Mariah! Mary! Madonna! Here they come — all at once, each one swooping in with new beats during the next few months. Can Mariah eclipse her super-sized comeback opus? Can Mary do better than ÒJust FineÓ? And can Justin Timberlake help Madonna appeal to his generation of music-worshiping minors?}
Mary J. Blige
Due: Dec. 18
Mary J. Blige is just so damn happy. Too happy? Maybe. After sheÕs endured more pain than road kill, weÕre elated to hear the fierce croonerÕs ÒJust Fine,Ó as she overemphasizes on the unmelodious lead single to ÒGrowing Pains,Ó her eighth studio album. On it, she copes with success and tackles deadbeat men on ÒNowhere Fast.Ó Which is a plus, Õcause this newfound light just doesnÕt translate to the overly-repetitive first singleÕs chorus. If Blige wants her big ÒBreakthroughÓ sequel to shine like her down-and-out ditties, just fine ainÕt gonna cut it.
Due: Early 2008
Oh, Mariah. Call her crazy. Or loopy. Or fat. Or fake. DonÕt deny, though, that she made a sonic splash with ÒThe Emancipation of Mimi.Ó The Queen of Vocal Pyrotechnics weathered some storm clouds — and that infamous tsunami ÒGlitterÓ — to overwhelming response: ÒWe Belong TogetherÓ cozied into the No. 1 spot on BillboardÕs Hot 100 for 14 consecutive weeks, the disc was the No. 1 selling album of 2005 and, to boot, she added two Grammys to her award mantel. Now, CareyÕs calling its follow-up ÒMimiÓ: Part Two. Though this is the longest MC has made us wait (single, where are you?), itÕs not like the multi-octave girly-girlÕs been chasing butterflies, gazing at rainbows — or pushing around an ice cream cart (TRL, anyone?). SheÕs helping people smell yummy with her marshmallow-y perfume, ÒM.Ó HereÕs hoping her 11th album is just as sweet.
Due: Early 2008
Whoa — Madge and R&B? The ever-evolving diva enlists firepower producer Pharrell Williams for the follow-up to her 2005 ceaseless bump-and-grind ÒConfessions on a Dance Floor,Ó scoring her a sixth Grammy award. No single has been announced for her 11th studio album — rumored to be called ÒConnextionÓ — but ÒCandy Shop,Ó a Williams co-written and co-produced number, already has leaked to the Internet. Justin Timberlake and beatmaker Timbaland, whoÕs comparing the disc to TimberlakeÕs crunk electro-sonic ÒFutureSex/LoveSounds,Ó also are on board for the forthcoming project. Timbaland told MTV that one track, ÒLa, La,Ó would somewhat mimic MadgeÕs be-boppinÕ bubblegum pop days. Minus the booby cones.