Is there anything quite as excruciating as the suspended silence that follows your fave popstar's last album? It’s that brief moment of uncertainty – one that sometimes stretches out for nearly a decade in Robyn’s case – that always forces us to fear the worst. Will Rihanna ever return from war?! Has Justin Bieber settled into married life?! Will Solange tease this record until I’m literally at retirement age and ready to claim my pension?!
This new wave of artists who care deeply about what they make, choosing to toil at their work until they’re completely happy with it, means that years-long breaks out of the spotlight have become commonplace for some of our favourite musicians. But fear not! Some of the best ones have been saving up all of their excellence to truly make waves in 2019. From the confirmed returners to the ones i-D have heard some speculation about through the grapevine, these are the 11 amazing pop stars set to make their big album comebacks later this year.
1. Carly Rae Jepsen
Ever since she linked up with our boy Bieber for that dead brilliant I Really Like You video back in 2015, everybody who wasn’t gay or on Twitter has slept on the flawless artistry of Carly Rae Jepsen. In 2019, though, it’s our job to ensure they all pay for their sins. The Canadian Idol grad – still most famous for Call Me Maybe – dropped the critically acclaimed, if commercially snubbed E•MO•TION and its collection of B-Sides three years ago now, and has been sitting patiently for the pop machine to reset in time for her comeback. Well, fear not homosexuals! Jeppo is back with a brand new record in 2019 that’s set to soundtrack every Pride march and poppers party from now until global warming claims us all! You’ve heard Party For One, right? Well prepare for carnage when the full LP drops later this year.
2. Charli XCX
Charli is one of those pop stars that sort of never goes away, and by God are we thankful for that. She gave us two killer mixtapes in 2017, dominated the following year with a string of Sophie and AG Cook produced singles that slayed us more with each passing month, and performed some incredible Pop 2 shows in London, LA, New York and Paris. But this one is more of a personal ‘comeback’ for Queen XCX. After years of avoiding the idea – like Rihanna swerving music questions at a Fenty event – Charli has finally agreed to lay down an album for her label in 2019. After hundreds of her songs leaked when her cloud was hacked a couple of years back, Charli’s last record XCX World – her follow-up to Sucker – wound up on the cutting room floor. So she flipped the bird to the usual release schedule and started surprise dropping songs left, right and centre; her label becoming increasingly more hysterical in the process. Whatever this new era XCX record winds up looking like, be aware that Charli doesn’t do traditional albums like everybody else does. Place your bets on this one being put together in three frantic days in an East London music studio – and still being better than any Top 40 pop record this year.
3. Frank Ocean
Okay, okay, okay! Don’t get too excited! If anybody’s known to tease releases and then drag them out for pretty much half a decade, it’s our boy Frank. He’s been good to us recently though. Back in February of 2018, he dropped that sumptuous rendition of Moon River from Breakfast at Tiffany’s, then gave us some Midterm Election specials of his Beats One radio show Blonded, before rounding out the year with the greatest gift of all: making his Instagram account public. For some reason, every little insight into the life of the notoriously press shy star feels profound, so when (or rather if) a new body of work drops – as it’s rumoured to late in 2019 – we’ll be well and truly spoiled. One thing’s for sure: now that he’s releasing music on his own terms, away from the pressures of his old label Def Jam, the music will only arrive when our king is finally ready.
Grimes is the cult alt pop entity who’s spent the best part of a decade delivering sherbet-fuelled bops for snooty music connoisseurs and traditional pop fans alike. We love her here at i-D, and pretty much everything she touches winds up being wildly fascinating. Her last full length effort Art Angels, defined by its anime western aesthetic and semi-mainstream approach (a far cry from her early experimental work), felt like a real moment for the Canadian star. We had our first taste of new music at the tail end of 2018, with the riot anthem We Appreciate Power. So how might the new stuff sound? The beauty of Grimes is that we never know until the record arrives, which you should expect to hear sometime before summer this year.
5. Marina (and the Diamonds)
It’s been a long time since we’ve heard from Marina Diamandis; she wrapped her tour for Froot back in 2016, stepped off stage and slipped into a state of anonymity for a while. After being fame shy for the best part of three years, though – appearing momentarily on Twitter and IG with her bestie Lana Del Rey and to discuss things like her mental health via her blog Marina Book – it seems like we’re in for her grandiose return later in 2019. There are a couple of things we do know: she’s teased fans at live shows and through tweets about the lead single – something she claims will arrive in the first few months of the year, with an album to come closer to the summer. The most drastic change we know about, though: ‘The Diamonds’ are no more! Yep, the singer’s iconic moniker has been dropped in favour of her sparkling first name alone.
6. Justin Bieber
We have to admit that this is pure speculation, for if we found out tomorrow that JB had decided to retire from music and live a life in the countryside tending to chickens with his new wife, the model-cum-influencer Hailey Baldwin-Bieber, that would hardly take us by surprise. We would be sort of gutted, though. After all, it was just four years ago that we saw the world’s most ridiculed teeny bopper transform into a veritable pop king taking the world by storm with his commercial knockout record, Purpose. A lot has changed since then, though. Bieber is rocking face tats and a scumbro style that the world is in love with, but it seems his energy is focussed more on his homebody lifestyle than pumping out a new record. Even then, what might it sound like? Will it herald in the arrival of Dubstep 3.0? Will he go back to his vintage bubblegum ways? A COUNTRY-SLASH GOSPEL RECORD? The possibilities are literally endless, so we won’t know for sure until the Biebs stops berating that Jojo Siwa car on IG and gets back in the goddamn studio.
There was a time, around three months ago, that the pop world collectively lost its shit. A New York Times profile of Solange was published “on the eve of her next album”, which lead many to believe that the polymathic musician and creative had wrapped her new record and was ready to drop it any day now. We all know now that that wasn’t what happened; instead, Solange chose to subvert expectation and keep it to herself for a little longer. At least now we know that her next body of work, a follow up to 2016’s masterful A Seat at the Table is due some point soon. Recorded in New Orleans, Jamaica and Topanga Canyon in California, the album is still taking shape as we speak, but is supposedly built from a bunch of jazz, hip-hop and electronic influences. The one constant with Solange is that she’s a huge fan of editing her work, and will probably be toiling at this until she’s completely happy. With festival dates scheduled for the summer, don’t be surprised if we have it before then. But don’t bet on that either: Solange is a woman who takes her craft so seriously that she refuses to rush anything. Cancellations and delays come before compromise; that’s why she’s the flawless creator we know her to be.
8. FKA Twigs
A video of FKA Twigs voguing went viral on Twitter a few days ago, and it reminded us of just how iconic and hypnotic this woman truly is on stage. It’s been a while since she’s given us a big body of work though; four years, to be exact, and we’re waiting to see what kind of lustrous creation she has up her sleeve for 2019, with an LP due for release and summer festival dates locked down. What’s nice about Twigs is that she can make bone-shaking electronic music and dance at the same time, but doesn’t seem to feel the pressure to release new music just ‘because’. She’s spent the past couple of years working on Nike campaigns, and appeared in that now famous Apple advert directed by Spike Jonze. She’s a polymathic performer; the product of a time in which artists are expected to work to the point they fall out of love with what they’re doing. Her ability to flit between both of her crafts gives us – her undying fans – twice as much to adore. And you can’t complain when she does both with such a singular sense of control and focus.
9. Avril Lavigne
Is 2019 the year in which every mini, early noughties emo’s dreams come true? It sure as hell looks like it. After a six year absence from the music scene battling Lyme Disease, label politics and a flurry of weird rumours about whether or not she’d been replaced by a clone, the Canadian queen of sad skate-pop Avril Lavigne is back. But maybe things are not how we remember them. Replying to a stan on Twitter, Avril claimed the album would be “intimate, dramatic, raw, powerful and unexpected”, which probably means we’re due less raucous ‘fuck you’ break up songs and more I’m With You kinda material instead, which we’re 100% fine with. She’s been writing with J.R. Rotem (Rihanna) and Bonnie McKee (Katy Perry), so perhaps it might even have a distinct pop spin? We’ve been teased with the lead single Head Above Water and a follow-up titled Tell Me It’s Over, but I guess we won’t know for sure until the full LP arrives next month.
10. Sky Ferreira
The year is 2054. The nuclear apocalypse has destroyed everything, obliterating civilisation. Weather patterns no longer exist, and there’s no difference between night and day. But in the far distance, the world’s lone surviving record player starts turning. ‘What’s that?’ you say. Well, it’s the first time anybody has heard Sky Ferreira’s so-late-it’s-now-a-running-joke record, MASOCHISM. We’re joking! If anything, we’re willing to wait forever for a follow-up to the 26-year-old Californian’s pretty much perfect debut record, Night Time, My Time. That arrived back in late 2013, around a month after Lorde’s Pure Heroine, and we distinctly remember feeling like the tides had turned for women in pop for a while. Recently, we learned that the record’s delays weren’t necessarily her fault though. An Instagram post suggested that there might’ve been tensions at her record label that have lead her to hold back on releasing an album with somebody else’s interference. And with collaborators like Night Time’s Ariel Rechtshaid and Kanye’s executive Mike Dean lined up alongside her, we’re willing to wait to hear the finished product in all of its glory.
Nobody does a better job of deflecting questions about new music quite like the queen of our hearts, Robyn ‘Rihanna’ Fenty. Ever since her fashion and beauty ventures started to dominate her life, earning her some real coin in the process, the Barbadian singer has been promising fans that music will come ‘soon’ without ever giving her thirsty followers any real tea. But nearly three years after her underrated eighth record Anti dropped, she announced that she was back in the studio, and that 2019 would be the year Rihanna hung up her beauty brushes for a hot minute and returned to the pop scene to slay us all. Her coyness has been driving us wild for months now – so much so that it’s become a running gag on the internet – but we’re blessed to finally have her back. With so many women dominating the charts at the moment, will Rihanna’s return solidify pop’s re-embracing of women? After what feels like years of ‘bro’ types at the top, we’re ready for 2019 to belong to Rihanna and co once again.
This article originally appeared on VICE UK.