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Can Justin get his mojo back? Will fans dig Outkast's way-back sound ...


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Beyoncé's working on striking platinum again, and Maroon 5 look to Prince for inspiration ...


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Can Nick and Jessica bring the focus back to their music? And can Evanescence do it without Ben Moody? ...


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Are the Black Eyed Peas as good in individual servings? And Fall Out Boy stay in our faces ...


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Kanye keeps it moving, Paris' singing career may begin and end, and the Chili Peppers plan to make it a double ...



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Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey
Will fans still be interested now that the "Newlyweds" are going their separate ways?

Simpson: The singer told us in late 2005 that working on "The Dukes of Hazzard" offered some direction on her upcoming album. "Living in the South for three months again felt really good," Simpson said. "It brought a lot of my personality back that I was missing. I retreated back to Patsy Cline, and tried to go back there a little bit." Inspired by her soundtrack collaboration with Willie Nelson on "These Boots Are Made for Walkin'," Simpson said the tentatively titled And the Band Played On (which was bumped from November to May) would also be inspired by Billie Holiday and Stevie Nicks and be her first swing as an executive producer. Oh, and there's some Corey Rooney- and Scott Storch-produced club bangers "for us girls to dance to in the club." Some tentative track titles include "Fired Up" and "Mr. Operator."

Prediction: Now that the tabloid frenzy is over, Jess needs to bring it to put the focus back on her music.

Lachey: Things will be a bit harder for Nick, whose music career post-98 Degrees has been, well, lukewarm. Lachey has promised the follow-up to his poor-selling SoulO album would definitely not be "the straight-ahead pop ballad thing that people have been used to hearing" from him, but we haven't heard much more about it since early 2005. He's got his big-screen debut, "The Hard Easy," in the can and has also flirted with getting back together with 98 Degrees for a reunion album. The untitled solo album is due in the spring.

Prediction: It will be hard for the ultimate nice guy to get out from under the shadow of his ex, but Lachey has popular sentiment on his side.

 My Chemical Romance
Will the pancake-makeup crew turn out again for their punk/goth saviors?

This New Jersey act blew up out of nowhere with their hook-laden punk/goth tunes and hits like "Helena." Their follow-up to Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge is one of the most eagerly anticipated discs of the year for the rock set, and when we talked to singer Gerard Way in September, he said the band had already written eight songs for the album. "And we love all of them. It's a reflection of the band maturing," he said. "The band knows what it does well, and it still does that, but we're taking a few risks. Some slower tempos, some heavier stuff. There's more of the arena-rock element that was hinted at with the last record."

Prediction: Teen angst is timeless. Unless these guys go all acoustic/sensitive on us, chances are they'll strike gold again.

T.I.
How long can a hot streak last?

T.I. is getting humble on his upcoming album, King (March 28). OK, humility isn't his thing, but it's hard to be shy when you've recorded more than 50 songs with the likes of Mannie Fresh and Swizz Beatz that could make the album.

Prediction: He knows how to bring 'em out, so we don't doubt he'll do it again.

Evanescence
With Ben Moody gone, can Amy Lee recapture the magic?

Very little is known about the long-gestating follow-up to the goth-metal group's 2003 breakthrough LP, Fallen. A spokesperson said singer Amy Lee has again teamed with producer Dave Fortman to work on the new songs, which will feature guitarist Terry Balsamo, who replaced the band's departed co-founder, Ben Moody.

Prediction: As long as there's disaffected youth with access to eyeliner and mesh, Evanescence should be in business, but it remains to be seen how Moody's departure will affect the band's signature sound.

 Pharrell Williams
Does the Neptunes' golden boy have enough hot beats left in the tank to make it solo?

Pharrell has spun plenty of hits for others (Nelly, Britney Spears, Gwen Stefani), but now it's his turn to stand in the spotlight. His solo debut, In My Mind, was pushed back to the new year (January 24) and it'll come loaded with an equal amount of R&B and hip-hop jams. Though the lyrics are at times abstract, Pharrell said they were inspired by the inequalities he saw growing up and they reflect his passion for bringing opportunity to the 'hood.

Prediction: The first single, "Can I Have It Like That," featuring Stefani on the hook, was slow to take off, but Skateboard P has a proven track record of making hot tunes.


NEXT: Are the Peas as good in individual servings? Plus Fall Out Boy, the Fugees, Busta and more ...
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  Justin Timberlake
"Cry Me a River" (live)

Justin Timberlake performs on TRL
(Jive)



  Beyoncé
"Naughty Girl"
Dangerously In Love
(Columbia)



  Christina Aguilera
"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas"
My Kind of Christmas
(RCA)



  The Game
"Put You on the Game"
The Documentary
(Universal)



  Maroon 5
"Harder to Breathe" (live)
Live Friday the 13th
(BMG)



  Jessica Simpson
"These Boots Are Made for Walkin' "
Music From The Motion Picture "The Dukes Of Hazzard"
(Sony)




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