For the next four months, many of pop's juiciest plot lines will feature female singers struggling back from the brink. They include Whitney Houston, Christina Aguilera and TLC, all of whom have spent far more time of late on the gossip pages than on the charts.
Aguilera, who has gone missing for a long time, must overcome the waning of the teen movement by releasing her first album of all-new pop music since that trend began.
TLC has to face the public for the first time as a twosome, after losing the group's beloved Lisa (Left Eye) Lopes, who died in a car accident in June but whose final work appears on the coming album.
And those aren't the only cliff-hangers set for the fall. An unusually large number of stars who broke through with their debut albums have to try to beat the common sophomore jinx with their follow-ups.
These include India.Arie, Disturbed, Sum 41, Three Doors Down, Lifehouse, Coldplay, David Gray, O-Town, Nine Days, Blu Cantrell, Crazytown, Uncle Kracker and Craig David.
This fall also will feature some big names coming back with likely hits, including Faith Hill, Monica, Jay-Z, Eve, DMX, Santana, Matchbox 20, LL Cool J, Nas and Bon Jovi.
Then there are those prestige artists who will float down from their ivory towers with fresh manna for the discriminating -- Joni Mitchell, Peter Gabriel, Rhett Miller, Beck and the Roots among them.
For a complete rundown of the fall's twists and turns, read on -- but with one caveat: Record labels are notorious for changing release dates.
Many of the albums listed don't even have set titles yet. So expect lots of fiddling before these sounds hit stores.
Disturbed Believe: The second major-label album from the most convincing group in the recent metal wave.
Various artists Down the Old Plank Road: The Nashville Sessions: Ireland's Chieftains meet the cream of country bluegrass players.
Kenny G Paradise: New music from the suburbs' favorite sax man.
Bone Thugs-N-Harmony: The latest from this fast-flowing rap outfit.
Xzibit Man vs. Machine: A concept album from the respected L.A. rapper.
India.Arie Voyage to India: The follow-up to her platinum Acoustic Soul debut.