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Original Koffee Takes The Reins: How The Pandemic Provided The 22-Year-Old GRAMMY-Winning Reggae Artist Room To Grow Ahead Of Her Debut LP, 'Gifted'
Koffee

PHOTO: Nwaka Okparaeke

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Original Koffee Takes The Reins: How The Pandemic Provided The 22-Year-Old GRAMMY-Winning Reggae Artist Room To Grow Ahead Of Her Debut LP, 'Gifted'

After the pandemic delayed her Coachella debut, a tour with Harry Styles and her first album, Original Koffee is ready to redeem all of her wins. Her long-awaited debut LP, 'Gifted,' will be released March 25.

GRAMMYs/Mar 10, 2022 - 08:00 am

Original Koffee is ready for this moment. The GRAMMY-winning singer is gearing up to drop her first LP, the long-awaited Gifted, later this month. With no album features, the 22-year-old Jamaican artist is making a bold statement that she can stand alone.

“But can I really?'' Koffee questions, laughing over a Zoom call from Manhattan — one of the many stops in her packed promotional schedule. “You can take it that way but I would've had to have the confidence or the arrogance enough to say that yo, yeah, I can stand on my own, and I don’t need anybody." 

After two long years of pandemic grief, confusion and career delays, Koffee has a strong sense of self and a sound mind; a relief her younger self could’ve only wished for at a time when things were moving faster than she ever could’ve imagined.  

Born Mikayla Simpson, Koffee rose to fame in 2017 at age 17 with a tribute song to Usain Bolt. She skyrocketed into the public eye after Bolt reposted her song, then followed up with singles like "Burning" and "Raggamuffin." 

By 18, Koffee had signed a record deal with Columbia UK and released Rapture, a five-song EP. The 2020 record earned Koffee a GRAMMY for Best Reggae Album, making her the youngest artist to win in the category. There seemed to be no stopping Koffee's full-forced launch — until the pandemic slowed everything down. But that break was for the better in Koffee's eyes.  

Now, having weathered the pandemic and simultaneously signed to Columbia UK and RCA Records, the Caribbean singjay is ultimately well-rested, refreshed and ready to take the reins of her trajectory. In addition to the debut of Gifted on March 25, Koffee secured a guest spot on Harry Styles' Latin American tour, is setting up for her Coachella inauguration, and will have her own headlining North American tour.

Now a young adult, Koffee has a more powerful sense of her direction and her desired musical echo. With a focus on progressive roots reggae style, the 10-track Gifted is acoustic bliss: a melodic fusion of reggae, dancehall, Afrobeat, neo-soul, R&B and hip-hop. 

Koffee’s choppy ad-libs add instantaneous intensity to songs like "Defend," which discusses topics like the persecution of individuals with dreadlocks. On the album's title track, Koffee offers a prediction of her destiny — its lyrics not born of prophecy, though her mom always told her that she would be great. 

Wherever the winds may blow her, Koffee is open to the journey, just as long as she has her live band along for the ride —  inside the studio and on stage. GRAMMY.com conversed with Koffee about her first album, what it means to be Gifted, and her upcoming tours.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

How are you, and where are you in the world right now? How is your schedule?

I'm in Manhattan. My schedule is great; it’s packed but in a good way. That's a good problem to have, especially coming up to an album release. It is a lot of work, but I know it will pay off. It's packed with a lot of good radio stations and platforms, so it is good to link up with all of them. [My mental health] is okay. I would say I've found ways to cope and deal with everything I think, just like everybody else. 

How did winning a GRAMMY off of an EP help prepare you for your first official album?

It opened me up to different experiences. I have been able to see things that I probably would not be able to see before otherwise. As for the project, it just kind of flows naturally. I don’t think I’m the kind of person to allow the win to affect how the music flows. There are some new producers. A lot of the producers on the project I had been working with before, from the early stages. Some of the songs were made a long time ago; like a few years ago.

Are you still living in Jamaica?

Yes. I leave Jamaica to go to different places for short periods, and then I go back home. So it's like the UK, and places in the US.

The Harry Styles tour, Coachella, and your North American tour! Those are three huge things which are you most excited about?

I am super excited for them all, but I would say I am most excited about my tour because of how extensive it is and how many of my fans I will interact with, just over the length of it. I start touring on April 22. I think I cover 26 or 27 cities. I hope to see everybody at least once.

What have you been doing that has most prepared you for this tour besides rehearsal? 

The different things I have been able to learn over a period of time have strengthened my mind. I think almost everything you do has a lot to do with the strength of mind and your headspace. I feel like I’ve had a lot of time to develop that.

Going into the tour, I am at a steady pace in my head, which will help me conquer whatever comes. I was like that for the most part, and I got a little bit of tour experience before this. Not headlining, but I was able to use that [experience] and add to it more.

Can you talk about the contrast between being over-protected growing up, to being completely exposed now as a GRAMMY-award-winning musician and celebrity? Those are two completely different lives.

It is a different experience to just kind of be out in the world as opposed to the environment that I would have been used to — going to church, school, and not many other places. I think the exposure has been good. I’ve also learned things that can ground me, so it's like even when I am exposed to new things, I don't get lost in it all. I still have a sense of foundation where I am coming from. 

What was the first gig your mom said yes to in regards to your music career?

She caught on a little early. The first thing…, was a concert I did in my high school. I think I told her about it just before the actual performance, so she never had any choice. So she was like “okay” and I went and did it. That was the moment. She already believed in me by then. It was the things I did at school; those performances, graduation, and different stuff like that. 

**What led to the album title, Gifted?**

The project is my gift to the world at this moment, but it is also a reminder that once you have life, you are gifted — you must tap into your gift, your talent. It’s about uplifting and positive vibes. 

Was it a theme for Gifted that came to mind first, and then you crafted songs around that? Or did you find that your songs had a theme, and then moved forward with an album?

I think the theme came after; the tracks came about first. The first song I worked on was "X10," which is the first track so it set the tone. All the songs don’t necessarily have the same content as "X10," but it set the pace as the opening track. 

Typically, when I am creating individual songs, I like to listen to beats, feel the vibe and create off of that. I write lyrics and melodies that compliment the track. After that, compiling the album is pretty much trying to make everything gel, but also trying to tell a story.

On “Gifted” and "X10" you mention some sort of prophecy: “mama gave me the prediction, yeah”. What was the prediction?

When I was a kid, my mom always said that I was going to be great. I guess it was because of the way I would behave. She would say because of my attitude, I must have to be great because I can’t behave like that and just be some normal person. 

I think she predicted the strength, quality, and personality I have —  the ability to pull my weight and do my thing out in the world. I think the way she raised me and just what she saw in me, she knew I would find my way.

Do you believe in free will, destiny or both?

Both in a way because being born has nothing to do with free will. But also you can see where choices take you to different destinations, and you get different results. 

What is your relationship or understanding of spirit? 

I grew up in the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which is a Christian denomination. We don’t do much. We just kind of study the Bible back to front or front to back. I think I've learned a lot about spirituality from a Christian perspective, but I haven’t learned outside of that religion. 

In the song "Defend," you talk about how “you don’t have to be the government's favorite/you have enough pon your plate, no exaggeration.” What’s on your plate right now? 

My career and balancing my real life, going out on the road, performing, appearing in different places, doing interviews and stuff —  that's on my plate for sure. Having a packed schedule and having to balance and stay grounded, that's on my plate. 

Across the world in general, even in the U.S., you can see cases of police brutality. [On "Defend,”] that's me speaking out for the youth in a way. What I have on my plate in terms of the youth is the responsibility of trying to push a positive message for them. I think it's important to consider the content you put out and how it will impact them. That's just a role I play. 

On "Gifted," you used your voice like a drum. Have you always been into beatboxing? 

I’ve always had musical ideas in my head — instrument patterns. This isn’t the first time I implemented it, but I think it's the first time it sounds so prominent. I recorded the song, I was listening back, we were adding ad-libs, and that just kind of came. I was humming [the beat], and we kept it. You can look forward to a lot more of that for sure. I’ve been a long-time fan of Afrobeat, so a lot of the deliveries that I have and a great part of my influence is from Afrobeat. 

In “Gifted” the song, you talked about how “they can't lock you for your dreadlock.” Were you ever profiled because of your locs?

Not personally, but some years ago in Jamaica, the rastas [were] persecuted. Nowadays, you find a lot more people wearing dreads without being Rastafari. I’m not Rastafari…. I’m just kind of doing my own thing. 

So once you have the dreadlocks, you can get locked up. When [police] lock you up, they can cut off your dreads and stuff like that. It’s literal, and it’s an [example] of how we don’t have full freedom just yet. I can’t remember an experience that particularly made me feel that way, but I can imagine other people experiencing it, and maybe it can happen to me. 

I feel like I have a lot to learn biologically and spiritually about what the meaning of hair is. But, for now, I will just protect it and let it grow — let it be its crown. 

What's your favorite song on the album, and do you think fan-favorite songs will differ by the market? 

My favorite song is "Shine," and then my second favorite song is "Lockdown," and yes! I created the album to touch different markets. Even with my first EP, I had different sounds, so I tried to recreate that. "Pull Up" is Afrobeat-influenced, so I would say in the UK, where they love Afrobeat, and in Afrobeat countries like Nigeria…it would be respected there. 

A song like "Where I’m From" will garner Jamaican fans and yardie people across seas who have Jamaican heritage. I know that "Lonely" will get fans from the lover’s rock fan base; people who love that type of roots reggae vibe; the slow old-time reggae music. I know people my parent's age, and my grandparent's age can appreciate that. The youth and teenagers can appreciate "Shine" across the world because the lyrics are understandable. 

I feel like there was a 333 method you used — the first third of the album was a certain vibe, the next was another, then the closing vibe. What did you set out to achieve on Gifted the album?

I set out to achieve showcasing different sides of my personality; different things I enjoy, experience, and enjoy singing about. I also wanted to tell a story in a way of day to night. The way I start my day and how it flows down to the end. 

You have the first track, "X10," just giving thanks. You say I am glad I woke up today, even if you didn't just wake up, it feels like a fresh start. I get into more serious matters on "Defend" and "Shine," and talk about stuff that is a little bit pertinent to the times. Then I relax it again with some love songs and then you go down into a party vibe, laid back, relax and have fun.

When people come out with their first album, they just usually have a lot of features. No features is not something we see often.

There is somewhat of a tradition when you are coming out with the first project where you want to anchor yourself in a certain way so you bring in as many people as you can get. I don’t believe in doing things that way. 

But I don't think it's good to focus so much on selling [the album] all the time. I can do many other projects; this is just my first project. This is only the beginning. I’m 22, I have the opportunity to do many collabs, do many features; this is just one moment in time.

My presentation in this case is what it is. I would say it’s bold in terms of stepping out of the norm. But I don’t think it’s a statement like I’m trying to make a big move or anything. [Laughs] It's a statement in and of itself, but that will be the statement by itself.

It is a statement that you can stand on your own.

Maybe even with that attitude, I could even end up flopping, so I still don’t know because the project has not dropped yet. So it just comes from a natural place, and we don’t know. We just put it out there the way I saw it; the way that I envisioned it.

How many more albums can we expect on RCA and Columbia UK? About how many tracks were made in total for this album for you to just end up with 10?

You can expect one more album after Gifted on RCA and Columbia UK. 

Some of the tracks were made before, which is something I continuously do. I make the music, record, and just stack tracks. We chose a few based on the progression of what I wanted from earlier times. We did some closer to the time of the release of the album; some band tracks. I wanted to cover working with my band and creating the raw ting from scratch. I got the chance to do that for about three songs from that setup, so yeah, just different times and different ways.

Do you have any other gifts/talents we don’t know about yet? What are you good at?

I play the guitar. I started teaching myself. I got some official lessons from a teacher over the pandemic. That’s pretty much it. 

Black Music Collective Podcast: How Estelle Became A Global R&B And Reggae Icon

30 Must-Hear Albums In 2022: Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Rosalía, Machine Gun Kelly, Charli XCX, Saweetie & More

(L - R): Machine Gun Kelly, Charli XCX, Saweetie, Earl Sweatshirt, Rosalía

(Source Photos L - R): Rich Fury/Getty Images for dcp; Jason Koerner/Getty Images; Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for iHeartRadio; Marc Grimwade/WireImage; Emma McIntyre/Getty Images for The Recording Academy

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30 Must-Hear Albums In 2022: Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, Rosalía, Machine Gun Kelly, Charli XCX, Saweetie & More

2022 has no shortage of new albums to keep your shuffle hard at work. GRAMMY.com compiled a list of 30 upcoming releases — from Kid Cudi, Earl Sweatshirt, Combo Chimbita, Dolly Parton, and Guns N' Roses — to keep you moving in the new year.

GRAMMYs/Jan 8, 2022 - 12:28 am

Editor's Note: This piece has been updated to reflect release dates and album titles announced after publishing. 

While it may feel like there's not much to look forward to during yet another wave of COVID-19, music fans around the world are eagerly waiting to load their playlists with new releases as 2022 gets underway.

And there's certainly plenty to look forward to: Along with The Weeknd, who released his fifth studio album, Dawn FM, on Jan. 7, superstars like Machine Gun KellyCamila CabelloDolly PartonGuns N' Roses, and Rosalía have all announced or teased albums coming this year.

The pandemic may have slowed things down, but there's no stopping artists in 2022. Keep an eye out for these 30 albums from ENHYPEN, Mitski, Saweetie, Bastille, and many more.

The Weeknd, Dawn FM

Release date: Jan. 7

Only a year removed from his incendiary Super Bowl Halftime Show performance, the crowned pop prince of Canada returns with the semi-surprise Dawn FM, a hotly anticipated follow-up to his record-breaking 2020 release, After Hours (you know, the one with "Blinding Lights" and "Save Your Tears" on it).

As The Weeknd's album teasers promised, Dawn FM delivered sinister synthesizers, a vocal appearance from Jim Carrey, and old-man makeup that's arguably only slightly less distressing than his wax-faced After Hours persona.Max Martin is back (on lead single "Take My Breath"), and other guests include Tyler, the Creator and Oneohtrix Point Never.

As for what the three-time GRAMMY winner wants his listeners to take away from his latest work? "Picture the album being like the listener is dead," The Weeknd told Billboard. Capisce? — Brennan Carley

ENHYPEN, DIMENSION : ANSWER 

Release date: January 10

Seven-piece boy group ENHYPEN may still be relatively new to the K-pop scene (the band formed in 2020 on the Korean survival competition show "I-Land"), but they're already making moves to put themselves in the ranks of BTS and EXO. Their latest release, DIMENSION : ANSWER, marks the group's first studio repackage album, expanding on their 2021 debut set, DIMENSION : DILEMMA.

DIMENSION : ANSWER will feature three new tracks,: "Polaroid Love," "Outro : Day 2," and lead single "Blessed-Cursed." Fans got a first taste of the three B-sides thanks to an album preview the group released on Jan. 4, which teased a wide array of sounds: punchy pop-sprinkled production on "Polaroid Love," sultry R&B vocals with "Outro : Day 2," and guitar-heavy rock on "Blessed-Cursed." With such vast musical prowess, DIMENSION : ANSWER may just be the group's ticket to K-pop superstardom. — Taylor Weatherby

Read More: 5 Rising Korean Artists To Know Now: STAYC, ENHYPEN, ITZY, TOMORROW X TOGETHER & ATEEZ

Cordae, From a Bird's Eye View

Release date: Jan. 14

Cordae set the bar high with his GRAMMY-nominated debut album The Lost Boy and emerged as one of the most exciting new talents of 2019, making his return to the game with his hotly anticipated second album.

The Maryland-raised rapper held fans over with his Just Until… EP last April before launching into his album rollout with the braggadocious hit, "Super" and a collaboration with Lil Wayne, "Sinister." The 24-year-old wordsmith — known for his reflective, carefully-crafted raps — said From a Bird's Eye View was inspired by "a life-changing trip to Africa, enduring the loss of a friend gone too soon and evolving as an artist and a man." 

The album will also mark Cordae's first full-length effort since the official disbanding of his YBN collective in 2020. — Victoria Moorwood

Animal Collective, Time Skiffs

Release date: Feb. 4

Followers of experimental pop adventurers Animal Collective have waited six years for a new album following 2016's Painting With. At last, the four-piece will release Time Skiffs, an album full of otherworldly harmonies and mind-opening melodies.

Animal Collective has released two singles from the LP so far: the gently psychedelic "Prester John" and the equally trippy "Walker." The latter is a tribute to Scott Walker, the prolific singer-songwriter who died in 2019. Its beautifully intricate music video, directed by band member Dave Portner and his sister Abby, brings the Time Skiffs album cover to life in vivid detail. — Jack Tregoning

Avril Lavigne, Love Sux

Release date: Feb 25 

Like everything Y2K, pop-punk is making a comeback. And nearly 20 years since the release of her seminal pop-punk debut Let GoAvril Lavigne brings back her pop-punk princess persona in all its glory — combat boots and all. In early November, the "Sk8r Boi" singer shared her the angsty anthem "Bite Me," first new single in over two years, featuring Travis Barker.

With the new music, Lavigne also shared she had signed to the drummer extraordinaire's label DTA Records. Her seventh studio album is set to be the artist's first LP since her more traditional pop LP Head Above Water in 2019. — I.K.

Bonobo, Fragments

Release date: Jan. 14

Like everyone else around the world, electronic shapeshifter Simon Green had a very unusual past two years. The British musician and DJ, better known as Bonobo, found himself grounded in his adopted home of Los Angeles, itching for new inspiration to get through the pandemic. His wanderings took him from a tent in the Californian desert to a new appreciation for modular synths back home in lockdown, all with a nervous eye on the precarious state of the world.

This activity fed into a flood of music which we'll soon hear on Bonobo's seventh studio album, Fragments, out on Ninja Tune. Fragments features guests including Jamila Woods, Joji and Kadhja Bonet, while channeling influences from UK bass, Detroit techno and global music through Bonobo's widescreen lens. The producer is already up for two Best Dance/Electronic Recording awards at this year's GRAMMYs, for "Heartbreak," his collaboration with Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs, and "Loom," with Ólafur Arnalds. Bonobo begins a tour of the US in February, giving fans a few precious weeks to soak up the album before its live debut. — J.T.

Earl Sweatshirt, SICK

Release date: Jan. 14

With a decade-plus of acclaimed projects such as 2018's Some Rap SongsEarl Sweatshirt is both an underground hero and a critic's darling. He hasn't achieved the same level of mainstream success as former Odd Future colleagues Tyler, the Creator and Syd – which is fine with him.

Judging from SICK's lead track "2010," where he pays homage to his mother in cryptic terms, the 10-track album promises to be another collection of stylized verses, dusty beats and autobiographical confessions (albeit rendered in a clearer voice than his previous album, 2019's lo-fi affair Feet of Clay). As its title suggests, SICK was inspired by the pandemic. "My whole thing is grading things on the truth, you know what I mean? However expansive or detailed the truth is," he told Rolling Stone. — Mosi Reeves

iann dior, On To Better Things

Release date: January 21

After blasting onto the scene with his 24kgoldn team-up (and runaway smash) "Mood" in 2020, iann dior hasn't slowed down, releasing an EP and countless other collabs. On To Better Things marks dior's first full-length album since 2019, serving up 15 tracks that will help the rapper truly come into his own.

Like the Lil Uzi Vert-assisted "V12" and the racing single "Let You," On To Better Things will see dior further explore his capabilities as a rapper while also tapping into his alt-pop/rock sensibilities. Judging by his previous releases, dior won't be afraid to get raw and real on his latest project as he opens up about love, relationships and loyalty. There may be glimmers of hope on the album, though, as dior captioned a post teasing the album, "life is better now." — T.W.

Dive Deep: 9 Revolutionary Rap Albums To Know: From Kendrick Lamar, Black Star, EarthGang & More

Combo Chimbita, IRÉ

Release date: Jan. 28

The melding of cumbia beats and psychedelic vibes was embraced during the '70s by many pioneering outfits in Peru and Colombia. Since the release of their 2017 debut, New York quartet Combo Chimbita has built on that foundation, amping up the mystical tinge of its material through the soulful chanting of extraordinary vocalist Carolina Oliveros. 

Always ready to speak up on social and political issues, Chimbita uses cumbia as a starting point, adding swashes of funk and soul, Afro guitar lines and atmospheric samples. The band's new album expands its palette, enhancing lead single "Oya" with a video shot at the ruins of Puerto Rico's abandoned Intercontinental Hotel. A tour with the awesomeLido Pimienta will follow soon. — Ernesto Lechner

Aaliyah, Unstoppable

Release date: January 2022

Anticipation surrounding Aaliyah's fourth album has been building since 2012, when Blackground Records released "Don't Think They Know," which paired the late singer's vocals with Chris Brown, and a Drake collaboration, "Enough Said." The long-awaited arrival of her back catalog to streaming last fall added fresh fuel for a project that has been controversial, with some diehard fans questioning whether it honors Aaliyah's legacy.

Unstoppable includes guests like Snoop Dogg, Future and Ne-Yo. The first single, a woozy ballad titled "Poison," features The Weeknd as well as lyrics originally written by the late Static Major. "Some of the people Aaliyah liked are on the album. She loved Snoop Dogg," Blackground CEO and Aaliyah's uncle Jomo Hankerson told Billboard. "Everything I do at Blackground is always with her in my heart and my mind." — M.R.

Read More: For The Record: How Aaliyah Redefined Her Sound And Herself On One In A Million

Bastille, Give Me the Future

Release date: Feb. 4

If the pandemic had even a glimmer of a bright side, it comes courtesy of musicians like Bastille pivoting and positioning their art to address the present, as Give Me the Future promises to do.

Bandleader Dan Smith had already begun work on the English pop-rock group's fourth album before COVID-19 threw a wrench in his plans, but the pandemic made the album's probing themes seem that much more prescient. Glistening songs like "Thelma + Louise" and the vocoded "Distorted Light Beam" dig more deeply into Bastille's exploration of escapism when the troubles of the world are thundering outside our windowsall with the help of new collaborators Rami Yacoub and One Republic's Ryan Tedder. We promise it's way more fun than it sounds. — B.C.

Mitski, Laurel Hell

Release date: Feb. 4

Mitski almost pressed pause on her music career which, according to a Rolling Stone interview, was "shaving away my soul little by little." After a final performance, "I would quit and find another life."  Fortunately, though, Mitski has stuck with it.

Three years since the release of her fifth studio album Be the Cowboy, the indie singer-songwriter is set to share her forthcoming project Laurel Hell. While the majority of the LP was penned in 2018, it wasn't mixed until 2021, making it the longest the singer has spent on one of her records. What listeners can expect is a transformative set of songs that pair Mitski's signature vulnerability with uptempo dance beats and, ultimately, catharsis. — Ilana Kaplan

Guns N' Roses, Hard Skool EP

Release date: Feb. 25 

In 2021, 36 years after the band first formed in the hard rock hotbed of Los Angeles, Guns N' Roses returned with two new singles. This productive streak was remarkable enough in itself given the group's notoriously haphazard release schedule. The singles "ABSUЯD" and "Hard Skool" are doubly remarkable, though, because they usher in a new EP that brings beloved members Axl Rose, Slash and Duff McKagan together again after 28 years.

Reinterpreted from the band's Chinese Democracy sessions, "ABSUЯD" features a raw, punk-tinged sound that surprised some fans before rewarding repeat listens. "Hard Skool," meanwhile, harkens back to the classic sound that Guns N' Roses perfected in the late 1980s. The Hard Skool EP will feature the two 2021 singles alongside live renditions of GNR favorites "Don't Cry" and "You're Crazy." To mark this new era, the band is touring arenas throughout 2022, reuniting Axl, Slash and Duff as a powerhouse onstage trio. — J.T.

Take a Look Back: Guns N' Roses' 'Appetite For Destruction' | For The Record

Charli XCX, CRASH

Release date: March 18

Pop polymorph Charli XCX has been promising fans her sellout era for months now ("tip for new artists: sell your soul for money and fame," she tweeted last July), ushered in with last summer's "Good Ones" and buoyed into the holidays with "New Shapes," a powerhouse team-up with Caroline Polachek and Christine and the Queens.

CRASH is the fifth and final album she owes Atlantic Records — a benchmark not lost on fans or Charli herself. For it, Charli promises edge-of-your-seat appearances from Rina Sawayama, frequent collaborator A. G. Cook, and frequent Weeknd cohort Oneohtrix Point Never. Come for the bloody album artwork, stay for the cheeky, self-aware pop concoctions contained within. — B.C.

Dolly Parton, Run, Rose, Run

Release date: March 2022

The beloved, multi-GRAMMY Award-winning singer-songwriter Dolly Parton has built a career as a trailblazer, so it stands to reason that her next musical effort would carry on that grand tradition. Run, Rose, Run is an album of original tunes taking its energetic moniker from a companion novel that Parton co-authored with the acclaimed writer James Patterson.

According to Parton, the accompanying album consists of "all new songs written based on the characters and situations in the book" and centers on a tale about a girl who treks to Nashville to pursue her dreams. Adds Patterson, "the mind-blowing thing about this project is that reading the novel is enhanced by listening to the album and vice versa." Both projects are dropping in tandemIt's a unique undertaking that celebrates a smoldering passion for music; but if you've been following the legend's career, would you expect anything less? — Rob LeDonne

Maren Morris, Humble Quest

Release date: March 25

GRAMMY-winning singer Maren Morris has conquered modern country music with her soulful solo material and even forayed into pop (just mentioning "The Middle" will glue its sticky chorus to your every waking moment for the next week). So whatever magic Morris might make with her highly anticipated third album, Humble Quest, is cause enough for celebration.

Morris kicked off her next LP with "Circles Around This Town," an expansive, freewheeling single that blends the echoing production of her 2016 debut HERO and super-personal lyrics of 2019's GIRL. The album will be Morris' first since the untimely 2019 passing of her longtime creative partner busbee, but her partnership with pop hitmaker Greg Kurstin (who produced "Circles Around This Town" as well as four GIRL tracks) hints that this next project is going to be a timeless trip and an emotional walloping. — B.C.

Thomas Rhett, Where We Started Country Again: Side B

Release date: April 1 / Fall 2022

Though country music has always been the core of what Thomas Rhett has done since his debut album (2013's It Goes Like This), the star's 2021 set, Country Again: Side A, was more traditional than his past projects. Clearly his roots (along with the unexpected pandemic-induced downtime) sparked a bout of inspiration, as Rhett announced in November that he'll be releasing Side B as well as another LP, titled Where We Started, in 2022.

Surprisingly, Side B won't be coming first. But it will create one cohesive Country Again narrative once it arrives, as Rhett promised in an interview with Rolling Stone last year — though he did hint that Side B will feature production that's "a smidge more experimental" than Side A. His latest single, the wistful "Slow Down Summer" hints that Where We Started will also bring back more of the pop-leaning production he's incorporated in his previous albums.

Still, that doesn't mean he'll lose sight of the country boy that has been unleashed: In writing all of this music, Rhett told his producers (per Rolling Stone), "This is the direction I'm headed in, and I think I'm gonna be here for a long time." — T.W.

Read More: Saddle Up With The Best Country Song Nominations | 2022 GRAMMYs

Jack White, Fear of the Dawn / Entering Heaven Alive

Release date: April 8 / July 22 

Epic ambition fuels the very essence of rock 'n' roll and Jack White has embodied the genre's weakness for glamour, dissonance and excess since his days with The White Stripes. The reckless propulsion of "Over and Over and Over" — off 2018's Boarding House Reach — proved that he has kept the bravado in his songwriting very much alive. 

2022 will find the multi-GRAMMY Award winning singer/guitarist releasing two full-length albums: Fear of the Dawn, led by the wonderfully bombastic single "Taking Me Back," will also include a collaboration with rapper Q-Tip. No details are available on July's Entering Heaven Alive, but the appearance of two albums in the same year is the kind of grandiloquent gesture that rock is in need of more than ever before.  — E.L.

Swedish House Mafia, Paradise Again

Release date: TBA, ships April 15

When GRAMMY-nominated Swedish House Mafia announced they were getting back together (and this time for good), fans were cautiously optimistic. The trio of DJ-producers — Steve Angello, Sebastian Ingrosso and Axwell —  promised a host of new music to mark their return, and so far they've kept to their word. The comeback began with the dark, guest-free "It Gets Better," which deviated from the big-room EDM sound championed by the Swedes up to their split in 2013.

From there, the trio delivered "Lifetime," featuring Ty Dolla $ign and 070 Shake, and "Moth to a Flame," featuring The Weeknd, which became their first major hit of the new era. This flurry of activity sets the stage for Swedish House Mafia's first full album, Paradise Again. As Ingrosso told NME, the album will combine their trademark "Scandinavian melodies with dark production and hard sounds." Starting July 2022, the DJs embark on their first tour in a decade, playing 44 dates throughout the US, UK and Europe. — J.T.

Jason Aldean, Georgia 

Release date: April 22

Jumping on country music's 2021 double album trendJason Aldean issued Macon, the first half of his own two-disc set, Macon, Georgia, in November. The title is an homage to his hometown, which he refers to as a "melting pot" that shaped his music, according to Country Now. Yet, the 30-song project expands on Aldean's signature country-rock sound without steering too far away from what fans have grown to love, as evidenced with both Macon and Georgia's crooning lead single, "Whiskey Me Away."

Like its predecessor, Georgia will include 10 new songs and five live recordings of his biggest hits, essentially creating Aldean's first-ever live album.With the aptly titled track "Rock and Roll Cowboy" to boot, Georgia helps make Macon, Georgia a career highlight for Aldean. — T.W.

Machine Gun Kelly, Born with Horns

Release date: TBD 

The upcoming sixth studio album from enigmatic rocker Machine Gun Kelly, ominously titled Born with Horns, was rumored to drop on New Year's Eve 2021, but it seems Kelly had a change of heart tweeting "See you in 2022." While the release date continues to be murky, there is some solid information about the highly anticipated fresh slate of music from the multi-hyphenate rockstar.

For one, the album is produced by fellow rock luminary Travis Barker and includes the decidedly dark single "Papercuts." "It feels more guitar-heavy for sure, lyrically it definitely goes deeper, but I never like to do anything the same," Kelly said of Born with Horns in an interview with Sunday TODAY, noting it'll also mark a personal evolution. "I'm not scared anymore, there's nothing holding me back from being my true self — and my true self can't be silenced, can't be restrained." — R.L.

Watch Now: Up Close & Personal: Machine Gun Kelly On Working With Travis Barker & Influencing The Next Decade Of Music

Camila Cabello, Familia

Release date: TBD

There's perhaps never been a better advertisement for an album than Camila Cabello's edition of NPR's Tiny Desk. Released last fall, the session begins with three old songs and ends with two Familia cuts strong enough to bowl you over. In just 20 minutes, the former Fifth Harmony singer genuflects at the altar of pop's past while steering its ship into the future.

"Don't Go Yet" brims with the promise of comfort as it opens with a warm flamenco guitar. "La Buena Vida" is a Mariachi-based explosion of emotion and evocation, anchored by Cabello's arresting vocals. Whereas her prior albums sought to cement the 24-year-old amidst her contemporaries, the uber-personal Familia seems likely to propel her into a whole new pedigree of artistry. — B.C.

Rosalía, MOTOMAMI

Release date: TBD 

In 2018, Rosalía's cinematic El Mal Querer signified a before-and-after for the music of Spain and Latin America. A visionary blend of flamenco, hip-hop and confessional torch song, the album introduced her to the world as an intellectual, musicologist and pop diva wrapped up into one slick sonic package. Subsequent singles (2019's "Haute Couture" was a gorgeous slice of electro-pop) demonstrated that Rosalía's path to global domination relies on a voracious curiosity for disparate styles and high-profile collaborators such as Billie Eilish and Bad Bunny. 

Titled MOTOMAMI, Rosalía's much anticipated release includes "LA FAMA," a deliciously distorted bachata duet with The Weeknd. We can only imagine what other wonders Rosalía's remarkable imagination has dreamed up for this, her first full-length album since becoming a cultural icon. — E.L.

Saweetie, Pretty Bitch Music

Release date: TBD

Saweetie is set to finally release her debut album, Pretty Bitch Music, this year. After first announcing the project in 2020, the Bay Area native's star power has exploded, reaching new heights last year with major endorsements, her first GRAMMY nominations and a "Saturday Night Live" debut. Pretty Bitch Music was initially slated to arrive in 2021, but Saweetie postponed the effort for some additional fine-tuning.

"I'm just living with it to ensure it's perfect," she told Hollywood Life in August. "I'm really challenging myself and I just want to ensure that I put out a body of work that [will] symbolize art."

Pretty Bitch Music is expected to include Saweetie's 2x Platinum-certified collaboration with Doja Cat, "Best Friend" and her single "Tap In" with production by TimbalandLil Jon and Murda Beatz, among other heavy-hitters. — V.M.

Kid Cudi, Entergalactic

Release date: TBD

Three years after it was announced, Kid Cudi's animated music adventure for Netflix is set to arrive this summer, as the rapper declared during his set at Rolling Loud California in December. "I got some tasty surprises," he told fans before offering a snippet of unreleased music that may be on the soundtrack. 

Not much else is known about the project, which takes its title from a song on Cudi's 2009 debut Man on the Moon: The End of Day, and which co-creator Kenya Barris referred to as "the most ambitious thing" in a 2019 interview with Complex.

Entergalactic might not be where Kid Cudi stops in 2022, either: Amid his Rolling Loud teases, he said, "I want to drop another album before [Entergalactic]... I really am excited about all this new s***, this new music to give to you guys. So that's why I'm teasing this s*** now, 'cause it's comin' out soon." — M.R.

Beach House, Once Twice Melody

Release date: throughout 2022

Nearly four years since the release of their seventh studio album aptly titled 7, Beach House is slowly unveiling their latest record Once Twice Melody. But instead of dropping all 18 tracks at once, the dreamy indie duo has been giving fans a taste of their new sound in four chapters.

Once Twice Melody is a significant shift as it's the first album produced in full by the band. Beach House also thought about its structure completely differently than they had in the past. "It didn't just feel like a regular, like another album of ours, it felt like a larger, newer kind of way of looking at our music," singer Victoria Legrand told Apple Music. Instead, they view it as "cinematic" and "literary." What fans can expect, they say, is "a lot of love" and "a sacredness of nature." — I.K.

Kendrick Lamar, TBA

Release date: TBD

One of our most celebrated artists of his generation may make his triumphant return this year.  Although it's been nearly five years since Kendrick Lamar released his GRAMMY- and Pulitzer Prize-winning album DAMN, Lamar has remained busy. In 2018, Lamar  curated the Black Panther soundtrack and he's also made guest appearances on tracks by artists as varied as Nipsey Hussle, Anderson .Paak, U2 and his cousin, Baby Keem. 

But Lamar has been mostly mum about his own music, save for an August blog post titled "nu thoughts." "Love, loss, and grief have disturbed my comfort zone, but the glimmers of God speak through my music and family," he wrote, adding that his next album will be his last with Top Dawg Entertainment. It's the sort of thoughtful, precise announcement (and perhaps a hint to his album's content) that fans have come to expect from the notoriously private rapper. Lamar will thankfully make an appearance at this year's Super Bowl in February. — Britt Julious

Read More: Black Sounds Beautiful: How Kendrick Lamar Became A Rap Icon

Cardi B, TBA

Release date: TBD

Despite the slow-burning success of her single "Bodak Yellow," few could have predicted the popularity of Cardi B'sdebut album, Invasion of Privacy. A critical and commercial success, "Invasion of Privacy" won Best Rap Album at the 61st Grammy Awards, making Cardi the first woman to win in the category. That's why anticipation for her sophomore record is so high.

Cardi's brand of hip-hop is provocative and fun, and her two singles (possibly from the record) seem to confirm that same mood is still present in her music. In 2020, she dropped "WAP," a cultural reset of a collaboration with Megan Thee Stallion, and in 2021, she released "Up," which later inspired a viral TikTok dance challenge. As with many artists, the COVID-19 pandemic has delayed the release of Cardi's new album. But late last year on Instagram Live, Cardi said she has "lots of jobs now" and one of them is to "put out this album next year." Hopefully fans won't have to wait too long. — B.J.

Koffee, TBA

Release date: TBD  

If Koffee's latest single is any indication, the youngest GRAMMY Award winner for Best Reggae Album is planning a glorious homecoming in 2022. Sung with a wide smile you can nearly hear, "West Indies" is a dancehall love letter to the islands and an upbeat promise for what the singer has in store on her first full-length.   

"I want to speak of a solution and of a way that we can come together and get along, even when things are going wrong," Koffee told Rolling Stone.

Although the pandemic halted her album recording and nixed her first Coachella performance, Koffee defies the dour attitude of much of the past two years. On "West Indies," Koffee assures that she's partying and having the time of her life — her as-yet-untitled album will likely soundtrack yours while you do the same. — Jessica Lipsky

Read More: The Women Essential To Reggae And Dancehall

Girl Ultra, TBA

Release date: TBD 

Few musical experiences are as uplifting as listening to a singer/songwriter's follow-up to a brilliant debut, where they enhance the scope of their craft with new influences and sounds. Nuevos Aires, Girl Ultra's first full-length album, was just that – a breath of fresh air for Latin R&B, anchored on the purity of her voice and collaborations with Ximena Sariñana and Cuco (for the languid hit "DameLove.") 

Following that 2019 release, the artist also known as Mariana de Miguel returns with a new EP. Lead single "Amores de Droga" evokes the sophistication of Everything But The Girl, combining smoldering vocalizing with cool electro grooves. A study in contrasts, it finds the Mexico City chanteuse reaching a pinnacle of inspiration. — E.L.

The Pandemic Robbed Music Of Its Rapport. These Immersive Experiences Are Restoring It In Mind-Blowing Ways.

Harry Styles' 'Fine Line' Debuts At No. 1 With The 3rd Biggest Week For A 2019 Album

Harry Styles 

Photo: Will Heath/NBC/Getty Images

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Harry Styles' 'Fine Line' Debuts At No. 1 With The 3rd Biggest Week For A 2019 Album

With a huge first week for his anticipated sophomore solo album, the pop powerhouse has landed his second No. 1 debut on the Billboard 200, with the biggest male pop release in four years

GRAMMYs/Dec 24, 2019 - 01:56 am

Billboard's latest chart data reveals British pop act Harry Styles' sophomore album Fine Line has debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard 200, its all-genre album chart. This marks the former One Direction bandmember's second No. 1 album (out of two to date) as a solo artist and sixth overall, as the popular boy band saw four No. 1 album releases (out of five LPs) in their time together.

Billboard highlights the massiveness of Fine Line's first week, noting, at 478,000 units, it has had the third-biggest album week of 2019, only following Taylor Swift's currently GRAMMY-nominated Lover (869,000 units on the Sept. 7 chart) and Post Malone's Hollywood's Bleeding (489,000 units on the Sept. 21 chart). Additionally, just one week in, it is already the sixth-best selling album of 2019. The data was revealed by Billboard yesterday, Dec. 20, for its forthcoming Dec. 28 Billboard 200 chart.

Related: Billboard 200 Album Chart To Count Video Plays From Streaming Services Starting In 2020

In the first week since its release on Dec. 13, Fine Line sold 393,000 albums (including CDs, vinyl and digital downloads, including concert ticket and merchandise bundles) and racked up 108.7 million on-demand audio streams among its 12 tracks, which equals 83,000 Streaming Equivalent Units. The impressive 478,000 album units is rounded out by 3,000 Track Equivalent Album sales, meaning 30,000 tracks from the albums were downloaded during its first week.

The album follows Styles' self-titled 2017 solo debut album, which also debuted at No. 1 with 230,000 equivalent album sales in its first week. Now, with his anticipated sophomore follow up, the pop powerhouse has not only landed his second No. 1 solo debut, but he's also seen the best week for male pop release, only behind Justin Bieber's Purpose in 2015. It is also the biggest week ever for a U.K. male solo artist since Nielsen began tracking sales electronically back in 1991.

The big achievement for Styles' follows a busy schedule filled with appearances on Saturday Night Live, The Late Late Show With James Corden and BBC Radio 1's Live Lounge and surprise shows in London in Los Angeles. For BBC, he performed two Fine Line's "Adore You" and "Lights Up," as well as a Lizzo-approved cover of "Juice" and a cheerful rendition of Paul McCartney's "Wonderful Christmastime," both of which you can peep below.

 

He will kick off his Love On Tour 2020 in the spring, with King Princess opening in Europe, Jenny Lewis supporting the U.S. and Canada dates and current GRAMMY nominee Koffee joining in Mexico. You can check out his website to see if tickets are still available near you.

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