Summer Music Preview 2019: 15 Albums We Can't Wait to Hear
By Meredith B. Kile
Photos by Getty Images / Artwork ETonline
Summer's here, and along with the heat and humidity, a fresh crop of new music is on the way. Now, the big question: Who will have this year's Song of the Summer?
From the Jonas Brothers’ already red-hot reunion to new offerings from Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber, Taylor Swift, Chance the Rapper and more, summer 2019 is promising big hits in every genre, from country to K-pop and back again. So break out your swimsuits, crank up those waterproof speakers and read on for the 15 albums we're most excited to stream poolside this summer.
Carly Rae Jepsen, Dedicated (Out Now)
Queen of a summer release! The "Call Me Maybe" singer has kept us hanging since 2015’s Emotion (though that Side B EP helped a little), but now she’s back. Jepsen kicked off the Dedicated era with "Party for One" in November, but the full album just dropped and explores a new era of maturity and musicianship for the pop star.
"I think I've been challenging myself musically in a lot of ways. But in a personal way, I also feel less confined to just call pop one thing anymore, and myself one thing anymore," Jepsen recently told NPR. "I've enjoyed coloring outside the lines a little bit -- it's just made me so much happier, and I feel like my music is so much more purposeful and authentic. It doesn't mean ‘Call Me Maybe’ wasn't a big part of a time of my life, and a huge slice of my theatrical, kitschy side. But it wasn't all I had to offer. So it's nice to get to share more."
There seems to be no stopping Maluma, who has been on the reggaeton scene since 2010, but had a breakout year in 2018 when he scored his first Latin GRAMMY and went platinum six times over with his first bilingual album, F.A.M.E. With his fourth studio album, the artist recently told Forbes, he’s ready to cut loose and have a little more fun.
"My last album was great and I loved it; I was expressing so many feelings that I was living at that time and it painted a very pop album, but now, I feel like it's time to have fun," he said about 11:11, which includes features from the likes of Madonna and Ricky Martin. "I have crazy collabs. I have people from Colombia, Puerto Rico, big, big stars. There's a big, big movement that is going to happen with this album. The moment is the right time to make Maluma a global superstar and the real time is not tomorrow, it's right now."
Currently in the midst of their first North American tour and following the release of their first Japanese studio album, Awaken, in March, the K-pop boy band is set to release their fourth EP. Taeil, Johnny, Taeyong, Yuta, Doyoung, Jaehyun, Jungwoo, Mark and Haechan will be promoting the album as a nine-man group, as Winwin is currently promoting with NCT’s China-based unit, WayV.
In a recent interview with Billboard, the group opened up about performing for American audiences and experimenting with new sounds. “When it comes to genres, we always love to challenge ourselves and to do something new,” Mark explained. “'Superhuman’ was definitely one of those songs where we felt that it would be the right song to try and experiment. When it comes to sound and performance and everything, 'Superhuman' was the song we thought was very unique and something the fans would not expect but it would have our color in it as well.”
2018 was a roller-coaster year for Cyrus, who was building to the release of new music when her and Liam Hemsworth’s California home burnt down. Following the release of her Mark Ronson collab, “Nothing Breaks Like a Heart,” Cyrus and Hemsworth tied the knot over the Christmas holiday, kicking off a new era in both the pop star's personal and professional lives as she prepares to launch her seventh studio album.
Ahead of the full record, Cyrus will release an EP, titled She Is Coming, which she confirmed after performing several new tracks during BBC Radio 1's Big Weekend. The songs included "Mother's Daughter," "D.R.E.A.M." and "Cattitude," the latter containing the instantly viral lyrics, “I love you Nicki, but I listen to Cardi." Cyrus has since explained that there's no beef between her and Minaj, saying, "There's no reason to fight over it. They're both queens." As for featured artists on the EP, Cyrus has reportedly enlisted Swae Lee, Ghostface Killah and RuPaul.
Following the success of his GRAMMY-nominated Life Changes, Rhett is set to drop his fourth studio album, Center Point Road, at the end of May and will be celebrating the new album with a release party at CMA Fest in Nashville.
Named for a road in his Tennessee hometown, Rhett said in a press release that Center Point Road “really symbolizes what it was like to grow up in Hendersonville: first dates, first football games, first heartbreak, first kisses, success and failures. I really feel like that road shaped who I am today, and it felt fitting because the record, for the most part, is pretty nostalgic."
Following Avicii’s death in April 2018, the Swedish DJ’s third studio album is set to be released posthumously, having been completed by a team of his former collaborators. The eponymous album -- whose profits will go towards the Tim Bergling Foundation, a mental health organization founded in the late performer’s name -- features tracks with Coldplay frontman Chris Martin and Imagine Dragons, as well as Aloe Blacc, who first teamed up with Avicii on their 2013 breakout hit, “Wake Me Up.”
"Anki, Tim's mother, and I decided that Tim's music should be released to his fans and to people who want to listen to it," the DJ's father, Klas Bergling, said of the album in a video message posted to Avicii's official YouTube page in April. "We don't want it to be locked."
The album is 12 songs, pared down from 16 incomplete tracks that Bergling had presented to his label prior to his death. "We're not trying to create the biggest hits ever made," Universal Music Nordic Region president Per Sundin said of the project. "We tried to keep it as close to what Tim would have loved or what Tim would have done."
The Jonas Brothers are back and better than ever -- and fans will get to experience the ups and downs of their reunion in their Amazon documentary, Chasing Happiness, which airs on June 4, just three days before the brothers release their first album as a group in 10 years.
"It really took the last six, seven years to figure out who we were as people and what kind of music we wanted to make," Nick told Paper Magazine of their split and subsequent reunion. "If we had continued to try to push things forward the way we were operating, it might have been difficult...I think the world is more accepting of us as adults than they would have been if we insisted, 'This is who we are now, accept us.'"
Of how their new music differs from previous Jonas Brothers sounds, the youngest Jo Bro noted, "We had a real sense that it was important for us to stay authentic to who we are. When you go back and and listen to Jonas Brothers records, they're written and produced as rock and roll records. That doesn't mean that we can't try out other sounds, or go on a journey to get there."
Springsteen’s 19th studio album will be his first since 2014, with The Boss announcing the album in April as "a return to my solo recordings, featuring character-driven songs and sweeping, cinematic orchestral arrangements.” Influenced by "Southern California pop music," Springsteen described Western Stars in a press release as being characterized by a "range of American themes, of highways and desert spaces, of isolation and community and the permanence of home and hope.”
Madame X will be Madonna's 14th studio album, and the Queen of Pop hasn't lost a beat, teaming with young stars like Maluma and Swae Lee and producers from around the globe to create a collection of unique, eclectic tracks.
"The record was born in Lisbon," she told Billboard. "Originally, I’d worked with a lot of Portuguese musicians and sang several songs in Portuguese, and then it kind of expanded to different countries, to Brazil, to Colombia, and then interspersed working with Mirwais, the French producer, so it’s really a global album.”
As for the mysterious title, Madonna revealed it was a moniker bestowed upon her by dance legend Martha Graham. "She said she couldn’t recognize all my different personas because I kept changing the way I looked," she said. "That was in the beginning of my career when I didn’t think about who I should be or what I should be. I was experimenting. And so I felt like I had come full circle and gave the record that name."
Getting booted off the Billboard Country charts may have been the best thing to happen to the young rapper’s budding career, as he’s been riding the “Old Town Road” hype through a Billy Ray Cyrus collab, a Diplo remix and a Coachella performance. Even North West is a fan!
Next up for Lil Nas X, the release of his debut EP, 7, and a forthcoming album, which he has been dangling over fans' heads as his social media clout continues to grow. In true Gen Z fashion, the rapper has been documenting the record's evolution in a Twitter thread, revealing collabs with Ryan Tedder and Travis Barker and more genre-bending creativity as he dips into the rock, punk and pop worlds. As for the EP, dropping at the end of June, the seven-track collection boasts song titles like the sure-to-be-yeehaw "Rodeo," "Panini" and "C7osure."
For his fifth studio album, Mark Ronson is teaming up with some of music’s hottest female stars and up-and-comers, including Miley Cyrus, Camila Cabello, King Princess and YEBBA. In an April interview with Las Vegas Weekly, the British producer admitted the album is a collection of “sad bangers” but promised fans that it’s “definitely the best thing I've ever made."
As for the more somber tone, Ronson explaned, "Every now and then I’d try to write something groovy and fun, and then I’d listen to it the next day and have no connection to it."
"On my records, up until now, it’s always been, 'I’m a DJ and this should be fun, so let’s come up with a cool beat and someone write a riff,'" he said. "This is the first time it’s not like that. It’s more about, 'Let’s start with something that has emotional resonance, then figure out what the right beat is for it.'"
The rapper has been hyping his new "owbum" --which would be his first official studio album following a series of successful mixtapes -- for months and finally revealed the as-yet-untitled project would be dropping in early July, with festival dates to follow.
Apart from social media teases, there's not much we know about the follow-up to Chance's acclaimed 2016 Coloring Book mixtape, and it's unclear if the rapper's handful of 2018 loosies will be included on the album or if the recently released "GRoCERIES," featuring Murda Beatz and TisaKorean, is actually the record's first single. But there's a Chance album coming, and we don't have zero problems with that, big fella.
After months of Swiftie speculation and carefully crafted clues, new Taylor arrived in April in the form of the singer’s latest single, “ME!”, with Panic! at the Disco’s Brendon Urie. "I cannot believe how dedicated they are, how thoughtful," Swift gushed to Robin Roberts of her fanbase at the time. "I can't believe how much they care. It makes it more fun for me to create music, to create music videos, knowing that they'll care about little Easter eggs, and you have no idea how much fun that is to make stuff for people who care about it that much."
Turns out, we'll be getting the album formerly known as TS7 before the summer is out: In June, Swift dropped her second single, the Pride season anthem, "You Need to Calm Down" and announced the title of her upcoming record: Lover, dropping at the end of August with 18 tracks. As for any other song titles or featured artists, well, keep searching for those Easter eggs.
There's only one cure for summertime sadness, and that's Mama Lana. While we don’t know exactly when her Jack Antonoff-produced sixth studio album is coming out -- an early 2019 press release teased a mid-year release -- fans got a taste of what's to come in the 2018 singles "Venice B**ch" and "Mariners Apartment Complex."
Until then, Lana's cover of Sublime’s “Doin’ Time” dropped last week ahead of the band's eponymous documentary, and there's also a book of poetry coming to ease your emotional ennui.
Does Justin Bieber have a new album coming this year? It’s hard to say. The singer took the stage during Ariana Grande's Coachella set in April, where he declared he had an "album coming soon!"
While the announcement may have been slightly premature -- Bieber has been adamant about putting his music on hold in order to focus on his mental well-being and marriage -- the singer did drop a brand new collaboration with Ed Sheeran, "I Don't Care," last week. Will there be more to come from the Biebs this summer? The guys make a pretty good point -- with a single this catchy, it's hard to care.