With Beyoncé’s surprise move last year and U2’s recently unannounced iTunes album drop—which you may have listened to or just deleted—Radio.com started thinking about other artists who could possibly surprise us with a new album before this year is through.
To land on our list of possibilities, you have to be a marquee player in the pop world who has hinted that a new album is definitely on the way but not yet revealed an actual release date. So far, there are six artists (see our list below) who have us wondering if they’ll drop their album without warning.
In each entry, we’ve laid out what we already know and how we think each artist could surprise us. And if you’re a betting person, we even included the odds that said artist would actually drop an unannounced album on us. Our money’s on Madonna, in case you were curious.
What We Know So Far: Kanye West will reportedly release an album this year that will be “mostly a mixture of soul samples and tamed Yeezus-esque darkness… nothing abrasive.” It also may or may not feature producers like Q-Tip, Rick Rubin, Mike Will, James Faunterloy, James Blake, DJ Mustard, Tyga and Evian Christ, who has said Yeezy wanted him to write a beat that “sounds a bit like Otis Redding, a bit like Mobb Deep.” Kanye may release this album in September, maybe in October or perhaps, even November. Basically, whenever he feels like it, because, as he has told us time and time again, he is a god and a genius, and neither of those two things need to adhere to a regular person’s calendar.
Why He Could Surprise Us: For the release of Yeezus, Kanye pulled out all the stops, launching a surprise worldwide art show that had him projecting his face on the sides of 66 buildings to premiere “New Slaves.” While 2013 was certainly the year of the album stunt, Kanye did the most to bolster interest in his music: yelping “I Am A God” at the Met Gala, performing in a translucent pyramid, telling radio he didn’t need it (something he later took back), releasing a video of him palling around with Rick Rubin in the studio and creating an American Psycho parody starring Kardashian Klan friend Scott Disick. None of this helped bolster sales — he sold 327,000 copies the first week, but still earned the No. 1 spot on Billboard 200 — but more than a year later we’re still talking about Kanye. Basically, he doesn’t need to do a ton of things to get our attention this time around, we’re already hooked.
How He’d Do It: It will be more low key then last go-round, but this is still Kanye. He won’t involve himself directly with iTunes, that’s already been done. So maybe he’ll release the album through his own design company, DONDA. It will be a beautifully designed visual player that takes us inside the mind of Kanye as he created each song. This player, which will also allow you to download the album for a price, will help make the internet, which Kanye has already said needs a Kanye West redesign pretty desperately, a more beautiful place. This will certainly bring him to the highest of genius levels. We’re talking Steve Jobs proportions here.
But, Would He Actually Do It? He seems like a likely candidate for a surprise approach. If just to stay one step ahead of the leakers, who already managed to drop a bootleg of his song “All Day,” which is believed to be off the upcoming album. Kanye even mentioned Beyoncé in a recent interview with GQ saying she took a long time on her album, too. Of course, all that time she spent working on her ‘visual album’ eventually paid off in the biggest surprise of 2013. And if Bey’s the Queen of surprise releases, Kanye certainly wants to be King.
What We Know So Far: Adele is definitely working on a new album, but she’s managed to keep things pretty secretive. On her birthday this year she tweeted a rather cryptic message that said, “Bye bye 25, see you again later in the year.” This led everyone to assume her album will be called 25 and then subsequently freak out. So far, Ryan Tedder, who wrote “Rumour Has It,” has said he is working with Adele on the follow-up to 21. Wiz Khalifa also said he was working with the songstress on a track that is “really hippie.” No word if that will be on her upcoming album.
Why She Could Surprise Us: It’s been three years since she released her record-breaking, award-winning, millions-selling album, and fans are getting restless. Not even two new unreleased tracks from 21 could tide them over. But maybe, instead of having to deal with all the pre-release promotion—namely the tons and tons of publications that are going to want to get some time with her—she might just drop it one day and let everyone else do the talking.
How She’d Do It: We imagine it would be similar to Beyoncé’s surprise launch where iTunes would drop the album digitally, but unlike Bey, a brick and mortar store like Best Buy, Target or Walmart would also sell hard copies of Adele’s album in store and through its website. Like Beyoncé there will also be a visual element. Adele will offer fans a companion DVD that shows her in the studio telling the stories behind the songs. This will give fans a closer look into her world, a look they don’t often get from the very private star.
But, Would She Actually? Chances are slim to none that Adele will drop a surprise album. While she clearly has enough fans to sell a million albums in the first week (seriously, is there anyone on earth who doesn’t have a copy of 21 at this point?), her fans seem to be the kind that prefer the old-fashioned way of accessing music. Surprising them may just throw them off guard and make them mad. And we imagine her record label doesn’t want to make any Adele fans mad right before the holidays.