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We can't wait for these albums from Kacey Musgraves, Lil Nas X, Sting, Diana Ross and more

We expected a musical boon in 2021.

How else would the creative types who were pandemic-forced out of their natural habitat of the road find a way to channel their restlessness?

With nowhere to go and no one to applaud them, musicians last year flocked to their other sanctuary – the studio.

From British luminaries (Duran Duran, Sting, Elton John) to country queens (Kacey Musgraves, Mickey Guyton, Carly Pearce) to the Swedish titans of earworms (yes, that would be ABBA) to chart-dominating rappers (Lil Nas X, Young Thug), the musical stampede has arrived.

Back on the road: How do musicians feel about touring during COVID?

While this is a mere smattering of the dozens and dozens of albums expected to drop by the end of the year, these 20 are among our most anticipated.

Kacey Musgrave's fourth studio album, "Star-Crossed," will be released Friday.

Kacey Musgraves, ‘Star-Crossed’ (Friday)

Just two years after taking home the album of the year Grammy for her no-skips masterpiece "Golden Hour," the genre-defying singer is back with an even more sonically adventurous new effort, inspired by her recent divorce from singer-songwriter Ruston Kelly. The gorgeously introspective album is structured like a Greek tragedy and pulls from elements of country, Spanish folk and psychedelic pop-rock, as Musgraves mourns the dissolution of a marriage in the modern era. Try not to cry listening to the evocative and tender "Camera Roll," about reliving the joys, pains and regrets of a relationship through one's smartphone. – Patrick Ryan

Carly Pearce's latest, "29: Written in Stone," will arrive Sept. 17, 2021.

Carly Pearce, '29: Written in Stone' (Sept. 17)

The third album from the country darling (and new member of the Grand Ole Opry) is all about catharsis. "I've always been an artist who wrote from her life," Pearce told USA TODAY. "Other artists might shy away from things, but that's not who I am and through the (album) process, I found a lot of therapeutic moments." Pearce, who got divorced last year and lost her longtime friend and producer, Busbee, to cancer in 2019, started working on the album during quarantine and finished it shortly before hitting the road with Lady A in July. "I felt I had to close that chapter for my own mental health," she said. – Melissa Ruggieri 

Lil Nas X, the only gay hip-hop superstar, will release debut album "Montero" later this month.

Lil Nas X, ‘Montero’ (Sept. 17)

The "Old Town Road" breakout has proven himself a marketing genius, consistently making headlines and ruffling feathers for his wildly original music videos: twerking on the devil after pole-dancing into hell in "Montero (Call Me By Your Name)" and dancing naked in a prison shower room in "Industry Baby." The songs peaked at No. 1 and 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, respectively, with more hits surely on the way on his formal debut album, featuring top-shelf collaborators including Elton John, Megan Thee Stallion, Doja Cat and Miley Cyrus. – Ryan 

Mickey Guyton's debut album, "Remember Her Name," will be released Sept. 24, 2021.

Mickey Guyton, 'Remember Her Name' (Sept. 24)

Though she received deserved accolades for her 2020 EP, “Bridges” and the notable singles “What Are You Gonna Tell Her?” and “Black Like Me,” it still seems unbelievable that this is Guyton’s debut album. Songs such as the piano-laced twanger “All American” and the soaring title track showcase Guyton’s potency as a vocalist and insight as a writer. – Ruggieri 

Nao, 'And Then Life Was Beautiful' (Sept. 24) 

The silky-voiced British singer and new mom brings her signature mix of funk and R&B to third album "And Then Life Was Beautiful," featuring guests Lianne La Havas and Serpentwithfeet. "I do think it’s a hopeful album, in an honest way," Nao, who has written for Nile Rodgers and Ariana Grande, said in a statement. "It’s not shiny or all 'isn’t this great!' and 'party party party.' " – Ryan

Brandi Carlile, ‘In These Silent Days’ (Oct. 1)

In an April interview with USA TODAY, Carlile promised "over-the-top" vocals and a "new level of drama" on her upcoming seventh album, the singer-songwriter's first since 2018's Grammy-winning "By the Way, I Forgive You." The album is preceded by stirring lead single "Right on Time," accompanied by a Bowie-esque video directed by Carlile's friend Courteney Cox. – Ryan 

Lady Gaga & Tony Bennett, ‘Love For Sale’ (Oct. 1)

The unlikely duo made magic on their 2014 standards album "Cheek to Cheek," showcasing a then-unknown side of Gaga's wide musical palette. Now the pop star, 35, and Bennett, 95, have reunited for one more dual effort: a Cole Porter tribute album featuring duets of classics including "It's De-Lovely" and "I Get a Kick Out of You." The release comes on the heels of two rousing and emotional concerts the artists performed together at New York's Radio City Music Hall, which were later revealed to be the last-ever live shows for Bennett, who is battling Alzheimer's. – Ryan

James Blake, 'Friends That Break Your Heart' (Oct. 8) 

Following last year's stellar "Covers" EP, featuring his haunting takes on Billie Eilish and Frank Ocean, Blake returns with mesmerizing fifth album "Friends That Break Your Heart." Anchored by the hypnotic production that has made Blake an in-demand collaborator for Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar, the 12-track effort also includes a new team-up with SZA, "Coming Back," a perfect match between two of the most stunning vocalists working today. – Ryan 

Coldplay unveils its ninth studio album, "Music of the Spheres," on Oct. 15, 2021.

Coldplay, 'Music of the Spheres' (Oct. 15)

Though they’d indicated retirement following the release of 2015’s “A Head Full of Dreams” – which they subsequently followed with 2019’s alt-rock leaning “Everyday Life” – Coldplay has again made a musical U-turn. Working with producer Max Martin, the band has finally created its long-gestating space-themed record, steered by effusive first single “Higher Power.” – Ruggieri 

Finneas, 'Optimist' (Oct. 15) 

After breaking out as younger sister Billie Eilish's go-to co-writer and producer – winning eight Grammy Awards in just two years – Finneas O'Connell is ready to release his debut album as a solo artist. The music is somewhat brighter than Eilish's brooding brand of whispery pop, with explosive synths and guitars on wistful singles "The '90s" and "A Concert Six Months from Now," respectively. – Ryan

Young Thug performing at Lollapalooza music festival in Chicago last month.

Young Thug, ‘Punk’ (Oct. 15)

The Kanye West and Childish Gambino collaborator returns with second album "Punk," following his "Slime Language 2" compilation with rapper Gunna earlier this year. The new-wave rapper gets real about relationships and his difficult past on addictive lead single "Tick Tock," much in line with the more personal music he's teased in interviews with Rolling Stone and The Fader.– Ryan

Duran Duran (from left) - Nick Rhodes, John Taylor, Simon LeBon and Roger Taylor - celebrates their legacy with "Future Past," their new studio album that includes the hit, "Anniversary." The record arrives Oct. 22, 2021.

Duran Duran, 'Future Past' (Oct. 22)

Not many expected the Duran Duran resurgence that came with their self-titled 1993 album (also referred to as “The Wedding Album”) that spawned “Ordinary World” and “Come Undone.” But don’t be surprised if they again court a new generation – four decades into a career that blossomed during MTV’s '80s heyday – with their 15th studio album. Newest single “Anniversary,” with its signature bass lines and whizzing synths, heralds a return to Duran domination. – Ruggieri 

Elton John's "The Lockdown Sessions" includes collaborations with Brandi Carlile, Charlie Puth, Dua Lipa, Eddie Vedder, Gorillaz, Lil Nas X, Miley Cyrus and more. It's due Oct. 22, 2021.

Elton John, 'The Lockdown Sessions' (Oct. 22)

If you’re intrigued by Sir Elton’s musical marriage with Dua Lipa – who somehow knitted “Sacrifice” and “Rocket Man” into the intriguing “Cold Heart (Pnau Remix)” – then wait until you hear his other collaborations. Recorded last year – some sessions over Zoom and others in socially distanced studios – the 16 tracks reflect John’s continued diverse musical interests as he teams with Miley Cyrus, Stevie Nicks, Lil Nas X, Stevie Wonder and Nicki Minaj, among other noteworthy names. – Ruggieri 

ABBA makes a long-anticipated return after 40 years with the Nov. 5 release of "Voyage."

ABBA, 'Voyage' (Nov. 5)

What? Only 40 years since your last album? What have you been doing, ABBA? But who are we to quibble when Anni-Frid Lyngstad, Agnetha Fältskog, Björn Kristian Ulvaeus and Benny Andersson have decided that now – and May, when they will perform live (virtually) from an arena in London – is the ideal time for an ABBA resurgence? Andersson says the upcoming album is called “Voyage” because “we’re truly sailing in uncharted waters.” Look, just include a reprise of “Voulez-Vous” in that concert and we’ll forgive not hearing from you in four decades. Aside from the Broadway musical. And the movies. And every karaoke night on the planet. – Ruggieri 

Diana Ross wants her new album, "Thank You," due Nov. 5, 2021, to inspire joy.

Diana Ross, 'Thank You' (Nov. 5)

Recorded in her home studio, the 13 tracks on Ross’ 25th studio album – and first since 2006’s “I Love You” album – are designed to instigate joy. The eternally regal vocalist worked with producer Jack Antonoff (Taylor Swift, Lorde) as well as songwriters Jimmy Napes (Sam Smith) and Amy Wadge (Ed Sheeran) to create an “inclusive musical message of love and togetherness.” The two singles released so far – the title track and the mirror ball throbber “If the World Just Danced” – indicate Ross’ goal of sparking happiness will be achieved. – Ruggieri 

Aimee Mann releases "Queens of the Summer Hotel" on Nov, 5, 2021.

Aimee Mann, 'Queens of the Summer Hotel' (Nov. 5)

The songs began as the engine for a stage adaptation of “Girl, Interrupted,” the Susanna Kaysen memoir about her psychiatric hospitalization in the 1960s. Somehow, Mann’s 15-song collection also turned out to be the unintentional sequel to her Grammy-winning 2017 release, “Mental Illness.” Mann has said that writing for someone else’s project – and sharing another person’s story – allowed her “a sense of liberation” and the ability for different characters to narrate the songs. – Ruggieri 

Radiohead, 'Kid A Mnesia' (Nov. 5)

New Radiohead is always cause for celebration. This fall, the Thom Yorke-fronted band will reissue their career-defining early 2000s albums "Amnesiac" and "Kid A," the latter of which features the spellbinding "Idioteque," "Morning Bell" and "Everything in Its Right Place." Additionally, they'll release another album, "Kid A Mnesia," which includes previously unheard tracks recorded between 1999 and 2000. – Ryan

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss follow up their critically revered "Raising Sand" 14 years later with the Nov. 19, 2021 release of "Raise the Roof."

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, 'Raise the Roof' (Nov. 19)

It only took 14 years, but one of the most critically adored odd couples of music returns with another solid T Bone Burnett-produced amalgamation of folk, blues and country. “Quattro (World Drifts In),” “You Led Me to the Wrong” and a cover of Lucinda Williams’ “Can’t Let Go” spotlight Krauss’ angelic voice seesawing with Plant’s weary ruggedness. The duo’s previous effort, “Raising Sand,” won five Grammy Awards in 2009, and it won’t be unexpected to see “Raise the Roof” corral a ton of hardware when it’s eligible for the 2023 ceremony. – Ruggieri 

Sting returns Nov. 19 with "The Bridge."

Sting, 'The Bridge' (Nov. 19)

It’s always a bit of a surprise to hear contemplative intellectual Sting unfurl an unironic love song. But that’s exactly why lead single “If It’s Love” is such a jaunty delight. There’s even whistling! But expect the rest of the album – written during the pandemic – to delve into deeper topics including personal loss and social and political turmoil. – Ruggieri 

Taylor Swift, center, won her third album of the year Grammy for "Folklore" earlier this year.

Taylor Swift, ‘Red (Taylor’s Version’) (Nov. 19)

Following this spring's "Fearless (Taylor's Version)," music's biggest and busiest star is rerecording another of her albums amid her public battle to regain ownership of her back catalog. This update of her 2012 album "Red" will feature a highly anticipated 10-minute version of fan-favorite ballad "All Too Well," as well as previously unreleased songs from the vault, some of which she recorded with Phoebe Bridgers, Ed Sheeran and Chris Stapleton.– Ryan