It sure doesn't feel like it yet, but spring has sprung — at least in terms of new albums.
The next three months are going to be a busy time. Country superstars including Kenny Chesney and Blake Shelton have new material to share ahead of major tours, will.i.am will (reportedly) finally get around to releasing a solo album he said would be out in 2011, and spring will see two of the most anticipated releases of the year, from Justin Timberlake and David Bowie, who made their latest albums in secret after spending several years away from music. And that just scratches the surface.
Here are 25 of the season's most anticipated releases:
Justin Timberlake, "The 20/ 20 Experience" (March 19): The hype machine is working overtime for Timberlake's return to music after a six-year hiatus, complete with a tease on Twitter that led to a teaser video and eventually some released singles, a Grammy performance and a week of Timberlake appearances scheduled for the week of March 11 on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon.
Timberlake once again collaborated with Timbaland, the primary producer for Timberlake's influential "FutureSex/ LoveSounds," but the released tracks "Pusher Love Girl" and "Suit & Tie" suggest he's exploring a new style inspired by Motown soul.
New Kids on the Block, "10" (April 2): Five years after stunning fans with a comeback album, the New Kids are back with more. Based on album snippets circling the Internet, "10" seems a little more ballad-heavy than the group's last album, inspired perhaps by its time on the road with Backstreet Boys last year?
Michael Bublé, "To Be Loved" (April 23): The modern-day crooner follows his multi-platinum "Christmas" album with four originals and covers of the Bee Gees, the Jackson 5, Elvis Presley and the Frank and Nancy Sinatra duet "Something Stupid," with Reese Witherspoon sharing vocal duties.
Three more in store: British pop singer Dido returns March 26 with her fourth studio album, "Girl Who Got Away," featuring collaborations with fun. producer Jeff Bhasker, Oscar-winner A.R. Rahman and rapper Kendrick Lamar. ... Depeche Mode delivers "Delta Machine" March 26, collaborating again with Ben Hillier, who produced the British band's last two albums. ... New Kids tour mates 98 Degrees will release "2.0," its first album in 13 years, on May 7.
David Bowie, "The Next Day" (March 12): Bowie shocked the world when a new song was revealed on his 66th birthday, one of 14 he secretly worked on the past couple of years for his first album since 2003. The initial single "Where Are We Now?" was rather slow and introspective, but producer Tony Visconti has told interviewers most of "The Next Day" is made up of energetic rock songs, and that the album recalls "classic Bowie" in addition to going in new directions. Early reviews from British music writers have been ecstatic.
Bon Jovi, "What About Now" (March 12): First single "Because We Can" is a glittery glam rocker custom-built for stadium singalongs, but Bon Jovi told reporters at a January news conference that the band's 12th album features "a lot of social commentary" concerning the economy and unemployment.
The Strokes, "Comedown Machine" (March 26): The band that ushered in the ‘60s and ‘70s-influenced garage-rock revival at the turn of the century sharply divided fans with "Comedown Machine's" first single, "One Way Trigger, " which saw the band controversially channeling the music of the ‘80s, with a slicker, synth-pop sound.
Four more in store: It took nine years for Phoenix to become an overnight sensation with hit album "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart." Can it sustain the momentum with the curiously titled "Bankrupt!" on April 23? ... Hayley Williams' pop-punk band Paramore goes self-titled with its fourth album, out April 9, its first without founding members Josh and Zac Farro. ... Afropop-accented indie rock group Vampire Weekend releases its third album "Modern Vampires of the City" May 7 with the band's multi-instrumentalist Rostam Batmanglij relinquishing some producer control for the first time, to Ariel Rechtshaid (Usher, Plain White T's "Hey There Delilah"). ... Chicago-area pop-punk group Fall Out Boy ends its four-year break in order to "Save Rock and Roll" April 15.
Hip-hop, R&B and soul
will.i.am, "#willpower" (March 19): The Black Eyed Peas frontman's latest solo album was first talked about in 2011, when its first reported single, "T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)" with Mick Jagger and Jennifer Lopez was released. But he evidently made the most of those passing years, working with Britney Spears on his latest single, "Scream & Shout," as well as Justin Bieber, LMFAO, Ne-Yo and Alicia Keys, among others.
Snoop Lion, "Reincarnated" (April 16): The "Dogg" is out and "Lion" is in as the rapper's moniker on his new album. "Reincarnation" is said to be influenced by reggae and dance music, after the rapper reportedly had a spiritual reawakening in Jamaica, where a Rastafarian priest gave him his new stage name.
Fitz and the Tantrums, "More Than Just a Dream" (May 7): After scoring a hit with "Moneygrabber" on its debut album "Pickin' Up the Pieces" (released by Dangerbird Records, co-founded by Milwaukee native Jeff Castelaz ), the retro-soul band makes the leap to major label Elektra, where Castelaz is president.
Two more in store: Tyler, the Creator will inevitably cause controversy with his new album "Wolf," dropping April 2. ... "NCIS: Los Angeles" star LL Cool J returns to rap after a five-year hiatus with "Authentic," out April 30.
Country and folk
Kenny Chesney, "Life on a Rock" (April 30): The country superstar's latest album will feature a bit of reggae and a duet with Willie Nelson.
Willie Nelson, "Let's Face the Music and Dance" (April 16): The Red Headed Stranger covers country standards (including his own track, "Is the Better Part Over"), as well as pop, jazz and rock tunes written by the likes of Irving Berlin and Carl Perkins, to be released just two weeks shy of Nelson's 80th birthday.
The Band Perry, "Pioneer" (April 2): The sibling country trio played practically every country awards show possible to promote its radio-friendly debut album, resulting in platinum certification. For its follow-up, the group has raised the stakes considerably by bringing in superstar producer Rick Rubin.
Four more in store: Lady Antebellum surprisingly showed off a flirty side on the single "Downtown" from its forthcoming album "Golden" (May 7) . ... Brad Paisley produced and co-wrote all of the songs on "Wheelhouse," out April 9; featuring guests both expected (Hunter Hayes, Dierks Bentley) and unexpected (LL Cool J and Monty Python's Eric Idle). ... Fresh off his "Entertainer of the Year" award from the Country Music Association, "The Voice" judge Blake Shelton releases "Based on a True Story." ... Singer-songwriter Edie Brickell joins forces with comic actor and banjo picker Steve Martin for "Love Has Come For You."