Most Anticipated Albums of Year

Most Anticipated Albums of Year

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 will either be some heaven where concerts and festivals can exist without disruption or … more of our current hell. According to lots of promises and teasers made in the final months and moments of 2021, everyone from Mitski and Charli XCX to Rosalía and 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, are now readying 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, like 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 that we’re looking forward to the most, alongside the rest.

To follow-up the ’80s-villain persona he crafted on 2020’s After Hours, enigma turned pop superstar the Weeknd is welcoming the New Year with Dawn FM, which will feature collaborators Tyler, the Creator; Quincy Jones; Lil Wayne; Oneohtrix Point Never; and his neighbor turned quarantine friend Jim Carrey. (And, of course, a “small cameo” from a Safdie.) He sees the album as a radio station in the car of someone stuck in a purgatory state, “stuck in traffic waiting to reach the light at the end of the tunnel,” he explained to Billboard, adding that it will dabble in “EDM, hip-hop, and three other types of sounds in one song.”

The fourth installment of Gunna’s Drip Season series is imminent, arriving nearly four years after the last one. That doesn’t mean the Atlanta rapper hasn’t been plenty busy, though; since, he’s released his 2018 Drip Harder collaborative mixtape with Lil Baby, plus debut studio album Drip or Drown 2 and its 2020 followup Wunna; helped Young Thug helm 2021’s Slime Language 2, the second compilation album from their label Young Stoner Life; and hopped on tracks by everyone from Nav to Lil Tecca, among others. According to a teaser of a new single shared this week, Drip Season 4 will see appearances from Thugger and Future, likely amid more of Gunna’s labelmates. (And, maybe, if we’re extra-lucky, a cameo from his No. 1 fan.)

FKA twigs has long been whispering of a new project she made in quarantine with remote collaborators, including the Spanish producer El Guincho. So it comes as no surprise that the Capricorn sun singer herself started teasing a mixtape thought to be called Capri Sun at the start of the season (late December to mid-January), beginning with the unveiling of the Weeknd-featuring single “Tears in the Club.” Back in September, twigs teased the follow-up to 2019’s Magdalene as being “really deep, emotional and honest, but hopefully more golden tears than blue,” she wrote on her fan Discord. “I channeled my melancholy differently this time and it was so amazing.” And now, she’s announced the mixtape is out January, officially titled Caprisongs, calling it her “journey back to myself through my amazing collaborators and friends.” The 17-song project will also feature Daniel Caesar, Jorja Smith, Unknown T, Shygirl, Rema, Pa Salieu, and Dystopia.

Before COVID hit, Earl Sweatshirt was hard at work on The People Could Fly, an album named after a book of Black American folktales he used to read with his mother, he revealed in a statement. But lockdown prompted him to switch gears and “lean into the chaos,” inspiring the ten tracks on his upcoming project, aptly named Sick! The follow-up to 2019’s Feet of Clay promises more of Earl’s jazzy experimentations, aided by collaborators Armand Hammer (the New York underground duo of billy woods and Elucid) and Detroit-based Bruiser Brigade’s Zelooperz, as well as producers like Alchemist, Black Noi$e, and Navy Blue.

When he scored two Grammy nominations for his 2019 debut album The Lost Boy, rising rap star Cordae Amari Dunston suddenly had all eyes on him. Now, he’s readying his first full-length under his own name — another debut of sorts — after dropping the YBN acronym after the collective’s disbandment. Following last year’s collaborations with heavy hitters Q-Tip and Young Thug, Cordae plans to put his sharpening vocal dexterity and growing maturity on full display on his upcoming project, From a Bird Eye’s View, which features the Lil Wayne collab “Sinister.”

Olly Alexander has always been the front man of the British electro-pop act Years & Years, but last year, he announced that it’s now his solo project. The actor-singer’s first project in this new era, Night Call, features the dance single “Starstruck”; “Sweet Talker,” a collaboration with the EDM duo Galantis; and “Crave,” a seductive club track whose music video features Alexander as a blue elf creature. “I was writing [the album] from a fantastical space,” he said of the follow-up to 2018’s Palo Santo in a statement. “I wanted to have as much pleasure as possible in the music.”

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.

Cat Power, Covers (January 14)
Elvis Costello & the Imposters, The Boy Named If (January 14)
The Lumineers, Brightside (January 14)
Underoath, Voyeurist (January 14)
The Wombats, Fix Yourself, Not the World (January 14)
Band of Horses, Things Are Great (January 21)
Alice Glass, Prey//IV (January 28)
MØ, Motordrome (January 28)
Pinegrove, 11:11 (January 28)
EarthGang, Ghetto Gods (January 28)
Amber Mark, Three Dimensions Deep (January 28)

On her breakthrough last album, 2018’s Be the Cowboy, Mitski slipped in and out of archetypes: the self-sufficient cowboy, the “icy, repressed woman,” the dutiful housewife, the Hollywood starlet. But for her follow-up Laurel Hell, the indie-pop artist intentionally stripped away the characters so she could “[sit] in a gray area,” she explained in a statement. “I needed love songs about relationships that are not power struggles to be won or lost.” The resulting singles are brutally incisive, like “Working for the Knife,” a song that confronts the trappings of making a career in art, and the explosive synth-pop track, “The Only Heartbreaker,” where she resigns herself as the only one who takes the blame in a relationship.

Big Thief knows how to take the smallest feelings and blow them up into huge rock anthems and emotionally blistering folk songs. The Adrianne Lenker–fronted band sharpens this approach with every new release, most recently 2019’s Two Hands. But now, they’re plotting their most expansive project yet, a 20-track album called Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You. They’ve already released seven singles from the record, some of which, like “Time Escaping” and “Little Things,” feature grooves that seem more unwinding and spasmodic than ever before.

To follow up his 2020 self-titled album, Shamir is releasing a new record called Heterosexuality. “I think this album is me finally acknowledging my trauma,” Shamir said in a statement. The Philly-based singer-songwriter previewed the record with two singles, “Gay Agenda” and “Cisgender,” which each got music videos in which Shamir wears long, white horns on his head.

Animal Collective, Time Skiffs (February 4)
Saba, Few Good Things (February 4)
Korn, Requiem (February 4)
Bastille, Give Me the Future (February 4)
Spoon, Lucifer on the Sofa (February 11)
Alt-J, The Dream (February 11)
Eddie Vedder, Earthling (February 11)
Hurray for the Riff Raff, Life on Earth (February 18)
Beach House, Once Twice Melody (February 18)
Tears for Fears, The Tipping Point (February 25)
Spiritualized, Everything Was Beautiful (February 25)
Dashboard Confessional, All the Truth That I Can’t Tell (February 25)
Johnny Marr, Fever Dreams Pts. 1-4 (February 25)

A decade after he found international stardom with his Eurodance-revivalist hit “Alors on Danse,” Belgian artist Stromae is finally returning to the spotlight. His last project was 2013’s Racine Carrée, an electronic and rap-pop album that touched on digital alienation and absent father figures, but shortly after he went quiet, later citing anxiety and panic attacks. His first album in nine years, Multitude, will include the cumbia-inflected electronic single “Santé,” whose music video pays homage to essential workers around the globe.

Since signing with Atlantic Records at age 13, Charli XCX has repeatedly implied that she’s 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.

Stereophonics, Oochya! (March 4)
Dolly Parton, Run, Rose, Run (March 7)
Bryan Adams, So Happy It Hurts (March 11)
Phife Dawg, Forever (March 22)
Placebo, Never Let Me Go (March 25)

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.

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” this week, which sees the singer leaning into a jazzy, musical-theatre 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.”

Wet Leg, Wet Leg (April 8)
Jason Aldean, Georgia (April 22)
Bloc Party, Alpha Games (April 29)

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’s 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’s frequently referenced in music videos with imagery of motorcycles and tuned-up cars.

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.”

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.”

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.

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.

How else would Grimes follow up 2019’s Miss Anthropocene, an album famously about the “goddess of climate change,” other than with another “space opera” concept record based on an AI courtesan named Claire de Lune? That’s what Claire Boucher has hinted about her forthcoming sixth album Book 1, her first since parting ways with her longtime label 4AD and billionaire boyfriend Elon Musk. She rang in this new era with her fantastical video for the single “Player of Games,” and has teased other songs that could appear on the project — including “100% Tragedy,” a techno track that Grimes shared that is apparently about “having to defeat Azealia Banks.”

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,” arrives this Friday.

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.

One can safely file these two under “but ACTUALLY???” and “soon soon soon.” *heavy sigh*

Danny Brown, Quaranta
Brockhampton, final album
Bad Bunny
A$AP Rocky, All Smiles
Ye, Donda 2
Shenseea, debut album
Frank Ocean
Chloe Bailey, debut album
Megan Thee Stallion
The Linda Lindas, debut album
Avril Lavigne
Coi Leray, debut album
Thomas Rhett, Where We Started and Country Again: Side B
Tate McRae, debut album
Rina Sawayama
Ari Lennox
Post Malone
Swedish House Mafia
Kim Petras
The Smile (Thom Yorke, Jonny Greenwood, and Sons Of Kemet’s Tom Skinner), debut album
Denzel Curry, Melt My Eyez See Your Future

Correction: This piece originally misstated the release date for Years & Years’ Night Call, which has been moved to January 21. We apologize for the error.

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