The pop culture forecast for 2022 is looking mighty fine, and we’re previewing everything we’re excited about this year with a series of lists. Just so you have it all in one place, we’ve also published our Most Anticipated Metal + Hard Rock Albums, Most Anticipated Films, Most Anticipated TV Shows and Rising Artists to Watch roundups.
2022 is just barely underway, and already, this year is looking to be a legendary one for music. There are dozens of acts both big and small making a grand return in 2022; whether it be indie icons like Mitski and Animal Collective, legends of the ’80s and ’90s like Tears For Fears, Spiritualized and Eddie Vedder, or pop phenoms like Charli XCX and Cardi B, there will be plenty of marquee album releases.
Not only that, we’re in a new era of releases entirely. During the initial lockdowns of 2020, many artists hunkered down and used that time to create — meanwhile, many others let themselves off the hook and waited until the pandemic began to wane to even record new music. Since then, genres and traditional labels have blurred even further, TikTok became the one of the most dominant music platforms in the world, and even vinyl sales reached a peak that many couldn’t have predicted (thanks, Taylor Swift!).
All that is to say that with restrictions loosening, live music returning, and a general sense of optimism in the music world, the time for high-profile reunions, supergroups, and one-of-a-kind albums is now. While the first half of 2022 is loaded with anticipated releases, it’s the unknown projects that will certainly get us talking. Will 2022 finally be the year that SZA delivers the follow-up to Ctrl? After their brief hiatus, will we get another outstanding statement piece from BTS? And, perhaps the biggest question: with Kendrick Lamar set to leave his longtime label TDE, is a new album finally on the way?
Only time will tell, but what we do know is that some of the biggest and widely-discussed artists are gearing up to release some outstanding music. Here is our list of the most anticipated albums of the year, with a few LPs and release dates still up-in-the-air.
— Paolo Ragusa
Editor’s note: Check out our upcoming release calendar to see more albums arriving this year.
EARTHGANG, Ghetto Gods (January 28th)
Ghetto Gods is “only” EARTHGANG’s second studio album since signing to Dreamville in 2017. However, Johnny Venus and Doctur Dot have done so much more with the opportunity, dropping a trio of EPs, contributing to five songs on Revenge of the Dreamers III, and putting out Spilligion as part of their collective Spillage Village.
Needless to say, the Atlanta duo’s sound is well-established, incorporating Southern hip-hop with funk and soul while addressing the Black experience in America from their unique perspectives. The two singles that EARTHGANG have released thus far find the group pondering how they can help their community after achieving a measure of success. Ghetto Gods is a must-listen regardless of whether they come to a conclusion. — Eddie Fu
Catch EARTHGANG on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Aurora, The Gods We Can Touch
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Butterfly 3001
Anaïs Mitchell, Anaïs Mitchell
St. Paul and The Broken Bones, The Alien Coast
Animal Collective, Time Skiffs (February 4th)
Animal Collective are gearing up to release Time Skiffs — their first studio album since 2016’s Painting With — and their return is certainly welcome. The album is said to be something akin to their seminal 2006 album Strawberry Jam, and will feature all four members of the band working through “relationships, parenthood, and adult worry” through the typically experimental Animal Collective lens.
With experimental music and hyperpop having a breakthrough moment right now, Animal Collective are appropriately positioned as pioneers — and Time Skiffs is likely to be another daring entry from these risk takers. — P.R.
Catch Animal Collective on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Mitski, Laurel Hell (February 4th)
While Mitski was taking a break from the public eye, Zoomers discovered her music on TikTok, finding solace in the anguished lyrics of songs like “Nobody” during the social isolation of the pandemic. Meanwhile, the singer-songwriter was reshaping Laurel Hell — which was largely written before or during 2018 — through a whole new lens, deciding the album would be better served with an uptempo, ’80s-influenced sound.
“I needed to create something that was also a pep talk,” she has said. The LP examines love from the standpoint of forgiveness with a sense of both vulnerability and resilience, assuring it will resonate with Gen Z and millennial music fans alike. — E.F.
Catch Mitski on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Saba, A Few Good Things (February 4th)
Hollywood can keep the failed presidential candidate and the new host of Punk’d — Saba is the best, most consistent MC in Chicago today. His 2016 debut Bucket List Project put him on the map, and his 2018 drop CARE FOR ME is a classic effort among underground hip-hop. Since then, he’s been putting his energy into his Pivot Gang crew, and while that time has been well spent, it’s still great to see him focusing on himself. Judging by the early singles, the title A Few Good Things might undersell just how very good this album is. — Wren Graves
Catch Saba on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Big Thief, Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You (February 11th)
Big Thief are set to return in February with Dragon New Warm Mountain I Believe in You, their fifth studio album and their first full-length effort since 2019’s stunning pair U.F.O.F and Two Hands. Produced by James Krivchenka, the band’s drummer, the 20-song double LP was recorded in four distinct locations: Upstate New York, Topanga Canyon in California, the Arizona desert, and the Colorado mountains.
The resulting album is shaping up to be exactly what Big Thief does best: a close-knit, meticulously detailed collection of emotive indie rock, created and collapsed entirely as a unit. — P.R.
Catch Big Thief on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Eddie Vedder, Earthling (February 11th)
Eddie Vedder’s first solo effort in 11 years is a who’s-who of rock royalty, with contributions from Elton John, Ringo Starr, Stevie Wonder, and Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith and Josh Klinghoffer. That said, we’re curious to see what rock sounds like to Vedder alone, without his Pearl Jam brothers. — Carys Anderson
Catch Eddie Vedder on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Shamir, Heterosexuality (February 11th)
Following his self-titled 2020 album, Shamir next plans to flip the script on Heterosexuality. In fact, he’s already started the process with his spacey, sparse visuals for lead singles “Gay Agenda” and “Cisgender,” both of which feature the queer artist wearing a pair of antlers as he preaches radical acceptance: “You’re just stuck in the box that was made for me/ And you’re mad I got out and I’m living free/ Free your mind, come outside/ Pledge allegiance to the gay agenda.” — Glenn Rowley
Catch Shamir on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Spoon, Lucifer on the Sofa (February 11th)
Arriving 20 years after Kill the Moonlight, Lucifer on the Sofa sounds like Spoon is about to kick off another decade of indie greatness. The new LP found the band recording entirely in their Austin, Texas hometown for the first time since 2007’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, and you can hear the city’s influence on singles “Wild” (with a composing credit by Jack Antonoff) and “The Hardest Cut.”
It’s also the first LP from the group to feature new full-time members Gerardo Larios (guitar/keyboard) and Ben Torkan (bass/keyboards), both recently promoted from Spoon’s touring roster following Rob Pope’s departure in 2019. — Ben Kaye
Catch Spoon on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Tears for Fears, The Tipping Point (February 25th)
Tears for Fears are about to release their best album in decades — and that’s not just because it’s their first in 17 years. The result of largely unsatisfying writing sessions with pop hitmakers followed by Curt Smith and Roland Orzabal sitting together with acoustic guitars for the first time since their teens, The Tipping Point has all the heart you’d expect from these synthpop greats alongside some true bangers — all with that trademark emotional touch. As Orzabal recently told Consequence, “I feel that all this time later, we have an album which bookends our work: The Hurting and The Tipping Point.” — B. Kaye
Catch Tears for Fears on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Black Country, New Road, Ants from Up There
The Districts, Great American Painting
alt-J, The Dream
Beach House, Once Twice Melody
Hurray for the Riff Raff, LIFE ON EARTH
Khruangbin and Leon Bridges, Texas Moon
Avril Lavigne, Love Sux
Gang of Youths, Angel in Realtime
Johnny Marr, Fever Dreams Pts 1-4
Spiritualized, Everything Was Beautiful
Charli XCX – Crash (March 18th)
Let’s ride: Charli XCX, patron saint of hyperpop, is expected to share her fifth studio album in 2022. This new era kicked off with “Good Ones,” a song that, in her words, launched her into the territory of ultra-pop star. Gone are the days of regular popstar — Charli XCX wants us to reach for the stars. — Mary Siroky
Catch Charli XCX on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Band of Horses, Things Are Great
Dolly Parton, Run, Rose, Run
Nilüfer Yanya, PAINLESS
Phife Dawg, Forever
Camp Cope, Running with the Hurricane
Jack White, Fear of the Dawn (April 8th) and Entering Heaven Alive (July 22nd)
Jack is back — with blue hair and two new albums. The first, Fear of the Dawn, is set to bring “really hard” rock on April 8th; lead single “Taking Me Back” debuted in Call of Duty: Vanguard, to give you an idea of its ferocity. Then, on July 22nd, White will drop the “very mellow” acoustic effort Entering Heaven Alive, led by the track “Love Is Selfish.” Add in the career-spanning “Supply Chain Issues Tour” he has in the works, and it’s clear we’re getting the full Jack White in 2022. — B. Kaye
Catch Jack White on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Wet Leg, Wet Leg (April 8th)
Wet Leg made quite the splash in 2021 (pun intended) and 2022 is shaping up to be an even bigger year for the Isle-of-Wight post-punk duo. With their self-titled LP due out in April, an extensive American tour lined up for the spring, and a handful of festival appearances (including the inaugural This Ain’t No Picnic fest in LA), Wet Leg are poised and prepared to keep rocking out. “Chaise Longue” may have been one of the best songs of 2021, but for Wet Leg, it’s just the beginning. — P.R.
Catch Wet Leg on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
Fontaines D.C. – Skinty Fia (April 22nd)
Irish rockers Fontaines D.C. announced their new studio album Skinty Fia in early January, and it appears that their blend of contemplative post-punk has only become more specific and essential. Lead single “Jackie Down the Line” reflects just how much they’ve grown since 2019’s Dogrel, and with every album, vocalist Grian Chatten seems to unearth dozens of poetic truths about Ireland and identity. Skinty Fia will surely be another landmark entry for the band and solidify their place as leaders in the post-punk scene across the pond. — P.R.
Catch Fontaines D.C. on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
PUP, THE UNRAVELING OF PUPTHEBAND
Father John Misty, Chloë and the Next 20th Century
Let’s Eat Grandma, Two Ribbons
Hatchie, Giving The World Away
Bloc Party, Alpha Games
TBD (in alphabetical order)
Björk, TBA (TBD)
What does clubbing look like in the COVID-19 era? According to Björk, the music is relatively slow, and “everyone is home by ten o’clock.” Such is the description for the artist’s forthcoming tenth album, made during lockdown. No release date yet, but the singer is set to stage an exhibition at the Centre Pompidou-Metz in France in May, so prep for a spring dance party. — C.A.
Catch Björk on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
BTS, TBA (TBD)
It’s the longest break between studio albums the Bangtan Boys have ever taken. Now, over 400 days since their last LP, BE, the BTS ARMY is starting to get a little restless. This brief hiatus for the seven members has still been plenty busy for fans (thoughts and prayers to anyone trying to secure these merch drops), but we’re ready for the bops, boys. Give us “Cypher V.” Give us Darker and Wilder. Give us whatever you want, honestly, because after that tease dropped during In The Soop, we’re all ready. — M. Siroky
Cardi B, TBA (TBD)
The sophomore album is normally the make it or break it point in a career. Always? Of course not. But it’s a big deal. When you’re Cardi B, one of the biggest stars in the world, it’s a humongous deal. Since releasing Invasion of Privacy in 2018 — which feels like 10 years ago at this point — Cardi became an actress, a brand ambassador, a fashion icon, and a mother for the second time. That’s a lot.
“WAP” and “Up” set the stage for an even bigger, genre-defying album than her rookie project. Cardi knows she needs to deliver with this album, and an Instagram video from last December detailed all the reasons why she’s made fans wait this long. If anyone can manage that stress, along with successfully juggling all those new responsibilities, it’s Cardi. — Marcus Shorter
Denzel Curry, Melt My Eyez See Your Future (TBD)
Carol City rapper Denzel Curry made his bones with a brand of unrelenting hip-hop intended to get his message across by any means necessary. In an Instagram Live Q&A following the announcement of Melt My Eyez, however, Curry spoke about making more accessible music so a wider audience could hear what he has to say. With a knack for melody and a guest list of previous collaborators like J.I.D and Rico Nasty, it would take a wild imagination to think he had to compromise his artistic integrity to accomplish this goal. — E.F.
Freddie Gibbs, SSS (TBD)
Freddie Gibbs has a legitimate claim to best hip-hop album of the year for every single 365-day cycle from 2017 to 2020. Well, even God needed a short break from creation. 2021 didn’t bring us another classic, but it did feature the stutter-step bop “Gang Signs” as well as “Big Boss Rabbit,” a cut so instantly iconic it could serve as the 39-year-old veteran’s theme song. We can’t say much for sure about SSS except for the producers — The Alchemist, Kenny Beats, Madlib, Pharrell, Boi-1da, and more. But we know one thing: It’s been a long time since Gibbs missed. — W.G.
Catch Freddie GIbbs on tour; tickets are available via Ticketmaster.
J. Cole, The Fall Off (TBA)
Cole is celebrating 37 revolutions around the sun this year. In a world where rap elder statesmen are putting out some of their best material well into their 40s and 50s, that’s not “old” anymore for a rap. Especially when the two cats he’s often compared to, Drake and Kendrick Lamar, are hovering around the same age. But doesn’t it always seem like Cole has extra pressure on him? Maybe it’s middle child syndrome, or the rap world’s own lofty expectations.
Either way, The Fall Off comes with even more high hopes, as the Roc Nation rapper teased retirement after its release. Cole is completely comfortable in his skin and believes he reached his apex. The Off-Season touched on tried-and-true topics, so maybe Cole really is ready for this album to act as his last words for the rap game. If it is, it better be quite the statement. — M. Shorter
Kendrick Lamar, TBA (TBD)
Kendrick Lamar’s last album Damn. won a Grammy and a Pulitzer, so the next one will probably take home an Oscar, a Tony, and a Heisman to boot. There just aren’t that many artists of any genre who can match K-Dot’s electrifying highs, whether he’s putting together a full LP of cinematic realism (Good Kid, M.A.A.D. City), knife-sharp political commentary (To Pimp a Butterfly), or hijacking someone else’s song while telling every other MC to take a seat (“Control”).
This next project will be his final with his longtime label TDE, and everyone who’s paid attention for this 17-year journey is strapped in for a firework-filled finale. If we don’t get a preview before the Super Bowl Halftime Show, the biggest stage of the year might host the year’s biggest hip-hop debut. — W.G.