Putting together a list of the 10 most anticipated albums of 2015 is almost as difficult as picking that will make next year’s football playoffs. Some big albums have already been scheduled and titled. Those are easiest picks, but how do you weigh a half-leaked, half-released Madonna album with a Kanye West record that hasn’t been officially announced? Then there are the albums musicians have teased on YouTube or spoken about in interviews, but are far from sure things. Top that off with dozens of acts that have confirmed they are currently in the studio, but haven’t set deadlines or confirmed dates, and you’re left rolling the dice.
Double down and place your bets.
Mark Ronson — Uptown Special (Jan. 13)
The successful British producer and songwriter has been working on the follow-up to his 2010 breakthrough Record Collection since 2013. The album was co-written and co-produced with Jeff Bhasker (Kanye West, Drake, Alicia Keys) and will feature the type of musical genre-bending for which Ronson is known. The first single, “Uptown Funk,” features Bruno Mars, sounds like a masterful blend of horn-fueled James Brown euphoria and beat-driven Michael Jackson-inspired pop, and is already a massive hit. Stevie Wonder, Mystikal, and Tame Impala’s Kevin Parker also appear on the album, suggesting that Uptown Special will keep Ronson in the public eye throughout the year.
Imagine Dragons — Smoke and Mirrors (Feb. 17)
The pressure is on for the Las Vegas alt-rock quartet to match the success of its 2012 full-length debut, Night Visions — which may be why the group facetiously named its upcoming second album Smoke and Mirrors. Judging from the first single, “I Bet My Life,” which came out in October, the band still has plenty to offer. The song sounds like a more contemporary Paul Simon saturated with gospel backing vocals. Regardless of what this suggests, in recent interviews the band members have stated that the album will be more rock-oriented than its rap-influenced predecessor. Rock on, Imagine Dragons, rock on.
Kid Rock — First Kiss (Feb. 24)
The follow-up to 2012’s Rebel Soul, First Kiss will feature nine songs, two of which were co-written by noted producer Dann Huff. Kid Rock self-produced the record — his 10th studio offering — in his Michigan studio and started working on it after wrapping up his $20 Best Night Ever tour. The first single for the album is the title track, a song about childhood innocence which includes the lyrics “I remember waiting for the school bus/Jenny Clayton was my first crush/And neither one of us had a clue/An old Cheyenne it was my first truck.” Kinda makes us think of John Mellencamp’s “Jack and Diane” without even hearing it. Other song titles: “Good Times, Cheap Wine,” “Ain’t Enough Whiskey,” and “Drinking Beer With Dad.” Seems like Rock is either drinking to remember or gunning for booze commercial placements.
Madonna — Rebel Heart (March 10)
When it comes to duality, Madonna has never backed off from expressing herself, whether dealing with themes of religion and sin, injustice, and hope or spirituality and decadence. On her 13th studio album, she addresses subversion and misanthropy as well as love and redemption. The music features elements of house, EDM, gospel, and pop and guest producers include Kanye West, Diplo and Avicii. Co-writers include Alicia Keys, Avicii, and Thomas Wesley Pentz, and Nicki Minaj performs a guest rap on “Bitch, I’m Madonna.” Six of the album’s tracks, including the Nicki duet, have already been released as an EP, as a reaction to Madonna’s unfinished music being leaked. But barring another surprise release, fans will have to wait till March to hear the whole thing.
Faith No More — TITLE TBA (Spring)
When a band that was already sonically schizophrenic prepares to release its first album since 1997, it’s next to impossible to guess what the music is going to sound like. But one thing’s for sure. Fans have been eagerly anticipating a new Faith No More album since the group reunited in 2009 to start touring again. So far, they’ve released one song, “Motherf---er,” an odd number that sounds vaguely like a cross between early Flaming Lips, Butthole Surfers, and Puscifer. While the album probably won’t appeal to Godsmack fans, those with more adventurous tastes should start salivating now.
Giorgio Moroder — 74 Is the New 24 (TBA)
Electronic music pioneer Giorgio Moroder resurrected his career by collaborating with Daft Punk on 2013’s Random Access Memories. The project went so well, he decided to start working on his first solo album in 30 years. Aside from the title track, no songs have been announced for the new album, but numerous guest vocalists will be featured, including Britney Spears, Sia, Kylie Minogue, Charli XCX, and Mikky Ekko. Expect plenty of pulsing beats, throbbing keyboards, and disco guitars. This one stands a good chance of taking electronic music back to the future.
U2 — Songs of Experience (TBA)
It’s no secret that U2 are planning to drop their second album in less than a year, and you won’t have to scour the Internet for instructions on how to delete the songs from your iTunes if you don’t want the darned thing. Unlike this year’s Songs of Innocence, Songs of Experience won’t be a freebie, but hopefully it will be worth the price of admission. Considering Bono’s recent bicycle accident, it’s feasible that the album won’t actually come out in 2015, but the fact that U2 are calling their upcoming tour Songs of Innocence + Experience suggests they’re going to try their hardest. As for the new songs, guitarist the Edge told Rolling Stone: “The majority of the unfinished songs are worthy of becoming part of Songs of Experience and some are already as good or better than anything on Songs of Innocence.”
Kanye West — TITLE TBA (TBA)
On a website for a benefit auction, Rihanna accidentally announced that Kanye will be touring in 2015. Could the gifted rapper have a new album out by then? Keep in mind that in November 2013, he was working with Rick Rubin and Q-Tip on the follow-up to the wildly experimental Yeezus and had hoped it would be out by mid-2014. He’s a little late for that, but if he hasn’t scrapped all the tracks and started over again (or even if he has), it seems likely we’ll see the Kanye’s studio resurrection sometime in 2015. Praise Yeezus.
Fleetwood Mac — TITLE TBA (TBA)
There’s unfinished business in the Fleetwood Mac camp. The band’s last studio album, 2003’s Say You Will, received mixed reviews. And while the classic rockers have launched three successful tours since then, and have already announced the On With the Show tour for 2014 and 2015, they have yet to prove they can still make magic in the studio. Now that keyboardist and vocalist Christine McVie — who last played with them in 1998 — has returned, the band members might just have the juice they need to make an album that rivals their ’70s output. In May, multi-instrumentalist Lindsey Buckingham said eight songs were mostly done and that seven of them were co-written by McVie. Yes, it looks like the Mac is back.
Slayer – TITLE TBA (TBA)
Considering the horror and drama that has gone down in camp Slayer since early 2013, it’s amazing that the band is still together, let alone planning a new album. For those out of the metal loop, original drummer Dave Lombardo was fired in February 2013 and main songwriter and guitarist Jeff Hanneman died from cirrhosis of the liver two months later. Slayer kept touring, however, with Exodus guitarist Gary Holt and drummer Paul Bostaph, who joined the band after Lombardo first left. That’s the lineup that will complement vocalist and bassist Tom Araya and guitarist Kerry King on Slayer’s next record. Judging from the song they debuted in April 2014, “Implode,” the follow-up to 2009’s World Painted Blood should, er, slay.