Sophomore records by pop hitmakers new and old, triumphant returns by some long-time heavyweights and exciting collaborations from some of music’s most creative minds — those are just a few of the gifts 2014 could bring.
Still, that’s just what we know now is on the horizon. The biggest news in music next year could drop without a whisper — as Beyoncé, and David Bowie before her, proved this year with their out-of-left-field surprise album releases.
Here are 12 of our most-anticipated happenings in music next year. You have plenty more to look forward to, also, like a new Bruce Springsteen record, a possible Adele album and a posthumous one by Johnny Cash.
But don’t get too comfortable. You never know when a top-secret record will drop in the middle of the night.
Frank Ocean follows up his debut. Beyond the two Grammys he won this year, Frank Ocean has won a lot of fans — including Beyoncé, whose new album featured him — with his subdued R&B. First Lady Michelle Obama herself told Jimmy Fallon she listened to Ocean’s record "Channel Orange" with her family. Beyond his music, Ocean's open letter proclaiming his same-sex relationship made him one of the first major African-American artists to come out as gay. His new record, meanwhile, has similarly lofty goals. "It's another cohesive thing, bordering on a concept record again,” he told BBC Radio 1's Zane Lowe recently.
Ariana Grande follows up hers. Ariana Grande created a lot of buzz in 2013 with her number one debut album "Yours Truly," two top 40 singles and most of all her voice, which won her comparisons to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston. Most recently the 20-year-old picked up an American Music Award for "New Artist of The Year." Grande's manager Scooter Braun told MTV News that her follow-up, slated for an early 2014 release, will include more of her signature power ballads to "keep the momentum going." The young phenom will also grace the cover of the February issue of Teen Vogue, where she could drop hints about her upcoming record.
Daft Punk plays the Grammys. The French electro-pop duo, beloved as much for their man-behind-the-curtain secrecy as for their disco hooks, will perform material from this year’s “Random Access Memories” live for the first time at the 2014 Grammys, eight months after the record’s release. (Their 2008 Grammys gig was their first live TV show ever.) But don’t expect any clues as to what the robotic duo, famous for riveting live shows, might do. “When you know how a magic trick is done, it's so depressing,” Thomas Bangalter (the one in the silver helmet) told Pitchfork of the pair’s ethos of anonymity. “We focus on the illusion because giving away how it's done instantly shuts down the sense of excitement and innocence.”
U2 offers a new album. The band hasn't put out a record since 2009 — its members opting instead to write the music for Broadway musical "Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark," record a new song for the Nelson Mandela biopic "Long Walk to Freedom" and whatever international cultural ambassador duties Bono is taking on at any given time. But now the Irish superstars are returning with their new record, produced by Danger Mouse (aka the half of Gnarls Barkley that isn't Cee Lo Green), in April or thereabouts.
OutKast reunites — hopefully. It's been a decade since Big Boi and Andre 3000 last released a record together — not that you'd know it, what with the longevity of their spazzy, sunny hit "Hey Ya!" Granted, rumors have floated before about a possible reunion of Atlanta's best-known hip-hop duo. But if last month's report in Billboard that they're planning to play Coachella in April isn't enough, the pictures Andre 3000 is Instagramming of himself and Big Boi might hearten you.
Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett team for more duets. Kick off 2014 with this unlikely album of duets, a continuation of the pop shapeshifter's and jazz crooner's 2011 collaboration, when Gaga crooned with Bennett on one song for his “Duets” album. Now, they’re recording a full album of duets just the two of them. Bennett has called the new record "sensational" and praised Gaga, 60 years his junior, as "the Picasso of the entertainment world" — a compliment the "Artpop" hitmaker is sure to appreciate in between trading stares with Marina Abramovic.
Beck is back. It's been six years since Beck released a record, thanks in part to an ongoing spinal injury. In 2014, though, he'll make up for lost time and release two, starting in February with "Morning Phase," intended as a sort of companion to 2002's "Sea Change." But before he recorded so much new music, he faced some fundamental doubts about making music, he told Rolling Stone this year. "I had a few years where I thought that was probably it for me," he admitted, adding that he was delighted to be writing and playing music again with his band.
Modest Mouse returns. It's been even longer since Modest Mouse put out a proper album. (That grab-bag EP in 2009 doesn't count.) The cosmos-obsessed indie rockers' anticipated follow-up to 2007's "We Were Dead Before the Ship Even Sank" will boast some oddball cameos: Maybe an appearance by one-time Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic isn't so strange, but how about an appearance from Big Boi of the once-and-future OutKast? There's no release date set yet, but if you need a sign that Modest Mouse means business, look no further than their decision to cancel their entire European tour this year to work on the record.
Dolly Parton returns to her roots. The lady with country's most angelic voice and most unmistakable silhouette is embarking on a worldwide tour and releasing a new album along with it — "Blue Smoke," which she says hearkens back to her country-bluegrass roots, as well as her childhood growing up in a one-room cabin in the mountains of east Tennessee. "One of the reasons I called it ‘Blue Smoke’ is that it has a tinge of the bluegrass of the Smoky Mountains — a mountain music flavor," she told the Los Angeles Times.
Kanye West follows up "Yeezus," already. You'd think that first on Ye's plate would be his and Jay Z's second installment of their 2011 collaboration "Watch the Throne," though rap's busiest MCs must have an awfully hard time pencilling in studio time together. Instead, Kanye is already talking the follow-up to his relentless "Yeezus" from just this year. "I haven't named my next album, but I have started on it," he told Philadelphia radio station Power 99 last month. "I'd like have another album out by next summer." It looks like he already has his production team set: Q-Tip has said he and Rick Rubin will be at the helm.
Royksopp and Robyn do it again. You’d be hard-pressed to find more exciting news coming out of Scandinavia this year for music fans, or for anybody at home on a dance floor. The Swedish dance-pop renegade and the Norwegian production team — together responsible for the moody, dub-inflected track "None of Dem" from Robyn's relentless 2010 trilogy "Body Talk" — are reuniting in 2014 for their so-called Do It Again tour. Possibly even better: They could be recording more music together, too, if Robyn's recent Instagram hint is any indication.
Pharrell Williams extends his reign. He's sung on the year’s two hottest pop singles, “Blurred Lines” and “Get Lucky.” He's produced rap hits and new Beyoncé tunes alike. He's also recorded a new song for a kids’ movie and made a whopping 24-hour music video to go with it. So does the impossibly hard-working erstwhile Neptune do now? He headlines the show and releases his own record. Pharrell's new album, set for a Columbia release this year, will be his first since 2006, and from what he has said, it will sound a lot different. “No rapping. It’s focused,” he told Complex magazine.