There's a very good reason why so many big albums come out in the last quarter of the year: In the run-up to the holidays, lots of kids, moms, dads and grandparents truck down to the local megamart looking for good stocking stuffers.
And this year's bumper crop cuts across all genres and classifications, including fall albums from Coldplay, Kelly Clarkson, Evanescence, Feist, Wilco, Drake, Nickelback, Rihanna, J. Cole, Mastodon, Joe Jonas, Mary J. Blige, Rick Ross, Nas, Florence and the Machine, and "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery.
Here's a breakdown by genre of the ones to watch for (with release dates subject to change):
We've been hearing about Kelly Clarkson's Stronger (October 24) for more than a year now. The original "American Idol" winner brings the drama in and out of the studio, as each of her recent albums seems to come wrapped in some fresh controversy. Determined to get her vision out, Clarkson survived a series of leaks earlier this year and made a solid chart debut with her tell-off first single, "Mr. Know It All." With a bit of urban bounce, some country, pop and a dash of soul, Clarkson's fifth LP promises to be one of the season's highlights.
Rihanna has been releasing albums at a torrid pace, with one every year since 2005 except for 2008. Her follow-up to 2010's Loud is reportedly due later this year, and a new Calvin Harris-produced single, "We Found Love," is due to hit radio on October 11.
All-grown-up Joe Jonas will drop his solo debut, the dance-inflected Fast Life, on October 11, "X Factor" judge Nicole Scherzinger is expected to finally release her long-delayed solo album Killer Love on November 15, and new albums are also due from soul man Mayer Hawthorne (How Do You Do, October 11) and adorable indie duo She & Him (the holiday-themed A Very She & Him Christmas, October 25).
Black Eyed Peas leader will.i.am is also reportedly prepping a solo effort for November, and this year's "Idol" winner, country teen Scotty McCreery, will unleash his debut, Clear as Day (October 4), as will runner-up Lauren Alaina. In addition, former Fall Out Boy singer Patrick Stump will drop his solo debut, Soul Punk (October 18), and the end of the year may also see the release of the frequently pushed-back first album from ex-FOB bassist/lyricist Pete Wentz's new dance act, Black Cards.
The next few months will see big albums from the Bawse and the Apprentice, as Rick Ross returns with God Forgives, I Don't in November, his fifth album and follow-up to hit Teflon Don. Before that, Drake will fire it up for the second time with Take Care (October 24), which features guest spots from Ross, Weezy and the Weeknd and songs including the drunk-dial tale "Marvin's Room" and "Headlines."
Young Jeezy's long-gestating Thug Motivation 103 is due in October, reportedly complete with more positive messages on tunes like "Shake Life" and "Never Be the Same." Also look for new music from Common, Wale, Nas and Yelawolf.
Seventeen years after the breakthrough original, Mary J. Blige will offer My Life II (November 21), with production by Kanye West and Swizz Beatz and a cameo verse from her rap alter ego, Brooklyn, on the tune "Midnight Drive."
Also, R&B vet Monica plans a comeback with New Life and English singer Taio Cruz is planning to be back in November with an as-yet-untitled second collection of sure-to-be smashes produced by the likes of Dr. Luke, David Guetta and Swedish House Mafia. Look for new music from Jason Derülo and hook mistress Dev as well.
Rock and More
Former pop-punk icons Blink-182 have already kicked off the season for guitar slingers with their reunion disc, Neighborhoods, but that's just the appetizer to Coldplay's Mylo Xyloto, which, in addition to a cryptic title, will feature a cameo from Rihanna.
Evanescence will storm back with a self-titled album of gothic rockers, their first in five years, including the first single "What You Want." One of the most unusual discs on tap is an album-length collaboration between punk icon Lou Reed and Metallica entitled Lulu (November 1), which is sure to crunch way more bones than Canadian singer Feist's more sedate Metals.
Flame-haired Florence Welch has promised that the second album from her band, Florence + the Machine, will be tougher and feature more heavy guitars and beats, which is guaranteed on the new one from Nickelback, Here and Now (November 11).
If that's not enough for you, country superstar Miranda Lambert is setting up her fourth album, Four the Record (November 1), Icelandic conundrum Björk will drop Biophilia (October 11) and French house duo Justice will spin out Audio, Video, Disco (October 25).
What fall albums are you most excited about? Let us know in comments below!