During the recent Grammy Awards, we celebrated and reminisced about the best songs 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.
Taylor Swift - Midnights
At this year's annual VMA awards, Taylor Swift sent Twitter into a frenzy when she announced that she would be releasing a new album, entitled Midnights, on October 21. The announcement came on the heels of Swift winning three VMAs, including the coveted Video of the Year award for "All Too Well," which she directed herself. As far as we know before this announcement, Swift had been focused on re-releasing her discography rather than making entirely new music, so the 13 songs on Midnights will be her first new material since 2020's Evermore.
In her poetic full-length announcement, Swift elaborated that Midnights will delve into 13 sleepless nights that she's experienced throughout her life. So, friends, it's time to get your tissues ready.
Beyoncé - Renaissance
In her first studio album since 2016's Lemonade (!!!), Beyoncé' set the tone for the summer (and fall...and winter...) with the release of Renaissance. This upbeat, 16-song album was introduced to the world with Queen Bey's single "Break My Soul," which instantly took the world by storm with its nostalgic dance rhythms and catchy referencing of Robin S.'s 1993 "Show Me Love" and sampling of Big Freedia's 2014 "Explode." The rest of the album was released on July 29, and it follows the lead of "Break My Soul" with its infectious rhythms. Furthermore, its lyrics―particularly on song like Energy―repeat in a way that's catchy rather than redundant, and the overall messaging in the album empowers and celebrates femininity without sounding preachy or corny.
Bad Bunny - Un Verano Sin Ti
Puerto Rican superstar (and the newest face of Jacquemus) Bad Bunny never misses a beat, and in Un Verano Sin Ti he manages to both deliver the consistent catchiness his fans expect from him and release completely original, ever-socially-relevant content that can convert any casual listener into a fan. Flawlessly weaving bangers like "Tití Me Preguntó" together with unapologetic condemnations of misogyny like "Andrea," Bad Bunny still hasn't hit a bad note yet.
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 "The Next 20th Century," which features an impressive electric guitar solo. 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 generally cites the need for a global sense of community as a primary source of inspiration. Many of us love Pinegrove balances 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.
Megan Thee Stallion - Traumazine
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, "Fair," which is 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.
Kendrick Lamar - Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers
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. In May, he blessed us all with a heartfelt, introspective album in which Lamar took a hard look at American society, at politics, and at himself, famously critiquing his own homophobia and misogyny in pieces like "Auntie Diaries" and poignantly exploring a toxic relationship in the part-skit-part-song "We Cry Together." Skilled, unflinching, and essential, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers is on my list of no-skip albums of 2022.
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.
Future - I NEVER LIKED YOU
With this straightforward, no-nonsense album name, Future is channeling anyone who's ever been unceremoniously broken up with. But more importantly, this album is the answer to every fan's prayers, incorporating the artist's smooth vocal style and rhythmic delivery with impressive features from the likes of EST Gee, Drake, and Kodak Black. Speaking of which...
Kodak Black - Back For Everything
Kodak fans have been looking forward to a release this year ever since the rapper started dropping singles like "Love & War" and "Super Gremlin," the latter of which remains wildly popular (and unbelievably catchy). And while I prefer the consistent head-bopping beats of 2021's Haitian Boy Kodak and the irreverent verses of 2017's Painting Pictures and 2016's Lil Big Pac, Kodak Black still satisfies in Back For Everything with undeniable jams like Grinding All Season and the addictive track Usain Boo.
Gabrielle Ulubay is an E-Commerce Writer at Marie Claire and writes about all things beauty, sexual wellness, and fashion. She's also written about sex, gender, and politics for publications like The New York Times, Bustle, and HuffPost Personal since 2018. She has worked extensively in the e-commerce and sales spaces since 2020, including two years at Drizly, where she developed an expertise in finding the best, highest quality goods and experiences money can buy. 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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