Summer has been making its presence known this month, but most of the summer heat is still in front of us: from Justin Bieber's sophomore set to the Smashing Pumpkin's first studio album in five years to Kenny Chesney's 13th record, here are the full-lengths we're dying to listen to this season. Check out our 2012 summer album preview, and tell us which releases are on your must list in the comments section below.
Usher | "Looking 4 Myself"
Usher's seventh studio album, "Looking 4 Myself," is a testament to the singer's growth throughout his 15-plus year career. "Looking 4 Myself" effortlessly blends genres that Usher has once dabbled in, but not quiet succeeded in melting into a collection of hits. That is until his upcoming full-length opus in which he appeals to his core audience and beyond when lending his soulful voice to soundscapes from some of the best dance and hip-hop architects, such as Diplo, Swedish House Mafia and Pharrell. The success of the album's versatility is already peeking through. As his steamy first single, "Climax," stays steady at No. 1 on the R&B/Hip-Hop Songs chart, his other two "Looking 4 Myself" singles -- "Scream" and the Rick Ross-assisted "Lemme See" -- continue to climb the charts.
Rush | "Clockwork Angels"
It's been more than five years since Rush's last studio album, "Snakes & Arrows," which peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard 200. "But we really haven't been away," manager Ray Danniels says, noting that the Canadian rock trio has actively toured behind the release in recent years. For "Clockwork Angels," co-produced by Nick Raskulinecz, Rush has "revisited the idea of a concept record," Daniels says, adding, "This is their 20th record. I'm thrilled that we got there."
Ed Sheeran | "+"
Following a string of top 10 singles and last year's chart-topping debut, "+," 21-year-old Ed Sheeran is already a U.K. superstar. His boyish good looks and catchy pop-rock hooks draw in listeners, but Sheeran's real talent lies in his lyricism: "The A Team" reflects on drug addiction. Meanwhile, the singer is branching out as a collaborator. In February he released "The Slumdon Bridge" EP, a four-song collaboration with rapper Yelawolf, and on May 15, Taylor Swift tweeted that she was writing songs with Sheeran.
Waka Flocka Flame | "Triple F Life: Fans, Friends & Family"
Driven by the street anthem "Hard in Da Paint," Atlanta-by-way-of-Queens rapper Waka Flocka Flame sent his 2010 debut album, "Flockavelli," to No. 6 on the Billboard 200. Since then, he's built a brand and a following, thanks to his bombastic songs and raucous stage presence. Expect guest appearances by Flo Rida, Tyga, Slim Thug, Ludacris, Alley Boy, Trey Songz, Drake, Bun B and more.
Hot Chip | "In Our Heads"
The follow-up to 2010's highly praised "One Life Stand," " In Our Heads" is Hot Chip's fifth album (and first with new label Domino) and finds the London-based electro-pop act crafting increasingly joyous, infectious and danceable earworms. These traits have helped Hot Chip's audience grow, and to that devoted fan base the group offered, in exchange for an email address, the chance to win a limited-edition, signed white-label 12-inch promo single of "Flutes" in March. Hot Chip will hit the festival circuit this summer, as well as larger venues, including the Hollywood Bowl on Sept. 9.
Edens Edge | "Edens Edge"
Big Machine Label Group president/CEO Scott Borchetta offered Edens Edge a deal after seeing the band perform at the annual Nashville Songwriters Assn. International Awards. Since then, the trio-Hannah Blaylock, Dean Berner and Cherrill Green-has delivered a debut EP and the top 20 Billboard Hot Country Songs single "Amen," which showcased the act's earthy, organic sounds and stellar harmonies. Edens Edge will hit the road this summer with Rascal Flatts, and new single "Too Good to Be True" just arrived.
Josh Turner | "Punching Bag"
Turner wrote or co-wrote eight tracks on his fifth studio album, "Punching Bag," in a log cabin he built on his College Grove, Tenn., property as a writer's retreat. Led by the single "Time Is Love," the album was produced by Frank Rogers (Brad Paisley, Darius Rucker). The Grand Ole Opry member will preview "Punching Bag" during an hourlong special on HSN (May 25) sponsored by Cricket.
Metric | "Synthetica"
Metric offered more than just a new song when it released "Youth Without Youth," the first single from "Synthetica." Revealing the lyrics stanza by stanza on its website, the band also rewarded fans with song commentary from singer Emily Haines and guitarist James Shaw; a free download of another new cut, "Reflections #2"; and the sheet music to "Youth Without Youth," encouraging fans to record and post their interpretations on YouTube. Metric is also selling 500 handmade "stereoboxes"-3-D viewers complete with a booklet and slides to accompany a "Synthetica" premium pack for $64.99.
Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs | "Trouble"
Since 2009, Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs-aka British DJ/producer/performance artist Orlando Higginbottom-has made charmingly quirky, shoegazer electro-pop, frequently passed from friend to friend and blog to blog. Primarily released on European indie Greco Roman, TEED's early work snagged more than word-of-mouth success: 2010's "Garden" was licensed for a global Nokia Lumia campaign, attracting the attention of Polydor. Debut "Trouble" will be released in the United States on once-dormant Casablanca, which is refocusing on its dance roots in the wake of the EDM explosion. "He makes dance music that is listened to by people who really care about music," Casablanca president Thomas Dunkley says. "It's fun, smart, warm and heartfelt."
Cypress Hill & Rusko | "Cypress x Rusko"
Bonded by a love for bongs and bass, hip-hop crew Cypress Hill and dubstep prankster Rusko are making it official with a five-track EP, following the arrival of single/video "Roll It, Light It" in February. The brass-knuckles set features a "Roll It" remix by Travis Barker and "Can't Keep Me Down" with Damian Marley, who also turned up on a recent Skrillex single.
Justin Bieber | "Believe"
Since Justin Bieber's last official full-length, 2010's "My World 2.0," the superstar has released a 3-D biopic, a memoir, his own line of nail polish and two more No. 1 albums, "Never Say Never: The Remixes" and "Under the Mistletoe." Executive-produced by manager Scooter Braun and mentor Usher, "Believe" will showcase a more grown-up version of the 18-year-old's R&B-inflected pop through Bieber's maturing vocal range and collaborations with Drake, Nicki Minaj and Big Sean. First single "Boyfriend" is already a hit.
Kenny Chesney | "Welcome to the Fishbowl"
Country's biggest star keeps soul searching with his 13th record, produced by Chesney and his longtime studio collaborator Buddy Cannon. Like many of Chesney's records, "Welcome to the Fishbowl" alternates between party music, unadulterated romance and aching sentimentality, but he also ups the ante with new songs that are deeper, heavier and more insightful. "I'm more comfortable as a vocalist and as an interpreter of songs and a songwriter, more than I have been on the previous 12 records," Chesney says. Sony Music Nashville chairman/CEO Gary Overton says "Fishbowl" is "truly a special record," and was struck by its personal tone. The album will hit shelves a few weeks after Chesney and Tim McGraw kick off their "Brothers of the Sun" tour in Tampa on June 2.
Maroon 5 | "Overexposed"
Maroon 5 has another hit on the radio, multiple late-night performances planned for June and a South American tour kicking off in July. But the best exposure that fourth album "Overexposed" could receive has already happened, as frontman Adam Levine wrapped his second season as a coach on "The Voice" on May 8. A performance of the group's new single, "Payphone," alongside Wiz Khalifa on "The Voice" last month has helped that track sell 1.7 million downloads, according to Nielsen SoundScan.
The success of "Moves Like Jagger" has changed the sonic direction of the band, which broke out in 2002 with rock-based hits like "Harder to Breathe" and "This Love." Like "Jagger," "Payphone" features production from pop auteurs Benny Blanco and Shellback, while "Overexposed" gets assists from Ryan Tedder and Max Martin, who executive-produced the album. Manager Jordan Feldstein says "Jagger" "sort of opened the floodgates to using outside resources to help make the record."
Linkin Park | "Living Things"
Linkin Park's sixth studio album is hitting multiple platforms in the marketing plan. The first single, "Burn It Down," was used in TNT's NBA playoffs ads. Presales linking the album with tickets to an August North American tour topped expectations at the Collective. Prior to playing the United States, Linkin Park will be in Europe where its music will be tied in with the Euro Cup soccer tournament. Film and videogame tie-ins are forthcoming later in the year.
R. Kelly | "Write Me Back"
"Share My Love" is the debut single from R. Kelly's 11th studio album, "Write Me Back." Picking up where 2010's "Love Letter" left off, the new release filters in such influences as Smokey Robinson and Barry White. Kelly also served as executive music consultant on the film "Sparkle" (Aug. 17) and penned three original songs for the soundtrack including the Whitney Houston/Jordin Sparks duet "Celebrate." His memoir, "SoulaCoaster: The Diary of Me," arrives June 28.
Beto Cuevas | "Transformacion"
The second solo album from Beto Cuevas, former frontman of Chilean rock band La Ley, has a decidedly dance sound, judging from first single "Quiero Creer," which features Flo Rida rapping in English. It's a departure for Cuevas, who wrote the album's 12 tracks (Jared Lee Gosselin produced) and collaborated with Leire and Deborah Del Corral. The album includes one all-English track, written by Cuevas with his son, Diego.
Text by Justino Aguila, Jon Bilstein, Leila Cobo, Phil Gallo, Andrew Hampp, Danielle Levy, Jason Lipshutz, Kerri Mason, Gail Mitchell, Mitchell Peters, Deborah Evans Price, Erika Ramirez, and Ray Waddell.