Britney, Gaga, Lil Wayne Lead 2011′s Most-Anticipated Albums

Offerings from Drake, Coldplay, Rick Ross, U2, Jay-Z and Kanye West and more also make our list of LPs to watch for this year.

2010 went out with a bang thanks to blockbuster albums by Taylor Swift, Kanye West and Nicki Minaj , but 2011 looks to top that flurry of releases with an avalanche of fresh product from some of your favorite artists.

While its release is still unconfirmed, one of the most anticipated discs of the year could drop as early as next week. That’s when Jay-Z and Kanye’s collabo album, Watch the Throne, hits shelves if comments made by Yeezy on New Year’s Eve are to be believed.

Here’s a breakdown of some other important albums on tap for 2011.

Hip-Hop
The Jigga/’Ye hookup promises to be the first of many major rap events in the first half of the year, which is also expected to bring the long-awaited new disc from Lupe Fiasco, Lasers; the full-length debut from Wiz Khalifa; as well as not-yet-titled new sets from Nas and 50 Cent.

In addition to Rick Ross’ God Forgives, I Don’t and a possible Dipset reunion effort, fans are also awaiting release dates for Drake’s sophomore CD, Take Care, and the debut from buzzbomb MC/producer Jay Electronica, who holds the seal of approval from Roc Nation head Jay-Z. And after a delay caused by MCA’s (a.k.a. Adam Yauch) cancer scare, the Beastie Boys are planning a return with their eighth studio album, The Hot Sauce Committee, Part 2, in the spring.

All of that could just be an appetizer, though, for the main event: the release of Lil Wayne’s first post-prison album, the hotly tipped Tha Carter IV, which has not yet received a street date. And there is, of course, the always tantalizing proposition of Dr. Dre finally dropping his years-in-the-making rap follow-up Detox, on which Eminem has recently said he’s been working with his mentor.

Pop
Since “Whip My Hair” became a viral sensation, fans have been hyped for the still-untitled debut from tween star Willow Smith , who has hinted she might remake one of dad Will’s signature hits. But it’s the next move from the queen of R&B, Beyoncé, that has fans really psyched.

She may have killed off her alter ego for the follow-up to 2008′s smash I Am … Sasha Fierce, but Beyoncé has some big plans for her still-untitled album. Producer Jim Jonsin said he intends to take a retro, Depeche Mode-inspired electro direction on some of the songs, while Sean “The Pen” Garrett promised some uptempo party records, with B drawing inspiration from Michael Jackson and Lauryn Hill.

The year’s biggest showdown, though, could come in the emerging diva battle between Britney Spears and Lady Gaga . Britney looks to draw first blood with the upcoming release of a single from her next album, “Hold it Against Me,” which is due within the week. Gaga’s second full-length album, Born This Way, is one of the most anticipated of the year and currently slated to hit in May, with the title track single expected in February.

Other pop releases on tap include an album from “Glee” star Matthew Morrison, the long-awaited new disc from troubled British R&B singer Amy Winehouse, Avril Lavigne ‘s delayed Goodbye Lullaby, a possible second CD from dance duo La Roux, more body-thumping goodness from Swedish singer Lykke Li and the debut from Sky Ferreira. Also in the studio and expected to wrap up sessions in time for a 2011 release is Kelly Clarkson.

Rock
This year will bring a bumper crop of albums from reunited rock bands, classic acts and new groups looking to capitalize on their recent success.

In addition to a dance-oriented album from U2 called Songs of Ascent, you can expect new tunes from R.E.M (Collapse Into Now) and the Foo Fighters , whose next one will feature a mini-Nirvana reunion thanks to bass on at least one track by ex-Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic.

Other artists expected or scheduled to release LPs this year include Radiohead, the Decemberists, Death Cab for Cutie, My Morning Jacket, Bright Eyes, Cold War Kids, PJ Harvey, ex-Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump, former FOB bassist Pete Wentz’s new band Black Cards, Iron & Wine, Tennis, Passion Pit, Fiona Apple, Fleet Foxes, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wilco and the reunited No Doubt.

Speaking of reunions, Blink-182 have been working on their first new album in seven years, while drummer Travis Barker is slated to drop his solo debut in the first half of the year. Another band returning from a long hiatus, the Strokes, also look to make their comeback in early 2011.

They’ve kept things quiet, but Coldplay are also hard at work on what they’ve described as a concept album about a couple lost in love. The Brian Eno-produced album has not yet gotten a street date.

After having a smash 2010 with Lungs, fans of Florence Welch of Florence and the Machine may also get a second album from the flame-haired singer. Although there’s been no official announcement, based on comments made by singer/guitarist Jack White, this could also be the year the White Stripes return to action after a nearly three-year hiatus.

Which albums are you excited about in 2011? Did we miss your favorites? Let us know in the comments!

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