The record industry finally had some good news to report in the first half of the year thanks to some incremental positive growth as a result of strong album sales from Lady Gaga, Adele, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj. But with six months left in 2011, the returns could bulge even further if even half of the albums left on label rosters see the light of day.
Release dates have constantly shifted and some aren't even on schedules yet, but the second half of this year promises new releases from Lil Wayne; Kanye West and Jay-Z; Dr. Dre; Evanescence; Joe Jonas; last year's chart slayers, country trio Lady Antebellum; dance master David Guetta; and original "American Idol" Kelly Clarkson.
Here's a breakdown of the most anticipated albums on tap for the rest of the year (with the caveat that some release dates could and likely will change).
Although a release date is still one of the best-kept secrets in music, all eyes are on Watch the Throne, the hotly anticipated collabo between Kanye West and Jay-Z. We've seen the album cover art so far and pre-orders are being taken for what could be an early August ship date, but no official announcement has been made so far.
Another record that's been pushed around more than LeBron James in this year's NBA finals is Lil Wayne's Tha Carter IV. Weezy's given us a preview of his latest opus with "How to Love," which is already a hit on iTunes, and the latest due date for the fourth installment in the Carter series is August 29.
Fans are also looking forward to Rick Ross' God Forgives, I Don't album, the major-label debut from Jay Electronica, 50 Cent's long-gestating new effort, and another disc that's been bubbling under for more than a year, Game's The R.E.D. Album, which could finally hit shelves on August 23.
Game has promised to have formerly estranged mentor Dr. Dre back in the pocket on that one, and speaking of the good doctor, the reclusive studio genius may finally release his near decade-in-the-making Detox disc this year. Maybe.
Almost equally salivated over is Drake's second studio effort, Take Care, which is slated to hit on October 24. Fans have already gotten a taste of what to expect from the recently released track "Marvins Room," which followed another song that may make the cut, "Dreams Money Can Buy."
B.o.B has made it clear that he's not packing a bunch of flashy features on the follow-up to his gold-certified debut, The Adventures of Bobby Ray. What we don't know yet is when, exactly, it will drop.
Also look for new albums from Akon and Nas.
Lady Gaga and Britney Spears appeared to suck all of the oxygen out of the pop sphere earlier this year, but there is plenty more on the horizon, including a new album from last year's chart champs, country trio Lady Antebellum, Own the Night; the debuts from "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery, runner-up Lauren Alaina and ninth-place finisher Pia Toscano around the holidays; and the first full-length from Internet sensation Greyson Chance, Hold on 'Til the Night, on August 2.
Jonas Brothers singer Joe Jonas steps out with his dance-inspired solo debut, Fast Life, in September, and Mary J. Blige gets help from Kanye, Swizz Beatz and Stargate on My Life II, The Journey Continues (also due in September).
"Idol" runner-up Adam Lambert is working on his "dream" album as the follow-up to his 2009 debut, with help from such songwriting pros as Ryan Tedder, Nikka Costa and Sia. Hoping to get something in stores this year, oft-thwarted former Pussycat Dolls singer (and "X Factor" replacement judge) Nicole Scherzinger is planning to unleash her latest solo album, Killer Love, before year's end, with assists from RedOne, Jim Jonsin, The-Dream, Ne-Yo, Snoop Dogg and 50 Cent. And it's probably a long shot, but long-dormant reggae popsters No Doubt are nearly done with their first album in a decade, which may see the light of day before 2011 is out.
Also slated for this year: Fiona Apple, former "American Idol" champs Kris Allen and Kelly Clarkson, Santigold, ex-Destiny's Child member Kelly Rowland (Here I Am, July 26) and electronic beatmeister David Guetta's Nothing But the Beat (August 30), which features contributions from Flo Rida, Nicki Minaj, Taio Cruz, Ludacris, will.i.am, Usher, Snoop Dogg, Akon, Jennifer Hudson and Sia.
2011 has been a bit light on the rock so far, but a number of artists look to correct that, including long-dormant Evanescence. The Amy Lee-led band will roar back with The Open Door on October 4, a disc Lee promises "smacks you right in the face."
Speaking of face-smacking, veteran funk-rockers the Red Hot Chili Peppers have the usual collection of heavy grooves on tap for I'm With You, their Rick Rubin-produced album due out on August 30.
Another lifer, Lenny Kravitz, also ends a self-imposed hiatus that day with his latest, Black and White America, and after reuniting in 2009, punk-poppers Blink-182 swear we'll get new music from them before summer is out.
We're still not sure exactly what Coldplay's new album is really about, but we know they'll probably be playing some of the tunes from the still-untitled effort this summer at Lollapalooza. And that the paint-splashed video for the first single, "Every Teardrop is a Waterfall," is packed with the kind of uplifting, positive vibes we've come to expect from the group.
Also on tap: The Great Escape Artist, the first new album in eight years from alternative godfathers Jane's Addiction; the first independent label effort from Wilco, The Whole Love (September 27); the solo debut of former Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump; another chunk of hot metal from Mastodon; an album-length collaboration between Metallica and punk icon Lou Reed; the long-anticipated third album from professional train wreck Amy Winehouse; and the first listen to fellow former FOB member Pete Wentz's new band, Black Cards.
What albums are you most looking forward to in the second half of 2011? Let us know in the comments!