The traditional album release cycle is extinct. No longer do mainstream artists need lengthy wind-ups to generate hype for their long-awaited new releases. In the last decade, the biggest musicians in the world have been dismantling the format—Frank Ocean’s Blonde, Kendrick Lamar’s Damn., plus releases from Jay-Z, Beyonce, Ariana Grande, and Taylor Swift have all changed the game. And in the last two years, the pandemic has only made things more complicated. The traditional release-the-album-then-tour-the-album cycle has been impossible. Artists have been left to basically do whatever the hell they want. Run The Jewels decided to release albums early. Swift’s Folklore and Evermore dropped just months apart. Tyler, the Creator gave fans only a week’s notice for Call Me if You Get Lost, one of 2021’s best albums.
2022, mere weeks into it, clearly looks to continue the. trend. Three days into the new year, The Weeknd—who has dominated the last two years—announced that his new album, Dawn FM, would release that Friday. It’s a hell of a start, one that promises good things, at least musically, to come. From Mitski to Charli XCX, Father John Misty, Earl Sweatshirt, BTS, SZA, Kendrick Lamar, and more, these are the most anticipated albums of 2022.
FKA twigs, ‘Caprisongs’ (January 14)
In 2019, FKA twigs’ vulnerable and stunning Magdalene stunned. Since then, she’s released a handful of singles, most recently the heart-rattling “Tears in the Club” with The Weeknd, but a formal collection finally looms. In October, she shared that she’d written an entire batch of songs during quarantine and that, “It was really amazing because I worked predominantly with an amazing artist and producer called El Guincho, and I did the whole thing with pretty much all of the collaborators over FaceTime.” And on Jan. 6 she announced a new mixtape called Caprisongs, which “is my journey back to myself through my amazing collaborators and friends.”
Earl Sweatshirt, ‘Sick!’ (January 14)
The second Friday of 2022 is looking like it’ll be a damn good day for music. In the years since 2018’s incredible Some Rap Songs, Earl Sweatshirt has released a handful of singles along with the infatuating Feet of Clay EP. But, as he announced in December, his fifth full-length will drop on Jan. 14. (He also shared the new track, “Tabula Rasa,” featuring Armand Hammer.) As Earl said of the project in an announcement: “Sick! is my humble offering of 10 songs recorded in the wake of the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and its subsequent lockdowns … Before the virus I had been working on an album I named after a book I used to read with my mother (The People Could Fly). Once the lockdowns hit, people couldn’t fly anymore.”
Mitski, ‘Laurel Hell’ (February 4)
After four critically acclaimed albums, Mitski’s 2018 release, Be the Cowboy, successfully broke her into the mainstream, peaking at 52 on the Billboard 200. In 2021, she finally announced Cowboy’s long-awaited follow-up, Laurel Hell, alongside a handful of captivating singles. In a statement about the new release Mitski said she “needed love songs about real relationships that are not power struggles to be won or lost. I needed songs that could help me forgive both others and myself. I make mistakes all the time. I don’t want to put on a front where I’m a role model, but I’m also not a bad person. I needed to create this space mostly for myself where I sat in that gray area.”
Big Thief, ‘Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You’ (February 11)
Big Thief has been running. The Brooklyn band released two albums (U.F.O.F and Two Hands) five months apart in 2019, both of which garnered them Grammy nominations. The the next year, lead vocalist Adrianne Lenker released a two-part solo album and, in 2021, the group produced a mind-boggling 45 songs during just four recording sessions. They cut that set down to 20 tracks for the upcoming album Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe In You. “One of the things that bonds us together as a band is pure magic,” Lenker said in a statement with the announcement last November. “I think we all have the same guide and none of us have ever spoken what it is because we couldn’t name it, but somehow, we are all going for the same thing, and when we hit it… we all know it’s it, but none of us to this day, or maybe ever, will be able to articulate in words what the ‘it’ is. Something about it is magic to me.”
Charli XCX, ‘Crash’ (March 18)
Charli XCX somehow manages to craft intergalactic soundtracks out of completely human, real world emotion. How I’m Feeling Now, her 2020 release, transported the anxieties of the moment through glittering future-pop. In the weird months of lockdown that followed, Charli released a handful of singles, and had to cancel an appearance on SNL during the Omicron spike in mid-December. Her fifth studio album marches on, however, and is due out on March 18, with an impressive list of collaborators in tow, including Caroline Polachek, Christine and the Queens, Rina Sawayama, Oneohtrix Point Never, A. G. Cook, the 1975’s George Daniel, and Ariel Rechtshaid.
Father John Misty, ‘Chloe and the Next 20th Century’ (April 8)
Every generation gets its own sardonic, joker of a poet, and Father John Misty just so happens to be ours. But for all his cynical punchlines and his calculated goading, his music remains profound. After back-to-back releases—Pure Comedy and God’s Favorite Customer in 2017 and 2018—Josh Tillman, FJM’s born name, has remained relatively quiet. But in early January, he announced his fifth studio album alongside the video for the new single “Funny Girl.”
Jack White, ‘Fear of the Dawn’ and ‘Entering Heaven Alive’ (April 8, July 22)
Blues rock’s fearless leader is going to have a big year in 2022. Following his third solo album, 2018’s Boarding House Reach, and the long-awaited, third Raconteurs album in 2019, Jack White will release not one but two new full-length records this year. Fear of the Dawn is out April 8, and Entering Heaven Alive is out July 22, both on his Third Man Records. The former includes a collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip (White had previously appeared on the group’s final studio album, We Got It from Here… Thank You 4 Your Service, in 2016).
SZA, TBA (TBA)
It is hard to believe that SZA’s masterful debut full-length came out nearly five (5!) years ago. Considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of all time, in the time since she has appeared on a handful of massive chart-smashing tracks. In the last two years, it’s started to feel like she’s winding up for a proper release. In 2020, she sent out a few tweets implying that her label Top Dawg Entertainment had been delaying her new music. And in the months since, she’s released a flurry of new instant smash hits, including “Hit Different,” “Good Days,” and “I Hate U.”
BTS, TBA (TBA)
The biggest band in the world can’t slow down for too long. After dominating, well, pretty much everything, in the last few years, Big Hit Music announced in December that Jin, Suga, J-Hope, RM, Jimin, V, and Jungkook would be taking a well-deserved rest. “We kindly ask once again that you show consideration for their need to enjoy ordinary and free, everyday lives while solely concentrating on themselves, albeit for a short while, during their period of rest,” the statement said. But! The statement also said that “BTS will be focusing on preparing for the concert and release of the new album that will mark the beginning of a ‘new chapter.’” This includes a March concert in Seoul “to connect and communicate with the fans in-person.” Hopefully, there was at least a little time to chill before getting back to their thrones.
Kendrick Lamar, TBA (TBA)
I will admit that every single year Kendrick Lamar is on every single most anticipated albums list. And, to be completely honest, we’re usually wrong. Genius takes time folks! All that said, 2022 really feels like the year it actually might arrive. After the release of his Pulitzer Prize- and Grammy-winning masterpiece, Damn., in 2017, and the Academy- and Grammy-Award nominated/winning Black Panther soundtrack, Lamar has been in business mode. He launched a creative agency called pgLang and, in August 2021, oklama.com, where he posted an album update: “As I produce my final TDE album, I feel joy to have been a part of such a cultural imprint after 17 years. The Struggles. The Success. And most importantly, the Brotherhood. May the Most High continue to use Top Dawg as a vessel for candid creators. As I continue to pursue my life’s calling.” In February, he’ll appear alongside Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and Eminem at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Which is a good sign. I promise!
Matt Miller is a Brooklyn-based culture/lifestyle writer and music critic whose work has appeared in Esquire, Forbes, The Denver Post, and documentaries.
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