From BTS and Billie Eilish to Prince and H.E.R.: seven albums to hear this summer

A slew of artists are set to release music compilations ranging from pop and soul to funk

Singer Billie Eilish, Singer Prince and US singer Gabriella Wilson, aka H.E.R. AFP

Another summer means a bunch of big albums are on the way.

As a slew of artists prepare to release albums ranging from pop and soul to funk, many acts will return to a totally different landscape from the one in which they released their previous albums.

In 2019, Billie Eilish unveiled her debut album When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go? to minimal hype, only to see it become a cultural juggernaut – and now there is a second one on its way.

Meanwhile, former indie act H.E.R.’s latest collection comes with her new standing as one of the best RnB and soul artists of her generation.

This summer will also be bittersweet when Prince estate releases the pioneering artist's first posthumous album since his death in 2016.

And these are only the ones we know about.

Ever since Beyonce unexpectedly dropped her eponymous album in 2013, surprise releases continue to be all the rage within the pop world. Albums that could drop anytime include those by major artists Adele, Coldplay and Lorde.

Until then, here are seven hyped releases already set for the summer.

1. ‘BTS, The Best’ by BTS, June 16

English pop groups should learn a thing or two from BTS.

Where the former have laid low and inactive during the pandemic, the South Korean septet went into overdrive and released everything from hit singles and online concerts to choreography videos and even a cooking show.

Their next venture is a compilation of Japanese hits, many of which already have Korean versions, including DNA, Fake Love and Black Swan.

2. ‘Back of My Mind’ by H.E.R., June 18

The previous two albums by the US RnB singer (real name Gabriella Wilson) were powered by word of mouth. But a couple of Grammy Awards in March changed that approach.

Fresh from winning the prestigious Song of the Year for Black Lives Matter anthem I Can't Breathe, H.E.R.'s new album is one of the key releases of the year and arrives amid big expectations.

New single We Made It finds her maintaining her hushed vocal style while adding fresh electronic elements, including vocal samples.

In the online trailer announcing the album, she described it as "peek into my soul".

3. 'Blue Banisters' by Lana Del Rey, July 4

A rapid follow-up to her seventh album Chemtrails over the Country Club released in March, the new work by Del Rey aims to continue the theme of disillusionment and celebrity.

The lead single, also called Blue Banisters, indicates a similar sonic aesthetic with minimalist piano and shuffling drums.

4. 'Sob Rock' by John Mayer, July 16

Judging by the Miami Vice vibes of the cover and the title, Sob Rock is perhaps not the triumphant pop sound old-school Mayer fans would have hoped for.

But the singer-songwriter did the whole 1980s pop style rather well with 2009's underrated Battle Studies.

If Mayer returns to that territory, as he hints on lead single Last Train Home, fans are in for a treat.

5. 'Superstar' by Shinee, July 28

One of K-pop's biggest bands is going J-Pop.

After releasing the album's self-titled lead single in May, South Korean group Shineee will return with a Japanese album full of their buoyant pop and colourful outfits.

In an interview to the Japanese entertainment site Modelpress, the group described Superstar as "minimal, addictive and cheering" with hopeful songs about "pursuing our happiness".

6. 'Happier Than Ever' by Billie Eilish, July 30

It will be interesting to see if Eilish can match the blockbuster success of her 2019 debut, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, which amassed more than 2.3 billion streams and five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year.

Understandably, Eilish and song-writing partner and brother Finneas have been tempering the hype by spacing out the release of four singles: 2020's My Future and Therefore I Am, and this year's Your Power and Lost Cause.

So, judging by the new tunes, what can we make of the album? Well, the signature dreamy production is all there, but Eilish seems to have lightened up a tad.

Empowerment anthem My Future exudes a warm glow with Eilish's vocals at her most uplifting, while Therefore I Am is a convincing club banger. Her latest single, Just Cause, blends her melancholic and woozy vocals with trip-hop and jazz.

This all points to Happier Than Ever not playing it totally safe. Time will tell if fans will play along.

7. 'Welcome 2 America' by Prince, July 30

When Prince died in 2016, he left his estate with a vault reportedly full of hundreds of unreleased tracks. A dozen of them will see the light of day in the posthumous album Welcome 2 America.

The album was recorded in the US singer's Paisley Park Studios in 2010 and its announcement described the songs as addressing "Prince’s concerns, hopes and visions for a shifting society, presciently foreshadowing an era of political division, disinformation and a renewed fight for racial justice".

The lead single and title track is a bass-heavy funk number with Prince's spoken-word lyrics decrying the state of US politics and celebrity culture.

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