Among ET’s 90 top picks for summer are our 17 most anticipated albums of the season.
Summer’s almost here, and with it, the need for that perfect summer song. Thankfully, some of the biggest artists in pop, rap, rock, country and more are putting out new albums to soundtrack those long days at the beach and sunset drives with the windows down.
From Kanye’s epic plans to Christina’s return to Drake’s missive for “no slow songs,” the summer of 2018 is sure to be scored with memorable hits. Here’s a look at some of the albums we’re most excited about as the longest months of the year roll around.
Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes
Available May 25
The Vine star cutie-turned-legit musical heartthrob — he played the Queen’s birthday this year! — is gearing up to release his self-titled third studio album following the success of 2015’s Handwritten and 2016’s Illuminate. Shawn Mendes features “Youth,” a collab with fellow young hitmaker Khalid, as well as the Justin Timberlake-tinged “Lost in Japan” and “In My Blood,” a track that sounds like Ed Sheeran and details Mendes’ struggles with anxiety.
“I’m really proud of it,” he told Billboardof the first single back in March. “I think, especially, comparing that to all of my other music — I love all of my other songs, but…it was all kind of more vague topics about a relationship, and this is my first time breaking into something that’s more serious and more about me.”
Love Is Dead – CHVRCHES
Available May 25
The Scottish synth-pop group is following up their critically acclaimed sophomore effort, 2015’s Every Open Eye,with a self-described poppier effort, teaming with super producer Greg Kurstin to craft an album that includes tracks like the driving “Get Out,” the dance floor and remix-ready “Miracle,” and a dark and dreamy collaboration with The National’s Matt Berninger called “My Enemy.”
“When I listen to the record, I feel like it’s the most pop stuff we’ve done and also the most aggressive and vulnerable at the same time,” singer Lauren Mayberry told Entertainment Weekly of the album. “It was about really leaning into those moments — and also wanting there to be a real humanity and character to what we’re saying.”
Wildness – Snow Patrol
Available May 25
Snow Patrol, best known for mid-aughts alt-rock anthems like “Run” and “Chasing Cars,” may have put out a greatest hits album in 2013, but they’re not done yet. Following a bout with writer’s block, singer Gary Lightbody announced the Scottish band’s seventh studio album would finally be arriving in 2018. The album art for Wildness and its introductory singles features an astronaut theme, which is echoed in the Bowie-esque “Life on Earth.” Other standout tracks include the gritty, soaring “Don’t Give In” and the hauntingly spare “What If This Is All the Love You Ever Get?”
Last month, Lightbody opened up about performing “Life on Earth” live for the first time, writing on his Instagram, “I was completely overwhelmed as the song took me 5 years to write and to play it for the first time was the end of a very long cycle that felt like a mixture of triumph, relief and ecstasy all at once. It is the song that in many ways defines the album and I’m so happy people can hear it today. It was a labour of love.”
LOVE EVERYONE – Kanye West
Available June 1
Perhaps no album of summer 2018 is more anticipated than Kanye West’s LOVE EVERYONE, which he announced in the midst of a Twitter storm following his return to the social media platform in April. Successive tweets also saw West announcing a collaboration with Kid Cudi called Kids See Ghost, with an album to be released on June 8, and production efforts on albums for Pusha T, Nas and Teyana Taylor.
A Twitter video of West working on a beat posted on May 15 teased track lists for all the projects, though it’s unclear if his recently released singles — the T.I. collab “Ye vs. the People” and “Lift Yourself” (aka the “Poopity-scoop” song) — will be included on LOVE EVERYONE. The rapper also recently appeared on Travis Scott’s new single “Watch,” in which he rhymed about his controversial social persona and his struggle with opioid addiction.
God’s Favorite Customer – Father John Misty
Available June 1
Father John Misty, the enigmatic stage persona of former Fleet Foxes drummer Joshua Tillman, started teasing a new album shortly after releasing 2017’s acclaimed Pure Comedy. The project eventually became his fourth studio effort under the moniker, titled God’s Favorite Customer. While only three songs from the album have yet been released as singles — including the shimmering “Disappointing Diamonds Are the Rarest of Them All” and the lovely and mournful “Just Dumb Enough to Try” — the entire album was accidentally made available on Apple Music in mid-April, prompting Misty to create his own meme:
“Most of this next album was written in a six-week period where I was kind of on the straits,” the artist told Uncut‘s Jaan Uhelszki last fall. “I was living in a hotel for two months. It’s kind of about… yeah… misadventure. The words were just pouring out of me. It’s really rooted in something that happened last year that was… well, my life blew up. I think the music essentially serves the purpose of making the painful and the isolating less painful and less isolating. But in short, it’s a heartache album.”
Apart – Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson
Available June 1
Following their 2009 collaboration, Break Up, rocker Pete Yorn and actress Scarlett Johansson are reteaming for a new project, a five-track EP that features four new songs and a reimagining of Yorn’s 2016 Arranging Time track “Tomorrow.” Apart’s groovy, bass-driven first single, “Bad Dreams,” is a cover of “Worried” by The Echo Friendly.
Yorn said in the a press release that the concept for the EP is dealing with the “aftermath” of a breakup. “It acknowledges the array of heavy emotions that come up living separate lives. You’re getting used to the idea of not being with someone who has been a big part of your life. Even after a break up has occurred, the presence of an ex still seems to loom large in one’s mind for a while. There are moments during the day where you wonder, is it really over? Or will there be another chapter in the relationship now that it has evolved? The EP is an attempt to sort through all this and get comfortable with the excitement of new freedoms while facing underlying fears of the unknown road that lies ahead.”
LISTEN NOW: “Bad Dreams”
Bigger – Sugarland
Available June 8
After a five-year hiatus that spanned solo projects and expanding families, the country music duo of Jennifer Nettles and Kristian Bush has officially reteamed for Sugarland’s upcoming sixth studio album. Bigger features the sweet and soaring “Still the Same” and a Taylor Swift guest appearance on a track called “Babe,” which the Reputation songstress originally penned with Train’s Patrick Monahan for her 2012 album, Red.
“She was gracious enough to reach out to us when she heard we were coming back together and doing a record,” Bush told ET at the 2018 Academy of Country Music Awards in April. “She said, ‘I have a song, would you like to do it?’ And we said, ‘Uh, yeah!’ I was a little anxious. I didn’t want to mess it up!”
“But she loved it and wanted [us] to be a part of it, which is exciting,” Nettles added . “She said, ‘I have a song,’ and we said, ‘OK. Send it over.’”
The Mountain – Dierks Bentley
Available June 8
The prolific country star has put out an album at least every two years since breaking on the scene in 2001, and he’s following up 2016’s Gold-certified Black with The Mountain, an adventurous album that includes the joyous anthem “Woman, Amen” as well as collaborations with Brothers Osborne and Brandi Carlile.
“The people I meet on the road who are climbing their own personal mountains unknowingly inspired this album, their stories are powerful, but there is always a sense of resilience and hope,” Bentley shared on Instagram last month. “Those feelings are the foundation of this album to me.”
Queen – Nicki Minaj
Available June 15
It’s been almost four years since Nicki Minaj dropped The Pinkprint, and rap’s reigning female regent is ready to return to her throne with Queen, her fourth studio album. While Minaj has remained on the charts in the years since the double-platinum Pinkprint — with features on hits like Jason DeRulo’s “Swalla,” Yo Gotti’s “Rake It Up” and Migos’ “MotorSport,” as well as the “No Frauds”/”Changed It”/”Regret in Your Tears” triple single drop of March 2017 — fans are eager for a new album of nothing but Nicki.
Queen’s lead singles, “Barbie Tingz” and “Chun-Li,” feature plenty of the rap queen’s boisterous bravado and rapid-fire references, and the videos are the elaborate, opulent performance pieces fans have come to expect from Minaj. But the question remains — will there be a Cardi B feature?
Liberation – Christina Aguilera
Available June 15
Christina Aguilera returns! It’s been six years since the pop princess-turned-vocal powerhouse released her seventh studio album, Lotus, and she’s making a statement and freeing herself with Liberation, a creative, exploratory album that Xtina says emcompasses “many moods.”
Truly, the lead singles all sound independently unique and mark a new creative direction for Aguilera. “Accelerate” is a radio-ready trap collab with Ty Dolla $ign and 2 Chainz, “Twice” is a stripped-down ballad that showcases the songstress’ incredible pipes, and “Fall in Line” is an epic female-empowerment anthem with fellow belter Demi Lovato.
“To anyone who’s ever felt silenced and repressed, the truth seekers and bold thinkers… may you liberate your voice and break the mold, never back down, and never fall in line,” Aguilera wrote of the duet on Instagram, praising Lovato’s performance in a follow-up post: “I believe our paths were destined to cross and I am so proud to come together from the pasts we’ve overcome; to the strong women we are today!”
Head Over Heels – Chromeo
Available June 15
If you’re ready to groove this summer, Canadian electro-funk duo Chromeo has you covered. On their upcoming fifth studio effort, Head Over Heels, the pairing of David “Dave 1” Macklovitch and Patrick “P-Thugg” Gemayel have assembled a track list of dance-worthy hits that they call “a love letter to all the sub-genres of funk music that have influenced us since we were teenagers.”
The pair describe Head Over Heels as their most collaborative album yet, featuring rapper DRAM on the smoky party hit “Must’ve Been,” as well as collabs with Raphael Saadiq, Stefflon Don, The-Dream and more. They even co-produced a single with R&B super producer Darkchild, who dominated radio waves in the 2000s with hits for Destiny’s Child, Janet Jackson, Jennifer Lopez and more. “We wanted this album to be a polyphony of voices along our sound and our voices and our story,” Macklovitch recently told Build.
Passwords – Dawes
Available June 22
California folk-rock band Dawes is ready to score summer 2018’s campfire nights and sun-soaked road trips with their new offering, Passwords, which lead singer Taylor Goldsmith describes as an album “for and about the modern age.”
“We’re living in such a unique moment in history,” he noted in a press release. “Many of these songs are an attempt to come to terms with the modern world, while always trying to consider both sides of the story.” The sentiment of uncertainty in the modern age is echoed in the album’s lead singles, the lush and focused “Living In the Future” and the soft and studied “Crack the Case.”
And don’t be surprised if one or more songs end up featured on This Is Us’ upcoming third season in the fall, as Goldsmith gears up for his wedding to series star Mandy Moore, a milestone he admits is part of Passwords’ reflective tone. “I’m also writing about the shifts in my own life, including getting married,” he added. “Together, the songs process some dark moments — paranoia, anxiety, the wreckage of what you might’ve done in the past — and arrive at some sort of hopeful resolution. I’m hoping it’s our first step into adulthood as a band.”
Pray for the Wicked – Panic! at the Disco
Available June 22
Brendon Urie’s pop-rock outfit Panic! at the Disco has seen many evolutions since their 2005 breakout, A Fever You Can’t Sweat Out. Now, Urie leads the group into its sixth studio album, which kicks off with the party-ready “Say Amen (Saturday Night)” and the fun and funky “(F**k a) Silver Lining.”
“I pray, but not to any one specifically. More to myself, pleading to stay positive and loving and open-minded,” the singer shared of the album on Instagram in March. “I meditate on what concerns me. The things I enjoy. The changes I want to see in the world. The people who lift me up. The people who bring me down. I pray. So here’s a few more prayers from me and my friends.”
High As Hope – Florence + The Machine
Available June 29
Indie queen of soaring vocals Florence Welch returns with her fourth studio album, High As Hope, in June. The singer describes the album as her journey to discovering “that songs can be triumphant and exciting but at the same time you just don’t have it figured out, that things can be joyful and you can be strong but there is an underlying sense that all the time you are questioning.”
On Instagram, Welch recently referred to the album — which is lead by the poetic and poignant “Hunger” and the moody and mesmerizing “Sky Full of Song” — as “a love letter to loneliness, New York City, South London, and all the angels I have ever met.”
Scorpion – Drake
Available June TBA
Drake had us “Hotline Bling”-ing in summer 2015, and gave us “One Dance” in summer 2016 and “Passionfruit” in 2017. So it’s only fair that the Canadian rapper is back with another banger in summer 2018, dropping “Nice For What” along with the announcement that his fifth studio album, Scorpion, would be released in June.
The rapper will also be hitting the road in summer 2018, joining fellow chart-toppers Migos for the Aubrey & The Three Amigos tour, which kicks off in Salt Lake City, Utah, on July 26.
LISTEN NOW: “Nice for What”
Palo Santo – Years & Years
Available July 6
British synthpop band Years & Years broke on the scene with their 2015 debut album, Communion, and Olly Alexander and the boys are back for more with Palo Santo, a trippy, club-ready record paired with short film–style videos that explore the dystopian future of the fictitious Palo Santo, where rare humans (like Alexander) are made to perform for the android bourgeoisie.
The album returns to the well of holy, erotic metaphor with lead single “Sanctify,” which details Alexander’s experience hooking up with a straight man and making peace with his own identity. “I feel like being gay is a blessing,” he recently told Nylon. “I wanted that to come through in the song.”
And, despite the futuristic visuals, Alexander says Palo Santo is an even more personal album than the last. “Even though the older songs have been about me and my life, I’ve felt more empowered to be even more confessional in my writing,” he explained. “I’m not shying away from certain topics anymore.”
Sweetener – Ariana Grande
Available July 20 or August 20
Following the successful release of and supporting tour for her third studio album, Dangerous Woman, Grande is gearing up to release Sweetener, the songstress’ triumphant return to the spotlight following a dark and tumultuous year.
“It is called Sweetener because it’s kind of about bringing light to a situation or to someone’s life, or somebody else who brings light to your life or sweetens the situation,” Grande told Jimmy Fallon of the album earlier this month. The singer also revealed plans for “something special” on the 20th of each month leading up to the album’s release, including a performance at the Billboard Music Awards.
The album’s poppy and polished first single, “No Tears Left to Cry,” is Grande’s first original release since the devastating bombing at her concert in Manchester, England, in May 2017, and the performer recently opened up to Time about returning to the studio following the devastating attack and her emotional benefit concert, One Love Manchester. “When I started to take care of myself more, then came balance, and freedom, and joy,” Grande said of her own recovery and making the new album. “It poured out into the music.”
LISTEN NOW:“No Tears Left to Cry”
ON THE RADAR:
While all of the albums listed above are confirmed for a summer release, there are a few more artists who might end up dropping albums of note in the longest months of the year. Troye Sivan has released several singles ahead of his highly anticipated sophomore studio album, Bloom, now slated for Aug. 31; and Miranda Lambert’s Pistol Annies group have been teasing an upcoming album sometime this year.
Childish Gambino made waves with his stark and powerful “This Is America” release, leading many fans to believe that an album isn’t far behind. And Madonna recently teased a new single, which could signal her first new album since 2015’s Rebel Heart.
The Labrinth/Sia/Diplo collab LSD will hopefully follow their eminently danceable singles “Genius” and “Audio” with a full album, and Brooklyn-based artist King Princess has made waves with her first two singles “1950” (which blew up thanks to a shoutout from Harry Styles) and “Talia” — with a debut EP, Make My Bed, now slated for June 15.