2011 is certainly shaping up to be a cracking year for music. Britney Spears, Beyonce and Avril Lavigne are set to return with new material, while stadium heavyweights such as Coldplay, U2, Arctic Monkeys and R.E.M are putting the finishing touches to their latest LPs.

And there’s also the small matter of Lady Gaga’s new album, as she finally gets ready to unleash the follow-up to 2009’s The Fame Monster.

Lady Gaga
Title: Born This Way
Release date: Spring 2011 (rumoured)

It’s hard to believe that Born This Way will only be Lady Gaga’s second full-length studio album, such is her universal popularity – and it can only be the enduring success of The Fame Monster which has stopped her from releasing the follow-up, which was reportedly finished in early 2010. This time she’s promising something much deeper than a wig or lipstick or an outfit”, but rest assured, the same confidence prevails: she’s already labelling it the greatest album of the decade.

Title: Songs Of Ascent
Release date: Spring 2011 (rumoured)

If 2011 is set to be the year that stadium rock returns to the fore, then no release will be bigger than U2’s Songs Of Ascent.
Scheduled for release early in the year, and certainly before the band embark on their North American tour in May, the Irish rockers have already previewed new material in their live shows including the mellow ballad North Star and the cheekily-titled Glastonbury, suggesting that this year they’ll finally mark their debut at Worthy Farm.

Britney Spears
Title: TBA
Release date: March 2011

After a three-year absence, Britney’s back – and with stiff competition from newcomers such as Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, she’ll be desperate to prove she’s still top of the pile.
Details of her seventh studio album have been kept tightly under wraps so far (although Hold It Against Me is rumoured to be the lead single), but with executive producer Dr. Luke promising a harder and grimier sound, don’t rule out a drastic change from the highly-polished pop sheen of 2008’s Circus.

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA

Beyonce is set to return with what long-term collaborator Sean Garret says will be her biggest album ever.
After the singer revealed that she’d killed off Sasha Fierce, the alter ego who inspired 2008’s I Am Sasha Fierce, perhaps she’ll embrace a more down-to-earth direction that’s shorn of the outrageous outfits and glitzy stage persona of her last effort.

Arctic Monkeys
Title: TBA
Release date: Early 2011 (rumoured)
With a prolific work-rate that’s produced three albums in just four years, it’s no surprise to see the Arctic Monkeys heading a list of next year’s most hotly-anticipated albums.
The band wanted Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme to return on production duties but, with or without him, the smart money is on them honing the more bombastic sound of 2009’s ‘Humbug’.

Title: Collapse Into Now
Release date: February 2011

After adopting a more back-to-basics approach on 2008’s Accelerate, R.E.M. will be expanding their horizons with bassist Mike Mills suggesting that the new record will be more expansive and have more variety. With guest appearances from Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder and legendary punk poet Patti Smith, expect this to be one of the slow-burn successes of the year.

Avril Lavigne
Title: Goodbye Lullaby
Release date: March 2011

Following her divorce from Sum 41 singer Deryck Whibley earlier this year, there’s a chance we may see a more personal side to Avril Lavigne on Goodbye Lullaby; certainly the track Black Star – originally used to promote her new perfume range and then expanded for the new album – was a twinkling, softer affair than the feisty post-punk she’s come to be associated with. With four years passing since her last album, this could be the introduction of a more mature and grown-up Avril.

Title: TBA
Released: TBA

Whether their Yuletide single Christmas Lights is any indication of what to expect from their fifth album is unclear, but rumour suggests that Coldplay will be returning to an acoustic sound more reminiscent of their debut Parachutes rather than the more esoteric aesthetic of 2008’s Viva la Vida. They’ll be working with renowned producer Brian Eno again, too, and hoping to further cement their status as one of the UK’s best-loved guitar bands.

Title: TBA
Release date: TBA

With Elbow finally getting the recognition they’ve long deserved after winning the Mercury Music Prize for 2008’s The Seldom Seen Kid, they’d have been forgiven for sticking to the same formula for their next album. However, singer Guy Garvey has pledged changing for the new record, describing it as a different beast to its predecessor as his band look to capitalise on their late-blooming success and establish themselves as a leading UK act
by Ben Hewitt in Behind The Music