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aug23 fall music preview
Fall Music Preview 2017
Most Anticipated Upcoming Albums



It says a lot about today’s music business when, off-cycle, one artist continues to dominate headlines, social media and the tech world. It takes but a lift of her finger for Taylor Swift to send the industry scurrying, and she has the world wrapped around it.

SEE MORE: From the August 22, 2017, issue of Variety

Anticipation is too small a word to describe the teeth-grinding of music executives at Universal Music Group and beyond as Swift prepares to release a new album — or at the very least, a single — due out this fall. Could it be another Adele-size winner, moving physical copies in the millions and streams in the billions? Or could Swift opt for the new bespoke model and release songs as she sees fit, race them up the charts and keep fans braced for what may come next? She’s certainly a traditionalist (she believes fervently in the album-as-a-complete-work-of-art concept) and a trailblazer (witness her 2014 and 2015 attacks on Spotify and Apple Music, respectively, for what she feels was not fairly compensating artists on a free tier).


This fall, as in previous years, releases are stacked steadily throughout the quarter and include such mainstay artists as Pink, Beck, Foo Fighters, Miley Cyrus and Shania Twain. There are also newcomers in the mix — among them ex-Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello and country singer Thomas Rhett — and a comeback of sorts in LCD Soundsystem, the dance group that announced its retirement with much fanfare in 2012. And there are unknowns: a long-awaited Eminem album, U2’s redemptive follow-up to “Songs of Innocence,” releases by proven hitmakers Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande — all eyeing October and November drops but unconfirmed as yet. Perhaps they’re waiting, like the rest of us, to see what Swift decides before settling on a date. For once, they don’t have Beyoncé to worry about — though rumors of a duet album with Jay-Z, it’s worth noting, were never quashed.

September
LCD Soundsystem
“American Dream” (DFA/Columbia) 

Loyalists were understandably indignant when, less than five years after a fanfare-filled farewell, LCD Soundsystem announced its return in 2016. And after multiple lucrative live dates and countless hours in the studio (and several angsty and self-analytical blog posts from front man James Murphy), “American Dream” is finally here. While it’s not much different from the driving, sarcastic, reference-heavy dance rock of the group’s three previous studio outings, it’s a welcome return from a vibrant act that had little reason to go away in the first place. (Sept. 1)

Gregg Allman
“Southern Blood” (Rounder)

With this collection of (mostly) covers — including picks like Jackson Browne’s “Song for Adam” and Bob Dylan’s “Going Going Gone” — it’s easy to intuit a theme to Allman’s swan song. He and producer Don Was never discussed his looming mortality or the likelihood of this album serving as his final statement before he died in May. It was enough to let his somewhat frailer voice and elegiac song sense do the talking. (Sept. 8)

Thomas Rhett
“Life Changes” (Valory/Big Machine)

Rhett’s first two albums yielded seven country No. 1s and arena touring status. His third has produced another chart topper: a duet with Maren Morris, “Craving You.” The album’s second duet, “Drink a Little Beer,” is with a hitmaker close to his heart: songwriter dad Rhett Akins. That tune is pure country, but the chameleon-like singer also indulges in pop and R&B — not to mention doo-wop (“Sweetheart”) and dubstep (“Leave Right Now”). (Sept. 8)

Foo Fighters
“Concrete and Gold” (RCA/Roswell)

A sojourn into documentary filmmaking followed by a stage injury sidelined Dave Grohl from his primary gig, fronting Foo Fighters, but as is the former Nirvana drummer’s way, he came back roaring. “Concrete and Gold,” the band’s ninth studio album, finds the Foos teaming with a producer known for his pop sensibility, Greg Kurstin, and considering that Grohl is himself a master of hooks, it’s a winning combination. That’s not to say it’s any less metal, as pummeling lead single “Run” proves. (Sept. 15)

Gucci Mane
“Mr. Davis” (Atlantic)

Since his Ma​​y 2016 release from prison after serving nearly two and a half years on firearms charges, Gucci Mane has been one of the most
ubiquitous rappers in the game​. Stepping up his hyperactive
work ethic, he’s ​toured​ constantly, dropped​ an album and two mixtapes, ​written a memoir (“The Autobiography of Gucci Mane,” out Sept. 19), locked in​ a BET reality series around his forthcoming wedding (“Gucci Mane & Keyshia Ka’Oir: The Mane Event”)​ and been featur​ed on songs by everyone from Fifth Harmony to, er, Chris Brown. The onslaught continues with the arrival of “Mr. Davis” (his real name is Radric Davis), which features guest spots from Brown and Migos, among many others. (Sept. 15)

Michael McDonald
“Wide Open” (BMG)

One of the great unexpected pop pleasures of 2017 is Michael McDonald suddenly being cool again (or, arguably, for the first time, if you think he never enjoyed this much cachet among hipsters). It started with a guest appearance at Coachella with Thundercat, and it will almost certainly continue with the release of his first all-original album in 17 years. “Wide Open” has some soul and New Orleans funk but also horn-fueled tracks that tell us what his friends in Steely Dan would sound like if they became earnest romantic obsessives. (Sept. 15)

Prophets of Rage
“Prophets of Rage” (Fantasy)

The supergroup featuring members of Rage Against the Machine (Tom Morello, Brad Wilk), Public Enemy (Chuck D) and Cypress Hill (B-Real) picks up where the rap-metal trend left off back in 2001, sonically speaking. Politically, things couldn’t be more different today, as the single “Radical Eyes” charges. It follows previously released track “Unfuck the World,” which features a music video that aggregates news images as a visual statement on such social issues as health care, nuclear war, the Black Lives Matter movement and Trump. “The world is not going to change itself,” the band writes in the final frame. “It’s up to you.” (Sept. 15)

Ringo Starr
“Give More Love” (Ume)

He really does get by with a little help from his friends — in this case, the Eagles’ Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit, Peter Frampton, Don Was, Dave Stewart and, on a couple tracks, fellow Beatle Paul McCartney. The ’80s hair-metal vibe of “We’re on the Road Again” gives way to the pure C&W of “So Wrong for So Long,” for anyone itching for Ringo to make a return to “Beaucoups of Blues.” If a throwback to “Back Off Boogaloo” is more your speed, you’re in luck: He refashioned a demo of that 1972 hit as a bonus track, along with a “Photograph”-ic duplicate. (Sept. 15)

Killers
“Wonderful Wonderful” (Island) 

Over the course of 15 years, Las Vegas’ Killers have quietly become one of the world’s biggest rock bands, veering away from the new wave confections of their debut to an at times Springsteen-esque heartland sound on subsequent releases. Five years after their last album, the thirtysomething band members say they want to make music that reflects their age on their fifth full-length, “Wonderful Wonderful,” which pairs the cinematic sweep of previous outings with driving rhythms and giant hooks — and features a cameo from Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler. (Sept. 22)

Miley Cyrus
“Younger Now” (RCA)

The title to Miley Cyrus’ sixth album suggests a 24-year-old who’s not a girl, not yet a woman, but rather, exploring both ends of the spectrum. It’s a rediscovery theme that applies to everything from appreciating the ocean (“Malibu”) to her younger — read: lost — years (the title track) and bears little resemblance to the foam finger-waving, crotch-grabbing, Hannah Montana-be-damned sexpot of her last album, 2013’s “Bangerz.” Then and now, Cyrus remains the master of her own domain, taking the reins on the production, co-writes, and visuals for “Younger Now.” (Sept. 29)

Shania Twain
“Now” (Mercury Nashville)

You probably didn’t think of Twain as being in the confessional singer-songwriter vein, but when she previewed parts of her first album in 15 years for media in several cities recently, it was clear that much — or all — of it draws on the narrative of her divorce from former producer Robert “Mutt” Lange and subsequent climb back to being, well, “up.” Added emotion aside, the self-penned songs are close enough to classic Shania to make you realize she was always an underrated creative force in her own records. (Sept. 29)

OCTOBER
Beck
“Colors” (Capitol)

With a career that spans nearly 25 years, Beck is perhaps at his most optimistic in 2017, judging by the poppy nuggets offered on his 13th studio album. Produced with Greg Kurstin (Adele, Sia), “Colors” includes the one-off radio hit “Dreams,” as well as “Wow,” which spread far and wide via a national Acura campaign. But new single “Up All Night” bridges everything beloved about Beck — whether it be beckoning all to a dance floor or seeing the world in its many tints through kaleidoscopic glasses. (Oct. 13)

Pink
“Beautiful Trauma” (RCA) 

While Pink has released a handful of singles and collaborations (including Kenny Chesney’s “Setting the World on Fire,” which was nominated for a 2017 Grammy) over the past five years, she’s largely focused on her family since 2012’s double-platinum “The Truth About Love.” She makes a triumphant return this year; “Beautiful Trauma” accompanies an extensive tour and the vaguely political lead-off track, “What About Us.” It’s a low-key number, though the presence of a few of today’s busiest hitmakers (Max Martin, Shellback, Jack Antonoff and Greg Kurstin, among others) on the album suggests bigger bangers to come. (Oct. 13)

Darius Rucker
“When Was the Last Time” (Capitol Nashville)
It’s been almost a decade since Rucker went from being “that Burger King commercial guy” (or, okay, the face of Hootie) to unexpectedly becoming one of the kings of modern country. For his fifth album since going Nashville, Rucker has managed to find a surprising amount of variety within the genre, including homage to the ‘60s countrypolitan style with “Another Night With You.” He also has an all-star grabber in “Straight to Hell,” which makes a million dollar quartet out of himself, Luke Bryan, Charles Kelley, and Jason Aldean. (Oct. 20)

RELEASE DATE TBD

Chris Stapleton
“From A Room: Vol. 2” (Mercury Nashville)
Stapleton has the two biggest selling country albums of the year so far, in 2015’s still-hot “Traveller” and the May release “From A Room: Vol. 1.” Could he end 2017 with the year’s top three? Very possibly. The prodigiously growly singer split his “From A Room” project into two halves, and though no track listings have been announced for the TBD “Vol. 2,” it’s likely to be in the same winning Tennessee blues-rock vein that’s made him an authentic hero in and out of country.

Eminem
Title TBD (Shady/Aftermath/Interscope)

Detroit’s reclusive bad-boy bard recently hinted that a new album is coming soon, and both 2 Chainz and mentor-producer Dr. Dre have worked on material with the rapper in recent months. Details are skimpy, but with his 45th birthday approaching, one would hope that this enormously gifted MC, whose intricate lyrics are among the greatest in rap history, will take a tip from Jay-Z’s “4:44” and find a way to age gracefully rather than fall back on his default toilet humor and dated pop-culture references.

Kelly Clarkson 
Title TBD (Atlantic)
“It’s got a lot of sass,” Kelly Clarkson said in May of her forthcoming seventh album, her debut for Atlantic. “My backup singers who’ve worked with me for years said, ‘It’s the first time you’ve done a record that’s, like, full-on your personality.’” Not much more has been revealed about the album, which she’s described as a mix of “urban, pop, soulful R&B’” — but the prospect of her powerhouse voice wrapping itself around songs like that should have fans panting with anticipation.

Taylor Swift
Title TBD (Big Machine)

Their lips are sealed over at Swift HQ, but fans and the world’s remaining music retailers will be in shock and mourning if another Christmas goes by with no new Taylor tunes under the tree, since she’s gone three years between releases instead of her usual reliable two. Pal Ed Sheeran has said to expect a Swift album at year’s end, and she wouldn’t want to make a liar out of him. Now that she’s shaken off that groping case, and teased us all with a social media blackout followed by a twitchy snake, expect new music to drop imminently, with a full album in Q4, barring any eleventh-hour tinkering that forestalls the last great hope for actual CD sales into 2018.

Travis Scott & Quavo
Title TBD (Epic)
If their features together are any indication — Young Thug’s “Pick Up the Phone,” Major Lazer’s “Know No Better,” and the weakest of the lot, Drake’s “Portland“ — this much-discussed collaboration between Mr. Kylie Jenner and one-third of Migos should be hot if a little mixtape-ish. The challenge will be finding the time to finish it off: Scott was last seen atop a giant fake hawk while opening for Kendrick Lamar and Quavo is one of the most in-demand feature artists in hip-hop, in addition to his full-time gig. Still, it’s on Epic’s release schedule for the fall…

U2
Title TBD (Interscope)

Touring might aside, U2 has had a rough go of it these last few years, mostly due to the hit-and-miss “Songs of Innocence,” released in 2014. More a collection of songs than a fully realized album, it never quite got the traction expected of a band with U2’s track record. But its tepid reception also gave the group something to prove, a challenge Bono and Co. have always relished. Signs point to a December release for what will be the band’s 14th studio album, and song snippets that have trickled out signal a return to the unapologetic rock-pop of the “Vertigo” years.

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