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Kacey Musgraves Performing in 2021
Kacey Musgraves performs at the 2021 VMAs.

Photo: John Shearer/MTV VMAs 2021/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS

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2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Country Music

Powerful narratives fueled country music in 2021, between vulnerable heartbreak-driven albums, Nashville veterans getting their spotlight, and Black voices finally being heard

GRAMMYs/Dec 23, 2021 - 07:10 pm

The genre known for three chords and the truth reached new heights of authenticity and storytelling in 2021. After a year of doubt, confusion and isolation in 2020, many country artists returned to the road and their careers with rejuvenated passion, releasing some of their most ambitious projects to date.

Grassroots ways of finding success emerged, with several artists — both established and up-and-coming — unlocking whole new fan bases thanks to social media. The result? Some unlikely hits made it up to the very top of the country radio charts, artists were able to release more music than ever before, and unprecedented cross-genre collaborations came out of quarantine connections.

Read on to learn more about some of the trends, both musical and cultural, that dominated country music in 2021.

Double and Triple Albums

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During their pandemic-induced time off the road, many artists found that the one thing they could still do was write songs. By 2021, the plethora of music created in those sessions was recorded and ready for release, resulting in longer track lists and beefier projects.

One such trendsetter was Eric Church, who released a massive, 24-track Heart & Soul album spread out over three discs. Morgan Wallen dropped his 30-track — or 33-track, if you're counting the Target-exclusive and bonus editions — Dangerous: The Double Album in January. The latter made history, becoming the first country album to spend its first 10 weeks at No. 1 on the all-genre Billboard 200; it also spent 43 weeks in the chart's top 10, more than any other album in 2021. (Amid the album’s success, Wallen sparked major controversy when a video surfaced of the singer using a racial slur. He issued an apology and claimed to make donations to Black-led groups, but was promptly shut out from country radio and streaming services, as well as several events and awards shows.)

Thomas Rhett and Jason Aldean also created multiple albums worth of music in 2021. Rhett released Country Again: Side A in April, announcing in November that Side B will arrive in fall 2022 following another album, titled Where We Started, which the star revealed will be out in "early 2022." Aldean had a similar release strategy, dropping Macon, the first half of his double album Macon, Georgia, in November and setting Georgia for April 22, 2022.

Success Stories Years in the Making

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Longtime B-Listers finally got their country radio propers in 2021, due to ever-increasing opportunities for artists to create grassroots hits on social media. Walker Hayes' ubiquitous "Fancy Like" went viral on TikTok (particularly thanks to a family-friendly dance craze) and became a No. 1 hit on both Billboard's Country Airplay and Hot Country Songs charts. The song gave the singer — who moved to Nashville in 2005 — his first crossover hit, getting airplay on pop radio and climbing all the way to No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Parmalee also took country radio by surprise this year. The band hadn't had a No. 1 since 2013, and their two most recent singles fizzled without ever cracking the charts. But "Just the Way," an unlikely team-up with "The Git Up" star Blanco Brown, saw them cruising back into the top spot.

One more success story came from Lainey Wilson, another Nashville veteran who got her big break with the insightful hit "Things a Man Oughta Know." The song became her first No. 1 on country radio after nearly 10 years of releasing music. Her latest single, a collaboration with resident chart-topper Cole Swindell titled "Never Say Never," is currently climbing the charts.

Classic Hits Found New Life on TikTok

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While TikTok was instrumental in creating new hits such as "Fancy Like" in 2021, it was also responsible for revitalizing a few old ones. Reba McEntire's 2001 hit, "I'm a Survivor" went viral thanks to a TikTok spoof trend, with users setting the song to video footage of themselves melodramatically doing everyday chores. McEntire herself got in on the fun, posting a clip of her attempt to feed a pair of ungrateful donkeys.

Shania Twain also reached brand-new audiences with her TikTok presence. She posts snippets of iconic selections from her discography, as well as her hilarious commentary on French fries, sneak peeks at her Las Vegas residency, and the occasional trend trade-off with Taylor Swift.

Career-Defining Divorce Albums

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Breakups aren't exactly a new topic for country, but some country artists have gone through very public heartbreaks over the past couple of years. Carly Pearce split from fellow artist Michael Ray after just eight months of marriage, and Kacey Musgraves called it quits with her husband of two years, singer/songwriter Ruston Kelly.

But rather than go through these difficult times privately, both Pearce and Musgraves spun their heartache into gold, with each singer putting out her most revealing, personal and intricately-crafted record to date. Pearce leaned heavily into her country roots to make 29: Written in Stone, while Musgraves expertly defied genre boundaries to release star-crossed, a project so vulnerable that she performed one of its songs on Saturday Night Live wearing nothing but a strategically placed acoustic guitar.

Black Country Stars Broke Through

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After the country world said goodbye to the legendary Charley Pride in December 2020, his trailblazing legacy lived on in 2021. Black country stars made waves in several ways this year, from winning awards, to launching business ventures, to making statements on stage and in song.

Hitmakers Kane Brown and Jimmie Allen — the latter of whom is the only country artist up for Best New Artist at the 2022 GRAMMYS — made history with their wins at the ACM Awards (Brown was the first Black artist to win Video of the Year; Allen was the first Black solo artist to win the New Male Artist of the Year). Both of them started their own businesses in 2021 as well: Brown started his own label, 1021 Entertainment (in partnership with his home label, Sony Music Nashville), and Allen launched both a publishing company, Bettie James Music Publishing, and a full-service management and production company, JAB Entertainment.

Mickey Guyton, who first caught attention outside of the genre for her GRAMMY-nominated single "Black Like Me" last year, continued making an impact with her powerful album, Remember Her Name. The album features several vignettes of her experience as a Black woman, including a bouncy anthem "Different" and a poignant ballad "Love My Hair." She delivered a moving performance of the latter track at the 2021 CMA Awards alongside rising stars Brittney Spencer and Madeline Edwards, two of the many promising Black voices in the genre, which also includes Yola, Breland, Willie Jones, and Shy Carter, among others.

Artists Lived Their Truth

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Amid the challenges country music faced this year, there were also moments of personal authenticity and joy. Brothers Osborne's TJ Osborne came out as gay in a Time feature, and the sibling duo subsequently released "Younger Me," a compassionate, timely ode to the obstacles they overcame to become who they are today.

Osborne was one of two country acts signed to a major label to come out as gay: The other was Brooke Eden, who came out in January, and later in the year got engaged to her partner Hilary Hoover. She put out the first new songs she’d released in years, and in a Grand Ole Opry performance, she and Trisha Yearwood duetted on Yearwood's classic "She's in Love With the Boy," changing the lyrics to "She’s in love with the girl."

Eden and Osborne are two of a very small — but growing — list of publicly gay country music major players, also including hit songwriter Shane McAnally and Americana star Brandi Carlile.

Dolly Parton Retained Her Reign as Country Queen

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Dolly Parton was a major bright spot in the dark year that was 2020. Not only did she lift spirits by releasing her third Christmas album, A Holly Dolly Christmas, but she also made a $1 million donation to fund the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

It’s hard to top that, but this year, Parton continued to trend for her uplifting acts of kindness and legendary musical feats. She sent social media into a frenzy when she celebrated "hot girl summer" — and the birthday of her husband of 57 years, Carl Dean — by recreating the iconic outfit she wore for her Playboy cover shoot back in 1978. She also duetted with Reba McEntire for the first time, landed on the list of Forbes' richest self-made women, and capped off 2021 by setting two brand-new Guinness World Records (and breaking a third record that she already held) for her long-standing chart accomplishments.

Full-Length Collaborations Albums

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What’s better than one duet? An album full of them, apparently. Collaborations were hot in country music in 2021, but lots of artists took that one step further, putting out full-length projects featuring a cast of duet partners.

The Hardy-curated Hixtape Vol. 2 dug deep into country lifestyle and party songs, courtesy of some of the biggest names from every corner of the genre. Brantley Gilbert, Brothers Osborne, Jon Pardi, Dierks Bentley and Jake Owen are just a few of the acts who lent their voices to the track list, which features a total of 33 guest artists across 14 songs.

While the Hixtape went ultra-country, other duets albums were genre-spanning. Rapper Nelly put out his Heartland project, featuring Darius Rucker, Breland and Florida Georgia Line. Jimmie Allen went even broader for his Bettie James Gold Edition, which featured everyone from rapper Pitbull to R&B/soul singer Monica and pop star Noah Cyrus.

2021 In Review: 8 Trends That Defined Rock

Tom Petty
Tom Petty performing with the Heartbreakers in 2008

Photo: Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

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How 'Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration' Makes Tom Petty A Posthumous Crossover Sensation

On 'Petty Country,' Nashville luminaries from Willie Nelson to Dolly Parton and Luke Combs make Tom Petty’s simple, profound, and earthy songs their own — to tremendous results.

GRAMMYs/Jun 24, 2024 - 06:49 pm

If Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers landed in 2024, how would we define them? For fans of the beloved heartland rockers and their very missed leader, it's a compelling question.

"It's not active rock. It's not mainstream rock. It's not country. It would really fall in that Americana vein," says Scott Borchetta, the founder of Big Machine Label Group. "When you think about what his lyrics were and are about, it's really about the American condition."

To Borchetta, these extended to everything in Petty's universe — his principled public statements, his man-of-the-people crusades against the music industry. "He was an American rebel with a cause," Borchetta says. And when you fuse that attitude with big melodies, bigger choruses, and a grounded, earthy perspective — well, there's a lot for country fans to love.

That's what Coran Capshaw of Red Light Management bet on when he posited the idea of Petty Country: A Country Music Celebration of Tom Petty, a tribute album released June 21. Featuring leading lights like Dolly Parton ("Southern Accents"), Willie and Lukas Nelson ("Angel Dream (No. 2)," Luke Combs ("Runnin' Down a Dream"), Dierks Bentley ("American Girl,") Wynonna and Lainey Wilson ("Refugee"), and other country luminaries covering Tom Petty classics, Petty Country is a seamless union of musical worlds.

Which makes perfect sense: on a core level, Petty, and his band of brothers, were absolutely steeped in country — after all, they grew up in the South — Gainesville, Florida.

"Tom loved all country music. He went pretty deep into the Carter Family, and "Will the Circle Be Unbroken?" and the folk, Americana heart of it," says Petty's daughter, Adria, who helps run his estate. "Hank Williams, and even Ernest Tubb and Patsy Cline… as a songwriter, I think a lot of that real original music influenced him enormously." (The Flying Burrito Brothers, and the Byrds' Gram Parsons-hijacked country phase, were also foundational.)

A key architect of Petty Country was the man's longtime producer, George Drakoulias. "He's worked with Dad for a hundred years since [1994's] Wildflowers, and he has super exquisite taste," Adria says.

In reaching out to prospective contributors, he and fellow music supervisor Randall Poster started at the top: none other than Willie Nelson and Dolly Parton. "Having Willie and Dolly made people stand up and pay attention," Dreakoulias told Rolling Stone, and the Nashville floodgates were opened: Thomas Rhett ("Wildflowers"), Brothers Osborne ("I Won't Back Down"), Lady A ("Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"), and so many others.

Each artist gave Petty's work a distinctive, personal spin. Luke Combs jets down the highway of "Runnin' Down the Dream" like he was born to ride. Along with Yo-Yo Ma and founding Heartbreakers keyboardist Benmont Tench, Rhiannon Giddens scoops out the electronics and plumbs the droning, haunting essence of "Don't Come Around Here No More."


And where a lesser tribute album would have lacquered over the songs with homogenous Nashville production,
Petty Country is the opposite.

"I'm not a fan of having a singular producer on records like this. I want each one of them to be their own little crown jewel," Borchetta says. "That's going to give us a better opportunity for them to make the record in their own image."

This could mean a take that hews to the original, or casts an entirely new light on it. "Dierks called up and said, 'Hey, do you think we would be all right doing a little bit more of a bluegrass feel to it?' I was like, 'Absolutely. If you hear it, go get it.'"

"It had the diversity that the Petty women like on the records," Adria says, elaborating that they wanted women and people of color on the roster. "We like to see those tributes to Tom reflect his values; he was always very pro-woman, which is why he has such outspoken women [laughs] in his wake."

Two of Petty Country's unquestionable highlights are by women. Margo Price chose "Ways to Be Wicked," a cut so deep that even the hardcore Petty faithful might not know it; the Let Me Up (I've Had Enough) outtake was buried on disc six of the 1995 boxed set Playback.

"Man, it's just one of those songs that gets in your veins," Price says. "He really knew how to twist the knife — that chorus, 'There's so many ways to be wicked, but you don't know one little thing about love.'" Founding Heartbreakers guitarist Mike Campbell features on the dark, driving banger.

And all interviewed for this article are agog over Dolly Parton's commanding take on "Southern Accents" — the title track of the band's lumpy, complicated, vulnerable 1985 album of the same name. "It's just revelatory… it brings me to my knees," Adria says. "It's just a phenomenal version I know my dad would've absolutely loved."

"It's one of Dolly's best vocals ever, and it's hair-raising," Borchetta says. "You could tell she really felt that track, and what the song was about."

At press time, the Petty camp is forging ahead with plans for a boxed set expansion of 1982's undersung Long After Dark. 

Adria is filled with profuse gratitude for the artists preserving and carrying her dad's legacy. 

"I'm really touched that these musicians showed up for my dad," she says. "A lot of people don't want to show up for anything that's not making money for them, or in service to their career, and we really appreciate it… I owe great debt to all of these artists and their managers for making the time to think about our old man like that."

Indeed, in Nashville and beyond, we've all been thinking about her old man, especially since his untimely passing in 2017. We'll never forget him — and will strum and sing these simple, heartfelt, and profound songs for years to come.

Let Your Heart Be Your Guide: Adria Petty, Mike Campbell & More On The Enduring Significance Of Tom Petty's Wildflowers

Jungkook
Jungkook performing in New York City in 2023

Photo: Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for TSX Entertainment

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New Music Friday: Listen To Songs & Albums From Jungkook, Meghan Trainor, Peggy Gou, & More

Bask in the pre-summer magic with fresh musical offerings from acts as diverse as Ski Mask the Slump God, Kaytranada, Thomas Rhett, and more.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2024 - 03:42 pm

We're still a couple of weeks away from the summer solstice, but the smell of cookouts and chlorine is already in the air. As parts of the country experience summer weather, there's plenty of musical delights ready to soundtrack the start of summer.

From pop to alt-country to rap, this New Music Friday sprouted sounds for listeners of all persuasions. Here's a cross-section of today's songs and albums to check out, from
Peggy Gou's debut album to the latest single from Jungkook.

Meghan Trainor — 'Timeless'

Just a few weeks before Meghan Trainor's breakthrough smash, "All About That Bass," turns 10, the GRAMMY winner rings in the anniversary in major fashion: a brand new album.

Trainor's sixth LP, Timeless, an irresistible split difference between bubblegum pop and woo-wop. Back in March, she released the lead single "Been Like This" with T-Pain; the "Buy U a Drank" star also appears on "Love on Hold."

"I cannot believe it has been 10 years since this all started. I have never been more grateful for this life that my incredible Megatronz have gifted me with," Trainor said in a statement — "Megatronz" referring to her rabid fanbase. "This new album and tour are all for them and my beautiful family."

Peggy Gou — 'I Hear You'

I Hear You might be South Korean DJ and singer Peggy Gou's debut album, but she declares it to be much more than that.

"It embodies countless hours of dedication in my journey to create something timeless, and is a testament to the power of listening, to ourselves and to each other," Gou said in a statement

And of the video to "1+1=11," in all of its shadowplay: "By bringing together dance — embodied exploration of space — with colorful shadows, lights, and mirrors, I was able to bring some of the key interests that have long shaped my art into an entirely new context."

If all this resonates with you, I Hear You is — well, a must-hear.

Listen: Leap Into AAPI Month 2024 With A Playlist Featuring Laufey, Diljit Dosanjh, & Peggy Gou

Orville Peck, Diplo & Kylie Minogue — "Midnight Ride"

As Pride Month kicked off, Kylie Minogue brought out two very special guests at Outloud Fest at West Hollywood Pride: her newest collaborators, Orville Peck and Diplo. The trio debuted the slinky, sparkling "Midnight Ride," a winning trifecta of their diverse talent pools.

Just a few days later, the studio version has arrived. In its full-fledged wonder, the track is just as much of a ride on record as it was on stage.

The single is the latest offering from Peck's forthcoming duets album, Stampede; though the full album's release date has yet to be announced, the alt-country star teased the exciting collabs to come with the seven-song Stampede, Vol. 1 on May 10, which featured Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Nathaniel Rateliff and more.

Glass Animals — "A Tear in Space (Airlock)"

On July 19, English indie favorites Glass Animals will declare I Love You So F***ing Much with their fourth album. They previously released the advance single "Creatures in Heaven." "A Tear in Space (Airlock)" arrives from smack in the middle of the forthcoming album.

A celestial, pulsing track replete with delicious production details, "A Tear in Space (Airlock)" marks another evolutionary step for the Oxford-rooted group. Their smash "Heat Waves" might be in the rearview, but they still know how to craft a song for just that.

Read More: Meet The First-Time GRAMMY Nominee: Glass Animals' Dave Bayley On The Group's Slow Burn To Massive Success With "Heat Waves" — And How It Almost Never Happened

Jungkook — "Never Let Go"

Where would BTS be without its ARMY? It's an unthinkable prospect — and the boy band giants' beloved Jungkook has penned a worthy tribute to the fanbase that made them.

Released for BTS' annual debut anniversary celebration, Festa, "Never Let Go" opens its heart completely. "Without your love, I'm nothing/ You mean more than you know/ And words escape me whenever you're close," he croons. "I tried to put it into words but it don't measure up/ My pen and paper could never do quite enough."

Believe us: the radiant "Never Let Go" is more than enough. "It's the truth, it's the truth," Jungkook concludes. "We got something rеal nothing could break."

Learn more: Breaking Down Every Solo Act From BTS: Singles, Debut Albums & What's Next For The Septet

KAYTRANADA — 'TIMELESS'

The Haitian-Canadian producer, rapper, singer, and DJ born Louis Celestin has produced everyone from Anderson .Paak to Alicia Keys to Victoria Monét, but he's just as compelling when it's his name on the record sleeve.

The two-time GRAMMY winner proves just that with his third album,
TIMELESS. Of course, the producer recruited several collaborators for the project, and the list is a panoply of associates from across his career — not only .Paak, but Childish Gambino, Don Toliver, and more.

Maluma & Blessd — '1 of 1'

"A full production between two Colombian artists had never been done before," rapper and singer Maluma brassily proclaimed in a recent press statement. "If it's the first, it can't be done twice."

He's referring to the (aptly titled) 1 of 1, his new EP with fellow Colombian great Blessd. Co-produced by MadMuscik and the RudeBoyz, this six-pack is a reflection of the clear admiration and respect between the two reggaetón practitioners.

This pre-summer weekend, grab a bestie, hit the road, crank up tunes like "Call Me" and "Goyard/GTA," and let that feeling flow through you, too.

Ski Mask the Slump God — '11th Dimension'

Five years after his last LP, Floridan rap phenom Ski Mask the Slump God returns by taking listeners to the 11th Dimension.

If 11th Dimension's advance singles — the jovial "Ooga Booga!", the propulsive "Headrush" — whetted your thirst, get ready for the other 19 tracks, like head-spinning highlights "By Myself," "KillStreak" and "Him Jung Un."

And while Ski Mask the Slump God takes most of those tracks himself, the album's five features are equally as thrilling: Future and ATL Jacob, Skillibeng, Corbin, and two posthumous duets with late rap stars XXXTentacion and Juice Wrld.

Generally, when an artist has a blast making music, it seeps through the grooves — and Thomas Rhett had an absolute ball making his new album, About A Woman, out Aug. 23.

"I did this with a new batch of producers, a lot of different songwriters. This is the funnest album that I've made, I think," he told Backstage Country. "This is a very, very 'me' album. If you liked Tangled Up and Life Changes, Center Point Road, this album is sort of that on steroids."

He's already revealed the first single, "Beautiful as You"; its follow-up, "Gone Country," is a rough-hewn statement of down-home purpose. Every line and lick is true to his dictum that he "got back to the root of why I love to make music and put smiles on faces." 

Let that smile cross your face as you prepare for your summer adventures — and we'll see you on next week's New Music Friday!

On This Day In Music: 2 Live Crew's 'As Nasty As They Wanna Be' Becomes First Album Declared Legally Obscene, Anticipates First Amendment Cases

CMA Fest 2024 Playlist Hero
(L-R) Kelsea Ballerini, Dalton Dover, Chase Matthew, Jelly Roll, Ella Langley, Dasha, Avery Anna, Breland

Photos (L-R): Jason Kempin/Getty Images for the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BRELAND & Friends, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for iHeartRadio, Amy E. Price/Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images, Brynn Osborn/CBS via Getty Images, Jason Davis/Getty Images for SiriusXM, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for BRELAND & Friends

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Get Ready For CMA Fest 2024: Listen To A Playlist By Dasha, Ella Langley, Chase Matthew, Avery Anna, & Dalton Dover

As country stars and fans flock to Nashville for CMA Fest, five of the lineup's most exciting acts curated a playlist of the songs they're looking forward to hearing live — from Shaboozey's "A Bar Song (Tipsy)" to Lainey Wilson's "Watermelon Moonshine."

GRAMMYs/Jun 5, 2024 - 02:25 pm

For more than 50 years, the Country Music Association has hosted the genre's biggest annual party in Nashville, Tennessee: CMA Fest. Originally dubbed Fan Fair, what began as a 5,000-person celebration of country music has turned into a four-day festival that draws an estimated 90,000 people each day. And with the genre being at an all-time high, the 2024 iteration of CMA Fest might just be the most thrilling yet.

The 51st annual CMA Fest will take over Nashville from June 6-9, with upwards of 300 country artists performing. As rising stars — and returning CMA Fest performers — Avery Anna, Dalton Dover and Chase Matthew will tell you, the magic of the weekend affair has always come down to the fans.

"I love the connection that the festival provides between artists and fans," Anna says. Dover adds, "Whether it's being reunited with those I've met in the past or getting some time to say hello to all the new faces in the crowd, it's just so special to be able to connect with everyone over our love for country music."

Matthew, who grew up in Nashville, has been part of both sides of CMA Fest. "I've seen CMA Fest grow to become this epic event that every music fan should experience," he says. "It's a great opportunity for fans to see and interact with their favorite country stars, as well as discover new artists they may not have had the opportunity to hear yet."

Even Dasha, who will be experiencing her first CMA Fest this year, knows just how important it is to any country music artist or fan: "CMA Fest is such an iconic celebration of country music."

Thanks to the runaway success of her hit "Austin," Dasha will be taking the Platform Stage at Nissan Stadium, which will highlight two budding stars each night amid performances from the genre's biggest names. "When I got that call, I got online to see the number of seats there and my jaw was on the ground," she recalls. "That'll be my biggest show to date, and I can't wait to show the people what we've got."

This year's CMA Fest also marks a first for Ella Langley, who will make her inaugural appearance on the Chevy Riverfront Stage in a "full-circle moment." And in teasing what she'll bring to her set, Langley encapsulated the energy of CMA Fest as a whole: "I hope the fans are ready for a bunch of dancing, a good message and a really good time."

As they prepped for CMA Fest 2024, Ella Langley, Dasha, Chase Matthew, Dalton Dover, and Avery Anna helped curate a playlist of songs they're excited to see — and perform — live. Whether or not you'll be heading to Nashville, jam out to tracks from Kelsea Ballerini, Sam Hunt, Cody Johnson, Zach Top, Megan Moroney, and more.

June 2024 albums list hero
(Clockwise from top right): Kehlani, Tems, Gracie Abrams, Carly Pearce, Camila Cabello, and Peso Pluma.

Photos (Clockwise from top right): Tim Mosenfelder/WireImage, Scott Dudelson/Getty Images for Coachella, Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images, Jason Kempin/Getty Images for ABA, Cindy Ord/MG24/Getty Images for The Met Museum/Vogue, Todd Owyoung/NBC via Getty Images

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15 Must-Hear Albums In June 2024: Charli XCX, Kehlani, Peso Pluma, Normani & More

Lots of exciting releases ring in summertime this June, with highly anticipated albums from Tems, Meghan Trainor, Gracie Abrams, Camila Cabello and several other stars across genres.

GRAMMYs/Jun 3, 2024 - 01:08 pm

June's rising temperatures bring a heat wave of releases, and also important events. Pride Month, Black Music Month, and Juneteenth all happen in the next four weeks, and whether it's to celebrate or to console our hearts, a variety of new albums will soundtrack this journey.

The first Friday of the month packs a powerful group of women: Charli XCX's will release Brat, Meghan Trainor's returns with Timeless, Carly Pearce brings forward hummingbird, Tems makes her official debut with Born in the Wild, and DJ Peggy Gou will also put out her first LP, I Hear You.

Women continue to dominate later in the month, and former Fifth Harmony members Normani and Camila Cabello will both drop new material with Dopamine and C,XOXO, respectively. Gracie Abrams will return with The Secret of Us, as well as Kate Nash and her 9 Sad Symphonies, Joni Mitchell and The Asylum Albums (1976-1980), and Kehlani with Crash.

Of course, there will also be plenty of fresh music from male artists, too, like Peso Pluma's Éxodo, Imagine Dragons' Loom, Kygo's self-titled LP, Lucky Daye's Algorithm, as well as a new live album from Paul McCartney & Wings, titled One Hand Clapping. Closing out the month, all ears will be tuning in to Omar Apollo's God Said No, Lupe Fiasco's Samurai, Neil Young & Crazy Horse's Early Daze, a still unnamed Steve Aoki album, and many others.

Below, get to know more about 15 of the most exciting albums dropping in June 2024.

Charli XCX — Brat

Release date: June 7

The reception to Charli XCX's upcoming album cover — a low-res image of the word "brat" centered in a lime green background — was controversial, but that was precisely her intention. "I wanted to go with an offensive, off-trend shade of green to trigger the idea of something being wrong," the British singer told Vogue Singapore. "I'd like for us to question our expectations of pop culture — why are some things considered good and acceptable, and some things deemed bad? ... I'm not doing things to be nice."

Following 2022's Crash, Brat is Charli's sixth studio album, and boasts 15 club-ready tracks. Over on X (formerly Twitter), the pop provocateur stated that she "was born to make dance music," and that this is the album she's "always wanted to make." A preview of Brat's sleek, smacking sounds can be heard on singles "Von Dutch" and "360," plus a few other tracks shared in advance. The album also includes "So I," a tribute to late producer and DJ SOPHIE.

In support of the album, Charli lined up a slew of performances and DJ nights (dubbed Partygirl) in June, including stops in London, New York, and São Paulo. Later on, she will join Troye Sivan on their 2024 co-headlining Sweat Tour, set to kick off in September and hitting arenas around North America.

Tems — Born in the Wild

Release date: June 7

Nigerian singer Tems earned the eyes and the ears of international media with her Afrobeats-infused R&B. First raising attention with her feature in Wizkid's 2020 single "Essence," she later built up a devoted fandom through two EPs: 2020's For Broken Ears and 2021's If Orange Was a Place. In 2022, she was credited as a featured artist in Future's "Wait For U," which led her to win a GRAMMY for Best Melodic Rap Performance.

On June 7, Tems will release her long-awaited debut album, Born in the Wild. The official announcement came with a teaser video for the title track, disclosed one day after her Coachella set in April. "It's all over the news, all over the news, I know this/ Under the sun, struggling to find my focus/ When I was young, younger then/ I was always running away," she sings, reflecting on her childhood in Lagos. "I grew up in the wilderness/ Didn't know much about openness." 

The record's first single,"Love Me JeJe," came out on April 25, followed by the announcement of a world tour spanning Europe, North America, and Australia from June to November.

Carly Pearce — hummingbird

Release date: June 7

"When you hear this album — wherever you are on your journey, I hope it shows you that pain can be a lesson that shows you just how strong you are and what you truly deserve," Carly Pearce wrote on Instagram as she announced her fourth studio album, hummingbird, in March.

The release follows 2021's 29: Written in Stone, which documented the country star's journey through marriage and divorce at the age of 29. "The last few years have been a season of loss and growth, of healing and happiness," Pearce added. "A belief that if I did the inner work, I would rebuild myself stronger than I was before, and a knowing that I have done some living and will always be unapologetic about it."

Hummingbird holds 14 tracks that encapsulate the GRAMMY-winning singer's redemption and "true love for country music." Among them is her current single, "We Don't Fight Anymore" with Chris Stapleton, and the title track, and previously released tracks "country music made me do it", "heels over head," "my place," and "fault line." 

Peggy Gou — I Hear You

Release date: June 7

With 2023's "(It Goes Like) Nanana," DJ and singer Peggy Gou bounced from underground savant to worldwide summer queen. The single went viral on TikTok, entered charts across the globe, and led Gou to become one of the most in-demand electronic music artists in recent years — culminating with the title of first female DJ to headline Ushuaïa Ibiza.

Now, the South Korean-born, Berlin-based phenom is gearing up to release her debut LP, I Hear You, out June 7 via XL Recordings. According to a press release, the album depicts Gou "boldly claiming her voice through the kaleidoscopic lens of '90s house music." Featuring 10 tracks, it represents the "culmination of years of work," and includes the aforementioned "(It Goes Like) Nanana," 2021's "I Go," "I Believe in Love Again" with Lenny Kravitz, and lead single "1+1=11."

"I Hear You is more than just my debut album," Gou stated in the press release. "It embodies countless hours of dedication in my journey to create something timeless, and is a testament to the power of listening, to ourselves and to each other."

Bon Jovi — Forever

Release date: June 7

Rock icons Bon Jovi have been active for so long that it feels accurate to name their 16th studio album "Forever." In fact, the New Jersey band is celebrating their 40th anniversary with the release, set to drop on June 7.

"This record is a return to joy," said frontman Jon Bon Jovi in a statement. "From the writing, through the recording process, this is turn up the volume, feel good Bon Jovi." Forever follows 2020's 2020, and marks the band's first release after Bon Jovi's vocal surgery in 2022. Ushering in this new chapter, they also shared a Disney+ four-part documentary named Thank You, Goodnight: The Bon Jovi Story, and lofty single "Legendary."

In February of this year, Jon Bon Jovi was honored as the 2024 MusiCares Person Of The Year. The award recognized his extensive philanthropic work in a benefit gala during GRAMMY week — and granted the band yet another reason to celebrate.

The Decemberists — As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again

Release date: June 14

Following a six-year hiatus, The Decemberists are back with their ninth record, As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again. The double-LP holds 13 tracks that are split into four thematic sides, and features guest appearances from The Shins' James Mercer and R.E.M.'s Mike Mills.

After sharing the opener and lead single, "Burial Ground," the folk rock band from Portland, Oregon, shared the 19-minute prog closer "Joan in the Garden," which was inspired by the story of Joan of Arc — and ultimately teased As It Ever Was, So It Will Be Again will have many musical layers. 

"I wanted to make my own version of Joan," vocalist Colin Meloy said in a press release. "But the song that came was as much about the creative process as it was about the actual woman, about angelic visitation and creative visitation and the hallucinogenic quality of both."

Last month, The Decemberists announced a lengthy North American summer tour, starting on April 30 in Kingston, New York, and wrapping it up with a special hometown show on Aug. 3 in Troutdale, Oregon. 

Normani — Dopamine

Release date: June 14

Since her highly addictive 2019 hit, "Motivation," Normani has kept fans on the tip of their toes for a solo debut LP. She even turned their questioning into a website: wheresthedamnalbum.com. At last, the wait is finally over: after five long years, Dopamine will come out on June 14.

The album is spearheaded by lead single "1:59," which features rapper Gunna and blooms with late '90s R&B inspiration. Normani also shared a sultry album teaser, "Dopamine (First Dose)," which features a snippet of her latest release from the album, the airy "Candy Paint."

"The album feels like liberation, like a season of freedom," said the former Fifth Harmony member in an interview for WhoWhatWear earlier this year. "Not just because the record is finally coming out, but because it's a celebration of everything I have been through to get to this moment … I know I needed time, experiences, and space coming out of [Fifth Harmony] in order to become the version of myself I needed to be."

Peso Pluma — Éxodo

Release date: June 20

Almost exactly a year after releasing his third studio album, Génesis, Mexican star Peso Pluma follows his GRAMMY-winning LP by doubling down. Éxodo, his fourth studio effort, is a double album comprising 24 tracks — 16 corridos tumbados, 8 urbano songs — and a stellar guest list featuring Cardi B, Rich the Kid and Quavo, Anitta, and more.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, Pluma stated that this album will confront more directly the negative press that surrounds him. "[On Génesis] people already saw the good side, the superhero side. But I think this year, they're going to know a darker side," he added.

He's previewed Éxodo through seven tracks so far, including "LA DURANGO" with Junior H and Eslabón Armado, "Rompe La Dompe" also with Junior H and Oscar Maydon, and "LA PEOPLE II" with Tito Double P and Joel de la P. Pluma is currently on a massive arena tour throughout the U.S., set to conclude on October 11 in Montville, Connecticut.

Gracie Abrams — The Secret of Us

Release date: June 21

Sixteen months after releasing her debut album, Good Riddance, GRAMMY-nominated singer Gracie Abrams is already back with her second LP, The Secret of Us. Set to drop on June 21, the project holds 13 tracks and is led by the lively pop and sharp lyrics of "Risk."

The single was co-written by Abrams and her childhood best friend, Audrey Hobert, and co-produced by Abrams and The National's Aaron Dessner (who helmed the production of Good Riddance). On Instagram, Abrams shared that she and her team "had real, true fun writing this album," but that "there were also the occasional tears." The raspy-voiced star also revealed The Secret's track list, which includes a collaboration with Taylor Swift in the track "us."

Abrams opened several dates of Swift's The Eras Tour in 2023. She'll celebrate her new album later this year by returning to the Eras Tour lineup, joining Swift again for the final North American shows in October, November and December. 

Lake Street Dive — Good Together

Release date: June 21

"The ethos of Good Together can be described as 'joyful rebellion,' just as energetic and danceable as it is defiantly principled," reads a press release on Lake Street Dive's upcoming record. Produced by Mike Elizondo, the album's main goal is to "highlight our shared humanity" through the quintet's dynamic, genre-bending compositions.

"There's a lot to be angry about in the world right now, a lot of pain and rage and divisiveness, but it isn't sustainable to constantly live in that anger — you need something else to keep you going," drummer Mike Calabrese said in a statement. "Joy is a great way to sustain yourself, and we wanted to encourage everyone to stay aware of that. In a way this album is our way of saying, 'Take your joy very seriously.'" A glimpse of those feelings appear in the laid-back album singles "Better Not Tell You" and the title track.

Lake Dive Street have also announced the biggest world tour of the band's career, kicking off its North American leg on June 14 in Asbury Park, New Jersey, and wrapping on October 12 in Atlanta, Georgia. In January 2025, they head on to Europe and the U.K.

Kehlani — Crash

Release date: June 21

It's already summer in Kehlani's world — or at least this is what their single "After Hours" feels like. Marking the Californian singer's first release since 2022's Blue Water Road, "After Hours" samples Cordel "Scatta" Burrell's "Coolie Dance Riddim" and sets expectations high for their upcoming record, Crash.

While little else is known about the album, Kehlani has been teasing bits and pieces of it on social media. She also released a second track, a booming dedication to a loved one called "Next 2 U," which Kehlani declared is "my favorite one" from the album.

Though Kehlani has yet to announce a coinciding tour for Crash, she'll play three shows at LIV Nightclub Las Vegas, in the Fontainebleau hotel. The first took place on May 31 — just hours after "Next 2 U" arrived — and the other two are on July 21 and Aug. 2.

Camila Cabello — C,XOXO

Release date: June 28

Another Fifth Harmony alum will make a comeback this month: Camila Cabello is set to release her fourth album, C,XOXO, on June 28. The LP marks a new sonic and visual era for the Cuban-born, Miami-based artist, and its inaugural mark came in the form of platinum blonde locks.

"The voice that I found with my new album has this big baddie energy vibe," Cabello explained in a recent Billboard cover story. "Part of that spirit is taking risks, not giving a f— and doing whatever you want. I think the blonde was me staying true to that feeling." The first single off the project, "I LUV IT" with Playboi Carti, displays how this fearless persona takes shape through hyperpop synths and a sample from Gucci Mane's "Lemonade."

Cabello also realized that this LP was a love letter to the city of Miami. "So much of the inspiration for this album was driving, listening to music, rolling the windows down and hearing what people in the city are listening to," she added. Among its collaborators are names like City Girls ("DADE COUNTY DREAMING"), Lil Nas X ("HE KNOWS"), and Drake, who features on "HOT UPTOWN" and "UUUGLY."

Imagine Dragons — Loom

Release date: June 28

Upon announcing Imagine Dragons' upcoming album, Loom, vocalist Dan Reynolds shared on Instagram that "working on this record was a rollercoaster." As he explained, "some days the songs came from a place of sadness and heartache and others joy and jubilance."

A press release further elaborated that the quartet's sixth LP will "represent the pinnacle of their artistic journey of self-discovery," while also balancing their familiar sounds with fresh ones. Through nine tracks, including lead single "Eyes Closed," Loom intends to symbolize "new beginnings on the horizon, the excitement for a new day, moments yet to come." As Reynolds added in his Instagram post, "may the things that loom in the future and distance be a beautiful tapestry of joy and pain that you can hang on your wall to reflect on as life passes us by."

The festive vibes will extend throughout the year, as the Las Vegas outfit just announced a world tour, which kicks off on July 30 in Camden, New Jersey. So far, they will stop through multiple cities in the U.S. and Canada through Oct. 22, but international dates are expected for 2025.

Omar Apollo — God Said No

Release date: June 28

"I gave it my everything," Omar Apollo said in a press release. "And God said 'no.'" Fortunately, the singer wasn't talking about crafting his sophomore LP, God Said No, but rather what led him to do it.

The 14-track record is described as "a survey of the emotional wreckage that followed the end of a torrid love affair," and was partially recorded at the legendary Abbey Road Studios in London. To process his grief, Apollo spent three months in the British city, and soon began to shape his most "soul-bearing and immediate body of work" so far.

In addition to vulnerable singles "Spite" and "Dispose of Me," Apollo also collaborated with musician Mustafa on "Plane Trees," and confirmed a participation by actor Pedro Pascal in an unspecified track — likely to be his namesake, "Pedro."

Lupe Fiasco — Samurai

Release date: June 28

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco is gearing up to release his ninth studio album, Samurai. Entirely produced by longtime collaborator Soundtrakk (who also produced Fiasco's previous effort, 2022's Drill Music In Zion), the record is "smooth, yet cerebral, brimming with ideas," according to a press release. It is also one of Fiasco's most personal works to date: "The album weaves things from my life as an artist, touching on things other artists go through," he said in a statement.

Samurai's eight tracks accompany the narrative of a battle rapper's career, from first honing his skills until mastering his craft. "Before rap even, martial arts was my whole life, and it still plays a huge role in my life," Fiasco added. "The overall themes of the album speak to the constant fight and the battle one goes through being in the entertainment industry. Some of the things we need to defend."

As for the title, Fiasco shared that "the word 'samurai' means to serve," and that his relationship to the word "meant that you need to be at the service of other people, either in the overall community, or in this instance, the rap community at large that I've been a part of for years."

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