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Which Albums Will Put the Sizzle in Summer?

May 09, 1999|STEVE HOCHMAN

If you don't love Ricky Martin, get ready for a long summer.

The former Menudo member, whose English-language debut album, "Ricky Martin," will be released by Columbia Records on Tuesday, is the clear pick by radio programmers and music retailers to be the dominant pop music figure of the season. (See Record Rack.)

And it's not like they're going out on a limb.

Martin's performance was the sensation of the Grammy Awards telecast in February, and his "Livin' La Vida Loca" single, a track from the album, entered the charts at No. 1. Underscoring the interest in Martin, a recent in-store appearance at Tower Records on the Sunset Strip drew 10,000 fans.

"Top 40 and pop music in general has needed a solo male pop star for a long time," says Michael Steele, music director of L.A. pop station KIIS-FM (102.7), which will include Martin at its annual "Wango Tango" concert June 12 at Dodger Stadium. "It's all been either groups or angry rockers. But he appeals to a lot of demographics. There's not going to be anything bigger this summer than Ricky Martin."

So Martin looks like the "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace" of pop music in the next few months. But just as there are other movies expected to be hits, there are strong contenders coming in hip-hop, pop, R&B, alternative rock and country.

Here are the selections, by genre:

Rap--The consensus is Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott's second album, titled "Da Real World" and due June 15. "We're loving the single, 'She's a Bitch,' right now," says Dorsey Fuller, music director of KKBT-FM (92.3 the Beat). "My assistant has heard some more of the album and says it will be out of control."

Other contenders--Dr. Dre's "Chronic 2000," the tentative title for his first album since 1992's "The Chronic," with guest appearances by Eminem and Snoop Dogg (release date to be announced); Snoop Dogg's "No Limit Topp Dogg," due Tuesday and featuring Dre, the Dogg Pound and members of Master P's No Limit posse; a new album from Ma$e, due June 15 and including the song "Get Ready" featuring Blackstreet, which is getting radio play now (though the performer has announced he's quitting the pop life to follow God). Also look for albums from Wu-Tang members Genius, Inspector Dek and Raekwon.

Possible surprise hit--Young Bleed's "My Own" (due May 25).

R&B--The hot one: Mary J. Blige's "Mary" (due Aug. 23), with guest appearances from Lauryn Hill, Stevie Wonder and K-Ci.

Other contenders--A D'Angelo album due in August.

Possible surprise--Donell Jones' "Where I Wanna Be," due June 15 from LaFace.

Pop--After Ricky Martin, the big name on the horizon is the Backstreet Boys, with "Millennium" (due May 18).

Other contenders--Robbie Williams' "The Ego Has Landed" (released last Tuesday); former Spice Girl Geri Halliwell's solo debut "Schizophrenic" (due June 15).

Possible surprise--Jennifer Lopez's "On the Six" (due June 22). "She can really sing," says Steele of the actress' debut album.

Alternative rock--With Nine Inch Nails and Rage Against the Machine albums still possible but uncertain for summer release, Limp Bizkit's "Significant Other" (due June 22), with guests including Eminem, Method Man and Korn's Jonathan Davis, is expected to be the big breakout, as hard-edged music thrives. The band's dismemberment of George Michael's "Faith" is burning alternative radio airwaves at the moment, and it headlines the upcoming Family Values tour.

Other contenders--the Red Hot Chili Peppers' comeback "Californication" (due June 8); Blink-182's "Enema of the State" (June 1); Insane Clown Posse's "The Amazing Jeckyl Brothers" (May 18) with guests including Ice-T, Snoop Dogg and Ol' Dirty Bastard; Stone Temple Pilots' reunion (date to be announced).

Possible surprise--Godsmack's "Godsmack," released in December, is starting to take off, and the Boston band is in the Ozzfest lineup.

Country--Tim McGraw's "A Place in the Sun" (released last Tuesday). "He's really crossing over to superstar status," says Mandy McCormick, music director of country station KZLA-FM (93.9). "His last album, 'Everywhere,' had huge success, and the word is this one is as good or even better."

Other contenders--Alabama and Trisha Yearwood both are expected to have new albums, while the Grammy-winning Dixie Chicks are scheduled to follow up their smash debut in late summer.

Possible surprise--Andy Griggs' new "You Won't Ever Be Lonely."

And in the wild card category, put three soundtrack albums that seem sure to get a lot of attention: The "Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace" score disc (released last Tuesday), the song collections from "Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me" (June 1) with tracks by R.E.M., Lenny Kravitz and Scott Weiland, and the companion to Will Smith's film "The Wild Wild West."

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