Photo: Photographs: Mychal Watts/WireImage/Getty Images (Cudi); Meredith Jenks (Carly Rae Jepsen); Dana Trippe (Willow); Gabriela Hansen (Charlie Puth); David Black (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
After a sweltering summer that brought major projects from Kendrick, Drake, Lizzo, and Beyoncé (who still has two more Renaissance acts on the way), the upcoming release schedule is promising more than the house and electronic-dance sounds big-name pop stars have been pushing all year. This fall, Blackpink, the 1975, Charlie Puth, Meghan Trainor, and Carly Rae Jepsen will all drop anticipated albums, while musicians known for their work in established bands — Oliver Sim of the xx, Marcus Mumford of Mumford & Sons — are readying solo debuts. Then there are the artists who are branching out into TV, like Kid Cudi, who’s releasing a record in conjunction with his new Entergalactic Netflix series, while Tegan and Sara drop a project alongside their new TV show High School. Whether you’re into the sharp rhymes of Freddie Gibbs, the kaleidoscopic dance-floor heaters of Daphni, or the dry indie rock of Dry Cleaning, there’s a lot to look forward to over the next few months.
On his latest project, John Legend is attempting to live up to the grandeur of his last name (stylized in all caps, in case you didn’t get the point). The self-titled effort will be a double album, with one side danceable R&B and funk, and the other slower and more introspective tracks, including the slow-burn cut “Honey” with Muni Long. The whole affair is executive-produced by Legend himself and OneRepublic’s Ryan Tedder.
After 17 years in the xx, the late-aughts British trio that kicked off a new strain of ambient and electronic indie rock, bassist and vocalist Oliver Sim is releasing his debut solo album, Hideous Bastard. It sees the artist reflecting on his queer identity and living with HIV. “I haven’t written the record to dwell, but rather to free myself of the shame and fear that I’ve felt for a long time,” he writes in a statement. Oliver explores and sublimates these feelings on the off-kilter indie-pop singles “Fruit” and “Hideous,” both produced by Jamie xx.
Ozzy Osbourne is still serving up ferocious, gothic metal — even after undergoing major surgery. For his 13th studio album, the former Black Sabbath vocalist will be joined by a star-studded core band of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, Metallica’s Robert Trujillo, and Osbourne’s longtime lead guitarist Zakk Wylde. Other notable guests include Eric Clapton and the late Taylor Hawkins.
Zambian rapper Sampa the Great broke out with her 2019 debut, The Return, a collection of steely-eyed rap songs that synthesized jazz, hip-hop, and Southern African rhythms. Its follow-up, As Above, So Below, builds on genre exploration via the languid “Lane,” with Denzel Curry and Powers Pleasant, and “Never Forget,” a tribute to Zamrock (a blend of psych rock and Zambian folk music that emerged in the ’70s), featuring fellow Zambian artists Chef 187, Tio Nason, and Mwanjé.
Santigold, the pop experimentalist who broke genre barriers in the late aughts, is releasing her first studio album in six years. The title is a nod to Negro spirituals, whose “transcendental freedom” she was drawn to. Those ideas figure into the punky single “High Priestess,” on which Santigold praises herself as a powerful queen, along with the outré R&B song “Shake,” about using movement as resilience.
Sudan Archives is known for her bewitching electro-folk songs that fuse North African fiddling and pop. After delivering imaginative arrangements on her 2019 Greek mythology–inspired debut Athena, the violinist and singer-songwriter is back with a more dance- and hip-hop-influenced album, which centers around a character named Britt, a girl-next-door type who “shows up to high-school prom in a pink furry bikini with her thong hanging out her denim skirt.”
Since their 2020 debut studio album, each Blackpink member has pursued a diverse range of activities — modeling, acting, solo material, maintaining their global “It” girl statuses. Now, one of the biggest groups in the world returns with a new full-length, featuring the sassy Rihanna-interpolating anthem “Pink Venom.” Born Pink’s release will be followed by a world tour, kicking off in October.
For their tenth studio album, indie-rock stalwarts Death Cab for Cutie are tackling a topic on everyone’s mind: the impermanence of the planet. Anxiety and existential dread sit front and center on the record’s first two singles, “Roman Candles” and “Here to Forever,” which see front man Ben Gibbard fixating on an apocalyptic movie scene and “trying to hold onto hope / If just for a while.” It’s their first full-length record since 2018’s Thank You for Today.
After COVID-19 halted their 2020 tour behind the Grammy-nominated Nightfall, the members of Little Big Town found themselves in different places for the first time in 20 years. When the country-pop band finally got together to write their tenth studio album, they ended up with Mr. Sunshine, a self-produced record featuring exuberant singles “Hell Yeah,” “All Summer,” and “Rich Man.”
Mumford & Sons’ overblown folk-rock hits have made the band hugely successful. Now its front man is taking a brief pivot to solo material, unpacking the sexual abuse he experienced at age 6 on songs like “Cannibal” and “Grace.” The Blake Mills–produced album also features Phoebe Bridgers, Clairo, Brandi Carlile, and Monica Martin.
Electronic producer Alexander Crosson has seemingly worked with every cool person in the music industry (Charli XCX, A$AP Rocky, Damon Albarn). He continues his streak of impressive collabs on the “hedonistic” (his words) demon time, which features Lil Uzi Vert, PinkPantheress, and Shygirl.
Six years after her debut single “Make Me (Cry),” the youngest Cyrus sibling is finally set to drop her first album. The Hardest Part was made with producer Mike Crossey (Arctic Monkeys, Wolf Alice) and includes the country-inflected pop singles “Mr. Percocet,” a message to a lover who’s “only mine ’til your high is gone,” and “I Burned LA Down,” which sees Cyrus using the dread of wildfires as a metaphor for her festering breakup emotions.
Rina Sawayama seemed to arrive as a fully formed star on her 2020 self-titled debut, leading to a friendship with Elton John, an appearance on the Balmain runway, and a role in the next John Wick film. Rina’s sophomore effort, Hold the Girl, will lean into both introspection and joy, as she sings of nurturing her “inner child” — a buzzy therapy term related to healing early-life trauma. Country-pop track “This Hell” reclaims the homophobic belief that LGBTQ+ people are doomed to hell, while “Catch Me in the Air” is a 2000s pop-inspired ballad about Sawayama’s relationship with her mother.
The newly independent Australian pop-rock band — who parted ways with their management company and U.S. label Interscope last year — wrote 5SOS5 mostly by themselves, with vocalist and guitarist Michael Clifford taking lead on production. Early singles “Complete Mess” and “Me Myself & I” promise more of the group’s signature power-pop sound, while adding a little synth-pop flair.
Indie-rock darling Alex G has a reputation for recording most, if not all, of his songs from his Philadelphia home. He switched up his methods for his ninth album, which was tracked with a half-dozen engineers and co-produced with Jacob Portrait in a professional studio. But the resulting singles “Blessing” and “Runner” still feature the dark, cloudy textures Alex G is known for.
Christine and the Queens have long subverted ideas around gender and sexuality; in March, the French musician clarified to the New York Times that their “journey with gender has always been tumultuous.” For new album Redcar les adorable étoiles, billed under new alias Redcar, Chris is using he/him pronouns. It’s his first full-length since 2018’s Chris and follows 2020’s La vita nuova EP.
Country star Kelsea Ballerini previewed her fourth album with two great pop ballads about the thrill of new love: “Heartfirst,” about the rush of a fresh relationship, and “Love Is a Cowboy,” on which she describes romance as feeling like “wild horses in your chest.” The follow-up to her 2020 self-titled project also sees the singer embracing uncertainty, leading to what she calls a “true metamorphosis.”
Sure, the hype around Maya Hawke’s music can be partially attributed to her starring role on Stranger Things. But the singer-songwriter more than delivers on lead Moss single “Thérèse,” a haunted folk ballad inspired by the Balthus painting Thérèse Dreaming, and co-written with Lazar Davis, Christian Lee Hutson, and Will Graefe. The song is accompanied by a video that sees Hawke getting arrested for participating in a forest orgy.
After spending years co-writing pop hits for Rihanna, Ariana Grande, and Fifth Harmony, Muni Long has become a star in her own right, receiving newfound attention in 2021 as an independent artist with her sensual R&B jam “Hrs and Hrs.” Now signed to Def Jam, she’s set to drop a full-length album that includes ’90s throwback jam “Baby Boo.”
Willow unleashed her long-dormant love for pop-punk and metal with last year’s Lately I Feel Everything. She continues her genre exploration with the metalcore-inflected “it’s my fault,” which sees Willow subverting the typical relationship-angst anthem by reflecting on how the situation was her fault. Meanwhile, “Hover Like a Goddess” is a dance-rock “ode to the divine goddess within us all.”
Kid Cudi has been slowly inching his way from music to acting for years. Now he steps into a new role as TV creator with Entergalactic, an animated Netflix series he made with Black-ish’s Kenya Barris. The multi-hyphenate will debut the series alongside a companion album, which contains songs that flesh out the narrative of each episode.
Nearly four decades after their debut, ’90s alt-rock pioneers Pixies are still growing. For Doggerel, their third full-length since reuniting in 2004, the group made songs that are “big and bold and orchestrated,” front man Black Francis said in a statement. Early singles “There’s a Moon On” and “Vault of Heaven” promise a punky rawness.
London vocalist and DJ Shygirl has established herself as an experimental club rebel, blending elements of dance hall, industrial hip-hop, and garage into her freaky dance anthems. Her highly anticipated debut Nymph is set to include contributions from Mura Masa, Sega Bodega, Danny L Harle, Cosha, and BloodPop.
A year after indie-rock stalwarts Yeah Yeah Yeahs released 2013’s Mosquito, the band went on hiatus, eventually reuniting for a festival performance in 2018 and then a small string of shows behind the reissue of their 2003 debut, Fever to Tell. The new record is the trio’s first on Secretly Canadian. Sharing a name with the Velvet Underground song, Cool It Down includes the shoegazey single “Spitting Off the Edge of the World” with Perfume Genius.
YG put in a last-minute bid for song of the summer with his Mary J. Blige–sampling track “Toxic,” which is already making the rounds on TikTok. The single, which sees the Compton rapper delving into a buttery R&B sound, will appear on I Got Issues, his first album since 2020’s My Life 4Hunnid, along with the recently released tracks “Scared Money” and “Run.”
Björk’s 10th studio album follows her 2017 record Utopia and its corresponding Cornucopia tour, which saw the Icelandic singer and composer bringing her fantastical fungi world to life. Now she’s releasing a project rooted in her home of Iceland, where it was written and recorded. It includes typically eye-popping Björk artwork, and appearances from her son, daughter, and experimental Indonesian dance duo Gabber Modus Operandi.
On their first two albums, 2014’s self-titled and 2017’s Antisocialites, Canadian band Alvvays proved themselves as authorities on blissful indie-pop anthems. Despite the early momentum, the road to their third record was marred by a series of unfortunate events: demos stolen during an apartment break-in, a basement flood ruining their gear, and delays in rehearsals due to border closures. Hurdles aside, the band managed to finish Blue Rev, which includes dreamy first single “Pharmacist.”
In between chugging a mysterious liquid and fake feuding with Benny Blanco, Charlie Puth has been using TikTok to share videos of his writing and production process to his 18 million followers. Now he’s unveiling finished versions of those songs on his third studio album. Abandoning the “bad boy” image that he established on 2018’s Voicenotes, Charlie will feature the bouncy synth-pop singles “Light Switch,” “That’s Hilarious,” and “Left and Right,” featuring Jung Kook of BTS.
Dan Snaith is best known for the far-reaching and cerebral electronic music he makes as Caribou, while his Daphni alias is reserved for the dance-floor-oriented tracks meant to get bodies moving. The Canadian producer and DJ’s first new Daphni music in five years includes Cherry’s title track, a heavy techno heater whose hallucinogenic synth pattern could pull anyone into a rave vortex.
After redefining the sound of underground rap with projects like 2014’s Gay Dog Food, Mykki Blanco is entering the second decade of their career more firmly grounded in experimentation and collaboration. Stay Close to Music features fellow artists who buck pop’s conventions, including Kelsey Lu, ANOHNI, Devendra Banhart, Jónsi of Sigur Rós, and Michael Stipe.
Though they fold several genres — electronic, ambient, soul — into their eclectic pop rock, the 1975 surprised critics with their folky effort earlier this year on “Part of the Band.” Co-produced by the omnipresent Jack Antonoff and featuring background vocals from Japanese Breakfast’s Michelle Zauner, the first single off their forthcoming album includes plucked string orchestration, flashes of brass, and frontman Matty Healy’s usual antics (sample lyric: “I know some vaccinista tote-bag chic baristas / Sitting in east on their communista keisters”).
The Swedish pop singer tackles her ambivalent relationship to femininity on her fifth studio album, Dirt Femme, which includes contributions from First Aid Kit, SG Lewis, and Channel Tres. The synth-pop ballad “True Romance,” features dramatically cutthroat lyrics — “I’d die for love and loyalty,” she belts — and was inspired by the 1993 Tony Scott film of the same name.
True to its title, Carly Rae Jepsen created her new album through a period of isolation and grief, following the passing of her maternal grandmother. Lead single “Western Wind” is a folk-pop ballad filled with nostalgic-sounding guitars and soft synths, while the playful second track “Beach House” talks about how ridiculous the carousel of bad dates can get through online dating apps.
Last year, London post-punk outfit Dry Cleaning broke out with their debut LP, New Long Leg, which had critics buzzing about its stream-of-consciousness lyricism. The band rides that momentum with Stumpwork, produced by John Parish (PJ Harvey) and previewed by the wryly intriguing “Don’t Press Me” and hypnotic dream-pop track “Anna Calls From the Arctic.”
Always one to make a splash at the MTV VMAs (intentional or not), Taylor Swift took time during her Video of the Year acceptance speech to announce her new studio album, Midnights, following 2020’s Folklore and Evermore. Soon after, she detailed the project online, which will feature “the stories of 13 sleepless nights scattered throughout [her] life” and shared its Helvetica-laden album cover art — which screams indie sleaze revival.
Tegan and Sara are back in the cultural zeitgeist as they ready the release of their new TV series High School (based on their 2019 coming-of-age memoir), which is set to drop around the same time as their tenth studio album. Crybaby marks the duo’s first project on Mom + Pop and follows 2019’s Hey I’m Just Like You. Early singles “F*****g Up What Matters” and “Yellow” are wonky and joyful twee pop.
Eight years since Meghan Trainor broke out with her updated doo-wop approach on “All About That Bass,” the pop singer is taking on the sound again. Her fourth studio album — which follows 2020’s Treat Myself, as well as last year’s A Very Trainor Christmas — is led by the tender soul single “Bad for Me,” featuring Georgia singer Teddy Swims. The project, her first since having son Riley, will also explore her journey into motherhood.
Just as he famously did for his Waiting to Exhale soundtrack in 1995, the legendary hitmaker recruited today’s leading R&B stars for his new album Girls Night Out, his first in seven years. Led by the Ella Mai collaboration “Keeps On Fallin’,” the project also includes Kehlani, Queen Naija, Doechii, and Ari Lennox.
Freddie Gibbs has been dropping consistently great music packed with his slick rhyme schemes since 2004. After landing his first Grammy nomination for 2020’s Alfredo, and following a brief foray into acting, the Gary, Indiana, rapper is returning with $$$ (Soul Sold Separately).
Nav’s goofy, memeable lyrics have turned him into a polarizing figure in the rap world. As he raps on “Never Sleep,” “Always stay geeked / If I ran into vampires, they would get high off the shit that I bleed.” The single appears on the Canadian rapper’s upcoming fourth full-length Demons Protected by Angels, a follow-up to his 2020 release Good Intentions.
Noah Olivier Smith, the Oregon rapper known as Yeat, is one of the biggest breakouts of the year. After innovative but absurd singles like “Monëy So Big,” “Sorry Bout That,” and “Gët Busy” started circulating on TikTok in 2021, he quickly fell into his role as rap troll on “Rich Minion,” his nonsensical addition to the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack. He has since been teasing a new EP called Lyfë, a follow up to this year’s full-length 2 Älive.
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.
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.
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 more than 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; features on last year’s hit songs Lizzo’s “Rumors” and Normani’s “Wild Side,” alongside her own chart-topper “Up”; and a fiery guest verse on Kay Flock’s “Shake It.” 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.
One can safely file these two under “but ACTUALLY???” and “soon soon soon.” *heavy sigh*
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly listed the name of Meghan Trainor’s “Bad for Me” and the date of Babyface’s new album. They’ve since been updated.