During the recent Grammy Awards, we celebrated and reminisced about the best music of 2021, including hits by Silk Sonic, Olivia Rodrigo, Billie Eilish, and Doja Cat. But with 2022 well underway, it's time to turn our attention to the ever-growing list of quality music being released in the semi-new year. Already, artists in every genre from rock to pop to hip hop have released new music or are about to. And, boy oh boy, these albums are good.
Ahead, take a look at the 17 best and most highly-anticipated albums of 2022 that should be on your radar, if they aren't already.
Earl Sweatshirt - SICK!
A mature follow-up to his 2019 release "Feet of Clay," SICK! is a brief masterpiece comprised of only 10 songs. Although this record's 24 minute runtime is shorter than most podcast episodes, it packs a punch with Earl's confessional-style rap, melodic diversity, and balance between the political and personal. Once again, Earl proves that he's one of the most remarkable artists to emerge from Odd Future, rapping at different tempos, with both heavy instrumental backing and none at all.
FKA Twigs - CAPRISONGS
Man, this album is perfect. FKA Twigs has heretofore been known for her sultry, whispering vocals, epitomized in her 2014 hit "Two Weeks." In CAPRISONGS, she shows us how versatile her distinctive soprano is, incorporating dancehall, hip hop, neo-soul, and electrifying synth beats throughout the album. Her come-hither sexuality is simultaneously bold and vulnerable on these tracks, stunning whether she sings alone or with her impressive cast of collaborators (the likes of The Weeknd, Pa Salieu, and Daniel Caesar).
Father John Misty - Chloë and the Next 20th Century
Based on both the album cover and on the orchestral instrumentation of songs like "Funny Girl" and, Chloë and the Next 20th Century is an ode to mid-twentieth century showtunes and Classical Hollywood Cinema. Misty approaches even this tribute, however, with his characteristic soft mournfulness, and intersperses these mock-oldies with more contemporary bops like . Regardless of the songs' vibes, Misty's lyrics remain heart-shattering, so get your tissues ready.
Pinegrove - 11:11
According to Pinegrove's lead singer Evan Stephens Hall, 11:11 addresses the health and sociopolitical distress of the past two years. Case in point: The album's first single, "Alaska," addresses the climate crisis, and Hall cites the need for a global sense of community as a primary source of inspiration. Many of us love Pinegrove best for its sonic portraits of love and personal change, and the band certainly centers its widened scope with personal experience, particularly in songs like "Flora" and "Respirate." When I heard that the brand was planning on taking on politics, I worried that the album might be laughably preachy à la Band Aid's "Do They Know It's Christmas?" but I'm pleased to report that Pinegrove remains an indie master and their album, like its predecessors, is a lyrical knockout.
Rosalía - MOTOMAMI
In this album, global sensation Rosalía has ventured outside the Flamenco-inspired melodies and reggaetón beats of her previous work. In singles like "LA FAMA," she explores bachata, while pieces like "SAOKO" and "CHICKEN TERIYAKI" read like pop, and "CANDY" puts her lilting mezzo-soprano on display in a romantic plea. Indeed, Rosalía herself cited all sorts of genres as her inspiration for this album, including dembow, rap, and champeta, and the execution of her vision has proven her ability to step outside her comfort zone and nail it.
Untitled Cardi B Project
All the way back in April 2021, Cardi B said that she was just about ready to release a new album, but that she didn't want to put it out while the pandemic was interfering her ability to market the album the way she'd like to. Understandably wary of the idea of promoting new music over Zoom, she called the pandemic's effect on live music "discouraging."
In December 2021, however, Cardi B announced in an Instagram post that she'd be releasing a new album and starring in a movie (Thembi Banks' Assisted Living). She has since pulled out of the film, but here's hoping that we'll still get our dose of Cardi with a new set of hits.
Untitled Megan Thee Stallion Project
I don't know about you, but I can never get enough of Megan Thee Stallion's smart, empowering lyrics and catchy beats. After taking the rap and pop scenes by storm with hits like "WAP," "Body," and "Savage," she announced in late 2021 that she'd be releasing her second LP sometime this year. We're not sure what to expect from this versatile artist, but judging by her latest release with Dua Lipa—a made-for-radio-play pop track called "Sweetest Pie"—and her performance with the cast of Encanto at the Oscars, she'll be venturing outside of her rap roots and into a slew of unexpected collabs.
Untitled Normani Project
Normani gave us a taste of what her 2022 album will be like when she dropped her latest track, a soft, vulnerable breakup song with heartbreaking lyrics like, "Is it fair that you moved on? / 'Cause I swear that I haven't." This song, with its jazz band instrumental, reminds us of the same era of '90s R&B from which Normani took her inspiration when she released her 2019 single (and bad b*tch anthem) "Motivation." To be sure, we can expect a wide variety of vibes on her newest project and first full-length, post-Fifth Harmony album when it's released in the coming months.
Charli XCX - Crash
When you hear Charli XCX's fun, electrifying beats, it's easy to overlook the depth and vulnerability in her songs. With lyrics like, "I always let the good ones go" and "Don't wait up for me," she laments a lack of love in the same breath as she regards her emotional blocks with a sort of stubborn, irreverent resignation. Through both her songwriting and her jarring album cover, Charli thumbs her nose at everything society tells women about the way they should act and think about love, and that's what makes this album so accessible, relatable, and genius.
The Weeknd - Dawn FM (Alternate World)
Such length! Such variety! This album touches on everything from house music to 80s disco-pop to his distinctive R&B sound, and features the likes of Jim Carrey, Calvin Harris, Lil Wayne, and Tyler, The Creator. As a fan of The Weeknd's OG, soft R&B-heavy material on Trilogy, I had a hard time wrapping my head around his musical rebrand, so I'm thrilled to find that in Dawn FM, he successfully delves into new territory without eschewing the smooth, sexy sound he's become so famous for.
Mitski - Laurel Hell
Much like Charli XCX, indie-pop queen Mitski is a master at combining snappy beats with poetic lyrics about disillusionment and heartache. Now in her 30s, she sings about the expectations of her 20s setting her up for disappointment, but maintaining hope that a silver lining will emerge from it all. With the album's digestible, catchy instrumentals, it's easy listening with a sharply emotional edge available to anyone who listens closely enough.
Untitled Beyoncé Project
In her first studio album since 2016's Lemonade (!!!), Queen Bey herself (along with her husband, Jay-Z) confirmed that she'll be releasing new music this year. We don't know much about what this album will sound like, being that Beyoncé is notorious for dropping entire albums all at once, without warning. We do know, however, that this new project is the product of over a year and a half of work.
Untitled Kendrick Lamar Project
Kendrick Lamar is another artist that seems to disappear for a few years at a time before suddenly reappearing with an album full of masterpieces. He's set to headline Glastonbury this year—a classic sign that he'll be promoting new material soon—and confirmed himself that he was wrapping up a full-length album, which he stated would be his last project with his current label, Top Dawg Entertainment.
Untitled SZA Project
After winning a Grammy at this year's ceremony (and accepting it in crutches!), SZA confirmed that she'd completed her next album, calling it a "unisex" album with universal appeal. This is a fascinating, curiosity-inducing detail given the decidedly feminine slant of her sensational 2017 album, Ctrl. Since that release, she's performed on tracks with the likes of Doja Cat, Schoolboy Q, Cardi B, and Kendrick, so we're dying to see what she does next.
Maggie Rogers - Surrender
Ah, Maggie Rogers: The singer-songwriter famous for the 2016 hit "Alaska," which famously knocked Pharrell's socks off. Rogers recently announced that she'd be back this year, releasing an upbeat love song, "That's Where I Am," and announcing that her new full-length album would be available on July 29th. The video for her newest single channels the fashion of the early 2000s, while the music itself reminds us of the female singer-songwriter soft rock artists of the late 90s (think Liz Phair, Jewel, and just about anyone else that appears on the Charmed soundtrack). So, strap in for some nostalgia with this one.
Kehlani - Blue Water Road
No one manages to combine badass and sexy and vulnerable quite the way Kehlani does, so we couldn't be more excited to learn that this highly anticipated release is set to come out at the end of April. She calls the LP "a destination in my mind," and has already teased us with the album's lead singles: "altar," a sultry synth-ballad; "little story," an acoustic love song; and "up at night," a pop duet with Justin Bieber.
Maren Morris - Humble Quest
This is Maren Morris' first album since 2019's Girl, and it's her most personal yet. In these 11 tracks, she both taps into her country roots and croons softly in confessional ballads whose genre is hard to pin down. Since we last heard from Morris, she's experienced motherhood, the death of a friend, highly-publicized political spats online, and an entire pandemic. And in the wake of all that change and pain, she's emerged with this jewel of an album that's doubled her fanbase and put her on everybody's radar, both in- and outside of country circles.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things fashion and beauty. She's also written about politics, gender, and sex for publications like Bustle, HuffPost Personal, and The New York Times. As a film school graduate, she loves all things media and can be found making art when she's not busy writing.
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