(Emmylou Harris)


(Emmylou Harris)

In a 30-year career filled with countless albums and collaborations, country-rock harmonizer Harris has written only two of her own albums. Her second, "Red Dirt Girl," glides between Harris's Americana roots, appreciation of surreal-yet-subtle production and spare folk balladry. Her stellar voice takes on new depth when tied to songs this personal. No one sings it like Emmylou. (Sept.)

(Boyz II Men, 98[degree sign], Christina Aguilera, Backstreet Boys) The revenge of teen idols who aren't sponsored by McDonald's, yet their respective albums--"Nathan Michael Shawn Wanya," "Revelation," "Mi Reflejo" and the yet-to-be-titled Backstreet Boys release--will likely prove the musical equivalent to Happy Meals (kid tested/parent approved). Spicy sauce: Miss A and 98[ordinal indicator, masculine] add South-of-the-Border flavor via songs en espanol. Roll your eyes, but in no time you'll be mindlessly ingesting these tunes like cold fries off the car seat. (Sept., Nov.)

(Madonna) She's back, dressed like a pimp daddy and stuffing a stripper's bikini full of cash money in her new video single, "Music" (her new album's title track). Techno-savvy and dance-floor friendly, "Music's" packed with repetitive choruses that refuse to be ignored. A master pilferer, Madonna continues to stay just ahead of the curve and dodge the dreaded "has-been" factor. (Sept.)

(Wallflowers) "Breach," the band's new album of salt-of-the-earth rock and roll, won't win Jakob Dylan any prizes for ingenuity, nor any favorable comparisons to his legendary dad. But he's found a sweet spot in the middle of the road, so why move? (Oct.)

(Radiohead) "Kid A" is the year's most highly anticipated underground pop album. Enigmatic, arty and brooding enough to be deemed 2000's answer to "The Wall," it's a sure winner for the "Lie in Bed, Stare at the Ceiling, Contemplate Life" album award. (Oct.)

(Willie Nelson, Merle Haggard, Johnny Cash) Willie croons blues standards on "Milk Cow Blues" (guests include B. B. King), Merle almost gets happy on the unplugged "If I Could Only Fly" and Johnny rasps renditions of Tom Petty, Neil Diamond and Nick Cave tunes on his yet-untitled collection of spare ballads. …

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