Music preview 2022: The biggest releases, tours and films


In the music world, 2021 was a year of surprises.

Daft Punk split up, Abba reformed, a sea shanty hit number one, and Britney Spears finally broke free of her conservatorship.

Olivia Rodrigo landed on planet pop as a fully-formed star in the first week of January and ended the year with a full house of Grammy nominations.

Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons left the band after endorsing a right-wing author, while country star Morgan Wallen was dropped by his label after being filmed drunkenly using a racial slur (he still ended up with the year's best-selling album in the US, though).

Last but not least, Harry Styles was falsely accused of stealing a microwave oven.

But if you look back at my predictions from this time last year, I singularly failed to anticipate any of those stories. I also said Adele wouldn't release an album this year – but that was an act of reverse psychology that was 100% responsible for the release of 30 in November. You're welcome.

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So, what about next year? Can I trick Rihanna into releasing an album, too? Probably not – but, on the proviso that my crystal ball is about as useful as windscreen wipers on a submarine, here are nine music stories to look out for in 2022.

1) Britney Spears to release new music?

Britney SpearsGetty Images

Finally free of the conservatorship that's ruled her life for 13 years, all eyes are on Britney Spears' next move.

During the legal battle, which played out in court all this year, the star vowed never to perform again as long as her father remained in control of her affairs.

Once he was dismissed, however, her priorities were much more down-to-earth: getting the keys to her car, withdrawing cash and buying candles "for the first time".

Since then, she's hinted at a tell-all interview with Oprah Winfrey and announced her engagement to actor Sam Asghari.

Fans, meanwhile, are clamouring for new material from the pop princess, who hasn't released an album since 2016's Glory.

In an Instagram post on Tuesday, she reiterated that her withdrawal from music was revenge for the "awful things" that were done to her, and that she was still "scared of [the] people and the business" of the music industry.

With that in mind, I hope Britney resists the pressure to hit the recording studio and takes some time to enjoy her freedom.

2) Bow down to our Swedish overlords

AbbaGetty Images

On 27 May, Abba's innovative Voyage concerts will start in London, playing seven times a week – including matinees – until the end of the year.

The four band members, now in their 70s, won't be there, however. Instead, they'll appear as virtual avatars (definitely not holograms, says their press team) depicting the group as they were in 1977, playing hits like Mamma Mia and Dancing Queen.

It all sounds a bit Terminator to me, though. What if Frida and Benny are hacked and start performing Radiohead covers to an audience of frightened grandmothers? What if the avatars gain sentience and go rogue, reducing humanity to a life of servitude and squalor, while Agnetha and Björn assume corporeal form and rampage around Europe, ruthlessly destroying any civilisation that gave Waterloo "nil points" in 1974?

What if they don't play Voulez-Vous?

Assuming none of these apocalyptic scenarios come to life, it should be a good night out.

3) The rehabilitation of Janet Jackson

Janet JacksonGetty Images

Janet Jackson's career was spectacularly derailed in 2004 when her breast was exposed during the high point of her Super Bowl Half-Time Show.

Televised for just 0.56 seconds, the incident led to Jackson being blacklisted, and TV network CBS being fined $550,000 (£409,000) for indecency.

The fine was ultimately voided, but Jackson's place in the pop firmament was revoked. She lost record contracts, movie roles and radio airplay while Justin Timberlake – the man who ripped off her bodice in the first place – escaped unharmed.

Seventeen years later, things are starting to change.

A US documentary on the Super Bowl scandal, screened in November, convincingly argued that misogyny and racism played a large part in her downfall.

It failed to settle the question of whether the incident was planned (although I've seen still images, taken after the TV cameras turned away, that make Jackson's shock and discomfort apparent).

We should learn more next year, with the release of a second, two-part documentary, authored by Jackson herself. With hours of unseen personal footage, it promises to lift the lid on the star's family and career, and will be followed by a new album, Black Diamond.

The rehabilitation starts here.

4) Robbie Williams will become a CGI monkey

Robbie WilliamsGetty Images

Honestly, it's true. A film based on Robbie Williams' career, Better Man, is due to begin filming in Australia next spring – and the star will be portrayed as an animated ape.

Written and directed by The Greatest Showman's Michael Gracey, the film promises a "fantastical" look at the star's life and career. It sounds totally bananas (snarf).

Robbie's former band, Take That, are also getting the biopic treatment. Based on the stage show The Band, it was due to begin filming in 2020 with Rosamund Pike and Cush Jumbo in the cast, before the pandemic interrupted. Choreographer Drew McOnie tweeted the project was back in pre-production in October.

5) A music biopic bonanza

Naomi Ackie and Whitney HoustonGetty Images

Ten years after her tragic death, a film of Whitney Houston's life is due for release next December. British actress Naomi Ackie (Star Wars, End Of The F*****g World – pictured above) will play the singer, with no small amount of trepidation.

"It sends shivers down my spine how much she means to me, the world, Black women, African American women," she told ET. "I'm going to throw my everything into making sure she is represented properly."

Gemma Arterton had similar things to say about the upcoming Dusty Springfield biopic, in which she will perform her vocals live on set.

"I think it has to be live," she told me earlier this year. "I think it's got to feel a bit rough around the edges. Which it will, I guarantee you."

Kanye West gets the documentary treatment with Netflix's abysmally-titled Jeen-Yus, featuring unseen archival footage from the past 21 years, including his career in music and fashion; the death of his mother, Donda; and his unsuccessful 2020 presidential campaign.

Other music-focused films in the works include Baz Luhrmann's Elvis biopic, and a Bee Gees project directed by Sir Kenneth Branagh.

And all eyes will be on Marvel's Black Panther 2, to see whether its soundtrack can match the cultural impact of the Kendrick Lamar-assisted original.

6) Adele's Las Vegas residency

AdeleSimon Emmett/Columbia Records

Las Vegas used to be the place where faded stars fanned the embers of their dying careers. Not any more.

Instead of setting off on a world tour in support of her blockbuster fourth album, 30, Adele will play the Colosseum in the Caesars Palace casino every Friday and Saturday between 21 January and 16 April.

Playing to about 4,000 people a night, the shows will be more intimate (and expensive) than her previous, 120-date stadium tour. Tickets are already sold out – as are passes for the star's Hyde Park concerts next July. At the time of writing, these are the only dates she has planned for 2022.

And she's not the only star hitting Sin City in 2022. Katy Perry is launching her own residency, two miles down the road at the snappily-titled Resorts World Las Vegas.

Like Adele, she's settling on the strip in an attempt to spend more time with her family.

"I really wanted to be able to strike more of a balance – to have a child and take her to pre-school – but also be artistic and play with that energy," she told Vegas magazine. "I'm not saying that my tours are done, but a residency is actually the perfect thing for me right now.

7) Live music returns?

StormzyGetty Images

The arrival of the Omicron variant threw the live music industry into crisis mode – again. The Music Venue Trust (MVT) said audiences dropped by 23% in the first week of December, calling the situation "catastrophic" for small venues.

At the time of writing, the government's advice is that gigs can go ahead, although some venues will require most visitors to show a Covid pass, as well as wearing face masks.

Audience fears are leading to suppressed ticket sales and no-shows, but the industry hopes that gigs will still be able to resume in earnest by the spring.

If so, 2022 will present an embarrassment of riches for concert-goers. After two years of cancelled gigs, almost every artist of note has a tour planned for the next 12 months. Billie Eilish, Coldplay, Dua Lipa, Elton John, Stormzy, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Harry Styles and Olivia Rodrigo are all spring-cleaning the tour bus and practising their test-one-twos.

There's such a backlog of big names that smaller acts are worried about a shortage of hireable stage equipment, not to mention road crews and venue space.

But the MVT and the National Lottery are teaming up to help grassroots venues get back on their feet, underwriting the cost of tours for dozens of new bands, while staging special shows by Del Amitri, Enter Shikari, Becky Hill, Maisie Peters and Bastille.

Festival season is also set to return in full, after a summer of cancellations and reduced capacity events. After two fallow years, Glastonbury will throw open its doors again in June, with Billie Eliish and Diana Ross already confirmed on the line-up.

Arctic Monkeys, Dave and Halsey will headline Reading & Leeds, while Paolo Nutini and The Strokes top the bill at Glasgow's TRNSMT.

And a special mention for Little Mix, whose long-delayed Confetti tour will now become their farewell.

8) Dolly Parton's written a book (that's also an album)

Dolly PartonGetty Images

Not content with being the greatest country artist of all time and the sponsor of the Moderna Covid vaccine, Dolly Parton has turned her attention to literature.

Aged 75, she's written her first novel, Run, Rose, Run with the help of thriller writer James Patterson. Due in March, it's a perfect case of "write what you know" – with the story following a young woman who moves to Nashville to fulfil her dreams of becoming a star.

The book comes with an album of 12 original songs, which you can play at the appropriate points in the story – like one of those old Disney read-along books.

9) The biggest new releases

The Weeknd

Parton's not the only artist lining up new music for the new year. Here are some of the albums that have already been announced.

  • The Weeknd – The Dawn
  • Years & Years – Night Call
  • Sinead O'Connor – I'm Not Bossy, I'm The Boss
  • Charli XCX – Crash
  • M.I.A. – Mata
  • Elvis Costello – The Boy Named If
  • Travis Scott – Utopia
  • Bastille – Give Me The Future
  • Mitski – Laurel Hell
  • Tears For Fears – The Tipping Point
  • Saweetie – Pretty Bitch Music
  • Jack White – Fear Of The Dawn
  • Swedish House Mafia – Paradise Again
  • Liam Gallagher – C'mon You Know
  • Wet Leg – Wet Leg

Also in the studio are Kendrick Lamar, Dua Lipa, Cardi B, Roddy Ricch, The Cure, Kylie Minogue, Kaiser Chiefs and Rihanna.

Björk's been hard at work on an album for people "making clubs in their living room" after lockdown.

Speaking to Iceland's RUV, she described it as being like "a man who was headbanging, then sat down again and had another glass of red wine, and everyone is home by 10 o'clock, done with the dancing and everything".

But the one I'm looking forward to most is Rosalía's follow-up to the Grammy-winning breakout El Mal Querer from 2018.

Since then the flamenco-hip-hop star has collaborated with everyone from Billie Eilish and Travis Scott to James Blake and Latin superstar Bad Bunny.

Her upcoming third studio album, Motomami, has already been teased with the sublime, slinky La Fama – a duet with The Weeknd.

Rolling Stone magazine got a sneak preview of the record earlier this month, and called it "a masterpiece full of dissonance, synthesizers, and saturated organs" that "takes apart the traditional structure of Spanish-language pop music". I can't wait.

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