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45 Most Anticipated Albums of 2016

U2, Metallica, Radiohead and more

45 Most Anticipated Albums of 2016 illustration

Illustration by Ryan Casey

From this month's return of David Bowie to the much-delayed return of Frank Ocean, 2016 promises to be full of big albums and big names. Here are the 45 records we're most eager to blast on our stereos this year.

U2

UNITED KINGDOM - AUGUST 18: Photo of U2 and AUDIENCE; L-R: The Edge, Bono, Larry Mullen Jnr, Adam Clayton, performing live onstage on Elevation tour - group shot, arms of audience reaching up, (Photo by Hayley Madden/Redferns)

Hayley Madden/Redferns/Getty

U2

Album: Songs of Experience
Release Date: TBA
The 14th album from U2 has been talked about ever since the release of Songs of Innocence, Rolling Stone's best album of 2014. "Early on it became obvious that we were working on two separate albums," the Edge told Rolling Stone. "The majority of the unfinished songs are worthy of becoming part of Songs of Experience and some are already as good or better than anything on Songs of Innocence." U2's plans have a way of getting derailed — just ask Bono's surgeons — but the singer has been playing intimate previews of tracks from his phone, offering commentary such as "this has got a really crunchy beat" and "on this one we were going for a broken cassette recorder type of sound." The band has accumulated at least 18 tracks, which they plan to whittle down to a dozen for a 2016 release.

Kanye West

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Kanye West

Album: Swish
Release Date: TBA
What will Kanye West's seventh album sound like? There's really no telling. Over the last year, Kanye has released a solo record ("All Day"), a collaboration with Paul McCartney ("Only One"), a collaboration with Paul McCartney and Rihanna ("FourFiveSeconds"), a song with Vic Mensa ("U Mad"), a song with Vic Mensa and Sia ("Wolves"), a "Jumpman" cover ("FACTS") and a remix of a classic Larry Heard house record alongside Ty Dolla $ign and Post Malone ("Fade"). And, according to Pusha T in an interview with Rolling Stone this past December, none of these records are making the oft-delayed Swish. Supposedly, music took a back seat to Kanye's fashion escapades this year, but Pusha also promises, even though he wasn't involved in its creation: "Everything I've heard is phenomenal."

Metallica

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Metallica

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
It's been nearly eight years since Metallica won back fans and critics with return-to-thrash-form Death Magnetic (and five since they almost alienated them with their controversial Lou Reed collaboration Lulu). So it's no surprise that they're taking their time to perfect what will be their long-in-the-works 10th LP. They're staying tight-lipped about its progress – in April 2014, Lars Ulrich estimated they were in the "fourth inning" of the process, though Kirk Hammett guessed they were "30 percent" done a year later. Regardless, they want you to know they're working. Last March, Ulrich said the group was working with 20 songs on the heels of their 2014 tour single "Lords of Summer." They've also teased new material with video of James Hetfield playing a crushing new riff on guitar and of thrash-y song snippet on a computer. The band has only one tour date on the books so far, so they'll have plenty of time to release more snippets this year.

Red Hot Chili Peppers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - AUGUST 11: Chad Smith and Anthony Kiedis of The Red Hot Chili Peppers perform during the 6th Annual Outside Lands Music & Arts Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 11, 2013 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by C Flanigan/WireImage)

C Flanigan/WireImage/Getty

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
The absurdly durable alt-funk quartet are preparing for their eleventh album and first since 2011's I'm With You. Singer Anthony Kiedis told Rolling Stone this October that the group has written several songs over the past year, although the prevalence of modern-day recording devices has kept them from playing any in their live sets. Kiedis also stated that RHCP was collaborating with producer Danger Mouse for the LP: "He's very good about coming up with super-modern ideas, but he'll also touch on the acoustic guitar in the control room and strip the song down to its acoustic essentials, which is a beautiful place to be."

Drake

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Drake

Album: Views From the 6
Release Date: TBA
Drake remains hip-hop's foremost rap artist – critically acclaimed, a populist superstar, reshaping the genre simply when cosigning a trend. Even the revelation that Drake relied upon ghostwriters for recent hits hasn't noticeably slowed his momentum. Drake appeared on two full-length – ahem – "mixtapes" in 2015, What A Time to Be Alive with Future and If You're Reading This It's Too Late. But Views From the 6, Drake has emphasized in interviews, is to be more substantial, a deliberate statement. He told Rolling Stone that part of his return to Serious Business means working mainly with his longtime producer Noah "40" Shebib: "I just wanted to be able to come back to that and have it be important."

Rihanna

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Rihanna

Album: Anti
Release Date: Still TBA, but tour starts February 26th
Rihanna came out guns blazing in January 2015, mentioning that her long-awaited follow-up to 2012's Unapologetic was on the way, executive produced by none other than Kanye West. But after a few singles, including the acoustic "FourFiveSeconds" with West and Paul McCartney, and the R&B radio hit "Bitch Better Have My Money," the campaign seemed to go quiet. The title and cover of Rihanna's 8th album was finally unveiled in November, and her Samsung app ANTIdiaRy has been teasing fans with cryptic hints — but 2016 has so far began with no new single or release date. "To me it's never done until it's done," Rihanna said of the album in September. As recently as November she canceled a performance at the Victoria Secret Fashion Show to put in some more work into it.

Lady Gaga

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 24: Musician Lady Gaga performs onstage at the iHeartRadio Music Festival held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 24, 2011 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for Clear Channel)

Christopher Polk/Getty

Lady Gaga

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
She's spent the last year touring classic pop songs with Tony Bennett and starring as the Countess on American Horror Story: Hotel, but Lady Gaga has also been working on her follow-up to 2013's Artpop. "I want the fans to be surprised," Gaga told Yahoo in late December. "But I will just tell you that it's a wonderful, soul-searching experience. … This record is like – my old self as a cadaver. And I'm just, I'm operating on my old self." Among the forensic investigation: Possibly returning to the studio with RedOne, if a studio selfie with the "Poker Face"/"Bad Romance" producer is any indication. "We took a little break from each other and now it feels like we are in a good place, both of us. She did her thing, I did my thing, and it feels like we're back on track together," RedOne said to The National.

Frank Ocean

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 21: Singer Frank Ocean performs All Tomorrow's Parties Festival - Day 1 at Pier 36 on September 21, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Ilya S. Savenok/Getty Images)

Ilya S. Savenok/Getty

Frank Ocean

Album: Boys Don't Cry
Release Date: TBA
The follow-up to Frank Ocean's 2012 Grammy-winning R&B smash Channel Orange even has Adele impatient. "I'm just fucking waiting for Frank fucking Ocean to come out with his album," she told Rolling Stone this year. "It's taking so fucking long." In the works since early 2013, the concept album reportedly features collaborations with Hit-Boy, Tyler the Creator, Rodney Jerkins, Pharrell and Danger Mouse. Last year, Ocean announced, "I got two versions. I got twoooo versions. #ISSUE1 #ALBUM3 #JULY2015 #BOYSDONTCRY," and posted a photo with a stack of Boys Don't Cry magazines. July came and went, and Adele got nothing.

Tool

NETHERLANDS - FEBRUARY 10: Photo of Maynard James KEENAN and TOOL; Maynard James Keenan performing live on stage (Photo by Paul Bergen/Redferns)

Paul Bergen/Getty

Tool

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Tool is free! It's been practically a decade since the release of the hard-art-rock titans' last studio album, 10,000 Days. Though they hit the road nationally a few times in those 10 ensuing years, as it turned out, they spent a good chunk of the time wrapped up in a lawsuit with an insurance company. With the lawsuit settled and the ensuing creativity-drain gone, Maynard James Keenan and company are back at it. This month, they'll hit the road with Primus, and guitarist Adam Jones told Rolling Stone last year that they've made major progress on a new album, due out this year. "Things are really flowing and going really well, and I'm just blown away at the stuff that's coming together," he said. "I'm excited and can't wait for it to be done."

Radiohead

COLOGNE, GERMANY - OCTOBER 15: Thom Yorke of Radiohead performs on stage at the Lanxess-Arena on October 15, 2012 in Cologne, Germany. (Photo by Peter Wafzig/Redferns via Getty Images)

Peter Wafzig/Getty

Radiohead

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Radiohead fans were given an unexpected Christmas gift with the surprise release of the band's unreleased Bond theme, "Spectre," the band's first taste of new music in four years. While the band has not confirmed a new album's title or release date, drummer Phil Selway told Drowned in Sound last January that the band began working on new material in September of 2014. Johnny Greenwood later confirmed that the band had "done a couple months of recording" that "have gone really well," noting that they've changed their method of making a new album again. In early December, Thom Yorke debuted a new song called "Silent Spring" at the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris.

Bruno Mars

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - FEBRUARY 02: Bruno Mars performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show at MetLife Stadium on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Bruno Mars

Kevin C. Cox/Getty

Bruno Mars

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Beyond working on "All I Ask" off Adele's blockbuster 25, Bruno Mars has been focused on creating his third album, the follow-up to 2012's double platinum Unorthodox Jukebox. Despite the wait in between albums, Mars has never really exactly left the spotlight, playing the Super Bowl Half Time show and appearing on 2015's biggest single, Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk," which spent 14 weeks at Number One.

Nine Inch Nails

PARIS, FRANCE - MAY 29: Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails performs at Zenith de Paris on May 29, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images)

David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns/Getty

Nine Inch Nails

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
It all started with a rare tweet from Trent Reznor's official account: "New NIN coming in 2016. Other stuff, too." This follows the positive reception of Nine Inch Nails' otherwise understated, synth-heavy 2013 album Hesitation Marks – as well as its corresponding art book, Cargo in the Blood, released last December. "It's not an album I'm trying to finish in a month," Reznor told Rolling Stone last June, "It's more just feeling around in the dark and seeing what sounds interesting. It's nice to do that every few years to try and reinvent and discover and try to learn about yourself and what feels exciting to you as an artist."

David Bowie

NEWPORT, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: David Bowie performs on stage on the third and final day of "The Nokia Isle of Wight Festival 2004" at Seaclose Park, on June 13, 2004 in Newport, UK. The third annual rock festival takes place during the Isle of Wight Festival which runs from June 4-19. (Photo by Jo Hale/Getty Images)

Jo Hale/Getty

David Bowie

Album:
Release Date: January 8th
You probably didn't get tickets to Lazarus, the New York Theatre Workshop musical which David Bowie co-wrote with Enda Walsh. (That is unless you could scrape up about $800 for scalpers; otherwise, tickets sold out for the entire run within minutes.) Luckily for the rest of us, there's his 25th studio album, (pronounced "Blackstar"). The early singles — the title track, and, yes, "Lazarus," — have somber brass and textured production that hint at spacey, jazz-inflected, mid-to-late-1970s Bowie. "The goal," producer Tony Visconti told Rolling Stone this past November, "in many, many ways, was to avoid rock & roll."

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 25: Rappers Macklemore (L) and Ryan Lewis perform onstage during the 56th annual GRAMMY Awards Pre-GRAMMY Gala and Salute to Industry Icons honoring Lucian Grainge at The Beverly Hilton on January 25, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Lester Cohen/WireImage)

Lester Cohen/WireImage/Getty

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Maybe Macklemore and Ryan Lewis recognized they were facing an uphill battle or backlash going into the sequel to the duo's enormously successful debut The Heist. "Downtown," the yet-untitled follow-up LP's lead single, was a long-overdue celebration of hip-hop's early days, corralling hip-hop originators Kool Moe Dee, Grandmaster Caz, and Melle Mel. The song didn't perform on the Billboard charts for very long, but its reverence was hard to see cynically. Still, it's tough to imagine The Heist's yet-unnamed follow-up will see the same level of success as its prequel, without a "Thrift Shop" lighting the way. Still, a newly-clean-and-sober Macklemore has promised to take on the influence of Led Zeppelin, Queen, Pink Floyd, and the Beatles in an ambitious attempt to break the sophomore slump.

Sia

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 18: Recording artist Sia performs onstage at A+E Networks "Shining A Light" concert at The Shrine Auditorium on November 18, 2015 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for A+E Networks)

Christopher Polk/Getty

Sia

Album: This Is Acting
Release Date: January 29th
This Is Acting, Sia's seventh album, pays tribute to the bewigged Australian's other gig – writing songs for the likes of Rihanna, Beyoncé and other chart-toppers. Acting will consist entirely of songs that have been rejected by bigger names, and the match between song and intended target will, at times, be apparent on first listen. "One of them is a Shakira reject, which there's no doubt when you hear it. You'll know that it was a Shakira reject because I sound like Shakira," she told Rolling Stone in December. "Alive," the album's lead single, was intended for Adele and written alongside the British belter and the hotly tipped Canadian troubadour Tobias Jesso Jr. "I chose the people that we worked with and I choose those people because they're so incredibly talented and they check their egos at the door too and allow me to be the artist. Then when I want to bring another artist, I try to check my ego at the door and be of service to them and allow them to be the artist."  

Beck

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Beck

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
A few months after Morning Phase's surprise win for Album of the Year at the 2015 Grammys, Beck released the hugely catchy single "Dreams." Produced by Greg Kurstin, who was a member of Beck's backing band ages before he was helming chart-topping hits by Adele and Kelly Clarkson, "Dreams" was Beck's biggest radio hit in more than a decade, reaching Number Two on Billboard's Alternative Songs chart and Number 23 on Rolling Stone's list of the best songs of 2015. "I was really trying to make something that would be good to play live," Beck said in a radio interview last summer. However, six months after the single's release, there are still scant details about the album's title or release date. 

Elton John

MANCHESTER, TN - JUNE 15: Elton John performs during the 2014 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 15, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee. (Photo by Douglas Mason/Getty Images)

Douglas Mason/Getty

Elton John

Album: Wonderful Crazy Night
Release Date: February 5th
At 68, Elton John is still devoted to writing new songs with longtime lyricist Bernie Taupin. And Wonderful Crazy Night, which reunites him with longtime sidemen Davey Johnstone and Nigel Olsson, is his rowdiest and most upbeat album in decades. Mercury/Capitol, who released his downtempo 2013 album The Diving Board, will issue the album in February, although John says the label wasn't thrilled with the rocking new record and would rather him just settle down and record a Christmas album or Motown covers. "I want this record to feel joyous from beginning to end," John told Rolling Stone in November.

Ed Sheeran

LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 20: Recording artist Ed Sheeran performs onstage during the 2014 iHeartRadio Music Festival at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on September 20, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Denise Truscello/WireImage)

Denise Truscello/Getty

Ed Sheeran

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
In a pop landscape driven mostly by EDM and hip-hop, Ed Sheeran made being an acoustic guitar-wielding singer-songwriter cool again thanks to tender ballads written for himself, Taylor Swift, One Direction and Justin Bieber. This year, he's planning on releasing his as-yet-untitled third album and quit social media in early December to focus on his music. Back in September, Sheeran confirmed to Rolling Stone that he was hard at work on his fourth album as well and would soon travel to Africa to look for new sounds. "I know a load of Ghanaian musicians in London, and they've always told me to go over there," Sheeran said. "I feel like I'd go there and be revitalized."

Haim

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Haim

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
The Haim sisters have experienced a roller-coaster ride since their 2013 debut, Days Are Gone — including collaborations with Calvin Harris and M83, a show on Beats 1 and an opening slot on Taylor Swift's 1989 Tour. In October, they told Beats 1's Zane Lowe that their long-in-the-works second album was almost finished. "Essentially the oven has been pre-heated and the oven door is open. … Fish fingers in the tray," they quipped. While their signature harmonies will likely remain intact, there are a lot of wild cards at play: "We're always writing and figuring out new vibes and trying to get our inner Kanyes out," Alana Haim told Rolling Stone in 2014.

Charli XCX

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 10: Charlotte Emma Aitchison aka Charli XCX attends the Sonos And Pandora Present "An Evening With Charli XCX" event at Sonos Studio on June 10, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Sonos)

Joe Scarnici/Getty

Charli XCX

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Charli XCX kept busy in 2015, guesting on tracks like the Ty Dolla $ign single "Drop That Kitty," launching a fashion line, and releasing a documentary about pop and feminism. Later in the year, she focused on music, canceling her fall 2015 tour with Bleachers to work on her follow-up to 2014's Sucker. In September, she offered a few details about the still-untitled album to the U.K. newspaper The Mirror: "It's definitely the most electronic pop sound I've done," she said. "I've been really inspired by Paris Hilton, small dogs and a glitter, luxe lifestyle." In October she bore out that prediction when she released the dark, pounding "Vroom Vroom," produced by future-shocked electro artist Sophie.

Chance the Rapper

MANCHESTER, TN - JUNE 13: Chance The Rapper performs during the 2014 Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival on June 13, 2014 in Manchester, Tennessee. (Photo by Josh Brasted/WireImage)

Josh Brasted/Getty

Chance the Rapper

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Will 2016 be the year the critically acclaimed MC finally puts his name on a commercially available debut? "That's a good question," Chance said when Rolling Stone asked him last July if such a release was forthcoming. "Let's say I don't know." Chance kept busy in 2015, working with the jazz-rap collective Donnie Trumpet & the Social Experiment on their wide-ranging and highly regarded release Surf. Chance also premiered two new tracks during high-profile TV slots: He introduced "Angels" on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and performed "Somewhere in Paradise" on Saturday Night Live. It's not clear yet whether those cuts are part of a larger project to surface this year. As Chance says: "I can do whatever I want. I don't have to do a fucking thing!"

My Morning Jacket

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 05: Jim James of My Morning Jacket performs onstage during the 2015 Governors Ball Music Festival at Randall's Island on June 5, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Taylor Hill/FilmMagic for Governors Ball Music Festival)

Taylor Hill/Getty

My Morning Jacket

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
My Morning Jacket just released their seventh album The Waterfall last May, but they're already looking forward to the eighth. At the time of The Waterfall's release, the band revealed that they had produced over 24 songs, and that they would release the remaining material in 2016 – though their latest tour has made finalizing the next LP a bit difficult. "It's this pile that I'm always mixing up, if I have a week or two off, I'm at home playing with the pile, or working on a solo record, or working on Jacket stuff or trying other stuff," MMJ's Jim James told Rolling Stone. "We'll definitely record more to make another record. There's some things that we did for the last record that will end up getting used, I think, that I really like a lot. There's only half the story there for the next record."

M.I.A.

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 06: M.I.A. performs at Zenith de Paris on July 6, 2014 in Paris, France. (Photo by David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns via Getty Images)

David Wolff - Patrick/Redferns/Getty

M.I.A.

Album: Matahdatah
Release Date: TBA
We heard several new tracks from brilliant global-punk-dance provocateur M.I.A. in 2015, at least a few of which seem likely to resurface on her fifth studio album, due sometime this year. In July, she dropped a long-form video called "Matahdatah Scroll 01 Broader Than a Border" that included the new song, "Swords." Then in November, the video for "Borders," which M.I.A. dedicated to her uncle, a Tamil migrant, directly addressed the global refugee crisis. "The concept for this LP is 'broader than a border' and Matahdatah is the journal of Matangi." M.I.A. said in a statement, referring to her 2013 album. "Sometimes I move vertical and sometimes I move horizontal."

Gwen Stefani

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 17: Gwen Stefani debuts her newest single "Used To Love You" during her performance presented by MasterCard exclusively for its cardholders at Hammerstein Ballroom at the Manhattan Center on October 17, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Christopher Polk/Getty Images for MasterCard)

Christopher Polk/Getty

Gwen Stefani

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Beyond the glare of tabloid cameras and The Voice, tireless businesswoman and artist Gwen Stefani has, in fact, had some time to make some actual music. Stefani reportedly started work on her third solo studio album, the follow-up to 2006's The Sweet Escape, in 2014, but scrapped most of it. Instead, we got the first single, the nakedly personal ode to ex-husband Gavin Rossdale, "I Used to Love You." Stefani told Beats 1's Zane Lowe that the song arose as part of an unusually prolific, post-writer's-block period. "I think I have enough for probably two albums," she told him. "I have to write a few more songs, because I feel like, might as well keep going while it's there." It's not all torch songs and ballads, though, she told him. A new single, a "really happy song," is likely due out next — it's called "Misery." Go figure.

Missy

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Missy Elliott

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Missy Elliott bounded back into the pop spotlight in 2015, appearing with Katy Perry at the Super Bowl Halftime Show, guesting on a track on Janet Jackson's new album and, most excitingly, collaborating with Pharrell on her gangbusters new single, "WTF (Where They From)." Elliott claims nerves kept her on the sidelines. "I felt like, 'How do I fit in?'" she told i-D in November. "I'm battling. But then I never fit in! The whole time, I've never fit in!" As for a new album, longtime collaborator Timbaland has been saying it's ready to go for more than a year. "It's on her," Tim said back in 2014. "She got the first single, it's just a matter of when she wants to do it. We got the hollow-tip bullet in the gun. We have the game-changer right there."

Soundgarden

ATLANTA, GA - AUGUST 08: Kim Thayil, Chris Cornell, Matt Chamberlain, and Ben Shepherd of Soundgarden perform at Aaron's Amphitheatre on August 8, 2014 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Chris McKay/Getty Images)

Chris McKay/Getty

Soundgarden

Album: TBA
Release Date: TBA
Soundgarden always vowed that if they'd ever reunite after their 1997 breakup, it would be to resume the band's creative path and not just play the hits. The band stayed true to that promise with 2012's thorny, hard-rocking King Animal. And though they've taken a break from playing live in the last few months as frontman Chris Cornell toured for his solo album Higher Truth, it appears that the band's 7th full-length is somewhere on the horizon. "We're already working on material for a new album," Cornell told Rolling Stone in August.

The Band Perry

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - NOVEMBER 29: Neil Perry, Kimberly Perry and Reid Perry of The Band Perry perform onstage during the UK leg of the band's Pioneer 2013 World tour at The Institute on November 29, 2013 in Birmingham, United Kingdom. (Photo by Ollie Millington/Redferns via Getty Images)

Ollie Millington/Redferns/Getty

The Band Perry

Album: Heart + Beat
Release Date: Early 2016
The Band Perry's self-titled 2010 debut and 2013 follow-up Pioneer spun off a series of rootsy hits that topped the country charts. But the band appears to be putting aside the mandolins and eying a Taylor Swift-like turn towards pop crossover with their third album Heart + Beat. The sunny lead single "Live Forever" was produced by Lady Gaga collaborator RedOne and faced a chilly reception from country radio. The band has even been in the studio with Pharrell Williams. "We're trying to have a little more romance about this new album," newlywed Kimberly Perry told Rolling Stone last March.