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A Date With Diva

A Date With Diva


With everyone on a budget, weeds through the onslaught of fall releases from divas including Whitney, Mariah, Shakira, and Christina to determine which ones are worth getting excited about.

You're a CLOS (Classy Lady of Society), but let's face it, like everyone else, you're on a budget. You're standing in line with everyone else for $5 foot-longs at Subway, but you do it wearing Prada sunglasses, second-hand vintage T-shirts, and jeans that cost half your monthly rent.

While you've got budgeting down to a science, when it comes to the music you buy, chances are you're going to need a little help. A gay is not a gay without a diva in his heart and a bounce in his step, and the last thing you need is to fill your iPod with tunes that promise to elevate and inspire, but instead only deliver a distracted pat on the back. This fall will see the return of some high-ranking women of music, but let's see who's still got it in 'em to wear that ego-encrusted tiara.

First and foremost, Whitney Houston's crazy ass is back to show you that, no matter what you've heard, she's still got it in her to always love you. I Look to You will be Whitney's seventh studio album and her first release since 2002's mediocre Just Whitney . With any luck, this new album will truly be Houston's return to a (flattering) place in the spotlight and a public regard that outshines the general bat-shit craziness and allegations of drug use and spousal abuse that have dogged her in recent years. Helping to orchestrate Whitney's return to form is a staggering ensemble of producers and collaborators enlisted for the task of creating an album that fits what's left of her rusty pipes.

In true Whitney style, the initial single, "I Didn't Know My Own Strength," is a Diane Warren-penned power ballad that'll do equally well as a sappy radio staple as it will when remixed for the dance floor, with rumored remix treatments coming from Peter Rauhofer, Junior Vasquez, and a bootleg from Offer Nissim.

Remaining collaborators include Alicia Keys, R. Kelly, Swizz Beats, David Foster, Akon, Stargate, Johnta Austin, and of course, Clive Davis. Listening parties in London, New York City, and Los Angeles have garnered rave reviews and standing ovations from guests, so from the sound of things, they did something right. Additionally, the album's release date was bumped forward a day, from September 1 to August 31, to make the album eligible for Grammy nominations in 2010. Apparently the powers that be are ready for this diva to not only make a comeback, but completely dominate.

Meanwhile, Mariah Carey's forthcoming ego trip, Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel , is currently scheduled for release on September 15. The album was pushed back from its original August 25 release date (and is rumored to potentially be bumped yet again) after the label decided not to compete with Whitney, particularly after the initial single "Obsessed" failed to even rub shoulders with the Billboard top 10.

But what did they expect?

Mariah kicked off an album that, based on the title, should be humble and personal with a diss track perpetuating the completely useless feud between her and Eminem. Go, M.C., go! Way to set the proper tone for your Memoirs .

Maybe with her next single, M.C. will croon about what it was like to breathe while ex-hubby and former Sony chairman Tommy Mottola was flopping on top of her like an inverted Nomi Malone in Showgirls . We'll see how this album goes down, but if E=MC2 and its lone hit followed by a stream of non-charting singles is any indication, there could be some serious similarities in the future between this angel's memoirs and those of a certain geisha.

And let's not even go into the stark juxtaposition on the cover art between the album's modest title and the triple step-and-repeat attack of Mrs. Nick Cannon framing her curves with a white T-shirt dress that looks homemade. Let's bring back the class, lady.

Shakira's website announced that her new album, She Wolf, would be out October 5 and would be "very electronic," as evidenced by the debut single of the same name. The album, Shakira says, is "dance-oriented. Club-oriented. I want people to have fun with it. Forget about the troubles. Forget about the crisis. Forget everything for a minute -- at least while they listen to the music."

Shakira seems to be following pop's recent trend of acknowledging, for a fun change, the electronic sound that dominates the music of Europe and much of the rest of the world, and for once deciding that despite the gays' obsession with it since, well, forever, maybe it is OK to go mainstream with it. And the result is decidedly steamy.

The title track features the kind of organic electronic production that made Basement Jaxx popular -- synth gurgles and a relentless beat blended with bare guitar strums and ecstatic violins -- with an arpeggio chorus similar to the trademark melodies of trance music. It took Shakira only 10 minutes to write the music and lyrics. "'She Wolf' came to me very mysteriously. The image of the she wolf just came to my head, and when I least expected it I was howling and panting."

Apparently that last part stuck, as you can hear her doing just that throughout the track.

The video for "She Wolf" shows the songstress sneaking out of bed, donning an asymmetrical leotard, and then emerging from what looks like a glitter-drenched birth canal into a club setting, while the cutaways have her dancing in an enormous cage in a flesh-colored one-piece.

The she wolf is out indeed.

Madonna's got a new album out September 29, and everyone's losing their mind over the prospect. But don't freak out yet -- it's just the fourth installment of her greatest hits series (with the previous installments The Immaculate Collection , Something to Remember , and GHV2 ), this time spanning the entirety of her career (plus two new tracks), and being proclaimed as "The Ultimate Greatest Hits Collection: 34 Songs That Changed the World."

This will be Madonna's final release for Warner Bros. Records, and a pretty easy way to close out her record deal. Looks like someone just wants out. Thus far the harbingers include the leaked demo "Revolver" (also known as "Die Happy"), featuring Lil' Wayne, and the official release of the first single "Celebration," a Paul Oakenfold-produced pop dance track that achieves total hookiness without any substance whatsoever. It's like "Holiday" without the timelessness or innocence. The song should do well in clubs, but to a public that finally seems to be paying attention to the content of music, this track will likely be met with some hostility.

A second Oakenfold-produced track, "Broken (I'm Sorry)," was also completed but is currently rumored to not be included on the album. The remaining content is, of course, what we've already heard a billion times, but remastered, so we've got an excuse to buy it all again. The album will be released in single- and double-disc editions, plus an accompanying DVD with several videos that have never before been made available on the format.

Christina Aguilera has announced a fall release for her new album Light & Darkness , described by producer DJ Premier as "an all pop album, but she wants me to keep the tone like what we did before [the Back to Basics album]." Despite what sounds like a desire to return to something tried and true, we can look forward to a very different Christina than we've heard before.

Confirmed collaborators on this album include indie Australian songbird Sia, the electronic pop bands Goldfrapp and Ladytron, and the ever-dependable Neptunes, along with Dr. Dre protege Focus. Perez Hilton tweeted that Christina was working with the American punk-dance band Le Tigre, known for their lyrical content focused on feminism and LGBT issues, so with any luck, we'll have a whole new gay pride power ballad to honor with a GLAAD award.

Additional mentionables are: Mary J. Blige's Stronger album, due out November 24; Monica's much-delayed Still Standing album, now scheduled for November to coincide with her BET reality show; and Imogen Heap's new album, which will be out August 25 and will hopefully be capitalizing on her newfound mainstream fan base.

There's also the sophomore album Breakthrough by MySpace-turned-Top 40 staple Colbie Caillat, which also drops August 25, and the new album from Jennifer Lopez, now scheduled for release in January 2010 despite the leaked song "Hooked on You." And Paula Abdul is reportedly back in the studio working on a new album, but we'll see how things pan out following the demise of her run on Idol .

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Jamie Nicholes