Photo: John Shearer/MTV VMAs 2021/Getty Images for MTV/ViacomCBS
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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."
Dolly Parton Retained Her Reign as Country Queen
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
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.
Photo: Randy Holmes/DISNEY via Getty Images
New Holiday Songs For 2023: Listen To Festive Releases From Aespa, Brandy, Sabrina Carpenter & More
With the Christmas season in full swing, it’s time to deck the halls and load up those holiday playlists. Check out 14 new songs and projects to add to your 2023 festivities.
It's the most wonderful time of year! With every holiday season comes a new outpouring of festive music, and this year is no different.
From pop and R&B to K-pop and country, artists from all genres revel in the season as they pen new, original Christmas songs and reinterpret well-loved classics. This year, GRAMMY winners like Brandy and Samara Joy deliver full-length albums, while rising stars like Sabrina Carpenter, Mimi Webb and Coco Jones add their own contributions like shiny new baubles on a sparkling Christmas tree.
Below, GRAMMY.com rounded up 14 new holiday releases worth checking out, from Alanis Morissette's first Christmas EP to new projects by Aly & AJ and Gavin DeGraw, and even a posthumous duet between Elvis Presley and Kane Brown.
Aespa, "Jingle Bell Rock"
Need some K-pop for your holiday playlist? Look no further than Aespa's take on "Jingle Bell Rock." The girl group takes Bobby Helms' 1957 hit to the metaverse by giving it a slinky edge punctuated by handclaps, toy piano and glitchy undertones. Members Giselle and Ningning even add their own laid-back rap verse to the proceedings, casually tossing off lyrics like, "Ring, ring, ring, jingle bell rock/ Play like a spell/ I won't tell, jingle bell talk" partway through the track.
Aly & AJ, Lonesome Dove
Lonesome Dove isn't Aly & AJ's first Christmas project — that would be their excellent 2006 LP Acoustic Hearts of Winter — but the siblings have come a long way from the Disney days of their last holiday record. Just look at "Greatest Time of Year," which they've plucked from the Acoustic Hearts track list and transformed from into a delicate slowburner perfect to be sung by the fireside. Then there's the pitch-perfect cover of "Sisters," which proves the only way to improve upon Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen's eternally iconic number from 1954's White Christmas is for it to be recorded by, you know, actual sisters.
Brandy, Christmas With Brandy
Considering she's been called the "Vocal Bible" since she rose to stardom in the '90s, a Christmas album makes all the sense in the world for Brandy. On Christmas with Brandy, the R&B sensation — and star of Netflix's new holiday flick Best. Christmas. Ever. — eschews the scriptural in favor of the romantic ("Christmas Party For Two"), the hopeful ("Someday at Christmas") and the celebratory ("Christmas Gift" with daughter Sy'Rai) — all with her trademark gossamer runs and riffs in full, glistening effect.
Kane Brown and Elvis Presley, "Blue Christmas"
Fresh off his performance in NBC's "Christmas at Graceland" special, Kane Brown turns his live version of "Blue Christmas" into a full-blown duet with Elvis Presley himself. The King famously released his iconic version of the holiday classic in 1957 — as well as a live version more than a decade later — and Brown wisely sticks to Presley's tried-and-true formula on their duet by trading verses, while letting Elvis' iconic voice shine.
Sabrina Carpenter, Fruitcake
Sabrina Carpenter created a recipe for a holiday hit last year thanks to "A Nonsense Christmas," a cheeky seasonal remake of her top 10 pop hit "Nonsense." This year, she doubles the recipe on Fruitcake, a delectable slice of Christmas goodness that's equal parts sweet and sour.
On the winking "Buy Me Presents," the pop chanteuse demands the undivided attention of her lover while "Cindy Lou Who" turns the sweetest character in Dr. Seuss' oeuvre into a man-stealing Jolene of Christmas nightmares. "Is It New Year's Yet" revels in an irresistible spirit of pessimism that'll have all of Carpenter's fans saying "Bah humbug!" with glee.
Gavin DeGraw, A Classic Christmas
Eighteen months since Gavin DeGraw's last album, 2022's understated Face the River, the crooner turns up the yuletide cheer — with all the trimming and trappings — for his first holiday record. Each song on the six-track EP stays true to the title, as strings, sleigh bells and tradition combine with DeGraw's soulful timbre on standards like "The Most Wonderful Time of Year," "Silent Night" and "White Christmas."
Kirk Franklin, "Joy To The World"
Kirk Franklin cooked up an extra-special gift for his Spotify Singles Holiday rendition of "Joy to the World." Enlisting a buoyant backing choir, the 19-time GRAMMY winner adds a thoughtful spoken word element over the music, telling listeners everywhere, "This year I offer you the gift of unity. The gift of harmony. Bring us together like never before this holiday season. Find room in your heart. Listen. Can you hear it?"
Coco Jones, "A Timeless Christmas"
Determined to make 2023 a year to remember, Coco Jones follows her five 2024 GRAMMY nominations — including one for Best New Artist — with "A Timeless Christmas." On the original song, the R&B breakout aims to unwrap a holiday filled with family, joy and love as she intones, "Cherish the moment with the people that surround you/ Live in the moment today/ Let's have a timeless Christmas/ Let's just come together in harmony as one forever."
Samara Joy, A Joyful Holiday
Just months after releasing Linger Awhile Longer — the deluxe edition of her 2022 studio album — Samara Joy returns with A Joyful Holiday, a festive EP filled with jazzy originals and standards alike. The 2023 Best New Artist GRAMMY winner taps jazz pianist Sullivan Fortner on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Me" and turns on the feels on opener "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." But perhaps the most special moment of the record happens when three generations of her family join her for a gospel-fueled take on "O Holy Night," filled with stunning harmonies.
Ingrid Michaelson, "This Christmas"
Ingrid Michaelson has supplied plenty of cozy and nostalgic Christmas tunes ever since releasing her 2018 album Songs of the Season, but she doubles down on the warm fireside sounds with her new single "This Christmas." Though it shares a title with the beloved Donny Hathaway track, Michaelson's original song finds beauty in the stillness and small details of the season — from the wonder in a child's eyes as snow falls swirls to the ground to family gathered around the piano.
Alanis Morissette, Last Christmas
After gifting fans a string of holiday singles over the past few years, Alanis Morissette has finally compiled the songs into a full Christmas-themed project. The four-track EP Last Christmas contains three of the alt pioneer’s past releases: 2020’s rousing and poignant “Happy Xmas (War Is Over) and pandemic-era take on “What Child Is This” as well as last year’s “Little Drummer Boy.” However, she saved a shiny new toy for last in the form of a surprisingly peppy cover of Wham!’s modern classic “Last Christmas.”
Jon Pardi, Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi
It's a full-blown Christmas Pardi, ahem, party on Jon Pardi's fifth album, the aptly-titled Merry Christmas From Jon Pardi. The recent Grand Ole Opry inductee appoints Rudolph a designated driver on "Beer For Santa," is unfazed by a ferocious blizzard thanks to "400 Horsepower Sleigh" and sheds his ugly Christmas sweater to celebrates the holiday on the beach with "Merry Christmas From The Keys." But he's also unafraid to put a country spin on the likes of Mariah Carey's timeless smash "All I Want for Christmas Is You," and holiday classics like "Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow" and "Please Come Home For Christmas."
Meghan Trainor, "Jingle Bells"
Meghan Trainor has delivered Christmas goodies in the past (2020's A Very Trainor Christmas, last year's "Kid on Christmas" with Pentatonix), but this year she teamed up with Amazon Music for an exclusive rendition of "Jingle Bells." There's only a 30-second preview available without Amazon Music, but in the event you're not a subscriber, check out Trainor's other holiday offering of the season: her duet with Jimmy Fallon titled "Wrap Me Up."
Mimi Webb, "Back Home For Christmas"
In the wake of her debut studio album, Amelia, Mimi Webb tackles her first original holiday track in the form of "Back Home For Christmas." The lovelorn single is filled with church bells and yearning galore as the rising pop starlet wails, "Just like that, first of December/ Counting down 'til we're together/ Only one thing on my wishlist/ Bring my love back home for Christmas/ Mistletoe making me lonely/ Santa Claus just can't console me/ Only one thing that I'm missin'/ Bring my love back home for Christmas."
Clearly, the Christmas season can make you feel all sorts of ways, from nostalgic and cozy to lonely, filled with hope and back again.
8 Music Books To Read This Fall/Winter: Britney Spears' Memoir, Paul McCartney's Lyrics & More
As 2023 nears its end and the holidays approach, add these books to your reading list. Memoirs from Dolly Parton and Sly Stone, as well as histories of titans such as Ella Fitzgerald are sure to add music to the latter half of the year.
If you’re a music fan looking to restock your library with some new reads, you’re in luck. With the second half of the year comes a dearth of new music books recounting the life and times of some of the most celebrated artists in the history of the artform are hitting shelves.
From Britney Spears' much talked-about memoir that tackles the tabloid tumult of her life and Barbra Streisand’s highly anticipated autobiography (which clocks in at nearly 1,000 pages), to tomes that recount the lives of Tupac Shakur and Dolly Parton, it’s time to get reading. Read on for some of the best music-related new and upcoming books to add to your collection.
By Britney Spears
One of the most highly anticipated books of the year, Spears' memoir has been a blockbuster in the weeks since its release. When it was announced that the singer was writing a book, fans and observers braced themselves for what she would reveal when it comes to her tumultuous life and career. The result is a no-holds-barred look at how an innocent girl from Louisiana became swept up in the tsunami of fame, as well as the resulting wake.
The Woman in Me details Spears' halcyon younger years as part of the "New Mickey Mouse Club," her explosive career, the blossoming and collapse of her relationship with Justin Timberlake, and the punishing conservatorship concocted by her father. Spears doesn’t hold back, but also shouts out the figures who provided solace and kindness: Madonna, Elton John, Mariah Carey, and former Jive Records president Clive Calder. The Woman In Me proves to be an unflinching, eye-opening look at the swirling tornado of music, fame, love and family, for better or for worse.
By Barbra Streisand
Since her early '60s breakout to her current status as a bona fide living legend, Barbra Streisand has lived a lot of life. Streisand's 992-page tome breaks down her humble beginnings growing up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and her subsequent stratospheric life during which she received a whopping 46 GRAMMY nominations and released many timeless songs. Along the way, she also became the first female in the history of moviemaking to write, produce, direct and star in a major motion picture (Yentl).
It’s all a long time coming, considering Jackie Onassis first approached Streisand to chronicle her triumphant life in 1984 (at the time, the former first lady was editor of Doubleday and Streisand was a mere 20 years into her iconic career). "Frankly, I thought at 42 I was too young, with much more work still to come," Striesand recently told Vanity Fair. It’s an understatement considering all that’s happened since.
By Paul McCartney
One of the most celebrated artists of all time, McCartney's genius songwriting is on full, glimmering display in THE LYRICS. Newly released in a one volume paperback edition, the book puts the Beatles' way with words front and center while offering popcorn-worthy backstory.
Originally published to acclaim in 2021, the updated version includes additional material and insight from Macca himself on the creation of some of the most indelible hits in music history, including the 1965 Beatles hit "Daytripper."
"The riff became one of our most well-known and you still often hear it played when you walk into guitar shops," wrote McCartney of the track. "It’s one of those songs that revolves around the riff. Some songs are hung onto a chord progression. Others, like this, are driven by the riff."
By Dolly Parton
"It costs a lot of money to look this cheap!" So says luminary Dolly Parton, in a self-deprecating and witty and also patently untrue famous turn of phrase. While Parton’s life story has been recounted numerous times on the page and on screen, Behind the Seams zeros in on not just her trials and tribulations, but her unmistakable style.
Packed with nearly 500 photographs, the book traces Parton’s looks from the sacks she used to dress in as a child in poverty to the flamboyant visuals associated with her stardom. "I’ve been at this so long, I’ve worn some of the most bizarre things," Parton recently told the Guardian. "My hairdos have always been so out there. At the time you think you look good, then you look back on it, like, what was I thinking?"
By Sly Stone
The 80-year-old reclusive frontman of Sly and the Family Stone has certainly lived a lot of life. From his early days as part of the gospel vocal group the Stewart Four, Stone and his family band later became fixtures of the charts from the late '60s into the mid-'70s; a journey traced in the new book Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), named after their 1969 song of the same name.
Known for funky, soulful and earworm signature hits including "Dance to the Music" and "Everyday People," the band won over the hearts of America, influencing legions of fans (including Herbie Hanckock and Miles Davis) and gaining a few enemies (the Black Panther Party). The book chronicles those ups and downs (including drug abuse), tracking Stone up to the modern era, which includes receiving the Recording Academy's Lifetime Achievement Special Merit Award in 2017.
By Judith Tick
Ella Fitzgerald is one of America’s most iconic voices and the full breadth of her story will be told in the first major biography since her death in 1996. Known as the First Lady of Song, the 13-time GRAMMY winner is known for her swingin’ standards, sultry ballads, scat and everything in between.
Out Nov. 21, the vocalist’s historic career is recounted by musicologist Judith Tick, who reflects on her legend using new research, fresh interviews and rare recordings. The result is a portrait of an undeniable talent and the obstacles she was up against, from her early days at the Apollo Theater to her passionate zeal for recording and performing up until her later years.
"Ella was two people," her longtime drummer Gregg Field told GRAMMY.com in 2020. "She was very humble, very shy and generous. But when she walked on stage she was hardcore and didn’t know how to sing unless it was coming from her heart."
By Jeff Tweedy
Aside from his extensive discography with Wilco and beyond, Jeff Tweedy is the author of three books: his memoir Let’s Go (So We Can Get Back), a meditation on creativity called How to Write One Song, and his latest, World Within a Song. The latter expertly examines a variety of songs by a disparate spate of artists, from Rosalía to Billie Eilish with Tweedy’s singular take on what makes each song stand out along with what he dubs "Rememories," short blurbs that recount moments from his own life and times.
Much like his songwriting prowess, it’s a book where Tweedy’s way with words shine with shimmering eloquence. "My experience of my own emotions is that they all interact," Tweedy told GRAMMY.com last year. "They aren't individual, isolated things that you experience one at a time, and I think that's a really beautiful thing about being alive."
By Staci Robinson
One of the giants of hip-hop finally gets his due with an official recounting of his life and times. Here his legend is told by the authoritative Staci Robinson, an expert on the star who previously wrote Tupac Remembered: Bearing Witness to a Life and Legacy and served as executive producer of the FX documentary series "Dear Mama: The Saga of Afeni and Tupac Shakur."
Here, Robinson reflects on Tupac’s legacy from a modern perspective, and tracks the history of race in America alongside the rapper’s life and times, from the turbulent '60s to the Rodney King riots. Along the way are the stories behind the songs including "Brenda’s Got a Baby."
"In between shots (of filming the movie Juice) I wrote it," Shakur is quoted saying in Robinson’s book. "I was crying too. That’s how I knew everybody else would cry, ’cause I was crying.’"
Photos: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images; Pilar Castro Evensen; TAO Group; Mike Marsland/WireImages; Gotham WireImage; Ivan Apfel/Getty Images; Douglas Mason/Getty Images; AJR; Kristy Sparow/Getty Images
15 Must-Hear Albums This November: Dolly Parton, Jung Kook, Marshmello & More
Fill up on a bevy of releases from Chris Brown, Mon Laferte, and the late Jimmy Buffett — whose name reflects the collective musical appetite this month.
November arrives with a cornucopia of new albums to fill your playlist and platters — from Latin American hip-hop, to DIY alt-pop, to classic rock 'n' roll.
Jung Kook, BTS’s youngest member, kicks off the month with his solo album debut, Golden while the posthumous Equal Strain on All Parts celebrates the life of Jimmy Buffett. Jason Aldean brings forth Highway Desperado for all country lovers, while British band the Struts maintain their stylish rock origins in Pretty Vicious.
Below, we compiled a handy guide to all the must-hear albums dropping November 2023 — from fresh names like Zoe Wees to resident hitmakers like Steve Aoki.
Espectro Caudillo - La Liturgia del Tigre Blanco
Release date: Nov. 2
Espectro Caudillo — the experimental electronic project of Reuben Torres — based their upcoming studio album, La Liturgia del Tigre Blanco, on Daniel Salinas Bavase’s book of the same name.
With Tigre Blanco, the Tijuana-raised producer and former member of Los Macuanos explores the life of the city’s former president and controversial figure, Jorge Hank Rhon, as well as the legacy of his father, politician Carlos Hank González.
The album also celebrates Tijuana’s vivid electronic scene. Hyperlocal genres such as Nortec (norteño techno) and ruidosón are heard on singles "04’20″88" (which refers to the murder of journalist Hector "El Gato" Félix Miranda by two of Rhon’s guards) and "El Temible Grupo Jaguar."
Marshmello - Sugar Papi
Release date: Nov. 3
GRAMMY-nominated DJ and producer Marshmello is gearing up to release his first Latin album. After breaking into the mainstream with electronic hits such as "Wolves" with Selena Gomez and "Happier" with Bastille, the Philadelphia-born artist unveils Sugar Papi.
"I’ve had the pleasure of being able to perform all across the world and it’s hard to match the love and energy I’ve felt from the Latin community," he shared on Instagram. "Because of that I knew it was important for me to find a way to bring my audience into this world as much as I could."
Completed in less than two weeks, the album was crafted through a lot of "on the spot creation" in the studio, Marshmello told Billboard. Each of its 10 tracks features one Latin artist, including pre-release singles "El Merengue" with Manuel Turizo, "Tempo" featuring Young Miko, and "Como Yo :(" featuring Tiago PZK.
Zoe Wees - Therapy
Release date: Nov. 3
German newcomer Zoe Wees is ready to give fans a full treat with her debut studio album, Therapy. The much anticipated, 20-track effort has been "a long time in the making, and I have found writing it to be such a healing experience. I hope you feel the same comfort when you hear it," Wees shared on Instagram.
Since her 2020 hit "Control," the singer has proven an exceptional sensibility and a knack for supporting people — much like a therapist. Her soulful voice and resilient lyrics explore themes like self-discovery, self-esteem and healing. "When I’ve pushed through it all, I’ve found motivation that’s made me even stronger. Don’t ever doubt how powerful you can be," she shared in a statement about recent single "Lightning."
Jimmy Buffett - Equal Strain on All Parts
Release date: Nov. 3
Despite battling skin cancer for years, Jimmy Buffett continued to sing and perform until died on Sept. 1 of this year. His diligence made it possible for Equal Strain on All Parts, the 32nd album in his impressive discography, to be completed and set to release next month.
According to Rolling Stone, the title refers to how Buffett’s grandfather would describe a good nap. With 14 tracks, the album features Paul McCartney, Angélique Kidjo, Emmylou Harris, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, and two covers — "Mozambique" by Bob Dylan and "Like My Dog" by Billy Currigan.
Equal Strain is spearheaded by lead single "Bubbles Up," which McCartney described as "the best I’ve heard him sing ever."
Jason Aldean - Highway Desperado
Release date: Nov. 3
"I think when I look back on it, I built my career early on my live show, and have been on the road touring since I was 18 years old," said country star Jason Aldean in a recent statement about his forthcoming album, Highway Desperado.
These on-the-road experiences served as the main inspiration behind the record — his 11th studio LP. It’s the Nashville singer’s first effort since 2021 and 2022’s double album, Macon, Georgia, and features 14 tracks.
Jung Kook - GOLDEN
Release date: Nov. 3
After a lengthy wait and a slew of singles and collaborations — including a performance of "Dreamers" at the opening ceremony of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar last year — BTS’ Jung Kook will finally release his first solo album, Golden.
The title comes from both the K-pop expression "golden maknae" (or "golden youngest" in Korean), for which he became known since his early days, and from Jung Kook’s own golden moments as a soloist, according to a press release.
Featuring 11 tracks, including the hit "3D" featuring Jack Harlow, Golden will come out on Nov. 3, alongside lead single "Standing Next to You."
The Struts - Pretty Vicious
Release date: Nov. 3
Following 2020’s Strange Days, British rock band the Struts will release their fourth studio LP, Pretty Vicious via Big Machine. It was produced by the quartet alongside Julian Raymond (Fleetwood Mac, Cheap Trick).
"This record showcases each individual member’s strengths," vocalist Luke Spiller shared in a statement. "It’s some of my favorite music, hands down, we’ve ever conjured up. It’s the record everyone’s been waiting for."
For a preview of what the 11 tracks in Pretty Vicious will sound like, the band shared the single and opening song "Too Good At Raising Hell." On Nov. 6, the Struts will begin their Remember the Name tour across the U.S.
Chris Stapleton - Highеr
Release date: Nov. 10
Following his 2020 GRAMMY-winning LP, Starting Over, Chris Stapleton will release his fifth studio album, Higher. Produced by Stapleton, longtime collaborator Dave Cobb, and his wife, Morgane, Higher will feature 14 tracks that cross beyond his country leanings and dare to explore further genres.
Such experimentations can be seen in lead single "White Horse," which mixes soaring rock riffs with Stapleton’s thundering vocals, and in the funky bassline of "Think I’m in Love with You," raising expectations for the Nashville star’s latest reinvention.
AJR - The Maybe Man
Release date: Nov. 10
When life hit sibling trio AJR with the death of their father this year, they turned to what they do best: music. From their grief first came their upcoming fifth studio album, The Maybe Man.
According to a press release, the titular character is "a big sad superhero who is always questioning who he is," and whose "emotion hangs over his head, so it doesn’t have to hang over yours." Over Instagram, the New York alt-pop band said "We put absolutely everything we had into this album, visuals, and tour. Down to every little detail. Get ready to immerse yourself in this world."
Mon Laferte - Autopoiética
Release date: Nov. 10
"Our cells create themselves. In other words, life creates life. Everything in the end is cyclical," Mon Laferte said in an interview for Tótem magazine (via Rock&Pop Chile). She was explaining the title of her forthcoming ninth studio album, Autopoiética. "So, I loved that idea and I took it to a poetic sense: we are all autopoietic beings, I am autopoietic, I have the ability to recreate myself all the time, to create this universe, my personal mythology."
Following 2021’s GRAMMY-nominated 1940 Carmen, Laferte explained to Rock&Pop Chile that this album is "much deeper in the lyrics, much more reflexive as well. The sound is more electronic, I used a lot of samples. The idea was to make a record with the machine in my house."
Autopoiética is preceded by several singles that carry Laferte’s known eclecticism, such as "Te juro que volveré," "Tenochtitlán," "40 y MM," and "NO+SAD." In a statement, she shared that "I loved this new creative work, I wanted to try new things from previous albums. I'm really excited, I feel that this is my best album yet."
Chris Brown - 11:11
Release date: Nov. 11
For his upcoming 11th album, Chris Brown doubled down on a lucky number. Titled 11:11, his latest album will come out on Nov. 11, and features sides A and B, each containing 11 songs that will be released at 11 a.m. and 11 p.m., respectively.
Superstitions aside, the record was also supposed to be more concise than his previous works. On Instagram, the singer shared "I see some of my die hard fans wanting me to add more songs for the new project and I love y’all for that. But, I just feel I need you all to really miss me and take my art seriously." However, with 22 songs, 11:11 sits close to 2022’s Breezy and its 23 tracks now.
Brown has shared two tracks off the project: the chill lead single "Summer Too Hot" and the sultry "Sensational," featuring Nigerian singers Lojay and Davido.
Dolly Parton - Rockstar
Release date: Nov. 17
Last year, the legendary Dolly Parton was inducted to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. However, due to her country background, her first response was to politely decline. "I don’t feel that I have earned that right," she shared in a statement over social media. "This has, however, inspired me to put out a hopefully great rock n’ roll album at some point in the future, which I have always wanted to do!"
The world didn’t have to wait long, as Parton’s first foray into the genre, Rockstar, is due Nov. 17. The album features rock’s biggest stars — Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr, Steven Tyler, Joan Jett, and more — through a whopping 30 tracks that vary from well-known covers to exclusive compositions, offering a panoply of styles and infusing them with Parton’s unique charm.
"I am very honored and privileged to have worked with some of the greatest iconic singers and musicians of all time, and to be able to sing all the iconic songs throughout the album was a joy beyond measure," the 10-time GRAMMY winner shared in a statement.
A couple of days before the release, Dolly Parton Rockstar: The Global First Listen Event will hit select movie theaters around the globe, offering fans a sneak peek of the album, behind-the-scenes footage, and exclusive performances. Parton has already released six singles off the project: "World on Fire," "Magic Man" featuring Ann Wilson, "Bygones" featuring Rob Halford, Nikki Sixx, and John5, "We Are the Champions"/"We Will Rock You," "Let It Be" featuring McCartney and Starr, and "What’s Up?" featuring Linda Perry.
Steve Aoki - HiROQUEST: Double Helix
Release date: Nov. 17
In 2022’s HiROQUEST: Genesis, DJ and producer Steve Aoki crafted an entire sonic world for the adventures of a puzzling character named HiRO. Next month, Aoki and HiRO return for a brand new journey on HiROQUEST: Double Helix.
"Part I was largely driven by my alt-music roots in hardcore punk bands," Aoki shared in a statement. "Now, the story continues on Double Helix, which embraces dance culture while intertwining the pulse of contemporary Latin music." He also added that the album "harmonizes nostalgia and contemporary sounds, placing collaboration at its core."
Double Helix features Galantis and Hayley Kiyoko, as well as singles "Invítame A Un Café" with Ángela Aguilar, "Diferente" with CNCO, "The Show" with JJ Lin, "Muñecas" with TINI and La Joaqui, "Lighter" featuring Paris Hilton, and a remake of Akon’s 2003 hit, "Locked Up," with duo TRINIX.
Plain White T's - Plain White T's
Release date: Nov. 17
Five years have passed since the Plain White T’s latest record, Parallel Universe, but they are finally ready for a new era to begin. On their upcoming self-titled album, the Illinois rockers are "trying to hark back to sounds we’ve used in the past with a freshness," frontman Tom Higgenson said in a press release.
"This one came from a really authentic place of understanding who we are and what we do," he added. "I’m more excited than I’ve been in a long time. As musicians, we’re always trying to outdo ourselves or go somewhere we haven’t gone before. Somehow, we figured out how to go to a fresh spot and still sound like Plain White T’s."
A preview of the band’s newfound freshness can be seen through six unveiled singles: "Would You Even," "Happy," "Spaghetti Tattoo," "Red Flags," "You Plus Me," and "Fired Up." The album features 13 tracks in total.
Ana Tijoux - VIDA
Release date: TBD
[Editor’s note: Since publication, Ana Tijoux has delayed this release until the new year.]
To announce her first album in nine years, VIDA, Ana Tijoux released the single "Niñx." The hip-hop and reggaeton fusion track is "born as a manifesto to the child we all have inside of us," Tijoux explained in a press release. "That living being that is capable of dreaming and building infinite castles of humanity and love."
More recently, she also unveiled second single "Tania," which pays homage to her late sister. Both songs were produced by longtime collaborator Andrés Celis, and foreshadow how the Chilean veteran has grown and why she continues to be one of Latin American hip hop’s most important voices.
Recently, Tijoux also published the memoir Sacar La Voz, and was invited by Alicia Keys to perform her hit "1977" during the latter’s Chile arena tour in May.
Photo: Jess Williams
Inside Charlie Worsham's 'Compadres': How His Friendships With Luke Combs, Lainey Wilson & More Birthed The Collab EP
Friends including Dierks Bentley, Elle King and Kip Moore join the journeyman singer, songwriter and guitar slinger on his latest bid for Nashville glory.
Country singer/songwriter Charlie Worsham didn't find immediate success after arriving in Nashville in the late aughts — but 15 years later, he couldn't be happier about his luck.
"One of the best gifts I could have ever had was a practice run at all this, where I shared the victories and the losses with this band of brothers," says Worsham, who is referring to his stint playing mandolin in KingBilly, which had a brief reality TV show but didn't set the charts on fire.
Since splitting in 2010, though, Worsham has become a Nashville long-hauler, a respected first-call known for his tasteful guitar and mandolin playing, smooth vocal delivery, and ace songwriting heard on an enviable collection of cuts. In case you need a reminder, visit his Spotify playlist "Sh!t I've Played On," which catalogs his appearances with marquee country stars like Eric Church, Luke Combs, Vince Gill, Kacey Musgraves, Carrie Underwood and Keith Urban.
But while his own albums, 2013's Rubberband and 2017's Beginning of Things, as well as his 2021 Sugarcane EP, have produced hits like "Could It Be" — which peaked at No. 13 on the Country Airplay chart and cracked the Billboard Hot 100 in 2013 — solo success has largely eluded Worsham.
So, he kept his head down and did what he came to Nashville to do: make great music. He kept his spirits up by rallying friends like Brothers Osborne's John Osborne and The 400 Unit's Sadler Vaden to play his "Every Damn Monday" Nashville gigs celebrating the music of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Prince and others as fundraisers for his Follow Your Heart arts foundation. In 2022, he earned the ACM Award for Acoustic Guitar Player of the Year, and he is currently nominated for Musician of the Year at the 2023 CMA Awards, which will air on Nov. 8.
For his latest release, the five-song EP Compadres, he stacked the deck with five Nashville friends and collaborators — Combs, Lainey Wilson, Dierks Bentley, Elle King and Kip Moore — and the results are bearing fruit. A re-recording of "How I Learned to Pray," originally cut for Rubberband and now featuring Combs, has already eclipsed the original's Spotify streaming figures two-fold while inspiring more than 14,000 TikTok clips.
"When touring went away in 2020 for a minute, I just picked up more and more session work," Worsham says. "It had always been sort of my moonlighting gig that I loved to do, because the goal is always to play more music and that's one of the best ways to do it with the best players around. I started playing on more and more records and driving to those sessions going, Man, it's going to be a great day. But the one thing that can make it better is that this was my record, so thus began Compadres."
With the Jaren Johnson-produced EP in the can, though, Worsham realized Compadres shouldn't be a one-off event. He now intends to revisit the concept between proper albums, and there's no shortage of potential collaborators. All of which begs the question: Who might make those hypothetical sequels?
"One of the first friends I made in town was John Osborne — how do I not cut a song with him and TJ someday?" he says. "The last couple of times I saw Ashley McBryde, we were talking about our love of bluegrass and what side projects might come of that, and how can I not do a song with her at some point? It would be really cool to create a full-circle moment with Eric Church."
Worsham sat with Grammy.com to share the backstories from the five collaborations on Compadres.
"Creekwater Clear" feat. Elle King
The story of "Creekwater Clear" is that hero's journey of where you grow up in what you know is home, [but] you cross that threshold for a bigger world. You come back changed, but you now have this superpower of perspective. And as Elle has firmly planted her roots in country music, I see it as she's just being welcomed home. She's belonged here this whole time.
She's one of two people who came over to the house actually to sing the vocals. I remember she walked through the front door, my wife's there, and I'm sure if you listen closely you can probably hear [our son] Gabe in the background of her singing. But it's a perfect example of what Compadres represents in terms of not just where I am in music right now, but where I am in life — we're doing a lot of living, and Elle's right there with us sharing the joys and the struggles of parenthood and having a young kid, and doing that while traveling the world. Hers is one of my favorite Instagram accounts to see because it's always something fun that combines rock and roll and toddlers.
"Handful of Dust" feat. Lainey Wilson
I had a [co-]write booked with Lainey and I was really excited about it. She can sing, and she's got songs. "Things a Man Oughta Know" — that's one of those moments where the heart and the chart actually intersect, which is a hard thing to do.
The day before, I went for a run and put her record on and just played it on repeat. I started kicking myself on this run, like, How have I not been jamming this record? This reminds me of Rubberband, my first record. Not tooting my own horn or anything, just I know how much time I put into writing that first record and I thought, I can hear the 10,000 hours that went into this. I can hear that this is somebody who knows exactly who they are and exactly where they're from, and they are unapologetic in presenting themselves in an authentic way.
So I show up, we walk up to each other, and it was like we were finishing each other's sentences. I'm just going, "Lainey, I spent all day listening to your record. I'm blown away. I love it. I can't believe it reminds me of when I put out my first," and she's going, "When I first moved to town in my camper and Rubberband came out, it had this effect on me, too." You just sometimes never know when you're in the middle of something, the impact it has on other people.
I remember the first No. 1 I ever played on was Eric Church's "Like Jesus Does [from 2013's Chief]. But the record that moved me to town was Eric's [2006 debut album] Sinners Like Me. He didn't know me when that record came out, but then I got to know him later and tell him that part of my story and how his story inspired mine.
"How I Learned To Pray" feat. Luke Combs
I love to call it coinci-God, but first chance I had to really get to know Luke was down in Key West to write for what was going to be a bluegrass record that I'm crossing my fingers still gets made.
I gave him a head's up when I got there. I was like, "Man, I don't want to be rude, but there is one phone call that might come that I'm going to have to take." My wife Kristen and I were expecting our son Gabe at the time, and it was that point where we had told a handful of family members but we had yet to tell the bigger world, and we were waiting for the doctor to call to say whether we'd have a boy or a girl. He totally got it — at that point, I'm sure he and [his wife] Nicole were about to head down that same road, too, and thinking about starting a family.
[But] it wasn't while I was down there, it was on the flight home. I was on a layover in Atlanta and I wrote down the gate somewhere, I think it's A29, and my wife calls me: "I got the news, you want to wait until you get home?" It's like, "Baby, you know me, I can't wait." She tells me, and I'm bawling. The first person I text is Luke, and it wasn't much later they were expecting their first. Nothing teaches you how to pray like having a kid, so that song chose itself for us. And to this day, it's actually the highest-streaming song I've ever put out, and I never saw that coming.
"Kiss Like You Dance" feat. Kip Moore
The fall of 2014 was not my happiest season. I had a lot of stuff between the ears I was trying to figure out at that time. I was on tour with Kip, and he's a really perceptive dude. I think he knew I was struggling, and he made a point to look out for me that whole tour. And he just never quit calling and texting since that tour.
He had come to a gig I was playing at Station Inn [in Nashville], trying out new songs just for the heck of it. Kip was probably leaving for bus call later that night, so he came to the gig and we were catching up. I played that song, and later that night he texted me the universal signal for, Hey, you might have a hit on your hands, which is, "Hey man, are you going to cut that 'Kiss Like You Dance' song?" And I said, "I am now."
But it was going to be a while until I could record, so when Compadres started to form as a concept, I thought, How cool would it be if we could both cut this song? We're both a little older and wiser, and we have to pick our nights to go crazy and wild. We made a great video for it, which actually has a great cameo from one of my longest-standing compadres, John Osborne, but we're drinking sweet tea that looks like whisky in the video.
On the rare chance I am going to go have an all-nighter, I want Kip to be there, because the last real great [one] I remember was on tour with him in 2014. Somehow my bus ended up [being] the party bus. We had two nights in Chicago, and I think we had 30 people on a bus designed for 12. Let's just say I had to pay the cleaning fee for that.
"Things I Can't Control" feat. Dierks Bentley
At this point I've been spending the last couple of summers with Dierks, plus one of my funniest studio stories ever was from a Dierks session for Riser [in 2014]. To this day, I can't remember for sure if I'm playing mandolin on "Drunk on a Plane" or not.
Back when he was making that record, I was doing a string of dates with Vince Gill in his band, and Vince had a gig on a Sunday night in Milwaukee, and Dierks's session was on Monday. I thought, Well, if I can get an early flight in, I'll make the session. I wake up probably 3 in the morning. I get to the airport, get on the plane to Nashville, rest my eyes, fall asleep. I wake up in a panic because the plane isn't moving and it turns out there was a snow delay, and so I missed that day of the session with Dierks. Thankfully, he kept calling me back.
I don't remember if I overdubbed the mandolin after the fact, but now I play it in the show [as part of Dierks' band] and he gives me a chance to shine every night. He's like my older brother in country [music], and I continue to learn from him and be reminded of how important it is to have fun, and how important it is to treat people well and share your spotlight.