February 15, 2021
Like most shared experiences in 2020, music was confined to solitary enjoyment. A bevy of new albums and singles were released, but tours were upended; concerts relegated to cheesy, novelty acts stitching together different Zoom calls. While fans were deprived of live music, the one silver lining was that artists were left with a plethora of free time to prod their creativities and write new music. Whether officially announced or the result of rumor and speculation, here are the most anticipated releases of the coming year.
Alice Cooper, Detroit Stories (February 26)
After making headlines by lambasting vocal anti-Trump artists, insisting that their open endorsements and campaigning for Democrat politicians were “abuses of power,” the apolitical Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee announced his latest, 21st, solo album: Detroit Stories. As the name suggests, Cooper’s upcoming follow-up to 2017’s Paranormal is inspired by his hometown of Motor City.
Cooper recorded the album with a cadre of fellow Michigan artists: 60’s MC5 co-founder, Wayne Kramer, Detroit Wheels’ Johnny Badanjek, jazz and soul bass player, Paul Randolph, and hailing from the Bob Seger and the Silver Bullet Band, the Motor City Horns.
The iconoclastic “School’s Out” rocker is set to release Detroit Stories on February 26.
Willie Nelson, That’s Life (February 26)
Music legend Willie Nelson, at 87 years old and presiding over such indelible classics as “Always on my Mind” and “On the Road Again,” has nothing left to prove. Despite having enshrined an ineffable legacy many times over, Nelson is showing no signs of slowing down. Later this February, the country music icon is set to release his 71st solo album. Intended to accompany his 2018 record, My Way, Nelson’s newest record is a tribute to one of his earliest inspirations, Frank Sinatra. His already released title-track is as appropriate of a soundtrack to 2020 as anything.
Lana Del Rey, Chemtrails Over the Country Club (March 19)
The media have an immutable obsession with constructing controversy around Lana Del Rey. No sooner did the pop star share the album cover of her upcoming record, Chemtrails Over the Country Club, the media, like clockwork, whipped up headlines, wailing in cartoonish indignation at the lack of ethnic diversity displayed by Rey’s cover art.
But the baseless clickbait soon subsided with Del Rey’s release of the music video for the album’s title track. Sporting her signature aesthetic: a cinematic chic, captured in the lens of nostalgia, the video blended sun-soaked vignettes culled from California circa 1960, with Lana Del Rey glammed and festooned in pearls, behind the wheel of a red convertible Mercedes.
After the critically appraised and lauded Norman F***ing Rockwell!, Lana Del Rey’s follow-up, seventh studio album, Chemtrails Over the Country Club, places her square in flyover suburbia: a place where she can unwind from the pressure and responsibilities of stardom.
The standout phrase in the title, Chemtrails, borrowed from the conspiracy theory, is further explored in the video: Like Joni Mitchell in “Other People’s Parties,” Lana Del Rey offers a glimpse into her socialite upper class. She portrays its denizens as aloof, sheltered in the bubbles of their country clubs and blithely attributing the woes of the world to conspiracies. It is only when she bites into the forbidden fruit that the ugliness of the outside world seeps into her idyllic garden of suburbia.
Ringo Starr, Zoom In (March 19)
Late in December of last year, Ringo Starr announced a follow-up to his 20th solo album, What’s My Name. Boasting contributions from his former Beatles bandmate, Paul McCartney, and Foo Fighters frontman, Dave Grohl, the upcoming EP is set to release on March 19th. The already released opening track “Here’s to the Nights” stitched together a bevy of contributions via Zoom, appropriately fitting for the Covid era.
Loretta Lynn, Still Woman Enough (March 19)
Backed by the twangy, Texas-ranch invoking sound of pedal steel guitar, Loretta Lynn has been writing and recording music for six decades. Her first No. 1 came in 1967, with “Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind).” She quickly followed up with a string of smash hits in the 70s: “You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man)” and the autobiographical “Coal Miner’s Daughter.” Lynn went on to record a sprawling 50-albums over the next few decades, rarely taking more than two years between releases.
Though she lately bore media backlash over her support for President Trump, Lynn’s music remained devoid of any banal political musing. The age-defying, 88-year-old country icon’s latest album, borrowing its title from her 1970 hit, Still Woman Enough, is set to release on March 19.
Greta Van Fleet, The Battle at Garden’s Gate (April 16)
The Michigan-born blues rock band amassed an ardent fanbase with their 2017 single, “Highway Tune.” Their bluesy, Marshal-amp driven sound, further accentuated by frontman, Josh Kiszka’s behemoth vocal range, assuaged the woes of rock fans who’d long lamented the bygone era where bands like Led Zeppelin reigned supreme. Their debut studio album, Anthem of a Peaceful Army, released in 2018, was everything fans had hoped for. Now, nearly 3 years later, on their subsequent release, The Battle at Garden’s Gate, to avoid being typecast as a mere Zeppelin homage and be brushed aside as imitators — like a painter in 2020 trying to recreate Van Gogh’s impressionist landscapes — GVF need to define an original signature of their own. The recent, third single, “Heat Above,” released from the upcoming Battle at Garden’s Gate is a promising start. While clearly influenced by the heyday of hard rock, GVF sounds more confident in themselves; Josh’s voice, now more tenured, has developed a distinct vibrato. Moreover, expanding the instrumentation with the addition of organ and synths worked wonders, helping craft a rich, distinct sound, while maintaining their rock-and-roll purity.
Arcade Fire, TBA
In 2017, Arcade Fire left their fans divided as they took a step towards a different sound with their fifth record, Everything Now. But while listeners were ultimately unable to agree on the triumphs of their new direction, there was no doubt that Arcade Fire was a band unafraid of charting new musical territory — never resting or revisiting a prior sound.
Although no official date has been announced for the follow-up record’s release, Arcade Fire’s cofounder and songwriter, Win Butler appeared on Rick Rubin’s “Broken Record” podcast last October, revealing that he’d spent his quarantine time writing new material with recording sessions planned for later that year.
LCD Soundsystem, TBA
James Murphy told fans he was done in 2015. He was pulled right back in, releasing American Dream, in 2017. He has since confirmed to have finished work on a much anticipated follow-up, although no official release date has been announced.
The War on Drugs, TBA
The War on Drugs have gone from evoking the Velvet Underground and Bob Dylan on their debut Wagonwheel Blues, to delving further into Americana on Slave Ambient, with clear influences of Springsteen, Paul Simon, and Dire Straits ringing out on their acclaimed follow-ups, Lost in the Dream (2014) and A Deeper Understanding (2017). Divulging their next musical endeavor on Jimmy Fallon last fall, The War on Drugs debuted their latest song, “Ocean of Darkness.” Echoing Tom Petty with a slurred vocal line and a sweeping, cinematic sound that harkens back to Springsteen’s early Jon Landau period.
The Cure, TBA
Among other productive artists in quarantine was late 70’s band’s, The Cure. Teasing their first studio record in more than 12 years — since 2008’s 4:13 Dream — songwriter Robert Smith confirmed to NME in a 2020 interview that he’d finished writing the band’s much anticipated new record. He remarked on the lockdowns, “I feel really sorry for the people who had plans this year, it’s been a disaster. From my own perspective it’s great that we got so much done last year. This year has just been — just not a year — it’s just been completely weird.”
Mitski’s 2018 record, Be the Cowboy was unanimously praised as not only her strongest, but amongst the year’s best. Garnering rave reviews from Pitchfork and Rolling Stone, the songs were terse yet deftly structured: In a pop landscape of hastily produced, transient hits, Mitski’s compositions were rich, layered with a gamut of different sounds. Following a hiatus from the public eye — in which she deleted all her social media — Mitski announced her new project: a soundtrack to a graphic novel, slated for 2021.
The Killers, TBA
It took the departure of their founding guitarist and “Mr. Brightside” cowriter, Dave Keuning, for The Killers to start fresh and re-emerge with Imploding the Mirage: A record permeated with the same vigor The Killers first employed on their debut, helping to shape and define rock music in the early 2000s. Having found a new spring of inspiration, the band had no plans to stop short, in an interview with NME, Brandon Flowers teased an imminent follow-up, “You know when people just say that? Every time someone makes a record they say that they have 50 songs and they’re going to release another record. We really are,” says Flowers. “We’re going to release another one in about 10 months. We’ve already gone back into the studio with [Jonathon, producer] Rado and Shawn [Everett, producer]. We did a week in Northern California.”
In 2020, the New Jersey based indie band, Bleachers released “Chinatown,” one of the best ambient rock songs of the year. Recorded in collaboration with their hometown hero, Bruce Springsteen, Jack Antonoff announced the cinematic single would accompany the band’s third studio album in 2021.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, TBA
When John Frusciante announced his return to the Red Hot Chili Peppers as lead guitarist last year, fans were elated. It was the return of the prodigal son — and his Fender Stratocaster. Frusciante was the creative force behind the Chili Pepper’s strongest albums: Mother’s Milk (1989), Blood Sugar Sex Magik (1991), Californication (1999), By the Way (2002), Stadium Arcadium (2006). His departure from the band sent the Chili Peppers into a clear nadir, unable to muster the same slick, funky grooves that permeated their prior records. In an interview with the Australian radio station ‘Double J,’ Frusciante confirmed that the Chili Peppers were keeping busy in quarantine, writing and recording new music a new record.
John Mayer, TBA
Guitar maestro, singer-songwriter, and part-time member of The Grateful Dead, John Mayer’s last studio record was The Search for Everything in 2017. He’s since released a new single, “Carry Me Away,” which, in Mayer’s signature fashion, tastefully blends modern pop music with bluesy pentatonic scales. Mayer also confirmed plans to record a new album in 2020 — though no date has yet been announced for the album’s release, a consistent pattern of releasing a new record every 3-4 years makes 2021 the likely candidate for the next John Mayer LP.
Meanwhile, in the world of rap and hip-hop, Cardi B, hot off the heels of 2020’s viral, racy hit, “WAP,” is said to be working on a new record — a follow-up to 2018’s Invasion of Privacy.
Rihanna released her first seven records in just eight years; her last record, Anti, was released nearly five years ago. After taking time off from an enervating recording schedule to explore other creative outlets, the pop star finally confirmed last year, in a Vogue cover, that a new album was underway.
Without an original release in over five years, Frank Ocean has left fans longing for new music. Bereaved by the tragic loss of his brother in a car accident, Ocean cancelled the release of a new single last December. Although the hip-hop star has not yet announced a new date, 2021 is the likely timeline for Ocean’s hotly anticipated follow-up to Endless and Blonde.
Beset by knee surgery and the subsequent road to recovery, Drake postponed his initially planned January 2021 release of Certified Lover Boy, his follow-up to 2018’s sprawling, 90-minute long Scorpion. Drake’s lead single, “Laugh Now Cry Later,” was lauded by critics as being amongst his best in years. Certified Lover Boy is slated to his streaming services later this year.
In a genre of her own, Billie Eilish set a high bar for herself with her 2019 debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? Co-written and produced by her brother, Finneas, in a bedroom studio, the record quickly ascended to the top of every pop chart, winning Eilish a whopping five Grammys. The pair have since released a few singles, including the theme song to the upcoming Bond film, No Time to Die. Asked about her follow-up, second studio album in a Vanity Fair cover story, Eilish confidently replied that the album sounds “exactly like how I want it to.” Most recently, in a social media post, Eilish explained that despite its colossal commercial success, for her second album, she was uninterested in trying to recreate or mimic her debut record, stating, “It will be the end of an era. I’m gonna give you a new era. I have announcements to make, I’ve got some s*** to put out.”
Originally Published on The Daily Wire