Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Battle of the music superstars

It's going to be an exciting time for music lovers, as we embrace ourselves for a slew of hot release in the coming months. Here's a sneak preview of what to expect...

August 14
Christina Aguilera: Back To Basics

After being the genie in the bottle and being stripped, Christina is back with her third studio album. She's been gone for a long time, four years to be exact, yet during that time, no other vocal powerhouse starlet has risen to occupy her place.

To mark her return, Christina has decided to ditch her dirrty old look and go back to basics. She's adopted a clean cut look, evoking memories of a past era. Her music reflects this change too. It's said to be a throwback to the old jazz sounds, definitely a departure from her past albums, which took on a more pop and hip-hop feel.

First single, Ain't No Other Man, is already heating up the charts, but I have not heard it yet. Back To Basics will be a double album, whetting the appetites of fans and providing her much more material to tour with. Hopefully there will be more hit singles from there too.

August 22
OutKast: Idlewind

This long-delayed album is the soundtrack to the movie of the same name, starring both the OutKast boys. This album has been delayed several times, from late last year to finally August this year.

Expectations are high for this one. For all the delays, it had better be good! Secondly, this is their first album after their Grammy-winning Speakerboxxx/The Love Below album, which won the top gong in 2004.

OutKast have built a solid reputation as being one of the most inventive and genre-busting acts around, and we can expect more of the same with this album.

September 4
Beyonce Knowles: B-Day

After selling 12 million copies worldwide of her debut album, Dangerously In Love, Beyonce is facing a big test this time. Music fans all over are looking to see if she will be in a sophomore slump, a curse that has plagued many artistes such as Hootie and the Blowfish, Jewel and Avril Lavigne. Granted, Beyonce is not really a new artiste, but still, it's her second solo album.

Judging by her first single, Deja Vu, it seems that Beyonce has not lost her touch for catchy melodies that showcase her power vocals. Like her first solo single, Crazy In Love, this one features boyfriend Jay-Z as well. It's a case of deja vu here.

In case you were wondering, the album is called B-Day because 4 September is Beyonce's birthday, and also it means Beyonce Day. A little cheesy, but I guess it's her idea of a gift to her fans, and also for them to celebrate this special day with her.

September 12
Justin Timberlake: FutureSex/LoveSounds

Like Beyonce, this is Justin's big test as well, as it is his sophomore album following his hugely successful debut album, Justified, fours years ago. The similarities with Beyonce are numerous: both were previously from wildly popular singing groups, both have made a successful transition to a solo career, both have managed to find commercial and critical acclaim for their debut album, and both are touted as the ones to ascend to pop superstardom.

With this album, Justin is looking towards a more mature sound, turning to hip-hop maestro Timbaland and Red Hot Chili Peppers producer Rick Rubin to churn out the beats and hits. First single, Sexy Back, is a trademark Timbaland tune, with its heavy beats and synth vocals reminiscent of another Timbaland-produced tune, Promiscuous by Nelly Furtado.

It's a daring song and it pushes the boundaries of pop once more. Justin seems keen to prove his maturity, even muttering "motherf***er" in the song. It's bye bye bye to the *NSYNC audience.

September 26
Janet Jackson: 20 Years Old

What's the thing with cheesy titles, you might ask. In Janet's case, 20 Years Old refers to the 20th anniversary of her breakthrough solo album, Control. That was the album that really launched her career and Janet's paying tribute to it. It's going to have some nasty references to the album, as Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis are helming the boards once again, as they did on every Janet album since Control.

Newcomer Jermaine Dupri adds a more contemporary style to the album, and it is evidenced by the first single, Call On Me, a duet with Nelly. It's definitely in tune with the R&B landscape today and it's a laid-back, summer song.

Both Janet and Justin hope to put the Superbowl incident behind them and show the world that there is more to them than that incident. It's time for their music to take centrestage once again and I'm really looking forward to both their albums.

So who will emerge victorious in the battle for chart supremacy? Here's a lowdown on the five superstars:

Sales of previous album worldwide
- Christina: 12 million (Stripped)
- OutKast: 11 million (Speakerboxxx/The Love Below)
- Beyonce: 12 million (Dangerously In Love)
- Justin: 7 million (Justified)
- Janet: 3 million (Damita Jo)

Career album sales worldwide
- Christina: 37 million
- OutKast: 20 million
- Beyonce: 50 million
- Justin: 34 million
- Janet: 77 million

Number of career Billboard 200 #1 albums
- Christina: 1
(Christina Aguilera)
- OutKast: 1
(Speakerboxxx/The Love Below)
- Beyonce: 3
(Survivor, #1's, Dangerously In Love)
- Justin: 2
(No Strings Attached, Celebrity)
- Janet: 5
(Control, Rhythm Nation 1814, janet., The Velvet Rope, All For You)

Number of career Billboard Hot 100 #1 hits
- Christina: 4
(Genie In A Bottle, What A Girl Wants, Come On Over Baby (All I Want Is You), Lady Marmalade)
- OutKast: 3
(Ms. Jackson, Hey Ya!, The Way You Move)
- Beyonce: 7
(Bills, Bills, Bills, Say My Name, Independent Women Part I, Bootylicious, Crazy In Love, Baby Boy, Check On It)
- Justin: 1
(It's Gonna Be Me)
- Janet: 10
(When I Think Of You, Miss You Much, Escapade, Black Cat, Love Will Never Do (Without You), That's The Way Love Goes, Again, Together Again, Doesn't Really Matter, All For You)

Grammy Awards wins
- Christina: 3
- OutKast: 6
- Beyonce: 9
- Justin: 2
- Janet: 5

Of course, these are only statistics and they do not provide the whole picture. It does not tell us who will end up with the biggest album or the most hit singles. But that's the fun isn't it? Here are my predictions...

I'm betting that all five artistes will hit number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart. All of them will have at least two Billboard Hot 100 top ten singles, but Justin will not hit #1. All of them will get nominated for at least three Grammy Awards in 2007, with OutKast having the most nominations among them. Beyonce will end up with the biggest selling album among them.

Not very optimistic for Janet, but I'm sure now that she has decided to tour in support of the album, 20 Years Old will do reasonably well. In the end of it all, the music lover is the winner and I really hope that all these albums will not disappoint.


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