August, SZA self-released three tracks on an anonymous SoundCloud account; by December, one of the songs, “I Hate U,” became another viral hit and was released as an official single.
Normani’s debut album has been hotly anticipated ever since she made her post–Fifth Harmony debut as a solo artist in 2018 with “Love Lies,” a duet with Khalid that became a sleeper hit. Since then, she’s only cemented her rising-star status with a handful more singles, including 2019’s “Motivation,” a bouncy pop–R&B bop that paid homage to the 2000s hits she grew up on, and “Wild Side,” last year’s sensual hit with Cardi B. A meticulous, charismatic dancer, Normani has been relatively tight-lipped regarding details about her album, but recently teased to ET that “summer is going to be lit” and offered a taste of an unreleased song on New Year’s Eve.
Despite releasing her Grammy-winning debut Invasion of Privacy nearly four years ago now, Cardi B has maintained a firm grip on the culture by just, well, being Cardi B. To recap: There was her scene-stealing cameo in 2019’s Hustlers where she pretty much played herself to a T; the incendiary single “WAP” that dominated 2020; and features on last year’s hit songs Lizzo’s “Rumors” and Normani’s “Wild Side,” alongside her own chart-topper “UP.” Though COVID and her second pregnancy made her pause work on her sophomore effort, she confirmed in December that this project is coming this year — sometime when she’s not filming her first starring movie role for the comedy Assisted Living. “I gotta put out this album,” she said on Instagram Live, mapping out her big 2022 ahead.
Are all the rumors true … that Lizzo is releasing a new album? Though the singer and renowned flautist has been putting out music for over a decade now, her 2019 album, Cuz I Love You, skyrocketed her into pop stardom and brought her eight 2020 Grammy nominations, the most of any artist that year. While she hasn’t yet confirmed a follow-up, Lizzo teased that she’s entering a “new era” when she announced the release of her August single “Rumors” with Cardi B, and she has been in the studio with Mark Ronson. On the funk-pop single, which arrived with a Hercules-inspired video, Lizzo sings about rising above public chatter and criticism. When she’s fully ready, there’s no doubt she’ll be back and better than ever.
Danny Brown, Quaranta
Brockhampton, final album
A$AP Rocky, All Smiles
Chloe Bailey, debut album
Megan Thee Stallion
Coi Leray, debut album
Tate McRae, debut album
The Smile (Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Sons Of Kemet’s Tom Skinner), debut album
Denzel Curry, Melt My Eyez See Your Future
Correction: A previous version of this story included the wrong release date for Let’s Eat Grandma’s new album. It has since been updated.