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The 18 Most Anticipated Albums of 2018

Justin Timberlake, Jack White, Bruce Springsteen and Cardi B top Variety's list.

There may be a tonic for the frosty air affecting much of the nation as a new year kicks in: the hope of worthy new music to warm our hearts, and maybe extremities, too. Here are 18 of 2018’s most anticipated albums:

  1. Justin Timberlake, “Man of the Woods” (Feb. 2)

Timberlake did some of that proverbial Internet-breaking Jan. 2 when he released a minute-long teaser trailer for his fourth solo album. At first, it looked like it might be a sketch, with JT pensively treading through snowy fields and rivers while a woman’s voice (wife Jessica Biel’s) said, “It feels like mountains, trees, campfires, like [the] wild west.” But before the minute was up, the rootsy soundtrack to Timberlake’s outdoors adventure turned more urban and we saw him reunited in the studio with Pharrell Williams, who exulted, “That is a smash.” We’re all on pins and needles waiting to see how his “Suit and Tie” side and his new poncho co-exist.

  1. Jack White, “Boarding House Reach” (date TBA)

Another intriguing video trailer came in December, when White let the world know about his forthcoming third solo studio album with a four-minute collage that included some familiar sounds (fuzztone guitar; White doing a bellowing white man’s rap) with some less familiar ones (jazz piano; primitive-sounding electronic keyboards). “It’s a bizarre one. I’ve just got to let it settle,” White said at a conference in November, at a loss for descriptive words. He finally found a way to characterize it in a chat with Gary Oldman for Interview magazine: “It’s good gardening music or roofing music or, you know, back alley-stabbing music.” Ah, so the same-old, same-old after all?

  1. Bruce Springsteen (TBA)

The fact that Springsteen has confirmed he has a new album in the can doesn’t necessarily mean we can count on a 2018 release date. After all, he’s sat on finished albums for years or even shelved them entirely. Plus, he has that extended Broadway run to keep him busy. “It’s kind of waiting for its moment. Good music doesn’t go away!” he said in a Variety cover story in October. But we have faith he’ll let us hear this album that is “influenced by Southern California pop music of the ’70s” before the 2010s are up. “It’s a singer-songwriter record,” he further explained — “connected to my solo records writing-wise, more ‘Tunnel of Love’ and ‘Devils and Dust,’ but it’s not like them at all. Just different characters living their lives.”

  1. Cardi B (TBA)

At last glance, Cardi B had her first three charting hit singles with yet a fourth (the brand new “Bardier Cardi”) hovering. With that kind of success, is there any pressure to release a debut album? Yes: In November, Cardi B promised her first full-length would be out imminently, but there hasn’t been an official announcement as of yet. Still, there’s no hurry when the masses are still insatiably curious for “Bodak Yellow.”

  1. Sam Hunt (TBA)

Country tends to be the most prolific genre, and few of its superstars go four years between albums, much less between a star-making debut and its follow-up, but that’s turning out to be Hunt’s timetable. The successor to 2014’s “Montevallo” was on his label’s schedule for 2016, then again for 2017. But a couple of things happened: The singer decided to prioritize his engagement and marriage over recording, and the early ’17 single “Body Like a Back Road” became such a record-breaking smash that it all but negated any need for a full album. But, God and extended honeymoons willing, Hunt’s sophomore album should be the biggest country seller of 2018, even if he only gets it out right before Christmas.

  1. Frank Ocean (TBA)

In late November, Ocean posted on Tumblr: “I made the album before 30. I just ain’t put that bitch out!” (His 30th birthday was in October.) Given his propensity for surprise releases — remember the two albums that came out just a week apart in 2016, with little explanation and even less prep time? — don’t expect a major pre-order campaign before his fourth album pops. Intrigue has been through the roof ever since his single from last March, “Chanel,” in which an artist who’d previously been subtler about gay themes bluntly declared, “My guy pretty like a girl.” Ocean long ago came out, but year 30 may mark his real coming of age.

  1. Kacey Musgraves, “Golden Hour” (late February/early March)

Country’s boldest young female star has tackled brash themes on her first two studio albums, but she also tended to go retro with some vintage countrypolitan sounds and clever, old-school lyrical hooks. Album number three may mark a departure from that. She’s working with new collaborators who come more from the rock world and naming the Bee Gees and Neil Young as influences instead of Loretta Lynn. Maybe even more significantly, the newlywed singer has promised to be less wry and more reflective.

  1. Arctic Monkeys (TBA)

You wouldn’t necessarily know it from watching any given music awards show, but the rock band format is not actually dead. One of the leading contenders for a rock revival in 2018 is Arctic Monkeys, who we haven’t heard a peep out of since they wrapped up a tour three and a half years ago. Bassist Nick O’Malley recently revealed that the band had gone back into the studio in September, saying that their long-awaited sixth studio album would be out in 2018, because “if it isn’t, we’ve got problems.” Nothing like a shame-based deadline to get a group off hiatus.

  1. Nicki Minaj (TBA)

“‘Bout to drop an album, this is my fourth,” Minaj rapped, making a guest appearance on a Major Lazer single, in January… January of 2017, that is. A year later, fans are still waiting for “’bout” to happen, even though Minaj did give up three singles last March. Why the delay? Maybe she felt she set the bar too high, after vowing “a classic hip-hop album that people will never forget” last summer. Or maybe she’s just enjoying the self-realization. In an October interview with the New York Times, she said, “I am getting Nicki Minaj figured out with this album and I’m loving her.” With a recording process that therapeutic, no wonder she’s in no hurry to wrap it up.

  1. Paul McCartney (TBA)

McCartney announced in a pre-Christmas Q&A on his website that he’s “putting the finishing touches” to a new album “now and at the beginning of [2018].” That came as no surprise to fans that have long buzzed over the prospect of their hero matching wits in the studio for the first time with the Grammys’ Producer of the Year, Greg Kurstin (Sia, Adele). Rumors have abounded about some of Kurstin’s other clients showing up on this long-in-the-making project — McCartney and Beck were famously turned away when they showed up together for a Grammy party two years ago — but the former Beatle and his star producer have both been tight-lipped about any guest list.

  1. Vampire Weekend (TBA)

In the five years since their last album, there’ve been some changes, like Rostam Batmanglij officially leaving the band a year ago — though amicably enough that he’s still participating in the record-making process. Group mainstay Ezra Koenig has said not to expect any major sonic changes — “Nobody wants to hear the Vampire Weekend trap album,” he cracked in a recent interview, adding that, “Songwriting as a concept is the single most important thing on this record.”

  1. John Prine (early spring)

Like Timberlake and White, Prine released a teaser video to trumpet his new album and tour, but it didn’t include any new music, or even the sight of the legendary singer/songwriter himself. Instead, it was two and a half minutes of Bill Murray explaining how he was saved from a serious depression (“I was at the very bottom”) by hearing a particularly funny Prine song. “I’m thinking to myself, who the hell put him in charge of the sense of humor?” Murray wondered in the clip. Chances are that’ll still be intact in Prine’s first album of all-new material since 2005, which is likely to come out around the time he kicks off a tour at Radio City Music Hall April 13.

  1. Christina Aguilera (TBA)

Aguilera hasn’t lacked for highly visible work since she released her last album back in 2012, but 2018 isn’t a moment too soon to prove she’s still pretty good at her day job. Details of her return to the studio have been scant, though she acknowledged reuniting with songwriter-producer Linda Perry (“Beautiful”). More recently, the “Voice” judge posted a group photo on Instagram captioned “Family that slays together stays together,” which pictured Janelle Monae, Lianne La Havas, Anderson.Paak, and producers Noah “40” Shebib (Drake) and Thundercat (Kendrick Lamar). There are also interesting potential collaborators in the “not pictured” category. Pink, her former frenemy, recently said of Aguilera: “We may or may not have already collaborated.”

  1. Selena Gomez (TBA)

Gomez has released three singles in the past year, including the charming “Bad Liar.” But is she up for good honesty? The recent hits haven’t suggested she wanted to translate being open about her struggles with kidney failure and anxiety into a confessional singer/songwriter album, but she might be saving the tougher stuff for the deep cuts.

  1. Wiz Khalifa, “Rolling Papers 2” (TBA)

The rapper has released a couple of other official albums in the long interim since 2011’s “Rolling Papers” (not to mention a mixtape, “Laugh Now, Fly Later,” just this November), but you know he means business when he’s billing his new one as the official sequel to his most successful project. He recently posted a vlog in which he’s seen working on a track titled “Look What You Did to Me,” alongside super-producer Pharrell Williams.

  1. Camila Cabello, “Camila” (Jan. 12)

The émigré from Fifth Harmony might not have landed on a most anticipated list just based on the reaction to her first solo single, “Crying in the Club,” which met with only modest response. But everything changed when she shifted the mode of the album from sad to happy and released a much more chipper follow-up, “Havana.” With that song having turned into a late-2017 smash, she’s suddenly proving that post-vocal-chorale success isn’t just for ex-boy-banders like Niall Horan and Zayn.

  1. Ashley McBryde (first quarter)

Is there room in country for a mainstream female artist who comes off as unglamorously “real” as Chris Stapleton? Newcomer McBryde may fit the bill, with her biggest pre-release fans including celebrity endorsers as well as the critical establishment. The single “A Little Dive Bar in Dahlonega” is a first taste of the soon-to-be-announced freshman album from an artist Eric Church calls “a whiskey-drinking bad-ass.”

  1. The Beatles, “The White Album — Super-Deluxe” (TBA)

It’s still just a rumor at this point, since the folks at Apple — the Beatles’ Apple, not Steve Jobs’ — will reveal no retrospective title before its time. But buffs have reason to believe that the successor to 2017’s mind-blowing “Sgt. Pepper” boxed set will be a late-’18 50th anniversary package of remixes and outtakes from the Fabs’ most sprawling endeavor. This could finally be our chance to hear, you know, “Revolution(s) 2-8.”

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