SINGAPORE - Two of the biggest acts in the pop world - American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift and Puerto Rican rapper-singer Bad Bunny - released surprise albums recently.
Meanwhile, American singer Miley Cyrus ditches pop for rock in her new album Plastic Hearts, while Shawn Mendes taps the star power of fellow Canadian Justin Bieber on his new album Wonder.
Two alt-rock stalwarts also have new offerings - American band Smashing Pumpkins put out their 11th album and Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave goes solo on a live album.
Check out these new releases on music streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music.
The fairy tale-like music video for Taylor Swift's new song Willow features a love interest played by Korean-American dancer Taeok Lee.
It is not the first time they are working together - Lee was a dancer in Swift's 2013 tour for her fourth album Red.
Willow is the first single from Evermore,a surprise album which Swift dropped last week. It is her ninth album.
The singer directed the music video herself - a sequel to the one for Cardigan, a song from her previous album Folklore, another surprise album which was also released this year.
2. LATIN TRAP/REGGAETON/ALTERNATIVE ROCK
EL ULTIMO TOUR DEL MUNDO
It has been a prolific year for Puerto Rican artist Bad Bunny, who has put out his third album this year - El Ultimo Tour Del Mundo (Spanish for "The Last Tour of the World").
And there are no signs of fatigue from music fans. The surprise release is the first all-Spanish language album to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
The singer and rapper, who is also 2020's most played artist on streaming service Spotify, expands his musical palette, meshing his reggaeton and trap sounds with various shades of alternative rock.
"I already had intended to come with something very different, because that's what I am passionate about," he tells music streaming service Apple Music. "It's about taking risks and fulfilling my wishes and dreams."
Canadian pop star Shawn Mendes, 22, has marked a milestone with Wonder, his fourth consecutive release to top the Billboard album charts.
He joins king of rock 'n roll Elvis Presley and fellow Canadian star Justin Bieber as the only male acts to achieve the feat by the time they were 22.
Incidentally, the album's second single, Monster, is a duet between Mendes and Bieber.
The Grammy-nominated singer has also released a documentary accompanying the album, Shawn Mendes: In Wonder, on Netflix.
Miley Cyrus started working on her seventh album two years ago, but lost all the works when her Malibu house was destroyed in a wildfire in November 2018.
"Just when I thought the body of work was finished… it was all erased. Including most of the musics relevance," she wrote on her website.
She finally released the album, Plastic Hearts, in late November this year.
"Luckily my collaborators still had most of the music that was burned up in journals and computers filled with songs for the EP series I was working on at the time," she said.
A deviation from her previous pop offerings, Plastic Hearts is what she describes as her "rock record".
It features collaborations with rock veterans such as Joan Jett, Stevie Nicks and Billy Idol as well as English pop singer Dua Lipa.
5. ELECTRONIC/PSYCHEDELIC POP
WE WILL ALWAYS LOVE YOU
The third album by Australian electronic act The Avalanches comes four years after their sophomore record Wildflower and two decades after their debut, Since I Left You.
Like their previous releases, the songs on the new album are meticulously crafted from various samples taken from old vinyls such as folk veteran Vashti Bunyan's obscure 1970 debut Just Another Diamond Day.
The duo of Robbie Chater and Tony Di Blasi also recruited collaborators, who include trip-hop pioneer Tricky, Mick Jones from punk icons The Clash, Karen O from indie rock band The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Johnny Marr from indie trailblazers The Smiths.
ODIN'S RAVEN MAGIC
Icelandic post-rock giants Sigur Ros' new album is a live orchestral performance that premiered in 2002.
It is only early this month (December) that the band released the concert as an album. The version in Odin's Raven Magic is taken from a 2004 performance in Paris.
The music and the album title are based on a 14th-century Icelandic poem, in which ominous signs foreshadowing the end of the world appear as the gods in Valhalla, a hall in Norse mythology ruled by the god Odin, are feasting in a banquet.
The work is a collaboration with other Icelandic artists including electronic musician Hilmar Orn Hilmarsson and musician-composer Maria Huld Markan Sigfusdottir.
American rapper Rico Nasty has finally released her first album, six years after she made her recording debut in 2014 with a mixtape.
"I feel like this album proved to me that no matter what I'm going through, I can still make powerful music," she says. "All of these songs that I ever made were always about power, always about making you feel powerful."
The hard-hitting album features collaborations with other rappers such as Gucci Mane and Don Toliver, who both appear on the track Don't Like Me.
8. ALTERNATIVE ROCK
The Smashing Pumpkins
Cyr is the 11th album from Grammy-winning American alternative rock elders Smashing Pumpkins.
Like their previous record, Shiny And Oh So Bright, Vol. 1 / LP: No Past. No Future. No Sun. (2018), Cyr features three musicians from the band's iconic 1990s line-up - frontman Billy Corgan, guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin. Guitarist Jeff Schroeder joined the band in 2007.
Corgan also wrote a five-part animated series titled In Ashes, which accompanies the album and serves as music videos.
9. IDIOT PRAYER: NICK CAVE ALONE AT ALEXANDRA PALACE
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds
This live album that accompanies a concert film of the same name features Australian singer-songwriter Nick Cave playing a solo set in London.
The film was originally released as a one-time ticketed online stream in July, but was later aired in theatres and put out as a live album last month (November).
Filmed in one take by cinematographer Robbie Ryan, the performance was meant to take the place of the band's live shows, which were cancelled due to the pandemic.
Cave plays stripped-down versions of songs from his band's past albums, as well as new song Euthanasia.
10. ALTERNATIVE HIP-HOP
MAN ON THE MOON III: THE CHOSEN
The seventh studio album by American rapper Kid Cudi is also the last in his Man On The Moon trilogy.
Like the previous two - Man On The Moon: The End Of Day (2009) and Man On The Moon II: The Legend Of Mr. Rager (2010) - the songs on the new album are broken up into four parts: Act I: Return 2 Madness, Act II: The Rager, The Menace, Act III: Heart of Rose Gold and Act IV: Powers.
The lyrics tell the story of how the rapper has to fight to save himself from his evil alter ego, Mr. Rager.