MARIAH CAREY Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel (9/29)
Twelve albums in, Mimi is fully emancipated, and Memoirs will no doubt bring us more of the buttery R&B jams (pointed Eminem diss ”Obsessed”) and heart-tugging balladry (the soaring, gospel-chorus-aided Foreigner cover ”I Want to Know What Love Is”) that have made her a superstar for nearly two decades.
PARAMORE brand new eyes (9/29)
Frontwoman Hayley Williams may still be a year away from legal drinking age, but the Tennessee pop-punkers’ third album tackles decidedly grown-up topics on their first post-Twilight-frenzy release — specifically, internal band conflicts: ”Friendship and betrayal, losing people you thought would be there forever, and then maybe either finding them again or not finding them again,” as Williams told EW in May. Green Day producer Rob Cavallo was at the knobs to turn the guitar-angst up to 11.
MADONNA Celebration (9/29)
Improbably, it’s been nearly two decades since Her Madjesty released The Immaculate Collection, her definitive greatest-hits comp. Prepare now for the deluge: a double-disc, 36-track best-of, with two new recordings (including the Lil Wayne collab ”Revolver”), and DVD containing 47(!) iconic videos.
AVETT BROTHERS I and Love and You (9/29)
Though the North Carolina folk-rock brothers have been quietly plugging away for a decade, their major-label debut, produced by studio legend Rick Rubin (Johnny Cash, Dixie Chicks, Jay-Z) may finally bring them the wider recognition they deserve; the plaintive title track alone (available on their MySpace page) is reason enough to be intrigued.
FLAMING LIPS Embryonic (10/13)
Oklahoma’s beloved rock weirdos deliver their twelfth album, a long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s At War with the Mystics, with help from a few young friends, MGMT and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ Karen O among them. Frontman Wayne Coyne told EW in May not to expect anything as ”conventional” (in the Lips’ world, it’s all relative) as The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots: ”I wouldn’t say it sounds like jazz, but it sounds freaky and unrestricted.”
SHAKIRA She Wolf (10/13)
If you’ve heard the first single, you know this slinky Latina loba still has some sharp pop claws. In the studio with her? ”Hips Don’t Lie” collaborator and former Fugee Wyclef Jean, Pharrell Williams, and, less expectedly, Sam Endicott, lead singer of new-romantic rockers the Bravery — who co-wrote the title track, already a top-ten hit.
NEW MOON SOUNDTRACK (10/13)"]
Twi-hards made the first film’s soundtrack a bona fide smash; this time around, music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas (the zeitgeist bottler behind music for Gossip Girl, Grey’s Anatomy, and the original Twilight film) ups the alt-ante even further, soliciting original material from the likes of Death Cab for Cutie (see swooning first single ”’Meet Me On the Equinox”), Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, and folk-phenom Bon Iver.
WOLFMOTHER Cosmic Egg (10/13)
Australia’s premiere hard-rock torch-bearers disbanded almost entirely four years after releasing their excellent self-titled debut; now only frontman Andrew Stockdale remains, but the Zeppelin/Black Sabbath riffs sound as heavy as ever on Cosmic Egg‘s chugging first single, ”New Moon Rising.”
SUFJAN STEVENS The BQE (10/20)
Indie rock’s premiere fabulist forsakes his peripatetic state-project theme (see 2003’s Michigan and 2005’s Illinois) for a more site-specific muse: New York City’s famous Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a.k.a., the BQE. The album and accompanying DVD has been dubbed a ”symphonic and cinematic exploration” of the auto-artery with a 36-piece band, including 36 performers a wind and brass ensemble, string players, and horns.
FLORENCE & THE MACHINE Lungs (10/20)
It’s been available digitally since July, but rising Brit Florence Welch’s full-length debut won’t see physical release until October. The 22-year-old’s haunting vocals and lush compositions — see standouts ”Dog Days” and ”Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)” — have garnered many comparisons to Kate Bush; others hear Sarah McLachlan with an outré art-school twist.
WEEZER Raditude (10/27)
Fifteen-plus years on, the horn-rimmed alt stars seemed to have lost a little of their luster (2008’s Weezer, a.k.a., The Red Album, underwhelmed all but the most hardcore fans). Raditude‘s first single, ”(If You’re Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To,” however, seems to promise better things. If the shambolic, giddy rocker is any indication, the album just may live up to its title.
CARRIE UNDERWOOD Play On (11/3)
Two years after her sophomore disc, Carnival Ride, the Idol winner turned country superstar gears up for her next release; lead single ”Cowboy Cassanova,” a sort of boys-are-still-bad-news sequel to her 2006 ubersmash ”Before He Cheats” sequel, promises more of the hard-guitar twang and saucy-sweet vocals her fans adore. Less expected? A possible collaboration with R&B loverman Ne-Yo.
NORAH JONES The Fall (11/17)
The queen of adult-contemporary jazz-pop returns with her fourth album, and a new direction: producer Jacquire King is better known for working with harder-edged acts like Modest Mouse, Kings of Leon, and Tom Waits; indie-rockers Ryan Adams and Okkervil River’s Will Sheff collaborate on songwriting.
LEONA LEWIS Echo (11/17)
What to expect from the ”Bleeding Love” diva? If first leaked single ”Happy” (penned by ”Love” co-writer Ryan Tedder) is any indication, more soaring power ballads and flawless vocal runs. Look, too, for contributions from Justin Timberlake, Ne-Yo and Swedish producer Max Martin (the man behind Britney’s ”? Baby One More Time” and Kelly Clarkson’s ”Since U Been Gone,” amongst other pop smashes).
EMINEM Relapse 2 (11/17)
Two albums in one year, after five years of nothing new? For Eminem, 2009 clearly has room for two. He’ll follow May’s Relapse (which sold over 600,000 copies its first week out) with a November-slated sequel. ”A lot of people were expecting Relapse to drop last year,” Eminem announced in March. ”I was one of them. Then Dre and I went back in the studio in September for a few days, and that turned into six months. We were on such a roll; we wound up with a ton of new music produced by Dre. Putting out Relapse 2 will let everyone get all of the best stuff.”
John Mayer Battle Studies (11/17)
The singer deliberately took his time following up on his last effort, 2006’s Grammy double whammy Continuum, working once again with John Mayer Trio drummer Steve Jordan as co-producer. First single ”Who Says” may be an ode to single-guy freedoms (”Who says I can’t get stoned / Call up a girl I used to know / Fake love for an hour or so”), but ”Half of My Heart,” a duet with Taylor Swift, promises a glimpse of the tabloid lothario in a more familiar romantic mode.
ADAM LAMBERT Title TBA (11/24)
Runner-up, shmunner-up. The guylinered second-place finisher’s debut is perhaps the most anticipated post-Idol debut ever from a non-winner. Lambert himself told the Associated Press that he envisions a ”rock-pop-electronic-dance thing,” with elements of ’70s glam rock and something ”very modern, almost futurist”; either way, expect him to go where no AI finalist has gone before.
LIL WAYNE Rebirth (11/24)
How to follow a string of phenomenally successful hip-hop albums? If you’re irascible rapper Lil Wayne, you pull a 180 and make a — gasp! — rock record. This many-months-delayed project remains shrouded in mystery, though Lenny Kravitz and Fall Out Boy’s Pete Wentz are confirmed guests. Renegade genius or spectacular flameout? Only November will tell.
USHER Monster (12/8)
The R&B star promises to bring more love to the club with his sixth studio album, featuring collaborations with friends like Jay-Z, Ne-Yo, and Maroon 5’s Adam Levine. In June, he told PEOPLE magazine that the album would be ”romantic at times… It’s racy, risky and edgy and sometimes about personal experiences. I look at music like a diary.”
ALICIA KEYS TBA (late fall)"]
When she’s not busy making hits for other superstars (see Jay-Z duet ”Empire State of Mind” and Whitney Houston’s ”Million Dollar Bill,” which she wrote), Keys has somehow found the time to record a fourth album, still untitled. But first single ”Doesn’t Mean Anything” promises more sultry-soulful piano balladry.