Now that 2020 is behind us, 2021’s music picture is beginning to come into focus. We have major releases already announced from the likes of Drake and Foo Fighters, as well as rumored offerings from everyone from Kendrick Lamar to Adele. As the world slowly crawls back to a sense of normalcy, the music world should begin to do the same. So let’s look forward together to the music we expect to see in 2021, and the music we hope for. These are the most anticipated albums of 2021.
66. Adele – TBA but probably 32 or something
When whispers started going around the industry that Adele was gearing up to drop her next album before the end of 2020, the pop world held its breath for another record full of tear-jerking ballads fit to soundtrack the year from hell. After all, why would she be hosting SNL in late October if there wasn’t something to promote? But then, maybe Adele’s team got wind of Taylor Swift’s Evermore secret, or maybe the English diva was too busy with her new single life — either way, the album never materialized. Now that it’s 2021 and our slates are clean, the next installment of the iconic pop star’s saga is definitely coming. Will 32 ring in the new year with more heartbreak or single life flirting? An upbeat Adele might be the thing we all need to lift our spirits after last year’s tragedy.–Caitlin White
65. Arcade Fire
While the pandemic has been not good for a variety of reasons, one silver lining is that it has allowed some artists to enter productive periods of creativity, including Arcade Fire. In the early days of COVID, Win Butler noted that “the writing has intensified and the work is flowing out” in regards to the band’s next album. A few months ago, he offered another update, saying, “I can’t remember a time when I’ve written more. [It] feels like being 18, sitting by the piano for five days in a row working on a melody for a verse. It’s been pretty amazing, actually.”–Derrick Rossignol
Smino’s last album came with his 2018 release of Noir and from the looks of it the rapper’s original plan was to share his third album at some point in 2020. Back in February, he told fans that his third album was done and being mixed by the TDE-housed engineer, MixedByAli. However, it never arrived and instead, his supporters were greeted by his surprise She Already Decided mixtape in April. With a new set of 365 days in front of Smino, it’s the hope that fans will get that third album. Tracks like “Baguetti” and “Donny Outthaway” serve as promising examples for what’s to come on his next body of work. On that note, what’s up with the Ghetto Sage album?–Wongo Okon
After coming up in the DIY scene, Zoe Reynolds is looking to expand her worldview beyond the confines of the basement on her forthcoming album. While there are no firm details of a forthcoming release, Reynolds previewed this new era with “Around Your Room,” a shimmering pop number more aligned with Red-era Taylor Swift than the driving punk and emo performed by many of her new label mates on Triple Crown Records.–Zac Gelfand
62. Joey Badass
My album fire. 85% done w. See y’all soon.
— BADMON (@joeyBADASS) September 30, 2020
It’s been a long three years, going on four to be exact, since Joey Badass dropped a full-length project. That release came in 2017 with All Amerikkkan Badass. In the almost four years that have passed his second album’s release, the Brooklyn native has spent most of the time to himself, outside of a few appearances on Beast Coast’s Escape From New York project. In 2020 however, Joey made the first steps towards a full return in the hip-hop world. He joined the likes of Westside Gunn, Phony Ppl, Statik Selektah, and Westside Boogie as a guest feature while granting his impatient fan base with the The Light Pack EP to ease the pains of being patient for so long. From the looks of it, this wait will come to an end in 2021 with the release of Joey’s tentatively untitled third album, which he revealed in a tweet in September was 85% done.–W.O.
If you’re unfamiliar with Elaine at the moment, 2021 will be the year that changes. The South African born artist shared her debut EP, Elements, in the fall of 2019, but a record deal with Columbia and the eventual re-release of the project helped launch her into the group of R&B’s post promising talent. Elements boasts elegant tracks like “When We’re Alone” and “You’re The One,” both which serve as ample evidence for why the project went platinum in her home country and received a nomination for Best R&B/Soul Album at the South African Music Awards. Elaine is a well-known talent in South Africa at just 21 years old, but with a confirmed project set to arrive in 2021, it’s time she makes her mark in the States as well.–W.O.
60. Claud – Super Monster (February 12)
Claud, the first signee to Phoebe Bridgers’ newly minted label Saddest Factory, has set the bar very high for their forthcoming debut full-length album with the first two singles. Lighthearted and charming, Claud’s music masterfully bridges the gap between the lo-fi underground and more polished singer-songwriter efforts that are garnering more and more fervent fanbases.–Z.G.
59. The Hold Steady – Open Door Policy (February 19)
The veteran rockers dropped Thrashing Thru The Passion in the summer of 2019, and they revealed recently that their eighth album, Open Door Policy, will be released in February. In December, they shared the single “Famliy Farm,” and Craig Finn said of the album, “Open Door Policy was very much approached as an album vs. a collection of individual songs, and it feels like our most musically expansive record. This album was written and almost entirely recorded before the pandemic started, but the songs and stories explore power, wealth, mental health, technology, capitalism, consumerism, and survival — issues which have compounded in 2020.”–D.R.
58. Westside Boogie
Thanks to Boogie’s introspective approach, his music became perfectly suited to fans stuck inside rather than going out to clubs, leading to a surge in popularity that ensured that anticipation for his next project would be high — or even out-of-hand. After a much-needed name change and a year off, the Compton rapper — who is signed to Shady Records and managed by LVRN — got a little fed up with unruly fans bullying him to release new music on social media. But he’s savvy enough to have turned a running joke into a clever promo campaign, staging a tongue-in-cheek kidnapping skit on social media, building to the eventual release of his Joey Badass-featuring single “Outside.”–Aaron Williams
57. Illuminati Hotties
Illuminati Hotties elected to delay work on their sophomore album to release a tongue-in-cheek mixtape in order extricate themselves from a difficult label situation. 2018’s Kiss Yr Frenemies marked the California band as one of the best under-the-radar acts in indie rock, and we’re anxiously awaiting an official sophomore album from Illuminati Hotties sometime in 2021 that will surely bring more noisy goodness.–Z.G.
After the release of his 2019 album, Trouble In Paradise, Elhae kept things rather quiet in 2020. While some may have assumed he was hard at work on new music, that wasn’t entirely the case. This past August, in an Instagram post, the North Dakota singer shared that he recently felt “depressed and lost” in terms of where “where my career was headed.” Elhae was ready to drop the mic and call it quits, but luckily for him he “got the ladder” to climb out of the hole he was in. Now, he’s in a better space than ever before and with the “hunger and drive” back as well. With that came a message promise to fans. “I have a much needed new team and new music that’s sure to please old and new fans (and create more.) Sit back. Watch. Enjoy. This is getting fun again.” Led by his “Fun Fact” single with Rick Ross, 2021 should be exciting for Elhae.–W.O.
55. Wild Pink – A Billion Little Lights (February 19)
The brainchild of John Ross, Wild Pink is set to return with what Steven Hyden calls the band’s “most ambitious and overall best work” to date. Infused with pedal-steel guitars and other Americana instrumentation along with shimmering synth-rock, A Billion Little Lights is sure to be a breakout moment for one of indie’s best and most underrated bands.–Z.G.
54. Another Michael – New Music And Big Pop (February 19)
Another Michael’s forthcoming Run For Cover debut is a relatively laid-back affair, but so instantly engaging in its melodies and composition that listeners will be hooked from their first listen. The Philadelphia trio has been on the scene for a few years at this point, but New Music And Big Pop finds the band capitalizing on their strengths, with a massive payoff.–Z.G.
53. Ski Mask The Slump God
It’s been two years since the release of Stokeley, Ski Mask’s solid debut album, and his initial bid to inhabit the void left behind by the death of his friend XXXTentacion. As of SoundCloud rap’s premiere genre-bending, rebellious breakout, he’s also one of the last men standing with the deaths of X and Juice WRLD. Fans are certainly eager to see if he really can step up and become the new focal point for the punk-rock-influenced Floridian thrash-rap scene and while he was yet another of the artists forced to push back his album release by the pandemic, his July release of “Burn The Hoods,” with which he announced his new album is “coming soon,” shows plenty of promise for the full project.–A.W.
52. Greta Van Fleet – The Battle At Garden’s Gate (April 16)
In late 2019, Greta Van Fleet’s Josh Kiszka declared his intention to have a new album out in the summer of 2020. That didn’t come to pass, but now The Battle At Garden’s Gate is set to drop on April 16. The group told Rolling Stone of the record, “There are definitely Biblical references. Not just in the title, but throughout the entire album… This is a world with the ancient civilizations in it, just like our own parallel universe, really. It’s an analogy. Each song is a theme. A magnification of different cultures and civilizations inside of this world searching for some kind of salvation or enlightenment.”–D.R.
51. Strand Of Oaks
Listening to the masters of the new Oaks record and I’ve never been prouder and more excited to share music with you all. In my own way it’s the most celebratory record I’ve ever made. 2021 couldn’t come soon enough. Much love to everyone!
— Timothy Showalter (@Strandofoaks) December 17, 2020
Strand Of Oaks’ Timothy Showalter uses music to channel honesty, so when the live music industry shut down at the onset of the pandemic, he poured the world’s collective grief into the improvised ambient project Ambient For Change. Showalter then spent the rest of the year focused on his next album, which he plans on releasing in 2021. Showalter finished up the album’s mastering in early December and took to Twitter to say he’s “never been prouder and more excited to share music” and that it’s his most “celebratory” work to date.–Carolyn Droke
50. Jazmine Sullivan – Heaux Tales (January 8)
Jazmine Sullivan’s presence in the R&B has been missed for approximately five years since 2015’s Reality Show. For this reason, aside from her incredible vocal talent, Jazmine’s forthcoming album, Heaux Tales, is welcome with open arms and ears as one of the most highly-anticipated R&B albums of 2021. Her previously released tracks “Lost One” and “Pick Up Your Feelings,” are expected to make an appearance on the project, set for release at the top of the year on January 8.–Cherise Johnson
Since releasing his most recent Bleachers album (2017’s Gone Now), Jack Antonoff has been helping upstarts like Taylor Swift with their music. Now, though, he is ready to shift the focus back to Bleachers: He’s dropping a new album in 2021, and he previewed it in November with a couple of new tracks, including a Bruce Springsteen collaboration, “Chinatown.”–D.R.
48. Lana Del Rey – Chemtrails Over The Country Club
Lana Del Rey has been talking about her seventh album, Chemtrails Over The Country Club, almost since the sixth one dropped. But where Norman Fucking Rockwell restored Lana to her righteous critically acclaimed perch, this record has faced more delays and strange schedule changes than a rap record. Early single “Let Me Love You Like A Woman” was a bit tepid, but knowing Lana, she always has a bait and switch up her sleeve. The imagery of the album title is peak Del Rey — luxury mixed with doomsday posturing — and hopefully when that track drops next week it paints a better picture of what Lana’s next phase will be.–C.W.
47. Tobi Lou
Tobi Lou was doing alright for himself as an independent artist… then, as it has for so many others in his position this year, TikTok happened. Suddenly, the Chicago rapper found himself the subject of a viral dance challenge thanks to his 2018 EP and its song “Buff Baby.” The former high school athlete’s self-deprecating observation about his own ripped physique unexpectedly resonated with fans who shared their own pandemic gainz and became fans of his spacey, emo takes on relationships and Gen-Z feelings. Now, they’re looking forward to his next full-length after singles “Pretty Much,” “Okay,” and “2Hrs” further piqued interests and suggested he’s way more than just a one-hit-wonder with bulging biceps.–A.W.
46. Queens Of The Stone Age
While Josh Homme and his fellow Queens Of The Stone Age members haven’t done much public talking about a follow-up to 2017’s Villains, there have been some hints dropped that something may be on the way, or that a new album at least exists. In 2019, Billy Gibbons declared he was working on a QOTSA album, although he may have been talking about the 2019 Desert Sessions EP on which he appeared. Gibbons also said that Dave Grohl was on the project, which Grohl later denied, saying, “You know, I never f*cking mentioned that I’m on the new Queens record. I’m not on the new Queens record. You know what Josh and I have been doing together? Riding motorcycles and eating waffles. That’s it. […] I wish I was on the new Queens album.”–D.R.
45. The Killers
The Killers released Imploding The Mirage just a few months ago, but that doesn’t mean they’re not ready to quickly come back with more music. In August, Brandon Flowers said, “Every time someone makes a record, they say that they have 50 songs and they’re going to release another record. We really are. We’re going to release another one in about 10 months.” It doesn’t seem like he was kidding, as The Killers wrapped up 2020 by sharing what looks like a tracklist.–D.R.
If you ask a bunch of people what the best album of 2018 was, you’ll hear a lot of people say Saba’s Care For Me in response. The ten-track effort is undoubtedly the best release of his career, but now it’s time for a new album. Minus his appearances on the Pivot Gang compilation album, Saba kept quiet for the better part of two years, until this past fall. Four singles arrived from the Chicago native and just like that the idea of his third album nearing an arrival became more and more of reality. Shortly after the release of his “Mrs. Whoever” and “Something In The Water,” Saba let fans know new music was in the works in an Instagram post. “Thank you. i’m back to work,” he said.–W.O.
43. Swae Lee – Human Nature
Swae Lee’s last solo effort came in 2018 with his Swaecation album. The nine-track project was released as a triple-disc with his Rae Sremmurd duo’s SR3MM album and Slim Jxmmi’s Jxmtro. Almost three years later, Lee is readying another body of work, one entitled Human Nature, to deliver to fans in the form of another triple-disc with Sremmlife 4. Just in case there’s any doubt that the “Guatemala” act isn’t hard at work for his upcoming solo album, he gave his Ear Drummers label head and frequent collaborator Mike Will Made It 733 songs to pick from for Human Nature. Unfortunately, the album saw a slight delay after the rapper lost the hard drive with “all” his songs on it, but now that it’s been recovered, Swae Lee can get back to business and finish up the album for his awaiting fans.–W.O.
42. Rina Sawayama
Just a few days before Christmas, Rina Sawayama did an interview with an Australian publication called Music Feeds and dropped a bomb on fans: Her next album? Half-finished. Considering her debut album just came out this past spring, and it took almost three years to complete following her initial EP in 2017, this timeline is definitely quicker than fans expected. But it makes sense for the London-by-way-of-Japan star to strike while the iron is hot — Sawayama was a sleeper pop hit in a year chock full of contenders. If her probable songwriting trip to Nashville comes through, then this record is guaranteed to have even more cult hits than her debut did.–C.W.
41. Darkside – Spiral
Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington went on hiatus as Darkside not long after releasing 2013’s Psychic, but the group showed signs of life in 2020. They had a semi-comeback when they released a live album in November, and the next month, they gave fans the news they’ve been waiting for: Spiral, a new album, is set to release at some point in the spring of 2021.–D.R.
Migos announced they may have scrapped the “Culture” concept for their next album a few months back but then, Quavo promised that the trio’s next ablum would indeed bear that title — and that it would drop at the “top of the year.” Quavo also explained how the spring US lockdown helped them to focus on the project with fewer distractions — distractions that some fans attributed to the lukewarm reception of the overstuffed Culture II. If the crew can get back on track and deliver on fans’ anticipation of rumored collabs like Juice WRLD, they’re likely to have a bounce back worth waiting for.–A.W.
39. Courtney Barnett
It’s been two years since Courtney Barnett shared her towering LP Tell Me How You Really Feel, but the Australian rocker has been hard at work on new music since — especially during quarantine. The singer previously teased a batch of “tender folk songs” she had written in hotels on tour and staring out her window in isolation. She performed a handful of these brand-new tracks during a livestream in December, offering fans an exclusive glimpse of what’s to come in 2021.–C.D.
38. Guapdad 4000
Oakland native Guapdad 4000 is perfect positioned for a breakout 2021. His 2019 mixtape Dior Deposits and standout performances on Dreamville’s Revenge Of The Dreamers III exposed him to a wider audience, his Falcon Fridays cuts like “Embezzle” and Rona Raps freestyles thrilled those new fans, and his Platinum Falcon EPs certified his creativity, wit, and productivity. After he returned from a trip to New York announcing that his debut album was completed, his single “Alpha” and a strong co-sign from hometown hero Too Short during his Verzuz battle with E-40 ensured Guapdad’s name buzzed with a higher intensity going into the new year. In short, while he may rap about scams, Guapdad is no fraud, and 2021 just might be the year he proves it.–A.W.
37. Schoolboy Q
Back in 2019, Schoolboy Q made his long-awaited return with his fifth album, Crash Talk. The project arrived with guest appearances from the likes of YG, Ty Dolla Sign, 6lack, Travis Scott, and more, but shortly after its arrival, came the promise that his sixth album would drop in 2020. “I’ma drop a whole ‘nother album this year I promise you that. I’m not lying this time,” the TDE rapper said at the top of 2020. Well, for what it’s worth, I’m sure Q didn’t plan on failing to come through on his guarantee, but with the year that 2020 has been, the “Numb Numb Juice” rapper definitely deserves some slack. Hopefully, his sixth effort (and the other project fans are waiting for from the TDE collective) will arrive in 2021. As for what it might sound like? That remains to be seen, but you can assume it’ll be somewhere on the spectrum between the more relaxed Crash Talk and the erratic Oxymoron.–W.O.
36. Fivio Foreign – B.I.B.L.E.
Fivio Foreign is one of the main faces of today’s current wave of drill rap. He, along with the late Pop Smoke, rose to fame with their infectious energy and raucous tracks that became the anthem of the summer for many in 2019. Fivio’s breakout single was “Big Drip,” a track that led to his eventual signing with Columbia records. After hitting fans with two EPs, one in 2019 and one in 2020, Fivio is ready to unleash his debut album, currently titled B.I.B.L.E.. With a XXL Freshman class inclusion and verses beside a number of well-known names (Nas, Big Sean, DaniLeigh, and more), the Brooklyn native will return with a new dose of high-octane energy for fans to attempt to match with his debut.–W.O.
35. Brockhampton – Roadrunner
Brockhampton didn’t let the pandemic stop them from sharing music with their fans in 2020. In fact, the self-proclaimed boy-band gave fans an EP worth of songs through their Technical Difficulties series. Now, the group is back to work on their upcoming sixth album. In a September interview with i-D, the band’s head producer Romil Hemnani revealed that the initials for Brockhampton’s upcoming album are “RR.” Fans quickly concluded that the album’s full title is Roadrunner after many noticed members in the band, including Jabari Manwa wearing “Roadrunner” apparel. As for the sentiments on the upcoming record, Hemnani said, “I’m excited about it, it’s my favourite one yet.”–W.O.
After winning over fans and critics alike with her pivotal 2018 LP Be The Cowboy, Mitski has remained out of the public eye after deleting her social media accounts. But she recently broke the silence to share that she’s been working a more unconventional project: a soundtrack to a graphic novel. Mitski announced the soundtrack will arrive in 2021 alongside This Is Where We Fall, a graphic novel by Z2 Comics. The storyline unpacks themes of “theology, death, and the after-life,” resulting in a project that was both “freeing and challenging” for her.–C.D.
Ever since JID set the rap world on fire with DiCaprio 2, he’s kept fans salivating with his magnetic star turns on crew projects Revenge Of The Dreamers III and Spillage Village’s Spilligion. While there are more than a few morsels of nourishing, heady raps to decipher, fans have only become hungrier for another full-length solo project from the Atlanta-based lyrical wunderkind. He’s one of those rappers whose every post on social media is met with calls for him to drop an album. JID stans can’t get enough of his tongue-twisting raps and more than ever hope he’ll deliver a new collection of them in the new year.–A.W.
32. Japanese Breakfast
LP3 working hard at being the absolute most 😂 pic.twitter.com/EPlj9QTdNc
— Japanese Breakfast (@Jbrekkie) December 18, 2019
While much of Michelle Zauner’s 2021 will likely be centered around promoting her new memoir Crying In H Mart, she has also been teasing a third studio album from Japanese Breakfast. There is no official timeline for the new record, but Zauner has been forthcoming with progress reports, performing new songs at shows (remember those?) and sharing updates on the recording process on Twitter.–Z.G.
6lack’s music is a perfect snapshot of where he stands in life at the moment of an album’s release. His last effort, East Atlanta Love Letter, captured a man whose success in music, one he spent years chasing, now conflicts with his love life. Now, more than two years later, the Atlanta singer is putting the finishing touches on his third body of work, one that is sure to invite his growing fan base into a new world that depicts his growth and the things — both good and bad — that he experienced in the two years since East Atlanta Love Letter. As for the music, his 2020 6pc Hot EP proved that missing his mark isn’t something fans should worry about for his upcoming album. In a February 2020 post to his Instagram post, he teased his next project with a caption that read, “album 3 energy.” Well, if all goes according to plan, 2021 will bring that energy.–W.O.
Back when being bored and lonely at home was one option out of many and not the whole world’s forced lifestyle, Clairo made staying in cool with her early 2017 single “Pretty Girl.” Two years later, she was a full-blown indie star with the release of Immunity, and she’s well on her way to building on that in 2021. Back in April 2020, the emerging singer-songwriter shared a screenshot of a playlist full of demos for her second album, and since she’s had eight months at home to comb through them, that record could be dropping any second. On her first record, Clairo was the sole artist on every track, a smart move to build cohesion and establish herself, but if there’s any grand gesture features on this new album, it will only make her work even more interesting.–C.W.
29. Future, Gunna, Lil Baby, and Young Thug – Super Slimey 2
Although it’s been more than a year since Future and Young Thug promised the follow-up to their fan-favorite joint mixtape Super Slimey, there are enough reasons to believe it’s in the 2021 pipeline to include here. For one thing, the pandemic has given all parties more than enough time to submit their verses, and with the light at the end of the tunnel in sight, 2021 would be the perfect time to capitalize on the hopefully revitalized live entertainment industry and make a little extra cash for all parties involved with a tour. Plus, all four artists have already dropped highly successful albums since, so they have no solo obligations to fulfill at the moment, and Future has already put out another collaborative project with Lil Uzi Vert. Who’s to say that he couldn’t work on both projects consecutively or even simultaneously?–A.W.
28. Flo Milli
Despite no official announcement on her part, anticipation Flo Milli’s debut album has already reached a fever pitch. With the explosive reception of her debut mixtape Ho, Why Is You Here? making her a star practically overnight (at least, that’s how it seemed to observers who’d missed the initial release of her star-making singles “In The Party” and “Beef (FloMix)“), fans can’t wait for her to release another full-length, as evidenced by her newfound appeal as a featured guest. It helps she’s signed to the revamped RCA Records, which showed its prowess at pouncing on perfect opportunities with the building buzz of another regional rap femme fatale, Mulatto. If Flo Milli follows in her peer’s footsteps as a XXL Freshman, don’t be surprised if her next project appears at just the right moment to capitalize on the attention.–A.W.
27. Julien Baker – Little Oblivions (February 26)
Julien Baker has been relatively quiet since teaming up with Phoebe Bridgers and Lucy Dacus to form Boygenius in 2018. That’s all about to change with Little Oblivions, her third solo album, which is set for release in February. Based on the lead single “Faith Healer,” the album looks to be a more fleshed-out affair than her previous efforts, with Baker playing almost all of the instruments on the recording. Get your tissues ready.–Z.G.
26. Young Thug – Punk
Young Thug isn’t the most prompt artist when it comes to album release dates. Whether it’s an act of over-anticipating or a constant need to change plans, it’s rare to get an album from the Atlanta rapper on the first announced release date. An example of this comes with the rapper’s upcoming sophomore album, Punk. The project was announced shortly after his 2019 album, So Much Fun, arrived — one of the few releases from Thug to arrive on time. Punk was initially set for a February 2020 release, but nearly a year later, fans are still empty handed. However, in November, Thug revealed during an appearance on T.I.’s ExpediTIously post podcast that Punk would arrive after Slime Language 2. The latter is a YSL compilation project that was set to drop in November 2020. However, that project was not released as well, but there’s a good feeling in the air that both will arrive in 2021.–W.O.
EP next month. 🤍
— CHIKA 🏆 (@oranicuhh) December 24, 2020
The strong-willed Alabaman MC/singer’s EP Industry Games was enough to earn her a Grammy nod for Best New Artist, placement in the 2020 XXL Freshman class, and a legion of loyal new fans who can’t wait for her next move — or her hilarious tweets — but Chika has simply counted her blessings, enjoying her success even as she calls her shots for the upcoming year. She tweeted just ahead of Christmas that her next EP is due in January, while she’s been forthcoming about being patient for her debut album — which she was happy to promote as being in the works even while hyping Industry Games. If she completes both projects in 2021, she could very well seal her spot as one of rap’s most respected artists after only popping up a few short years ago.–A.W.
24. Weyes Blood
Weyes Blood’s apocalyptic 2019 album Titanic Rising was not only apt given the events of the year that followed its release, but it also landed in the top ten of Uproxx’s 2019 Critics Poll. After canceling the remainder of her 2020 tour, Weyes Blood appeased fans with a cathartic video to “Wild Time” and an update about the state of her next release: “I’m beginning to work on my next album that will come out in 2021- a different time, when hopefully we can see each other face to face once again.”–C.D.
After a highly-publicized split from the YBN collective, Cordae changed his name and set about the process of promoting his new project with the single “Gifted” featuring fellow Grammy-nominated Atlantic signee and former XXL Freshman Roddy Ricch. For the rest of the year, Cordae kept relatively clear of public radars, popping up in May to tell Lil Wayne he was only just getting the recording process started and receiving a promise of a verse from the veteran rapper turned host. Since dropping “Gifted,” though, he’s become a hot commodity, appearing on tracks from Stevie Wonder and DJ Scheme and following up with “The Parables.” His last album, The Lost Boy, made him a fan favorite. His next just might make him a superstar.–A.W.
22. Tierra Whack
Tierra Whack stepped forth with one of the more unique debut projects via her 2018 Whack World effort. It was heralded for its concise yet all-telling experience that gave the world all they needed to know about the Philly rapper at that point in time. She was also able to flaunt her creativity through the project, thanks to its concept of just 15 tracks, all of which were no more than 60 seconds long. It’s this same originality that we crave to see once again from Tierra, especially in a world when female artists and their most authentic selves are thriving and pushing past the limiting expectations placed before them. Only three singles have arrived from her this year, including “Dora” and “Feel Good,” but all are a good preview of what Tierra has to offer for her upcoming project.–W.O.
21. Father John Misty
Josh Tillman hasn’t released a new Father John Misty studio album since 2018’s God’s Favorite Customer, but he had a busy 2020. Early in the pandemic, he dropped a benefit live album, which he followed in July with a benefit covers EP. Then, in August, he dropped a pair of new songs, “To S.” and “To R.,” which are perhaps and hopefully a preview of a new FJM album.–D.R.
20. Pusha T
The last time Pusha T released an album, it dragged the music industry into one of the most attention-grabbing beefs in years as the Virginia native went up to bat against Drake. As for what’s in store for his upcoming third solo album? Outside of the cocaine-laced bars, fans can expect production from Kanye West and The Neptunes, which Pusha revealed during an Instagram live interview. However, that’s just one of three projects he might release in 2021. Another one contains some of the “the filthiest of hip-hop” beats that were sent to him by Tyler The Creator while another could feature heavy production from Madlib.–W.O.
19. Big Thief
Big Thief may have taken a short break from releasing a full-length project in 2020 after debuting two albums in 2019, but that doesn’t mean they have been on a hiatus. A lengthy feature on vocalist Adrianne Lenker’s recent solo project revealed just how far along the band is on their fifth studio release. Big Thief had apparently packed up and retreated to the quiet hills of California to spend a few weeks recording their next LP, which could see a 2021 release.–C.D.
18. Saweetie – Pretty Bitch Music
For an artist who faced more than her share of struggles out the gate, the Bay Area product Saweetie has found her footing, growing into her artistic self with enough charm and confidence that fans turn her every move into a meme and watch like hawks for any sign of her debut album. After a snafu with her latest single release turned into a wave of support for the burgeoning star, it looks like her coming debut, Pretty Bitch Music, will arrive with plenty of fanfare, buttressed by a strong collection of hit singles including “Tap In,” “Back To The Streets,” and “Best Friends” featuring Doja Cat.–A.W.
17. Roddy Ricch
Ricch is due for another big year after dominating the Hot 100 with his single “The Box” and his appearance on DaBaby’s “Rockstar.” Like many of his generation’s favorite rap stars, he’s kept relatively quiet about future moves, preferring to live in the moment and promote his current projects, but he did tell GQ in August his follow-up full-length is coming “soon as f*ck.” In the meantime, he’s been content to keep his Grammy-nominated single “The Box” at the forefront of fans’ minds as he heads into 2021 as one of the most successful artists of the year.–A.W.
16. Bon Iver
It’s not uncommon for Bon Iver to wait a few years between releases, but it looks like their next studio album could mark their quickest turnaround yet. Following their 2019 i,i LP, Bon Iver shared a pair of experimental singles this summer. Each of the songs’ artwork is labeled Bon Iver: Season Five, which slyly points to their impending fifth studio album. Their label Jagjaguwar has also been posting cryptic photos to their social media accounts, which Bon Iver fans believe are Easter eggs signaling the band’s involvement in an upcoming project in 2021.–C.D.
15. The War On Drugs
In October 2020, The War On Drugs performed a new song, “Ocean Of Darkness,” on The Tonight Show, which comes from a new album that Adam Granduciel told Variety in November he plans on finishing in the next couple months. So, at this point, it’s probably just about done. He said of it, “[There are] five songs that are pretty much done, and five or six others that are very close to being done. I don’t really know how to categorize it, but the stuff that I have finished, I’m really into. […] On some songs, there’s not a ton of guitar. It’s a little closer in some ways to how I did [the 2011 album] Slave Ambient‘ with things built up in a different way.”–D.R.
14. St Vincent
The rumors are true. New record “locked and loaded” for 2021. Can’t wait for you to hear it.
— St. Vincent (@st_vincent) December 15, 2020
St. Vincent had been doing more than just playing over 300 hours of The Legend Of Zelda, Breath Of The Wild on her Nintendo Switch in 2020. Rather, the musician has been putting the final touches on her upcoming album. Saying the LP is “locked and loaded” in a recent interview, St. Vincent expects the Stevie Wonder-inspired LP will debut in late spring or early summer and will mark “a tectonic shift” in her catalog.–C.D.
13. Kacey Musgraves
Wanna feel old? It’s been almost three years since Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour transformed her from beloved indie country star into one of the most widely-acclaimed women in the music industry. Since then, the singer has gotten divorced, collaborated with countless artists, and as a new verse on a Troye Sivan song recently suggested, been writing lots of music. If music history has taught us anything, it’s that divorce is usually the fodder for incredible songwriting, and while we all wish Kacey the best, I’ll be the first to tell you I’d love to get a brace of her airy, golden-hued breakup songs to kick-off 2021.–C.W.
12. Nicki Minaj – Pink Friday 2
— Mrs. Petty (@NICKIMINAJ) June 29, 2020
Nicki Minaj is undoubtedly the Queen of Rap for this generation and there will forever be a high-anticipation for whatever she has coming up. In this case, Pink Friday 2, according to a tweet from June, which is expected to be the follow-up to 2018’s Queen album. This year, Nicki got married, gave birth to her first son, and kept the Barbz appeased with a flurry of features that they’ve assembled to amplify on streaming platforms such as like Doja Cat’s “Say So (Remix),” Sada Baby’s “Whole Lotta Choppas” and Mike Will Made-It’s “What That Speed Bout?!” with Youngboy Never Broke Again. Her “New Body” verse from an unreleased Kanye West song featuring Ty Dolla Sign, which took over TikTok during the quarantine, was a moment within itself. But that’s just scratching the surface of what Nicki may possibly have in store for her next album. There are a few leaked tracks with replay value floating around, one is titled “Arctic Tundra” with the late Juice Wrld and another called “Blue Cash” with Juice Wrld, Young Thug, and Asian Doll. There’s no telling if those tracks will make it to the album so here’s to hoping that they do.–C.J.
11. Foo Fighters – Medicine At Midnight (February 5)
Dave Grohl has been teasing the tenth Foo Fighters album for a while now, making sure everyone know it was going be “f*cking weird” as early as November of last year. Medicine At Midnight was finally announced in conjunction with the band’s Saturday Night Live performance of new song “Shame Shame”, a track that fully illustrated the band’s new direction away from thrashing rock and roll, toward a driving groove reminiscent of David Bowie’s most experimental period.–Z.G.
Up until a few days ago, the only new music SZA had released under her own name for a while was “Hit Different,” an unfocused, vague collaboration with Ty Dolla Sign, The Neptunes, and Pharrell, that didn’t possess a lot of the personal, narrative tone that made CTRL an instant classic. Luckily, in late December she dropped “Good Days,” giving fans the much-needed fix and all but indicating a record was coming soon. Then again, it’s SZA, we might get a tweet that she’s quitting music tomorrow instead of an album announcement. Fingers crossed for the latter, R&B has been missing her voice for the last four years, and features with Megan Thee Stallion (see “Freaky Girls”) and Ty Dolla Sign collabs are no longer enough.–C.W.
While little is known about Lorde’s forthcoming follow up to 2017’s masterpiece Melodrama, we do know that the album’s concepts and title were solidified in part during a recent trip to Antarctica. There is also said to be a full cinematic universe in progress, and if it’s anywhere near as vibrant and enveloping as the universe created for Melodrama, consider us extremely excited to dive in.–Z.G.
8. Travis Scott
McDonald’s, Nike, and Sony all bet big on Travis Scott this year after the massive success of his 2018 album Astroworld and his spaceship flew them straight to the bank. The success of his various brand partnerships is all the proof anyone would need that his following ravenously awaits literally anything and everything he does and his upcoming album is no exception. Just a note on his social media sent them into a frenzy, making the prospective album title Utopia trend for a full day on Twitter, even despite his DJ shooting down the rumor. With fans freaking out over his speculated collabs with Playboi Carti, Kid Cudi, every new announcement is met with pandemonium and further heightened expectations — ones Travis only has to be himself to fulfill.–A.W.
7. Billie Eilish
After Billie Eilish became the youngest person to win a Grammy in all four major categories, people are eager to see where the singer takes her career next. Her brother/producer Finneas has said they are “full steam ahead on her next record,” though Eilish herself has continued to playfully tease fans. She recently quelled comments about her vibrant hair color by saying, “I am making you a f*cking album. I will not put it out if you keep making fun of my hair.” She went on to note that her new music reflects a “new era,” and that fans won’t have to wait much longer for its release.–C.D.
6. J Cole – The Fall Off
Fans of J. Cole first received news of his upcoming sixth album on his 2018 KOD album itself with it’s closing track, “1985 (Intro To The Fall off).” From then on, Cole would drop small reminders and updates about the project. He teased a 2020 release at the Day N Vegas festival in November 2019. However, presumably because of the pandemic, The Fall off never arrived as promised this year. Despite this, he did deliver two singles, “The Climb Back” and “Lion King On Ice” to numb the wait. With those songs came the promise that something would arrive by the end of the year, however, just like his Day N Vegas promise, that one went unfulfilled. While the wait has gone longer than expected, we can rest assured with the fact that Cole’s next body of work will arrive at some point this year.–W.O.
5. Cardi B
After the devastating impact of “WAP” toward the end of 2020, the suggestion that Cardi B might be a one-hit-quitter has gone right out the window. Beginning the year by saying her album just needs “a couple more club hits,” Cardi was one of the many artists who readjusted her approach as a reaction to the ongoing pandemic. She also used the time to resent fans’ expectations, comparing her album to Beyonce’s classic Lemonade, and promising that it would arrive in 2021 as opposed to during the coronavirus breakout. There’s good news for some lucky fans, as well; Cardi said she planned on letting a small group hear the album in advance, safety permitting. The rest of us will have to keep making up SFW explanations for “WAP” for our parents and kids for a little while longer.–A.W.
4. Drake – Certified Lover Boy (January)
The only reason Drake’s not at the top of this year’s most anticipated list — as he usually is in any given year we know he’s releasing a full-length project — is that he’s been pretty consistent about putting out content even in off years, while Kendrick Lamar’s essentially been radio silent since 2017. Meanwhile, fan fervor for Drake’s latest has likely been juiced by the significant number of teasers and setbacks that have whet our appetites and pulled the satisfying bite away like Tantalus’ apple.
Dark Lane Demo Tapes, a moody collection of loosies perfectly suited to the months-long lockdown, gave us the first indication of what wouldn’t be on CLB — a counterintuitive strategy that worked even better than putting out the cut tracks after the official release. Then, Drake flexed his clout on the lead single “Laugh Now, Cry Later,” offering up an enticing collection of collaborative Nike merchandise that was greedily gobbled up by hungry fans. Unfortunately, Drake was set back by an injury — but reset expectations with a tempting trailer promising that he’d land on his feet in 2021. He hasn’t failed to deliver on one of those promises yet.–A.W.
3. Rihanna – R9
It’s been nearly five years since Rihanna released her critically-acclaimed album Anti back in 2016. It’s almost as if singing is a thing of the past for the music mogul. She’s been entirely focused on launching a series of brands outside of the follow-up to Anti Rihanna Navy pines for, including taking Victoria’s Secret’s spot with her lingerie line Savage x Fenty, offering hard-to-find shades for women of color with her Fenty Beauty brand, getting into the skincare business with Fenty Skin, establishing her own label with Westbury Road Entertainment, starring in films Oceans 8 and Guava Island, while also serving Met Gala outfits each year. Needless to say Rihanna Navy is proud, but the desperation for R9 is real and Robyn has been having fun teasing her fans about its impending release.
Thankfully, PartyNextDoor blessed us with a rare Rihanna feature on his PartyMobile track “Believe It” in 2020. As far as R9, according to a March interview with Vogue, Rihanna claims that she has been “very aggressively working on music” and it’s reportedly reggae-inspired, heavily influenced by her Bajan roots. What we do know for a fact is that there are a collection of songs that have been recently registered with BMI, including a futuristic-gritty number titled “Real High,” produced by Almando Cresso, that was also featured in her Savage x Fenty show this year. From the sounds of it, R9 seems to be an exciting era of Fenty moxie that will be well worth the wait.–C.J.
2. Frank Ocean
Let’s be honest, we never know what Frank Ocean has up his sleeve. But after he was slated to perform at this year’s ultimately cancelled Coachella, many were left speculating if that meant there was a new collection around the corner. We do know that there’s new music somewhere out there — a few new tracks inspired by Detroit techno music made their way into the playlist for Ocean’s underground PrEP+ parties and a new 7″ vinyl featuring a mysterious new song was scheduled to ship this year before being suddenly canceled. Here’s to hoping 2021 finally brings those songs to light.–Z.G.
1. Kendrick Lamar
Although Travis Scott has gained ground as one of hip-hop’s bestselling (and most marketable) artists, the triumvirate of Drake, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar still reigns supreme when it comes to fans clamoring for new material from their favorites. They can drop compilations of half-finished cutting room clippings like Untitled, Unmastered and Dark Lane Demo Tapes and still land near the top of the charts, a testament to the fervor with which their fans anticipate their latest releases
For Kendrick, that enthusiasm reached all-time highs in 2020 thanks to the three-year wait since his last full-length project — Black Panther doesn’t count — and the relative dearth of solo work from the Compton conundrum in the interim. The flames of anticipation were stoked throughout 2020 by the launch of Kendrick’s creative firm, PgLang, which prompted some fans to posit a split from Top Dawg. That speculation was put down by TDE president Punch, who then promised a project is coming “pretty soon,” while TDE colleague Reason put things in perspective. The date for Kung-Fu Kenny’s return may seem hazy, but it’s also relatively assured that whenever he does drop it’ll exhibit the same care and quality that has made his prior projects canon classics..–A.W.
Some artists covered here are Warner Music artists. Uproxx is an independent subsidiary of Warner Music Group.