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A diva delayed and follow-ups galore

Carey leads pack of record releases

Kid Cudi's debut, 'Man on the Moon: The End of Day,' lands on Tuesday. Kid Cudi's debut, "Man on the Moon: The End of Day," lands on Tuesday. (Ennio Leanza/Keystone via AP)
By James Reed
Globe Staff / September 13, 2009

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The big story going into the fall’s schedule of album releases was the showdown between divas Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey. But Carey pushed back her record’s release date, leaving Houston to bask alone in the spotlight of her celebrated comeback. It worked: Houston’s “I Look to You’’ debuted at No. 1 on the charts.

Instead, the fall is quietly shaping up to be the season of second takes, of getting to know artists who made a splash last year but now must prove they have staying power. British songbird Leona Lewis, whose “Bleeding Love’’ was last year’s biggest-selling single, surely hopes lightning will strike twice with her sophomore release. The same goes for R&B wunderkind Sean Kingston, who needs to show he wasn’t just a fluke with a massive hit (“Beautiful Girls’’).

The next few months will be exciting for hip-hop releases, too. Not since Lil’ Wayne’s “Tha Carter III’’ has a rap album been as hotly anticipated as Internet sensation Kid Cudi’s “Man on the Moon: The End of Day.’’

It’s also a season of surprises. Bob Dylan, who’s never exactly been clear-cut in his religious beliefs, will release a Christmas album. Nelly Furtado leaves the safe confines of dance-floor R&B for her first album entirely in Spanish, while Colombian pop star Shakira explores her club diva aspirations with “She Wolf.’’ Pearl Jam is stretching out artistically, too, reportedly delving more into pop and new-wave sensibilities on “Backspacer.’’

Here are some of the prominent releases, from commercial clout to artistic importance.

SEPTEMBER 15

Kid Cudi, “Man on the Moon: The End of Day’’ (Motown). Riding a wave of hype with no official album on the market, Cleveland-based rapper Kid Cudi is finally putting out his debut that, upon first listen, skews more pop than hip-hop.

Gary Go, “Gary Go’’ (Decca). Ready for the second coming of Coldplay? Well, get ready, because it’s headed our way in the form of this bespectacled British pop singer, who finally leaps across the Atlantic with the release of his self-titled debut here.

Nelly Furtado, “Mi Plan’’ (Universal Latino). Furtado, who’s of Portuguese descent, dips her toe into Latin music with her first Spanish-language pop record, featuring cameos by Mexican singer-songwriter Julieta Venegas, Spanish rapper La Mala Rodriguez, and Cuban soul singer Alex Cuba.

Mark Knopfler, “Get Lucky’’ (Warner Bros.). The onetime Dire Straits guitarist and lead singer is back with his first new album in two years. “Border Reiver,’’ the bucolic first single, suggests Knopfler is tapping a Celtic vibe.

Pete Yorn & Scarlett Johansson, “Break Up’’ (Rhino/WEA). Taking the reins from She & Him (last year’s seemingly odd couple of M. Ward and Zooey Deschanel), alt-rocker Yorn and actress Johansson have made an exuberant pop record supposedly inspired by Serge Gainsbourg’s collaborations with Brigitte Bardot.

SEPTEMBER 22

Pearl Jam, “Backspacer’’ (self-released). They’ve come a long way from their grunge and alt-rock roots, as evidenced by guitarist Mike McCready’s comments that Pearl Jam’s ninth studio album has traces of pop and new wave.

Mika, “The Boy Who Knew Too Much’’ (Casablanca). Judging from the over-the-top first single, “We Are Golden,’’ the ostentatious British pop star still has a penchant for all that glitters in the name of Freddie Mercury.

Sean Kingston, “Tomorrow’’ (Epic). Now that we all know he loves “Beautiful Girls,’’ it’s time to see what this 19-year-old R&B singer is made of. Early singles indicate he’s got his sights squarely on the dance floor.

David Gray, “Draw the Line’’ (Downtown). Eight years after he topped the charts with adult-pop hits like “Babylon,’’ the Welsh singer-songwriter returns with another heaping of comfort food masquerading as music.

Rufus Wainwright, “Milwaukee at Last!!!’’ (Decca). The best way to experience Rufus is in concert, and this double-disc live album captures him in all his campy glory from the 2007 tour for “Release the Stars.’’

SEPTEMBER 29

Mariah Carey, “Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel’’ (Island). If Whitney’s recent success is any indication, there’s still plenty of love for divas with big voices and even bigger production teams.

Barbra Streisand, “Love Is the Answer’’ (Sony). Speaking of divas, La Streisand is back with her first jazz album, which isn’t too surprising considering the repertoire she sang back in those early club days at the Bon Soir.

Alice in Chains, “Black Gives Way to Blue’’ (Virgin). Three words: Elton John cameo.

The Avett Brothers, “I and Love and You’’ (Sony). Four words: We love this album.

Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, “Through the Devil Softly’’ (Nettwerk). The former Mazzy Star siren finally follows up 2001’s overlooked “Bavarian Fruit Bread,’’ and - surprise, surprise - her heart is still heavy on this album full of gauzy gems.

Miranda Lambert, “Revolution’’ (Sony). The country firebrand forewarned men with cheating hearts on her 2007 breakthrough, “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,’’ and she’s no less fierce on this follow-up.

Julian Casablancas, “Phrazes for the Young’’ (RCA). While the Strokes are on hiatus (fingers crossed), three of its members have released albums with their side projects. Now lead singer Casablancas is issuing his solo debut.

Lynyrd Skynyrd, “God + Guns’’ (Roadrunner). Is there anything more near and dear to the hearts of archetypal Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd and their fans?

Paramore, “Brand New Eyes’’ (Fueled by Ramen). Pop goes punk on this Tennessee-bred quintet’s third release, which keeps the emphasis where it belongs: on frontwoman Hayley Williams’s sneering, sassy side.

Ghostface Killah, “Ghostdini, the Wizard of Poetry’’ (Def Jam). The acclaimed rapper and Wu-Tang Clan member explores his tender (or maybe just sexual) side on this new album he claims is more R&B-oriented.

OCTOBER 6

Backstreet Boys, “This Is Us’’ (Jive). Well, not really, since original member Kevin Richardson is no longer in this boy band that ruled ’90s Top 40 radio.

Rosanne Cash, “The List’’ (Manhattan) And by list, Cash means a roundup of songs that her father, the late, great Man in Black, once told her she should know to be “truly educated’’ in country music.

Kiss, “Sonic Boom’’ (self-released). Available exclusively at Wal-Mart, Sam’s Club, and www.walmart.com, the latest from schlock-rock gods Kiss is a three-disc package that includes an album of rerecorded hits and a DVD of a concert in Argentina.

OCTOBER 13

Shakira, “She Wolf’’ (Sony). If we spend one more day obsessing over this album’s deliciously erotic title track (and its PG-13 video), we’ll need to call animal control.

R. Kelly, “Untitled’’ (Jive). Not much is known about the R&B loverman’s next album, but the Amazon description probably says it all: “Explicit Lyrics.’’

Bob Dylan, “Christmas in the Heart’’ (Sony). Dylan never fails to surprise, and surely fans are in for something unexpected when they hear his first Christmas album.

The Flaming Lips, “Embryonic’’ (Warner Bros.). Frontman Wayne Coyne recently said this new double album allows the band to stretch out, as if that’s a new concept for the Flaming Lips.

OCTOBER 20

Tim McGraw, “Southern Voice’’ (Curb). Who could not love a mainstream country album whose first single is called “It’s a Business Doing Pleasure With You’’?

Sufjan Stevens, “The BQE’’ (Asthmatic Kitty). In late 2007, indie-folk darling Stevens staged an ambitious musical and cinematic exploration of New York’s Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. Here, now, is the soundtrack for everyone who missed the performances.

Flight of the Conchords, “I Told You I Was Freaky’’ (Sub Pop). The second studio album from New Zealand’s premier folk-parody duo (cough, cough) will feature plenty of songs with names that tell the full story. “Sugalumps’’ and “You Don’t Have to Be a Prostitute’’ should make nice additions to holiday CD mixes.

OCTOBER 27

Creed, “Full Circle’’ (Wind-Up). File under “Gluttons for Punishment.’’

Devendra Banhart, “What Will We Be’’ (Warner Bros.). The newly shaven freak-folk messiah has made the leap to a major label, but that probably won’t make this album any less of a strange beast.

Sting, “If on a Winter’s Night. . .’’ (Decca). Giving Dylan some competition for stocking stuffers, Sting is set to realize a holiday album that’s ostensibly more about the winter season, flush with British folk ballads and carols.

Weezer, “Raditude’’ (Interscope). Uh-oh. Consider this your official bad-song-titles alert: The seventh studio release from these indie-rock titans includes “I’m Your Daddy,’’ “In the Mall,’’ and “Can’t Stop Partying.’’ Hopefully the music is better than that.

NOVEMBER 3

Carrie Underwood, “Play On’’ (Arista Nashville) A little bit country, a little bit rock ’n’ roll, the “American Idol’’ winner steps up her game with even more crossover appeal on her third album; she’s reportedly collaborating with R&B hitmaker Ne-Yo.

NOVEMBER 17

Leona Lewis, “Echo’’ (J Records) After galvanizing radio last year with “Bleeding Love,’’ the British songbird with Mariah Carey’s pipes returns with her crucial sophomore album. Our money says she’ll hear an echo of “ch-ching.’’

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